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Revisiting China’s Modernity

Ethnicity, Religion, and Nation

Jiang Sun

Investigating the nature of Chinese modernity from the perspectives of social and intellectual history and inspired by Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities, this book reveals the ambiguity of nation as a modern concept and opens up a new possibility for the turn of China’s national narratives. The definitions of nation as either an imagined community or an entity with a substantive cultural origin are both partially wrong in the Chinese context, since China had its distinctive socio-cultural system in pre-modern times and the binary mode of nationality is inadequate to interpret the complexity of Chinese society. In light of this complexity, this work explores the relationship between the Manchus and the Han Chinese throughout the Qing dynasty, examines the transmission and reproduction of modern knowledge, particularly that of race and nation, on the ground of China’s reactions to the Western influence, and discusses how the supra-nationalist discourse of various religions succumbed to the homogenizing nature of nation state in modern China. To depict a general picture of "Chinese modernity" and avoid the risk of oversimplification, the author combines the methodology of social history with that of intellectual history, abandoning the East-West binary opposition and grouping all ten chapters into three parts that respectively approach Chinese modernity from a specific perspective. On this basis, it can be concluded that Chinese modernity, as a form of new knowledge, is produced out of the combination of a forward-thinking viewpoint and a fantasy about the modern age, which constitutes an inevitable path to China’s "national liberation" from the entanglement of ethnicity and cultural traditions.

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10 Predicament of a Redemptive Religion: The Red Swastika Society in Manchukuo


On June 10, 1934, the Nanjing People’s Evening Paper (Nanjing Renmin Wanbao) published an article that criticized the Red Swastika Society (Hongwanzihui), entitled An Open Letter to the World Red Swastika Society which mentioned a book, The Independence of Manchuria and Mongolia and the Activities of the World Red Swastika Society, authored by Ryōhei Uchita, a Japanese rightwing ultra-nationalist and pan-Asianist (Uchita 1932). In this book, Ryōhei Uchita, who had taken part in Sun Yat-sen’s anti-Manchu revolution as a leader of the Black Dragon Society, revealed his political plan to take advantage of the Red Swastika Society to separate northeast China, by which he referred to Manchuria and Mongolia, from the rest of China. The article An Open Letter to the World Red Swastika Society caused a sensation in society soon after its publication. The head office of the World Red Swastika Society wrote to Nanjing People’s Evening Paper, stressing that the society was a “purely philanthropic group with the goal of disaster relief,” and that it “on the one hand worked hard to save the people, and on the other hand obeyed the country’s laws with a spirit of patriotism.” (Shijie Hongwanzihui Zhonghua Zonghui 1934) However, after the occupation of northeast China following the Mukden Incident in 1931 by the Japanese Kwantung Army, the Japanese had founded a puppet regime, Manchukuo, in 1932 and began to colonize northeast China. In this perilous political environment, could the cosmopolitan and philanthropic values of the Red Swastika Society co-exist with...

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