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In: Origins of Chinese Political Philosophy
In: Origins of Chinese Political Philosophy
In: Historical Truth, Historical Criticism, and Ideology


“Progress,” which seems ubiquitous in present-day Chinese discourse, was all but unknown until the last decade of the Qing. This article describes the emergence of the Chinese concept of “progress” in the early 20th century. Drawing on texts by Liang Qichao, Yan Fu and other prominent intellectuals as well as a host of newspaper articles, it analyzes the understanding of this concept in several respects: its first appearance, its relation to conceptions of time, its relation to the concept of “evolution,” and its specific differences to the Western concept of “progress.” It turns out that the specifically Chinese concept of “progress,” that emerged in the early 20th century, was conducive to the optimism regarding “progress” that pervaded much of modern Chinese history.

In: Chinese Visions of Progress, 1895 to 1949