The eight essays in this volume represent the research of a new generation of scholars examining historical change in 20th-century modern China, namely Kuomintang party-state development between 1925 and 1970. According to Ernest P. Young in the introduction, these essays describe the “cultural, ideational, and symbolic dimensions” of change in the KMT party-state activities and the response by elites and ordinary people.
If we define, as does Nobel prize-winner Douglass C. North, “institutional change” as the beliefs, ideas, rules, laws, norms, and so on that influence the motivation, choices, and actions of individuals and organizations (private and public) in society, we then say the book under review is about institutional reform and its protagonists and opponents.
Creating a new society requires at least some degree of institutional change. Those holding power resist change, clinging to old institutions. The ensuing struggle can be ferocious, with many possible outcomes. When the KMT began promoting institutional reform in 1925, it encountered great resistance, and after 1934 the resistance had not only stalled reforms, it had stirred up great social disharmony.