In response to:
China on the Verge from the July 18, 1991 issue
To the Editors:
I am somewhat surprised to read in Professor Jonathan Spence’s otherwise faithful summary of my book: The Golden Age of the Chinese Bourgeoisie [NYR, July 18] that the doctoral dissertation in which it originated was “conceived along Marxist lines” when the introduction makes clear that these views belonged to an academic advisor and were soon questioned and rejected by me in the course of my research. Years before “the world and China had changed…” and the book was adapted from the dissertation, the then currently received images of the Chinese bourgeoisie, and of its links with the 1911 revolution or the Nanking regime appeared to me unsupported by historical evidence. This slight misunderstanding has no consequence on the substance of the review, but I thought your readers would appreciate the historiographical nuance.
Professor at l’Institut National des
Langues et Civilisations Orientales and
Director of Studies at l’Ecole des Hautes
Etudes en Sciences Sociales
Jonathan Spence replies:
The views of an adviser, for better or worse, often inform a student’s initial concepts. That such is so implies no criticism of the student. Both my review and Ms. Bergère’s introduction make it clear that she came to reject the spurious “rigor” of this particular analytical framework.
December 5, 1991