We know that for individuals, youthful pain, psychological trauma, and shame can have profound effects. It can be a driver to depression, or an engine of great achievement. Just as the high school nerd or scapegoat may spend his whole life trying to gain respect, achieve success or get the girl, the same can be true for nations and cultures.
For China, humiliated by the British in the mid 19th century and then by the Japanese, its modern history has been an effort to find a way to gain respect, to fill the psychological void left by its previous shame and humiliation. In the case of China, it’s been particularly difficult because of its size. To be weak is shameful, to be big and weak, hurts even more.