Social revolution of the constitution. The cultural translation of the Weimar Constitution in the Republic of China (1919-1949)

Completed Project

This PhD project, completed in 2020, seeks to explore the Chinese translation of socio-economic rights from the Weimar Constitution within a context of global resonance. As the paradigm of new constitution in Europe after World War I, the Weimar Constitution had also influenced the constitutional movements in the Republic of China (ROC) and become a significant intellectual resource and institutional model when China’s intelligentsia tried to establish its own constitutionalism. In the constitutional movements throughout China during the 1920s and 1930s, the various draft constitutions made by governments, or civil societies or even some individuals were more than often modeled after the institutional design and basic principles of the Weimar Constitution. When the effort for institutional transplant failed in the early years of the ROC, the Chinese intellectuals had an in-depth reflection on the Weimar Constitution and the constitutional model of China. The Weimar Constitution, so to speak, has a profound impact on modern China’s choice of constitutional model as well as its national transformation.

This project approaches social revolution from a perspective of cultural translation. The analytical object includes both the overall process and the rich details of the reconstruction of constitutional norms, especially in the economic field. The approach of cultural translation goes beyond pure text translation and further explores the reception process of the Weimar Constitution in establishing the Constitution of the ROC. By tracing a series of mediators and media, concrete examples from the Chinese discussion of the Weimar Constitution demonstrate the extent to which foreign stimuli were translated into national traditions, and the transnational communication in this case actually resulted in a strengthening of national identity.

The result of this research was published in:

Li, F.: Becoming Policy. Cultural Translation of the Weimar Constitution in China (1919–1949). Rechtsgeschichte - Legal History Rg 27, pp. 207 - 221 (2019)
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