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Creating Public Opinion, Advancing Knowledge, Engaging in Politics: The Local Public Sphere in Chengdu, 1898–1921

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 April 2021

Sebastian Veg*
Ecole des Hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS), Paris, France. Email:


Situated far from coastal cities and foreign concessions, Chengdu yields insights into the role of the local press and its specific publics in the political evolution of the late Qing and early Republic. Despite its remote location, Chengdu developed its own modern press in the late Qing, relying on print entrepreneurs and modern journalists recruited from the ranks of the local literati and traditional sociability, in particular teahouses. They all played a role in forming a modern reading public which came to understand itself as a distinct local political community in dynamic interaction with national politics and transnational networks. The local press evinced three successive but intertwined ideals of publicness: as a link between the state and the people and a vector of enlightenment, as a professional forum for public opinion and as a tool for political mobilization. In solidifying public opinion around the local community, the press served as a forum and catalyst for political activism in the 1911 Railroad Protection movement and the 1919 May Fourth movement, events which were shaped as much by local dynamics as they were by national developments.




Special section: “Revisiting the Public Sphere in 20th- and 21st-century China”
Copyright © SOAS University of London, 2021

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