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Seminar: State, free will, and historical determination – The tripartite tensions in Chinese nationalism, 1900-11

By Dr Wang Liping, HKU

Tue 26 Sep 2017
1:00pm - 2:15pm


Room 929, 9/F, The Jockey Club Tower, Centennial Campus

This paper illustrates two contended theories of nationalism emerging in late imperial China when the state was undergoing a dramatic transformation. Zhang Binglin (1869-1936), an idiosyncratic traditionalist and revolutionary, developed the theory of Han-Centrism, which emphasized the historical-ethnographical predetermination of Chinese nation. His theory delivered a Herderian critique of state and imperialism, understudied in scholarship on nationalism. His opponent, Kang Youwei (1858-1927) and Liang Qichao (1873-1929), endorsed the constitutional reforms.

They developed a theory of political nationalism, which bore the Weberian insights on state priority. The contention of these two theories show the concatenation of three key principles of nationalism, i.e. free will, state, and historical determination, in the Chinese context.

By elucidating the tripartite tensions, my study questions the moral dichotomy underlining the binary models of civic and ethnic nationalism, which prevail in sociology in explaining the divergent paths of nationalism.

Dr Wang Liping earned her PhD degree in Sociology from the University of Chicago. Her dissertation, ‘Ethnicizing the Frontier: Imperial Transformation and Ethnic Confrontations in China-Inner Mongolia, 1890s-1930s’, was completed in 2013.

She is now turning this into a book manuscript. The volume examines forms and causes of Mongol-Han confrontation in Inner Mongolia during the Chinese imperial transition, and questions general theories of empire to nation transition in an historical examination of the Chinese case. Her alternative approach focuses on the maintenance and dissolution of the relations that sustained crosscutting identities on the frontier.

This talk is part of our Sociological colloquium seminar series.

HKU Sociology

Main Language