Republican China, 1911–1949

Tim Wright

in Chinese Studies

ISBN: 9780199920082
Published online April 2013 | | DOI:
Republican China, 1911–1949

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There have been major changes since the mid-20th century in the way in which the history of republican China (1911–1949) is conceptualized by scholars in the West and elsewhere. Up to the 1970s, scholarship was dominated by a somewhat teleological revolutionary paradigm, in which developments in republican China were seen predominantly in terms of their relationship to the 1949 revolution and thus, of their contribution to the total transformation of Chinese society. This teleological approach has more recently been challenged in at least two respects. First, scholars have affirmed that ideas and actions in Nationalist China are worthy of study in their own right, rather than merely in terms of the contribution they did or did not make to China’s Communist revolution. This was partly, though not exclusively, a reflection of the economic and, to some extent, political success of Taiwan and the ethnically Chinese city-states outside the People’s Republic of China, which suggested that the Chinese past could generate paths other than those outlined by Mao Zedong. Second, the degree to which 1949 actually represented a radical break or complete transformation of Chinese society has come increasingly under question. Developments after 1949 have come more and more to be seen as the continuation of a process of state building that was under way, certainly, during the Nationalist regime of 1927–1949 and, to some extent, even before that, back to the warlords or even the late Qing. A further change, and one that reflects the emergence of postmodern views of history way beyond Chinese studies, is to downgrade metanarratives of all types (not just the revolutionary teleology) and to focus more on the local and the contingent. Local studies have therefore been a major trend in republican history since the 1990s. The field covered by this bibliography is vast, and in order to reduce it to manageable size, the author has decided to concentrate mainly (though not exclusively) on topics linked to politics (though in the Chinese case many social, cultural, and economic developments had a strong political element, and they are touched on) and on works that focus centrally on the 1911–1949 period rather than, for example, the whole 20th century.

Article.  15275 words. 

Subjects: East Asian Studies ; Asian History ; East Asian Philosophy ; East Asian Religions

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