Volume 15, Issue 2, 2018
Conceptual History: China, Asia, and the Global
Discourses of “Imperialism” in the Late Qing Dynasty
Imperialism, the key concept of modern politics and society, entered China via Japan in the late Qing Dynasty. This concept had been endowed with rich connotations before Lenin’s assertion that imperialism is the highest stage of capitalism gained a dominant position in China. Liang Qichao influenced by the Waseda University of Politics, regarded “imperialism” as the result of “nationalism”. He advocated the cultivation of nationals to cope with international competition. At the same time, Kotoku Shusui being influenced by the European and American socialist thoughts, regarded “imperialism” as the product of the politicians and capitalists’ seeking profit from the centralization of power. Mencius, a classic Confucian text, became the native resource for absorbing this proposition, attention to the universalist thought which is constructed by Confucian moral theory such as compassion. But for other East Asian countries such as China and Korea, the claim had received little response.