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Naming the People: Peoplehood in the Constitutions of the Republic of China and the People’s Republic of China

Tue May 14th 2024, 4:30 - 6:00pm
Event Sponsor
Center for East Asian Studies
History Department
Lathrop Library
518 Memorial Way, Stanford, CA 94305

Name and Naming lie at the heart of Chinese politics and law, which can be traced to Confucius’s words and “Laws on Names and Principles” (ming li lü) that headed every imperial code. This research examines how THE people (renmin) is defined politically and constitutionally under the People’s Republic of China, which is composed of politically reliable citizens in differentiation from foreigners and from domestic enemies. Peoplehood in the PRC is discussed as part of the inverse constitutional causes of the Republic of China and the People’s Republic of China. The different definitions of the sovereign people under the ROC and the PRC speak to the divergence between the ROC as a maritime-born ethno-civic nation, with the totality of its citizens (guomin) as its sovereign, and the PRC, a class nation defined by the state deeply rooted in China’s agrarian heartland. This divergence manifested itself in a bifurcation between the 1946 Constitution featuring “Confucius and Lincoln” and the PRC constitutional order characterized by, in Mao Zedong’s own words, an integration of “Marx” and the first emperor of the Legalist Qin empire.

This event is free and open to the public. Please RSVP here

About the speaker: 
Mara Du’s research centers on the history of modern China (17th century – present), particularly on law, gender, and state-building. Her first monograph, State and Family in China: Filial Piety and Its Modern Reform (Cambridge University Press, 2022), studies the intersection of politics and intergenerational family relations in China. It treats the state-sponsored parent-child hierarchy as the axis around which family and political power relations were constructed and maintained in imperial China. And it examines reform of filial piety law as a key to understanding the trajectory China undertook in the twentieth century. Mara is currently completing her second book, China: From a Nationless State to a Nation Defined by State, which is under contract with Columbia University Press. Reading a pre-modern concept into the modern era, this book explores how China has been shaped by the multifaceted concept guo. A word for dynastic state in classical Chinese, this term came to be used for the modern nation-state since the 19th century. The creation and adoption of the triple-faced guo (nation-state-regime) as the locus of Chinese sovereignty was mediated by Western missionary-lawyers, overseas Chinese, and transnational intellectuals, with far-reaching ramifications for contemporary China's constitutional structure, domestic politics, and international relations.