This piece was published in the Global Issue Print Edition (Volume 11)
How did Chinese Intellectual Thinking on the Idea of Nationalism Change China’s View of the International System in the Late-Qing and Republican Period?
The 1911 Revolution in China not only marked the end of the Qing, the Manchu-based dynasty that had ruled China since the 17th Century but also represented the culmination of decades of Chinese nationalist intellectual thinking. Benedict Anderson, a noted 20th Century scholar of nationalism at Cornell University, proposed a theory of “colonial pilgrims,” which holds that the “pilgrimages” made by Chinese students and intellectuals to places like Tokyo in the late Qing Dynasty (roughly 1895-1911) reinforced existing nationalist sentiments and transformed them into an “internationalist nationalism.” This was accomplished through the ideas of Social Darwinism and Pan-Asianism two prominent intellectual trends in early 20th century Asia, which changed how China saw itself in the world. As a result, following the 1911 Revolution and in the early Republican period (1911-1920s), China used its internationalist nationalism to drastically alter its foreign policy and represent nationalism for colonized peoples across Asia. Thus, the 1911 Revolution was one of the most important moments in modern Chinese history, as it represented the birth of a nationalist and largely outward-looking China.
China in the late Qing Dynasty faced significant difficulties: for example, China succumbed to numerous foreign invasions and internal rebellions, which prompted it to pursue limited reform with the “Self-Strengthening Movement,” restricting modernization to certain areas such as improving the military and establishing domestic industry, while maintaining the larger political and cultural system. However, in 1898 the Guangxu Emperor dared to push modernization to a scale never seen before in his “Hundred Days Reform Movement” under the advice of Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao, two of China’s greatest nationalist scholars. Unfortunately, a conservative palace coup by the Empress Dowager, the Guangxu Emperor’s aunt and former Regent, ended these reforms prematurely. The aborted reform movement, along with Chinese defeats in the First Sino-Japanese War and the Boxer Rebellion, intensified calls for reform, which included sending large numbers of Chinese students abroad in an effort to improve China’s military and economy. As the Qing official Zhang Zhidong wrote: “One year at a foreign school is better than five years reading of Western books at home… Three years at a foreign school is better than three years at a Chinese school.”
One can compare the role of Chinese students abroad to the various “colonial pilgrimages” described by Benedict Anderson in Imagined Communities. Colonial powers set up various educational institutions to train colonized peoples to staff colonial bureaucracies. These institutions, such as the Ecole Normale William Ponty in Dakar and the College Sisowath in Phnom Penh, which were created originally to train people from colonized societies to become bureaucrats in the larger colonial bureaucracy, unintentionally and ironically became major centers of anti-colonial nationalism. Likeminded colonial students from empires across the world made “pilgrimages” to these schools, forming long-lasting relations and learning Western ideas on nationalism, thus laying the foundation for the creation of anti-colonial nationalismA similar process happened in China at the beginning of the 20th century, as Chinese students were sent by the Qing government across the globe on their own personal “colonial pilgrimages.”
A question remained: to where should the students be sent? Kang Youwei recommended different foreign countries for different subjects of study, endorsing Britain for science and Germany for engineering. However, the majority of Chinese students were sent to Tokyo because of lower costs and the Chinese desire to learn from Japan’s rapid modernization. The Chinese nationalist Kang and his disciple Liang Qichao both decided to exile in Tokyo following their failed reform movement. The number of Chinese students in Japan rose rapidly, from 280 students in 1901 to a high of 8000 in 1906, as Tokyo became a hotbed of nationalist networking and idea-sharing, not unlike other “pilgrimage sites” described by Anderson. It was in Tokyo that future Chinese President and “Father of the Nation” Sun Yat-sen met with Kang and Liang after the anti-Manchu nationalist Zhang Binglin, introduced them to each other. During these meetings, they debated whether Chinese nationalism should be reformist or revolutionary, but despite such disagreements, Sun was deeply inspired by both Liang and Kang, which can be seen in his Three Principles of the People specifically in Sun’s insistence on a strong centralized government taking precedence over individual rights
Japanese schools like the Kobun Gakuin resembled Anderson’s colonial schools, as they served as pipelines for future Chinese nationalist leaders and thinkers, such as Chen Duxiu, one of the founders of the Chinese Communist Party, and Lu Xun, modern China’s most famous writer and a scathing critic of traditionalism. When Sun founded his Revolutionary Alliance in Tokyo in 1907, it was comprised almost entirely by Chinese students in Japan, including future Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek.
Tokyo and other “pilgrimage sites” were also places for Chinese students to engage with and adopt Western ideas on nationalism. Japan became revered by Chinese students for its effective use of nationalism after its victory in the Russo-Japanese War, and inspired students to participate in nationalist activities and join revolutionary groups like Sun’sThe brand of nationalism adopted by the Chinese students was then shaped by another idea imported from abroad: Social Darwinism. Yan Fu, a “colonial pilgrim” sent to England to study naval technology, translated Social Darwinist texts such as Thomas Huxley’s Evolution and Ethics and brought such ideas to China. Yan, in summarizing Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, writes: “The weaker regularly become the prey of the stronger…[s]o it is with animals and plants and likewise with humans.” Social Darwinism became popular in the late-Qing dynasty, as it was easy for nationalists to see its theory in action through China’s own weakness. The Qing’s ongoing defeats created a fear of China’s “extinction” and reinforced calls for reform. the young nationalist Zou Rong wrote: “[i]f urgent reforms are not carried out… the tragedy of India and Poland will be played out again in our ancient land.” Of such reforms, one of the most important was nationalism because, as Sun put bluntly, “if we do not earnestly promote nationalism…we face a tragedy—the loss of our country and the destruction of our race.”
However, this form of nationalism was internationalist in scope as its adoption was fundamentally linked to a shift in Chinese thinking that, as author Rebecca Karl states, “produce[d] a new global consciousness,” in which China saw itself as part of a larger, inter-connected world. The traditional view of the international system was that Chinese civilization was, or should be, ubiquitous across the world, with “China” representing more of a civilization than a nation-state. However, nationalism was irreconcilable with this worldview since it implied a whole international order of other nation-states. Liang believed that the traditional worldview had weakened China due to the isolation it caused, which is why the Chinese people “must understand that one man alone was powerless; it was necessary to be a member of a nation. They must know that their nation was one among a community of contending nations and must give their loyalty to their own nation (emphasis added).” Evident in Liang’s quote, Chinese nationalism was thoroughly shaped by its acceptance of the Darwinian idea of competing states, producing a nationalism that was internationalist in nature.
With this change in worldview, the perceived relationship between China and the West shifted from one of superiority to inferiority, as demonstrated by the change of names for foreign relations from “barbarian affairs” to “new learning.” As such, Chinese nationalists increasingly looked to the West for inspiration as reformists like Kang urged the monarchy to “adopt the purpose of Peter the Great of Russia as our purpose,” while Zhang Binglin used George Washington as an example in his writings. Thus, nationalism and internationalism became intertwined, and isolationism was decried. Zou Rong proclaimed, “China is capable of embracing the whole world, of shaking and dazzling the entire globe.” Thus, Social Darwinism both increased calls for nationalism within China and changed how China saw the world, which would eventually have a large effect on its foreign policy.
China’s recognition of the international system was also important because it caused China to identify with the “colonized world” in Asia. This can be seen in the writings of Chinese nationalists, such as Ou Jujia, who wrote of the Philippine Revolution: “It is said that Asiais unable to promote independence, yet it has begun in the Philippines. The Philippine Sea is close to us…the wind of freedom and independence will blow over our whole country.” As Karl argues, this was more than just a call to action for Chinese nationalists; rather it was the identification of China with Asia through shared anti-colonialism, thereby firmly tying Chinese nationalism with Pan-Asianism. This Asian identity was further reinforced by the interactions between Chinese pilgrims and other colonial nationalists as theorized by Anderson. For example, the Vietnamese nationalist Phan Boi Chau met with both Liang and Sun in Tokyo in 1905, and during this meeting, the former agreed to write a widely read nationalist history of Vietnam for Chinese audiences, and Sun promised to help liberate Vietnam following his success in China. In Tokyo, there was even an Asia Solidarity Society formed of mostly Chinese and Indian nationalist students with the goal of creating Asian unity against colonialism. Thus, the international dynamic of Chinese nationalism was reinforced through China’s identification with the larger anti-colonial “Asia.” As such, the contradictory nature of China’s internationalist nationalism, on one hand, pushed China to join the Western-led international order while simultaneously developing a Pan-Asian anti-colonial identity.
Due to China’s internationalist nationalism, when the 1911 Revolution overthrew the Qing Monarchy and established the Chinese Republic, its leaders were quick to portray the new government in global terminology. In Sun Yat-sen’s proclamation as the first President of the Republic of China, he says:
Under the Manchu Government, China has been obliged to be under humiliation and had anti-foreign feeling, but all those should be wiped out and we should aim at the principle of peace and tranquility and to increase our friendship with friendly nations so as to place China within a respectable place in international society.
Here, Sun clearly connects China’s “humiliation” with its “anti-foreign feeling,” implying that only through the country’s internationalism would China regain its international status. Sun ends his proclamation by stating that his revolutionary accomplishments will be judged “in the eyes of the nation and the world (emphasis added),” further demonstrating Sun’s commitment to internationalism and the connection of nationalism with the international by equating the judgment of his people with that of the world.
This internationalism was in part due to ideology but also due to pragmatic foreign policy goals, as Sun believed that China “must appeal to the people of the civilized world in general” if it were to survive. The United States and its citizens had long tried to Westernize China, which allowed Sun to use internationalist language to play to their biases. The result was spectacular, and the American press rushed to China’s support. For example, the Louisville Courier-Journal wrote: “the gap that China has leaped, from the Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century between October and February [the months of the 1911 Revolution] centers the attention of nations upon a wholly unexpected development of the Chinese awakening.” President Woodrow Wilson was also sympathetic, and he quickly withdrew the U.S. from a monopolistic banking consortium in China and recognized the new republic, despite protests from the Japanese government. When Japan took advantage of the chaos caused by the revolution to issue its infamous Twenty-One Demands to China, which included further territorial policing concessions, the U.S. once again sided with China, warning Japan that “it cannot recognize any agreement which……[impairs the] territorial integrity of the Republic of China.”
Similarly, Pan-Asianism was also used rhetorically to advance nationalist goals. In a speech made by Sun to Japanese listeners, he urged them to recognize the shared traits of “Asian” civilizations and to join a united front against Western imperialism. While this reflected existing opinions, Sun’s characterization of his nationalism in Pan-Asian terms was more likely used to gather Japanese support for an upcoming meeting in Beijing in which he would negotiate with Chinese warlords to end the ongoing civil war. Thus, one can see how the adoption of nationalism can be oriented towards specific foreign policy goals, using different aspects of Chinese nationalism’s internationalist identity to appeal to different powers.
But internationalism was much more than a rhetorical device. It prompted a near-complete reconsideration of Chinese foreign policy by changing it from passive to active. Earlier Qing foreign policy involved only taking actions that had a direct impact on China, such as when they sent foreign ministers abroad to observe treaty negotiations concerning Chinese indemnities. But after 1911, China’s internationalism created a more active foreign policy: the new-born nation led the discussion at the Hague Opium Convention of 1912 and decided to join World War I. Despite the difficulties for China to join the war, including distance and internal turmoil, nationalists such as Liang argued that China’s participation would legitimize it as a nation of equal standing and allow it to leverage the ending of some unequal treaties, thus connecting internationalism to one of China’s most important nationalist goals.
Over 100,000 Chinese laborers were eventually sent to France, with the explicit goal of trying to gain back the previously German-held Shandong peninsula, but when it was revealed at the Versailles negotiations that the Allies had secretly promised it to Japan, it launched nationalist protests throughout China. The protests, known as the May Fourth Movement, was led by students both within China and abroad who sent numerous petitions and telegrams to the Chinese delegation, demanding that they not sign the Treaty of Versailles. The Chinese delegation eventually conceded, once again showing the effect of “colonial pilgrims” on Chinese foreign policy. Despite this failure, the war demonstrated China’s commitment to internationalist nationalism and like Sun’s earlier pleas, it gathered international public opinion on China’s side, as one British diplomat remarked: “the rising tide of international esteem began to flow when China refused, weak as she was, to be bullied into signing the Treaty of Versailles.” The nationalist response also shocked colonial powers like Britain, who took it as a sign to adopt more conciliatory policies toward China, such as during the Washington Conference of 1921-1922 during which they collaborated with China to pressure Japan into returning Shandong. This represented a massive victory for Chinese foreign policy and a milestone for China’s internationalist nationalism, finally strengthening China’s position within the international system, even if only incrementally. Furthermore, it demonstrated how nationalism can reorient an entire worldview and cause a nation to radically alter its foreign policy agenda.
More importantly, the 1911 Revolution and its internationalist nationalism became a global moment for Pan-Asianists and colonial nationalists. Previously, Pan-Asianism centered around a Japan-led Asia, but this idea began to decline once Japan acquired colonial territories. This was an opportunity for Chinese leadership; Nobel Prize-winning Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore explicitly denounced Japanese imperialism and hoped for greater Chinese participation in the Pan-Asian movement. This shift to leadership came naturally, as Chinese nationalists had always seen themselves in that role. Sun wrote: “only if we ‘rescue the weak and lift up the fallen’ will we be carrying out the divine obligation of our nation.” Similarly, Zhang Binglin, the aforementioned anti-Manchu revolutionary, proposed that “a true nationalist is one who extends his sympathy to others who have suffered from the same excruciation.”
Across Asia, China and its revolution became a topic of conversation and inspiration among nationalist circles. In Vietnam, Confucian reformers read the writings of moderate Chinese nationalists like Kang and Liang for guidance. Biographies of Sun Yat-sen were widespread and the most numerous of any foreign personality in Vietnam, so much so that both the anniversary of the 1911 Revolution and Sun’s death were noted by French colonial authorities as dates of potential nationalist unrest. In Indonesia, colonial nationalists saw themselves in the 1911 Revolution through Pan-Asianism, and the future Indonesian President Sukarno wrote: “People are beginning to be conscious of a sense of unity and a feeling of brotherhood between the Chinese people and the Indonesian people, that is, that both are Eastern people…both are people who are struggling, demanding a free life.” In the clearest example of Pan-Asianism, Korean students and exiled Chinese veterans of the 1911 Revolution formed the “The New Asia Alliance” with the joint goal of defending their nations against Japanese imperialist aggression, showing that Chinese nationalists saw their battle as bigger than just their own nation. Thus, the 1911 Revolution and Chinese Nationalism’s Pan-Asian slant allowed it to become an inspiration for colonial nationalists across Asia. We can also see the ways in which international relations extend past just state-level interactions. Foreign affairs is also a means for intellectual discourse between nations, spreading ideas such as nationalism from one people to another. Just as earlier Chinese nationalists saw Japan as an example to be followed, colonial nationalists from Southeast Asia looked to China for inspiration as the new nationalist power, transmitting ideas through a network of Pan-Asianism and colonial pilgrims, thus influencing the particular nationalisms of all these nations.
In conclusion, using Anderson’s idea of “colonial pilgrimages,” it is possible to see how Chinese students abroad changed Chinese nationalism to be more internationalist through the ideas of Social Darwinism and Pan-Asianism, which altered how China was situated in the world and allowed it to act as a symbol of nationalism throughout colonial Asia. Thus, 1911 can be seen as the beginning of modern Chinese history.
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Bergere, Marie-Claire. Sun Yat-sen. Translated by Janet Lloyd. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998.
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Wong, Young-tsu. Beyond Confucian China: The Rival Discourses of Kang Youwei and Zhang Binglin. London: Routledge, 2010.
Wong, Young-tsu. Search for Modern Nationalism: Zhang Binglin and Revolutionary China 1869-1936. Hong Kong: Oxford University Press, 1989.
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 Note on Chinese names: In the written Chinese language, the family name usually comes first, so for both the notes and bibliographic entries I will try to keep the family name first. However, some Chinese authors have chosen to put their family name last in English publications. For sake of consistency, I will put the family name first if the given name is also of Chinese origin. In addition, for authors, I will keep the spelling of the names in the form that their respective texts use, either Wade-Giles or Pinyin. For historical characters, I have used the spelling that is most common, for example Sun Yat-sen over Sun Zhongshan.
 This term comes from: Xu Guoqi, “Nationalism, Internationalism, and National Identity: China from 1895 to 1919,” in Chinese Nationalism in Perspective: Historical and Recent Cases, ed. C.X. George Wei and Liu Xiaoyuan (Westport: Greenwood Press, 2001), 107. Note: The initial inspiration of Chinese nationalism being internationalist originated from the above cited text which I then greatly expanded upon, see: Ibid., 101.
 For foreign invasions, there was the Two Opium Wars, the Sino-French War, and the First Sino Japanese War. Domestic Rebellions such as the Taiping and the Nian Rebellions also occurred during this era.
 Jonathan D. Spence, The Search for Modern China, Third Edition (New York: W.W Norton & Company, 2013), 208-211, 217
 Luke S.K. Kwong, A Mosaic of The Hundred Days: Personalities, Politics, and Ideas of 1898 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1984), 181-182.
 Ibid., 208, 211.
 Jerome Ch’en, China and the West: Society and Culture 1815-1937 (London: Hutchinson & Co, 1979), 153.
 Ibid., 153.
 Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism, (London: Verso, 2016), 115-116.
 Ibid., 115, 123-126, 129-131.
 Ibid., 114-116, 124.
 Wong Young-tsu, Beyond Confucian China: The Rival Discourses of Kang Youwei and Zhang Binglin (London: Routledge, 2010), 123-124.
 Marius Jansen, “Japan and the Chinese Revolution of 1911,” in The Cambridge History of China: Volume II Late Ch’ing, 1800-1911, Part 2, ed. John K. Fairbank and Kwang-Ching Liu (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980), 346-347, 349.
 Ibid.,” 350.
 Wong Young-tsu, Search for Modern Nationalism: Zhang Binglin and Revolutionary China 1869-1936, (Hong Kong: Oxford University Press, 1989), 34-35.
 Philip C. Huang, Liang Ch’i-ch’ao and Modern Chinese Liberalism, (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1972), 91-93.
 Marie-Claire Bergere, Sun Yat-sen, trans. Janet Lloyd (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998), 392.
 Jansen, “Japan and 1911,” 351.
 Ibid.,”, 370-371.
 Jay Taylor, The Generalissimo: Chiang Kai-shek and the Struggle for Modern China (Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2011), 17-18.
 Jansen, “Japan and 1911,” 355-357, 368, 370.
 Spence, Search for Modern China, 280.
 Yan Fu, “On Strength,” in Sources of Chinese Tradition, Second Edition, Volume II, comp. Wm. Theodore de Bary and Richard Lufrano (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000), 257.
 Spence, Search for Modern China, 280-281.
 In this time period, “lost country histories”, writings concerning various nations or empires that were colonized, became popular, with nationalists often using India or most notably Poland as examples in their writings. See: Rebecca E. Karl, Staging the World: Chinese Nationalism at the Turn of the Twentieth Century, (Durham: Duke University Press, 2002), 15-16.
 Tsou Jung, The Revolutionary Army: A Chinese Nationalist Tract of 1903, ed. and trans. John Lust (The Hague: Mouton & Co, 1968), 65. Interestingly enough, Zou Rong also studied in Japan and was a friend of Zhang Binglin, see Tsou, The Revolutionary Army, 20.
 Sun Yat-sen, San Min Chu I: The Three Principles of the People, trans. Frank W. Price, ed. L.T. Chen (New York: Da Capo Press, 1975), 12. Note, this book was originally published in the 1920s, past the late-Qing dynasty, but it is mostly a transcription of in-person lectures that reflect ideas of Sun going back to the early 1900s. See: Bergere, Sun Yat-sen, 352.
 Karl, Staging the World, 5-7, 13.
 Zhao Suisheng, A Nation-State by Construction: Dynamics of Modern Chinese Nationalism, (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004), 41. A similar point is made in: Xu, “Nationalism, Internationalism, and National Identity,” 102-103.
 Zhao, Nation-State by Construction, 40-42.
 Yang Xiao, “Liang Qichao’s Political and Social Philosophy,” in Contemporary Chinese Philosophy, ed. Chung-Ying Cheng and Nicholas Bunnin (Malden: Blackwell Publishers, 2002), 20.
 Huang, Modern Chinese Liberalism, 59.
 Zhao, Nation-State by Construction, 50.
 Hao, Yen-p’ing and Wang Erh-min, “Changing Chinese Views of Western Relations, 1840-95,” in The Cambridge History of China: Volume II Late Ch’ing, 1800-1911, Part 2, ed. John K. Fairbank and Kwang-Ching Liu (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980), 200.
 Kang Youwei, “The Need for Reforming Institutions,” in Sources of Chinese Tradition, Second Edition, Volume II, comp. Wm. Theodore de Bary and Richard Lufrano (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000), 270.
 Wong, Search for Modern Nationalism, 39.
 Tsou, The Revolutionary Army, 81.
 Karl, Staging the World, 83-84.
 A nationalist follower of Liang and Kang and, coincidentally, yet another political refugee in Japan. See Karl, Staging the World, 90.
 Ibid., 93
 Ibid., 93, 106.
 Ibid., 164-165.
 Ibid., 168-169.
 Xu, “Nationalism, Internationalism, and National Identity,” 108.
 Sun Yat-sen, “First Provisional President’s Proclamation,” transcript of a speech, Nanking, 1912, in China and the West: Cultural Collision, Selected Documents, ed. Richard L. Walker (New Haven: Far Eastern Publications of Yale University, 1956), 129.
 Ibid., 129.
 Xu, “Nationalism, Internationalism, and National Identity,” 109.
 Warren I. Cohen, America’s Response to China: A History of Sino-American Relations, (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010), 67, 93.
 Louisville Courier-Journal, “China’s Journal,” Louisville Courier-Journal, February 13, 1912, https://search-proquest-com.myaccess.library.utoronto.ca/docview/1023693091/fulltextPDF/50598C15EAA34876PQ/1?accountid=14771.
 Cohen, America’s Response to China, 78-79.
 William L. Tung, China and the Foreign Powers: The Impact of and Reactions to Unequal Treaties, (New York: Oceana Publications, 1970), 155-157.
 Ibid., 158-159.
 He Baogang, Contested Ideas of Regionalism in Asia, (London: Routledge, 2016), 48-50. Taylor and Francis Online.
 Ibid., 48, 51.
 Spence, Search for Modern China, 195.
 Xu, “Nationalism, Internationalism, and National Identity,” 110 112.
 Ibid., 113-115.
 Parts of Shandong Province were ceded to the German Empire in the late 1890s. See: Spence, Search for Modern China, 222.
 Ibid., 275-278.
 Ibid., 278; Henrietta Harrison, China, (London: Arnold Publishers, 2001),
 Xu, “Nationalism, Internationalism, and National Identity,” 116.
 Tung, China and the Foreign Powers, 201.
 Karl, Staging the World, 153; Huang, Modern Chinese Liberalism, 48-51.
 Carolien Stolte and Harald Fischer-Tine, “Imagining Asia in India: Nationalism and Internationalism (ca. 1905-1940),” Comparative Studies in Society and History54, no. 1 (January 2012): 78-79, JSTOR.
 Sun, San Min Chu I, 147.
 Wong, Search for Modern Nationalism, 64.
 David G. Marr, Vietnamese Tradition on Trial, 1920-1945, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), 60-61 Scholars Portal Books.
 Ibid., 260, 283.
 Liu Hong, China and the Shaping of Indonesia, (Singapore: NUS Press, 2012), 53, JSTOR.
 Dolf Alexander Neuhaus, “’Awakening Asia’: Korean Student Activists in Japan, The Asia Kunglun, and Asian Solidarity, 1910–1923,” Cross-Currents: East Asian Studies and Culture Review 6 no. 2 (November 2017): 614-616, Project Muse.