Chen Jiongming and the Federalist Movement

Regional Leadership and Nation Building in Early Republican China
Volume 86
Leslie H. Dingyan Chen
Challenges Chinese and Western historiography on the early Republican period


The local self-government movement in China began in the late Qing, and by the Revolution of 1911 no less than five thousand self-government councils had formed around the country. While the idea of a federated state was cherished by early revolutionaries, a growing conflict between federalist and centralist leaders culminated in the defeat of federalism in the mid-1920s. The story of this movement has since remained hidden behind Nationalist and Communist accounts of the early revolutionary struggle.

This study of Chen Jiongming's political career reopens the record on federalist efforts, focusing on Chen's policies and administrative achievements in Fujian and Guangdong. It describes Chen's role in the tumultuous politics of southern China from 1909 until his death in 1933, including his relationship and notorious break with Sun Yat-sen, the leader of the centralist revolutionaries. Leslie Chen argues that his father's attempts to create a democratic, federalist system in Guangdong were aimed at providing a model for China as a whole. His account is lively and readable; it gives an intimate, yet historically accurate, account of Chen Jiongming's considerable role in early twentieth-century Chinese history.

Leslie Chen was born in Guangdong, China. In 1988 he compiled "A Collection of Historiographic Materials for a Biography of Chen Chiung-ming [Jiongming], 1878-1933." He has published two Chinese-language biographies of Chen Jiongming.

Praise / Awards

  • ". . . unique and remarkable political biography. . . ."
    —John Fitzgerald, La Trobe University, Journal of Asian Studies, February 2001
  • "This is not just the work of a dutiful son. It is a thoroughly researched and finely crafted work of history that offers a radical revision of some of the most important themes and events in the history of modern China."
    —John Fitzgerald, La Trobe University

Product Details

  • 365 pages.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Ebook
  • 2017
  • Available
  • 978-1-938937-07-1

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