Becoming Chinese evaluates the dual roles of war and modernity in the transformation of twentieth-century Chinese identity. The contributors, all leading researchers, argue that war, no less than revolution, deserves attention as a major force in the making of twentieth-century Chinese history, and that modernity in material culture and changes in intellectual consciousness are to serve as twin foci of a new wave of scholarly analysis. Examining in particular the rise of modern Chinese cities and the making of the Chinese nation-state, the contributors to this interdisciplinary volume of cultural history provide new ways of thinking about China's modern transformation up to the 1950s. The essays demonstrate that the combined effect of a modernizing state and an industrializing economy weakened the Chinese bourgeoisie and undercut the individual's quest for autonomy.
Drawing upon new archival sources, these theoretically informed, thoroughly revisionist essays focus on topics such as Western-inspired modernity, urban cosmopolitanism, consumer culture, gender relationships, interchanges between city and countryside, and the growing impact of the state on the lives of individuals. Becoming Chinese makes an important contribution toward a postsocialist understanding of twentieth-century China.