Chinese historians’ review of past isolationist policy goes viral, reflecting unease over closed borders, lockdowns, crackdowns
- An article from the Chinese Academy of History views the country’s past isolationist policy as a self-defence strategy against Western colonisation
- The 15,000-character article went viral on China’s internet, as the country’s borders remain closed under the government’s zero-Covid-19 strategy
The future is certain, it is only the past that is unpredictable.
The article has cast doubt on that interpretation, asserting that the Biguan Suoguo label itself was a product of “Western power and narrative”. It pointed out that the Chinese rulers’ policy at the time was a self-defence strategy, which fended off “threats of colonisation by the West”.
The isolationist policy was anchored on the noble motive of “safeguarding territory and culture”, according to the article. “From a contemporary point of view, whether a country should open itself up … is an issue within its own sovereignty.”
For my generation of Chinese, we grew up being told that Biguan Suoguo was a disaster and a major reason for the country’s subsequent suffering and humiliation. That policy also prompted China’s decision to open up its borders.
As such, it is quite surprising and disturbing to see China’s most authoritative historians reopen that matter for debate. But for now, thankfully, this debate is being conducted under the guise of academic discussion.