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Saving the Nation

Economic Modernity in Republican China

Economic modernity is so closely associated with nationhood that it is impossible to imagine a modern state without an equally modern economy. Even so, most people would have difficulty defining a modern economy and its connection to nationhood. In Saving the Nation, Margherita Zanasi explores this connection by examining the first nation-building attempt in China after the fall of the empire in 1911.

Challenging the assumption that nations are products of technological and socioeconomic forces, Zanasi argues that it was notions of what constituted a modern nation that led the Nationalist nation-builders to shape China’s institutions and economy. In their reform effort, they confronted several questions: What characterized a modern economy? What role would a modern economy play in the overall nation-building effort? And how could China pursue economic modernization while maintaining its distinctive identity? Zanasi expertly shows how these questions were negotiated and contested within the Nationalist Party. Silenced in the Mao years, these dilemmas are reemerging today as a new leadership once again redefines the economic foundation of the nation.

336 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2006

Asian Studies: East Asia

Economics and Business: Economics--History

History: Asian History


Saving the Nation will make a signal contribution to the history of Republican China. We have excellent studies of business and economic enterprise and a few important studies of Nationalist economic policy, but this is the first study to dissect in detail the economic policy debates of the late 1920s and 1930s beyond Chiang Kai-shek’s immediate circle. The inclusion of Wang Jingwei, Chen Gongbo, and Song Ziwen as pivotal figures in the debates over China’s economic present and future broadens the study in ways that are politically fascinating.”--David Strand, Dickinson College

David Strand

“In Saving the Nation, Margherita Zanasi adds an important new dimension to our understanding of the struggles for control of the Nationalist Party that broke out after Sun Yat-sen’s death in 1925. Moving between the registers of political, intellectual, and economic history, she skillfully analyzes the varied ways that Chiang Kai-shek and his rivals strove to push the country toward ‘economic modernity.’ The result is a study that has much to tell us about China’s Republican-era past ­and places in new perspective the debates over development and nationalism of China’s Reform-era present.”--Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom, University of California, Irvine

Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom

“Zanasi’s study is very well-researched and highly significant for several reasons: it shows how ideas of central European fascist and dirigiste political-economic systems—put to purposes of national defense—were far more important in Republican China than we have appreciated; how ‘collaborationism’ cannot be dissociated from contending strategies and politics of building national strength; and how these contentions form a central moment in the history of the present in China.”--Prasenjit Duara, University of Chicago

Prasenjit Duara

"Zanasi’s book adds an important new dimension to our understanding of the Nanjing Decade by focusing on the notions and activities of the Wang group . . . and presenting the political complexity of the Guomingdang government."

Linsun Cheng | International Journal of Asian Studies

"A significant contribution to our understanding of the Nanjing Decade in terms of economic policy-making and the intra-Party struggles over the control of resources. It will be of interest to all students of modern Chinese history and Chinese modernity."

Edmund S. K. Fung | China Journal

"[This book] joins a growing literature that traces the origins of post-1949 Chinese Communist Party policies back to the Republican period, reassesses the relationship between economy and society during the Nanking decade, and revises the view of Wang Jingwei’s collaborative nationalism. In addition, the book highlights the fluidity of ’modernity’ as a guiding concept for late developing countries in their search for a balance among state, society, and the economy."

Kwan Man Bun | American Historical Review

Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations

Part I. Envisioning Modern China
1. China’s Minzu Economy
2. The Rural Question: Identity, Modernity, and Peasants in China’s Industrial Development

Part II. Building the Corporativist State
3. The Politics of Reconstruction: Song Ziwen and the National Economic Council
4. The Cotton Control Commission and the Corporativist Organization of the Nation

Part III. From Theory to Practice
5. Implementing Rural Reforms
6. Officials, Industrial Magnates, and Bureaucratic Capitalism

Part IV. Defending Which Nation?
7. From Nationalism to Collaboration


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