previous sub-section
Hierarchical Modernization
next sub-section

THE AGONY OF GONG SHANG COLLEGE

Ironically, the Jesuits' religiously motivated effort to keep the world at bay had brought Gong Shang College its greatest degree of worldly success. During the war, it had more students and faculty than ever before and more influence even among non-Catholic social circles in Tianjin. But that very success compromised its religious mission. The success brought the world into the community. Most of the increasing numbers of students were not in Gong Shang College because they were loyal to its religious principles or even to the priests who were in charge. They were there because the college provided a convenient space to get started on their careers in spite of the war. Once the war was over, and better opportunities for advancing their careers presented themselves, they would leave the school.

Soon after the surrender of Japan, the faculties of Gong Shang's major rival universities, Nankai and Beiyang, returned from their exile in the southwest. In an effort to revive these universities, the government provided subsidies that enabled them to simultaneously provide higher salaries and charge lower tuition than Gong Shang. Large numbers of Gong Shang students deserted the school for Nankai or Beiyang, and most of the faculty did so as well. Gong Shang College was forced to replace its well-credentialed teachers with recent alumni who had no more than an undergraduate degree.

While losing its ability to maintain a loyal student body, the college was also losing its ability to gain outside financial support, especially from warravaged France. Then, in the spring of 1946, the last contingent of French soldiers left Tianjin, marking the end of extraterritoriality. The last vestiges of the French protectorate over Catholic missions were gone. The Jesuit who wrote the official history of Gong Shang College did not see this as a victory for the Chinese people. The end of extraterritoriality opened the way to a completely arbitrary form of liberty, he thought: "The Communists were above all the main beneficiaries."[46]

Perhaps it was especially difficult for missionaries steeped in the hierarchical tradition of the Catholic Church to give up a paternalistic sense of control over Chinese Catholic institutions. In any case, the time of the foreign missionaries was coming to an end in China. In response to the Chinese tide of nationalism, the Vatican was finally turning over direction of the Chinese church to a Chinese episcopate. The Chinese church was still extremely hierarchical, but now it was controlled


182
by Chinese who had no special respect for French hierarchy. In 1945, Bishop Thomas Tian Gengxing of Beijing was made the first Chinese cardinal.[47] Chinese Jesuits, and later in the 1940s Chinese diocesan priests, increasingly took control of Gong Shang College.

Cardinal Tian visited Gong Shang College in May of 1946. The priests at Gong Shang held a grand reception for him, attended by all the elite of Tianjin— "all the civil and military authorities, directors of schools and banks, our entire professorial faculty, and two American diplomats."[48] Over two decades, the work of Gong Shang College had indeed established the connections necessary to call upon all of the established leaders of the city. As stated in a mimeographed report issued by the Jesuits at the end of 1946, "Of the seven Bureaux of Public Works in Tianjin, four are directed by our former students. In all important banks and all large commercial enterprises, one finds our alumni. Because of this, we everywhere find people sympathetic to our work."[49] Unfortunately for the Jesuits, most of their prominent alumni worked for an establishment soon to be overthrown by the Communists.

As they had over the years, the Jesuits of Gong Shang strove to keep themselves aloof from Chinese popular politics. At the end of 1946, large, leftist-inspired demonstrations against American troops stationed in the city swept the student communities. Once again, the priests were able to keep most of their students from participating (though to do so they had to close the college for several weeks). In January of 1947 two inspectors sent by the Guomindang government praised the discipline of the Gong Shang students in the face of temptation to participate in such movements. The approval of the government paid off in 1948, when the college was favorably reviewed and reaccredited under the Guomindang government's new educational system. The Jesuit go-between in this process, as in the earlier accreditation application, was Archbishop Yu Bin of Nanjing, who was and would remain extremely closely tied to the Guomindang. In the process of accreditation, the college's name was once again changed—this time to Jingu College.

The Jesuits had worked hard to get this accreditation, and they thought it was good news. But as they looked at the overall context of their work, they could see that it was a useless piece of good news. Communists were advancing into Xian county, and put their superior, Father Charvet (who had once been rector of the college) under arrest. Priests were fleeing from Communist-occupied rural areas and coming to live in the Jesuit residence at the college. A new world of Chinese nationalism was coming into being, and it was overwhelming any barriers the Jesuits could build against it.

In May of 1948, as the "political sky darkened and the storm approached," and practical efforts to barricade against the storm failed, the Jesuits decided to make special recourse to the Blessed Virgin, Our Lady Queen of China. This is what the villagers of Xian county had done a half century before, during the Boxer uprising. Then, the legends said, as frightened Catholics huddled within their church compounds, the Virgin had appeared atop their church steeples in glorious power


183
and broken the Boxer siege.[50] Praying for a similar deliverance, the priests of Gong Shang carried a statue of Our Lady Queen of China in a great procession around the college, accompanied by a fervent crowd of Catholics from throughout the city. But during the Boxer troubles, the Catholic communities of Xian county had been relatively self-sufficient villages surrounded by sturdy mud and brick walls. The Catholic community of Gong Shang was part of a large, complex city and, especially now that the French protectorate was gone, its barriers against the unbelieving world were composed of religious symbols and social connections, not sturdy physical stuff. The political sky continued to darken. On January 15, 1949, the Communists took control of Tianjin, and in the semester that followed, there began, as the Jesuit chronicler puts it, "l'agonie des Hautes Etudes."

The Communist Party established a school "soviet," or administrative committee, composed of Chinese professors, administrators, students, and staff. Under the committee's guidance, the students became what they had never been before—political activists. "Liberated" from the supervision of the Jesuits, the students filled the walls of the college with posters "attacking the Americans, attacking religion, attacking our authority, which was put under the name of imperialism." The Jesuits saw this as an example of what happened when impressionable young people were deprived of proper supervision. More accurately perhaps, it was an example of what the Communists could do by manipulating people through their own more aggressive forms of hierarchical supervision.

By the middle of 1949, the new government of Tianjin had made the teaching of materialism obligatory in all schools. They began a violent campaign against Gong Shang College, and by the end of the year they tried to force the dismissal of all Jesuits from the faculty and administration. Employing the "Chinese way," the Jesuits called upon their friends in the Tianjin elite. They gained a temporary victory: the mayor of Tianjin wrote a long letter praising the Fathers for the success of the college and the help given to its students. This temporarily forestalled the dismissal of the Jesuits. "But this was a ‘loss of face’ for our adversaries. In China, this is unpardonable, and must eventually be paid for."[51]

The Jesuits held on in spite of great sacrifices because they felt a responsibility to give protection, help, and comfort to their Catholic students as long as possible. But they could no longer erect adequate barriers between their students and the world. They could no longer even protect themselves. In January of 1951, all of the Jesuits were finally dismissed from their jobs. The priests were placed under surveillance and subjected to long, excruciating interrogations. Some were arrested. The others dared have no further contact with Chinese friends, even with the Catholic students, for fear of compromising them. On July 11, 1951, all the Jesuits were expelled from their residences behind the walls of the college, and, soon after, all the French Jesuits were expelled from China.

The yearbook for the class of 1950 contained no pictures of any priests. Written by the "School Administrative Committee," the preface made no mention of Christianity, but it was full of exhortations for students and faculty to become the


184
People's intellectuals, not the exploitative intellectuals of the old society. If the college's students, faculty, and alumni followed the principles of Marxism-Leninism, served the people, and followed the mass line, it promised, they would lead the motherland to a glorious future.[52]


previous sub-section
Hierarchical Modernization
next sub-section