First Advisor

Linda Walton

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in History






Qichao Liang (1873-1929), Shi Hu (1891-1962), China -- Politics and government -- 20th century



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1 online resource (116 p.)


Democracy was one of the many Western ideas that began to be discussed among the Chinese intellectual elite in the last decades of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Liang Qichao (1873-1929), a leader of the 1895-98 Reform Movement, and Hu Shi (1891-1962), a central figure of the 1915-27 New Culture Movement, were two of the most influential proponents of democracy in modern Chinese history. Liang and Hu linked their meanings of democracy with the highest goals for China, national strength and modernity. Liang Qichao was a revolutionary in advocating the opening of participation in politics to people outside the official government structure through his leadership role in the 1895 Protest Petition. His abundant writings on political events and prescriptions for reform aroused the attention of a wider population than had previously considered national issues. Liang promoted political reforms during the years up to the 1911 Revolution, and then took a direct role in politics in the early Republic. Hu Shi expanded on the meaning of democracy to include social and political change. He, too, wrote prolifically and was a key figure in the literary renaissance which aimed to promote education of a broader spectrum of the populace by the use of the vernacular in writing. While Hu did not participate directly in political life, he was a constant advocate of democratic institutions and social and cultural progress. Both Liang and Hu placed a high value on education and tirelessly promoted the exploration of new ideas as the path to modernity. They both harshly criticized the governments under which they worked but preferred gradual reform rather than radical revolution. While their understanding of democracy differed in their generational contexts and personal experiences, they believed that thoughtful participation in politics and society was the core essence of democracy and modernity.


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