Xu Jilin

Xu Jilin
b. 1957, Shanghai
Intellectual historian
A prominent historian of modern Chinese thought, Xu Jilin has authored numerous essays and books on intellectual trends and individuals in twentieth-century China. Since the mid 1990s, he has also become an influential critical commentator on Chinese intellectual concerns in the contemporary, post-1978 period.
Xu is Professor of History at East China Normal University, where he heads the Contemporary Chinese Thought and Culture Research Institute. He has been a councillor of the Academy of Chinese History (PRC) since 1998. Xu is commonly regarded by his intellectual peers as a moderate advocate of liberalism in relation to the debate between liberalism and the New Left which has ensued since the late 1990s. This debate, widely seen as having divided the elite Chinese intellectual world of Beijing and Shanghai, has led Xu to focus his research on the liberal tradition within modern Chinese thought and to propose an inclusive ‘Third Way’ which will allow Chinese critical thought to move beyond the ideological impasse that has resulted from the ongoing debate.
Since 2000, Xu has presented numerous seminars and conference papers in the United States, Europe and Asia. His influential books include: A Spiritual Purgatory: Chinese Intellectuals in Cultural Transition (Jingshen de lianyu: wenhua bianqianzhong de Zhongguo zhishifenzi. Taipei: Shulin chubanshe, 1995) and Another Kind of Enlightenment (Ling yizhong qimeng. Guangzhou: Huacheng chubanshe, 1999). His essay ‘The Fate of an Enlightenment: Twenty Years in the Chinese Intellectual Sphere 1978–1998’ (‘Qimeng de mingyun: ershinian laide Zhongguo sixiangjie’ (1999), translated by Geremie Barmé with Gloria Davies, East Asian History 20 (December 2000): 169–86), provides an insightful critical survey of contemporary Chinese intellectual politics.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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