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Abstract

The federalist movements in the early years of the Republic of China were a series of attempts by Chinese intellectuals and politicians – who were significantly influenced by western and especially American political thought – to set up a federal government in China, with clear divisions of powers between the central and the provincial governments, as opposed to a centralized unitary government which had been a Chinese tradition for centuries. Influential Chinese intellectuals including political leaders, warlords, and scholars wrote noteworthy passages over federalism in China, and in the early 1920s, the idea materialized into the provincial constitution movements and the drafting and ratifications of provincial constitutions. This paper aims to provide an analysis of the federalist movements by noting specific primary passages from important thinkers and the provincial constitutions that drew a direct comparison with American political ideas. By doing so, the paper contributes to the ongoing discussion of implementing western federalism in state-building scenarios. As this historical period has largely been understudied in both Chinese and English scholarships for different reasons, this paper takes a stab at reexamining the federalism possibility in early Republican China, an idea that is still very much relevant today, as this year marks the centennial anniversary of the ratification of the first provincial constitution in China.

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