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Chapter Eight The Native Place and the State Nationalism, State Building and Public Maneuvering
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Public Maneuverings: Native-Place Associations between State and Society

Throughout the Nanjing decade native-place associations were understood as belonging to "society" as opposed to the "state." Tongxianghui represented themselves as people's organizations and pub-


lic organizations (minjian tuanti, minzhong tuanti, shehui gongtuan ). The government classed them similarly as in the realm of society, as social organizations, or as people's organizations (shehui tuanti, renmin tuanti ). Although such understandings were strategically useful (on both sides), they masked a complexly overlapping relationship with the state.

State Penetration . Like other social organizations in the Nanjing decade, tongxianghui registered with the government, filled out government surveys and received state instructions, particularly with regard to their ritual and educational activities and accepted "the leadership and guidance" of representatives of the Social Bureau and the Party Branch Office in Shanghai in their general meetings. Their published records suggest cooperation in all of these activities, even as they also organized at strategic local points in opposition to the state. It is important, therefore, to consider the extent to which they were "penetrated" by the state and to ask what strategies and features of their makeup enabled them to carry on the multitude of civic activities they engaged in which were not mandated by the state.

The extensive efforts of the Nanjing government to neutralize or control public associations and political activity have persuaded some historians that little civic activity was possible at this time outside the realm of the state. Records of native-place associations provide a useful index of state penetration of society. Because native-place associations performed a broad range of social services and because they were not explicitly political in this period, they were not a major target of control; nonetheless, beginning in 1928, they became increasingly subject to the regulations and interventions of the Social Bureau of the Shanghai Municipal Government and the Shanghai party branch office.

A survey of the publications and archives of native-place associations, as well as publications of the Shanghai city government and the Nanjing government, permits an impressionistic account of state attempts to identify, register, investigate and reform native-place associations, as well as of the ability of these associations to delay, resist, and deflect these state intrusions.


In 1928, shortly after the establishment of the Shanghai Municipal Government, native-place associations were notified that they had to register with the Social Bureau and with the Shanghai branch party headquarters. It was not until the spring of the next year that native-place associations began to take seriously the registration regulations. Nonetheless, finding these regulations "obstructive" and "troublesome," most associations developed delaying tactics. As late as 1931 the Chaozhou and Ningbo associations were still delaying. When the Chaozhou association finally did register, they did not list their property holdings, as noted in their meeting records, "to avoid conflict."[77]

By 1932 the Social Bureau had made some headway. Shaoxing Tongxianghui archives record the process of state investigation of the association. After a period of delay, the Shaoxing Tongxianghui finally petitioned the Social Bureau to register in 1932. The license petition provided the bureau with a one-sentence statement of purpose ("We establish the Shaoxing Tongxianghui to promote the public good, provide charity, unite native-place sentiment and work for the benefit of our native place and our sojourning tongxiang "), a list of officers and employees, and a copy of the association constitution and rules. A survey of 1934 provided the Social Bureau with somewhat more information: the total number of members (not a name list), the names of the officers, a one-sentence description of internal organization, and a statement of sources of income (property rentals and membership fees), though the exact property holdings were not listed.

In a section devoted to "special types of associations" in a Report of the Conference on the Guomindang Central All-China Mass-Movement Leadership Committee (1934), party activists argued for the need to fundamentally reorganize native-place associations to make them more systematic and to facilitate party guidance and direction. Huiguan were to be turned over to tongxianghui management; county- and city-level tongxianghui were to be subordinated to provincial-level tongxianghui . Party investigators complained of the unsystematic names of native-place associations and stressed the need to clarify these names to facilitate precise classification. These suggestions reflect a bare state of acquaintance with the associations under consideration and ignorance of


the realities of native-place association. There is no evidence that these reforms were implemented.[78]

One instance in which native-place associations did follow a government directive to "modernize" their practices reveals the tendency of these associations to make surface compromises with state regulations. In 1930 associations received notice that they were not to celebrate the Chinese New Year with their traditional practice of ritual tuanbai greetings. They were instructed to change to the Republican calendar and more modern modes of comportment. The Chaozhou native-place association responded by replacing the name tuanbai with the more modern-sounding kenqinhui , a term used to denote all sorts of purposeful modern gatherings. From 1930 on, the Chaozhou association set aside a Sunday in February to hold a kenqinhui , a time for greetings among all Guangdong sojourner groups.[79]

Despite repeated efforts to register and restructure these associations, as late as 1936 the Shanghai Municipal Government could only claim that twenty-seven of the sixty-five tongxianghui of which it was aware were fully registered according to all of the procedures of the law.[80] Although at times the power of the city government and public security forces was dearly more efficient, particularly in the area of extracting funds and even temporarily requisitioning buildings of native-place associations,[81] there was nonetheless an evident gap between state aspira-


tions for control and state limitations. In this gap, and in a relationship which encompassed mutual accommodation and at times strategic cooperation in a broad scope of activities, native-place associations provided spaces for certain degrees of political activism that would not be curtailed by the state.

The Interpenetration of State and Society . Although much is to be gained from a consideration of state penetration—namely, an index of state initiatives as well as a record of successes and limitations—this type of discussion obscures the considerable overlap of state and society characteristic in the makeup of these associations, historically and in this period. This overlap is evident in association personnel, proclaimed affiliation with state organs, performance of services to the state, and state recognition of native-place associations.

Membership lists and collection records point to striking areas of overlap between state and society. The 1936 membership list of the Henan Tongxianghui includes two Public Security Bureau branch chiefs, two police chiefs, and 97 police and Public Security Bureau employees among the members (in some cases as many as 30 police from one station, or something approximating the full-scale incorporation of work units into the tongxianghui ).[82] Similarly, 179 Hu She members were employed in "party and government," and another 69 were employed in military, police or social-control institutions (totaling 248 of approximately 1,300 members).[83]

Substantial government-employee membership is also revealed in a Shenbao report on the 1930 collection drive of the Pudong Tongxianghui, which established seventy-two collection teams among members in a campaign to fund the new building. Among these teams, organized according to residence locality and occupational group, one covered collections in the Shanghai party headquarters, one covered collections among the military, two focused on national-government employees and one focused on city-government employees.[84] Obviously, these


kinds of membership links served the associations well in their day-to-day interactions with branches of the Public Security Bureau and bureaucrats of the Shanghai Municipal Government.

Published association records (as opposed to their unpublished archives) make a point of their affiliation with the Social Bureau and the party, their acceptance of party "guidance and supervision" and their enthusiasm in regard to government campaigns. Their published reports begin with photographs of their state licenses; their constitutions vow adherence to the Three People's Principles, the guidance of the Guomindang, and their determination to eliminate counterrevolutionaries. Their general meeting summaries highlight the presence at these meetings of government officials. These items all appear in their published meeting notes like protective badges.[85]

State organs and state officials recognized native-place associations in a multitude of ways, licensing them, bestowing symbolic recognition, attending tongxianghui meetings, relying on tongxianghui as quasi-governmental organizations to carry out government programs. Government recognition was on display at the inaugural ceremony for the new Pudong Tongxianghui building described above, in which the calligraphy of government luminaries graced the walls of the auditorium, while the mayor shared the stage with the founder of the tongxianghui . Sun Fo did calligraphy for Chaozhou Tongxianghui publications; Wu Tiecheng provided his calligraphy for the Guangdong Tongxianghui.[86]

Representatives from provincial governments, as well as from Shanghai party headquarters and the Social Bureau, attended the yearly general meetings of tongxianghui . Although they did this "to supervise and guide" the work of the associations, their presence also helped to legitimate the associations. A Guomindang party representative attending a Pudong Tongxianghui meeting praised the association and its contribution to the nation: "Shanghai is a model for China, and your association is a model for all tongxianghui nationally. You contribute to the well-being of the native place and contribute to the glory of the country."[87]


Creating "Civic Ground. " Overlap with the state, state affiliation and state recognition all contributed to the legitimacy of native-place associations in this period. Nonetheless, tongxianghui were not entirely dependent on the state for their legitimacy. Association records and activities suggest a variety of other strategies which helped them to create a kind of "civic ground," an independent basis of legitimacy for their public activities. This involved the manipulation of "governmentality," of connections and of higher claims to nationalism.

Whereas in earlier periods native-place associations took on the trappings of republicanism to proclaim their modernity and dedication to the project of building a strong nation, during the Nanjing decade the "governmentality" of native-place associations helped them to create a civic space for their activities. As in the early Republican era, the 1930s associations incorporated into their modes of conduct influential and recognized ideals of governance (constitutions, elections, provisions for the welfare and governance of their member populations, the rhetoric of local self-government). They now also incorporated into their reports and procedures all of the trappings of modern social science, forming "statistics committees" and "social-survey committees" and prominently featuring pie charts and bar graphs with inventive graphic motifs (airplanes and steam engines, alongside Olympic-style torches) in their publications.[88] Because these were ideals with broad public legitimacy, ideals to which the state was also subject, native-place associations could in a sense displace the state, or in any event compete with it for legitimacy by outshining it.[89]

The tactic of governmentality is evident in the way native-place associations inserted the language of local self-government and the rhetoric of Sun Yat-sen into their constitutions and public statements, making it the foundation of their existence. By rhetorically marking themselves as Sun's descendants, tongxianghui were seen (and could act) not as merely self-serving "particularistic associations" but rather as constituent building blocks of a strengthened constitutional state. This is dear in a publi-


cation of the Ningbo Tongxianghui: "Fellow-provincials unite and form the Ningbo Tongxianghui. People from other places also unite and form other tongxianghui . Then each native-place group joins together and forms an extremely large national organization. In this manner, domestically, it will be possible to consolidate the strength of local self-government, and internationally, it will be possible to resist the insults of foreign powers."[90] A second example is from a manifesto printed by the associations of Fujianese sojourners in Shanghai and Beijing: "The locality is the foundation of the state and self-government is the step-ping-stone for constitutional government. Thus those who wish to do good for their country must realize local self-government, causing the people to devote themselves to the public service of their locality in or-tier to develop their ability to deal with public affairs. After this they may participate in national affairs, supervise government and bring the nation to constitutional government, achieving the freedom of full citizens."[91] Such statements both legitimated the public activities of tongxianghui and rebuked the government at higher levels for its lack of dedication to the long-sought-after goals of Republican government.

Another "tactic" which bolstered the social force of native-place associations in the Nanjing decade involved the use of powerful connections. In the 1930s native-place associations coalesced and grew around specific individuals with auras of power. In the case of the Ningbo Tongxianghui the figure was Yu Xiaqing. Wang Xiaolai and Shi Liangcai served the same function as leaders of the Shaoxing and Jiangning associations, respectively. The usefulness of tongxianghui and the rise of several new associations in this period were also linked to the ascendant power of Shanghai gangs. The prominence and efficacity of the Pudong Tongxianghui clearly reflected the power of the Green Gang leader Du Yuesheng. Other tongxianghui followed suit. The Subei gangster Gu Zhuxuan was the director of the Jianghuai Tongxianghui and the vice-chairman of the Subei Sojourners' Federation.[92] The Red Gang leader Zheng Ziliang was prominent in the Chaozhou Tongxianghui. Given the limitations of government services and the realities of government taxation, corruption and inefficiency, compounded by protection rack-


ets and gang organization in the city, it is not surprising that Shanghai residents in this period reinvested their energies in native-place communities, particularly when affiliation provided linkages to icons of power and influence.

The need of public associations for powerful patrons meant that although membership was accessible to many people, despite their constitutions and democratic rhetoric, decision making on important issues was probably less democratic in this period than it had been in earlier periods. Although the gang "muscle" behind certain native-place associations is obvious, it would be mistaken to view native-place associations in the Nanjing decade as essentially gang-type organizations. Their archives offer voluminous evidence of substantial charitable, civic and nationalist commitments. These commitments were maintained at considerable cost, even danger, and they consumed the energies of individuals who may have needed the protection of people like Du Yuesheng but who were often themselves intellectuals, influential reformers, deeply committed nationalists and anti-Japanese activists.

A Higher Kind of Loyalty . The most potent tactic for creating civic "ground" on which to stand was through the articulation of a more steadfast nationalism than that upheld by the state. The process by which tongxianghui could become a location for urban reformist—and at times oppositional—sentiments in the 1930s may be illustrated through the career of the influential educational reformer Huang Yanpei. In the early Republican period, in accordance with his faith in rational education, Huang worked to reform Chinese society through two influential institutions, the Jiangsu Provincial Education Association and the Chinese Vocational Education Association. These efforts, begun in the early Republican period, represented a growing institutional collaboration between Shanghai capitalists and Jiangnan intellectuals who believed in the necessity of economic modernization and educational reform to strengthen the nation. Education, perhaps the only realm which might possibly have enjoyed the type of free and uncoerced public discussion which Habermas associates with a "public sphere," was an early victim of the Guomindang "partification" (danghua ) process. Both the Jiangsu Provincial Education and the Chinese Vocational Education Associations came under attack in 1927, and Huang temporarily fled to Dalian to escape assassination. Increasingly constricted in the political influence he could exercise on the basis of these organizations and persuaded that educational initiatives were bound to fail because they pro-


moted individualism and that individuals were doomed to inefficacy outside membership in large groups, Huang Yanpei rechanneled much of his patriotic and reformist energy into his leadership (together with Du Yuesheng) of the Pudong Tongxianghui.[93]

In a manifesto written in 1933, Huang linked the existence of tongxianghui , along the model of the Ningbo Tongxianghui, to the imperative of anti-imperialist resistance:

Our Chinese population is over 470,000,000 and we are repeatedly affronted by Japan, which has a population of less than 70 million. Our land is occupied; our people have been butchered, and we are forced to accept foreign control ... while we are unable to help ourselves.... A critical reason is that we don't unite. How should we save China? Many people have ideas, all of which require one thing: People must abandon their selfish individualism and begin to form small groups. Then they should knit together small groups into large groups and unite the large groups into one great national group. When the entire country becomes one group, the mass foundation for the nation will be established, the nation will be strong and long-lived....

And what will be the starting point for the small groups? Human feelings really develop only when people leave their native place and manifest their sincere mutual love. For this reason, the uniting of locals is often not as powerful as the uniting of sojourner groups who are motivated by the common experience of sojourning in a foreign place. The connections which result from the sojourning condition create large and solid groups. In the entire [Shanghai] population ... what group manifests the greatest strength? It is a sojourner group. Those responding say in unison, Ningbo people! Ningbo people! ... And why is [the Ningbo people's] ability to unite especially strong and solid? ... At the beginning, when [Ningbo] people came to Shanghai [the Ningbo native-place association] arranged work for them, helped them through sickness.... Those seeking work could receive introductions.... [I]f they encountered hardship they could help each other and provide relief.... From the time Shanghai opened as a treaty port, Ningbo people have occupied the dominant position.... In 1874 and 1898 because of a threat [by the French] to their cemetery, they gathered a crowd to resist, and a long-weak country forced the westerners to submit.... Any group, if only they could have the strength to organize the masses by helping its members, may be similarly strong and great. [Without their tongxianghui ] I fear the Ningbo people's accomplishments would not be as great or their unity as solid.... Our Pudong fellow-


provincials deeply believe in this theory, and in the force of precedent. Therefore we gather together people from all circles to meet, intellectuals and laborers, and ... together build the awesome building of the future.... [W]ith the Pudong Tongxianghui the ... business of the Pudong people increases and their contribution to society and the country is daily greater. The mass foundation of the state is established, national power will be strengthened, the life of the nation will be long, and from this there will be no more national disasters.[94]

By combining nationalist rhetoric and Confucian reasoning, the tongxianghui becomes the center for the ordering of the nation. This lessens the "particularism" of the native-place tie. Huang's manifesto also suggests a number of observations about civic activity and rhetorical rationales for civic activity in this period. First, Huang makes clear that civic activity is to be based not on individual autonomy or citizenship, but on tightly organized mutual-protection associations based on native place, not on urban residence. Second, public action, or action in the public realm, is grounded not in individual rights but in the imperative to save the nation. Third, the tie to the nation is the foremost factor in motivating and legitimating public activity. It is through their anti-Japanese activity that we may understand the basis for native-place associations' expressions of dissent. Dissent in itself was not valued. Public associations viewed themselves as being forced into the public realm when the government failed to serve the interests of the nation. Because the anti-Japanese movement was under attack by Chiang Kai-shek, particularly after the assassination of Shi Liangcai, under whose editorial supervision the Shenbao had become increasingly anti-Japanese, anti-Japanese activism and propagandists needed shelter. Shelter and institutional resources were available to individuals like Huang, and others, in the form of native-place organization.

Whereas in the period prior to 1925, it seems that native-place associations remained vital actors on the Shanghai scene because of a continuing absence of strong government and the limited development and impact of newer and more functionally differentiated social organizations, it would appear that in the Nanjing decade they reemerged in importance because of the imperfect, uneven and at times oppressive nature of the new state.


Recent discussion of civic activity in the Republican era has been dominated by the concepts of "civil society" or a "public sphere," terms which, employed in a Chinese context, have aroused considerable debate.[95] Civil society/public sphere discussions as they have been articulated in the China field have often focused on efforts to document practices of "urban citizenship" and the existence of social arenas which were entirely independent from the state. This emphasis on autonomy or its inverse, state control, has inhibited consideration of the modes of public maneuvering described above, which were neither fully autonomous nor state controlled. As the activities of native-place associations in the Nanjing decade reveal, a rich associational life coexisted with the ever-present (if often ineffectual) threat of state coercion. The history of these associations in the Nanjing decade raises questions about the extent to which city residents wished to develop a common urban identity or to operate on the basis of urban citizenship. It is not clear that such things were imaginable. Shanghai citizenship (whatever it could mean) was clearly less useful, in practice, than membership in a powerful native-place association. Even the most powerful businessmen (not to mention people like Du Yuesheng) found it desirable to establish, direct or at least contribute heavily to their native-place associations. Among the leaders of Shanghai native-place associations we find many of Shanghai's most prominent and outspoken capitalists, journalists and politicians, among them Liu Hongsheng, Wang Yiting, Wang Xiaolai, Shi Liangcai and Yu Xiaqing.[96] Sponsoring native-place organizations not only gave them considerable "face" and large networks of followers but also permitted them to acquire the legitimacy of speaking as selected leaders of large "people's" associations.

It is important to note the civic activity of native-place associations


in the 1930s and their impressive ability to mobilize their resources for "public" or "civic" goals—their use of public meetings, newspaper advertisements and media events, and the frequency with which they united in citywide federations of associations for more effective economic or political action. At the same time, given the features of public opinion and the urban environment outlined above, it is equally important not to confuse such developments with a European model of a "public sphere" as described by Habermas. We should, instead, attempt to find a model more suited to the Chinese context. What the persistence of native-place organization and the scope of tongxianghui activity suggests is that even the notion of civic activity could only be sustained in the 1930s if Chinese city residents were organized in large and influential protective groups. As the activities of tongxianghui throughout the Republican era suggest, it was these groups, not individual citizens, which formed the constituent elements of the newer, more celebrated, more "rational" forms of political and commercial organization, including the Chamber of Commerce and trade and occupational associations. Because government services were minimal, it was necessary to contend for them through powerful groups. It was also necessary to create alternative subgovernments in the city which functioned to mediate disputes and dispense justice. The corruptions of government in this period also necessitated such groups as a means of recourse and protection.

Native-place associations did not provide the only access to this kind of broad public identity, of course, but because of their size, constituency, legitimacy and public acceptability they were extremely useful and popular. The large constituency of tongxianghui both provided considerable resources and gave legitimacy to the claim of being "people's" organizations (minzhong tuanti ). By embracing both native-place sentiment and modern civic and nationalist values, they eased the anomie of modern political and economic organization. They were, moreover, viewed as legitimate civic organizations and were not generally vulnerable to repression because they were not explicitly political.[97]Tongxianghui could also continue to function because they were at times quite useful to the Guomindang government. They not only provided welfare


and social services beyond the capacity of the Shanghai Municipal Government but also, at times, actively promoted state programs, particularly as propaganda organs in the New Life Movement.[98] Finally, as an organizational form tongxianghui could defend their presence in terms of the popular and well-accepted rhetoric of local self-government and preparation for national constitutional government, the eternally repeated goals of politics throughout the Republican period. The relationship between tongxianghui and the state is best understood as expressing not autonomy but shifting areas of partial autonomy, interpenetration and negotiation. This combination suggests a conception of power different from Habermas's "public sphere" idea. Such reconceptualization is crucial to understanding both the possibilities and the limitations of civic action in the Nanjing decade.


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Chapter Eight The Native Place and the State Nationalism, State Building and Public Maneuvering
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