The Century Of Humiliation and China’s Rise

Anam Zahra

During the pandemic, China emerged as a strong player in global politics.  The world cannot deny the impact of China’s contemporary economic growth with political grip over the leading trade routes and growing military expenditures to secure its borders. China is also prominent with its international diplomacy and economic partnership with emerging economies across Asia, Latin America, and Africa. China’s exponential rise compels us to ask ourselves; is the world heading towards the end of unipolarity?

China is the only economy that experienced rapid growth in profits as according to the Economic Data, China logged 2.3 % growth for 2020. It is also extremely important to know that according to National Statistics Bureau, China’s gross domestic product rose 6.5% during the fourth quarter of 2020, exceeding the 6% pace at the end of 2019. Above all, China’s GDP achieved a milestone by topping 100 trillion Yuan, or about $15 trillion. There are a few vital factors that contributed to China’s firm position in global capitalism which includes economic strategies with innovative functional mechanisms, technology, science, and development plans. China’s Digital Economy has contributed to positive growth in 2020. The “New Digital Infrastructure” has been a vital key to achieve the development goals.    

The experts and historians argue that the “Century of Humiliation” is the driving force behind China’s contemporary power and prominence. Let’s first understand, what was the Century of Humiliation?  A time period when a large British Military Force captured the city of Canton (now Guanghzou). The incident took place due to the unsuccessful negotiation between the British and Qing Dynasty over the trade of opium on the Chinese territory. In Modern China, the First opium war along with the defeat is known as the “Century of Humiliation.” The years were filled with famine, corruption, brutality, violence, murders, and drug addiction on a large scale. The dark period of China’s occupation and colonization of 1839 to 1949 was then ended with the struggles and voice of Mao Zedong who stood for the foundation of the People’s Republic of China.

A century of Humiliation worked as a vital lesson for the people of China who understood the power of the western world and how to stand against their aggression. On October 1, 1949 Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Chairman Mao in his speech said, “Ours will no longer be a nation subject to insult and humiliation. We have stood up.” Even today, China’s Communist Party has preserved the ruined state of the Summer Palace as a reminder of the British invasion.  

China’s collective memory of the past has now resulted in the China’s strength for a better and secure future. After taking the leadership role in 2012, Chinese President Xi Jinping emphasize the importance of lessons learned from the Century of Humiliation and formed it as one of his policies to lead the Chinese people with his vision and strategies. During Nanjing Massacre Memorial Service in 2014, President Xi said “to forget the past means to betray, and to deny the crime means to relapse.”

President Xi aims to work with better military strategies to make China’s Military, or The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) as one of the world’s strongest forces. China’s giant military expenditure aims to fulfill its target to dominate the region also.  The investment is now particularly benefitting the two main domains of the military, Artificial Intelligence, and Anti-Ship Ballistic Missiles. Technology plays an important role in PLA’s successful missions and security plans. President Xi, with his reforms, has contributed towards the major structural changes of PLA which include deep personnel cuts, joint theater commands, and innovative routes to military-civilian collaboration. China now has the world’s largest Naval Force because of its ship numbers and estimated 250,000 active service members. The Communist Party is very close to achieving its goal of having a “world-class military by 2049.”

The modernization of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is on the rise in terms of capabilities and investment. In 2018, China left South Korea behind by took over the title of the “Global Leader” in shipbuilding orders. Whereas, in 2019, China’s Navy consisted of 335 ships which was more than US Navy’s 296 vessels.  

China’s contemporary foreign policy is committed to the “state’s sovereignty” and also willingly building strong ties with other states to boost its economic and political ties. The perfect example is China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). China always has been an ally of Pakistan and CPEC is another milestone to boost regional cooperation. The virtual Conference on ‘CPEC: Pakistan-China Security and Strategic Cooperation’ which was organized by The Center for Chinese Legal Studies (CCLS) highlighted Pakistan-China’s strong alliance and relations even beyond the CPEC. Although, the project has contributed to Pakistan’s role from the area of geopolitical actor to geo-economics. On the other side, both countries experienced a boost in connectivity, trade, commerce, and diplomatic ties. Both Pakistan and China agreed to invest in agriculture, education, and socio-economic development with the help of Special Economic Zones and the relocation of Chinese small and medium enterprises.     

China’s consistent rise has been perceived as a threat by western powers, particularly the United States. Despite political hostility from the US, China’s President Xi Jinping seems committed to taking his country to the highest level of economic, political, and military power.


Achieved Master’s Degree in International Relations from University of Karachi, as a devoted Researcher, investigating and analyzing International Security, Political Violence, Religious Extremism, Women’s Rights, and Climate Change. A proud Bibliophile and Bookworm.

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