Skip to main content
Harvard University Press - home
Worrying about China

Worrying about China

The Language of Chinese Critical Inquiry

Gloria Davies

ISBN 9780674032255

Publication date: 03/30/2009

Gloria Davies

What can we do about China? This question, couched in pessimism, is often raised in the West but it is nothing new to the Chinese, who have long worried about themselves. In the last two decades since the “opening” of China, Chinese intellectuals have been carrying on in their own ancient tradition of “patriotic worrying.”
As an intellectual mandate, “worrying about China” carries with it the moral obligation of identifying and solving perceived “Chinese problems”—social, political, cultural, historical, or economic—in order to achieve national perfection. In Worrying about China, pursues this inquiry through a wide range of contemporary topics, including the changing fortunes of radicalism, the peculiarities of Chinese postmodernism, shifts within official discourse, attempts to revive Confucianism for present-day China, and the historically problematic engagement of Chinese intellectuals with Western ideas.
Davies explores the way perfectionism permeates and ultimately propels Chinese intellectual talk to the point that the drive for perfection has created a moralism that condemns those who do not contribute to improving China. Inside the heart of the New China persists ancient moralistic attitudes that remain decidedly nonmodern. And inside the postmodernism of thousands of Chinese scholars and intellectuals dwells a decidedly anti-postmodern quest for absolute certainty.


  • This is an interesting and original study of an important topic—contemporary Chinese critical discourse in its various forms, and what this discourse reveals about Chinese culture, society, and politics in post-Mao China. I know of no other book-length study of the era that is so systematically attentive to the critical discourses that have mushroomed in this period and to the evolution of Chinese intellectual consciousness as shaped and reflected in these discourses. Worrying about China will be a crucial source of information and insight for anyone who is interested in coming to grips with the enormously complex discourses that have helped shape post-Mao Chinese intellectual culture and consciousness.

    —Jiwei Ci, Professor of Philosophy, University of Hong Kong


  • Gloria Davies is a literary scholar and historian of China at Monash University in Australia. She is also Adjunct Director of the Australian Centre on China in the World at the Australian National University.

Book Details

  • 324 pages
  • 0-13/16 x 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

From this author