(No)worries about China: Contemporary Intellectual Trends and Their Social Environment

Talk by Chaohua Wang, UCLA

In 2007, Gloria Davies published a heavy book, entitled Worrying about China: The Language of Chinese Critical Inquiry (Harvard UP). Her analysis traces the “worrying” mentality (youhuan yishi) back to Confucian literati traditions centuries old, but is primarily focused on the twentieth century, especially modern intellectual traditions since the May Fourth period. More than a decade later, do Chinese intellectual discourses still overwhelmingly dwell on “worrying” about China? Examining major intellectual trends against their socio-political environment in the past ten to twenty years, this study finds that, along with China’s rise to an economic superpower status in the world, as well as with increasingly heavy-handed managing of the Communist Party, intellectual discourses have strayed away from the once conventional position of “worrying about China” into various new directions. In the eve of the centennial of the May Fourth movement of popular protest in 1919, the new trends indicate declining importance of intellectuals in public life and potential social crisis that may revive public demand of intellectual guidance in a near future.

Chaohua Wang, an independent scholar visiting UCLA as a guest lecturer, earned her Ph.D. from the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures at UCLA, with a focus on modern intellectual history of the late Qing and early Republican periods. Her research interest also covers modern and contemporary Chinese literature, as well as contemporary intellectual life and political development in P.R. China, China’s Hong Kong SAR, and ROC Taiwan. She is currently working on an essay collection of contemporary Chinese intellectual life.

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Published: Thursday, May 17, 2018