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SINOLOGICAL SHADOWBOXING: MYERS AND METZGER ON THE STATE OF MODERN CHINA STUDIES IN AMERICA by Paul A. Cohen History Department Wellesley College "Sinological Shadows" is a critique of the field of "modern China• studies in the United States written for frankly--and explicitly stated--political purposes. The heart of its authors' argument is that in recent years, as the "revolution" paradigm has increasingly overshadowed the "modernization" paradigm in the structuring of American scholarship, the fallacy of regarding a major event--the Chinese revolution--as the outcome of a single process unfolding in a deterministic, Hegelian way has become integral to much of our writing on modern China. The arguments used in support of the revolution paradigm have, according to the authors, created the impression that modern Chinese history followed a linear, purposeful path culminating in the Communist victory of 1949--and thus reducing the Kuomintang to a historical leftover. American intellectuals, as a result of this peculiar logic, have been prevented from thinking about the two Chinese governments in "a fair and sober way" (p. 2). Instead of evaluating Peking and Taipei in accordance with a reasonably objective set of criteria, we have acquiesced in the former's historiographical perspective, seeing the Communists as the sole beneficiaries of Chinese historical process. What is more, the vision of Chinese history so created by American scholars has had a significant shaping effect on decision making in the Oval Office, pushing American China policy in the direction of normalized relations with the Peking government and leaving Taipei stranded and in danger. Although I do not share the policy preferences of Professors Myers and Metzger and do not think that,. in strictly political terms, they speak for a very large constituency within the community of China scholars in America, there is too much useful scholarly insight and criticism in "Sinological Shadows" for it to be dismissed out of hand. This is particularly true of the authors' discussion of the old modernization paradigm of the 1950s and 1960s--sometimes confusingly subsumed by them under what they call the "revolution" paradigm. Myers and Metzger criticize the old modernization paradigm for its highly dichotomous v1s1on of the relationship between tradition and modernity and its implicit premise that the sources of transformative change in twentieth-century China were largely if not entirely imported from the West. They contend that, whatever may be said of· Chinese institutions and political leadership in the late Ch'ing, Confucian va~ues as such were not inimical to, or incompatible with, successful modern~zation. While this contention 5 happens to dovetail nicely with the authors' pro-Taipei political leanings, it also finds support in a sizable and growing body of work by American scholars over the past decade or so and has to be taken seriously as a hypothesis concerning the process and sources of change in recent Chinese history. Other portions of the authors' argument are, in my judgment, a good deal more vulnerable to criticism. I will comment on three of these: (1) the view that the "revolution" paradigm predominates or is becoming increasingly predominant in American China scholarship; (2) the proposal that scholars adopt a new paradigm, which the authors refer to as the "Chinese development" paradigm; and (3) the assumption that China scholars and the paradigms structuring their work exert a significant shaping influence on American China policy. (1) What is most surprising about the author's discussion of the revolution paradigm, which takes up a major part of the article, is that Myers and Metzger themselves furnish the evidence to refute, or at least substantially undermine, their own argument. This argument, it should be underscored, is not that the revolution paradigm exists within the corpus of American China scholarship but that it has become increasingly--and the authors would add, dangerously--popular and influential in recent years. Myers and Metzger discuss the revolution paradigm first with reference to pre-1949 China, under the three heads of intellectual history, social and political history, and econo~ic history. They then discuss its application to Socialist China. This latter part of their discussion is both brief and (I found) opaque. I will therefore confine myself to the portion of the authors...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1940-5065
Print ISSN
1521-5385
Pages
pp. 5-10
Launched on MUSE
2021-05-25
Open Access
No
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