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China’s Local Councils in the Age of Constitutional Reform, 1898–1911

China’s Local Councils in the Age of Constitutional Reform, 1898–1911

Roger R. Thompson

ISBN 9780674119734

Publication date: 09/04/1995

Dazzled by the model of Japan’s Western-style constitutional government, Chinese officials and elite activists made plans to establish locally elected councils. By October 1911, government agencies had reported the establishment of about 5,000 councils.

Throughout the period, data on self-government reforms collected from localities were compiled in provincial capitals, then collated, summarized, and archived in Beijing. Simultaneously, directives were being sent from the capital to the provinces. From this wealth of previously unexamined material, Roger R. Thompson draws a portrait-in-motion of the reforms. He demonstrates the energy and significance of the late-Qing local-self-government movement, while making a compelling case that it was separate from the well-studied phenomenon of provincial assemblies and constitutionalism in general.


  • Thompson’s contributions inject a renewed vigor into the study of late Qing reforms and show that in taking seriously the local council movement, we can understand better not only the failure of Qing reforms but also the inability and indeed the unwillingness of subsequent Chinese regimes in this century to create genuinely representative political systems.

    —Mark A. Allee, American Historical Review


  • Roger R. Thompson is Professor of History at Western Washington University.

Book Details

  • 288 pages
  • 6 x 9 inches
  • Harvard University Asia Center