Papers on Modern History V

9:00 am – 10:45 am
Room A

  • Chaired by Brian Martin
  • Rocco Maria Colonna, “Morality in Qing and Republican China”
  • Nuan Gao, “Synchronicity and Inner Mechanisms: Building fukan as a China’s Public Sphere During the May Fourth Era”
  • Brian Martin, “An Incomplete Party State: Zhou Fohai and the Wang Jingwei Government 1939–­1940”
  • Ling-chieh Chen, “Crossing National Borders: The Crisis of International Postal Communication in Manchuria, 1931–1935”

Rocco Maria Colonna, “Morality in Qing and Republican China”

This paper aims to understand some aspects of Chinese civilisation, through the laws that drew the boundaries between morality and immorality at the beginning of the XX Century in China. In particular, this research intends to show how Chinese society deeply changed after the Xinhai Revolution and the advent of new rulers. For this purpose, the present study compares the laws developed both by the Qing and, later, by the Republican authorities to discipline issues such as adultery, rape, concubinage, and prostitution. This comparison is focused on the Great Qing Legal Code (along with some of its commentaries) and certain provisional penal codes were drawn up in the years 1912–35.
Laws regulating morality can help to explain the social groups that adopt them. Such legal provisions reveal essential information about the structure, organisation, and internal functioning of any human community. Besides, by a careful examination of these laws’ evolution, it is possible to find out how and when those communities tried to embrace change. Therefore, the objective of the proposed analysis is twofold: firstly, it tries to isolate and explain some habits that were at the root of the Chinese society, under the Qing dynasty. Secondly, it attempts to understand how these habits were reconsidered, by Republican legislators, after the collapse of the Chinese Empire in 1911.

Nuan Gao, “Synchronicity and Inner Mechanisms: Building fukan as a China’s Public Sphere During the May Fourth Era”

This paper attempts to contribute to the ongoing discussion on the relevance of public sphere, conceptualised by Jürgen Habermas, to the context of Chinese history, employing the cases of the fukans (supplements) of three influential Chinese newspapers of the May Fourth era (circa from 1915 to 1926): Chenbao, Minguo ribao, and Shishi xinbao. All of these fukans served as popular forums for discussion and debates, publishing speeches, articles, and letters by people of different social strata, and showcasing a wide spectrum of literary and political views. This paper firstly argues that the May Fourth era was the general backdrop for the formation of China’s public sphere, as it was a synchronic counterpart to the eighteenth century of Britain and France in terms of the emergence of a critical-minded reading public, thanks to the social transformation since 1840, the abolition of the imperial civil service examination system, and the existence of an interim power vacuum between the downfall of Qing dynasty and the rise of the authoritarian Chiang government, which brought about relatively loose censorship and thus made rational criticism possible. This paper also analyses the inner mechanisms of the fukans, arguing that in constructing China’s public sphere, both the left and moderate intellectuals put conscious efforts and shared the same moral courage, while their roles were quite different: the left was more prominent as passionate and idealist spiritual idols, while the moderate acted as pragmatic and sober organisers, disciplining the discussants with civility and rationality.

Brian Martin, “An Incomplete Party State: Zhou Fohai and the Wang Jingwei Government 1939–­1940”

The Wang Jingwei Government was a collaborationist government that considered that it had a ‘national’ mandate covering the areas of occupied China; and it sought to achieve a permanent peace with Japan through negotiations. At ist core, however, it was a Guomindang Party Government, whose organisation and institutions were based on those of the pre-war Nationalist Government, and that mirrored those of the Guomindang Chongqing Government. Zhou Fohai was a key architect of this collaborationist Party-State, who defined the key prerequisites for such a national collaborationist government. In 1939-1940 Zhou led the Wang Jingwei group’s negotiating team in the negotiations with the Japanese. With the creation of the government in 1940 Zhou ensured that he controlled the two key ministries handling the regime’s income and security—the Ministries of Finance and of the Police (the latter having oversight of the newly created Security Service). Zhou Fohai’s attitude to collaboration, however, contained a fundamental contradiction: while he wanted to construct a collaborationist state, yet such a state must have a relationship with the Chongqing government. He saw Wang Jingle’s ‘peace’ state and Chiang Kai-shek’s ‘war’ state, in other words, as being in some form of symbiotic relationship. In Zhou’s view, the complementary activities of Nanjing and Chongqing were essential for the achievement of comprehensive peace. This approach affected his view of the Basic Treaty. While he pushed throughout 1940 for official Japanese recognition, when it came in the form of the Basic Treaty he disliked it as it represented for him a final rupture with Chongqing, and thus the impossibility of achieving a comprehensive peace.

Ling-chieh Chen, “Crossing National Borders: The Crisis of International Postal Communication in Manchuria, 1931–1935”

This paper aims to explore how the Japanese invasion of Manchuria that began with the Mukden Incident, challenged the Chinese Postal Service (CPS) and China’s postal communication, and why it caused a crisis of the international postal transport. The Nationalist Government of China’s withdrawal of the Chinese Postal Service’s employees in Manchuria and a blockade of postal transport followed the Japanese Army’s invasion in September 1931 and the establishment of Manchukuo on 1 March 1932. The blockade led to a profound crisis of international postal services between Asia and Europe via Manchuria, which eventually became an international issue and aroused the concern of the League of Nations.
This paper first discusses Manchuria as a significant postal transport hub connecting Asia and Europe by transnational railways. Second, it analyses the Chinese Government’s decision of the blockade and its unexpected consequences for the international community. The third part focuses on the Nationalist Government’s compromise in 1935 and the meaning of a ‘national’ postal service during the early twentieth century.
I argue that the Chinese Government regarded the postal service as a useful means to arouse international attention to Japan’s invasion while maintaining international postal service was the priority for the international community. The Chinese Government’s compromise and the international intervention show that despite the feature of only one national postal authority in one country, providing efficient postal services and sharing the responsibility to maintain the international postal service even between hostile regimes were significant features of ‘modern’ postal communication.

Event Timeslots (1)

Room A