8. The Rejection of Communities Based on Connections
In "Wuwu lun," Zhang advanced his ideal of abolishing the "settlement" (juluo), which primarily meant locally based or kin-based clans and tribes. What deserves attention is the fact that this ideal follows the ideal of abolishing the government. "The reason that all clans contend with each other is because the government sustains their separation. If political authority were to disappear, then human beings would still tame and treat generously dogs, horses, and different species. How much more generously would they treat other people?" Zhang's aversion for
― 250 ―
governments, however, was by no means unconditional anarchism. In his view, the roots of government lay in war. If war did not cease, then the government could not be dispensed with for a single day. "Thus governments are not established to order the people, but in reality are established to deal with governments of other nations. If other countries have governments, then one country cannot unilaterally be without one."
Thus the implication of anarchism was that it would eliminate national boundaries, unify languages, and end conflict completely. The so-called no-settlement was mentioned in the sense of ending conflict, since even with the elimination of national boundaries and government, natural differences in environment would remain, leading to conflict and alliances between natural settlements formed according to race, language, or regional differences, and the emergence of new countries and governments. "Thus if we wish to dispense with governments, we must also dispense with settlements. Farmers will be itinerant farmers, craftsmen itinerant craftsmen, and women itinerant women…. They will settle as they change dwellings and move continuously…. This is why government and settlement must be eliminated at the same time."
Zhang Taiyan's "Farmers will be itinerant farmers, craftsmen itinerant craftsmen" emphasized the shedding of land and family ties. This reflected his understanding of the Chinese patriarchal clan system. In Shehui tongquan shangdui (A discussion of A History of Politics), he commented on Edward Jenks's idea that patriarchal societies "emphasize the people, not the land," pointing out that China's patriarchal society had deep bonds with the land, these bonds being in fact the combination of ancestor worship and the system of land division. It must be noted that Zhang's critique of the patriarchal system was inextricably linked to his political anti-Manchu stance, since, as he saw it, China's patriarchal society accepted the rule of foreign ethnicity. However, within the late Qing context, his assault on the patriarchal system was also based on his antagonism toward the state and the expansion of its power. During the reform period, the national officials' and constitutionalist intellectuals' proposal for local self-government was in essence an attempt to use the gentry-village community to strengthen state power. Qingmo choubei lixian dang'an shiliao includes many memorials relating to local self-government. Their central concern was how the nation might employ the gentry, clans, and the system of natural villages to carry out the exploitation, organization, mobilization, and control of society. At the end of the Qing, the reform government requested villages to establish a set of financial institutions to finance the opening of new schools and administrative and self-defense organizations. In addition, the state pressed rural villages unceasingly for tax levies (the amount exceeded by several times the land tax) to finance colossal indemnities and subsequent wars. According to Prasenjit Duara's study of rural north China, levies imposed between 1900 and 1942 were fundamentally different from the land tax and other forms of taxes collected in the past. The levies were not assessed according to population or individual wealth, but were imposed with the village serving as a unit of taxation. Because the villages were allowed to divide up their
― 251 ―
own tax burdens, the state granted the villages their own powers of taxation and thereby control over their communal budget. After the establishment of new-style schools and public enterprises, these new-style village organizations were empowered to supervise these new enterprises and to assess and collect taxes.
On the one hand, the Qing government needed to nurture a group of local leaders to carry out social organization and mobilization and to realize the state's objectives. On the other hand, it had to avoid a social and judicial crisis and respect traditional authority and its institutions. However, the effort of the Manchu Qing government to use local self-government to expand its power was not entirely successful. State revenue and local disorder increased simultaneously, because the ability of the state to control rural society did not match its ability to exploit it. Formal state political authority could rely on informal structures to carry out its own policies. However, it had no means of controlling these structures. As a result, the legitimacy of state structures was checked by the corruption of local officials. Moreover, the extension of state power suggested heightened oppression and bankruptcy within the society. Duara uses Clifford Geertz's concept of involution to describe this characteristic of the expansion of late Qing state authority: "As the state grows in the involutionary mode, the informal groups become an uncontrollable power in local society, replacing a host of traditional arrangements of local governance."
Under these conditions, the involution of state authority means that the state bureaucracy did not rely on improving the efficiency of the existing or new establishments (personal or other administrative resources), but on reviving or expanding old state-society ties. For example, when China's old profit-based brokerage system gained in its powers of control, it not only brought about an increase in the number of brokers but also led the brokerage system to penetrate into the society's lowest level—the village. Zhang Taiyan's views toward local elections and rich families have already shown how perceptive he was about this process. At the time, however, he paid perhaps even more attention to the fact that local self-government organizations and their activities, based on local or kin-based ties, were part of the state's activities.