Jonathan Tang

PhD Candidate

East Asia: China


I specialize in the political and military history of early 20th century China. At the University of San Francisco, I have designed and taught a graduate seminar on East Asian Modernities. At UC Berkeley, I have taught courses on Chinese military history, East Asian conceptions of nationalism and ethnicity, world history, and contemporary political economy.

My dissertation, "The Limits of Pragmatism: Ideology, Statecraft, and Early Republican China, 1911-1926," reexamines the nature of "reform" and "revolution" as defined by the winners. After the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1911, a small circle of established elites successfully transitioned to the post-imperial political environment, rising to the highest political office in their region, Hunan (from which Chairman Mao and many early Communists also hailed). They increased the region's standard of living through substantive reforms, but fell short of the ideological standards of the revolutions that followed and were thus labeled "warlords." The traditional portrait of their "warlord era" over-emphasizes chaos and disorder (and even mutual competition) that ended with national unification via revolutionary politics. I problematize that dominant narrative by acknowledging effective governing strategies innovated by regional elites. Their example implicitly posits an alternative, non-revolutionary scenario for how the Chinese Republic could have developed. Using a 1920 mutiny to anchor my analysis, my project is both a narrative history about the drama of politics in Hunan, and also a critical review of how "warlordism" was shaped, as an invented trope, in subsequent historiography. This is a story of how voices for constitutional federalism and regional governance were eventually overshadowed by the dominant forces of centralism, the victory of which should be acknowledged as historically contingent rather than politically inevitable.


Research Interests

  • China
  • East Asia
  • Twentieth Century
  • Political History
  • Military History
  • Local History of Hunan Province

Awards & Fellowships

Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award, 2017

Student Parent Grant Award, 2016-2017

Haas Junior Scholars Program for Doctoral Candidates, UC Berkeley, 2014-2015

Liu Graduate Student Fellowship, UC Berkeley CCS, 2015

Dean's Normative Time Fellowship, UC Berkeley, 2014-15

National Central Library (Taiwan), CCS, 2014 (Declined)

Li Ka-shing Fellowship in Modern Chinese History, UC Berkeley, 2009-2014

Fulbright-IIE Fellowship, US Department of State, 2013

Republic of China East Asia Fellowship, UC Berkeley CCS, 2012

Student Mentoring and Research Teams Grant, UC Berkeley, 2012

Summer Research Grant, UC Berkeley CCS, 2011

Jonathan Tang, PhD Candidate

Curriculum Vitae

Jonathan Tang's CV