Northeast Asia

Organized Panel Session

5 - Mobility, Modernization Ideology, and the Reinvention of ‘Asia’ in 1980s and 1990s China

Saturday, July 7
8:30 AM - 10:00 AM
Location: Gulmohar, First Floor

Whereas the interwar period witnessed the rise of ‘pan-Asianism’ as solidarity against Western imperialism, the end of the Cold War saw the imagining of Asia along different lines. Already during the 1970s, culture had become an explanatory force in disciplines as diverse as economics, political science, or history under the influence of the “cultural turn.” With the economic rise of Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, scholars in the United States transformed the old modernization theory into a new modernization ideology of ‘Confucian capitalism’ and ‘East Asian’ development. In this presentation, I will discuss how and why this revised modernization ideology became reinterpreted on mainland China during the 1980s and 1990s. I will argue that, as was the case during the early twentieth century, increased mobility was central in this process, and Chinese intellectuals in the United States especially acted as intermediaries in this process. Adopting this ‘Confucian capitalism’ discourse on mainland China was, however, faced with serious challenges and contradictions, many of which still resonate today. 

Els van Dongen

Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

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