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The Politics of Imagining Asia

The Politics of Imagining Asia

Wang Hui

Edited by Theodore Huters

ISBN 9780674055193

Publication date: 03/31/2011

In this bold, provocative collection, Wang Hui confronts some of the major issues concerning modern China and the status quo of contemporary Chinese thought.

The book’s overarching theme is the possibility of an alternative modernity that does not rely on imported conceptions of Chinese history and its legacy. Wang Hui argues that current models, based largely on Western notions of empire and the nation-state, fail to account for the richness and diversity of pre-modern Chinese historical practice. At the same time, he refrains from offering an exclusively Chinese perspective and placing China in an intellectual ghetto. Navigating terrain on regional language and politics, he draws on China’s unique past to expose the inadequacies of European-born standards for assessing modern China’s evolution. He takes issue particularly with the way in which nation-state logic has dominated politically charged concerns like Chinese language standardization and “The Tibetan Question.” His stance is critical—and often controversial—but he locates hope in the kinds of complex, multifaceted arrangements that defined China and much of Asia for centuries.

The Politics of Imagining Asia challenges us not only to re-examine our theories of “Asia” but to reconsider what “Europe” means as well. As Theodore Huters writes in his introduction, “Wang Hui’s concerns extend beyond China and Asia to an ambition to rethink world history as a whole.”


  • In these groundbreaking essays, Wang Hui questions the reigning paradigms of Chinese studies and China watching, tracing them to their historical and intellectual roots Delineating alternative concepts and practices in Chinese thought and history, Wang seeks not to assert a Chinese difference against universal paradigms but rather to articulate Chinese pursuits of modernity as both unique and brimming with world-historical significance. These essays are indispensable guides for anyone willing to rethink the inherited modes of inquiry about China.

    —Ban Wang, Stanford University


  • Wang Hui is Distinguished Professor of Literature and History at Tsinghua University and founding Director of the Tsinghua Institute for Advanced Study in Humanities and Social Sciences. His books include China’s Twentieth Century, China from Empire to Nation-State, The Politics of Imagining Asia, and China’s New Order.
  • Theodore Huters is Professor Emeritus of Chinese at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Chief Editor of Renditions, the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s translation journal. He is author of Bringing the World Home: Appropriations of the West in Late Qing and Early Republican China, editor of China’s New Order, and coeditor of Revolutionary Literature in China.

Book Details

  • 368 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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