Something slightly different this time, a translation of a chapter from an upcoming work by the Taiwanese scholar Yang Rubin, entitled Thinking the Republic of China 思考中華民國.
Throughout most of his career, Yang’s academic focus has been on pre-Qin Chinese thought, as well as on Neo-Confucianism, but in the past few years he has begun to write as a public intellectual.
Notably, in 2015, he published In Praise of 1949 (1949礼赞), in which he sought to rewrite the history of the Republic of China and the history of Taiwan, suggesting that despite the “shotgun marriage” aspect of their initial encounter in 1949 (the reference is not to the founding of the People’s Republic), the two had ultimately become one.
I’m not quite sure where to situate Yang’s arguments in the complex politics of contemporary Taiwan, but his goal seems to be to transcend the narratives created by KMT historiography—with its knee-jerk condemnation of the Chinese Communists—and arrive at a more serene embrace of what the Republic of China has accomplished: the establishment of a functional, successful, Chinese constitutional democracy.
The text translated here is a chapter from Yang’s new book, in which he dives more deeply into the themes explored in In Praise of 1949, providing a more complex history for what was originally something of a polemic. Yang revisits the history of the 1911 revolution, suggesting that while traditional narratives celebrate the revolution (and the revolutionaries) and mourn (or condemn) the rapid failure of the Republic, this rush to judgement in fact obscures yet again the fundamental importance of the establishment of a constitutional democracy on Chinese soil.
Yang’s new book will be the focus of a week-long online symposium, organized by Mark McConaghy, who was part of the Reading the China Dream project when it was an Insight grant supported by a grant from Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and is now Assistant Professor of Chinese Literature at the National Sun Yat-sen University in Kao-hsiung, Taiwan. The symposium is open to the virtual public; see the program here, the schedule here, and the Facebook page for the event here. Spoiler alert: I am one of the speakers, which is why I translated the chapter.
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