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Chapter Four Expansive Practices Charity, Modern Enterprise, the City and the State
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Economic Nationalism, Modern Enterprises and Cosmopolitanism

The "expansive practices" of the native-place merchant networks described in this chapter suggest the ways in which native-


place identity shaped understandings of national and urban identity in post-Taiping Shanghai and of new and "modern" things. As the charitable activities of the late 1870s and 1880s demonstrate, native-place identities and networks did not diminish as merchants broadened their "public" horizons to cooperate with non-tongxiang to provide assistance for people in distant areas of China. This is to say that native-place loyalties did not interfere with cooperation in citywide or (especially) national projects. Close-knit and mutually supporting sojourner networks were no obstacle; rather, they facilitated Chinese adaptations of new technologies, even as they imprinted these technologies with their native-place identities.

Continuing native-place loyalties did, nonetheless, result in a competitive tension which underlay these and other enterprises. This rivalry both resulted in the native-place colonization of particularly lucrative state-sponsored commercial enterprises and motivated groups of merchants to organize in risky private ventures in order to control powerful new technologies which (in the hands of outsiders) might be used against them.

The "expansive practices" of native-place networks, because they crossed localist and "traditional" boundaries, help us to understand the workings of "tradition" in practices of "modernity" and the uses of provincial ties within the experience of cosmopolitanism. The leaders of the major native-place communities in late-nineteenth-century Shanghai were arguably among the most cosmopolitan men in the city. The social networks and responsibilities of huiguan leaders were extremely broad, as reflected in Tang Maozhi's explanation to Jardine's as to why he was frequently unable to attend to all of his compradorial duties: "As chairman of the Canton Guild, I have always some cases in hand, for inquiry, arrangement or decision. Many officials and [scholars] pass up and down through this port, they pay me their formal visits and I have to return them.... I have to make friends all around."[59] Like Tang, many huiguan leaders were compradors who, as Hao Yen-p'ing has shown, were leading exponents of western legal structures and institutional arrangements to facilitate commercial development. Knowledge of western languages and compradorial and treaty-port experience gave them an expertise in foreign relations which the Chinese government relied on repeatedly in attempts to deflect and negotiate the problem of foreign expansion on Chinese soil.[60]


These men were major actors in the highly cosmopolitan arenas of Shanghai commerce and politics, arenas which encompassed an ethnically diverse Chinese population and a foreign community of diverse nationals. But cosmopolitanism could not come to semicolonial Shanghai as a neutral or apolitical process, nor did it necessitate (among Chinese or in interactions with foreigners) either mutual tolerance or a refusal to take sides. The reform-minded merchant leaders, whose business and political activities regularly involved them in interprovincial commercial networks, close ties with reformist officials and even international relations, depended for their survival on native-place ties and clearly felt no compunction about benefiting their tongxiang while they pursued the broader ideals of economic nationalism in the interest of strengthening the Chinese state.

This tendency and the native-place rivalries it engendered did not impede abstract identification with the larger polity but did, in practice, limit merchants' commitment to specific state projects. As the Shenbao debates over the CMSNC make clear, non-Guangdong merchants did not feel that their national identity as Chinese was sufficiently compelling to make them support what they perceived to be a Guangdong shipping company acting in Guangdong interests.

In his richly researched study of late imperial Hankou, William Rowe organizes his portrait of a highly diverse, competitive urban metropolis through an interpretive framework which, while sensitively observing conflict among different native-place groups, emphasizes by the late nineteenth century "an unusually high level of cultural tolerance on the part of the urban population" and the development of Hankou urban identity.[61] The behavior of the most cosmopolitan Shanghai elites in this period, elites which were tied, through tongxiang connections, to Hankou elites and urban institutions, suggests a somewhat different framing of the issues of cosmopolitanism and urban identity. The tendency of sojourning elites to seek powerful official patrons in this period, together with their evident need to rely on native-place loyalties to support new multiport enterprises, worked against the practical usefulness of developing specific urban identity as Shanghai people, even though their location in Shanghai was fundamental to their transcending of provincial boundaries. The battles between the Huibao and the Shenbao and the demise of the Huibao in the absence of foreign pro-


tection suggest both the limitations on the development of public media at this time and the fact that exposure to urban newspapers did not necessarily result in cosmopolitanism on the municipal level. The Guangdong/Ningbo attempts to control public discourse in late-nineteenth-century Shanghai make it dear that "public media," far from acting as neutral vehicles of cultural tolerance, bore national and native-place labels and interests. The story of the Huibao is relevant to discussions of a "public sphere" in China which stress the role of newspapers because it shows that an independently organized Chinese newspaper with strong backers could not survive in this period, raising questions about the possibilities for public debate.

This is not to say that sojourning elites were not intimately involved with Shanghai. It is, rather, that Shanghai identity was in practice less useful, less frequently invoked and less fundamental than native-place and national identity. Sojourning elites invested heavily in Shanghai businesses and real estate and contributed to Shanghai urban management through the government of their broad sojourning communities as well as the provision of certain broader urban services. They also occasionally cooperated in specific citywide ventures. Nonetheless, in this period, prior to the existence of a Chinese municipal government which could claim the city as its own (and against which sojourning groups could position themselves), the adoption of Shanghai identity for sojourners would have been constraining. Major huiguan leaders of the late nineteenth century were highly cosmopolitan figures. Their cosmopolitanism, however, took place more at a national than at a municipal level; that is, they were cosmopolitan not because they lived in Shanghai but because they transcended Shanghai. Because their native-place ties extended beyond both the native place and Shanghai—and, indeed, provided multiport networks of support and an organizational basis for action on a national scale—they found it extremely useful to retain and cultivate native-place identity.


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Chapter Four Expansive Practices Charity, Modern Enterprise, the City and the State
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