New on the site, Cao Jinqing, "A Centennial Revival: The Historical Narrative and Mission of the Chinese Communist Party." Like Zhang Yongle's piece on "The Harm of Studying Abroad" published just before Christmas, Cao's text is relatively short, but interesting nonetheless. I happened across Cao while translating Liang Zhiping's “Imagining Tianxia,” where he is briefly discussed as contributing to the ongoing contemporary construction of an ideology built on tianxia and other ideas drawn from traditional Chinese political philosophy. The text is particularly interesting because while being predictably New Left and statist, it also appropriates traditional discourse to criticize certain shortcomings of the CCP.
New on the site, Zhang Yongle, “The Harm of Studying Abroad.” Zhang is a colleague of Jiang Shigong at Beijing University’s School of Law and, like Jiang, a prominent member of the New Left. The text translated here is neither formal nor academic, but instead a brief reflection Zhang posted on the web a few years back in which he criticizes the near universal ambition of Chinese students to study abroad. Why? Because it makes you lazy, harms your ability to communicate in Chinese, and takes you away from where contemporary history is being made—China. Much of Zhang’s argument is tongue-in-cheek, but his attitude is still representative of the arrogance China’s rise has inspired among some intellectuals.
Enjoy Zhang’s text as a stocking-stuffer for the busy end-of-term/holiday season! More of Liang Zhiping and “Imagining Tianxia” in the coming weeks.
New on the site, part 2 of Liang Zhiping’s “Imagining ‘Tianxia’: Building Ideology in Contemporary China.” In this installment, Liang broadens his discussion to include not only the defenders and champions of tianxia, but also other nationalist-statist figures (Jiang Shigong, Gan Yang) who apply tianxia concepts in other ways, as well as fierce critics of the idea (Ge Zhaoguang, Chan Koonchong). In Part 3, to be posted some time during the Christmas holidays, Liang turns to liberal reappropriations of tianxia, particularly the work of Xu Jilin.
New on the site, well-known legal scholar Liang Zhiping on “Imagining ‘Tianxia’: Building Ideology in Contemporary China.” Like the Qin Hui piece on China and South Africa, Liang's text is very long, and I will publish it in installments over the next few months. When finished, we will have a comprehensive overview of the use and abuse of the tianxia concept by contemporary Chinese intellectuals.
New this month on the site, Jiang Shigong’s “The Internal Logic of Super-Sized Political Entities: ‘Empire’ and World Order.” Jiang is Professor of Law at Beijing University and a prominent member of the New Left and proponent of state power. His defense of Xi Jinping Thought, “Philosophy and History: Interpreting the ‘Xi Jinping Era’ through Xi’s Report to the Nineteenth National Congress of the CCP,” was arguably one of the most important political essays published in China in 2018. Jiang’s essay on empire is of a piece with “Philosophy and History,” in that he suggests that China will fill the vacuum created by the failure of the American and Soviet empires. The argument is audacious in its Schmittian embrace of power politics (“empire is forever; get over it”) and for its casting of “the ideology of the sovereign nation-state” as something that must be “transcended.”
A housekeeping issue. We are proud to note that Columbia University Press will shortly publish our edited volume, Voices from the Chinese Century, which includes several translations currently available on our site. You can purchase the volume here (paperback edition only 30$ US, an inexpensive Christmas stocking stuffer for those hard-to-buy-for relatives).
Consequently, in the next few days most of the essays published in the volume will be reduced to teasers on the website to help the press achieve its sales objectives. We will make the full texts available again on the site in 12-18 months. If you need any of these texts for research purposes during the interim, send me a message and I will accommodate.
Yuan Ling, "Outside Beijing’s Sixth Ring Road: The Vagrant Life of a Family with Five Off-Plan Children"
New on the site this month, Yuan Ling, "Outside Beijing’s Sixth Ring Road: The Vagrant Life of a Family with Five Off-Plan Children." Yuan Ling (b. 1973), is a journalist and non-fiction writer. The text translated here is drawn from his recently published book, Silent Children 寂静的孩子 (2019), in which he describes, in ethnographic detail, the lives of poor and underprivileged children in many parts of China. This excerpt, the subject of which is a family of seven migrant workers struggling in the far Beijing suburbs, complements Qin Hui's study of China and South Africa by illustrating how constant urban renewal projects make the lives of migrant workers unbearable.
New on the site, the final version of the essay I've been working on for much of the summer. For some reason, this text does not seem to have interested readers as much as other pieces by Qin. It should. His long, dispassionate comparison of China and South Africa, in which he argues that both of their "economic miracles" were the result of status discrimination (South Africa against blacks, China against peasants) leads to the inexorable conclusion that if we condemn one, we have to condemn the other--or should China get a pass because their wretched treatment of peasants is not "racist?"
And even if the piece is ten years old and couched in terms of comparative economic history, I think it is relevant today, even to the events in Hong Kong. One point Qin makes is: China's real problem is not only that it treats its peasants the way pre-democratic South Africa treated its blacks, but also that it treats its city dwellers far less well than South Africa treated even its poor whites. What, then, does greater integration into mainland society mean for super urban Hong Kong?
New on the site, Qin Hui, "Looking at China from South Africa," Part 7. I will finish up the translation and repost everything as one document in the next installment.
New on the site, Qin Hui, "Looking at China from South Africa," Part 6
New on the site, Qin Hui, "Looking at China from South Africa," Part 5.
About this site
This web site is devoted to the subject of intellectual life in contemporary China, and more particularly to the writings of establishment intellectuals. What you will find here are essentially translations of Chinese texts that we consider important, together with discussions of related issues and a number of reference tools that can help those interested to navigate the project.
This materials on this website are open-access and are published under a Creative Commons 3.0 Unported licence. We encourage the widespread circulation of these materials. All content may be used and copied, provided that you credit the Reading and Writing the China Dream Project and provide a link to readingthechinadream.com.