Zhang Haipeng, male and born in May 1939, is a native of Hanchuan, Hubei Province. In July 1964, he graduated from the department of history of Wuhan University. In August 1964, he started working at the Institute of Modern History of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (in 1977 the Institute of Modern History was actually merged into the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences) and never changed his job thereafter. He became an assistant research fellow in 1979, associate researcher in 1985 and researcher in 1990. He is now a member of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and a member of the State Council Academic Degree Committee, the President of the Association of Chinese Historians, the Vice-President of the Zhongshan Sun Yat-sen Research Institute, the President of China’s Boxers Research Institute, the Director of the Taiwan Historical Studies Centre of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the Director of the National Society of Taiwan Studies, an academic advisor of the Cross Strait Relations Research Center of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, a professor and PhD student advisor of the Graduate School of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a special-appointed First Class Professor of Shandong University, the Honorary President of the Graduate School of Henan University, a Member of the National Qing Dynasty History Codification Committee, and a Member of the steering group of Chinese Local Chronicles. In the past he has been the vice-director of the political history studies center of the Institute of Modern History of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the vice-director and director of the Institute of Modern History of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a representative of the 10th National People’s Congress, and the Deputy Director of the Academic Division of Philosophy, Literature and History of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Since 1992 he has started to enjoy a special allowance awarded by the State Council. In 2000, 2001 and 2006, he was honored with the title of “Outstanding Communist Party Member” by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. In 2006, he was honored with the title of “Outstanding Communist Party Member” by the State Organs Work Committee of the Communist Party of China. His academic expertise is in Chinese modern history research. His works include Atlas of Chinese Modern History, Pursuing the Course of Chinese Modern History, Chinese Modern History Research, On Dongchang---Comments and Thoughts about Chinese Modern History Research, Collections of Zhang Haipeng, Chinese Modern History from 1840 to 1949 (Chief editor), Data Set of Sino-Portugal Relations, Publications on Chinese Modern History from 1979 to 2000, Chinese Modern History(10 books), Thirty Years in the Field of Chinese History and A Brief History of Taiwan. He has published hundreds of papers on topics like Chinese modern history research theory and methods, Chinese modern history special research, Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan and Sino-Japan relations along with more than 200 other academic essays.
Arduous Studies on Chinese Modern History
Li Xizhu (hereinafter referred to as Li):Mr. Zhang, I am very glad to formally invite you for this interview. It is a task of the Youth Center of the CASS and it is also my wish as a student. This time, I will just make a brief academic interview to systematically get to know about your studying experiences, which will inspire us and guide our later work.
Zhang Haipeng (hereinafter referred as Zhang): Ok, let’s begin according to the outline.
Stepping on the Way of Historical Studies
Li: When did you go to Wuhan University for study?
Li: How did you choose to study in the Department of History and was it your choice?
Zhang: No, it was not my choice. I graduated from senior school in 1959. At that year, we could choose 13 college voluntaries and I filled in 13 voluntaries in the college entrance voluntary table. The first three voluntaries I took to study in the department of foreign languages, including Beijing University and Beijing Foreign Studies University. The fourth voluntary I took to study in the Historical Department of Wuhan University. I filled in the rest of the college entrance voluntary table at random l because I thought I would be enrolled according to the first three voluntaries. But finally, I was enrolled according to the fourth voluntary, and I went to the Historical Department of Wuhan University. So, it was an accident for me to study history and engage in historical research.
Li: Did you feel any surprise after receiving the enrollment notice and were there any other thoughts?
Zhang: No other thoughts. At that time, I was young and I was from the countryside. My family was very glad at that news. It would be ok that I was enrolled no matter what major I would study. And also I had no concept of professions.
Li: How was the Historical Department of Wuhan University?
Zhang: Wuhan University itself has a long history and the teacher strength of the Historical Department of Wuhan University was also large. As far as I know, the status of Wuhan University among universities all over the country before 1949 was higher than after the new China was founded. In 1959, the most famous professors of the Historical Department of Wuhan University were Tang Changru, Wu Yuqin and Yao Weiyuan. Mr. Tang was majoring in Chinese history, mainly studying the history of the Wei Dynasty, Jin Dynasty, the Northern and Southern Dynasties, Sui Dynasty and Tang Dynasty. Mr. Wu was majoring in world history. In the early 1980s, he was the dean of the historical department and he later acted as deputy principal of Wuhan University. Mr. Tang at that time was just a professor without any official positions. He had a very high status in academic circles and he also acted as a researcher for our historical institute. Mr. Yao was in charge of teaching modern history and he could not teach. At that time, there were two hundred students in two grades and microphones had to be used for teaching, and yet he was not good at using them. Born in Anhui with a broad accent, he stammered when he taught but he was thoughtful. At that time, our textbooks were teaching materials written by teachers. I felt that the teaching materials of Mr. Yao were exquisite and simple, and I was very glad to read them. What he taught was just ok, yet his materials were pretty good. I fulfilled well and carefully every task he arranged and I would write a paper for each assignment. Every note would be written clearly and Mr. Yao sung high praises of my school assignments.
When I was in fifth grade, I had to write my graduation thesis and the dean appointed Mr. Tang as my guiding teacher. He required me to make an analysis on the regime of the Beiqi, but I did not make it. At that time, I wanted to enter the master examination on thinking history by Mr. Hou Weilu of the Institute of History. I spent several months reading General History of Chinese Thoughts by Mr. Hou Wailu. There was little time left for me to deliver my graduation thesis after reading. I directly communicated with the dean to ask whether it would be alright if I delivered a translation instead of my graduation thesis. The dean finally agreed. At that time, it was the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Soviet Union and the United States, and the magazine of Modern and Contemporary History of the Soviet Union published a paper Views on the 30th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations between the Soviet Union and the United States. The teachers in our teaching and research of world history section showed great interest in it and they appointed me to translate. I spent one week translating it into Chinese and delivered it to the teaching and research section. They gave me a score of five, which was a full score. I thought it was a good job. But Mr. Li Zhinan, the general Party secretary of our dean, said no because he thought it was Soviet revisionist work and my translation was poisoned by the Soviet revisionists. He wanted me to write a paper to criticize what I had written. I read some materials and wrote a paper called Another View on 30th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations between the Soviet Union and the United States. Our teaching and research section gave me a score of four. I could graduate with a score of five on translation and four on my paper.
Li: How did you come to the Institute of Modern History after graduating from the Historical Department of Wuhan University? Did not you want to enter the master examination of Mr. Hou Wailu?
Zhang: Actually, I did not enter the master examination on thinking history. At that time, I had read General History of Chinese Thoughts and I could enter the examination with a delivered examination certificate. Before the examination, the general Party secretary of our dean told me that Mr. Chenyi had applied to hold two research classes in the China Foreign Affairs University to cultivate diplomatic cadres and diplomatic theory talents, and he suggested that I did not enter the master examination. One could not freely enter oneself fo the examination for these two classes. The notice was delivered to various universities and all students were recommended by the general Party branch. At that time all students completely obeyed the distribution. The general Party branch of Wuhan University recommended me to enter for these two classes and then I gave up the examination on thinking history. As for me, I wanted to study in these two classes and I paid attention to read some diplomatic books during my study in my senior school and university. Later on I also read some diplomatic books while writing Another Views on 30th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations between the Soviet Union and the United States. I had read World Diplomacy by the Soviet Union and got to know the basic concepts and the common sense of diplomacy. I wanted to learn foreign languages while entering the examination for university, and I would have the opportunity to develop my foreign language skills after entering diplomatic research classes. After examination, someone connected with the dean told me that I would go to the China Foreign Affairs University for study. I returned home for labor. On the 16th of August, our school declared the uniform allocation decisions and it turned out that I would go to the Research Institute of Modern History of the CASS for study. I was surprised as I did not know anything about it. At that time, about 400 to 500 graduate students were distributed to Beijing and our school chartered a train. On the 18th of August, I arrived in Beijing, so I did not have any opportunity to ask what had happened.
Li: Then how did you get to know about these changes?
Zhang: I got to know this after registration in the institute. On the 18th of August, I went to the institute for registration and someone of the institute had arranged a taxi to take me there. There the biggest International Symposium since the foundation of the new China was being held, it was called Beijing Science Symposium in 1964, and nearly 2000 to 3000 foreign scientists of liberal arts, sciences, engineering, agriculture and medicine were invited. I and Guo Yongcai registered in the institute at the same time. The institute requested that we carry out some affairs in connection to the meeting. After the symposium, I returned. Our female section chief of personnel told me that it had not been easy to get me there. I asked what had happened. She told me the truth. The central committee of the Party held a national meeting on philosophy and social science in 1963, which was chaired by Liu Shaoqi, and Zhouyang made a report. The whole of the report was published in China Daily to introduce the future development prospects of philosophy and social science. Actually, this meeting put forward the task to fight against revisionism in the fields of philosophy and social science, which was not exposed in public but privately. At that time, Li Shu was the deputy director, Fan Wenlan was the director and Liu Danian was the standing deputy director. Comrade Li Shu was in charge of human resources and he said we should establish a team against revisionism and we should not let those older scholars engage in anti-revisionism. Members of the team should be selected from the university graduates of 1964. Originally, the Ministry of High Education notified that talents should not be selected from universities any more in 1963. Yet, the Institute of Modern History still selected talents from universities in 1964 with introduction letters from the Propaganda Department of the Central Committee of the CPC and not from those of the institute in 1964. They assigned five teams to select talents. There was a mid-southern team, a northeast team, a north China team, a southwest team and a northwest team. The five teams went to select not only talents from the historical department but also from various art departments of universities. The mid-south team was in the charge of He Chongren, and it had gone from Zhengzhou University, Wuhan University to Sun Yat-Sen University. When it went to Wuhan University I was recommended by our historical department. At that time I knew nothing about it and nobody told me anything about it. Thus, I was enrolled by the China Foreign Affairs University but I was chosen by the Institute of Modern History. After several communications with the China Foreign Affairs University, I was chosen by the institute of Modern History. So me being chosen by the Institute of Modern History and entering the examination for the Historical Department of Wuhan University happened completely according to my willing.
Li: Were there any research plans after entering the institute?
Zhang: There were no research plans at that time. I said in the postscripts in Studies on Eastern Depot’s History that I almost did not have anything to do with learning in the first 13 years after I entered the institute. I never really started learning anything until the year of 1978. I first engaged in learning in September 1975 after graduation. I was in a poor working environment before the Workers Propaganda Team and PLA Propaganda Team removed reviews on me in December 1974. At that time, Qian Hong, He Chongren, Long Shengyun and Liu Guiwu were supervisors of the contemporary modern history team and Liu Danian was in charge of the contemporary history team in the institute. He Chongren and Long Shengyun told me several times in the first half of 1975 that Mr. Liu Danian wanted me to work in the modern history team. Therefore, I went to work in the modern history team in September 1975. At that time, the modern history team was learning the orders contained in Evaluations on Outlaws of the Marsh by Chairman Mao, and He Chongren required me to write papers integrated with studies of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom and Li Xiucheng so as to express the significance of fighting against the capitulationism spoken of by Chairman Mao.
Zhang: Of course there are. For example, I changed the paper on the Anqing Campaign between the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom and Hunan Army published in 1988. Fortunately, I had studied the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom and had read all the basic books about it during my study in university. He Chongren gave me two months to write and I actually spent three months writing. Firstly, it took me two months to read the basic materials of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, and the papers written by others about it. My papers mainly countered the viewpoints of Luo Siding and Liang Xiao, whose political essays were all about the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom. After writing, I delivered my essay to He Chongren and Qian Hong and they were satisfied with it. Finally, I deliver it to Liu Danian, and it was the first time for him to check my essay. He just made some adjustments in the structure and paragraphs after reading it, and I got to know how he wrote essays. At the end of 1975, I finished my essay and delivered it to the deputy director of Li Shu, whose position as chief editor of Historical Studies had just resumed. Later, my essay was published in the first journal of Historical Studies, and it was not covered in my collected papers. I think that essay is tenable in academic terms. Because it was written during the period of the Great Cultural Revolution, I had to write according to the spirit of Evaluations on Outlaws of the Marsh by Chairman Mao, in the meanwhile countering the viewpoints of Luo Siding and Liang Xiao. Therefore, my essays no doubt had some patterns which show that it was written during the the Great Cultural Revolution. But the main parts of my essays were completely historical studies.
Li: Did you begin to study the Revolution of 1911 from 1978? And when did you compile Selected Compilation on the Archival Materials of the Wuchang Uprising?
Zhang: 1980. It should have been in 1978 that I began to sit down and study. And I had not done any studying for 13 years. Those materials about the Revolution of 1911 were compiled in 1980. I had heard from Wuhan that there were materials about the memoirs of the Revolution of 1911 in the Hubei Provincial Museum. There had been established a revolutionary memoir museum after the Revolution of 1911 to collect the memories of millions of words of those parties who had participated in the revolution from 1912 to 1914. In the summer of 1980, I went to Wuhan and stayed there for two months to read the collected materials with the approval of Qian Hong. I made a plan and formulated some regulations on how to deal with punctuation and wrongly written or mispronounced characters, and delivered them to all participants. Yet, not everyone drafted according to my requirements. I compiled them again according to my own designs in 1981 and 1982. Later, the Hubei People’s Publishing House wanted to publish it. I discussed with Qian Hong what name we would use for the publishing. At the time, we finally decided to use the name of our institute. At present, we would use the signature of the chief editor. Of course I was the chief editor and all was done by me. But I dared not claim it because I worked as an assistant researcher at that time. Finally, with the advice of Qian Hong, my manuscripts were signed as universally compiled by me and the preface was written by me. The compiling units were the Hubei Provincial CPPCC, the Institute of Modern History, the Hubei Provincial Museum and the Wuhan Public Record Office. As for their rankings, I originally discussed with Wuhan that Hubei Provincial CPPCC ranked the first position and the Institute of Modern History ranked the last position not the second position, from which all could see that all work were done by us. But the Institute of Modern History ranked in the second position after publishing. This was the beginning of my studying the Revolution of 1911 and coming into contact with material about it.
In addition, I assisted Liu Danian with doing some editing of the Manuscripts on China’s Modern History after entering the institute. He would usually change the whole manuscripts and then deliver them to me. I would copy them again and then deliver them for publishing. I would also check the resources of these materials. I would check all the books one by one borrowing them from the library. Some of the textual notes were written by me, based on what I had learned from checking the historical materials. I assisted Liu Danian with the Manuscripts on China’s Modern History from 1976 to 1978. Volume I was published in 1978 and volumes II and III were published in 1984. Chronicles of events, name indexes, pictures, plates and communication with the publishing house were also my job.
One more thing, I was also in charge of making atlases, which was my main job from 1979 to 1983. I worked at the China Map Publishing House in the years of 1982 and 1983. Every week I would stay at the China Map Publishing House for three days to cooperate with them in making maps. Before making atlases, I made a report on Chinese Modern Boundary Changes, which related with the drawing of modern Chinese boundaries. But any atlas relating to Chinese boundaries should not be published without the permission of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs according to the requirements of the China Map Publishing House. I spent almost one year mastering the formation process of the modern Chinese boundaries and made a report on how to deal with boundary problems. Based on the report, the China Map Publishing House made some samples of boundary maps, submitting an official report, and then delivered them to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the name of the Institute of Modern History of CASS and the China Map Publishing House for approval. After several months’ inspection from many divisions of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs including the Division of the Treaty and Law, the report was basically approved and answered with a “read” seal from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Thus our book could be published. Up to now, any book of the China Map Publishing House relating to Chinese modern boundaries before 1919 is basically based on my atlas, something which I have never said or written anywhere. It took me much time, and I spent about one year understanding the formation process of the modern Chinese boundaries just for this report of thousands of words.
Li: It was basically information work.
Zhang: That’s right. At the beginning, nobody wanted to take this job. Then it turned to me because I was the youngest in the team. And so I did the work of making the atlas. Actually, the process of making the atlas was also a process of accumulating knowledge on modern history. After the publishing of this history atlas in 1984, the director of the Research Office of History of Public of China Mr. Sun Sibai said that the publishing of this atlas set my academic status. Actually, I just drafted the maps while learning. I came to know how to make historical maps after that atlas was published.
Thoughts on Basic Clues of Chinese Modern History
Li: It seems that the discussion about the clues of Chinese modern history in the 1980s is very important from the standpoint of academic history, and it has much to do with the discussion about stages of Chinese modern history in the 1950s. As you were an active participant of the discussion about basic clues of Chinese modern history in the 1980s and a representative of adherence of Two Stages, how do you view that?
Zhang: Yes, I participated in the discussion about the basic clues. At the beginning of 1980s, there was a trend of setting things right and criticizing the Gang of Four and the ultra-Left trend of thoughts. Academic circles and modern history circles both published articles in newspapers and journals to criticize them. Comrade Li Shu issued several important articles about Chinese history and Chinese modern history, which was regarded as an ideological emancipation. Mr. Li Shiyue published theses about the basic clues of Chinese modern history one after another in Historical Studies in 1980 and 1981, which had a great influence in modern history circles. Many discussions were held in the institute about the research fields of Chinese modern history. At that time, there were some internal briefings in Historical Studies to reflect the research trends of modern history. I had some thoughts after reading one journal in 1983. In 1984, I wrote an article about the basic clues and delivered it to The Chongren, Qian Hong, Long Shengyun and then Liu Danian. After reading, Liu Danian just changed a few words and expressed his consent. Later, the institute specially arranged a meeting, and I made a report on the basic clues of Chinese modern history. Thus, the public and editorial staff of Historical Studies got to know about it and asked me for this article. I posted it to the editorial staff of Historical Studies. This article not only countered the viewpoints of Li Shiyue and Hu Bin but also countered some points of view of the editorial staff of Historical Studies in certain aspects. Later, I heard that somebody had said that my paper had been revised by Liu Danian, which contrasted with Li Shu. After the publication of this article in the 4th journal of Historical Studies, an article from a scholar from Zhengzhou University was published in the 5th journal in which he countered my viewpoints. The speed with which the article was published showed the attitude of the editorial staff of Historical Studies, that is just how the situation was at the time. Furthermore there were some scholars not in favour of my article, and some of them even directly said so to me. But many of them, especially those from the team of modern history, agreed with my article. This actually was a product of the intellectual environment of the mid-1980s.
I had an idea while writing articles that I should not only adhere to my own viewpoints but also express some difference from the ultra-Leftist trends of thoughts, and quote some sayings from the past. For example, the position of promoting the saving the country with education and industry was criticized in the past. I said in my articles that those wise people who favoured the causes of industrial construction, scientific activities and education all made their contributions to the rejuvenation of China. And I also pointed out that only promoting the industries, sciences and education could not save the country in the context of China's semi-colonialism and semi-feudalism. . In 1983, a symposium about capitalist studies was held, which I did not participate in, but I read the published article and one part of my article was related with it. .
Li: Basic clues had something to do with stages. The mainstream opinion agreed with the three revolutionary climaxes of Hu Sheng but you agreed to the seven revolutionary climaxes. What do you think about it?
Zhang: Articles on the two processes in 1984 did not mention the revolutionary climaxes, and some friends in the institute once commented about it. It was not that I did not know about it. The article was long. There are different viewpoints on these three revolutionary climaxes in newspapers, and I did not have new viewpoints on them, so I did not talk about it anymore. Over twenty years later, I thought again about the basic clues of modern history, which had several events. The chief editor of Zeng Yeying hoped that Hu Sheng could make an inscription or write an essay while issuing the 100th Studies on Contemporary History. But Hu Sheng’s health in 1997 was very poor and he could not write any essays any more. I wrote a letter to him and asked him to give an inscription for Studies on Contemporary History. Soon, he posted the inscription to us, which was just a sentence saying that we should regard the history from 1840 to 1949 as contemporary history and history after 1949 as modern history. This was one of the most important viewpoints of his lifetime. Actually, he put forth this viewpoint in the preface of Studies from the Opium War to the May Fourth Movement published in 1982. He said, “What I am writing is the first stage of semi-colonial and semi-feudal China, and I do not write anything of the stage of the Opium War to the May Fourth Movement”. Actually, he said that Chinese contemporary history should extend to the foundation of the New China in 1949.
I referred to some materials on this point as well as the viewpoints of Fan Wenlan, Liu Danian, Rong Mengyuan and Li Xin, who all thought that Chinese contemporary history should extend to the year of 1949. It was interesting that the new edition of section one and part I of Chinese Contemporary History by Fan Wenlan published in 1954 after a revision by the People’s Publishing House was not named as section one and part I of Chinese Contemporary History but Chinese Contemporary History. That was a great change. There was a sentence in the preface of Chinese Contemporary History: “Since all think that Chinese contemporary history is from 1840 to 1919, it is not suitable for me to name it as section one and part I of Chinese Contemporary History”. This meant that many people agreed with this viewpoint that Chinese contemporary history should go from 1840 to 1919 when this book by Fan Wenlan was published again. But I could not find out who they were. We could see from articles issued in newspapers that some people including those of the institute of contemporary history agreed with this viewpoint. Whether there were any voices beyond academic circles countering Fan Wenlan’s viewpoints or not was still an issue which we could not make clear.
Looking at the long term, since those who had worked in the institute of contemporary history including Liu Danian, Rong Mengyuan and Li Xin all claimed that Chinese contemporary history should go from 1840 to 1949, then why did the institute of contemporary history decide in Chinese Contemporary History that it should go from 1840 to 1919? I had thought about it at the beginning of 1980s and I drew the conclusion that though they thought Chinese contemporary history should go from 1840 to
After the 1980s, discussions on the demarcation of contemporary history continued. I felt it was necessary to express some viewpoints when the writing of Hu Sheng were published, and because Professor Li Shiyue had just mentioned the problems of rising and destruction in his articles, I had some new viewpoints. The product was Studies on Demarcation of Chinese Contemporary History and Problems between Rising and Destruction. I had hoped to issue it in Historical Studies after finishing it, but the editing staff sent it back soon, which I guessed had something to do with the articles of 1984. I delivered it to Guangming Daily and they accepted it and issued an abstract with only 4000 to 5000 words. I was not satisfied with that and then the whole article was published in the 2nd journal of Studies on Contemporary History, in which I mentioned rising, destruction and demarcation. I mainly mentioned the lower limit and the three revolutionary climaxes mentioned just now. . I said that we should look back at the original concepts while Hu Sheng put forward the three revolutionary climaxes in divided stages of contemporary history in 1954. People later summarized the so-called three revolutionary climaxes by Hu Sheng at that time as revolutionary climaxes. He discussed revolutionary climaxes not starting from the original meaning of revolutions but from the basic clues and significance of contemporary history. I agreed with Hu Sheng in this aspect. We should affirm the significance of revolutionary climaxes or revolutionary upsurge because of their great importance as historical events in Chinese contemporary history and not because of their original meaning of revolutions. But the article written by Hu Sheng in 1954 was a discussion of Chinese contemporary history from 1840 to 1919, which would be defective if he discussed it from 1840 to 1949. There should be seven revolutionary climaxes from the investigations of 110-year history from 1840 to 1949. It was alright that Chen Xulu discussed the three revolutionary climaxes from the victories of the Revolution of 1911, the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression and the New Democratic Revolution. In my opinion, there should be seven and not three revolutionary climaxes of great importance for historical events in the 110-year history. I affirmed his viewpoint of three revolutionary climaxes and extended it to seven revolutionary climaxes. The publication of my article attracted attention from academic circles and had some influence.
Compiling of Chinese Contemporary History
Li: The article “thoughts about the whole Chinese contemporary history” which had a great influence on Chinese Contemporary History was mainly compiled by you. When did you deliver it, 1999 or 1998?
Zhang: Actually it was the year of 1998. I had been thinking about compiling Chinese Contemporary History. I put forward this thought in an internal meeting of our institute in 1998, and I also discussed it with some researchers in the institute. Director Li Tieyang put forward the task of compiling Chinese Contemporary History at a working meeting in 1999. Some comrades asked why we did not begin this task in the following Three Stresses Educational activities. Everyone was excited with it. In the second half of 1999, I officially put forward this question. Of course I got to hear some different viewpoints on whether it was necessary for us to do that or not, and if we had the right conditions to do it. I wrote an article when the research group established and put forward the basic thoughts and basic principles for compiling Chinese Contemporary History, in which I answered the above questions. The Institute of Contemporary History began to compile historical books from the 1950s called Chinese Contemporary History. . In the past the institute encouraged us to write books with the formal name of Chinese Contemporary History, and the name of the book as an oral name. The institute had arranged for us to write books, which were not successful. One reason was that there were so many political activities at that time and another reason was that our researches were not enough.
In 1999 and 2000, I felt that all the research forces were mature, especially our middle-aged researchers who had all written several books. I felt our preparations in terms of material and research basis were qiute enough and we had the basic conditions for compiling Chinese Contemporary History. Some comrades had queries about it and I answered them in my article. I said that there was not an endless necessity for the preparation of material and of a research basis, and that we had accumulated enough. Therefore, we basically met the conditions for compiling Chinese Contemporary History. Did we compile Chinese Contemporary History after a good preparation of materials and of a research basis? Were we ready ten years later? It was hard to say just like that. I thought we basically had met the basic conditions for compiling Chinese Contemporary History and that we could revise and improve it in the following ten years or more.. So I thought we had the right conditions to compile.
Li: Did you have any thoughts after approval and did you have an overall plan?
Zhang: I wrote an article with about ten million words, which I took as the basic principle for us to go on compiling. Chapter II of Volume I generally developed from this article. I printed this article and delivered it to the research group after its establishment. I said clearly that I hoped to unify our thoughts with this article, and there needed to be some discussion on any disagreements. Finally there were no different viewpoints in principle. At present, nine volumes of Chinese Contemporary History have been printed and there is still one volume to be printed. Our compiling task is basically finished.
Li: Were there any fixed goals you have not achieved?
Zhang: Basically, I have achieved all my fixed goals. Chinese Contemporary History from 1840 to 1949, with above 5.5 million words, should be the first one of its kind in our academic circles up to now. It is a progress contrasted with the hundreds of books about contemporary history published in the past. It has summarized all the achievements we have made in 20 to 50 years study on contemporary history. But I felt a little bit that the time was too tight with not enough improvement. I have read all volumes and put forward my opinions more or less. I have put forward many suggestions on certain volumes, and I even directly made some changes with my hands. I felt some were not made according to my opinions. I felt it was difficult because the publishing house urged us on and we had little time. Suppose we had had more time and everyone had delivered earlier, I would have made more changes because I was dissatisfied with some parts.
Li: And also, times are different now and everyone has so much work to do.
Zhang: Yeah, they have so much work to do.
Relations between Experiences of Managing the Institute and Making Studies
Li: There is still so much for us to talk about in academy and so much today. There is one item in the interview manual and those administrative leaders should talk about their experiences of administration management.
(Translated by Zhufuxiaofei)
Editor: Wang Daohang