Gan Yang, an outspoken and charismatic advocate of the study of Greco-Roman classics in contemporary Chinese higher education, also argues that the construction of a “Confucian-Socialist republic” provides the best hope for China, after more than a century of sociopolitical and cultural turmoil, to rebuild its civilization by synthesizing the major traditions that had left indelible marks on Chinese history.
The Greco-Roman classics clearly do not fit the description of these historical Chinese traditions that are now crying out for reintegration, and the contradictions between “Greco-Roman” and “Confucian-Socialist” only seem too numerous and salient to ignore. It is curious that both Gan Yang and his critics appear to have treated his promotion of Greco-Roman classics and his vision of a Confucian- Socialist Republic as if these were two entirely separate agendas, and nobody has made any explicit attempt to answer the following questions: What role is Greco- Roman antiquity supposed to play in a Confucian-socialist republic? Do the apparent contradictions between Gan Yang’s Greco-Roman and Confucian-Socialist programs reflect a serious disjuncture between the double aspirations—cultural on the one hand and political on the other hand—that he envisions for a new, rising China? What can be done to resolve the contradictions and disjuncture? Through a critique of Gan Yang’s twin programs, this paper seeks to shed light on some main themes and problems in contemporary China’s love affair with Greece and Rome.
Classics and Reaction: Modern China Confronts the Ancient West