By Jean Daubier
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Additional resources for A history of the Chinese cultural revolution
Modernity does not refer to specific symbols like McDonald’s. It is a complex, an assemblage of different kinds of understanding and articulation. It is an articulation of what is modern, a sort of discourse. 26 AIHWA ONG When I say “alternative modernity,” I am talking about the way culture gives meaning to skyscrapers and subway stations. If you go to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, you see these incredible skyscrapers, which I consider totally absurd. This is a Western form of architecture that proclaims having arrived and Malaysia belatedly wants to be the country with the world’s highest skyscraper, but it strives to be aesthetically different.
They did not call it globalization, but they felt the effects. They had political systems that were not so dependent as we are today, in the early 21st century, upon global trade. They could try and close themselves off. Of course, historians argue that this closing off created problems for them ultimately, but they lasted three hundred years. How long could any of our countries last? Maybe twenty years. The tribute system, thus, was a way of regulating global flows. China was the imperial power in most of the world at that point, and the missions it sent to collect tribute were not unlike today when the American presidential jet goes to some country with a whole bunch of businessmen accompanying him to create contracts.
Before Chinese traders and laborers were drawn to the colonies by European powers, the Chinese were already there. The notion “tribute system” was used to describe a very complex trade network in Southeast Asia, nominally formalized into relationships with the Chinese emperor. Duara on the tribute system Until the late 19th century, the tribute system was the model of relationships between different state formations in the region of the empire that we call China and immediately around it. In the Chinese and in other imperial states, the edges, the boundaries of the empire, the frontier regions, had many different types of relationship to the center.