Worlds of Political Economic Thought in Twentieth-Century China

This research project explores Chinese economic thought of the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, with direct relevance to the present day, and in particular focuses on one specific thinker, Wang Yanan, and the intellectual debates he animated and in which he participated as a major theorist.

Wang Yanan (1901-1969) is known in China, if at all, as the first translator in the 1930s and 1940s of Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Karl Marx, and many others into modern Chinese. Completely forgotten about Wang is the fact that he was also a prolific conceptual analyst and social scientific philosopher, involved in some of the most important discussions on political economy in twentieth-century China. The majority of his philosophical and historical work was completed prior to the revolution of 1949 and thus was not subject to Communist control. Wang becomes much less interesting after the late 1950s, when his work was transformed under the pressure of the dogmatisms of Party ideologues.