We wrote recently about a rising tide of animosity in China’s state press against the “infiltration” of Western ideas in Chinese education and scholarship — and provided a full translation of a hard-line essay decrying the “westernization” of economics education.
The latest target, it seems, is historical scholarship.
In a high-minded article posted on Monday to the official website of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences — and published in its official journal, Chinese Social Sciences Today — Li Zhiting (李治亭) of the National Qing Dynasty History Compilation Committee (国家清史编纂委员会) attacked a handful of American sinologists, ridiculing their work in the field of “New Qing History” as “pseudo-academic.”
“New Qing History” is academically absurd, and politically does damage to the unity of China. It is necessary to stir all scholars with a sense of righteousness to fiercely oppose it. We entirely reject “New Qing History.” Moreover, we expose its mask of pseudo-academic scholarship, eliminating the deleterious effect it has had on scholarship in China!
The final exclamation point in the above paragraph is in fact exclamation point number 88, making for an average of just under ten exclamation points per online page. Most readers of the piece could not fail to note the clear political bias at work — not to mention the unwarranted (in academic discourse) aggression. The essay, in fact, is not about historical scholarship at all, but about China’s current ideological climate.
A translation of the first online page follows:
“Scholars Assess ‘New Qing History,’ an Instance of ‘New Imperial History’“
April 20, 2015
Editor’s Note: Scholarship is the refined expression of the spirit of an age. Scholarship can only radiate vitality and have far-reaching influence if it is rooted in the era in which it is situated and responds to the major issues of the day. The problem comes when academic researchers hold the wrong positions, and serve the wrong ends . . . then no matter what results they have, or how loud they are, they can only be noise and static (噪音杂音) — and they can only stand in the way of history rather than push it forward. As to which category “New Qing History” belongs to, this essay from the “Contention” column of Chinese Social Sciences Today can help us decide.
In recent years, a certain saying about Qing history has emerged among academic historians called “new Qing history.” This was not invented by Chinese historians but in fact comes from overseas — created together by several American historians!
The American scholars who support “new Qing history” view the history of China from an imperialist standpoint, with imperialist points of view and imperialist eyes, regarding “traditional” China as an “empire,” regarding the Qing dynasty as “Qing dynasty imperialism.” Their theory and discourse are shot through with imperialist arrogance. Differentiating their work from 20th century studies of imperialism, they call it “new imperial history” (新帝国主义史学). “New Qing history” is one example.