China viewed from heaven

In a mostly rural country, with a totalitarian state and a patriarchal society, anarchism could only develop in the margins. Indeed, the two first groups appeared in 1907 in Paris and in Tokyo. However, the students that regrouped in these associations later became influential intellectuals in China. Even Mao would confess in his older age that he had strongly been influenced by anarchist ideas.

During that same period, the popularity of another highly respected anarchist, the former Russian prince Kropotkin, contributed to the development of ideas such as mutual aid, as well as the importance of the connection with the natural sciences and of an ethical vision. Thus, the militants participated in the "May 4 Movement," in the various uprisings that followed while some of the major figures unfortunately participated in the Guomindang.

The fact that anarchists formed one of the currents at the origin of the Chinese revolution raises several important questions: what issues were they confronted with, how did they respond, why did they fail and, finally, did their ideas have any impact.

The influence of Chinese anarchism in the rest of the world continues to be noticeable today, principally through the interest of the West for Taoist philosophy, although the anarchist streak in that current remains a matter of debate. As for China, it was a major contributor in the development of Chinese social radicalism: it attached great importance to education and to the fight against the family ties that restricted the freedom of the individual, it initiated the women’s movement and reoriented revolution from political to social and cultural goals, even though these ideals were coopted and manipulated by state terror.


2 From the Treaty of Shimonoseki (1895) to the overthrow of the Mandchu Dynasty (1911)

3 From Sun Yat-sen, founder of the Kuomintang to the Popular Republic of China (1911-1949)

5 The Reign of Mao Tse Tung (1949-1976)


ZARROW, Peter. " He Zhen [Ho Chen] and Anarcho-Feminism in China,"

Journal of Asian Studies 47 (1988) 4: 796-813. The impact of the Chinese anarchist views on the women’s movement.

LEVINE, Marilyn, "Conference on Oppositional Politics in Twentieth Century China,"

Jindai Zhongguo Shi Yanjiu Tongxun (Newsletter for Modern Chinese History) [Taiwan] 1991 (11): 28-31. This Conference held in Lexington, (...)

CH’EN Chia-ai, "Chung-kuo li-shih shang chih an-na-ch’i-chu -i che" (Anarchists in Chinese history)

in K’o-lu-p’ao-t’e-chin hsueh-shuo kai-yao. pp. 379-410.

FERRELL, Robert. "Anarchism and Chinese political culture." [Zarrow, Peter Gue book review].

Philosophy East & West. 45 (Jan. ’95)131-3.

CRUMP, John. "Anarchism and Chinese Political Culture" [Zarrow, Peter Gue book review]

Anarchist-Studies, 2 (Spring 1994) 1:72-74

ZARROW, Peter Gue. Anarchism and Chinese Political Culture.

New York: Columbia University Press, 1990.

HOSTEN, Germaine. The State, Identity and the National Question in China and Japan.

Princeton, 1994. Deals with anarchism in imperial and modern China, especially in her Chapter 4, "Anarchism, Populism, and Early Marxian (...)