He stated that the western interpretation of “barbarian” (yi-fan) as “foreign” and “foreign” is wrong because “barbarian” in Chinese originally means uncivilized people or tribes. He then said that the Chinese never used this word to describe the civilized peoples who were foreign, like India and Rome, thus this western translation/notion is a wrong one.
Now here’s the second thing he said, it had to do with the Western notion of “China Proper”:
He stated that: Westerners used this term to refer to Central China, but the Chinese consider their current territory as a whole. The Chinese perceived that everywhere in the world is the Emperor’s (“All under heaven”). The Chinese dislike the term “China Proper” because it may be used to justify separation on foreign conquest”. Thus in these Chinese mindsets there is no “China proper”, but only a single “One China” that encompasses all of its current modern day territories, including Taiwan.
He also compared how the US has the original 13 colonies, yet no one calls this place the “US proper”. I didn’t think that was such a good example to explain why the notion of China proper was wrong, but I won’t get into that.
I don’t understand where the controversy is? The area outlined as China proper is roughly the traditional cultural area of China and also encompass the original territories united under the First Emperor Qin Shi Huang. I suppose it’s the word “proper” which some Chinese, particularly the PRC, may find as insulting or divisive since it sort of implies that this is what the China’s “proper” boundaries should be.
Once again though, I think it all has to do with how people are perceiving the use of this word “China proper”. The Westerners imply it on a cultural basis and the angered Chinese may perceive it on a political basis or with a divisive motive. Which is a possible fair assessment, in reference to uses of the word in the past, since the term originated from Western scholars at a time when China was being divided up by Western powers. What I don’t agree with is how some Chinese still believe that it is being used to justify separatism in the present day.