2012 Conference

China and Inner Asia Session 324

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Making Shanghai One's Own: The British, the Qing Loyalists, and the Communists

Organizer: Dandan Chen, Farmingdale State College, SUNY, USA

Chair: Madeleine Yue Dong, University of Washington, USA

Discussant: Madeleine Yue Dong, University of Washington, USA

What was Shanghai, the most Western-looking city, built in the economically and culturally most developed region of the country as a result of a political insult that became a symbol of national humiliation? Because Shanghai has stood for a highly complex array of things, this question cannot be addressed by any single answer. The papers in this panel approach this question by highlighting three different perceptions of Shanghai at critical moments in the city's history: how the British, the Qing loyalists, and the Communists each tried to make Shanghai their own. Wennan Liu's paper introduces a British vision for Shanghai by examining the implementation from the 1860s to the 1880s of "nuisance management" based on the model of the Victorian city. The semi-colonial setting for this effort gave the model meanings different from those in its original British context. The Qing loyalists, on the other hand, attempted to create a "traditional space" in the midst of the modern landscape of the Settlement after the fall of the last dynasty. Dandan Chen's paper studies these contradictions, their reconciliation by the loyalists, and the implication of their writings and actions for Shanghai as a modern city. The Communists encountered a multi-faceted Shanghai after 1949, the topic examined by Jin Jiang's paper. Through close study of archival materials, newspapers, and artistic representations, Jiang focuses on the CCP's theorization and vision of Shanghai, and the interaction and competition between the communist reconstruction and the reality that grew from the city's complex history.

Managing Nuisances in the International Settlement of Shanghai, 1860s-1880s
Wennan Liu, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, China

In the late 19th century, abating “nuisances” became a central responsibility of the Municipal Council of the International Settlement in Shanghai. These “nuisances” included projections blocking traffic, human and animal wastes, unpleasant noises, and smelly pools, problems that had not normally been the duty of public management in China. The Municipal Council of the International Settlement adopted the concept of “nuisances” and the institutions abating “nuisances” from the model of Victorian cities in England. This new development in Shanghai, however, was marked by important differences from the British experience. As a city built on a swamp, the implementation of these new rules did not meet resistance from the old as it did in England. Instead, the resistance came from the Chinese residents in the Settlements, who constituted the majority of the population but had no rights to participate in the Municipal Council or policy making. Conflicts occurred when the ruled Chinese and the ruling foreigners had different assumptions about the jurisdiction of the municipality and criteria for “nuisances” and “civilized” urban life. The International Settlement hence became a field of experiments where modern institutions of public management evolved from projects of managing “nuisances” were tried out for the first time in China. Moreover, the process of identifying and abating “nuisances” forced the Municipal Council and the residents of the International Settlement to constantly reflect on and negotiate the limits of municipal power and thus contributed to the legal and administrative foundation of this modern metropolis.

Qing Loyalists in Shanghai: Creating a Traditional Illusion of a Modern City
Dandan Chen, Farmingdale State College, SUNY, USA

After the downfall of the Qing Dynasty, a group of literati, including Shen Zengzhi, Chen Sanli, Zheng Xiaoxu and Wang Guowei, claimed themselves to be Qing loyalists and refused to acknowledge the newly established Republic. They substituted time that they considered to have stopped after the fall of the Qing with a space that they treated as being outside of the Republic – Shanghai. While loyalists in previous dynasties preferred to be hermits in remote mountains, these Qing loyalists chose to live in the Western concessions in this treaty port. Because of its relative political autonomy, Shanghai, at this historical moment, became a suspended space for Qing Loyalists to express their rejection of the new regime. This paper examines how Shanghai changed these loyalists’ way of expressing themselves both textually and in their daily life practices. While copying the life style of traditional loyalists - composing loyalist poems, organizing loyalist poetry societies, and writing history as a ritual of mourning of the Qing, their urban experiences changed the imageries in their poems. Descriptions of the landscape of modern Shanghai (i.e., public gardens, electric lights, and western-style buildings) replaced the appreciation of nature in traditional loyalist writings. While enjoying the material modernity, some of them also became modern business men who managed companies and stocks. The internal heterogeneity and complexity of Shanghai and the dialectics between tradition and modernity will be the focus of this paper. Just as Shanghai changed the loyalists, they changed Shanghai in their writings.

Imagining Socialist Shanghai
Jin Jiang, East China Normal University, China

The city of Shanghai had a complex relationship with the Communist revolution. The birth place of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and yet long a dubious symbol of modernization partly resulted from a humiliating foreign presence, Shanghai represented both opportunities and challenges to the conquering CCP regime when it was turning itself from a rural-based military force into a national government in the 1950s. This paper investigates the theorization and design for Shanghai’s future by the Communists during the early PRC period, exploring a number of issues: What did Shanghai, the most industrial but “bourgeois” city in China, mean to the revolutionary CCP? How did the CCP deal with the contradictions in the city’s history and images in its policy making in order to sketch out a new future for it and to designate a position for it in the large scheme of its plan for socialist modernization? How did the hinterland-based popular perceptions of the city as both fascinating and dangerous find their way into the CCP theorization alongside the orthodox Marxian imagination of the modern city as the hub of the working class? And how did the communist imagination and definition of the city compete and interact with other versions of Shanghai in various discursive formations? Reflections on these questions may open up new ways to understanding the nature of China’s modern transformation.