Liang Qichao’s 1896 „Records of the Destruction of Poland“ and the Emergence of the Polish Topos in the Chinese Reformist Discourse
This article discusses the historical role of Liang Qichao’s text on the destruction of Poland in the late eighteenth century, and his “discovery of analogy” between these historical events and the state of the Qing empire a hundred years later. The warning example of Poland introduced skilfully by Liang through his use of the new medium of modern press became subsequently one of the most popular rhetorical tools employed by Chinese intellectuals throughout the reform era leading to the establishment of the Chinese nation state, and hence can be regarded as situated close to the roots of the modern Chinese identity. By analysing the choice of sources made by Liang, it is argued that Liang made a conscious decision to present the fate of Poland in a sympathetic, yet alarming manner, and at the same time chose to ignore other Chinese-language sources produced in the scholarly circles closer to him including Timothy Richard’s translation of a book on the history of Russia. The article contends that Liang chose Poland as an example of a failed state, which did not reform and react to geopolitical perils in a proper manner, in the context of the growing fear of Russia among the late-Qing elites. The article also argues that the authors of Liang’s sources, most notably Xu Jingluo, should be recognized as equally important contributors to the “discovery of analogy” between the fates of Poland and late Qing empire’s political quandary.