Author: Xu, Yuji
Title: Misread Meiji Japan, overcome republican China : rethinking Zheng Xiaoxu's political philosophy
Advisors: Tsui, Brian (CC)
Degree: M.Phil.
Year: 2019
Subject: Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Politicians -- China
Department: Department of Chinese Culture
Pages: 154 pages : color illustrations
Language: English
Abstract: This thesis examines Zheng Xiaoxu's political philosophy in the context of modern Chinese intellectual history. It will depict his conservative revolution by means of culture as an inseparable part of a Chinese intellectuals' response to the national crisis in the early twentieth centuries. After investigating how Zheng was shaped as a Han traitor in historical Chinese literature during the early Republican period, the following subject matters will be analysed: his collaboration with the Japanese colonists which interacted with his imagination of new Asia, his musings about Chinese script/ Chinese learning, his misreading of Meiji Japan and finally his reconstruction of Confucian morality for overcoming Republican China. In 1891, Zheng Xiaoxu was promoted to be a diplomatic attache of Li Jingfang to Japan and hence he worked as a sectary in the legation of Qing Empire in Tokyo. In the following three years, he developed a self-discordant attitude towards the Meiji Restoration. On the one hand, he immersed himself in the modern sensual experience in modern Japanese cities and recorded his impression in his diary on advanced material outcomes of Meiji Japan including electric light, train, and western oil painting. On the other, he detested the parliamentarian and constitutional political system in Japan. Keeping in mind the relationship between the aesthetics of written text and the legitimacy of political representation, this thesis traces the origins of Zheng's schizophrenic apperception of the Meiji Japan back to brush talks with several Japanese sinologists including Mori Kainan and Oka Senjin, where the Japanese sinologists taunted China and classical Chinese poetry. Zheng observed that there existed a connection between the crisis of Chinese script/ Chinese learning in Japan and Japan's westernization, which was leading to social disorder there. Zheng's obsession with Chinese script/ Chinese learning later re-emerged in his proposed motion in the face of China's defeat in the First Sino-Japanese War.
After the 1911 Revolution, in Zheng Xiaoxu's eyes, Republican China wallowed in imitating the West and in embracing "the new learning," which could not be regarded as "China", and this had led to severe social and political disorder. Therefore, Zheng reckoned that an immense conflict existed between the modern disorderly democracy of the West and the ancient hierarchical monarchy of China, and this recognition had pushed him to replace Republican China by an anti-modern, anti-democratic but orderly community of empathy which he envisioned. By collaborating with Japanese, Zheng embarked on the journey of Confucian moral reconstruction in Manchukuo in order to seek for a new world order under the slogan of the "Kingly Way" against Communism, exclusive nationalism, and Euro-American capitalism. This thesis further attempts to explore two crucial concepts: "extending love" and "restraining self" in Zheng's narrative of the "Kingly Way," and it scrutinizes how his political philosophy internalized the colonial ideology of Manchukuo as a discourse of sentiment and morality. What could not be ignored is the ambiguous relationship between Manchukuo and China Proper under Jiang Jieshi's leadership in the aspect of ideological mobilization. Additionally, root causes of the failure of the "Kingly Way" in crafting a strong national identity of Manchukuo will be addressed in the context of the dialectics of aesthetics and nation. Zheng Xiaoxu's rediscovery of Chinese script and the "King Way" constituted the core of his conservative revolution to transform imperial China into a modern state by virtue of culture. Although in the end he was unable to recue China through his political philosophy and thus lost his reputation, his appropriation of Confucian tradition as a sentimental capital against western capitalism, imperialist colonialism, and even radical nationalism, is in a way also reflected in contemporary China's response to the crisis of public morality and national identity building.
Rights: All rights reserved
Access: open access

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