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Durham University

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Cao, Qing (2017). Rupture in Modernity: A Case Study of Radicalism in Late Qing Chinese Press Debate. Critical Arts: South-North Cultural and Media Studies 31(6): 9-28.

Author(s) from Durham


Drawing on the idea of organic society, this article examines the discourse of modernity in the late Qing press debate between the monarchist periodical Xinmin congbao and the revolutionary Minbao in 1905–1907. Based on corpus-based analysis, the article identifies the negation of Chinese practices and institutions as contributing to a radicalised discourse. It argues that the loss of anchorage in lived experiences erodes the basis of conservatism as a counterbalancing force of social change. The discursive negation constitutes a critical rupture in Chinese modernity. As the broken link between social values and practice, the rupture spawns a utopian imagining of a future China. Revolution as an extreme form of radicalism is symptomatic of the underlying anxieties of the Chinese collective self that struggles to achieve intellectual and emotional integrity in the pursuit of modernity. The article has three parts. The first develops a tripartite organic society model to conceptualise the study. The second part presents a critical study of the late Qing press debate. Finally, conclusions are arrived at by discussing the significance and consequences of the radicalised discourse in the press debate.