In this bold, provocative collection, Wang Hui confronts some of the major issues concerning modern China and the status quo of contemporary Chinese thought.
The book’s overarching theme is the possibility of an alternative modernity that does not rely on imported conceptions of Chinese history and its legacy. Wang Hui argues that current models, based largely on Western notions of empire and the nation-state, fail to account for the richness and diversity of pre-modern Chinese historical practice. At the same time, he refrains from offering an exclusively Chinese perspective and placing China in an intellectual ghetto. Navigating terrain on regional language and politics, he draws on China’s unique past to expose the inadequacies of European-born standards for assessing modern China’s evolution. He takes issue particularly with the way in which nation-state logic has dominated politically charged concerns like Chinese language standardization and “The Tibetan Question.” His stance is criticaland often controversialbut he locates hope in the kinds of complex, multifaceted arrangements that defined China and much of Asia for centuries.
The Politics of Imagining Asia challenges us not only to re-examine our theories of “Asia” but to reconsider what “Europe” means as well. As Theodore Huters writes in his introduction, “Wang Hui’s concerns extend beyond China and Asia to an ambition to rethink world history as a whole.”
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About the Author
Wang Hui is Professor of Literature and History at Tsinghua University in Beijing.
Theodore Huters is Professor Emeritus of Chinese in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Table of Contents
Introduction Theodore Huters 1
1 The Politics of Imagining Asia Matthew A. Hale 10
2 How to Explain "China" and Its "Modernity": Rethinking The Rise of Modern Chinese Thought Wang Yang 63
3 Local Forms, Vernacular Dialects, and the War of Resistance against Japan: The "National Forms" Debate Chris Berry 95
4 The "Tibetan Question" East and West: Orientalism, Regional Ethnic Autonomy, and the Politics of Dignity Theodore Huters 136
5 Okinawa and Two Dramatic Changes to the Regional Order Zhang Yongle 228
6 Weber and the Question of Chinese Modernity Theodore Huters 264
What People are Saying About This
This fascinating book gives general readers, historians and political theorists a way of rediscovering China's valuable revolutionary heritage. Wang Hui destabilizes what 'Asia's' has meant in earlier history writing, and the 1930s 'Kyoto School' acts as his foil as he seeks a new starting point for thinking of Asian regionalism, Chinese language politics, international utopian socialism, and the prehistory of Tibetan-Chinese relations as possible optimistic alternatives to state developmentalism.
Tani Barlow, Rice University
This collection of Wang Hui's essays is valuable reading for Westerners who want to understand what China's emergence might mean beyond strictly economic terms. A book that deserves attention now.
James Fallows, National Correspondent for The Atlantic
In these groundbreaking essays, Wang Hui questions the reigning paradigms of Chinese studies and China watching, tracing them to their historical and intellectual roots Delineating alternative concepts and practices in Chinese thought and history, Wang seeks not to assert a Chinese difference against universal paradigms but rather to articulate Chinese pursuits of modernity as both unique and brimming with world-historical significance. These essays are indispensable guides for anyone willing to rethink the inherited modes of inquiry about China.
Ban Wang, Stanford University
Wang Hui is widely known as one of China's most prominent intellectual historians. He has stirred controversies and has strongly criticized the nation-state-centered and technology-driven paradigm that has dominated recent Chinese thought. But unlike others, Wang Hui has also kept his distance from Orientalist and liberal denunciations of modern China. In this book, he argues--passionately and with immense erudition--for imagining Asia outside 'national forms.' His essay on Tibet, in particular, is highly original and provocative.
This is a stellar contribution to postcolonial scholarship.
Partha Chatterjee, Columbia University
A powerful thinker! Wang Hui, China's foremost humanistic scholar, offers a bold and well-grounded critique of the familiar narrative woven between "Asia" and "world history." His broad vision and sharp analysis unravel the logic of modernity and its many contradictions to demonstrate how the meaning of the political has never ceased to morph in recent history and why we must fundamentally rethink its relationship to the nation-state, empire, and capitalism for the twenty-first century.
Lydia H. Liu, author of The Clash of Empires: The Invention of China in Modern World Making (2004)