‘Never again’ guides international policy- Oxford prof on China

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by Germán Muñoz, Bright Hong Kong Founder & Director

Professor Rana Mitter, Director at the University of Oxford China Centre, posits China’s perception of its past one hundred years of suffering at the hands of others grants it moral authority in the new world order.


Professor Rana Mitter, University of Oxford China Centre

At a meeting hosted by Bright Hong Kong entitled “China’s emergence as a world power. How history is shaping China’s future” Professor Mitter outlined his thoughts on the most important episodes driving an interpretation of the history of China, its effects on the vertiginous transformation that it has undergone in the last years and its projection towards the future.



Prof. Mitter began by emphasizing that China sees itself as being part of an emerging, global, cooperative international order but it also has its own strong ideas about how that order should be defined.

¨China,” he explains, “believes for instance, very strongly on its own territorial sovereignty and this is partly due to its own history.  Between the 19th and 20th centuries, Western powers, but also the Japanese, invaded Chinese territory and that means that they are exceptionally keen to make sure that no repetition of that kind of events happens again. Certainly, that filters very much their views and policies for the early 20th century¨.

To understand what is happening today, Prof. Mitter explained one of the most recent milestones. The unusual deployment that was made during the so-called ¨Victory Parade¨ in 2015 to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War was, according to Prof. Mitter,  demonstrative of how China sees its past.

“We should understand that the World War in Asia cost China more than 14 million of its soldiers and civilians. Not just that: nearly 100 million Chinese became refugees in their own country during those years.”

According to Prof. Mitter the most important output of those painful events is the current government’s willingness to build its own narrative that gives it a presence within the construction of the New World Order that emerged after the Second World War. It is also, in their eyes, a source of moral authority to assert the Chinese vision of the future in the face of the decline of the moral leadership of the United States.

This is the first occasion where the narrative of World War II,  -you might say China’s good war- has really been integrated into the national story of China. 




Amb. Carmen Cano, Head of the European Union in Hong Kong; Christopher Drake, Chairman of the University of Oxford China Advisory Group; Damián Martínez Tagüeña, Consul General of Mexico; Paul Tang Kwok-wai  鄧國威, former Secretary for the Civil Service in Hong Kong 2012-2015; Andrew So Kwok-wing  蘇國榮,  former  Commissioner for Administrative Complaints, the Ombudsman of Hong Kong; Pola Antebi, SVP, International Director, Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art at Christie’s Hong Kong; Prof. Margaret Chu, expert in History of Chinese Philosophy; Late-Ming through Early Republican China; Neo-Confucian Education and Philosophy and the Relation between Philosophy and Politics. She is also Fellow and Council Member of the Royal Commonwealth Society in Hong Kong; Kathleen Ferrier, Honorary Professor Human Rights at the Asian University for Women, Gender and Politics at HKBU, Ambassador at The Mekong Club; Rev. Tjeerd de Boer, professor at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Hong Kong; Peter Guy, Senior writer at the South China Morning Post; Daniel de Blocq Van Scheltinga, member of the executive committee of the European Chamber of Commerce; Renu Bhatia, FinnTech Specialist & Economic Justice for Women Advocate; Sanjukta Mukherjee, Head of  PwC’s Thought Leadership team for HK and China; Alicia García Herrero, Chief Economist for Asia Pacific at NATIXIS; Adrián Valenzuela, Co-CEO and Founding Partner at MCM Partners, and Germán Muñoz, Bright Hong Kong Founder & Director.


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