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Realistic Revolution
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Between 1989 and 1993, with the end of the Cold War, Tiananmen, and Deng Xiaoping's renewed reform, Chinese intellectuals said goodbye to radicalism. In newly-founded journals, interacting with those who had left mainland China around 1949 to revive Chinese culture from the margins, they now challenged the underlying creed of Chinese socialism and the May Fourth Movement that there was 'no making without breaking'. Realistic Revolution covers the major debates of this period on radicalism in history, culture, and politics from a transnational perspective, tracing intellectual exchanges as China repositioned itself in Asia and the world. In this realistic revolution, Chinese intellectuals paradoxically espoused conservatism in the service of future modernization. They also upheld rationalism and gradualism after Maoist utopia but concurrently rewrote history to re-establish morality. Finally, their self-identification as scholars was a response to rapid social change that nevertheless left their concern with China's fate unaltered.


‘Realistic Revolution changes our understanding of Chinese conservatism in the post-Mao period. Based on a comprehensive and critical reading of Chinese thinkers and writers, van Dongen brings to life the Chinese critique of radicalism during the critical years after Tiananmen. Lucidly written, acutely analytical, this is a wonderfully rewarding read.'

Timothy Cheek - University of British Columbia

'Shocked by the violence of Tiananmen and the collapse of the Soviet Union, China’s intellectuals began exploring the roots of radicalism and the meaning - or usefulness - of conservatism. In this carefully researched and wonderfully written book, van Dongen excavates the international conversation that unfolded over the next decade. This book should be in every class on contemporary China.'

Joseph Fewsmith - Boston University

‘Van Dongen’s study is … most timely and vital for readers interested in China’s conservative tradition. In additional to her sophisticated close readings and historical analysis, the short biographies that conclude the book form a brilliant primer to the movers and shakers of intellectual discourse in the Chinese-speaking world.’

Brian Tsui Source: Modern Chinese Literature and Culture

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