The Dilemmas of Liberty: Rights and Power in the Making of the Chinese Constitution, 1912-1948

Yu Liu
UC Santa Barbara

This project aims to examine the constitution-making process from the late 1920s to 1947 and to reconstruct the intellectual debates surrounding it. Its approaches are interwoven with the research questions. The first approach is to contextualize the jurists and intellectuals in their social and cultural background and analyze their ideas through their debate, exploring the relationship between the constitution-making and the broader society of modern China. Moreover, this project  combines constitutional history with intellectual history. The key concepts such as liberty, with its interpretation, promotion and usage, will help us anchor the examination of the constitution-making process and bridge the gap between ideals and political and legal practice. Finally, this project will study the constitutional history in China with a comparative perspective to evaluate the constitution-making but also explore how the case study of China would enrich or revise the constitutional study in general. With the collection of legal documents, archival sources, diaries and newspaper articles, this dissertation examines how the specific social contexts in China, such as political parties in the twentieth century, women’s suffrage movement, civil wars, and western ideologies influenced the imagination and drafting of constitutions in the republican era.