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3 - Xiao Gongqin and the Yan Fu Paradox

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 June 2019

Els van Dongen
Affiliation:
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
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Summary

Chapter 3 looks at Xiao Gongqin’s theory of neo-conservatism from the perspective of its rejection of radicalism in modern Chinese history. Xiao Gongqin is a central figure in this chapter because it was he who first coined the term “xin baoshou zhuyi” in the post-Tiananmen context to refer to a theory of modernization. This historical take on neo-conservatism elaborates on the argument in this chapter, namely that we need to understand it more broadly as part of the discourse on modernization in China. The chapter questions Xiao’s indebtedness to Edmund Burke in his advocacy of historical continuity because it was mediated through the figure of Yan Fu (1854–1921), who is known for his flirtations with Social Darwinism. The chapter argues that, in spite of Xiao’s reference to the social organism and his defense of a strong state, his reading of Burke manifested elements of both Friedrich Hayek and Karl Popper. In addition, his conservatism was about preserving the past for the future. The chapter, and Xiao Gongqin in particular, forms the bridge between the political theory of neo-conservatism from 1989 to 1991 and the historical and cultural debates between 1992 and 1995 that are represented in the following chapters.
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Chapter
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Realistic Revolution
Contesting Chinese History, Culture, and Politics after 1989
, pp. 67 - 93
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2019

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