Histories of the Future in Modern China – 17th to 21st Centuries

Dr Lewis Mayo1, Liang Qichao2, Justin Tighe3, Jack Moloney4, Richard Lee1

1Asia Institute, University Of Melbourne, , Australia, 2Chinese Settler Cultures and the History of the Chinese Future, 3History of Ideas, Pathways School, Trinity College, University of Melbourne, , Australia, 4History Department, University of Melbourne, Australia

Chair: Dr Lewis Mayo


For a long time, the rhetoric of modernising change in China was affiliated with the idea of revolution and its capacity to create a radiant future for Chinese people and for the world at large. To understand modern Chinese historical experience we need to look at how conceptions of China’s future have shifted in line with changes in configurations of power in different Chinese societies, in both revolutionary and non-revolutionary contexts.  How have different visions of the Chinese future displaced each other in the course of China’s modern history?  How does the pursuit of individual and familial betterment link with ideas of the collective betterment of classes, regions or nations?  How far has disillusionment with the failure of projected futures to come into being created a sense of cultural malaise and how far has it spurred people to come up with alternative visions of what the Chinese future might be? This panel will pursue these questions through a combination of historical comparisons between competing narratives of the future in China and in other parts of the world, and through reflection on how accounts of the past produced by Chinese writers might arise from and entail particular visions of the future.



The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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