Late Qing's Dreams of Modernity -- Evans Chan's dialog with Peter Zarrow
( Full Txet PDF )
China Heritage Quarterly interview (interviewer: William Cheung)
Kang Youwei and his disciple Liang Qichao have been praised by some scholars as the first modern Chinese. The philosopher Li Zehou hailed Kang as the most important modern Chinese philosopher, and Prasenjit Duara has declared Kang to be the one universal thinker that modern China has produced. What is of special interest to me is Kang's visionary tract Datong Shu 大同書, the Book of the Great Way, which was his fervent attempt to revive and update the Confucian utopia for the modern world. In his typology, the world evolves from the Age of Chaos, to the Age of Rising Peace, which is characterized by the accumulation of Small Wealth (xiaokang 小康), or Moderate Prosperity, then to the Age of Great Peace, in which Datong—the Great Way, or the Great Commonwealth—will prevail. As it turned out, xiaokang has been the slogan and the declared objective of Deng Xiaoping's economic liberalization in the 1980s. But this xiaokang phase has produced, over three decades, a more and more painfully polarized nation. Rather than being a nation that enjoys Small Wealth or Moderate Prosperity, China has become a country in which Wealth is concentrated in the hands of a Small elite political class. With the demise of socialist or Marxist ideals, does China's own homegrown millennial utopia stand a chance, or simply deserve, to be revived again in its homeland? I'll answer Yes, without hesitation. Hence the title of this film.
-- Evans Chan