Intellectual Ferment in the Nationalist Era

Christopher A. Ford

in The Mind of Empire

Published by University Press of Kentucky

Published in print April 2010 | ISBN: 9780813192635
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780813135519 | DOI:
Intellectual Ferment in the Nationalist Era

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The period following China's defeat and humiliation at the hands of Western powers saw a good deal of rumination about how the country should move on from these challenges. After making very little progress in adopting Western technology and methods and combining these with the underlying virtue and strength of the Celestial Empire, some Chinese reformers suggested reforms based on the belief that Confucianism had become corrupted and that certain aspects of the Chinese culture had kept it backward and weak compared to the West. When these reform efforts also failed, a radical group of reformers emerged in the early twentieth century, proposing the outright rejection of Confucianism. This movement coalesced into what became known as the May Fourth Movement, which viewed much of China's cultural tradition as an obstacle to modernization. The movement marked a watershed for Chinese nationalist thinking, which thereafter focused heavily on anti-traditionalist modernization and had a fiercely anti-imperialist outlook, approaches that would strongly influence the Chinese Communist Party.

Keywords: Chinese intellectuals; Chinese culture; Confucianism; nationalism; May Fourth Movement; traditionalist modernization; Chinese Communist Party

Chapter.  2606 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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