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Clifford, P. G. (1978) The intellectual development of Wu Zhihui: A reflection of society and politics in late Qing and Republican China. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This thesis analyses the development of Wu Zhihui's ideas and their social and political application until 1927. Through this biographical approach the intention is to also reach out and achieve an understanding of his contemporaries and so come to broader conclusions about the period of rapid and fundamental intellectual change in which he lived. After establishing Wu's philosophical basis, his Darwinism, Kropotkinite anarchist communism and his materialist lifeview, there follows an analysis of his utopian goals and his view of the mechanics of social revolution. Then these theoretical positions are related to his political practice between 1890 and 1927 with special attention being paid to the degree of fidelity of transmission of these ideas to the Chinese context. His development from conservative reformer to nationalist revolutionary and then to anarchist supporter of the Revolution of 1911 is traced with special reference to his New Century magazine in Paris. His activities in the early years of the Republic are examined with analysis of his role within the Nationalist Party after 1924 and the origins of his fierce anti-communism. Finally two sections are devoted to Wu's contribution to education in China. The main problematic presented is the relationship in Wu Zhihui's thought between nationalism, the key ideological element in modern China, and anarchism. How could a patriotic Chinese genuinely embrace European anarchism without in some way distorting or adapting it? Adaptation of anarchism to the needs of nation building proved impossible and fundamental revisions which occurred in its introduction by Wu to China negated its essential intellectual attraction; opposition to all government. Beyond being a case study of the impact of foreign ideas on China, this thesis offers a general critique of the theoretical weaknesses of anarchism.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:23

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