In parsing the PRC discomfort with the possibility of the United Kingdom fragmenting into Britain + Wales, independent Scotland, and a merger of Northern Ireland with Ireland, and perhaps the EU losing a clutch of key states and regressing into a lesser union, I draw parallels and contrasts in my Asia Times piece between the shaky state of play in western Europe and the PRC’s own problems with its internal multi-national order in a manner I predict readers will find entertaining and informative.
To give an idea of the fears and anxieties the seemingly esoteric NQH tussle arouse in the CCP, I’m going to characterize the dispute as “ 中国 Denialism” here. I have to call it “ 中国 Denialism” instead of the more Western-friendly “China Denialism” for reasons you’ll see at the end of the piece.
This philosophy supported the permanent alienation of the Korean peninsula from China (and a brutal failed attempt to extinguish its indigenous civilization and incorporate the people and territory into Japan); the establishment of puppet states supposedly incorporating the national aspirations of the Manchurian and Mongolian people, and the "Reorganized ROC" puppet regime in Nanjing (which derived its imperfect legitimacy not from the "Chinese people" but from Wang Jingwei's purported stature as Sun Yatsen's political heir; interesting point!), all under the tutelage of the Japanese empire under the principle of Hakkō ichiu.
And one more. With flags! The Khitans finally get some recognition, with the result that "China" is evicted from Beijing and is relegated to a Kosovo-style enclave in the Central Plain/Xian area.
To get the simple part out of the way first, Goetsu is not a Mandarin or modern local Chinese dialect variant; it’s the Japanese rendering of the term 吴越. 吴 and 越 were Chinese kingdoms that date way back to the Warring States period, of course in the East China regions championed by the Goetsu separatists.
The closest I could come up in a link between eastern China separatism & Japanese skullduggery was a Youtube posted by “Great Goetsu” of a 1942 barnburning military tune, “Song of the Decisive Battle in Great East Asia” playing over a depiction of what is apparently regarded as the “Goetsu” logo:
Unfortunately, the situation is muddied by the fact that somebody—and I didn’t get close to nailing this down—recently decided it would be a good thing to use “Goetsian” as an umbrella term for various Wu dialects in the southern Jiangsu/northern Zhejiang area that previously simply called themselves [name of your town here] local dialect. So Goetsu has made its way into the neutral discourse, and isn't a pure Japanese imperialist signifier.
Significantly, the kingdom had extensive and significant exchanges with Japan, especially in cooperative development of Buddhism through exchange of sutras. I get the impression Wuyue may be regarded by Japanese nationalists as the “good, sophisticated” China that nourished the development of a superior Japanese civilization before it unfortunately got submerged by various lumpen actors. Spitballing here, but I get the feeling there’s a lot of 1930s-40s Japanese academic work on the historical roots and contemporary implications of Chinese “inferiority” and regional bright spots that scholars are not keen to discuss, just as few people are eager to brag on the racially-informed anthropology of 1930s America, the alleged superiority of light-skinned blacks, and so on.
According to the report, members on the forum used another geographic indicator that I found pretty significant, the characterization of “China” as 支那 , not 中国. 支那 harks back to the absolute Ur term for China as a geographic place name, which maybe came out of Sanskrit way back when. That’s the term the Japanese used in the 1930s and 1940s, as can be seen from this military map, not “ 中国 “。
Trouble is, 支那 is universally understood as a derogatory term for China favored by Japanese nationalists, and has been for about 80 years.
And that’s why I defaulted to “中国” denialism and not “China denialism” to get across the issue of what the CCP is concerned about--because calling some place "支那" i.e. "China" is a way of denying its legitimacy as a "nation", in the case of ” 中国 “ the "nation" at the center of Asia.
With this perspective, the New Qing History dispute doesn't look quite like just an abstract academic dustup between PRC traditionalists and largely but not exclusively foreign scholars who want to introduce contemporary theoretical rigor to the examination of the concept of “China”.
Maybe it has to be viewed in the context of a current threat to the PRC's territorial integrity, its legitimacy, and its survival.
Of course, the outsider insistence on defining “China”--in a way that would probably have Edward Said nodding his head in rueful recognition--probably colors PRC resistance to Western efforts to question and supersede its sovereignty over another non-Han holdings: the South China Sea. The claim to the SCS, in the CCP's eyes, is not much weaker--or stronger--than the PRC's claims to any of its territories. If one is repudiated, what's the case for asserting legitimate sovereignty over the rest?
It's not just an academic issue with unpleasant implications for current affairs.
Revisionism is alive and well as the dominant Japanese political discourse, as is questioning the PRC's legitimacy as a geopolitical stratagem (remember the "struggle of the international liberal order against authoritarian revisionism", anybody?), and encouragement of separatism as a strategic lever for the PRC's many adversaries.
"One China" may not be on its deathbed, but it's not looking that great.
So there you have it: Brexit, New Qing History, and the South China Sea, and the ontological reality of "China", all wrapped up in one smoking hot take. You’re welcome!