China Perspectives 2008/1


Sports and Politics

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China Perspectives 2008/1

China - Sports

Sport, Maoism and the Beijing Olympics: One Century One Ideology Page 4

Li-Ke ChangDong-Jhy Hwang

The development of sports in China since the 19th nineteenth century has been influenced to varying degrees by imperialism, nationalism, Maoism, and postcolonial thinking. This paper explores these ideologies and political practices connected with sport during this time from three angles: Mao’s early thoughtthinking on regarding physical culture and sport; the development of sports under Mao’s socialism and the Cultural Revolution; and China’s breakthrough in the post-Mao era. In sum, sport remains connected over time with the idea of “imagined Olympians�? and of a response to the “Sick Man complex.�?. TFinally, he advent of postcolonial thought thought  has opened the possibility of more diverse understandings of sports in China.

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China’s National Representation and the Two-China Question in the Olympic Movement: The Significance of the 1952 Helsinki Games Page 19

Xu Guoqi

This paper, through a case study of Beijing’s involvement in the 1952 Helsinki Olympic Games, provides a crucial historical analysis of China’s current obsession with the Olympic movement and the ongoing Beijing/Taipei dispute over the national representation issue. It demonstrates that both Beijing’s all-out campaign for the 2008 Games and the argument across the Strait about who should or should not represent China are nothing new, and are rooted in past experience.

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Physical Education and Moral Embodiment in Primary Schools of the People’s Republic of China Page 29

Gladys Chicharro-Saito

This article examines the Chinese practice of body molding of children through detailed analysis of “physical education” and “physical exercise” as taught in Chinese primary schools. It shows that while some practices from the Maoist period may remain in use today, they have evolved or their meaning has been changed for adaptation to new aims and to the circumstances of China’s only-child generation. Children must now embody a new set of moral values advocated by government.

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The Economics of Sport in China: A Maturing Sector . Page 40

Séverine Bardon

For a long time, sports in China were mainly organized in a way that maximized their contribution to national prestige. The emergence of a true sports market is a very recent phenomenon. Tracking the development of China’s sports market, this article argues that the industry has not yet reached its maturity and remains highly risky for investors.

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The Introduction of Sports in China (Research Note) Page 48

Aurélien Boucher

The term tiyu can refer to Chinese traditional practices as well as “sports�? as generally understood. While such a broad grouping of physical activities might appear surprising at first, it is not at all strange given the context in which sports were introduced in China.

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Controlling the Uncontrollable: The Migration of the Taiwanese Semiconductor Industry to China and Its Security Ramifications Page 54

Ming-Chin Monique Chu

This paper summarizes preliminary findings of a contextually rich case study that explores the link between globalisation and security. Following a broad-based and multidisciplinary widener’s approach, namely a broad-based and multidisciplinary approach, the paper explores the strategic aspects of the migration of the Taiwanese semiconductor industry to China as part of the globalization processes. Based on a triangulation of interviews and secondary data analyzed so thus far, the paper first explores the drivers of the industry migration and the means by which Taiwanese state regulations are violated by related business operations. It then contends that these profit-driven activities have triggered multi-layered strategic challenges for Taiwan and the USA involving technological and defences security. Four inter-linked aspects of the strategic ramifications are analyzed. They are: industrial base concerns; technological y-related risks associated with the dual-use nature of the chip technology and the issue of foreign supply of critical chips; concerns reinforced by mainland Chinese institutional reforms and perceptions; risks reinforced by the Taiwan factor. The paper concludes by calling for an embrace of a widener’s approach to the study of security.

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From the Great Rock to the Eastern Islet: The Politics of Citizen Engagement and Local Governance in China Page 70

Wu Guoguang

Based on the examples of protest movements that took place in the villages of Taishi and Dongzhou, the article explores the limits of “citizen engagement” in China today.

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Taiwan Elections 2008: Ma Ying-jeou’s Victory and the KMT’s Return to Power Page 79

Frank Muyard

After eight years of DPP administration, the 2008 legislative and presidential polls in Taiwan saw the Kuomintang return to power with the election of Ma Ying-jeou as the new president and an increased majority in the Parliament. Apart from the circumstantial factors behind this double victory, a detailed analysis of the poll results and comparisons with the results of previous elections reveals the recent evolution of an electorate that remains structurally oriented towards the KMT.

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China Analysis

Singapore: The Chinese path to political reform? Page 96

Mathieu Duchâtel

Analysis by Mathieu Duchâtel based on:
– Visit of the CPC Central Party School study group to Singapore, “The political party system in Singapore,�? Xuexi shibao (Study Times), n° 420, 14 January 2008.
– Visit of the Party School study group to Singapore, “The mechanisms of the fight against corruption in Singapore,�? Xuexi shibao (Study Times), n° 422, 28 January 2008.

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Review Essay

Tibet: Some Inconvenient Truths.Tibetan Experts Provide Answers to 100 Chinese Questions on Tibet Page 98

Françoise Robin

Review: Anne-Marie Blondeau, Katia Buffetrille (ed.), Authenticating Tibet: Answers to China’s 100 Questions, Berkeley, UC Press, 2008, 364 pp.

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Reign of Terror on the Tibetan Plateau Reading Woeser’s Forbidden Memory: Tibet During the Cultural Revolution Page 104

Yu Jie

Yu Jie, born in 1973 in Chengdu, won fame as an acerbic essayist in the late 1990s. A Beijing University graduate and self-declared Lu Xun imitator, he was dismissed from his first professional job at the China Modern Literature Museum in 2000 and chose to live by writing. He has championed various causes, including the US invasion of Iraq, right to religion in China (after he converted to Chirstianity), and reconciliation with Japan. He has openly said that before the current authorities’ dispute with Japan over past history, Mao had hailed the Japanese invasion as a means of weakening Chiang Kai-shek, and that far from honouring Nationalist Anti-Japanese fighters, the People’s Republic persecuted them as traitors. Yu Jie concluded that, “a sign of maturity of a people is its ability to have sufficient confidence to forgive.�?  Woeser, a Tibetan writing in Chinese, was relieved of her duties at the Tibetan Writers Association in 2003 after she published Notes on Tibet (Xizang biji), a collection of essays on the region’s culture. She lives in Beijing with Wang Lixiong, whom she met while he was researching his book Celestial funeral (Tianzang). Wang Lixiong, born in 1953, became famous with his novel Yellow Peril (Huanghuo) in 1991, has also for long been an advocate of Tibetan and Uighur cultures, as well as gradual democratisation in China. Moreover, he has taken up environmental causes, starting an NGO for that purpose as far back as in 1994.  Yu and Wang contributed to the 12-point proposals of Chinese intellectuals for resolving the Tibet conflict in March 2008. (S.V.)
Translated by N. Jayaram

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The Subversive “Pleasure of Thinking” Page 109

Sebastian Veg

Wang Xiaobo. Wang in Love and Bondage. Translated and with an introduction by Hongling Zhang and Jason Sommer. Albany: SUNY Press, 2007, 155 pp.

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Book Reviews

Ching Kwan Lee, Against the Law: Labor Protests in China’s Rustbelt and Sunbelt, Berkeley, University of California Press, 2007, 326 pp. Page 114

Anita Chan

This book is the first volume to thoroughly document the conditions of Chinese labour since economic reform began almost 30 years ago. Its comprehensiveness lies in the fact that it covers both state workers and migrant workers, giving them equal weight. It is well researched and filled with interesting details and personal anecdotes about the plight of those Chinese workers who have been left by the wayside under China’s breakneck industrializing policies. The book focuses on workers’ protest activities, their social identities, and their relationship with the new legal system, and is conceptual into the bargain. In short, it is a must-read for university courses.
The book is organised into seven chapters divided into four parts. The first part, “Decentralized Legal Authoritarianism,�? lays out the background of labour under the economic reforms and the establishment of a new regulatory labour regime. The second part, “Rustbelt: Protests of Desperation,�? deals with protests by state workers against layoffs, using Liaoning Province as an example. The third part, “Sunbelt: Protests Against Discrimination,�? focuses on migrant workers in Guangdong Province, their terrible working conditions, and their protest activities. The last part is “Chinese Labor Politics in Comparative Perspective,�? comparing Chinese workers with European workers during the industrial revolution, workers in the United States and Mexico, those in South Korea in the 1960s and 1970s, and workers in pre-liberation China, showing that the labour developments in present-day China are not unique. The book concludes with a slightly optimistic observation that there is now a “hidden alliance�? between workers and other groups such as farmers and urban home-owners who are using the law to struggle for their legal rights.
Lee makes several interesting points that have been neglected by other scholars studying Chinese labour. First is her emphasis on the “decentralized legal authoritarianism�? resulting from the Chinese government’s political and economic decentralisation. Lee sees this leading to differences in the localised ideological discourse that determines patterns of labour activism in the rustbelt and sunbelt: i.e., activism in the state sector as opposed to activism in the new non-state sectors; and the protest activities of state workers, which she refers to as “protest of desperation,�? as opposed to those of migrant workers, which she calls “protest against discrimination.�? The book devotes two chapters to state workers, who have encountered massive layoffs and taken to the streets in protests “fueled by moral courage and desperation,�? and two to migrant workers, who face exploitation and discrimination due to their  lack of “citizenship�? rights where they work.
While I agree that the environments and problems these two types of workers confront are very different, I disagree with Lee’s choice of terms to distinguish between them. If anything, the situation of migrant workers is more desperate than that of laid-off state workers. Far from home and lacking family and community support, they are made to work extremely long hours for illegally low pay. Laid-off workers still have homes, and even without work they often have some kind of safety net, however inadequate. The other characterization that does not seem entirely cogent is the implication that migrant workers are engaged in a “protest against discrimination�? for being denied the same rights as urban residents. Migrant workers do not protest against their lack of these rights. Instead, as pointed out by Lee herself, their protests are restricted to complaints over intolerable wages and work conditions. We have yet to hear of migrant workers demanding to be given the same rights and benefits as people who hold an urban hukou (household registration). The day when migrant workers demand abolition of the hukou system will mark the maturation of their consciousness.
The second important point emphasised by Lee and ignored by most other studies is that migrant workers still have a stake in the land and social commitments of the countryside, and their social identity remains with their places of origin. Chapter Six focuses on this, but an interesting development that Lee does not highlight in this fact-filled chapter is that migrant workers are beginning to reproduce themselves as a class. Quite a number of the migrant worker portraits in this chapter demonstrate that a second generation of migrant workers is emerging, and that it is no longer unusual for two generations—parents and grown children—to be working at the same time in urban factories. It is also no longer rare to see married migrant workers working together in the same factory or in nearby districts. This contradicts the long-held image of migrant workers composed mostly of single young women who work until they marry and are then replaced by another cohort of single young women.
Finally, a distinction is made between laid-off state workers being prone to collective street protests and migrant workers tending to use legal channels. It is true that migrant workers have become more conscious of their legal rights during the past decade and that the amount of litigation and number of court cases have soared. But does this suggest that migrants are more adept at resorting to legal procedures while state workers are less law-abiding and more militant? Migrant workers are also often reported to leave their factories and go marching on the streets, but this is a more effective tactic for state workers, who can appeal to local authorities in their capacity as local constituents. The higher litigation rate among migrant workers may also be due to the fact that the foreign-funded factories where they work do not have the mediation committees that tend to exist in state enterprises. Therefore, the only means by which a migrant worker can seek justice is to go outside the workplace, either to legal service agencies or NGOs for help in litigation, or to local labour bureaus to demand arbitration.
These are minor points, however, vis-à-vis an excellent book that provides us with valuable insights into the conditions of Chinese workers.


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He Qinglian, Wusuo Zhongguo. Zhongguo dalu kongzhi meiti celüe da jiemi (China locked in mist: Revelations on the Mainland’s policy to control the media), Taipei, Liming wenhua chubanshe, 2006, 462 pp. Page 115

David Bandurski

Trudge through the muck and mist of China’s media terrain and you will quickly feel lost. Government policies fog up with official jargon, and the gritty facts of the media and censorship at work can be even more mystifying. Fortunately, readers of Chinese can now navigate by the compass of He Qinglian’s China Locked in Mist, a thorough review of PRC media controls. The book is a welcome expansion of the slim and simply titled “Media Control in China,�? He’s 2003 research report prepared for the international NGO Human Rights in China.
China Locked in Mist begins with a sweep through the history of press and thought control in the People’s Republic of China, from the creation of the “socialist news system�? before 1949 to the “thought liberation movement�? of the 1980s and the post-Tiananmen regime of “public opinion guidance�? that adheres to this day. The first four chapters deal largely with the mechanics of control, including relevant laws, regulations, and the party and government apparatus. These sections, for the most part current, serve as a valuable reference, and in them He Qinglian covers a range of important issues – how secrecy laws are applied to the press; where various media fall within China’s political pecking order and how this impacts reporting; and how political indoctrination is carried out in the press ranks.
As the author slices through the complexity of her subject, however, she is often tempted to unfortunate oversimplifications. In most cases, these arise from an overbearing emphasis on control as the primary impulse and point of analysis for any and all media-related matters. In chapter one, for example, He Qinglian uses the word “purge,�? or zhengdun, to refer to a July 2003 State Council notice cracking down on forced subscriptions, a common practice by which government bodies routinely squeezed subordinate offices (and businesses) into paying substantial sums to subscribe to departmental publications. The notice, known as Document 19, outlawed this practice in order to “reduce the burden on peasants and the grassroots.�?
The author points out, rightfully, that Document 19 was a death sentence for hundreds of publications, which lost their financial lifelines and had to sink or swim in a competitive commercial market. But the policy was certainly not, as He suggests, a press “purge�? rolling back the gains of the 1990s, when commercialization spawned a variety of new publications. It may be true that these closures benefited core official media such as People’s Daily by shutting out unnecessary propaganda noise (offices and businesses were no longer deluged with official rags). But while He interprets them as a woeful loss of press diversity, they in fact had no material impact on the quality of journalism in China. Why? Because these publications weren’t concerned with journalism – they were honey pots for greedy government officials.
When it was happening, hard-hitting journalism was happening elsewhere, at the likes of Southern Weekend and Southern Metropolis Daily, both commercial spin-offs of Guangdong’s official Nanfang Daily, at older press strongholds such as China Youth Daily, published by the Chinese Communist Youth League, and at commercially oriented magazines such as Caijing and China Newsweekly (the latter a venture of the official China News Service).
The strange and tense love triangle between party control, commercialisation, and professional journalism in China is one of the key puzzles any scholar of China’s media must work out. How does one reconcile the independent strain in Chinese journalism – investigative reporting, a growing diversity of editorial views, etc. – with a draconian system of censorship controls? While controls are an ever-present reality in China, they are not the only or necessarily the best way to decode the complexities of China’s media.
The distorting lens of control misdirects He Qinglian’s conclusions again at the outset of chapter two, in which the author reviews the various laws and regulations relevant to media control. She follows a helpful list of notices and statutes with this windup:
On the surface, the abovementioned laws and regulations might be more concerned with regulation than with political control, but combine these with the media control actions of the Communist Party’s propaganda authorities and you understand that their true purpose is control. Under the strict control of the government, these so-called ‘media’ are in fact merely a massive mechanism for propaganda, true to the name they have been given by the Chinese government: ’mouthpieces.’
While control is the primary motivation behind these laws and regulations, He’s broad application of the misleading and historically loaded term “mouthpiece�? sweeps away a rich body of complicating facts, not least a growing gap in coverage between “party�? newspapers, or dangbao, and commercial papers.
The strength and utility of He Qinglian’s book lies in its compilation of relevant facts about media control in China – key cases, dates, and regulations. But it seems at times that the author has set out to write a tragedy, and that her reading of the facts is held captive by this narrative vision.
In chapter eight, for example, we are treated to a generally sound re-telling of the birth of the muckraking Southern Weekend, including its commercial and intellectual foundations. But the image that hangs at the end of the chapter – which is given the slightly melodramatic title, “A thorny rose nipped away�? – is of a newspaper destroyed, a white chalk outline at the murder scene. While one could validly argue that Southern Weekend is not quite the troublemaker it used to be, it is premature to declare the newspaper’s death. The same is true of other media on the author’s list of casualties at the end of chapter eight, notably the China Youth Daily supplement Freezing Point. He Qinglian makes no mention of the supplement’s eventual re-launch in 2006, nor does she account for the fact that many within China’s media – including Freezing Point’s former top editor Li Datong – read the affair as an illustration of change as well as control.
Control is real and at times savage. As scholars of China’s media we must shrewdly observe the party’s determined attempts to refine and improve censorship. But we cannot deny that China’s media today are alive, changing, and full of surprises. If all we can manage to see as we train our eyes through the mist is a row of melancholy grave markers, then we must ask ourselves whether that fog might be our own.

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Leo Suryadinata (ed.), Southeast Asia’s Chinese Businesses in an Era of Globalization: Coping with the rise of China, Singapore, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2006, 374 pp. Page 117

Claudia Astarita

Globalisation and the emergence of China as an economic power are two of the most significant international developments of recent decades, and have had a profound impact on the socio-political and economic background of the Southeast Asia region. Leo Suryadinata’s book focuses on three issues: the rise of China and its impact on Southeast Asia’s economies and businesses, especially on those involving ethnic Chinese; Southeast Asian government policies—particularly economic and business policies—towards local ethnic Chinese; and Southeast Asian Chinese business in the era of globalisation. The book highlights the roles that ethnic Chinese have played in the region, and explores whether China’s rise has had a positive or negative impact on the economic development of Southeast Asian countries. As every country in the region has different social and economic characteristics, the analysis is split into sections describing the cases of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand.
Analysing the implications of China’s economic rise for Southeast Asia as a whole, John Wong and Sarasin Viraphol observe that while the launch of China’s economic reforms in the late 1970s was expected to disrupt the economic growth of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), over the long run it has proven to be not only a new engine for development in the Asian region, but also a catalyst for integrating the Southeast Asian economies. Wong explains how the dreaded competition has been transformed into mutually advantageous development, while acknowledging uncertainty in the development of China-ASEAN relations vis-à-vis China’s intended geo-political role. Viraphol, on the other hand, emphasises the idea that China and ASEAN can join in creating a multilaterally beneficial economic region thanks to the “goodwill approach�? of the People’s Republic. Moreover, Viraphol parts with Wong in underlining the importance of overseas Chinese entrepreneurs in forming a network to mobilise global resources of capital, market, know-how, and talent in the first phase of China’s economic development.
As the first case study presented in the book, Indonesia is analysed from three different perspectives by Djisman S. Simandjuntak, Thee Kian Wie, Sujoko Efferin, and Wiyono Pontjoharyo. Simandjuntak argues that given the transitional nature of the development China and Indonesia are facing, no long-term conclusions can be drawn on the effects of China’s rise on Indonesia. Nevertheless, the author believes that a strong Indonesian economy is crucial to the emergence of new synergies between the two countries. Thee Kian Wie focuses on the attitude of the Indonesian government towards Chinese minorities, finding that the post-Suharto government has allowed ethnic Chinese to expand their activities beyond the economic sphere into other domains, including politics. Finally, Efferin and Pontjoharyo examine the characteristics and management styles of Chinese Indonesian businessmen through a survey of their activities in East Java.
In their case study of Malaysia, Lee Poh Ping and Lee Kam Hing highlight the opportunities that the “opening�? of China offers to Malaysian investors generally and Malaysian Chinese in particular. Some negative aspects of China’s rise are also explored, although it is argued that a more supportive government may be able to overcome any obstacles. As Thee Kian Wie does for Indonesia, Ho Khai Leong examines the Malaysian government’s economic policies towards the Chinese minority, demonstrating how the economic potential of Malaysian Chinese has been hindered by official policies and regulations promoting wealth redistribution to the advantage of Malays. Finally, Leong Kai Hin presents the results of his survey on the impact of globalisation on Malaysian Chinese businesses and the strategies they have adopted to face such challenges, finding that while large firms have benefited from globalisation and the rise of China, the same is not true for small and medium enterprises.
In their examination of the Philippines in the third case study, Teresita Ang See and Go Bon Juan argue that the threat China poses to Southeast Asia, and specifically to the Philippines, is exaggerated, if not baseless. While acknowledging that some Filipino small and medium-sized companies have suffered from competition with Chinese firms, the authors stress that the benefits from Chinese Filipinos doing business with China outweigh the disadvantages, and present five empirical cases to support this contention. Ellen H. Palanca looks at the business environment—determined by politics and public policies—faced by Chinese in the Philippines since the colonial period, and how it has affected their industries. She concludes that the business environment was volatile and generally unfavourable before the mass naturalisation in 1975, with nationalistic policies restricting the types of business and even the professions Chinese could enter. Nevertheless, once members of the Chinese minority obtained Filipino citizenship, their gradual integration into mainstream Filipino society led to their rapid emergence as a powerful elite.
Ng Beoy Kui describes the problems posed to Singapore by globalisation and the growth of China. The author discovers that Singapore started encouraging ethnic Chinese businessmen to invest in China only after the establishment of diplomatic relations with China in 1990. However, he concludes that ethnic Chinese enterprises in Singapore are not homogeneous, and any attempt to stereotype overseas Chinese business would be seriously misleading.
Finally, Pavida Pananond illustrates her views on Chinese business tycoons in Thailand through a profile of the most well-known Chinese-owned company, the Charoen Pokphand Group. She concludes that while the founders’ ethnicity and extensive networks in China may have contributed to the group’s initial success, the challenges it is facing now have less to do with ethnicity and more with business competence.
Describing the impact of China’s rise throughout Southeast Asia is in itself a challenge, and Leo Suryadinata’s book confines itself to offering fact-based insights without venturing to draw a synthetic conclusion. Nevertheless, the book presents a wide and multifaceted frame of reference that serves as a good starting point for further analysis.

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Thomas J. Berghuis, Performance Art in China, Hong Kong, Timezone 8 Limited, 2006, 310 pp. Page 118

Emmanuel Lincot

Performance Art in China is a major work published by Robert Bernell, founder of Timezone 8 publishers and owner of a bookshop at Dashanzi in Beijing. Written by Thomas J. Berghuis, a young researcher who worked with the guidance of Australian Sinologist John Clark, this is the first book on a largely unknown subject, and consists of an introduction and eight chapters replete with often rare illustrations, an extensive chronology, an index highly useful for looking up artists’ names both in Pinyin and in Chinese characters, and a bibliography revealing the remarkable amount of work the author put in. Berghuis has gleaned much information from the renowned art critic and event organiser Li Xianting, as well as from the late Hans Van Dijk, who with the help of the artist Ai Weiwei set up an art archive and warehouse in Beijing tracing China’s artistic evolution over the last quarter century.
Although it may seem to be floating in detail, this is in fact an enthralling study. Performance art is a form of intervention that involves working with one’s own body and showing oneself physically during a private or public demonstration. In fact, the word “performance,�? which in English has the sense of a show or a representation and which in Mandarin Chinese is referred to as biaoyan yishu, is now used to refer to all artistic activity that takes place in front of onlookers and is accompanied by music (sound art), dance, poetry, theatre, or video, or contains some combination of these elements. Berghuis notes historical precedents of performance art in the West and their links to other modes of expression: body art, happenings, and Fluxus (flow) events. The most salient aspect of this book is that it shows how in both the West and in China aesthetics are overshadowed by ethical concerns. Thus it is no longer a matter of erecting a cult of beauty, but of seriously questioning the inherently arbitrary nature of collective values or the circumstances of daily life. It is sociology in action.
This aspect is illustrated by the choice of the book’s own cover art, which shows a famous 1985 painting entitled Triple Mao Zedong by Ai Weiwei, along with a photograph of the performer Ma Liuming between the renowned British performance artists Gilbert and George, labelled “living sculptures�? and taken in Beijing’s East Village in 1993. Between the creation of these two images, which complicate the thesis argued by Berghuis, the events of 1989 occurred. Apart from the crackdown against demonstrators in Tiananmen Square on June 4, that year also saw an event on February 5 that was of considerable importance in Chinese artistic history: the censoring of the national exhibition of “experimental art�? (shiyan meishu) featuring a performance by artists Tang Song and Xiao Lu during which Xiao fired on their installation, a telephone kiosk ironically called duihua (“dialogue�?). It anticipated the impossibility of communication between civil society and the authorities and was definitively translated by the literal application of the young Mao Zedong’s dictum in April 1917: “In order to civilize the mind one must first make savage the body.�?  Retrospectively, the event also presaged the abandonment by a growing number of artists of painting as a system (with its institutions, practices, models, discourses, and economics), as well as their rejection of the veritable secular cult that obliged art to seek answers not as evidence but from the viewpoint of critical anthropology.
Berghuis does not delve deeply into these aspects, nor does he explore an important precedent, the Gutaï movement in Japan in the 1950s. It would have been worth knowing if the Gutaï group had any influence on the performance artist Kwok Mang-ho, who went to Beijing in the 1970s during the first Chinese avant-garde wave represented by artists such as those in the Stars Group (Xing Xing pai). Berghuis mentions the ideas of Georges Bataille, especially the notion of “dépense�? or unproductive expenditure, which seeks to justify the artistic initiatives of several generations in China subjected to physical tests in their rapport with the authorities. The reference to Bataille is pertinent, given the fascination he had for the infamous 1905 photograph by Louis Carpeaux of a Chinese torture victim, which shocked him with a veritable revelation of eroticism lighting up a face writhed in agony. But the parallel ends there. Zhu Yu’s Pocket theology (January 1999), showing a severed arm bought cheaply from a morgue in Beijing, might certainly assert – in the manner of a Bataille – the power of a negativity that is not a passage towards a true positiveness, and which is incapable of striking a rapport between the present and the past and thus of articulating a new present.
Meanwhile, a huge majority of Chinese artists belong to one or more affiliations that form a mosaic of tonalities ranging from a claim to Dadaism to its rejection through heuristic violence. This claim might also take the form of recourse to the longest tradition – that of Daoism – as well as to the most recent, namely the Cultural Revolution, that traumatic Maoist episode that Berghuis has no hesitation in comparing to the post-war European environment that gave rise to the German artist Anselm Kiefer.
Translated by N. Jayaram

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Wen-hsin Yeh, Shanghai Splendor: Economic Sentiments and the Making of Modern China, 1843-1949, Berkeley, University of California Press, 2007, 305 pp. Page 119

Marie-Claire Bergère

This study looks at the daily life of employees in Shanghai and the ways in which they tried to establish the respectability of their professions and, more generally, of the modernisation effort to which they were allied. The emergence and social and cultural evolution of this new middle class of “petty urbanites�? is charted over a long period – from the Opium War (1839-42) until the 1949 revolution. Closely linked to and subject to employers’ whims at first, the middle class distanced itself when confronted with the effects of the Sino-Japanese war: submission to paternalistic patrons was replaced by confrontations with capitalists deemed predators and willing collaborators with the enemy. The author points out that Shanghai, which emerged as the centre of economic modernisation as well as the place from which the new urban culture took shape and spread, owes its pre-eminence to the emergence of this new middle class.
The book contains seven chronologically and thematically arranged chapters. After setting out what she calls “the material turn�? in Chinese society as it opened itself to more materialistic and rational conceptions of the world, the author goes on in the second chapter to describe the development of the science of management (shang xue), at first on the initiative of institutions and social networks – chambers of commerce, associations, technical colleges – and then, from 1927, under the direction of the Nationalist government, which placed special emphasis on standardising accounting procedures.
The third chapter, “Visual Politics and Shanghai Glamour,�? picks up themes already considered at length in works such as Inventing Nanjing Road: Commercial Culture in Shanghai: 1900-1945, edited by Sherman Cochran (Ithaca, New York., 1999) – advertising, the growth of department stores, new sales techniques, new ways of consumption, and adoption of concepts and products through anti-foreign boycotts and campaigns favouring “national products�? (guohuo). Then follows an evocation of the daily life of employees, governed by clockwork corporate discipline. The straitjacket this put them in was such that employees, confined to residential areas built and run by enterprises such as Bank of China, were obliged to follow their bosses’ precepts even in planning their leisure. The paternalistic ideology that buttressed such social control, at once Confucian and modernist, was disseminated by the press. One of the most influential press organs in this respect, the Shenghuo zhoukan (Life Weekly), is examined in the sixth chapter.
However, the press also echoed the mounting difficulties faced by “petty urbanites�? during the 1930s. Using readers’ letters and social vignettes published at the time in the crypto-communist bi-weekly Dushu shenghuo (Reading and Livelihood), the seventh chapter brings out the anguish felt by employees who, confronting an economic crisis, turned to collective action and increasingly put their faith in intervention by a benevolent state. After 1937, the hardship of war and occupation pitted the middle class against the bosses, who were often suspected of collaborating with the enemy. This evolution is illustrated through the story of Gu Zhun, an expert accountant whose social activism and patriotic zeal led him to join the Communist Party in 1936 and to a major role in the municipal administration following the revolution. In conclusion, the author evokes the wave of nostalgia for Old Shanghai that has drowned out historiography and politics.
One gets a sense of déjà-vu from this book. It has no surprises, being based largely on research carried out in the 1980s and 1990s and published at that time in numerous works and articles, including by the author herself. These texts are not merely referenced, but are often quoted at length verbatim. Of greater value are newly-mined documentary sources, such as the internal correspondence of the Wing On Company or the diaries and autobiographical notes of Gu Zhun. The second chapter focusing on the development of scientific management likewise seems to be the result of recent research and is thus of great interest. The bibliography, despite updating, suffers somewhat from time lag.
For good or for ill, the work illustrates the predominant culturalist current in American historiography on China in the late twentieth century, Yeh herself being one of its more prominent representatives. One notes with pleasure the qualities that have contributed to the success of this historian and her articles on Bank of China employees, on Shenghuo weekly, or on collaboration in Shanghai: an abundance of archival and documentary sources, narration of significant anecdotes, psychological examination, and vivacious style. But there are also the chronological and historical  imprecision and vague sociological definitions that often characterise the culturalist approach.
Having tapped a vein near exhaustion, the work appears, like its subject, a bit “retro.�? It will nevertheless be useful to those who have not followed the developments in historical work devoted to Shanghai. The book is pleasant reading and offers some penetrating observations on the process of modernisation, while serving as an accessible reference for those wanting to understand the reasons for Shanghai mania.
Translated by N. Jayaram

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Alan Baumler, The Chinese and Opium under the Republic: Worse than Floods and Wild Beasts, Albany, State University of New York Press, 2007, 298 pp. Page 121

Xavier Paulès

Although the title hints at a discussion of the social impact of opium, this book is more about policies devised to control the substance. As the last in a series of studies undertaken in the United States in the 1990s focusing on the policy challenges relating to opium in the twentieth century,  Baumler’s work is handicapped by having to cover familiar ground without offering any outstandingly original perspectives.
Baumler sets out to describe the evolution of how opium came to be perceived as a social problem and how that influenced policies towards it during China’s republican era. The first three chapters treat the period before the pivotal year of 1919, when the last stocks of opium imported from India were destroyed. These initial chapters attempt no more than a synthesis of existing scholarship on the subject, and while the distilled information is unquestionably important, it hardly sheds new light. Of greater interest is Chapter 5, which analyses Kuomintang (KMT) policies in the late 1920s. This was a confusing and relatively obscure period during which the party’s attempts to set up a nationwide opium monopoly to its benefit were frustrated by the complexity and magnitude of the drug trade. Raw opium was produced largely in interior provinces and transported over great distances to major centres on the coast, where a network of wholesalers, retailers, and opium dens took charge of reaching the actual consumers. But the KMT’s hold on the country and society was ultimately too tenuous for it to smoothly operate such a vast trafficking machine, while at the same time facing pressures from the anti-opium lobby, most notably the National Anti-Opium Association. Baumler also carefully sets out the less well-known role played by the KMT chapters in Zhejiang and Jiangsu (p 124-25).
The failure of these premature attempts to create a monopoly over the entire drug trade led the KMT to try for control over major opium shipments along the Yangzi, the vital artery linking the main poppy-growing provinces (Sichuan, Yunnan) to Shanghai. In May 1929, Chiang Kai-shek gained control of the strategic port of Hankou, previously in the hands of the Guangxi clique, and soon afterwards established an inspection bureau that became the centrepiece of the opium administration that took shape in the following years. Enjoying surveillance over the main opium trade route in China, Chiang was well placed to gradually extend control over poppy production as well as the various distribution networks.
It was only as part of the Six Year Plan to Eliminate Opium and Drugs announced in 1935 (covered in the book’s last three chapters) that Chiang Kai-shek sought to impose a countrywide control over opium distribution. The declared aim was to proceed towards eradication of opium by gradually reducing the quantities produced and the number of people authorised to smoke it. The major initiatives were initially aimed at curtailing consumption, backed by major propaganda work, registration of smokers, and the opening of a number of clinics to cure addicts. When the Japanese invasion in 1937 caused the government to lose control of the major consumption areas along the east coast, it focused its efforts on gaining greater control of Sichuan, which was at the heart of the main poppy growing zones, and acted effectively to reduce the area under cultivation. By the end of the plan period in April 1940, the KMT was able to claim its campaign a success, an assessment that Baumler generally endorses while noting that the drug was still far from having been eradicated.
A positive aspect of the book worth mentioning is its varied regional focus. It is well known that during the so-called Nanjing Decade (which ended in 1937), many warlords pursued their own opium policies in order to maintain control of the revenues generated by the drug. Meanwhile, Baumler points out, the case of Zhejiang was particularly interesting: Far from being under the sway of a local strongman, Zhejiang was one of Chiang’s best-controlled provinces, yet between 1927 and 1935, the province managed to run a quasi-independent opium regime. At the same time, Zhejiang witnessed real efforts at eradicating opium, and it was in that spirit that local authorities (backed by the Zhejiang branch of the Anti-Opium Association) defied Chiang Kai-shek. Chiang simply had to comply, despite his wish to see Zhejiang take part in the lucrative opium trade under his overall control, even though that went against the anti-drug campaign (p 146-149).
In his localised examination of the issue, Baumler has shown the direction future research should take. Monographic studies focusing on individual provinces are especially needed in order to better understand the way in which the central government’s opium policies were implemented on the local level.
A final observation is that the author has been rather economical in terms of endnotes, while maps and a glossary are sorely missed. The work is also peppered with glaring proofreading errors, especially in the notes and bibliography.

Translated by N. Jayaram

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Huaiyin Li, Village Governance in North China 1875-1936, Stanford University Press, 2005, 325 pp. Page 122

Xiaohong Xiao-planes

Li Huaiyin focuses on Chinese rural society in Huailu County in south-central Hebei Province, especially on forms of village administration and their relations with state power in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The work follows a research path taken since the 1960s and 70s by historians Hsiao Kung-chuan, Ch’ü T’ung-tsu, Saeki Tomi, and John Watt,  who concentrated on the organisation and functioning of village sub-group institutions called lijia, baojia, xiangbao, baozheng, and libao, among others. These semi-official administrators helped magistrates by collecting taxes and ensuring social order. The works of Philip Huang and Prasenjit Duara in the 1980s regarding rural North China updated this historiography.  Huang scoured the rich archives in the Baodi sub-prefecture of north-eastern Hebei and found ordinary villagers who did not belong to the gentry performing the function of xiangbao (rural administrators). Thus, the configuration of power in rural society appears to have been more complex than might have been expected. Duara, for his part, characterised the role of village leaders as a sort of protection brokerage in which they served as go-betweens in the pre-modern Chinese state, allowing the imperial state to be present in the countryside without being actually installed there.
Li’s work belongs to this line of historiographic revisionism. Having gained access to the archives of Huailu County, he traces a certain type of rural governance based on the institution of xiangdi, a sort of village agent or assistant. Unlike the xiangbao in north-eastern Hebei, who acted as an intermediary administrator between the local government and some 20-odd villages under his jurisdiction, the xiangdi in Huailu functioned between the local yamen and his own village. Li thus bases his study on a micro-history of the village, or so it would seem.
In fact, the institution of xiangdi formed the relational interface between rural communities and the administration, since its main function consisted of levying and delivering taxes to the state. The archives consulted belonged to the Huailu County yamen and covered a period from the Guangxu Era until the 1930s. Li identified a total of 200 villages in the area. Most of them had just one xiangdi, but some had more, depending on the number of village subdivisions (pai). There were about 500 xiangdi in all, and this number remained stable throughout the period studied.
It is plausible that the xiangdi system was created in the eighteenth century, following the fiscal reforms of the Yongzheng Emperor in 1726, as a means of circumventing the role of intermediaries and yamen clerks in tax collection. In principle, villagers took turns performing the xiangdi function, but in practice, the selection process depended on the traditional social structures of the villages, such as clans (zu) and their branches (fang), who took it upon themselves to choose a family charged with serving as xiangdi. Some villages rotated the title based on a family’s landholdings or tax quota, and exempted the poorest families from xiangdi service.
The concrete task of the xiangdi was to punctually collect taxes and, if necessary, advance the sums needed for deferred or temporary charges. To fulfil these obligations, the xiangdi could use the funds of the village community or the clan, or even borrow from shopkeepers (puhu) or traditional bankers (qianzhuang). They had to then collect the taxes they had paid in advance on behalf of the villagers, and transfer responsibility to their successors at the end of the year. The xiangdi role was deemed a public duty to the community and was not remunerated. On the other hand, the xiangdi enjoyed a legal status as middleman in local transactions, for which he was allowed to draw a small commission. All of the relevant rules – modalities of nomination, duration of mandate, responsibilities of the xiangdi, villagers’ obligation to repay sums advanced as taxes on their behalf – were clearly set out in village regulations (cungui, xianggui or paigui). These rules, considered to hold the utmost authority, were handed down through generations and regulated interpersonal relations well into the 1920s in Huailu, the author notes.
The status and position of the xiangdi had the implicit backing of the cantonal administration. Magistrates depended on them to pay taxes in advance, and endorsed the prerogatives of the xiangdi as set out in village regulations. As Li Huaiyin describes it, however, even under this efficient cooperative machinery, village communities in Huailu were far from being an idyllic, harmonious society based on Confucian precepts. Conflicts broke out over rejection of xiangdi service, the refusal to pay taxes paid in advance on villagers’ behalf, rivalries over the selection of xiangdi, or the use of communal funds. The yamen archives from which Li drew much information consisted mostly of administrative files. These showed that villagers appealed to the state representative any time the community or inter-community arrangements proved insufficient to settle disputes. Using this data, Li analyses the arguments of complainants and the accused, especially the community norms to which they routinely referred. These were the principles and regulations of the cungui, which the villagers internalised and respected widely, and the magistrates affirmed in their judgements. The village statutes were thus ratified by the authorities, acquiring a doubly coercive force that governed both the community’s internal life and its rapport with the external authorities.
For state representatives, this institutional flexibility had great merit; the xiangdi who delivered up the taxes on behalf of the population ensured close to 100 percent compliance in Huailu during the period studied. In view of this, magistrates tended to delegate new functions to the xiangdi, such as the task of maintaining order, electing village chiefs, or setting up and maintaining primary schools. The stable role of the xiangdi helped the cantonal council (xian canyihui), composed of local elites, to successfully resist tax increases on several occasions during the 1910-1920 period.
The author also considers the issue of state penetration into the countryside during the New Policy (xinzheng) period after 1900 and during the Nationalist era by examining institutions introduced in Huailu. Imposed from above, these were soon rendered ineffective and unreliable, as they lacked financial backing and local participation.
Li’s study is measured and rigorous and calls attention to the oft-cited but perhaps insufficiently stressed notion of China’s great diversity. The work also draws attention to the extraordinary socio-cultural wealth of the region, and forcefully highlights the condition that is a sine qua non for building a nation-state, namely the population’s voluntary participation in the enterprise.
Translated by N. Jayaram

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