In a book about the English people the author raised the question of the possible harm that British imperialism has done to its former colonies and other countries affected by it. He noted that the perspective from the other countries towards the English may be rather negative. It led me to think: What about us the Chinese?
I do not mean the harm that British imperialism had done to China. We in Hong Kong have been made well aware of that. There are tons of books on the Opium War and other atrocities. From the history books, we are made well aware of the “un-equal” treaties, the aggression from other European countries, … and the invasion by Japan. We remember well our sufferings from the hands of other people.
What I mean is: What about Chinese imperialism? We are very proud of our 4,000 years of civilisation, of our expansion from a relatively small area in central China to what it is now. In the process we have “absorbed” many peoples, who either disappeared, or became Chinese. We are proud of how our culture (and people) spread to neighbouring countries. The impression we got was that it was all benign, to the benefit of the people that we absorbed, and our neighbours.
Was it really? Do our neighbours feel the same way that we feel about our history? What do the Vietnamese/Japanese/Malaysians/Koreans/Cambodians/Burmese/… think of the Chinese? Have we asked them, seriously? Why is it that we hear so little about these viewpoints?