After the Opium Wars, nationalist intellectuals, including Sun Yat-sen (孫逸仙), pushed for rejuvenation. He founded the Revive China Society, whose motto was to “expel the Manchus, revive China and establish a unified government.”
In Schell’s view, “if there is any one sentiment that has tied all the thinkers and leaders of China’s 20th century together, it is certainly nationalism.”
John Delury, a historian who is Schell’s co-author, said there was a millennia-old concept of rejuvenation in dynastic China that the party might find relevant now.
It was called a “middle revival,” or zhong xing (中興), and was used to describe a period midway through a dynastic cycle when an empire had to revive itself to move past the failings of weak leadership.
“To rally the troops, there’s a call for zhong xing,” Delury said. “The archetype is you have these strong founding emperors, and then you have an inexorable weakening, and then there’s a crisis, and a strong leader emerges in the middle who pushes the zhong xing. It gives the dynasty a second life.”