Volume 15, Issue 2, 2018
Conceptual History: China, Asia, and the Global
Racism in the Early-20th-Century U.S. and Sun Yat-sen’s Outlook on Chinese Culture
Confronted with the decline of Western hegemony, the post-Great-War American society witnessed a prevailing trend of racism represented by Lothrop Stoddard, who proposed to suppress the nationalist movements in Asia and completely prohibit the immigration of Asians into the United States to maintain white supremacy across the world. His racist discourse also constituted the historical context of Sun Yat-sen’s speech to The Kobe Chamber of Commerce. Unlike previous studies of the speech that focused on Sun’s expression of “Greater Asianism,” this paper examines his critical remarks on Stoddard, intending to explore the intellectual origin of the renewed outlook held by Sun on Chinese culture in his later years, as he intentionally misinterpreted Stoddard’s main idea as cultural revolt, neutralied such notions as biological determination and human inequality, and replaced white supremacy with the ascendancy of Chinese culture by emphasizing its originality, historical unity and moral superiority. On the very basis, Sun presented an alternative mode of modern civilization that diverged from the Euro-centric capitalist modernity. Echoing various anti-capitalist and counter-enlightenment thoughts of this period, Sun’s proposal could be taken as an integral part of the “new cultural conservatism” promoted by Chinese intellectuals in the 1920s.