The story of China in the Global South has always carried a frisson in the West. A large part of that feeling has to do with China’s size, the way it simply doesn’t fit into any of the categories the West uses to classify and understand the non-West.
But there is another feeling in there, one akin to the unthinking eagerness with which one seeks out one’s own face in a group portrait. It provided Western powers a rare opportunity to objectively compare their presence in the rest of the world to another, or to simply see it from the outside. Because one of the complications of being the strongest in the world is that one never gets to step outside the reality-warping bubble of one’s own power. Even when you leap your mightiest leap, trying to jump into another way of seeing your own presence in the world, the bubble is already waiting to catch you.
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