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“You Don’t Wear a Fur in Summer”: Kang Youwei’s Impartial Words on Republicanism (1917) and the Fate of Chinese Democracy


Brusadelli, Federico (2017). “You Don’t Wear a Fur in Summer”: Kang Youwei’s Impartial Words on Republicanism (1917) and the Fate of Chinese Democracy. Asiatische Studien / Études Asiatiques, 71(1):5-30.

Abstract

This article aims to discuss Kang Youwei’s 康有為 (1858–1927) position on democracy and republicanism in China through the analysis of two major works of his late production: Datongshu 大同書 (Book of Great Concord, drafted in 1902, but only published posthumously in 1935) and Gonghe Pingyi 共和評議 (Impartial Words on Republicanism, 1917), seemingly presenting two opposite views on the same issue. Whereas in his most “esoteric” production, represented by the Datongshu, Kang prophesied the spread of democracy on a global scale (China included), he remained loyal to the prospect of a Chinese constitutional monarchy in his public appearances after 1911 – the same he had abortively sponsored during the Hundred Days’ Reform of 1898. In 1917, playing an active role in the short and somehow farcical restoration of the last Manchu emperor on the throne orchestrated by warlord Zhang Xun, Kang published Impartial Words on Republicanism, a significant essay through which he intended to explain the apparent contradiction between his republican utopia on the one hand and his “imperial” project on the other. Through the translation and discussion of some extracts from the two aforementioned works, I will try to shed more light on Kang’s complex views on the issue and on the ambivalence of his political and theoretical agenda. Finally, I will also suggest that Kang’s reflections may appear to have been successively echoed by later intellectuals in the debate on the possibility and nature of a “Chinese democracy”.

Abstract

This article aims to discuss Kang Youwei’s 康有為 (1858–1927) position on democracy and republicanism in China through the analysis of two major works of his late production: Datongshu 大同書 (Book of Great Concord, drafted in 1902, but only published posthumously in 1935) and Gonghe Pingyi 共和評議 (Impartial Words on Republicanism, 1917), seemingly presenting two opposite views on the same issue. Whereas in his most “esoteric” production, represented by the Datongshu, Kang prophesied the spread of democracy on a global scale (China included), he remained loyal to the prospect of a Chinese constitutional monarchy in his public appearances after 1911 – the same he had abortively sponsored during the Hundred Days’ Reform of 1898. In 1917, playing an active role in the short and somehow farcical restoration of the last Manchu emperor on the throne orchestrated by warlord Zhang Xun, Kang published Impartial Words on Republicanism, a significant essay through which he intended to explain the apparent contradiction between his republican utopia on the one hand and his “imperial” project on the other. Through the translation and discussion of some extracts from the two aforementioned works, I will try to shed more light on Kang’s complex views on the issue and on the ambivalence of his political and theoretical agenda. Finally, I will also suggest that Kang’s reflections may appear to have been successively echoed by later intellectuals in the debate on the possibility and nature of a “Chinese democracy”.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:Journals > Asiatische Studien / Études Asiatiques > Archive > 71 (2017) > 1
Dewey Decimal Classification:950 History of Asia
Uncontrolled Keywords:Kang Youwei, democracy, Confucianism, utopia, datong (Great Concord)
Language:English
Date:2017
Deposited On:30 May 2018 14:48
Last Modified:28 Jul 2020 13:58
Publisher:De Gruyter
ISSN:0004-4717
OA Status:Green
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1515/asia-2015-8011

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