Panel 1: “Binding Maritime China: Historiography Past and Present”
- Zhao Gang, University of Akron: “Bringing Them to Spatial Revolution: A Preliminary Study of How the Private Charts Reshaped the Chinese Understanding of the Global Integration from 1400 to 1840”
- Matthew Mosca, William and Mary University & University of Washington, Seattle: “The Qing Maritime Information Order to 1840: Turning Points in Historiographical Perspective.”
- Matthew Linton, Brandeis University: “Approaching China from the Sea: Situating China in American Area Studies.”
Zhao Gang, University of Akron: “Bringing Them to Spatial Revolution: A Preliminary Study of How the Private Charts Reshaped the Chinese Understanding of the Global Integration from 1400 to 1840”
Different from the traditional view that emphasizes the central role of the world map brought by the Jesuits on the Chinese vision of the transnational network of trade, this paper turns to the significant contribution that the native popular navigational guidebooks made in this regard. It was the popular sailors who developed and compiled different kinds of navigational guidebooks in their long-term process of voyages from about 1300 to 1600 to various regions and countries in maritime Asia. This literature not only served a practical purpose, but it also offered the revolutionary view that different countries and regions were not isolated from each other but in a transnational system, where sea routes linked them together. The political, economic, and military significance of such vision in that popular literature came to the attention of Chinese coastal officials and scholars. That transitional framework became a tool upon which the elites relied for considering the emerging global reality that involved China, politically and economically, and had more influence on the Chinese policies on maritime Asia than the latter.
Matthew Mosca, William and Mary University & University of Washington, Seattle: “The Qing Maritime Information Order to 1840: Turning Points in Historiographical Perspective”
In their seminal 1941 article “On the Ch’ing Tributary System,” S. Y. Teng and John K. Fairbank briefly introduced Chinese writings about the maritime world and pointed out the need for further research. Over 70 years later, much remains to be understood about these works and the context in which they were composed. In the English-speaking world, this neglect is due in part to Fairbank’s own later dismissal of Chinese descriptions the maritime world written before 1840 as fundamentally out of touch with reality. Although scholars in China have studied these works in greater detail, they have tended toward a narrowly textual approach, leaving largely unchallenged the view that Qing research on the maritime world before the Opium War was fatally inadequate to prepare the dynasty for the looming Western threat. This paper attempts a reconsideration of these writings by investigating and comparing the context of the production of two major Chinese accounts of the maritime world, the Haiguo wenjian lu (completed 1730) and the Hai lu (completed 1820). On this basis, it attempts to sketch a fuller picture of the evolving ways in which information about the maritime world was collected, interpreted, and disseminated in Chinese scholarship before 1840. Finally, it will compare maritime developments to trends evident on the Inner Asian frontier to determine which key turning points in maritime-related geographic writing derived from specifically maritime factors, and which were linked to empire-wide trends in frontier-related scholarship and cartography. It argues that these writings are best understood in a political and intellectual framework that links coastal trends to developments elsewhere in the Qing state and intellectual sphere.
Matthew Linton, Brandeis University: “Approaching China from the Sea: Situating China in American Area Studies”
In Solution in Asia (1945) Johns Hopkins University Professor Owen Lattimore cautioned that, “we [the United States] need to think of Asia not as a number of scattered regions to be approached by sea, or even by air, but as a vast, continuous area” (21). While Lattimore’s warning was primarily directed toward American policymakers and the public that influenced their decisions, it could – in equal measure – be interpreted as a warning to Far Eastern area studies. Changes in thinking about social science during World War II had led many scholars to eschew national explanations for current events and instead try to understand the world by looking at cultural, social, and political continuities across national boundaries. Far Eastern studies, which encompassed a geographical area stretching from Burma to Eastern Siberia and out to the Philippines, was a fledgling discipline that looked to area studies as a way to overcome shortages in trained personnel and gaps in research. Despite embracing the new method however, Far Eastern area studies continued to view Asia from a maritime perspective through trade, immigration, and diplomacy. Early Far Eastern studies defined China as maritime: a place of treaty ports and foreign trade. To these scholars, beyond maritime China lurked a vast, unknown space brimming with malnourished and uneducated peasants eking out a meager existence on small parcels of land. Americans saw tremendous economic and missionary potential in inland China, but it remained unclear how that potential could be realized in the immediate future. My paper will examine how a new generation of Far Eastern area specialists including Lattimore, Karl A. Wittfogel, and John K. Fairbank reoriented study of contemporary China by moving the focus away from maritime China and towards continental Asia. These scholars were aided by the political turmoil in both the United States and China in the 1940s which generated interest in their field and reoriented it toward inland Asia: the movement of the Nationalist capital to Chongqing, the rise of the Chinese Communist Party in remote Yenan, and fierce debate over the roles of the Soviet Union and Japan in Manchuria. These experts encountered resistance from older scholars who questioned the orientation of their approach to China and its relevance to American interests in the country. While the Asian continental approach gained traction in 1947, the onset of the Cold War shifted intellectual debates about method to more politically charged discussions about anti-communism and national self-determination. These debates would imperil the field as the Chinese Communist Party ascended to leadership in 1949.
- Michael Szonyi, Harvard University: “Soldiers, Smugglers and Pirates on China’s Southeast Coast: Military Households (Junhu) and the Maritime Asia Trade in the Ming.”
- Frederic D. Grant Jr., Boston: “Regulating Prosperity: The Management of China’s Maritime Foreign Trade, 1500-1843.”
- Andrew Liu, Villanova University: “Comprador under Control: The Chinese Export Tea Trade during the Second World War.”
- Philip Thai, Northeastern University: “’A Still Serious Matter’: Coastal Smuggling, Illicit Markets, and Survival Strategies in the Early People’s Republic.”
Michael Szonyi, Harvard University: “Soldiers, Smugglers and Pirates on China’s Southeast Coast: Military Households (Junhu) and the Maritime Asia Trade in the Ming”
Soldiers in garrison towns along China’s southeast coast in the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) were charged with preventing illegal overseas trade and piracy. Why did many of them engage in the very activities they were supposed to suppress? The explanation lies in the institutional imperatives of the Ming military system of garrisons and hereditary military households (junhu). Rather than studying these institutions as responses to smuggling and piracy, it is also possible to consider illegal activities and state institutions as mutually constitutive of one another. By looking at the family strategies pursued by hereditary military households, strategies ranging from loyal service to piracy to desertion, I will try to shed light on three issues: the links between the Ming military and the Asian trade ecumene; the relationship between state institutions and illegality, and, more broadly, the interaction between state policies and everyday life in the Ming.
Frederic D. Grant Jr., Boston: “Regulating Prosperity: The Management of China’s Maritime Foreign Trade, 1500-1843”
With the explosive growth and enormous scale of China’s modern foreign trade has come a renewed interest in the history of China’s maritime trade. The origins of the current boom, in decisions made by Deng Xiaoping, Zhao Ziyang and others starting in 1978, is known and widely celebrated. Less attention has been paid to the 1683 decision by the Kangxi Emperor to open China to maritime foreign trade, and the surge that followed. Each decision followed periods of devastation, the Cultural Revolution on the one hand and the horrors of conquest and the privations of the Kangxi Depression on the other. In each case, legal and regulatory decisions made by national leaders helped produce domestic prosperity. China tied itself to external traders and markets over which it had little control, and enjoyed an economic flowering the continuance of which depended materially on foreign traders and markets. This paper will examine the legal and regulatory systems developed by Chinese leaders to manage China’s maritime foreign trade during the period 1500 through 1843. Its scope will include the Canton System, regulations at other ports (such as Macao and Ningbo), parallel regulations of the bengang and fuchao hang (junk trade), and structures of administrative reporting and supervision. Its focus will be on the theory, practice and objectives of these trade regulations. The paper will argue that the central dilemma faced by Qing era regulators was one of dependence. How could meaningful control be exercised over foreign trade and sometimes restive trading partners while minimizing the risks to a rejuvenated and dependent economy of disruptions or cessations of trade?
Andrew Liu, Villanova University: “Comprador under Control: The Chinese Export Tea Trade during the Second World War.”
This paper examines the relationship between maritime shipping for the export tea trade and the politics of rationalizing and “controlling” (tongzhi) production in the hinterlands. I begin by analyzing and narrating how the export tea trade, primarily based in Shanghai, was dislocated and rerouted to Hong Kong, as eastern China gradually fell under occupation to Japan. I examine, in particular, the years 1938 and 1939, the most eventful years of political intervention into the tea trade. The circulation of tea and credit from countryside to treaty port was marked by fits and starts, rising and falling with the rhythms of wartime chaos. In 1938, the Japanese military forced the industry to leave Shanghai for Hong Kong. This event exposed the irrational structure of the tea trade, for the closing of Shanghai had crashed the prices at which peasants could sell raw materials to factories, and the subsequent reopening in Hong Kong had inflated sales prices and netted factory managers lofty profits, even as the peasantry suffered ruin. At the same time, however, this relocation also ended a century-long pattern of dominance by Shanghai-based comprador merchants over inland production and circulation, but it also created a vacuum of power and capital that produced baleful consequences the following season. In the second half of my paper, I shall contextualize the end of the Shanghai merchants’ stranglehold within a decade-long attempt by nationalist reformers to rationalize and “control” the trade. Policies of tongzhi jingji meant taking the trade out of the hands of usurious merchants and lenders and empowering tea peasants and labor as the new agents of the industry. Reformers imagined their policies as a battle for the soul of the Chinese countryside, one wherein feudal remnants squared off against the unlocked potential of the peasantry. My larger claim is that we need to both interpret twentieth-century Chinese political economy as an assertion of modern production (peasantry and labor) against an early modern system grounded upon circulation (merchants and “compradors”) but also historicize these categories in a more integrated approach.
Philip Thai, Northeastern University: “’A Still Serious Matter’: Coastal Smuggling, Illicit Markets, and Survival Strategies in the Early People’s Republic”
This paper examines Communist China’s fight against coastal smuggling in the decade after 1949. Illicit trade along the Chinese littoral remained pervasive and widespread. In post-liberation China where the prevailing political discourse repeatedly emphasized its total break from pre-liberation China, even high-level officials admitted that smuggling remained a serious problem. From the perspective of the new regime, smuggling represented multiple threats to authority and legitimacy. It menaced public order, maintained China’s dependence on foreign imperialists, and exposed the country’s vulnerability to the vicissitudes of global capitalism—all the hallmarks of Old China’s failure to achieve economic autarky. Yet behind its anti-smuggling campaigns and rhetoric, Communist China also tacitly tolerated—if not actively encouraged—smuggling through capitalist enclaves like Hong Kong and Macau to circumvent the United Nations embargo imposed after the outbreak of war in Korea. Meanwhile, countless individuals and firms continued to rely on illicit markets for their daily needs as the new command economy took shape. This paper explores the ambiguous role of coastal smuggling in challenging, complementing, and even bolstering Communist rule during the regime’s formative years and adds a global economic perspective to previous research focused on domestic state consolidation in the countryside and cities. How did the new Communist regime clamp down on smuggling along China’s maritime frontier? How did policies in policing coastal trade continue with, build on, and depart from their Nationalists precursors? What was the relationship between illicit coastal trade and the nascent socialist economy?
- Xing Hang, Brandeis University: “The Kongsi: A Transnational Story.”
- Hui Kian Kwee, University of Toronto – Mississauga: “Rise and Fall of the Chinese Para-States in West Borneo (Indonesia), c. 1740-1850.”
- Steven Pieragastini, Brandeis University: “State and Smuggling in Guangzhouwan/Zhanjiang (1898-1998).”
- Peter Thilly, Northwestern University & Colby College: “The Fujitsuru Mystery: The Pan-Asian Cocaine Trade of the 1920s-30s.”
Kongsi were organizations primarily operated by Chinese immigrants in Southeast Asia from the eighteenth to nineteenth centuries that pooled together funds and resources for a particular economic activity. They also took on characteristics of community and religious centers founded upon a shared native place and dialect. However, the origins of the kongsi remain rather poorly understood. As this preliminary study shows, one can trace them to the lineage-based cooperatives prevalent in remote parts of Fujian and Guangdong as early as the seventeenth century. The pro-Ming, anti-Qing Zheng organization formalized them as an integral part of its trading network, which engaged in long-distance commerce with Japan and Southeast Asia. It did so by combining the original model with the outside influences of the European joint-stock corporation and the formal Ming bureaucratic structure. After the fall of the Zheng in 1683, their kongsi became the model for Chinese immigrants going to Southeast Asia, which founded many of them based upon a shared dialect or native place. They became not only economic entities, but also political and cultural, acquiring horizontal ties of community akin to modern nation-states. This study ponders the longer-term influence of the kongsi on notions of republicanism and Chinese state-building and identity among Chinese outside of China.
Hui Kian Kwee, University of Toronto – Mississauga: “Rise and Fall of the Chinese Para-States in West Borneo (Indonesia), c. 1740-1850.”
Chinese migrants and sojourners had arrived in the West Borneo region since the eighteenth century for purposes of trade, mining and commercial agriculture. To facilitate their entrepreneurial activities, they formed mutual aid organizations referred to variously as hui, gongsi and zongting. In the course of the eighteenth century, these societies not only wielded much governing powers over the Chinese but also became effective political and military rivals against the coastal Malay overlords who had initiated the Chinese immigration into the region. This paper delineates the rise and fall of autonomous Chinese organizations in west Borneo from the 1740s to 1880s. While institutional economic theorists such as Douglass North have tended to downplay the effectiveness of the informal institutions of Afro-Asian economic agents, this paper argues otherwise. In fact, that these Chinese organizations had in fact derived their self-governance powers from deity- and ancestral-cult beliefs and rituals and continued to wield great influence over the Chinese in the twentieth century.
Steven Pieragastini, Brandeis University: “State and Smuggling in Guangzhouwan/Zhanjiang (1898-1998)”
The city of Zhanjiang (湛江市) and its surroundings on the Leizhou Peninsula (雷州半島) have at several points in history been an important point of exchange, both licit and illicit in the eyes of central authorities. The French wrested control of the area from the weakened Qing government in 1898-99 and established their “leased territory” of Guangzhouwan (廣州灣), also known as Tsamkong or Fort Bayard. Administered as part of French Indochina, in the early twentieth century Guangzhouwan became a major transit point for lucrative opium traveling from French Indochina into the mainland, though it never developed into the rival to Hong Kong that the French hoped it would. After a brief Japanese occupation, the French reluctantly returned the leased territory to the government of Chiang Kai-shek (Jiang Jieshi) after World War II, but their colonial presence left a legacy of smuggling, illegality, and anti-imperialism which emboldened Communist guerrillas in the area. Once the Communists themselves came into power, they subjected Zhanjiang and other liminal spaces along the Chinese coast to vigorous anti-smuggling and anti-drug campaigns. But a return to smuggling in the Reform Era, including a notorious case uncovered in 1998 involving millions of yuan in smuggled goods and evaded taxes, show that the successful repression of smuggling in the Mao era may have been a temporary exception to the historical rule in this region.
Peter Thilly, Northwestern University & Colby College: “The Fujitsuru Mystery: The Pan-Asian Cocaine Trade of the 1920s-30s”
In 1931, Special Officer James Slattery of the Central Board of Revenue in Calcutta set off on a maritime odyssey to try and track down the mysterious origins of the Fujitsuru Brand of cocaine, then inundating the brothels and gambling dens of British colonial ports from Singapore to Bombay. He travelled through Burma, Malaysia and Singapore, then up the China coast from Hong Kong to Shanghai, and finally visited Japan and Taiwan before returning to India. Using Slattery’s report, alongside documentation from the League of Nations archive and the British National Archives, this paper argues that the southern Fujianese port of Xiamen was the central processing and packaging depot for the Fujitsuru Brand. Why was the Fujianese port of Xiamen so important to this understudied branch of the drug trade? My hypothesis is based on multiple factors, including business networks between Chinese pharmacists and Japanese-Taiwanese drug companies, the availability of materials and likelihood that raw coca and crude cocaine was making its way from Taiwan to southern Fujian (often to be cut with pure cocaine and Novocain from Germany and France and Japanese), and details about the native-place networks among Chinese crews on the British-, Japanese- and Chinese-owned shipping lines crossing maritime Asia (the drug was found primarily on the Hong line, whose crews were Fujianese). My conclusions will be formulated around two basic questions: What do we gain by using an illegal commodity with transnational origins and markets to interrogate control and evasion in maritime China? And secondly, what was the role of maritime space in shaping the Asian cocaine trade?
- Jonathan Gebhardt, Yale University: “Ambidextrous Interlopers in Peril: Ladino Sangleys and Sino-Spanish Conflict in Manila, 1570-1700.”
- Eugenio Menegon, Boston University: “Interlopers at the Fringes of Empire: The East Asia Procurators of the Propaganda Fide Papal Congregation in Canton and Macao, and their Maritime Network (1700-1823).”
- Shirley Ye, University of Birmingham: “On the Margins of Empires: The Construction of the China Coast in the Long Nineteenth Century (1820s-1910s).”
- Peter Perdue, Yale University: “Parasites or Cosmopolitans? Transnational Figures of the China Coast in the Modern Era.”
Jonathan Gebhardt, Yale University: “Ambidextrous Interlopers in Peril: Ladino Sangleys and Sino-Spanish Conflict in Manila, 1570-1700”
From the time Spanish conquistadors established a settlement in Manila in 1571, the Spanish colony of the Philippines was both supported and threatened by the people they called Sangleys, the Chinese who came to trade and settle there. Particularly important were the ladino Sangleys, the Chinese who learned the language and customs of the Spanish and came to serve as linguistic and cultural intermediaries. They acted as interlopers, engaging in “an ambiguous relationship of exploitation” with both Spanish and Chinese “imperial and mercantile projects,” as well as the evangelical mission of Catholic missionaries. Spanish authorities depended upon them to exert control over the large Chinese population of Manila; Spanish merchants and Chinese traders often relied upon them to broker deals; and Dominican churchmen enlisted them to help convert Chinese migrants. The ladino Chinese, motivated by “private profit, spiritual calling, or sheer survival,” also benefited from the arrangement. But relations between these ladino Sangleys, their unassimilated countrymen, and the Spaniards of Manila were tense and often devolved into episodes of violence: Spanish colonists (and their Filipino allies) massacred thousands of Chinese on several occasions over the course of the seventeenth century. During times of cross-cultural conflict, the Spanish-speaking Christian Chinese found themselves in a perilous position, since their allegiance was questioned by both sides, and they did not fully belong to either one – even as they communicated and moved between the two. In this paper, I investigate three particular cases, spanning the seventeenth century: the massacre of 1603, the massacre of 1639, and a failed uprising that occurred in 1685. I examine the part played by ladino Sangleys in each one, and consider what their involvement reveals about the nature of the “ambiguous relationship of exploitation.” I draw from official correspondence and court records, missionary writings, and – where possible – published Chinese sources.
Eugenio Menegon, Boston University: “Interlopers at the Fringes of Empire: The East Asia Procurators of the Propaganda Fide Papal Congregation in Canton and Macao, and their Maritime Network (1700-1850)”
Between the 18th and 20th century, the papal Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith (Propaganda Fide) based in Rome supported an officer with autonomous economic and intelligence authority in the region of Macao and Canton (later transferred to Hong Kong). The procurator of Propaganda Fide ensured communication between Propaganda’s Roman headquarters and its missionaries in China and Southeast Asia (especially Cochinchina and Tunkin); managed the financial administration and distribution of funds and materials sent from Europe; and supervised all sorts of administrative and disciplinary matters regarding missionaries in the field. The procurators could support the illegal inner missions in China partly thanks to intelligence and indirect patronage at the Qing court, gained through the long-term presence of Propaganda Fide missionaries at the imperial service. The procurators occasionally run afoul of the Portuguese authorities in Macao, or of the Qing authorities in China, and had to move their office from Macao to Canton and back several times. To succeed in their job, they relied on the goodwill and collaboration of various East India companies, European and Asian states, as well as formal and informal Chinese and Southeast Asian maritime networks. In this paper I attempt a first comprehensive description of the bureaucratic workings of the procurator office, and of its interactions with the maritime world of South China and Southeast Asia, based on unexplored archives today kept in Rome. I thus hope to show the detailed workings of a case of “interloping” by an agent who was connected, yet not at the service, of both European and Qing imperial formations, and who utilized existing maritime networks as a sort of “papal stowaway”.
Shirley Ye, University of Birmingham: “On the Margins of Empires: The Construction of the China Coast in the Long Nineteenth Century (1820s-1910s)”
This paper examines the role that German speakers played in the construction of the China coast during the long 19th century. In the early 1830s, European trade with Chinese merchants was centered in Southeast Asia. At this time, German speakers active in Asia were agents of other bigger European powers, most notably the British trade in Hong Kong and Shanghai, only later on seeking out independent economic niches within the British and Qing imperial and economic systems. In addition, the paper will explore the movement of commodities by German vessels, and the uneven technological development on the China coast, and argue that it was in part the pre-industrial technology of its ships which positioned Germans to play a meaningful role in the economic integration of formerly peripheral areas on the China coast, such as the Northeast, into a globalized Asia.
Peter Perdue, Yale University: “Parasites or Cosmopolitans? Transnational Figures of the China Coast in the Modern Era”
John K. Fairbank’s classic study Trade and Diplomacy on the China Coast contains ample detail about the intriguing character Wu Jianzhang, who served as Circuit Intendant in the Shanghai region during the critical years of the mid-1850s. Wu, who came from Chaozhou in Guangdong province, was apparently formerly the hong merchant known as “Samqua”, who then purchased a degree to rise into officialdom. Fairbank describes him as “an arriviste and opportunist who was uninhibited by orthodox Confucian training.” Wu promoted in Shanghai what Fairbank called the “retrogressive step” of undermining the post-Opium War treaty system by reasserting Chinese control over the collection of customs duties. He also had interesting commercial relations with American clipper ship smugglers of opium. One of Wu’s acquaintances from Guangdong, the bandit Liu Lichuan, moved to Shanghai and became a leader of the Small Swords uprising, which attempted to seize the city in 1853. Liu invited Wu to lead the new government, but Wu instead fled, negotiated the purchase of an American warship to help imperial forces retake the city, and reestablished himself in charge of the customhouse in Shanghai. But he was impeached and nearly banished to Ili nevertheless. His supporters, however, changed his exile to Nanjing, and by 1858 Wu, having passed on his post to his successor, was back in Shanghai, still a person of influence. Fairbank and his British sources viewed Wu as a “parasitic” opportunist out for personal gain, emblematic of the corruption of the dying Qing dynasty. From our global perspective, however, we may see Wu as a truly transnational figure, deeply engaged with trading networks and local society, and even perhaps an activist determined to resist Western commercial penetration of China. Wu’s role in the murky politics of mid-century Shanghai raises many questions for research, especially if we look beyond Fairbank’s close-up focus on Western and Chinese treaty relations. Wu, who had some knowledge of English, negotiated with the British, Americans, French, as well as the imperial court, Manchus, and Chinese, and he also had intimate connections with members of the Triad society and various bandits, smugglers, and rebels of the south China coast. He was the quintessential “in-between” personage, linking the unruly water world of the China coast to foreigners, imperial bureaucrats, and making his influence felt as well as making substantial profits from it. He, of course, had many predecessors who performed very similar roles for centuries. These include the local Fujianese officials engaged in commercial deals, negotiations, and military campaigns against the “wokou” of the sixteenth century, the Chaozhou natives of Swatow subjected to vicious military repression in the 18th century, and the modern gangsters of the badlands of Shanghai in the twentieth century, or even today. By examining the activities of Wu and other similar individuals along the coast of China, we can illuminate the key themes of “control, coercion and interloping” featured in this conference.