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张晨晨:梁启超与国家-天下的两难

Religion in so far as it is a source of consolation is a hindrance to true faith: in this sense atheism is a purification. I have to be atheistic with the part of myself which is not made for God. Among those men in whom the supernatural part has not been awakened, the atheists are right and the believers are wrong.
Simone Weil, 1947.
The serial essay Xinmin shuo was without any doubt one of the most influential, systematic and ambitious works of Liang Qichao. Accordingly, this single essay has received remarkable scholarly attention. But underlying these generally far-reaching studies on this subject is a simple, yet noteworthy fact that the English translations of its title differ slightly in choosing an equivalent to the Chinese word ‘min’. The title could be translated as New Citizen (Chang 1971), Discourse on the Making New of the People (Leveson 1959), or the New People (Zarrow 1997)[1] from different points of view. Considered more carefully, this is not merely a matter of translation, but also a reflection of the ambiguity, or the paradox in the concepts of nationality and citizenship. Thus the multifold meaning of ‘min’ in the New People marks the starting point of our exploration of Liang’s nationalist thought.
Citizens, Nationals, and the Individual
Like his many other essays, the Xinmin shuo also began with a dramatic depiction of the historical and geographic map of the modern world: ‘There have been no less than thousands of countries that have existed on the earth in human history. But how many remain intact and own a color hitherto on the map of the five continents? No more than a hundred and a dozen. And of these countries how many now stand as a world power and will be able to survive in the world of evolution? No more than a half-dozen.’ (WJDJ: 547) This consciousness and scheme of mapping the world marked the keynote of his project of renovating the people, namely: the survival and strengthening of the nation. The introduction was followed by a section explaining why making new the people was the most urgent task of his time. Then he moved onto giving a definition of the “new people” (xinmin). But convinced that the meaning of ‘people’, or min was quite clear to all the Chinese readers, he actually only explained the meaning of ‘new’. He wrote: ‘On one hand, it is to purify what one already has and to renew it; on the other, it is to acquire what one does not have so as to make new. If either one is missing, there will be no achievement.’ In illustrating the first aspect of renovation, he claimed that every country stood as a power in the world must be unique in its national characteristics. From morality and laws to customs and habits, ‘the independent spirit was carried on from generation to generation, thus the grouping (qun) was formed, and the state (guo) was built. This is truly the fundamental wellspring of nationalism.’ (WJDJ: 550) When he spoke of ‘national character’ here, he used the word ‘guomin’ which was apparently should be understood as the national, instead of the citizen.
Nomura is absolutely right in suggesting that the whole series of The New People is committed to the project of ‘creating the guomin’ (Nomura 1970), but what remains unclear is what the term guomin (literally, people of the nation) exactly means. Unlike its equivalent words in Western languages which name the collective and the individual respectively[2], the Chinese word guomin couldindicate the collective people, the individual citizens or nationals, and even the nation-state occasionally. We can see the last usage, for example, in one of Liang’s essays entitled Lun jinshi guomin jingzheng zhi dashi yu zhongguo qiantu (on the competition among modern nations and the future of China, 1899). He made a distinction between the traditional concept of guojia and the modern nation-state: ‘Guojia (literally, state-family) is the name that takes the state as property of one family. Guomin, is the name that takes the state as the public property of one people. The guo (state, nation) is the aggregation of the min (people, citizen); so without the latter, there would be no the former. That public affairs of one nation are managed by the people of this nation … is called guomin.’ (WJDJ: 1345) Here the meaning of guomin was very similar to that of ‘nation’ as a political community embodied in a certain form of state. But it is rare to point out such cases. More commonly, the neologism guomin, as Zarrow’s concludes, ‘in effect straddled the distinction between a mere ‘national’ and a full-fledged ‘citizen’.’ (Zarrow 1997: 18)
To elaborate this equivocality, let us take a look at another instructive section of the Xinmin shuo, in which Liang heavily stressed the importance of the ideas of the state[3] (guojia sixiang). The first line of this section stated: ‘When the human grouping (qun) was first formed, there were no citizens (guomin), but only tribe members (bumin). The progress from the tribe member to the citizen marks the dividing line between the savage and the civilization.’ Here he almost seemed to be echoing Fukuzawa, who mentioned in the Outline, that the English word ‘civilization’ is derived from the Latin word ‘civitas’ which means no other than the state ([1875]1997:57). ‘What is the difference between the tribal and the citizen?’ He then asked, ‘Answer: people who live in groups and preserve their own customs are viewed as tribal, whereas people who have the ideas of the state, and become capable of political autonomy should be called citizens/nationals (guomin). It is impossible for a state to exist without citizens/nationals.’ From this we may notice a slight shift from the meaning of citizen to the meaning of national in his use of the word guomin, andthe following explanation about what the ideas of the state (i.e. national consciousness) mean make the shift more evident. In Liang’s analysis, national consciousness is to be understood from four perspectives, namely: be aware of the nation/the state in contrast to the individual; in contrast to the government; in contrast to other nations and to the world. Many have argued that Liang’s elaboration of his concept of xinmin in The New People implied some crucial elements of the very concept of modern citizenry – popular sovereignty, political participation, a new view of world order and so forth (Chang 1977:158-66; Zarrow 1997: 16-20). While not ignoring the significance of this point, we shall pay more attention to the way in which the single Chinese character ‘min’ combined the somehow liberalist notion of citizenry with an absolute belief in the power of nationalism and the nation. As Tang points out penetratingly: ‘The inherent tensions and conflicts between a collective, national identity and the liberal notion of individuality, however enfeebled the latter may be, are overcome by the exciting prospect of action, of making new.’ (1996:26) But considering our review of the history of nationalist theories, the question is not so much the conflicts between the so-called collective nationalism and individualist liberalism, since nationalism by its own nature, as well as national identity, depends directly on the abstract individuals who are divorced from the mediation of webs of relationship. Rather, it is the fact that the dilemmas of the modern concepts of nationality and citizenship always open up potential possibilities of calling forth such conceptual confusions, and accordingly, how naturally such ambiguities arose in the thinking of Liang.
Morris-Suzuki’s observation on the imperial expansion and identity crises of Japan in early 20th century (1998: 157-89) may offer us a good reference to approach this problem. The political and intellectual crises that faced Japan during this period were to a large degree mirrored by the similar situation in China. With the same Chinese characters yet different pronunciations, pre-modern Chinese thought had been dominated by the vision of tianxia (the world under heaven), and pre-Meiji Japanese thought by the vision of tenka. But it was the new vision of kokka (the state), not guojia that first took shape in East Asia accompanied by ‘a sense of unequivocal common membership of a single body politic’ (Morris-Suzuki 1998:159). This sense, therefore, is usually considered as the birth of modern citizenship in East Asia. Before his analysis of the dilemmas of citizenship in Japan and their relationship to the imperial expansion, Morris-Suzuki mentions, not surprisingly, the opposite directions in the idea of citizenship based on individual rights and freedoms in Enlightenment thought, and in the emphasis on a national community only through which could those rights and freedoms be possible in nineteenth- and twentieth-century European thought. So from the beginning – though he does not explain the link between the two phases in intellectual history, and therefore the word ‘beginning’ seems not quite precise – ‘the status of citizen was inextricably bound up with the obligation to defend the nation – that is, the willingness to die (or at least to kill) for one’s country.’ (1998: 160) Since the theoretical equality of citizenship is confined in a national community, a citizen must be identified as a national in the first place. This link is adequately demonstrated in the Japanese term kokumin, and in the Chinese term guomin. Thus one of the important consequences that followed from the equation of being a citizen with being Japanese was a repeated call for an amorphous ‘national spirit’ (kokumin seishin). The national spirit was supposed to be a sense of solidarity and loyalty that sprung from shared customs, language, and ethnicity. But Morris-Suzuki suggests this relationship was a troubling one, for ‘Japan has never been culturally homogeneous’ (ibid.). Another consequence or the logical extension of the first-mentioned idea to the realm of international society was, as is well known, the imperial expansion of Japan and its absorption of other communities. Once again, one of the roots of the complicated relationship among nationalism, imperialism and colonialism could be traced back to the limitations of the modern notion of citizenship, and its inextricable ties to nationality.
Ironically, from Liang’s point of view, imperial Japan was both an admirable model and an implied threat. The two nations had shared the vision of tianxia in their recognition of the world order, and both of them were confronted with the invasion of the West by now. A similar situation made Japan a valuable source of reference for Chinese intellectuals, and therefore they were enthusiastic about borrowing vocabulary and ideas from Japan. But things were changing; not only because of the lateness of China in the modernizing process, or Westernizing process, but also because of the changing role of Japan in East Asia, they soon found it difficult to follow the same road that their teacher had taken just a few decades earlier. Nonetheless, convinced that the Japanese experience was most helpful for China at the moment, Liang’s perception of guomin as integration between nationality and citizen was profoundly influenced by the indications of this word in Japanese context – a simple fact is that the modern usage of guomin in Chinesethat was invented by Liang and his contemporaries, like many other social political words, was borrowed from Japanese. This is why Morris-Suzuki’s analysis of the dilemmas of citizenship in prewar Japan is particularly noteworthy for our examination of the notions of citizen and national in early 20th century China. While Japan has never been culturally homogeneous, one must admit that China has been far more heterogeneous, both culturally and politically. Perhaps inspired by the advocacy of kokumin seishin in Japan, Liang consciously made a great effort to plead for national spirits (guomin jingshen) and national characters for the Chinese nation. On the whole, the term guomin in the New People, as well as in other essays, was primarily referring to the awareness and practice of becoming national, even if becoming national inherently entails the principles of citizenry.
But is this project of becoming national the only approach to gaining modern subjectivity? Are there any other essential requirements for being a new citizen besides being a national? For Liang the answer is definite. That is to say, the term xinmin should be understood not only as the new people, or the new citizen, but also as the new person. It is only in this sense that one can argue that Liang had done some crucial work in creating an active citizenry – or making modern subject of the individual in the context of early twentieth-century China. But before looking at this aspect in Liang’s writing, we have to trace again the evolution of the concept of citizenship to its ancient Hellenic origins. It is widely know that the problem of citizenship was at the centre of the politics of Greek city states, since politics, in the view of Greeks, essentially means participating in public activities by free and rational people. Therefore, citizenship was confined strictly to a few residents living in the city, who had the time to spend to understand political issues and were capable of taking action. For women, slaves and Persians, apparently citizenship was impossible. Aristotle, claiming that the true nature of the human being is that of a political animal, counted life in the polis as the highest this-worldly good for man. With the breakdown of the city states, and the rise of the Roman Empire, the significance of citizenship in secular politics was reduced, and not viewed as essentially relevant to the good life any more. Although Machiavelli’s reflections on classical republicanism in the early sixteenth-century were momentous, the prevailing trend in modern political thought was less classical than medieval. As Benjamin Constant argued in his consequential essay the Liberty of the Ancients Compared with that of the Moderns, modern freedom was ‘the freedom of the private person rather than the citizen, and was freedom from politics as much as freedom in politics.’ (Miller 1991:75) Seeing that liberalism was confronted with more and more explicit problems, some renewed academic concern about the concept of citizenship and republicanism had been increasing in recent years. Since the modern context of practising citizenship is no longer the city-state, but the nation-state in a large scale in which direct participation in political activities and interpersonal relationships spreading within the whole community are nearly impossible, the modern concept of citizenship contains deep tensions. We have seen that Rousseau, in whom the clash between the ancient and the modern concepts of citizenship was clearly reflected, gave his great praise to the small State.
It is not surprising that in his introduction to Rousseau’s political theory, Liang found the tension along with the compatibility between the individual and the state utterly incomprehensible. For Liang, the individual as ‘ge’ was a term paralleled by the term of ‘qun’ (grouping), yet both of them were in the category of social networks which was not irrelevant to, but independent from the category of nation-state. In some aspects Liang’s attitudes toward citizenship – though he himself never used this word – shared some elements with the Aristotelian tradition: the individuals were ‘to be integrated into the political community like parts in a whole, individual identity was to stem from the interplay of social traditions and institutions.’ (Zarrow 1997:17) However, these elements were less influenced by Western thought he learned from the Japanese books than by traditional Confucius principles. He defined the qualities of the individual as a part of the whole, to a large extent, in terms of Wang Yangming’s philosophy of mind (xinxue) which laid the significance of conscience (liangzhi; literally good-knowing) at the very centre of all human activities. Liang pointed out that the pursuit of ‘public morality’ (gongde) was crucial to everyone living in a community, since abstract individuality was impossible and a person was to be a person only in the network of social groupings. While his discourses upon the concept of grouping were consistent and clear, the state, as an unfamiliar concept written in familiar Chinese characters, appears far more uncertain in his writing. Is the state merely a particular type of grouping? Or, is it the highest type of grouping only in which individuals can survive as citizens? Though his answers oscillate between the two extremes, it is certain that his perception of the state diverged from that in Western political thought.
In most cases, Liang considered the state to be an aggregation of individuals, and in the same way, the freedoms and rights of the state was an aggregation of the freedoms and rights of individuals. In his discussion of the idea of rights, he wrote: ‘Assembling rights of the portions makes the right of the whole;aggregating individuals’ ideas of rights makes the idea of rights of the state.’ (WJDJ: 569) From this point of view, the state was just like any other types of grouping. Unlike in Western political theory, the absoluteness of the state was analogous to that of the individual; here in Liang’s thinking, the relationship between the two was aggregation, rather than analogy.
We have examined various dimensions of ‘min’ as a key concept in Liang’s writing around 1902. At the core of his discourses on making new the people is to urge the Chinese to be aware that they are members of the Chinese nation which is among other competing nations over the world. This is a project, or, to borrow Weber’s words, an ‘attainment’ – because ‘it seems that a group of people under certain conditions may attain the quality of a nation through specific behaviour and within short spans of time at that.’ (Weber [1948]1994:23) Liang seems quite sure about the fact that the very concept of nation, as ‘the beauty of history’, is based on the claim of all individuals to ‘active’, ‘equal’ membership of the nation, and the claim of all nations to ‘independent’, ‘equal’ membership of the international system. But there are some inconsistencies in his argument about how to become a xinmin (new citizen; new national; or new person) for an individual. The reason for this situation might lie in the fact that theoretical analogy between the individual and the state, as is drawn in Western political philosophy, is simply absent in Liang’s thinking. Indeed the destiny of the nation is exalted in provocative words, but there is hidden logic within, so to speak; it is merely because the nation-state is the prevailing form of political community at the moment that one has to be qualified as a national. Therefore, the requirements for a national and that for an individual who is dependent on a network of groupings are not necessarily, fundamentally relevant to each other. Moreover, the latter facet of the xinmin -- the grouping-relative individual (in a particular sense, might be called citizenry) instead of the state-relative individual, although shaped to a marked degree by traditional doctrines, also asserts itself as modern, or as new. To do this Liang made a great effort to rediscover traditional values and identify modern ‘moments’ within them. As we shall see below, this effort was inevitably caught up in other contradictions.
Who is the Chinese Nation?
In his many works Liang Qichao had named some particular qualities that were, both morally and practically, needed for an individual to be a new person – a person who viewed himself as a national and for the Chinese people to be a new people – a nation of solidarity. But another question faced by him was whom he was addressing. In other words, who are the prospective people to be qualified as belonging to the Chinese nation? Since China had never been a homogenous unity, and according to his acceptance of the notion of nation as defined in terms of certain empirical features common to those who count as members of the nation, he then, in order to make China meet the criterion of being a nation, must decide who to include and who not to. The various answers to this question divided intellectuals and political activists who were all calling for a unified Chinese nation at the time into different, even antagonistic political camps. The key controversy over this issue was whether to overthrow the Manchu government and to drive out the Manchus or not. Apparently, if the Chinese nation was equal to Han lineage (hanzu), any other ethnic groups, and in particular the current governing Manchus, should be absolutely excluded from the membership of the expected nation-state.
It is clear that Liang had been with anti-Manchuists during his early years in exile. By 1902, the year he wrote the New People and other weighty essays, he still believed that to evoke the spirit of nationalism necessitated anti-Manchuism. In a letter to his teacher Kang Youwei at that time, he wrote: ‘This is the era of nationalism, without which it is impossible to establish the state. What to arouse the spirit of nationalism in China is no other than attacking on the Manchus. As the overthrow of the Bakufu was the best doctrine for Japan, the overthrow of the Manchu government would be the best doctrine for China. ‘ (NPCB: 157) But also in the year 1902 – before he became an open defender of the Manchu government, his attitudes toward the Manchu race and the given government were far more complicated than it appeared. This was revealed in a fictional debate between two leading characters in his unfinished political novel The Future of New China. In the debate, the revolutionary Li Qubai questioned his friend, the constitutionalist Huang Keqiang, who had just talked about Napoleon’s failure resulting from the triumph of nationalism, ‘Speaking of nationalism – can you tell whether the sovereignty of today’s China is in the hands of our own people or a foreign race?’ Huang answered, probably in the place of Liang himself: ‘… after 300 long years of cultural integration and assimilation, the Manchus are by now inseparable from the Han Chinese…. As long as parliamentary politics, party system, and democratic procedures are established, like the case in England and Japan, it matters little who seizes the throne. If you say that he is not the same race with us, of our 400 million fellowmen belonging to Han lineage, then, who could be qualified to claim the throne? My brother, my love for liberty and equity in my heart is no less than yours at all, as you may know; but I prefer peaceful liberty and orderly equity.’(ZJ 89:20-23) As the far-reaching debate between the two shows, the question of whether Manchu people and other ethnic groups should be included in the Chinese nation was entangled with the argument over whether revolution or reformation was the proper means for strengthening China. While the latter involved more practical concerns about the contemporary political situation, it seemed to Liang that the former had to be answered theoretically. Employing the theory of Staatswissenschaft through the intermediate of Japanese kokkagaku, Liang managed to reconcile his protestation of nationalism with the legitimacy of the Manchus as the present governor of China, with the help of the concept of ‘broad nationalism’ introduced by him against the prevalent racist discourse around 1906. To understand this we shall examine briefly the major work that influenced Liang in his arriving at this destination, namely the theory of the state by J. K. Bluntschli (1808-81).
In her comparative textual study of various versions of Bluntschli’s books translated into Japanese, Bastid-Bruguière has convincingly proven that a translation of a text by Bluntschli under the title Guojia lun (on the state), which appeared from April 10 to October 25, 1899 in the Journal Qingyi Bao was ‘pirated’ by Liang Qichao from Azuma Heiji’s Kokkagaku (science of the state; Staatswissenschaft), a translation of Deutsche Staatslehre für Gebildete that originally published in 1874 by Bluntschli. She also points out that Liang came to a real understanding of Bluntschli’s thought as opposed to other views of the state only after 1903, the year when he published Zhengzhixue dajia bolunzhili zhi xueshuo (on teachings of the great politikwissenschaftler Bluntschli; abbreviated below as on Bluntschli). (Bastid-Bruguière 2004:105-24) However, what conclusion should be drawn from placing Bluntschli in opposition to Rousseau remained unclear in Liang’s writing by early 1903; to put it in other terms, he was still vacillating between the two thinkers which appeared to him as representatives of two fundamentally contrary theories, and even of two contrary ages. Early this year, in replying to a reader who spoke of current affairs in France, and according to that asked for restrictions on civil rights and liberty, Liang stated that though ‘recent writers like Bluntschli strongly advocate statism, and claim that the individuals should sacrifice their own interests for the sake of national interests’, this theory was just made to meet the requirements of an imperialist age. Yet for today’s China, Liang argued, the spirit of Rousseau was precisely what she needed, and the Social Contract was the only ‘good medicine’ to cure her (WJDJ: 2199). Three months later, in his on Bluntschli, commonly viewed as a turning point of Liang from a revolutionary to a conservative, he openly attacked his former opinions and reconsidered the theory of the state given by Bluntschli as the real ‘medicine’ for China.
However, it seems to me that this transformation was not as dramatic as it appeared on the surface; this is because his understanding of Bluntschli’s thought as opposed to Rousseau’s was an illusion in the first place. Rousseau, as Balibar depicts, ‘had broken with past ‘constitutional’ theory on a decisive point’, and framed a new paradigm for all the political thinking after him. (1994: ix) While Liang had trouble understanding Rousseau’s theory of popular sovereignty and general will, which was regarded by him as an oppression of individual freedom, intriguingly, he found the organic state theory that had been prevailing in Meiji Japan during a short period prior to his exile fairly acceptable. There are various perspectives from which his acceptance of the organic state theory (apparently Bluntschli was a leading representative of such theory for Liang) and social Darwinism to be understood, and I will return to this issue later. But right here my examination is solely concentrated on his perception and reproduction of the distinctions between the concepts of Volk and Nation proposed by Bluntschli[4].
As usual, Bluntschli starts his survey on the conceptions ‘people’ and ‘nations’ with clarifying different senses in which the same words were used in English, in French, and in German. The English word ‘people’ and its French equivalent ‘peuple’, according to Bluntschli, are expressed in German by ‘Nation’, all of which were implying the notion of a civilization. In contrast to this group of terms, the English ‘nation’, the French ‘nation’ and the German ‘Volk’ are in another group referring to something political, rather than cultural. Both of the two are ‘the product of history’, but historical courses of their formation involve different factors respectively. (Bluntschli 1982:79) He argues that the rise of a Nation merely implies a political process, that is to say, the creation of a State; whereas in the formation of a People many forces and factors are at work: such as a common spirit, common interests, common customs and so forth. Since the essence of a People lies in its Cultur, it can only be understood from a psychological point of view, and accordingly, it is not an ‘organism’ in the higher sense of a personality. Here Bluntschli, as a Staatswissenschaftler in 19th century Germany, strictly confines the concept of organism, or the metaphor of ‘personality’, to a legalized State and a Nation based on that. In this sense, he writes, ‘It is the consciousness, more or less developed of political connection and unity which lifts the Nation above the People’. (ibid. 82)Now this raises another question of whether the Nation is the same as the State. Bluntschli’s answer is that we may say ‘no State, no Nation’; while we cannot quite say ‘no Nation, no State’, because despotism knows nothing of Nations, only of subjects. To put it more concretely, there are some States, like ancient empires or Oriental despotism countries that exist without any particular connection to a Nation. On this point he shares with many of his predecessor since the Enlightenment and his contemporaries the idea that ‘nation’, as a political community, is a term only to name those unities of population who are not subjects, but are fully conscious of their political rights.
Bluntschli continues to generalize some varieties of form in which the State and the people are combined. In some cases, for instance, the state may hold the different peoples together without transforming them in favour of one nationality, although ‘not every people is capable of creating and maintaining a State, and only a people of political capacity can claim to become an independent nation’. In other cases, however, it is also possible that two or more states are developed from one people. Above all, ‘a ‘national’ State (ein nationaler Stat) needs not include an entire people: only it must embrace a part which is large and strong enough to assert its character and spirit effectively in the State.’ (ibid. 94) It is precisely this point that was employed by Liang to justify what he called ‘broad-nationalism’ (da minzu zhuyi). In fact, when the translation of Bluntschli’s work first appeared in Qingyi bao in 1899, the second chapter dealing with the distinctions between the terms Nation (translated as zokumin in Japanese; converted into minzu in Chinese) and Volk (translated as kokumin in Japanese; as guomin in Chinese) was omitted. In Bastid-Bruguière’s analysis, it could be explained by the fact that Liang himself, at the time, made little distinction between minzu and guomin (2004:116). However, in the On Bluntschli published in 1903, a section on differences and connections between the nation and people, which had earlier been omitted, was added back. One of the reasons might be that such distinctions were very helpful to support his position that state-building of China did not necessitate anti-Manchuism.
If looked at closer, however, one would notice again a deviation from the original text in Liang’s description of Bluntschli’s theory. In the first place he took guomin, the multi-fold meaning of which has been discussed before,as the translation of Volk, and minzu as Nation. Literally, the proper translation of Chinese word ‘minzu’ in its modern usage should be ‘ethnic group’. Actually in all the debates over the relationship between Han Chinese and the Manchus in his time, the concepts of ethnicity and nationality were always confused. In the case of Liang, even though he was to agree with Bluntschli that two or more peoples may belong to a single Nation, he would not use ‘renmin’ (people) to refer to Manchu people. Rather, he used ‘minzu’, which was considered as a notion in some sense ‘narrower’ than the notion of nation, or people. Another explicit shift from the original was that he completely ignored, deliberately or not, the distinction between the Nation and the State drawn by Bluntschli. We may remember that the latter argues that it is impossible for a nation to exist without consciousness of political right, yet a state can exist with a body of subjects, which is in general the case before the age of national state. But Liang simply declared, ‘There is a nation, so there is a state; no state, no nation. The two are in truth the same thing only referred by different names.’ (WJDJ: 452) This recognition was commonplace for intellectuals, youth students, and even preliminary mass media in major cities at the time. To give only one example, a popular book entitled ‘guominduben’ (a reader for nationals), first appeared in 1905, told people that ‘the guomin (nation; nationals) and the guojia (the state) cannot be separated from one another; the reputations, honour and dishonour of the nation and the state are one.’ (Chen; Gao 1905: 1-2; quoted in Judge 2002: 32)
Compared with his introduction to Bluntschli’s work, what seems more remarkable to us was his lengthy, intensive and problematic footnotes after the text. In the footnote he put three sharp questions to anti-Manchuists: 1) does the Han lineage have the capability to found the state? 2) Is the reason why anti-Manchuists go against the Manchus because they are Manchu, or that they organised an evil government? 3) Is it true that we can found the state only after we expel the Manchus, or that we can also found the state on the basis of integration with Manchu people, even with Mongols, Miao people, Hui people and Tibetans? (WJDJ: 453-54) In short, the question that Liang put before his Chinese readers was as follows, ‘did they aim to build up China as a modern state or did they prefer to be carried away by a narrow revengeful spirit against the Manchus?’ (Chang 1971:261) Liang’s choice was clear enough. He now proposed a new kind of nationalism called by him ‘broad-nationalism’ (da minzu zhuyi) as opposed to the anti-Manchuism, which he termed ‘narrow-nationalism’ (xiao minzu zhuyi).
What does the term ‘broad-nationalism’ mean in the history of nationalist thinking worldwide? There are at least two ways, with two different accents, to understand it. The first possibility is taking it as ‘political nationalism’ in the ‘political versus cultural’ paradigm of nationalism study. Hao Chang, from this point of view, lays great emphasis on Liang’s concern with ‘the rationalization of the state’. By claiming that a state need not necessarily be made up of a single nation, according to Chang, Liang diverted attention away from ethnic issues outside the political course of state-building. For Chang ‘broad-nationalism’ was no more than a rhetorical device; ‘the underlying concern remained the political rationalization of the state’ (1971:262). A similar position could be found in Xu Jilin’s study on the ‘liberal nationalism’ in the intellectual history of China. Xu believes that what Liang aimed to create was a national community based on republican citizenship. This conclusion is based on a widespread assumption that a political nationalism emerged from the French Revolution on one hand; and a cultural nationalism represented by German Romanticism on the other. In the case of Liang, Xu considers his understanding of political nationalism as learning from Rousseau and Nakae Chōmin, and his recognition of cultural nationalism (which is equivalent to the organic state theory in Xu’s view) from Bluntschli. In this dichotomous framework, he writes, ‘Liang preferred the popular sovereignty theory of France rather than the organic state theory of Germany. Because unlike Germany in the 19th century, China in the late Qing did not lack cultural symbols of the nation, but obviously lacked modern consciousness of stateness and political institutions.’ (Xu 2005:124) This certainly cannot explain Liang’s enthusiasm for Social Darwinism, and his earnest endeavours to redefine what the core of Chinese culture was.
But there is another possibility that might lead in an opposite direction. Provided that both constitutionalists as Liang and revolutionaries as Wang Jingwei took it for granted that ethnic minorities, including Manchu, Mongol, Hui, Tibetan and others, were already integrated and assimilated into the Han culture, which stood for Chinese culture, there is actually little difference between the two camps in their imagination of a homogeneous nation. In this sense, Murata sees a resemblance between endeavours of Liang and contemporaries to redraw the boundary on the basis of national identity and Fichte’s famous terminology ‘internal border’ in the Addresses to the German Nation (Murata 1996:35-67). Can we conclude then, that the concept of ‘broad-nationalism’ was essentially a form of cultural nationalism rather than a political one? The real task, in my view, is to overcome the arbitrary disconnection of the political from the cultural, and to illustrate the interplay of them. This is similarly applied to the relationship between the universal and particularism. To figure out the main contradiction in Liang’s understanding of the border of the Chinese nation, let us return once again to Bluntschli and 19th century Germany.
First of all, Bluntschli was a representative of the liberal theorists of his times. But the fate of German liberalism was ironic: in James Sheehan’s words, ‘Liberals' relationship with the state continued to be shaped by two conflicting sets of pressures: on one hand, their desire to represent the Volk and to broaden the influence of this representation; and on the other hand, their desire to ally with the state against those forces in society which they considered dangerous.’ (Sheehan 1982:134) The influence of Bluntschli and German Staatswissenschaft in Japan was even more ironic. The introducer and translator of Bluntschli Katō Hiroyuki was known as a strong believer in Social Darwinism and an opponent of the views propounded by the Freedom and People's Rights Movement. Putting aside the controversy over constitutionalism and republicanism in the contexts of 19th Century Germany and Meiji Japan, Bluntschli’s theory of nation and people was in fact a typical model of Enlightenment narrative. This was clearly shown in his discourse upon human races:
The so-called ‘yellow’ race has more significance for political development. …The civilised nations (Culturvolker) of China and Japan have reached a higher development than the Huns and Turks. They have produced a subtle political philosophy, and the ideas of humanity as opposed to barbarism, and personal merit as opposed to nobility of birth, were recognised by them earlier than by the Aryans of Europe. They have done much for agriculture, trades, schools, and police. But their ideas of law were always mixed up with moral precepts, and limited by considerations of family life and discipline. Their government is a benevolent despotism. They have little sense of honour, and no idea of national freedom. ([1875]1982:76)
Obviously Liang would be very reluctant to agree that the Chinese nation has little sense of honour, and no idea of national freedom, but if he meant to accept the complete narrative of evolutionary world history, he would have to agree on this point. As we have seen before, the great blossoming of universalism in the Enlightenment has to ‘be elaborated in such a way that it provides ‘logical’ foundations for racist or discriminatory or at least imperialist practices’ (Balibar 1994:195). And the relationship between the universal abstract equality of Enlightenment and the claim to particularity of Romanticism is much more complicated than a sudden reversal. Therefore, one cannot simply place the arguable ‘cultural nationalism’ in opposition to the equally arguable ‘political nationalism’ and label a ‘nationality’, or an individual thinker with such a term. What is crucial to our understanding of modern nationalism is not to seize upon one pole of this particular/universal opposition, but more fundamentally, to be liberated from such opposing paradigms, even though it has appeared as an impossible task so far.
If modern European thought had been inevitably caught up in such paradox, the situation that faced Liang and his fellows was only to be more paradoxical. On one hand, just in the same way as their intellectual idols in the West imposed the domination of some cultures on others before, Liang and his contemporaries imposed the domination of a homogeneous Han-Chinese culture on others within still an indefinite, either cultural or political, boundary of China. The answers to the question of who the Chinese nation is provided by Liang and his antagonists were indeed identical, namely: the Han lineage as an overwhelming majority and arguably, other ethnic groups that were already assimilated into Chinese culture. On the other hand, however, when the West did this it was tackling the problem resulting from its modernity, modernity that emerged from a changing yet continuous tradition. While for China, all the Westernizers were faced with the problem of their own past. Here is the question raised by Chatterjee. It is easy to accept the racial theory, the ideas of evolutionary history and the state theory given by Bluntschli, but does it mean that the non-Western world ought to be ‘perpetual consumers of modernity’ (Chatterjee 1993:5)? Furthermore, what if this acceptance irreconcilably conflicted with what they believed to be something that defined ‘their’ culture? The next chapter then is devoted to this subject.
Indigenous and Exogenous Values
In his introduction of Bacon and Descartes, the two figures he saw as ‘the two founders of modern civilization’, Liang drew a conclusion in fairly plain and concise words: 1) Do not be slaves of the old thought of China. 2) Do not be slaves of the new thought of the West. (WJDJ: 397) Interestingly, Levenson finds it would become very strange if these instructions were transposed into an English key: 1) Do not be slaves of the old thought of England. 2) Do not be slaves of the new thought of the East. It looks strange because ‘if a Westerner favored innovation, this innovation would be, after all, a product of his own civilization’. Therefore, ‘it was still a European Europe if not a pre-modern one. China, on the other hand, once it ceased to be pre-modern, could not remain a Chinese China’. (Levenson 1959: 148) This analysis precisely reflects the core of Levenson’s argument about the conflict between what is ‘true’ and what is ‘mine’ in modern Chinese intellectual history. The dilemma between history and value, according to Levenson, presents itself as this: Be Chinese and pre-modern, or be modern and no longer Chinese. The beginning of Liang’s solution, as we have seen, was to dispose of Chinese culture as the basis of Chinese equivalence with the West. The opposition between Chinese tradition and the West was replaced with the opposition between the Chinese nation and the West, while specific values that represented modernity, such as democracy, were both Western and Chinese. Therefore, the moral standards for Liang’s ideal ‘renewed people’ were defined by a philosophical synthesis of indigenous and exogenous values. In achieving this synthesis Liang mainly built his moral philosophy concerning modern citizenship in two ways. One was to discover those specific values that were crucial to the modern/Western world in traditional Chinese thoughts; the other was to directly reinterpret elements of traditional morality in the new context, and considered them as equally crucial to modern China.
We can see a number of examples of the first way in Liang’s praise of those great thinkers (not necessarily Chinese) who made a decisive influence in Chinese history, and his drawing resemblance between them and those in the West. In his eulogy of Immanuel Kant, for instance, he compared Kant’s theoretical ideas with the Buddha’s, and juxtaposed his practical doctrines like Confucius’. Most importantly, the learning of liangzhi (good conscience) of Wang Yangming ‘shared exactly the same theoretical basis with the Kantian philosophy of morality’. (WJDJ: 436-45) In another case, as commenting on Hobbes’ political theory of social contract and the state sovereignty, he claimed that the thoughts of Ancient Chinese philosophers Xun zi and Mozi were closely comparable to Hobbes’. Liang further noted: ‘Hobbes is a highly influential figure in the history of Western philosophy and politics. He was born in the seventh century, while his learning was merely equalled to the Hundred Schools of Thought in the Warring States period (from 476 BCE to 221 BCE) of China, and was even less sophisticated. This is only to show that our Chinese thought indeed advanced extremely early!’ Ironically, his sincere admiration for the traditional Chinese culture was often accompanied by his contempt of the Chinese way of life at the time. He argued that Chinese had ‘none of the English virtues, neither self-respect, common sense, nor the ideal of the “gentleman”’, and the Chinese lacked the spirit of enterprise and initiative. (Levenson 1959: 140) Apparently in drawing this conclusion Liang was actually establishing a new set of evaluation criteria for judging values and spirits which was defined by the successful mode of Western modernization.
The second approach to the reinterpretation of traditional culture was revealed in his illustration of moral standards and character development of the new individual citizen. By conceiving the ‘new citizen’, self-consciously or unconsciously, as largely informed by Confucian standards, he ‘not only promoted Confucian self-cultivation and elements of Confucian morality as the basis of a personal ethics he thought useful to modern citizenship but also favored a universalization of public life which was by no means foreign to the Confucian worldview’ (Zarrow 1997:5). Calls for public virtues (gongde) lay at the heart of the Discourses on the New Citizen; therefore Liang tended to condemn the Confucian tradition for emphasizing private virtues (side) which were often at the expense of public. But he soon found that the core qualities of the new citizen, such as liberty, autonomy, enterprise and the idea of rights, were relevant to both the public and private spheres. Eventually the Discourses on New Citizen was ended with a reflective focus on the modified perception of private virtues. Even before arriving at the last section entitled ‘private virtues’, Liang’s demonstration of specific moral standards and characters of the new citizen was already tied explicitly to the Confucius doctrines of individual autonomy. Among these values he pleaded for, his perception of liberty (C: ziyou; J: jiyū) might particularly need closer examination.
In a letter to Kang Youwei in 1900, Liang argued with his teacher, courteously and eloquently, over the issues of liberty and revolution. ‘While you have a deep hatred for the idea of liberty,’ wrote Liang, ‘I will never lose my faith in it. I believe that neither the universal principle nor the current of time in China would achieve success unless this idea was invented and applied.’ He then explained what he meant by the term ‘liberty’, or ziyou, ‘liberty is not in opposition to oppression; rather, it is opposed to slavishness. The oppression derives from the giver, whereas the slavishness derives from the receiver. …What the idea of liberty is meant for is making his own nature known to the individual himself, and making him not subject to the others. ’ (NPCB: 125) Huang K’o-wu has discovered a significant similarity between Liang’s perception of liberty and English notion of liberty represented by J. S. Mill in his study of Liang’s reflection on individualism (Huang 2006: 61-89). Unlike other scholars who regard Liang as a statist due to his emphasis on the collective interests, Huang maintains that Liang’s position on the problem of the relationship between the individual and the collectivity clearly fell upon the individual, and furthermore, the essence of his argument existed in sustaining a balance between collective and individual interests (ibid. 89). However, it must be kept in mind that the conception of atomic individual, which constitutes the basis of modern liberalism, was actually absent in Liang’s political thought. One cannot identify his idea of liberty as either ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ liberty in the sense of these terms employed in Western political philosophy, even though it seemed positive for that in his explanation, inherent to liberty is the fulfillment of one’s own potential and the awareness of one’s own conscience, rather than being free from external obsession. By the way of conclusion, his cognizance of liberty was inextricably bound to the Confucius idea of good conscience (liangzhi) which claimed autonomy and self-reflection, and was rooted in the conception of society based on the network of groupings, rather than on the aggregation of absolute individuals.
The idea of liberty was indeed essential to Liang’s political thinking in some aspects, especially to his construction of the ‘new citizen’. When his enthusiasm for republicanism was diminished gradually in 1903, he spoke out passionately: ‘Alas! The republic! I love you, yet I love you less than I love my nation. I do love you, yet I love you less than I love liberty. … I now wave farewell to you.’ (WJDJ: 459) Nonetheless, Liang was hardly a liberal in the Western sense of this term; nor was he an individualist . To understand this entails not only being aware that the nature of politics and society in Chinese thought had profoundly influenced Liang’s acceptance and interpretation of Western/modern political thought, but also taking the concrete historical context into account – the context within which the traditional and modern, or indigenous and exogenous values were selected, integrated and reconfigured.
For the Survival of the Guo
The will to the State or the sense of the State is the will of man to shape his own destiny, which never exists for him purely as an individual, but only in a community formed by the succession of generations.
Karl Jaspers, 1931
As mentioned previously, the year 1903 has been generally viewed as a turning point in Liang’s thinking from ethno-nationalism to a state-centered theory of nation. In Rebecca’s observation, the state, or the guo, became not only the mediator, or interpreter of minzu (ethnic nation) and guomin (citizenry, national, nation), but also their very means of ‘actualization in the world’ (Rebecca 2004:142). This reformulation, in my view, was merely functional rather than conceptual. The survival of the state at an age of imperialism now emerged as a problem of primary importance, therefore all the theories that might support ‘destructive’ revolution and popular struggle must be temporarily dismissed. In arriving at this destination Liang’s recognition of the relationship between nationalism and imperialism; and of the dynamic of political revolution needs a closer examination.
Nationalism and National Imperialism
At first glance, what made Liang come to the position that ‘China's most urgent need is organic unity and powerful order, and liberty and equality are secondary’ (WJDJ: 450) were the expansion of imperial power in the world and the failure of the Boer and Filipino struggles he had witnessed. But curiously enough, his attitude toward imperialism was rather ambiguous. That is, on one hand, he maintained that the increasing political and economic penetration of the colonies or semi-colonies by Euro-Americans sounded great alarm to China. In an essay entitled ‘Mieguo xinfa lun’ (on the new rules for destroying countries, 1901), Liang gave an in-depth analysis of what he saw as a new ‘pattern’ of destruction that had revealed itself in Poland, India, Philippines, Egypt and many other countries controlled by imperial power. Noting that economic infiltration into native structures was efficient enough to destroy a country, he wrote: ‘To those who claim that opening mining, railroad, and concessionary rights to foreigners is not harmful to the sovereignty of the whole, I advise you to read the history of the Boer War.’ (WJDJ: 726) In this sense, nationalism, which he urged China to embrace undoubtedly, served the purpose of fighting the foreign power off; it was the synonym of anti-imperialism.[5] On the other hand, however, in his vision of global history, ‘the age of nationalism’ and ‘the age of national imperialism (minzu diguo zhuyi)’ appeared as two successive stages that one inevitably led to another.
This conviction, that nationalism and imperialism are ranked on the ladder of progress in an invariable sequence, and the movement from one stage to another is an irreversible historical course, has two corollaries. One is that China has to first step onto the stage of nationalism before entering the next stage. The other is that the ultimate goal of China will be, and should be, to reach the stage of imperialism. How do the two doctrines and the two historical stages dominated by them differ from one another then? In Liang’s own words, ‘Nationalism is that according to which the state exists for the sake of the people, and therefore, any other interests, if necessary, must be sacrificed for the interests of the people. Imperialism is that according to which the people exists for the sake of the state, hence state interests are asserted over/against all other interests.’ He continues to illustrate the fundamental distinctions between imperialism of the nineteenth century and those distinctions before the eighteenth century. The latter, according to Liang, is derived from the empire of the monarch; whereas the former from the empire of the whole nation. Using an intriguing metaphor, he concludes that nationalism is an indispensable element for a state, as for a person, to be developed and born from an embryo until growing into a child. For this reason, a state (guo) cannot be called a state, just like a person cannot be called a person if it still remains in the state of embryonism, unless it has already moved through the stage of nationalism. And the progress from nationalism to imperialism is an achievement to accomplish after the child becomes an adult (WJDJ: 767). From this point of view, what he saw as the most dangerous opinion at that time was the assertion that the predominance of state interests and strong government, a predominate idea at the end of the nineteenth century, should be applied to today’s China solely because of its prevalence in Europe. Since China had never gone through the nationalist stage, she was far from qualified as a state, -- that is to say, she must be committed to those doctrines, which were suitable for children, rather than those for adults. This metaphor of the historical development of a state as the natural growth of a human being may easily remind us of the way in which Liang interpreted the conception of civilization: ‘to be a nation was to be civilized, and vice versa’ (Duara 2004: 91). Now he went one step further and pointed out, to be a national empire was to be more civilized. But at that moment the primary need in China was for the building of nationhood in the first place, hence nationalist doctrine that stressed individual freedom, private property, and popular sovereign rather than state interests was most advisable in the contemporary situation.
Liang’s recognition of the relationship between nationalism and imperialism as described above did not change even by 1903, the year considered as the turning point at which Liang became an exponent of statism and strong government. In a response to a reader of Xinmin Congbao, he wrote again: ‘Only after going through the age of nationalism could a state enter the age of imperialism. ...The measure that needed to be taken in today's China is before anything else to make everyone know about rights and freedom. As for the age of imperialism, there must be one day when China will reach it. The Westerners spent two centuries before their arrival, and the time China will spend -- perhaps a dcade or two -- is still unknown.’ (WJDJ: 2199) Evidently, at the heart of these accounts lies the belief that while imperial expansion is the greatest cause of the crisis in China; their conquest is, from many aspects, a civilizing mission. To figure out why and how imperialism was to some extent justified and even praised by Liang, we need to once again trace the intertwining history of imperialism and nationalism throughout the last two centuries.
As Duara indicates in his insightful review on the history of Manchukuo, our current view of nationalism and imperialism as two very different phenomena did not come into being until very recently. ‘Nationalism is characterized by citizenship, equality, and development,’ he writes, ‘whereas imperialism has historically produced domination, exploitation, and the reproduction of difference between ruler and ruled in the colonies’ (2004: 9) In fact, nationalism by now is no longer seen as related to citizenship and equality in many observers’ view, but at least it has been considered as a demanded factor for the development of liberal nation-state up until the end of the Second World war. During the nineteenth century, however, the two concepts can hardly be disentangled in the mission-inspired expansion, which were also regarded as national projects, of a few major powers. Before proceeding, we need to cope with the problem of definition: what is empire? And what is imperialism? The term empire, whether defined politically or geopolitically, generally refers to a system of states and peoples united and ruled by a single centre – which is usually a monarch or an oligarchy. The doctrine of imperialism, according to Mayall, is ‘the systematic attempt to justify or explain the establishment and maintenance of empires’ (2003:105-06). I prefer this definition because it explains why modern imperialism differs essentially from ancient empires. Without a doubt, before the American Declaration of Independence and the French Revolution, the European dynastic empires did not need any justification for their rules beyond the borders of the state. But such needs came into being in the nineteenth century, and social Darwinian ideas on the survival of the fittest and Enlightenment ideas about global history and civilization were employed to meet those needs. The perception of imperial expansion as a means of promoting civilization had been taken for granted by both the liberals and the conservatives for quite a long time. Even Karl Marx, the best know analyst and opponent of global capitalist system, did not challenge this idea in principle. In a famous paragraph from his 1853 article ‘British Rule in India’, he wrote:
England, it is true, in causing a social revolution in Hindustan, was actuated only by the vilest interests, and was stupid in her manner of enforcing them. But that is not the question. The question is, can mankind fulfill its destiny without fundamental revolution in the social state of Asia? If not, whatever may have been the crimes of England she was the unconscious tool of history in bringing about that revolution. (Marx 1959:20)
In his review of Marxist narrative of Indian history, Chatterjee makes a critical comment on this argument of Marx himself:
Here too, as in the liberal history of nationalism, history becomes episodic, marked by one Great Event which is in every sense the watershed, dividing up historical time into past and future, tradition and modernity, stagnation and development – and inescapably, into bad and good: despotism and liberty, superstition and enlightenment, priestcraft and the triumph of reason. For India, the Great was the advent of British Rule which terminated centuries of despotism, superstition and vegetative life and ushered in a new era of change – of ‘destruction’ as well as ‘regeneration’, destruction of antiquated tradition and the emergence of modern, secular and national forces. (1986: 22-23)
The case of British rule in India and Indian nationalism initially driven by anti-imperialism leads us to a remark of particular importance to our account of the relationship between nationalism and imperialism. While imperial expansion was promoted as a national project of the modern empire, nationalist movements in the colony bore a more complicated relationship with imperialism and colonialism. On one hand, nationalist discourses were employed to challenge colonial rule and fight for national independence based on the principle of self-determination. On the other hand, to be sure, the earliest nationalist movements were usually led by privileged local elites, who were mostly ‘educated (or at least experienced) in imperial metropoles’ (Calhoun 1997:112). Hence the inherent contradictoriness in nationalist thinking of indigenous elites was that in order to challenge the imperial structure, they must share the same system of doctrines with those whose rule they challenged in the first place. To borrow Chatterjee’s words again, nationalist thinking in the colony reasons ‘within a framework of knowledge whose representational structure corresponds to the very structure of power nationalist thought seeks to repudiate’ (1986: 38-39). In the case of China, the so-called semi-colonial country, although imperialism asserted its influence in a different way, the irreducible contradictoriness in nationalist thinking of Chinese intellectuals was similar. They, too, began to consider acceptance of the new framework of knowledge as a decisive step towards national independence and prosperity by the turn of the century.
As we have seen, Liang had introduced the ‘new knowledge’ from many aspects to the Chinese people, which included the idea of evolutionary history, modern conception of nation and citizenship, and racist discourse of Social Darwinism, his paradoxical attitude towards imperialism seemed to be unsurprising. Liang’s perception of imperialism as an advanced stage in linear history was theoretically supported by his belief in Social Darwinism, and practically affected by the confrontation of Westerners and Japanese in China after the Sino-Japanese War in 1895. As Akira Iriye notes, ‘Japan was not just another imperialist; it was an Asian imperialist’ (1970:143). For some writers like Liang, Japan was simply following trends in Europe; whereas for others like Sun Yat-sen, lying in the rise of Japanese imperialist there was a possibility that China might seek alliance with Japan against the West. Moreover, even for Liang, the way in which he employed imperialist discourse to interpret and predict Chinese history was started with an unquestioning acceptance of Japanese Orientalism and Asianism. As is well know, the Japanese began to replace the word chūgoku (C: zhongguo, literally ‘middle kingdom’) with shina, which was a transliteration of the English word China, to refer to China. Through this replacement, as Stephan Tanaka’s argues, ‘Japanese were using the West and Asia as other(s) to construct their own sense of a Japanese nation as modern and oriental’ (1993: 18). Liang, always claiming that Japanese book was an efficient and primary shortcut to Western Knowledge, unsurprisingly followed this usage in his early works of the exile period. He began to call China as ‘zhina’ (the Chinese pronunciation of the same two characters in the word shina), and call the Chinese as ‘zhina-ren’.
This self-orientalization was reinforced by the discourse on Asia (C: yazhou; J: ajia) as a geographical space in which China should be located. Asia, and Asianism as well, were essentially Western concepts. But this new geopolitical site of Yazhou, or Ajia, was accepted by both the Chinese and the Japanese, for ‘it provided them with a new concept with which a new and yet contentious relationship was created’ (Chow 2001:67). In Japan, the tōyōshi (oriental history) historians sought to create a new narrative of Asia as the geographical space for modern Japan, and therefore to justify its expansion in Asia. In a similar way, Chinese intellectuals imagined Asia as a spatial entity in which the leading role of China could be reestablished. It was through the reconfiguration of the spatial concept of Asia that Liang gained access to the genealogy of imperialist discourse. Let us take a look at his 1902 essay ‘Yazhou dili dashi lun’ (a general discourse on the geography of Asia). He started the discourse as follows: ‘How great Asia is! Her area covers one third of the overall land on the earth; her population accounts for more than a half of the world population. Asia is the home of the highest mountain, the largest plateau, the widest plain, and the deepest sea.’ The lengthy first paragraph was entirely devoted to praising the splendid nature and glorious history of Asian continent. It was inhabited by many races: the yellow, the white, and the Malay. It was the place where all the linguistic families in the world derived, and where all the religions that ever existed originated from. The first men lived here thousands of years before, and all the great men in history emerged one after another in this land. (WJDJ: 1795) The rhythmic and elaborate prose style may remind us of a famous passage in his Pilgrimage of the seventeenth-century English travel writer Samuel Purchas, which was put on the title page of the book Problems of the Far East published in 1896: ‘And first we must begin with Asia, to which the first place is due, as being the place to the first Men, first Religion, first Cities, Empires, Arts; where the most things mentioned in Scripture were done; the place where paradise was seated, the Arke rested, the Law was given, and whence the Gospell proceeded; the place which did beare Him in His flesh, that by His Word Beareth up all things.’ (Purchas, quoted in Curzon 1896: title page) However, at the end of this paragraph, he remarked that ‘what makes Asia Asia lies in the future, not in the present’ (WJDJ: 1795), and obviously, not to mention the past. Seeing the twentieth century as a century of struggle between forces of independence and imperialism, Liang was convinced that the future of China was tied to that of Asia, for ‘Yazhou is China’s world, just like the World is Europe’s’ (Chow 2001:67).
Liang’s observation of the current situation of world politics seemed to be merely practical, rather than theoretical.[6] But the problem revealed in his thinking leads us to another theoretical question that has existed at the heart of the theory of rights since the Revolution. That is the historical relationship between the concept of individual rights, which is mostly indicated by the term citizenship, and that of national rights. Despite the claim of human rights in many legal declarations and numerous books on political philosophy written by liberal theorists, human rights were ‘only protected and enforced as national rights’ (Duara 2004:14) in history. Furthermore, in most cases they only apply to some groups within the nation. There has been intense debate about whether the emphasis had shifted from ‘minquan’ (individual rights, people’s rights) to ‘guoquan’ (national rights) in Liang’s political thinking during the first decade of twentieth century, but in fact, his oscillation between the two terminologies precisely suggested the inherent tension between national rights and citizenship rights, since this tension, as Duara notes, ‘cannot be reduced to another version of the duality between Western, civic nationalism and Eastern, ethnic nationalism’ (ibid. 15).
While ‘national rights’ is a term that was rarely spoken of in authoritative works of Western political thinking, it became a key notion for the advocacy of political reform in late-nineteenth-century East Asia. What is crucial to understanding the usage of the term in this context is to notice the ambiguity of the character for ‘rights’ both in Chinese and in Japanese, which is pronounced as quan (in Chinese) or ken (in Japanese). There is little need to conduct a lengthy discussion about the semantics of quan/ken in both languages here[7], so let me only briefly mention the changing meaning of this word after 1864, the year W. A. P. Martin’s Chinese translation of Wheaton’s International Law was published. Martin rendered the notion of political ‘rights’ into quanli in this book. Although he was not the first to do so, the book was undoubtedly the first systematic introduction of the notion of ‘rights’ in Western political thinking (Svarverud 2001:131). But the character quan had been primarily bearing the meaning of ‘power’, rather than ‘rights’, before gaining its new meaning in the 1860s. The Freedom and People’s Rights Movement (Jiyū Minken Undo) of Japan in the 1870s and 1880s made the new term minken (C. minquan) known to the Chinese, and only after this reintroduction of Japanese ‘rights’ did the majority of Chinese intellectuals began to debate on the notion of quan in the context of civil and democratic rights. Like many other writers at the time, Liang emphasized the cardinal importance of minquan/minken in politics and considered it as interdependent with guoquan/kokken. Convinced that democracy (C. minzhu; J: minshu) was destructive whereas people’s rights were vitally important to the expected political reform, he wrote: ‘The connotations of the two terms minquan and minzhu are fundamentally different.’ (WJDJ: 668). Democracy, as ‘rule of the people’, was not necessarily beneficial for the country, and even led to unexpected chaos at a certain juncture. But the call for people’s rights/power was absolutely indispensable for the stability and prosperity of a nation. In this sense, people’s rights/power and national rights/power were inextricably dependent on one another. Liang explained the relationship as follows:
What is a nation? It is formed by the aggregation of people. What is national politics? It is that the people manage their own matters. What is patriotism (aiguo; literally loving the nation)? It is that the people love themselves. Therefore, as people’s rights/power (minquan) prospers, national rights/power (guoquan) is confirmed. And as the former deteriorates, the latter disintegrates. (WJDJ: 66)
As was noted before, in Liang’s perception of nationalism and imperialism, nationalism was the doctrine that claims the people’s rights/power over the national one; whereas imperialism was in reverse. Considering his explanation of the ambiguous notion of quan in these two levels, it seems to be logical that he saw the imperialist age as an advanced future of the nationalist age. Since the West had confirmed their national rights/power via defending the individual rights of citizens, China should follow the same road: nationalism first, and imperialism later. But Liang was forced to change his opinion in the middle of the 1900s, because the international and domestic environment of China became more and more adverse and he believed that country now was in a desperate state. Every effort to assert individual rights over/against national rights could give rise to destructive revolution. And the debate with revolutionaries had made his hostility towards destructiveness and his will to defend order and unity even more determined.
Racial Revolution and Political Revolution
If we follow Joseph R. Leveson’s observation, Liang did have much in common with revolutionaries like Sun and the Communists after him. Then the question is: ‘How did they justify their breaks with the past if their ends were different from his? How could his judgments be so like theirs, yet avoid their revolutionary conclusions?’ (1959: 156) Yet strictly speaking, both reformists like Liang and revolutionaries like Sun shared the same end, namely to ‘save the nation’ (jiuguo)[8]. In a lengthy essay entitled Shenlun zhongzu geming yu zhengzhi geming zhi deshi (on the advantages and disadvantages of racial revolution and political revolution), Liang illustrated his logical argumentation as follows (WJDJ: 1564):
The major premise
The minor premise
The conclusion
Anything could be (and should be) our means as long as it helps to achieve saving our nation.
1. Political revolution is what can achieve this end.
1. Therefore, we should take political revolution as our means.
2. There is no other means to this end.
3. Therefore, we have no means other than political revolution to save our nation.
Liang considered his reasoning format of syllogism as assailable, and such deductive reasoning was frequently used in his extensive and long lasting debate with the revolutionary Min bao group from 1905 to 1907. Although the revolutionary group agreed with him in the major premise, they differed widely in their opinions about the means to their common end. The deeper divergence lay in the different interpretations of revolution, constitutionalism and modern nation-state between the two camps. A review of these intellectual exchanges among ‘probably the best talents the nation could offer at the time’ (Lee 1970, quoted in Tang 1996:146) will help us better understand the background against which the transition of Liang’s political thinking took place. Nevertheless, it should be kept in mind that his change of attitude was actually not as drastic as it appeared on the surface. Since a large part of our schema is to focus primarily on the consistency in Liang’s thinking, this section then attempts to show that the conflicting aspects of his attitude towards revolution had already taken shape in the early days, and his academic interests in what he entitled ‘revolutions’ in history’ were essentially led by his perception of the nature of emancipatory politics and modern nation-state. If this perception had not undergone a dramatic change during the period examined here, it would be fair to say that his understanding of revolution remained consistent to a considerable degree. Therefore, before examining those well-known essays written from 1904 to 1906 that were widely considered anti-revolutionary arguments, we shall first look back at an earlier work in which he tried to explore the semantic problems of the term ‘revolution’ both in Chinese context and in Western context.
The article was published in the name of ‘zhongguo zhi xinmin’ (a new citizen of China) and under the title ‘Shige’ – defining the revolution. Liang himself would not be content with my translation, for he had reminded his Chinese readers at the very beginning that the character ‘ge’ carried the meaning of both ‘revolution’ and ‘reform’. The current usage of both terms in China was borrowed from Japan. Liang wrote: ‘The British revolution of parliament in 1832 (i.e. 1832 Reform Act) was called ‘gaige’ (J: kaikaku; reform) by the Japanese; while the French Revolution of 1789 was translated as ‘geming’ (J: kakumei; revolution) in Japanese. But in this case, the two-character word ‘geming’ is not an accurate translation’. (WJDJ: 2242) Tracing the etymology of the Chinese word ‘geming’ back to the I-Ching, or Classic of Changes; and the Shujing, or Classic of History, he then argued that geming in Chinese merely denoted a change of family name in dynastic politics, and this was definitely insufficient to the corresponding term for ‘revolution’. According to Liang, everything in the society[9], visible or invisible, has its own reform and revolution. Therefore these two conceptions are not confined in the domain of politics, while the notion of ‘geming’ in Chinese history has such a limitation. To avoid the danger of confusing the revolution in a wider sense with the geming which was no more than a component in the dynastic cycle, he proposed another Chinese word to render the Western notion of revolution: biange (J: henkaku). In this new rendering, he replaced the former character ‘ming’ meaning life and fate with the character ‘bian’ meaning change. What purpose did this elaborate argument seek to serve? That is, instead of denying violent revolution as such, Liang redefined revolution as a common feature of human society, and the decisive element of a revolution was fundamental change rather than blood and guns. At this juncture, in his analysis, China needs a real revolution – biange -- for her survival, and the only possibility of carrying out a real revolution is to begin with a substantial change in politics.
But his enthusiasm for introducing the new term did not last long. In his 1904 article Zhongguo lishi shang geming zhi yanjiu (a study of revolutions in Chinese history), which has been seen as an important academic work in this research area, he gave up the term biange proposed earlier by himself and returned to using geming that he once fiercely criticized. Part of the reason for this might be that Liang clearly sensed the slogan of ‘geming’ was gaining increasing popularity and attempts to abolish this word would only make him lose the battle faster. Therefore, this time he no longer made a distinction between the revolution and geming, but instead, he distinguished the various meanings of revolution in a narrower, or a wider sense. The revolutions in Chinese history, observed Liang, were all revolutions in a narrow sense. In comparison with their Western counterparts, Liang described the characteristics of Chinese revolutions as follows: ‘they were led by individuals rather than by collective groups; their motivation was self-interest rather than self-defense; the participants were either from the upper or from the lower class rather than the middle class.’ Furthermore, ‘every revolution resulted in the intervention of alien races that in one way or another interrupted the development of Chinese society.’ (Tang 1996: 151-52) The last point showed us an essential facet of Liang’s antipathy to the idea of violent revolution: namely a deep-seated belief that the revolution was always associated with foreign intervention in China. Especially in the very conjuncture they were living in, the call for resistance seemed to carry much more weight than the call for enlightenment did. In order to prevent China from being intervened or oppressed by alien people, violent revolution without any doubts was the least possible road to be taken.
When we move onto the debate between Liang and the Min bao group after these considerations, it is clear that Liang’s attitude towards revolution did not change a lot in the first decade of twentieth century. He had always advocated for political revolution that he saw as real revolution, and his view of violent revolution, which was mostly expressed in the form of anti-Manchuism and racial revolution, was from hesitantly doubtful to strongly oppose. Both sides in the debate shared good resolutions for achieving national independence, but they had bitter disagreement on the question of how to achieve this common goal. The Min bao had published ‘A General Outline of the Debate Between Min bao and Xinmin Congbao’ in a supplementary issue in 1906. Although this outline inevitably contained some oversimplification and prejudice to an extent, it still helps us grasp the main points of the debate.[10]
Min bao
Xinmin Congbao
1. Republicanism
Absolutism
2. Constitutionalism by means of democracy
‘Enlightened Absolutism’ from the government
3. Revolution because of evil government
Absolutist government because of bad people
4. Revolution and education as means
No idea what to do
5. Politics as well as racial revolution
Enlightened absolutism and political reform
6. Political revolution to overthrow the monarch and racial revolution to drive out the Manchus.
Political revolution and racial revolution are incompatible
7. Political revolution demands force
Political revolution needs petition
8. Force is the basis of a revolutionary cause
Coercion comes only after petition fails
9. Other than refusal to pay taxes and assassination, revolution has its own measures.
Coercion takes the form of refusing to pay taxed and of assassination
10. Nihilists are revolutionary, not mere assassins
Revolution is undesirable, but nihilism may be necessary
11. Revolution for a republic
Revolution begets dictatorship
12. Socialism to solve social problems of the future
Socialism in only a means to agitate beggars and the homeless
Despite the efforts to justify the position of the Min bao group made by the author of this outline, one can find that the inherent contradictoriness of nationalist discourse appeared more typical in the revolutionary side than in the reformist side. While Liang’s argument placed great emphasis on the historical specificity of the Chinese situation, the revolutionaries ‘had far more universalistic aspirations’ (Tang 1996: 153). They claimed to the universal applicability of republicanism and democracy, but their project was to be built on the basis of a rather particularistic, ethno-nationalist revolution. This clearly reflected the paradox of nationalist discourse as a universal model of anti-universalism. If the schema of the revolutionaries was a commitment to the theme of enlightenment motivated by the call for resistance, what seems remarkable to me is that the logic in Liang’s schema was in reverse. But this logic did not manifest itself until years after, at this time the request for resistance was given the most urgent priority over any other issues. Then it should be not surprising that Liang ended one of his debate essays with a statement that only with statism could China be saved, and others such as nationalism and socialism must be subject to statism (WJDJ: 1510). Did not he say earlier that China needed to embrace nationalism first in the same way as the Europeans did? As I mentioned before, Liang’s understandings of terms such as nationalism and statism were functional, rather than conceptual. Therefore, the needs of these doctrines changed as historical situation underwent a change. To use his own dichotomy of history and mind, both statism and nationalism were attributes of history, rather than mind, even though his elaboration of the notion of state in Kaiming zhuanzhi lun (on the enlightened absolutism) seemed to be rather profound through borrowing from the German Staatswissenschaft of nineteenth century.
Liang’s advocacy of the so-called enlightened absolutism, in Hao Chang’s view, revealed his interests about the notion of raison d’etat at the time. Indeed, in a famous paragraph discussing the differences between ‘barbarous absolutism’ and ‘enlightened absolutism’, Liang seemed to have echoed Bluntschli’s assertion in 1881 that represented almost ‘an axiom of German political thought’ (Emerson 1928:2). ‘Whereas the King of French Louis XIV’s “L’Etat c’est moi” symbolized the spirit of barbarous absolutism,’ wrote Liang, ‘the King of Prussia Frederick II’s “der König ist der erste Diener des Staats” stood for the spirit of enlightened absolutism’. (WJDJ: 1392) It is nearly impossible now to figure out whether or not his comments were borrowed from Bluntschli’s work translated into Japanese, but he did restate an idea that was prevalent in the nineteenth-century Germany and Meiji Japan. Emerson has recited Bluntschli and depicted the picture of German political thought in his classic State and Sovereignty in Modern Germany in the following words:
Frederick the Great, wrote Bluntschli, ‘is in truth not only the founder of a new State, but the first and most distinguished representative of the modern idea of the State’; a view in defense of which much can be said. In his celebrated claim to be the first servant of the State – in marked contrast to Louis’ ‘L’Etat c’est moi’ – is seen the essence of the distinction, to which Hegel later gave philosophic form, between the State on one hand and the monarch, the people, or a sum of the two on the other. (1928: 2-3)
But Liang did not actually reflect on the two sayings that he quoted theoretically. Rather, it was the writing technique and practical considerations that gave an explanation for his endorsement of the so-called enlightened absolutism. In his letter to Jiang Guanyun in the same year he published this essay, he clarified his real purpose behind this argument: ‘What I spoke of enlightened absolutism was actually restating the theory of Kakei Katsuhiko, namely the idea of a transitional stage before the stage of constitutionalism. … It seems too drastic that I use this term instead of others, but I tend to go to extreme when present an argument, just in order to stimulate the mind of common people. This is one of my old tricks.’ (NPCB: 213) However, Liang eventually lost this battle of rhetoric because he could not go to the extreme, while his opponents were good at making use of sensational emotionalism of the mass. But since both the enlightened absolutism and the constitutional monarchy were merely transitional, thereafter he would make efforts to call upon the establishment of the parliamentary and was content to work for the newly founded republic later. It is true that his position on the policy level changed constantly, and even his viewpoint on the political doctrines such as nationalism, imperialism and statism was unsteady. But the motivation underlying these changes, which was related to both the themes of enlightenment and resistance, was consistent. Focusing on this side of Liang Qichao’s thinking, we shall realize that as a typical intellectual and modernizer in early modern China, the consistent contradictoriness reflected in him is not only an issue on intellectual history, but also relevant to the whole historical course of the twentieth-century China and our today.
Reconsidering the Relationship between the State and the Individual in Liang
In the first chapter of this thesis I argued that the theoretical construction that lies at the heart of nationalist discourse in Western political thinking is the direct, quintessential connection between the category of the nation-state and that of the individual. This connection provides political legitimacy to the modern state, as it makes the state founded according to the interests of ‘the people’. Hence it rises another question of ‘who the relevant people are’ (Calhoun 1997:123). Inspired by the advanced civilization the West had created, Liang and his contemporaries were preoccupied with the same question of how China could make the transition from fragmenting empire to nation-state be completed safely and successfully. The answer differed enormously. For Liang the first step was to renew the empire, or the tianxia (J: tenka), to be a nation with the help of nationalism, which was considered by him the main moving force of progress in the history of nineteenth-century Europe. But as mentioned before, his perception and advocacy of what he called nationalism was pragmatic, rather than conceptual. Viewing nationalism as an instrumental means of achieving progress and as a historical stage on the human evolution, he failed to grasp the deeper side of this doctrine as nearly a principal element in modern political philosophy. This omission offered him the possibility of ‘telling the national story in a way that would give meaning to the inherited cultural legacy’ (Moloughney 2001), and generating an ‘alternative modernity’. After examining the various aspects of his nationalist discourse and the contradictoriness reflected in it, we should now reassess his understanding of the relationship between the state and the individual to see in what sense it was different from the Western ideas.
Liang once highly praised Rousseau’s contribution to political theory and the influence of Social Contract upon modern European history in his 1901 article Lusao xue’an (on Rousseau). But he found it extremely confusing to explain Rousseau’s statement of sovereign power: “The starting point of the Social Contract is that everyone was aware of his freedom. But when Rousseau moves onto the detailed articles of the contract, on the contrary, he begins to put emphasis on the state and ignore the individuals. It must not be the true idea of Rousseau”. After reciting Rousseau’s claim that by giving each citizen to his country, one should be forced to obey the general will since he obeys no-one but his own will, Liang noted disappointedly: “This is no more than deceiving himself as well as others! This is the most flawed part in the whole book.” One of the reasons for this flaw suggested by Liang was that ‘Rousseau admires the democratic politics in Ancient Greece and Rome so much that he cannot get rid of all those old doctrines at that age.’ (WJDJ: 386) Rousseau dose celebrate classical republicanism in many ways, but what makes him fundamentally different from the classical thinkers is that, in Balibar’s words, he is ‘the first to have explicitly conceived the question in the terms “What makes a people a people?”’. To put this question in other terms, ‘How are individuals nationalized or, in other words, socialized in the dominant form of national belonging?’ (Balibar 1996:139) However, it is impossible for Liang to comprehend the analogous logic between the absolute freedom and independence of the individual and the equally absolute freedom and independence of the state. The nation-state was neither related to the accomplishment of human reason, nor was it ‘the end of the history’. Instead, despite his enthusiastic endorsement of ‘nationalism’ and ‘statism’, the modern state in Liang’s theoretical formulation was merely an intermediary form of people grouping (renqun) among many others extending in a particular sequence.
He went further in another introductory article on Thomas Hobbes published in 1901. After a brief introduction of Hobbes’ doctrine of the foundation of states and legitimate governments based on social contract theory, Liang noted that Hobbes’ theory was exactly comparable to the learning of Ancient Chinese philosophers Xun zi and Mozi. Notably, the way Mozi described the founding of states from the virtually ‘state of nature’ was exactly identical to the story told by Hobbes. He recited a famous passage in Shangtong (identification with the superior), Book Three of Mozi: ‘Therefore the village head led the people of the village to identify themselves with the head of the district; then the head of the district in turn led the people of his district to identify themselves with the king. The king led the people of his state to identify themselves with the son of Heaven (tianzi), and finally, the son of Heaven led all the people under Heaven to identify themselves with Heaven itself’. (WJDJ: 379) It is clear that this process of ‘identification with the superior’ gradually up to Heaven was entirely dissimilar from the process depicted in Leviathan, but from the viewpoint of Liang at this time, the dissimilarity was insignificant. What is crucial to his argument was to show that Mozi, the founder of Mohism, developed an equally elaborate and convincing theory of the origin of political order two thousand years earlier than Hobbes. While this point reflected the consistent tension in Liang’s thinking along the East-West or modernity-tradition axes, it also implied another paradigm of political order that profoundly influenced Liang’s mind.
This paradigm of political order centered neither on the state nor on the individual. Rather, it centered on the very concept of ‘qun’. As Wang Hui has noted, the concept of ‘qun’ cannot be simply equaled with the state or society. As the pivotal term in Liang’s epistemology as well as in his philosophy of institutions, ‘qun’ was above all the universal law that formulated all the social relationships in the world; and at institutional level, ‘qun’ involved the image of moral community based on the idea of local autonomy in tradition context (Wang 2004:945-51). Therefore, Liang’s emphasis upon public virtue (gongde) and governing of the group (qunzhi) should not be considered as related to the opponent of individualism or more arbitrarily, statism; for that ‘qun’, the key concept Liang’s conclusion was based on, was in a different conceptual category that excluded the idea of atomic individual and personalized state. The ‘differential mode of association’ proposed by sociologist Fei Xiaotong in illustrating the characteristic of Chinese rural society may help us better perceive the social structure and mechanism of the qun communities. By making an analogy between organizations in Western societies and the composition of haystacks, Fei argues that in Western society, 'each organization has its own boundaries, which clearly define those people who are members and those who are not'. By contrast, Chinese social structure is fundamentally different from that of the West. It is like 'the circles that appear on the surface of a lake when a rock is thrown into it'. Accordingly, 'social relationships in China possess a self-centered quality'. That is to say, everyone stands at the center of the circles produced by his or her own social influence, and each circle spreading out from the center becomes more distant and more insignificant. (Fei 1998:25-27)
Through this metaphor Fei shows that one of the characteristics of Chinese traditional society is the relativity between the public and the private, or the group and the individual. Standing at a certain circle, if one looks at the networks inside, the current position represents the public and group; while if he or she looks outside the current position is in turn private and individual. Fei also notes that 'the way to go beyond oneself and reach out to the world (tianxia) is to extend oneself circle by circle (ibid. 28)'. Hence in such a social structure, the line blurs between the private and the public; between the state and society. The philosophical source of this tendency may be what Benjamin Schwartz views as ‘a general characteristic of Chinese thought’ – the absence of reductionism (Schwartz 1996:81-97).
But the role of traditional source in Liang’s political thinking about the concept of ‘qun’ needs further examination. However traditional or Confucian the idea of ‘qun’ was, since Liang witnessed a metamorphosis of Chinese society that never happened before and he was so eager to learn Western knowledge to transform his country, the idea of ‘qun’ hence was renewed not only to defend tradition, but also to overcome the modern predicament recognized by Liang. It reflected his efforts to combine Confucian thought with modern European doctrines such as liberalism and nationalism, which he believed to be the foundational principle of modern civilization. Therefore, it also implied another possibility of the relationship between the state and the individual; or rather, canceled the dichotomy of the state and the individual in the modern situation. Although Liang did not pay much attention to this constructive aspect of tradition at this time, noting the currently unconscious, yet deep rooted influence of such tendency to overcome (Western) modernity using traditional sources makes it easier to understand his even more conservative position on cultural nationalism in the 1920’s. Another problem is that if the doctrine of ‘qun’ was initially related to the idea of local autonomy, why did Liang plead for strong government and statism during the period from 1903 to 1911? As I explained before, one reason for this contradiction lay in the gap between the ideal and the reality. At a time Liang viewed as an age of imperial competition, the implementation of local autonomy would probably lead China to collapse under the invasion of imperial powers. The survival of the state was before everything.
Nationalism was more than emergency measures, unlike statism. For Liang Qichao the rhetoric of nationalism, or minzu zhuyi, reflected the Zeitgeist, the need of History. The absoluteness of the concept of state in nationalism as a political doctrine surely conflicted with the idea of moral community reflected in the principle of ‘qun’. Here indeed, as Levenson giftedly remarked, was the conflict between history and value. But this case was not as he said -- the Chinese was history, was mine; and the Western was the value, was true. On the contrary, the value was in China, but History was in the West.

Conclusion
As for the future, your task is not to foresee but to enable.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery, 1939
In criticizing Benedict Anderson’s classic formulation of ‘imagined communities’, Partha Chatterjee provides a formula that he considered a fundamental feature of nationalisms in Asia and Africa.
By my reading, anti-colonial nationalism creates its own domain of sovereignty within colonial society well before it begins its political battle with the imperial power. It does this by dividing the world of social institutions and practices into two domains – the material and the spiritual. The material is the domain of the ‘outside’, of the economy and of statecraft, of science and technology, a domain where the West had proved its superiority and the East had succumbed. …The spiritual, on the other hand, is an ‘inner’ domain bearing the ‘essential’ marks of cultural identity. The greater one’s success in imitating Western skills in the material domain, therefore, the greater the need to preserve the distinctness of one’s spiritual culture. (1993:9)
The formula of dividing the world into the material domain and the spiritual domain had indeed dominated the discourses of those earliest reformers in China, as they named the two domains ‘yong’ (practical application) and ‘ti’ (fundamental principles). The famous phrase by the eminent official during the late Qing Dynasty Zhang Zhidong stated: Chinese learning for fundamental principles and Western learning for practical application (Zhongxue weiti, xixue weiyong). But the recognition of this formula among Chinese intellectuals was drawing to an end by the time of the First Sino-Japanese War. The humiliating defeat forced them to doubt the validity and the value of their ‘fundamental principles’, and embrace the Western ideas with body and soul. It is not only Western science and technology, but also Western philosophy and historiography – in fact the latter was even more crucial – that we needed to learn. This is what Liang Qichao mainly argued during his exile period in Japan, at least on the surface. Obviously the dichotomy of the material and the spiritual could not be applied to this case now. But Chatterjee is absolutely right in doubting that the non-Western world could only be ‘perpetual consumers of modernity’. That is to say, through creative adaptation, they could also be the producers of modernity. In Charles Taylor’s words, there is ‘call to difference’ felt by ‘modernizing elites that corresponds to something objective in their situation; and this challenge is a matter of their own dignity’. (Taylor 1997:44) Instead of simply dividing the outside and the inner side, or only restating the dichotomy of West-East and Modernity-tradition, it thus entails a more comprehensive, historical formulation in understanding and explaining the Chinese modernizing elite Liang Qichao’s nationalist discourse as a response to the modern predicament, and as a construction of modernity itself.
On one hand, I have been arguing, Liang attempted to introduce and imitate Western learning in many aspects. He translated discourses on liberty and rights into Chinese language; he introduced the Staatswissenschaft and the idea of nation as a homogenous unity to his wide readership. Furthermore, he also tried to carry out a revolution in the field of historiography and literature, which seemed to him indispensable to the political revolution. Bastid-Bruguière has suggested that the Guojia lun introduced by Liang educated Chinese minds to ‘bind absolutely the imagined community of the nation to the political entity of the state’, and it was the ‘grounding for a new outlook and perception of national identity’ (2004:124). The reason why the notion of nation stimulated Liang so significantly corresponds with Delannoi's analysis of nationalism: ‘the idea of the nation is stimulating by virtue of the idea of freedom and benefiting the majority. It is so not only because nation offers a reason for revolting against oppression, but also because people fight for freedom as such.’ (Delannoi 1995:87) In this process of imitation, however, the paradox between the universal and particularism throughout the intellectual history of Europe since the Enlightenment was also mirrored, and even mostly magnified. We can see this point clearly from Liang’s discourses on individual rights and national rights, on nationalism and imperialism, and on the connection between evolutionary history and the racist theory.
On the other hand, both consciously and unconsciously, his intellectual borrowing deviated from the Western route which was supposed to serve as the ‘modular’ form. The first occasion was reflected in his endeavors to invent modern subjectivity from indigenous values. One of such endeavors, as was mentioned before, was to draw the resemblance between Kantian philosophy and the Neo-Confucian School of Mind represented by Wang Yangming. It should be noted, however, that it is the modular form of Western modernity that defined the standard for his rediscovery of the tradition. Therefore, this facet of the deviation could be viewed as resistance embedded in the form of enlightenment. The second occasion, the unconscious deviation, needs more careful scrutiny to be revealed. When Liang said that cosmopolitanism was the beauty of Mind, whereas nationalism was the beauty of History, he actually confined the triumph of nationalism to the category of History that excluded Mind. In short, there was no ultimateness in the concept of nation as such. We may consider this facet as enlightenment (not in the narrow sense of this term) embedded in the form of resistance. Only bearing this in mind can we understand his so-called ‘return’ to cultural conservatism in the 1910s and thereafter. The problem is not so much whether or not Liang has returned to the tradition and betrayed his former radical position, but rather if he has to make a choice between the West as modernity and China as the tradition.
As Terry Eagleton penetratingly argues, ‘it is part of the embarrassment of bourgeois ideology that it has never really been able to reconcile difference and identity, the particular and the universal, and this for excellent historical reasons’ (1990:31). The conflict and entanglement between the Enlightenment universalism and particularistic Romanticism are reproduced, and complicated in the context of East-West and modernity-tradition axes. Therefore it is also part of the embarrassment of Chinese nationalism that it has never managed to reconcile the West which now represents the universal and China which used to be the universal yet has become the particular at the moment. Let us take a glance at Liang’s assertion about cosmopolitanism (shijie zhuyi) after the exile period. In his 1918 article on the relation between the League of Nations and China, Liang wrote: ‘We Chinese people have never recognized the nation as the highest group, instead, we maintain that there must be a higher group sovereign over all the nations, which is called tianxia (under Heaven). …Take the peace and happiness of mankind as a whole, rather than of a single nation, as the aim and end. Such kind of philanthropic cosmopolitanism has been, to be sure, the core of our political theories for thousands of years.’ (JWW: 733-34) We may still remember that in a section of Xinmin Shuo he fiercely criticized the tendency of glorifying cosmopolitanism and despising nationalist ideas in the history of Chinese thought. He drew his pen against this tendency and tried to reverse it: ‘therefore there are convincing reasons for the commonly accepted idea that the nation, instead of the world, is the highest group.’ But in another essay published in the same year 1902, he compared Chinese thought in the Pre-Qin era, which was considered by him the golden age of Chinese philosophy, with Ancient Greek thought and listed ‘the prevalence of cosmopolitanism’ as one of the advantages of the Pre-Qin era of China over Ancient Greece (WJDJ: 235). Therefore, it is little wonder that Liang highlighted this feature of Chinese philosophy once again in his celebrated academic work Xianqin zhengzhi Sixiang shi (the history of political thoughts of Pre-Qin period) published in 1923. In the introduction of the book he wrote: ‘Chinese people have never identified the nation as the highest group of the human being since the beginning of their civilization. Their political theory is meant for all mankind; accordingly it aims at keeping the peace of all-under-heaven (ping tianxia). The nation is merely a stage, along with the family, towards the tianxia.’ (XQZZ: 5)
Thus ironically, in claiming that cosmopolitanism, or, rather, a view of China-centred universalism was at the heart of traditional Chinese philosophy, Liang’s argument ended up regarding universalism as an essential dimension of Chinese nationality. But the effort to prove that Chinese universalism (paradoxically as the term itself presents to us) as an attribute of nationality had existed throughout history was only to manifest its particularity. To borrow Levenson’s words again, ‘when Confucianism was vital (i.e., when it informed the intellectuals, when the latter were the corps of literati), it was cosmopolitan: it did not simply correspond to “day-to-day life in rural China.” But when China ceased to be the world and became a nation, or struggled to become one, Confucianism was provincial in that larger world that contained the Chinese nation.’ (1971:5)
In this thesis I have sought to demonstrate how Liang Qichao contributed to the struggle of China for becoming a nation, and showed how and to what extent his nationalist thinking was influenced by, and deviated from the modular form of European nationalist thought. His position on current affairs and on the proper form of government for China has been viewed as changing all his life. But the primary motivation of his political thought remained consistent, even though the inevitable contradictoriness in his thinking also lasted. Motivated by the themes of enlightenment and resistance as in the West, this Chinese intellectual was caught up into a different dilemma between the universal and the particular; between the tradition and modernity; between China and the West; and between History and Mind. Liang and many of his contemporaries might not have expected that the historical course of the twentieth-century China would eventually be dominated by the development and triumph of communism, another nationalism taking the form of universalism. As a century has passed, the predicament that was faced by Liang still remains unsolved, and the possibility for an alternative to nation-state as the political form of modernity also remains open to the future.
编辑:张晨晨,本文是她提交东京大学硕士论文的一部分


[1] Zarrow also believes that the term xinmin both refers to renewal of the people and to a new citizenry. See Zarrow (1997: 17).
[2] See the typical description in Social Contract: ‘Those who are associated in it take collectively the name of people, and severally are called citizens, as sharing in the sovereign power, and subjects, as being under the laws of the State.’
[3] Although the literal meaning of guojia sixiang is ‘the idea of the state’, it seems more proper to understand the phrase as national consciousness according to the context.
[4]Although the major influence of Bluntschli upon Liang’s thinking around 1903 is generally viewed as the priority of constitutionalism over republicanism and even the state over the individual. Some of the many discussions about this can be found in Tang (1996: 122-24); Chang (1971); Hazama (1999).
[5] Levenson formulates such kind of perception of nationalism as follows: ‘It is interpreted in the beginning as organized resentment, a device to make Chinese close ranks and resist enslavement; in the end, it is the spirit which moves a people to take nontraditional measures to implement resentment.’ (1959:113)
[6] We can find a similar view in the German historian Karl Dietrich Bracher’s 1982 book Zeit der Ideologien: Eine Geschichte politischen Denkens im 20. Jahrhundert (the age of ideologies: a history of political thought in the twentieth century), in which he writes: ‘Currents of a mission-inspired national imperialism surfaced in nearly all contemporary states from Pan-Slavism via a French and British sense of mission all the way to the American expansionist ideology of a “manifest destiny” ’ (Bracher 1984:102).
[7] For a detailed discussion about the notion of power and rights and the semantics of quan in Chinese political discourse, see Svarverud (2001).
[8] See Gasster’s comments in his Chinese Intellectuals and the Revolution of 1911: ‘For Liang too was a part of the new Chinese radicalism. The difference can be studied best in the 1903-8 period, when Liang and the revolutionaries observed the same circumstances and drew different conclusions about what they saw.’ (xxvii)
[9] Notice that here Liang uses ‘renqun’ (people groups) to refer to society. Once again, the notion of ‘qun’ lies at the centre of his understanding of revolution and reform.
[10] The English translation of the table used here is cited from Tang (1996: 149-50).

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