China & Inner Asia: Table of Contents
Organizer: Margherita Zanasi, University of Texas, Austin
Chair: Madeleine Zelin, Columbia University
Discussant: John Fitzgerald, La Trobe University
This panel examines the connection between foreign imperialism and Chinese efforts to build a modern nation-state between 1860 and 1945. Rejecting dichotomous representations of the positive or negative effects of imperialism on China, it examines how Chinese elites worked with or against imperialist forces in their construction of "the state" and definition of "the nation." This panel shows that government officials found in their interaction with imperialist power fertile ground in which to cultivate new ideas and institutions in their pursuit of a strong China. With the escalation of Japans military aggression, this interplay of imperialism and nationalism, although generating increasing contradictions, still appeared to offer viable nation-building solutions.
Richard Horowitzs paper looks at how Qing officials encounter with imperial powers after 1860responding to their threats, adopting their norms of national boundaries and territorial sovereigntybegan to transform the territorial entity of a multi-ethnic empire into a unified Chinese nation-state. Roger Thompson shows how the language and practice of cultural imperialism introduced by the French in 186162when they demanded tax exemption for Chinese Christians based on Western concepts of religious pluralismwere later appropriated by reform-minded Chinese officials in support of a secularizing state-making agenda. Margherita Zanasi analyzes the interaction between Japanese imperialism and the nation-building effort of the Nationalist leaders Wang Jingwei and Chen Gongbo. The paper shows that during the war years Wang and Chen perceived collaboration with Japan as offering greater promise for the realization of their plans than Jiang Jieshis regime in Chongqing.
Richard S. Horowitz, Harvard University
This paper examines how the space dominated by the Qing empire became the territory of the twentieth century Chinese nation-state. Recent scholarship emphasizes the complexity of the Qing state: lead by a Manchu monarch, it was explicitly multi-ethnic and multi-lingual and extended well beyond China proper to include a vast swath of Inner Asia. Different methods of government were used to administer the various parts and peoples of the realm. Yet when threatened by Russian, British, French and eventually Japanese imperialism, the Qing empire did not disintegrate into a number of separate territories, instead it was transmuted almost whole into an emerging Chinese nation-state.
This paper sheds light on this transformation by examining the consequences of two developments: the Qing states involvement in systematic border demarcation after 1860; and the vigorous debate among Qing officials in the 1870s over whether or not to reconquer Xinjiang. The paper argues that imperialism, rather than impeding the formation of a spatially defined Chinese nation-state, contributed to it. The Qing authorities adapted to European international norms including territorial sovereignty and demarcated boundaries, and this enabled them to inscribe their claims to territory in international treaties with imperial powers. At the same time, Qing officials, reacting against imperialist threats, downplayed the ethnic and cultural diversity of the empire, and defined themselves as Chinese, and the territory they ruled as "China." These developments led subsequent generations of Chinese nation builders to claim this territory for a modern Chinese nation-state, and the international community to recognize these claims.
Roger Thompson, Cambridge University
Imperialist powers like France, based on rights of religious toleration guaranteed in treaties signed in the mid-nineteenth century, forced the Qing government to desacralize and secularize rural religious practices associated with local festivals. Opposed by officials, rural elites, and peasants alike, French-inspired regulations that promised tax immunities based on religious loyalties were implicated in anti-foreign and anti-Christian attacks that plagued the countryside from 1861 to 1911. The most spectacular explosion of animosity took place in 18991901 during the Boxer uprising. In the aftermath of this debacle renewed attention was paid to the sources of this violence and possible remedies. Chinese officials sponsored publication of compilations in Zhili, Jiangsu, Anhui, and Jiangxi, patterned after the one issued by Li Hongzhang in 1886 (Tongshang yuezhang chengan huibian; a compendium of treaties and cases concerning foreign trade) that outlined treaty rights and presented case studies for the elucidation of local officials. In these post-Boxer works particular emphasis was placed on the treaty obligations of religious toleration that had been at the center of Christian-non-Christian conflicts. Related efforts by Yuan Shikai, Zhang Zhidong, and Zhao Erxun appropriated the rhetoric and practice of cultural imperialism in an attempt to extend the states reach and minimize Western insinuation of agents and ideas into the countryside. Thus began a process of appropriating fiscal resources and delegitimating cultural practices that would destabilize both state-making and nation-building efforts in subsequent decades.
Margherita Zanasi, University of Texas, Austin
This paper examines how nation-building ideas that in the 1930s underpinned the political program of Wang Jingwei and Chen Gongboprominent leaders of the Guomindang Leftconstituted an important motivation for their collaboration with the Japanese in the 1940s. Going beyond a simplistic assessment of Wang and Chen as "traitors," this paper aims at understanding the larger roots of the phenomenon of collaboration in China, exploring its intellectual, political, and historical complexity.
The apparent contradiction between Chen and Wangs nationalism and collaborationism finds an explanation in their nation-building vision and their disagreement with Jiang Jieshi on this issue. During the years of the Wang-Jiang coalition government (19321935), Wang and Chenrespectively the chairman of the Executive Yuan and the Minister of Industrystaunchly opposed Jiangs attempt to a military build-up at the expense of economic reforms. They maintained that military action either against the Communiststhe target of Jiangs campaign in the 1930sor Japan was destined to fail unless accompanied by a transformation of China into a powerful industrialized nation. Their view did not change when full war with Japan finally broke out. In 1939, denouncing Jiangs continuous unwillingness to reform and the increasing corruption of his regime, Wang and Chen established a competitive Nationalist government in Nanjing in collaboration with the Japanese, which they considered a more fertile ground for the realization of their plan for national reconstruction than the Jiangs regime in Chongqing.