Academic Confucius Institute at the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
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Lecture: Federico Brusadelli, University of Naples “L’Orientale”: Self-government (zizhi) in China from the late Qing to the Republic: a contested concept in the search for political modernity

January 28, 2022, 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM

Image: sung ming whang: Early saturday morning in color, Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0),

This talk will look at how the concept of zizhi 自治 (self-government) was (re) articulated in late imperial and early republican China (1898-1928), either to strengthen and “modernize” the Manchu Empire or to build federal/republican counternarratives to the traditional system. From the late Qing official Huang Zunxian 黄遵宪 (who praised the Japanese system of provincial governance as pivotal in the Meiji State-building process) to the Republican governor of Guangdong Cheng Jionming 陈炯明 and his Jeffersonian inspiration of a bottom-up reconstruction of China in the 1920s – including the “provincial patriots” of the 1910s -, prominent individuals and organized networks or movements will be observed in their attempts at redefining the relationship between the “State” and the “local”.
A survey of how the same concept of “local self-government” was variously translated, adapted, and circulated through the use of multiple historical or “foreign” references (in the methodological framework of Begriffsgeschichte), will reveal contrasting, and often competing, political blueprints for the construction of a (differently conceived) “modern” China.

Federico Brusadelli is Lecturer in Chinese History and International History of East Asia at the University of Naples “L’Orientale”, where he completed his PhD in 2016 with a dissertation on the Chinese philosopher Kang Youwei.
From 2017 to 2020 he was Researcher in Sinology at the Friedrich-Alexander University in Erlangen-Nuremberg (Germany). In 2020/2021 he was Visiting Fellow at the European Institute for Chinese Studies in Paris. His current research project adopts a “conceptual history” approach to the study of Chinese federalist movements in the late-imperial and republican periods.

This lecture is part of the lecture series New Perspectives on Modernity in China.


Prof. Dr. Axel Schneider, University of Göttingen
Prof. Dr. Thomas Fröhlich, University of Hamburg

For registration, please use this zoom link.


January 28, 2022
10:00 AM - 12:00 PM
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