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Rights and Citizenship in Chinese Educational Discourse, 1895-1937, with Contemporary Reflections Open Access


Other title
1895-1937 China
Rights and citizenship theorization
Citizenship education in China
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Wang, Danqing
Supervisor and department
Dunch, Ryan (History and Classics, East Asian Studies)
Examining committee member and department
Mookerjea, Sourayan (Sociology)
Ross, Heidi (Education Leadership and Policy Studies, Indiana University)
Jennifer Jay (History and Classics)
Alison Taylor (Educational Policy Studies)
Jennifer Kelly (Educational Policy Studies)
Kachur, Jerrold (Educational Policy Studies)
Department of Educational Policy Studies
Theoretical, Cultural and International Studies in Education
Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Intellectual awakening from Confucian traditionalism to modern nationalism, along with social movements from subjecthood to citizenship, emerged in the late Qing dynasty and flourished in early Republican China. Accordingly, the practice of using education to nurture a modern citizenry came into existence. This study is an attempt to understand intellectual influences on the rise and development of citizenship education in China at the turn of the twentieth century through a historical inquiry into the works of leading intellectuals on rights and citizenship, as well as textual analysis of curricula and textbooks in relation to civic education. The evolution of the rights discourse and citizenship education in the late Qing dynasty and early Republican China reflects the ambitions and efforts on the part of intellectuals to create a modern China. This study shows that Chinese intellectuals and educators had gained as much sophisticated understanding of rights and civic education as their Western counterparts by the late 1930s. Tensions between nationalists and liberals over the ultimate goal of rights advocacy, whether to strengthen China among nations or to enhance individual liberty, dominated the rights discussion and affected the content of civic curriculum and textbooks. In contrast to the rights discourse in the late Qing dynasty that tended to associate subjects of rights with state/collectives, rights advocacy in the early Republic began to place greater emphasis on individual rights. In consequence, civic education was led by the military-civilian ideal aimed at strengthening the nation-state, followed by a period of policy adjustments echoing the prevailing appeals to individual rights. Nevertheless, there was too little social and political stability in the early twentieth century for Chinese intellectuals and educators to pursue republican ideals and to carry out civic education in accordance with the spirit of democracy. Inspired by the civic education practices in the early Republican era, a rights-based citizenship education framework is proposed as a conclusion of this study to connect past experiences with contemporary practices in teaching civics.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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