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Age of Openness, The

China before Mao

Frank Dikotter

Publication Year: 2008

This short book moves away from the hostile assessment of republican China common in mainstream history to portray the era instead as a diverse and cosmopolitan one, documenting the country's impulse to join the world and open its borders, markets and minds before closure under communism.

Published by: Hong Kong University Press, HKU


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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1: Introduction

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pp. 1-6

Sir John Plumb, one of the great social historians of the eighteenth century, once said that bland consensus does not do much to advance historical knowledge, and consequently that there is little point in accumulating facts within agreed frameworks of explanation. When we turn to the history of modern China, one of the most pervasive...

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2: Open Governance

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pp. 7-30

The conventional wisdom sometimes makes two mutually exclusive claims about government in the republican period: first it is portrayed as hopelessly corrupt, fractured and weak, unable to hold the country together, to stand up to imperialist aggression and to provide a measure of stability; second, it is described as oppressive, militarist if not outright fascist, ruthlessly exploiting a weak peasantry...

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3: Open Borders

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pp. 31-52

Browsing through some of the secondary sources on modern China written during the Cold War one gets the impression that only a few privileged individuals, mainly students and merchants, travelled abroad in the republican era, generally to return as ‘alienated’ or ‘rootless cosmopolitans’.1 Recent scholarship, presented in the first half of this chapter, demonstrates instead how people...

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4: Open Minds

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pp. 53-80

As the last chapter has shown, borders in the first half of the twentieth century were open as never before. This openness resulted not only in large flows of people moving in and out of the country, but also engagement, from regular participation in international conferences to eager contribution to international bodies like the League of...

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5: Open Markets

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pp. 81-98

A popular image, found for instance in John K. Fairbank’s assertionthat ‘hostility toward alien things’ characterised the Qing,1 has it that foreign commodities were rejected by a xenophobic and self-sufficient empire. This is not the place to review the literature on the economic links forged with the rest of the world under the Qing: suffice it to...

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6: Conclusion

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pp. 99-102

Glasnost in the Soviet Union, kaifang in China or doi moi in Vietnam: ‘openness’ in socialist states has become such an inflated term of political propaganda that one tends to forget that prerevolutionary Bolsheviks inherited an empire in which not only political elites were in tune with the rest of Europe and the United States, but the newly...


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pp. 103-120

A Note on Further Reading for the Non-Chinese Reader

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pp. 121-126


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pp. 127-131

E-ISBN-13: 9789882205642
Print-ISBN-13: 9789622099203

Page Count: 140
Illustrations: 8 b/w illus
Publication Year: 2008