Invitation to “Thinking the Republic of China: An International Symposium”

Online | Kaohsiung, Taiwan

23rd Aug – 6th Sep 2021

In 2015, professor Yang Rur-bin (楊儒賓) published In Praise of 1949 (1949禮讚), a short volume that examined the long term intellectual and cultural impact that the 1949 transfer of the Republic of China (ROC) state structure to Taiwan had on the island. Published at a time of rising nativist nationalism on the island, Yang’s work argued that despite the historic traumas associated with the ROC regime in Taiwan, the 1949 rupture also transformed Taiwanese society in a variety of positive ways, imbuing it with a state structure that not only valued traditional Chinese culture (at a time when it was being openly denounced on the Mainland), but also possessed powerful forces within it committed to liberalism and democracy, grounded in a democratic tradition of thought that went back to the late-Qing.
In Yang’s most compelling theoretical move, he argued that the ROC and Taiwan had become dialectically fused together, two forces that had once seemed in opposition yet, through extensive engagement, experimentation, and reconstitution, had become sublimated into a new political community: ROC-Taiwan, a conceptual framework that would be later used by president Tsai Yingwen to describe the state she ruled over. All told, Yang’s work provided a stirring re-articulation of the historical meaning of the ROC-Taiwan experience, doing so as a means of reminding the intellectual community on both sides of the straits of the epistemic and intellectual costs of rejecting the Republic outright. Placed in the immediate context of the book’s publication, it was a bold intellectual gambit, one that provided a conceptual language not just to understand the Taiwanese past, but to build a political and intellectual consensus for the island’s future.
Yang Rur-bin’s new work, entitled Thinking the Republic of China (思考中華民國), deepens his historical reflections on the meaning of the Republic, placed within the context of not just Taiwanese history, both Chinese history as a whole since the late-Qing. The book engages with a wide swath of modern Chinese intellectual work, from Liang Qichao, Sun Yatsen, Mao Zedong, to Liang Shuming, Lin Xiantang, Jiang Weishui, Zhang Junmai, Mou Zongsan, Tang Junyi, and more. In this new work Yang argues that the paradigm of modern transformation that the ROC offered- liberal, Confucian, social democratic, market oriented but socially responsive- provided a powerful alternative to the radical iconoclasm, class violence, and anti-market collectivism of high Maoism, offering a powerful heritage for thinkers on both sides of the straits.
This online forum brings together leading thinkers from Taiwan, Canada, the United States, France, Australia, Japan, and Hong Kong to engage with professor Yang’s newest work, inviting them to explore this ambitious rethinking of the meaning and legacy of the Republic, and what resources such an historical experience provides us for thinking today about models of social transformation, political solidarity, and educational work in the Chinese world and beyond.

Registration is Open and Preferred

Organiser: The Global Sinology Forum at National Sun Yat-sen University, Taiwan (國際漢學平台在中山)

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