- Qingmo zhenglun baokan yu minzhong dongyuan: Yi zhong zhengzhi wenhua de shijiao
Newspapers, along with journals and other forms of print media, have long served as a focus for the historian seeking to gain a grasp on the events of the late Qing or early Republic. Elizabeth Sinn points to this salient fact in her review of Barbara Mittler's 2004 study, A Newspaper for China? Power, Identity, and Change in Shanghai's News Media, 1872–1912,1 and since the 1974 publication of Paul A. Cohen's Between Tradition and Modernity: Wang T'ao and Reform in Late Ch'ing China, an increasing number of monographs have studied this media both for form and content. Tang Haijiang's Qingmo zhenglun baokan yu minzhong dongyuan: Yi zhong zhengzhi wenhua de shijiao is a recent Chinese analysis of the early print media, though from a decidedly different angle than most of his Western predecessors or contemporaries. Whereas Western scholars have steadily engaged in a substantial debate on civil society, the public sphere, and print capitalism in China, Tang Haijiang is more concerned with what he terms "political culture," a subject that figures in all but one of his six chapter titles and in the book title itself.2 Generously deploying both Western and Chinese theorists, Tang posits a definition of political culture that centers on the political psychology and political thought of the journalists he studies (p. 10). In unequivocal language, he blames their emotional outbursts for halting otherwise good attempts at being more modern, professional, and democratic (pp. 151–152; 354). Although he is merely making a hypothesis (jiashe), which he leaves to history for further evaluation, Tang is thoroughly convinced in the efficacy of using Western theorists such as William Gamson, Aldon Morris, and Pierre Bourdieu (to name a few) to study late Qing society (p. 17). Political culture may have been a major concern of Western political science thought since the 1950s, but its applicability to late Qing China is not thoroughly convincing at the end of 363 pages of moderately spaced Chinese text (p. 9).
Qingmo zhenglun baokan is not a work of pure empirical history, yet Tang manages to weave in six graphs and sixteen charts and tables with the Western theory and underlying Chinese Marxist class analysis framework that takes up much of his book. Chinese Marxist analysis figures in the binary that Tang sees between capitalist reformist and petty bourgeois revolutionary journalists, a lens that contemporary Chinese scholar Sang Bing finds outdated and not terribly [End Page 544] useful.3 Instead of "broadening the horizon" as Tang suggests (p. 5), class analysis elides the cooperation that reformers and revolutionaries shared within China, in contrast to the vitriol that dominated the debates of their respective papers among students in Japan. The party-paper debates of 1905–1907 between the revolutionary Minbao and the reformist Xinmin congbao were significant (p. 273), and Tang Haijiang is right to point out that the politicization of the debate, following the promising move away from teacher-disciple inspired publications, represented a weakness in Chinese journalism of that era. Developments in Japan (where most of these journals were published) did not dictate everything that was happening on the ground in China, although the absence of a transparent political culture may suggest a partial explanation of why certain trends, such as journalistic independence, did not develop.
Journalism began in China with Wang Tao's Xunhuan Ribao in 1874. Wang's paper, though launched in Hong Kong, brought discussion into the public realm and out of the direct control of the imperial state. Wang Tao never incited his merchant readers to rebellion and generally accepted the legitimacy of the imperial system. Furthermore, those who wrote for his paper did not consider themselves to be journalists but wrote as a hobby and still continued to sit for the civil service examinations. Although beginning...