- Democracy and Socialism in Republican China: The Politics of Zhang Junmai (Carson Chang), 1906-1941
The beginning of the twentieth century was a trying time for concerned Chinese intellectuals. Half a century after the Opium War of 1839-1842 knocked open the Chinese door and brought the ancient empire to its knees before the Western powers, the situation in China worsened to the point that it appeared in imminent danger of being partitioned. Among the foreign powers that were busy carving up China was Japan, which, although traditionally viewed as culturally indebted to China, had just carried out a successful institutional reform and joined the ranks of the Western powers by handing China a humiliating defeat in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895. With mixed emotions of love and hate, admiration and contempt, many young Chinese intellectuals, almost exclusively from the gentry class, went to Japan to study ways to adapt the Japanese experience to China for the salvation of their motherland. Zhang Junmai was among the first generation of those young Chinese. And it was in Japan, at Waseda University, where young Zhang began his lifelong quest for China's salvation.
Japan was then a constitutional monarchy that had just emerged from centuries of military rule under a hereditary emperor. An exiled Chinese constitutional monarchist movement was operating in Japan among Chinese students at the time. It was only natural that young Zhang was immediately drawn to the movement, then headed by the famous teacher-student team of Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao, both towering intellectual figures in China. In this movement, young Zhang dedicated himself to striving for democracy in his homeland, a goal from which he never retreated for the rest of his life. His embrace of constitutional monarchy was a realistic position that was popular among many intellectuals at that time who understandably viewed republicanism as too radical. Joining Liang's Zhengwen She (Political Information Society), young Zhang threw himself body and soul into the movement. He returned to China from Japan to work first for the cause of constitutional monarchy during the last days of the Manchu dynasty and then for Liang's group when it changed its name to the Progressive Party, after the 1911 Revolution led by Sun Yat-sen ended dynastic rule and China became a republic. Disillusioned at the political chaos in the early years of the Republic in the absence of a monarch as a stabilizing force, young Zhang left China for Europe, ending the first stage of his evolving political career.
Once in Europe, particularly in Germany, young Zhang became interested in state socialism on the German model. Similarities between Eastern paternalism [End Page 456] and German statism made it easy for him to accept the role of government in promoting public welfare. The embrace of state socialism or German social democracy thus marks the beginning of the second stage in Zhang's ideological development as he moved away from a now discredited constitutional monarchy in China. He was convinced that the path leading to national salvation was through democracy and socialism. Not happy with either the Nationalist Party (the Guomindang, or GMD) or the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), then locked in a power struggle in China for the control of the government and, more importantly, for the hearts and minds of the Chinese people with their many different ideologies, Zhang championed a "third force," forming his own political party in the 1930s, first known as the National Socialist Party (NSP) and later changed to the Chinese Democratic Socialist Party (DSP), in order to offer the Chinese people an alternative.
A political realist as much as he was an idealist with his own cherished goals, Zhang fully realized the necessity of compromise with the powers-that-be in China at any given time. Through much of the 1930s he reluctantly worked within the limits set...