A China We Can Talk To?

Talk and discussion with the founder of the “Reading the China Dream website” David Ownby.

For the past decade or so, in his Reading the China Dream project, David Ownby has been reading and translating the work of Chinese intellectuals who publish in China and in Chinese, not dissidents, but not Party propagandists either.  These intellectuals inhabit a world parallel to and at the mercy of the world of Xi Jinping and the Party-State where – like intellectuals elsewhere in the world – they write and publish to try to influence public opinion and perhaps the state on the issues they are allowed to discuss.  This world is circumscribed and has shrunk under Xi Jinping, but over the course of 40 years of reform and opening, Chinese intellectual life in China underwent a transformation similar to that of China’s economy and society; globalization changed the way Chinese intellectuals think and write with the result that, to a surprising degree, Chinese and Western intellectuals now share a common vocabulary and common references.  This suggests that a dialogue might be possible with many of China’s thought-leaders, if not with Chinese authorities.


David Ownby recently retired from the History Department of the Université of Montréal and is currently a Research Associate at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle, Germany.  His most recent work focuses on intellectual life in contemporary China and he is the founder of the Reading the China Dream website.

Talk in English

Eine Kooperation mit dem Verbundprojekt „Worldmaking from a Global Perspective: A Dialogue with China“