P44. Transnational Intellectualism and State Building in Modern China

Session: Session 6, 2:00 – 3:30 pm, Saturday 9/30

Category: Organized Panel

Location: Lincoln

Chair: Jin Kim (The Ohio State University)

Paper Presenters: Jin Kim (The Ohio State University), Cruz Guan (The Ohio State University), Rachel Wallner (Northwestern University), Lin Ye (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Abstract: This panel investigates China’s intellectual effort to address colonialism and to establish a nation-state from the early nineteenth century to the early period of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The papers in this panel analyze the development of modern cartographic methods that aimed to chart out China as a modern nation state, the revolutionization of the Chinese and Japanese youth in early twentieth century to comprehend the world dominated by imperial powers, and the PRC’s projection of a self-image in the Third World as a peace-loving country during the early 1950s. In so doing, this panel demonstrates how Chinese intellectuals attempted to transform imperial China into a modern nation-state as well as how their intellectualism was connected to the changing world . By focusing on the continuum and junctures in the intellectual movement from the late Qing dynasty to Republican China and to the early PRC, this panel aims to understand decolonization and nation-state building in a longue durée. This approach will not only help to understand each period individually but also to reveal a broader continuum between China’s historical experiences with colonialism, imperialism, and the emerging Cold War world order. By looking at the legacy of intellectualism that evolved around the issues of colonialism and imperial world order, this panel will demonstrate that these intellectual traditions continued up until the early 1950s. The transnational perspective of the panel also contributes to recent scholarship that attempts to understand the shared experiences and disagreements in the decolonized world in the post-war era. In particular, the panel’s geographical focus on East Asia and Southeast Asia will contribute to the understanding of China’s geopolitical position and its relationship with neighboring countries in the colonial and post-war period. Taken together, these papers accentuate how China’s domestic intellectual traditions were closely connected with transnational thoughts at times of heightened external threat.

The Safeguard of Peace: Creating an Image of Peaceful Coexistence in Southeast Asia for the People’s Republic of China, 1950-1955

Speaker: Jin Kim
Role: Paper Presenter
Institution/Affiliation: The Ohio State University
Abstract: This paper analyzes the PRC’s sociological propaganda represented in China Pictorial from 1952 to 1955 that attempted to create an image of peaceful coexistence and how this propaganda differed from the early anti-American propaganda prevalent from 1950 to 1952. In contrast to early anti-American propaganda that linked Beijing’s peace policy to its justification of its engagement in the Korean War, peace in its later sociological propaganda towards Indonesia and Burma was closer to the idea of peaceful coexistence. Peace in China Pictorial from 1952 to 1955 was depicted as peaceful coexistence with various political systems in the PRC’s neighboring countries which had diverse cultures and ethnic groups. This illustration of peaceful coexistence was created to ameliorate the existing expansionist image of the PRC prevalent in Indonesia and Burma. In this image-creating process, visual materials served a crucial role for Beijing in conveying this idea of peaceful coexistence to Southeast Asian countries, and it was represented in a party-owned magazine, China Pictorial. The party’s favor-currying diplomacy towards Indonesia and Burma demonstrated that the PRC’s early diplomacy towards decolonized countries was essentially pragmatic rather than hegemonic. This conciliatory diplomacy towards the Southeast Asian countries during the early 1950s showed bifurcating diplomatic lines between the PRC’s hardline American diplomacy and its conciliatory Southeast Asian diplomacy. These variegated diplomatic strategies of the PRC demonstrated the dynamics of Asia during the hardening polarization between the East and West during the early period of the Cold War.

Mapping Nationhood:  A Han Official’s Map of Qing China and Its Multiethnic Entities, 1789-1841

Speaker: Cruz Guan
Role: Paper Presenter
Institution/Affiliation: The Ohio State University
Abstract: Today, when people look at a map of China, they find a “rooster shape” nation-state with thirty-four provincial-level administrations on the East side of the Eurasian continent. However, this notion of a unified Chinese nation with clear borderlines is a modern construction. Following military conquests, the Qing emperors began to use maps to redefine “China” as a multiethnic entity, including Manchuria, Han-populated China Proper, Mongolia, East Turkestan, and Tibet, in the late seventeenth century. In the nineteenth century, facing internal political crises and external imperialist threats, Chinese elites followed this imperial imagination of China to build up a unified Chinese nation. Cartography, as a combination of power and knowledge, was used by elites to define what and where China was.  This paper will explore a Han Chinese scholar-official, Li Zhaoluo李兆洛 (1769-1841), and his map of China to show how did cartography contribute to the development of a multiethnic Chinese nation. This research will argue that maps are not always an accurate reflection of geographical information: by identifying and manipulating China’s territory on maps, cartography could absorb the newly conquered territories into the newborn Chinese nation. Moreover, this paper challenges a linear narrative of the development of Chinese cartography. The “advanced” Western mapping method that could more accurately present geographical information did not inevitably replace the “backward” traditional Chinese method. The binaries between tradition and modern, a backward China and an advanced West, are a myth that overlooks the contexts in nineteenth-century China.

Expressing the Sea as Nation: Surveying and Mapping Conventions for Chinese Empire and State

Speaker: Rachel Wallner
Role: Paper Presenter
Institution/Affiliation: Northwestern University
Abstract: Surveying and mapping (celiang huitu 测量绘图) in China underwent significant changes during the late Qing and early Republican eras. Across this period, to borrow Thongchai Winichakul’s  words, mapping “became a lethal instrument to concretize the projected desire on the earth’s surface.” Chinese science practitioners expressed national territory through new mapping conventions to help guard against foreign imperial incursion and bolster the territorial awareness of an emerging Chinese citizenry. Maritime regions were no exception, including contested regions of the South China Sea.   This paper looks at pioneering surveyor-cartographers, Zou Daijun 邹代钧 (1854-1907) and Tong Shiheng 童世亨 (1883-1975), scholars who adopted surveying and mapping practices from abroad, especially Japan. At the same time, they recalled China’s rich, centuries-long surveying and mapping heritage. Their work led to a concretized popular perception of Chinese nationhood regarding the disputed Pratas (Dongsha 东沙) and Paracel Islands (Xisha 西沙) that evoked, at once, international and national authority. This history reveals how contemporary views on the South China Sea dispute developed out of international community and exchange even while it also, paradoxically, emerged vis-à-vis foreign competition.

The I of I will Explode: Radicalization of Revolutionary Youth in China and Japan

Speaker: Lin Ye
Role: Paper Presenter
Institution/Affiliation: University of Wisconsin-Madison
Abstract: This paper examines the transnational intellectual anxiety of a generation of revolutionary youth in China and Japan, born at the turn of the twentieth century, and aims to explore this generation’s rapid transformation from students to revolutionaries motivated by such intellectual anxiety. From the 1900s to the 1920s, Chinese and Japanese youth experienced unprecedented intellectual anxiety, a sense of no way out created by global capitalism and its various incarnations in East Asia such as imperialism and colonialism: national traditions seemed useless in front of Western gunboats and global capitalism itself proved not only hypocritical but also invalid through the First World War and the post-war racialized world order. Compelled by such intellectual anxiety, the revolutionary youth in both countries actively looked for socialism as the alternative to both their receptive traditions and global capitalism and experienced a rapid voluntarist turn from students who preferred reformative agendas to radical revolutionaries who would effect immediate revolutionary changes by violent means. Different from previous scholarships that differentiate revolutionary youth who later went to the opposite camps, this study proposes that studying the revolutionary youth as a whole tormented generation constantly grappling with the East and the West could better our understanding of both their early connections and their later divergences. Moreover, by not treating China and Japan in a victim vs. victimizer dichotomy, this study contributes to transcending the national boundary and furthering our understanding of the specificity of global capitalism and its unevenness in East Asia.