Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Recognising the Academics of the Republican Era

An interesting piece in the China Daily on the top ten trends in Chinese publishing in 2008 - why would anyone buy stock picking tip books, Olympics books, Obamania etc, etc. But perhaps the most interesting 'trend' they note is:

'3. Academic books published during the Republic of China years are being "re-discovered" en masse, ranging from literature, history and all branches of social sciences. This represents a restoration of the missing link caused by political and cultural schism.'

What are they inferring? Are they admitting that the Great Communist Party Myth of the pre-1949 era is true and that Republican China, notwithstanding plenty of nepotism, corruption and political errors, was indeed a pretty vibrant place for academics, writers, artists and thinkers; that China's academics engaged seriously with the world in a way that is not even possible now with so many subjects 'off limits' and so many Chinese academics hopelessly academically and politically compromised; and that indeed it was the communist take over in 1949 that led to the cessation of this flourishing and marked a deadening hand on the process?

Probably that's not quite what they mean but it's an interesting choice of trend anyway. So while we're at it let's plug once again the best China history book of 2008 - it's small, concise and lays the Great Communist Party Myth to rest - Frank Dikotter's The Age of Openness: China Before Mao.

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