Guide Native Place, City, and Nation: Regional Networks and Identities in Shanghai, 1853-1937

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The fighting devastated the countryside but left the foreign settlements untouched, and Chinese arrived seeking refuge. Although previously Chinese were forbidden to live in foreign settlements, saw new regulations drawn up making land available to Chinese. Land prices rose substantially, and real estate development became a source of considerable income for Shanghai's westerners, further increasing the westerners' control over the city's economy. In , the British settlement, located along the western bank of the Huangpu river to the south of Suzhou Creek in the Huangpu district , and the American settlements, located on the western bank of the Huangpu river and to the north of Suzhou creek, joined to form the International Settlement.

The French opted out of the Shanghai Municipal Council, and instead maintained its own French Concession, located to the south of the International Settlement. The Sino-Japanese War fought in - 95 over control of Corea concluded with the Treaty of Shimonoseki , which saw Japan emerge as an additional foreign power in Shanghai.

Japan built the first factories in Shanghai, which were soon copied by other foreign powers to effect the emergence of Shanghai industry. From this situation two cities emerged: a chaotic Chinese city and a western city, inhabitated mainly by Chinese. The western part of Shanghai was one of the most modern "European" cities in the world. New inventions like electricity and trams were quickly introduced, and westerners turned Shanghai into a huge metropolis. British and American businessmen made a great deal of money in trade and finance, and Germany used Shanghai as a base for investing in China.

Shanghai accounted for half of the imports and exports of China. The western part of Shanghai was four times larger then the Chinese part in the early 20th century. European and American inhabitants of Shanghai called themselves the Shanghailanders. The extensive public gardens along the waterfront of the International Settlement were reserved for the foreign communities and forbidden to Chinese. The foreign city was built in the British style with a large racetrack in what was then the west of the city, now People's Park.

A new class emerged, the compradors , which mixed with the local landlords to form a new class, the Chinese bourgeoisie.

Bryna Goodman | Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University

The compradors were indispensable mediators for the western companies. Many compradors were on the leading edge of the movement to modernize China. Shanghai was then the biggest financial city in East Asia. Chinese society was divided into native place associations or provincial guilds. These guilds defended the interests of people from certain areas. They had their own dresscodes and sub-cultures. Chinese government was hardly organized. Instead, society was controlled by the native place associations. The Guangdong native place associations represented the skilled workers of Shanghai.

These native place associations belonged to the top of Shanghainese society.

Native Place, City, and Nation : Regional Networks and Identities in Shanghai, 1853-1937

Ningbo and Jiangsu native place associations were the most numerous. They represented the common workers. Many Chinese inhabitants came from the north of China. They were on the bottom rung of the social ladder. Many of them were forced to work as seasonal workers or mobsters.

The Tong Reng Tan was a neutral organization that tried to build up good governance in Shanghai. In , the Tong Reng Tan was abolished and replaced by the Shanghai municipality. A Shanghainese native place association came into being called the Tongrengtang tongxianghui. The Self-Strengthening Movement also took place, as many Chinese tried to take over western inventions to make the nation stronger.

It did not succeed because of the incompetence, corruption and inefficiency of many participants. The Republic of China was a result of the Xinhai Revolution. It is during this time that Shanghai became the focal point of all activities that would eventually shape modern China.

A Diverse and Changing Landscape: From Burial Grounds to Cemeteries

Shanghai was one of the largest cities in the world with 3,, inhabitants in , of whom only 35, were foreigners, though they were in charge of half the city. Many Russian refugees came to Shanghai. The Shanghai Russians were regarded as an inferior race by the Shanghailanders. A lot of Russian women worked as prostitutes alongside Chinese, Korean and Japanese colleagues. The Chinese elite was essentially divided into two sectors. One group was progressive and helped the nation modernize in unprecedented ways. The other was in search of power by all means necessary.

Shanghai was made a special city in , and a municipality in May The city's industrial and financial power increased, because the merchants were in control of the city, while the rest of China was divided among warlords. Artistically Shanghai made major strides for the nation by becoming the home and headquarters of three new art forms; namely, the city was recognized and credited as the entertainment hub for Chinese cinema , Chinese animation and Chinese popular music.

Other forms of entertainment include Lianhuanhua comic books. The architectural style at the time was modelled after British and American design. Many of the most grand scale buildings in The Bund such as Shanghai Club , Asia Building and the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation building were constructed or renovated at the time.

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The city created a distinct image that separated it from all other Chinese cities that came before it. Economic achievements include the city becoming the commercial centre of East Asia , attracting banks from all over the world.

When movies and literature depict the golden days of Shanghai of the past, it is generally associated with this era. Location wise, the city was also the centre of national and international opium smuggling during the s. The Green Gang Quinbang became a major influence in the Shanghai International Settlement , with the Commissioner of the Shanghai Municipal Police reporting that corruption associated with the trade had affected a large proportion of his force.

An extensive crackdown in simply displaced the focus of the trade to the neighbouring French Concession. Meanwhile, traditional division of society by native place associations was falling apart.

The new working classes were not prepared to listen to the bosses of the same native place associations during the s. Resentment against the foreign presence in Shanghai rose among both the entrepreneurs and the workers of Shanghai. In , protests by the May Fourth Movement against the Treaty of Versailles led to the rise of a new group of philosophers like Chen Duxiu and Hu Shi who challenged Chinese traditionalism with new ideologies. Books like New Youth multiplied the new school of thought, the revolutionary thinking convinced many that the existing government was largely ineffective.

The Communist Party of China was then founded in In , communists tried to end foreign rule, officially supported by the gangsters and the Kuomintang KMT nationalists. Leaders of the Green Gang however entered into informal alliances with Chiang Kai-shek and the Shanghailander capitalists acted against the communists and organised labour unions.

The nationalists had cooperated with gang leaders since the revolution of Many communists were killed in a major gangster surprise attack in April in the Chinese administered part of Shanghai, although sporadic fighting between gangsters and communists had occurred previously. Zhou Enlai was lucky to flee the city, because suspected left-wingers were shot on sight. Chiang Kai-shek started an autocratic rule supported by the progressive native place associations which lasted from to These associations consisted of workers, businessmen, gangsters and others from a given province.

This was part of the policy to organize society in corporations.

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It was a major failure, because the Chinese refused to be subdued. Only a minority became members of the appointed native place associations. Chiang Kai-shek chose to cooperate with gangsters in order to maintain his grip on Chinese society. This meant that the gangsters remained middlemen during the rule of the nationalists, controlling society by frequently organizing strikes.

The nationalist government of Chiang Kai-shek tried to turn Shanghai into the capital of China. Large residential areas were built north of the foreign concessions, which were between the old Chinese town and the new Chinese town. These residential areas were modern, with good roads and parking lots for automobiles. A new Chinese port was built, which could compete with the Shanghailanders' port. Chiang Kai-shek continuously demanded large amounts of money from the financial world in Shanghai. Some bankers and merchants resisted from the start, while others were so enthusiastic in supporting the KMT, that they liquidated their companies to extract as much money as possible.

Most bankers and merchants were willing to invest in the army, but this stopped in , bankers refused all subsidies. Chiang responded by nationalising all enterprises. Soong, the brother-in-law of Chiang, expressed the opinion of the Shanghai capitalists in by writing that it is better to strengthen the party, the army and the economy instead of focusing only on the army. Chiang was very agitated about this. The power of the gangsters rose in the early s, especially the power of the Green Gang leader Du Yuesheng. Du started his own native place association. Mobsters stormed the Shanghai Stock Exchange to gain control over it.

The police did not interfere, since they had been dominated by the mobsters since Shanghailanders did not interfere either, since it was an internal Chinese affair. Indeed, most compradors who accompanied the Europeans were from Guangzhou; many boatmen came from Guangdong and Fujian. Even the lowly Subei immigrants, studied by Emily Honig, found employment at the lower end ofthe job chain. Goodman stresses one key factor fhat gave rise to native-place groups: these new residents ofShanghai China Review International: Vol.

Few outsiders spoke Shanghai dialect; few knew Mandarin, the language of officials. As a consequence, oral communication was often limited to fellow native-place associates. Goodman details the organization and function ofnative-place groups. A wide range oforganizational structures and terminology came into being. Groups with powerful, wealthy members, such as the Ningbo guild, were far more prominent than less prestigious communities, such as the much more numerous Subei group.

In the late Qing, most ofthe associations or huiguan, controlled by small elites, provided essential services for sojourners.

These included assistance with burial since most preferred to have their coffins returned home ifpossible , the organization offestivals, the representation ofmembers in court cases and disputes , theatrical performances in the local dialects, and defense of the honor of the native place. Goodman provides interesting details concerning the latter; there were disputes that often led to violence and legal action. The thinness ofgovernment administration in Shanghai at a time ofrapid population growth and economic expansion created a tremendous demand for huiguan services.

Indeed, foreigners often used or attempted to use the huiguan to help govern the settlements, sometimes consulting with the heads ofthe guilds when problems arose. But relations between foreigners and Chinese were often marked by conflict, and the huiguan frequendy represented their constituents in opposition to Westerners.


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Goodman outlines several key disputes such as the efforts by the French to seize sections ofthe Ningbo cemetery, leading to conflict in and , and a dispute over anti-plague measures in These disputes sometimes developed into boycotts, riots, and demonstrations Project MUSE promotes the creation and dissemination of essential humanities and social science resources through collaboration with libraries, publishers, and scholars worldwide.

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