In this essay I attempt to clarify the understanding of modernity that can be found in the writings of the Chinese thinker Wang Hui, especially in his magnum opus on The Rise of Modern Chinese Thought (2004). In this book, Wang describes the trajectory of major conceptual and paradigmatic changes from antiquity to modern China. I present and critically discuss important premises of this project, in particular Wang’s assumption that the formation of Chinese modernity is characterized by a dialectical tension between “critique/emancipation” and “control/order”. According to Wang, this tension is already present in the Neo-Confucian world-view, a rather convincing claim as I show in the second part of this essay. It is less clear, however, whether Wang succeeds in grounding Chinese modernity in the historical reality of late imperial China. In the last part, I provide discussion and suggestions for future research.
Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie, 65(3), 535-553