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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Chang Chün-Mai : a moral conservative in an immoral age Draper, Paul


Chang Chün-mai, known in the West as Carsun Chang, played a prominent role on the political stage of wartime China. As educator, philosopher, and politician, he vainly attempted to alter the course of China's political and cultural development. Although commonly referred to as a liberal-democrat, this study shows Chang to be more of a traditionally-minded conservative. Masked by the heavy use of a liberal-democratic vocabulary, Chang maintained a firm commitment to principles that owed much more to conservative Chinese tradition than to Western liberalism. The fact that Chang Chün-mai did rely so heavily on liberal-democratic arguments and came to be known by some as the Father of the Constitution tends to cloud his real intent. It is argued here that his efforts to bring a Western-style constitution to China can better be understood by recognizing two major points: first, Chang, as well as many others, used the constitutional issue in an attempt to force Chiang Kai-shek to share political power; and, secondly, the constitutional issue provided Chang with the conceptual and institutional vehicle for rebuilding the socio-political relationships between the various elements of Chinese society which had existed before the Republic. Within the latter goal, Chang also souqht to create a position of influence and prestige for the class of intellectuals of which he was a part. This study explores one dimension of Chinese conservatism. It shows Chang Chün-mai as a neo-traditionalist whose behaviour was guided and limited by his image of the Chinese cultural tradition--limitations which significantly contributed to his failure. Examining Chang's actions in wartime China sheds more light on the reasons for the failure of the so-called "third force" elements that stood between the Kuomintang and the Chinese Communist Party. Chang held himself aloof from the great mass of his fellow countrymen, he championed a political position which failed to offer a clear alternative to the authoritarian government of Chiang Kai-shek, and his philosophical and conservative viewpoint prevented him from carrying his political opposition to a point which seriously challenged Chiang Kai-shek. Although this study does conclude that Chang's idealized image of the Confucian gentleman (chün-tzu) acted as a handicap in the political milieu of wartime China, it confines that conclusion to a given time and place, and under particular circumstances. It emphatically does not purport to discount the viability or appropriateness of traditional Chinese values in the modern world, or with some form of democratic system. Far from exhaustive, this study is, at best, partial. It is meant to explore a dimension of the Chinese effort to reconcile themselves and their culture with a changing environment. Source materials are limited and not without inconsistencies. A major drawback is that much of the Chinese-language material concerning Chang Chün-mai is lauditory in nature and biased in his favor. If time permitted, a more thorough study of the personal accounts of other actors involved would no doubt yield a more balanced picture. Further, the circumstances under which much of the wartime materials were written required a good deal of circumspection on the part of the writers, and therefore, requires a good deal of "reading between the lines" by the modern reader. I have tried to keep my conclusions reasonable without imparting my own ideas to a difficult translation.

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