Following the recent trends of globalization and regionalization, the idea of
Asia has been revived in political, economic, and cultural fields. This essay
examines some of the various uses of this idea in modern East Asian and
especially Chinese history. The essay consists of four parts. Part One discusses
the derivativeness of the idea of Asia, that is, how this idea developed from
modern European history, especially the nineteenth century European narrative of
"World History," and it points out how the early modern Japanese "theory of
shedding Asia" derived from this narrative. Part Two studies the relationship
between the idea of Asia and two forms of populism against the background of the
Chinese and Russian revolutions - one,
exemplified by Russian Narodism, attempted to use Asian particularity to challenge modern capitalism; the other, represented by Sun Yat-sen, attempted to construct a nation-state according to a socialist revolutionary program, and to develop agricultural capitalism under the particular social conditions of Asia. Part Three considers the differences and tensions between the "Great Asia-ism" of Chinese revolutionaries such as Sun and the Japanese idea of East Asia (Tōyō), and it discusses the need to overcome the categories of nation-state and international relations in order to understand the question of Asia. Part Four discusses the need to go beyond early modern maritime-centered accounts, nationalist frameworks, and Eurocentrism in re-examining the question of Asia through historical research by focusing on the particular legacies of Asia and Toyo (such as the tributary system) and the problems of "early modernity."
WANG Hui is professor in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Tsing Hua University, Beijing, where he also heads the Institute for Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences. An executive editor of the most important monthly journal, Du-Shu, Wang Hui is a leading intellectual in China. His major research areas include Chinese intellectual history and modern Chinese literature. His books include The Rise of Modern Chinese Thought (现代中国思想的兴起) (2004), China's New Order (2003), For a New Asia (为了新的亚洲) (2003). He serves on the board of Positions: East Asian Cultural Critique, Critical Asian Studies, Post-Colonial Studies, The Traces, Twenty Fist Century (二十一世纪), China's Scholarship (中国学术).
Contact address: Department of Literature and Language, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Tsinghua University, Beijing, 100084, P. R. China
Matthew Allen Hale is a student of anthropology at the University of Washington in Seattle, USA. His dissertation research concerns agrarian issues and the emerging New Rural Reconstruction movement in China. He has translated several works by Chinese scholars.
Contact address: Anthropology Department, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA