Intellectual Discourse in Reform Era China: The Debate on the Spirit of the Humanities in the 1990s, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Intellectual Discourse in Reform Era China

The Debate on the Spirit of the Humanities in the 1990s, 1st Edition

By Giorgio Strafella


176 pages

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This book explores intellectual discourse in reform era China by analysing the so-called “debate on the spirit of the Humanities”, which occurred in the years 1993-95, and which is recognised by scholars as one of the most interesting, influential and important debates of the 1990s. This debate, in which Chinese intellectuals reflected on reform-era mass culture and on their role in society, was the first debate in China after the crackdown of 1989 and the launch of new economic reforms after Deng Xiaoping’s 1992 “southern tour”. The book, drawing on a large corpus of texts and a wide range of individual positions, demonstrates how Chinese intellectuals, having to face the combination of political repression and economic liberalisation, conceptualised and reacted to both. The book reveals the scale and complexity of the debate, the nature of intellectual life in China, the status and relevance of intellectual voices in society, the divisions within the intellectual sphere as well as shared concepts and ideals, and how the key factors of political repression and economic liberalisation which remain central in China today were defined and articulated.


"Giorgio Strafella’s Intellectual Discourse in Reform Era China is the first book-length study in English of a significant event among Chinese intellectuals in the 1990s: a debate that erupted on the spirit of the humanities in China. […] Strafella’s keyword approach adds a fresh perspective to our understanding of the debate. Moreover, his analysis of the rhetoric of the texts à la Fairclough—an approach that is markedly English-language-based—brings out new dimensions that a native Chinese speaker would not normally see. […]?Strafella’s book is an admirable study that deserves further critical attention." - Haomin Gong, in The China Journal

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. A State of Flux

3. Change as Direction

4. The Limits of Choice

5. Choice as Place

6. Spiritual Borders

7. The West as a Resource


About the Author

Giorgio Strafella is a Research Fellow in the Department of Chinese Culture and Society at the University of St Gallen

About the Series

Routledge Contemporary China Series

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Regional Studies