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Federico Brusadelli: Self-government (zizhi) in China from the late Qing to the Republic: a contested concept in the search for political modernity
This talk will look at how the concept of zizhi 自治 (self-government) was (re) articulated in late imperial and early republican China (1898-1928), either to strengthen and “modernize” the Manchu Empire or to build federal/republican counternarratives to the traditional system. From the late Qing official Huang Zunxian 黄遵宪 (who praised the Japanese system of provincial governance as pivotal in the Meiji State-building process) to the Republican governor of Guangdong Cheng Jionming 陈炯明 and his Jeffersonian inspiration of a bottom-up reconstruction of China in the 1920s – including the “provincial patriots” of the 1910s -, prominent individuals and organized networks or movements will be observed in their attempts at redefining the relationship between the “State” and the “local”.
A survey of how the same concept of “local self-government” was variously translated, adapted, and circulated through the use of multiple historical or “foreign” references (in the methodological framework of Begriffsgeschichte), will reveal contrasting, and often competing, political blueprints for the construction of a (differently conceived) “modern” China.
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