CHINA HERITAGE QUARTERLY China Heritage Project, The Australian National University ISSN 1833-8461
Nos. 30/31, June/September 2012


A Critique of the Critics | China Heritage Quarterly

A Critique of the Critics

Quentin Pan

The following is a book review of T'ang Leang-li's edited China's Own Critics A Selection of Essays by Hu Shih and Lin Yu-tang with Commentaries by Wang Ching-wei,Tientsin and Shanghai: China United Press, 1931. It appeared in The China Critic, V:19 (12 May 1932): 462-463.—The Editor

China's Own Critics is a collection of seventeen essays, five by Dr Huh Shih, and twelve by Dr Lin Yu-tang, with two commentaries by Mr Wang Ching-wei coming behind two of Dr Hu's essays. Dr Hu's writings are well-known to Chinese readers, as practically all of them first appeared in The New Moon, a monthly which in the past few years, has attracted nation-wide attention; those of Dr Lin originally appeared in English in the pages of The Critic, and are therefore already well-known to many Chinese and foreign readers.

All the essays are, as the edited Mr Tang has remarked in his Preface, 'intellectually and morally refreshing'. Though written two or three years ago, none of them is out-of-date. Such question [sic] raised by Dr Hu as 'Which Road Shall We Take?' and 'When Shall We Have A Constitution' are still being constantly asked, and more insistent now than ever. Mr Wang's commentaries are equally interesting, in that they betray very noticeably how the mind of a doctrinaire infallibly works, particularly when attempting to show that the doctrine with which he is identified is infallible.

Both authors have shown themselves able critics of China's own cultural and national life. Dr Hu's rather unfavourable attitude towards Chinese civilization, however, is not much in evidence in these essays, as they are largely political and deal only with current problems. That Dr Lin is deeply dissatified [sic] both with China's cultural heritage and her present political control is well shown in all of his 'little critics'. It will be admitted by most readers that while Dr Lin's criticisms are penetrating, they are not always very just. Some of them have to be taken with a grain of salt, and all of them with a grain of humour. While they were in right place [sic] in the columns of 'The Little Critic', they have to be read and appreciated with a great deal more caution when republished elsewhere.

Dr Hu, in one of his essays, repeatedly refers to The Critic as semi-official. This is most unfortunate. That The Critic has at times proved more considerate of the government than was necessary is perhaps a fact. But everybody has his semi-official moments, from which even Dr Hu himself does not seem to have been entirely free.

China's Own Critics is interesting enough, but what we need more at the present time is some real critics from and of the Kuomintang Party which is in control of China and has promised to make China safe from critics, Chinese or foreign. Kuomintang's Own Critics is the book that most readers are looking forward to. It is interesting, nay, even ironical to see while Mr Tang was editing China's Own Critics, Mr Wang Ching-wei, for and about whom he has been writing so much, has not deviated much from the path which Nanking had always pursued before Mr Wang came on the scene in dealing with non-Kuomintang critics of Kuomintang rule. The New Moon from which practically all of Dr Hu's essays in this volume are taken, is still under ban. The editor of a big Shanghai newspaper has been very recently warned and reprimanded for comparing and criticizing Mr Wang's views expressed before and after he came to take charge of the national government toward the end of last year.

In his commentaries of Dr Hu's articles, Mr Wang has more than once made reference to 'the true Party member'. But where is he? How many true members are there? How are they to be picked out? Is there not the fairly general feeling suggested by reading Friedrich Nietzsche that there has but been one true Kuomintang member and that he died of cancer of stomach in Peiping on the eve of effecting a united China without bloodshed? Such questions can only be adequately answered when Kuomintang's Own Critic is written and published, meanwhile let us read China's Own Critics and rest assured that all our ills are traceable to a faulty cultural heritage and to unscrupulous political leaders who were at heart and in spirit not truly Kuomintang.