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Conclusion Throughout the twentieth century, weisheng became an instrumental discourse informing the Chinese elite’s vision of a modern ideal, a vehicle through which they hoped state, society, and the individual would be transformed . As grasped by Meiji bureaucrats, late Qing reformers, and Guomindang modernizers, weisheng centered concerns of national sovereignty, institutional discipline, and government administration on the site of the body. In an uncanny way, the single modern Chinese term weisheng encompasses what Foucault called “ biopower,” a series of techniques through which the state undertakes the administration of life, and “governmentality ,” the idea that individuals internalize disciplinary regimes and thus harmonize their own behaviors with the goals of the state. I am not suggesting that Nagayo Sensai, Yuan Shikai, and Mao Zedong were all prescient poststructuralists. Rather, beginning with Meiji reformers, modernizing elites in East Asia, from their perspective on the outside of the European Enlightenment project,quickly grasped some of the core elements that made theWest appear “modern” and sought to employ them as “full kits” to transform their own societies. Scholars have debated whether or not modernity actually functions in the ways described by Foucault. The point here is not whether or not Chinese modernity worked along Foucauldian lines. Rather, the goal has been to understand how Chinese elites envisioned modernity and sought to transform the nation. I have only occasionally hinted at how subalterns intersected with this vision:as objects of police control during the 1900–1902 occupation,as Dark Drifters who foiled plans for hygienic water and sewer solutions for Tianjin , as glue boilers and sheep slaughterers who offended the hygienic sensibilities of elites and the state, and as suspicious masses who attempted to escape from advancing Japanese vaccinators.Occasionally intriguing actions 300 and voices emerge from the reports of collaborationist physicians or Communist health officers—textile factory workers who sought out medical assistance from the Japanese army, urban poor who complained about not getting vaccinated—evidence that further complicates our emerging understanding about the relationship between Chinese common people and foreign (particularly Japanese) imperialism. But in general this has not been a study of the popular reception of weisheng, but a glimpse at how weisheng was used, by a segment of the elite, to transform a city and to establish their own identity as “moderns.” The acquisition of weisheng by the elite—manifest in domestic plumbing, flush toilets, foreign underwear, and a knowledge of germs—allowed them both to distinguish themselves from the masses and at times to unify their interests with the foreign presence in China. In the eyes of many elites, the hygienic transformation of the common man and thus of the nation was never complete.Modernizers embraced weisheng as the basis for a discourse of Chinese deficiency: it was that which the Chinese lacked, and that which the foreign Other possessed. An elite embrace of hygienic modernity came through several simultaneous paths: education in missionary schools or Western-influenced Chinese schools, exposure to YMCA programs, the purchase of imported weisheng commodities. Ironically it also seemed to manifest itself at moments when the foreign presence was most violent.SomeTianjin elites could applaud the way that the foreign occupation government brought hygienic order to the city even as Japanese soldiers were beheading accused Boxers. After suffering defeat at the hands of Meiji Japan in the Sino-Japanese War and after ten thousand Japanese soldiers had stormed the gates of Tianjin, Qing reformers employed Japanese advisors and a Japanese model of hygienic modernity in the city’s new government.These events, played out in Tianjin but not unique to that city, question the assumption that Chinese elites may have enthusiastically embraced modernity (in contrast with the ambivalence and resistance of India) because semicolonialism in China was less violent and the colonizer less of a constant presence than in colonialisms elsewhere. The seemingly unambivalent embrace of a foreign-defined modernity by dominant Chinese elites has recently been taken up by a several scholars, including John Fitzgerald,Shu-mei Shih,and Prasenjit Duara.Fitzgerald has suggested that this embrace occurred in large part because Chinese elites took to heart the colonial representations of a deficient John Chinaman. Denying claims that semicolonialism was less onerous than colonialism, Fitzgerald argues that the “psychological” effects of the foreign portrayal Conclusion / 301 of Chinese deficiencies were as significant for Chinese as similar racist representations were for indigenous people elsewhere (as described in the works of Ashis Nandy and Frantz Fanon), even if the...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780520930605
Related ISBN
9780520240018
MARC Record
OCLC
58728552
Pages
415
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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