- The Republic of China Is the Enemy: The Qing Loyalists and the Changes in Chinese Political Culture
Similar to previous dynastic changes in premodern China, the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1911 produced a host of loyalists who resisted the change in government and held on to the bygone era. From the suicides of Liang Ji (1858-1927) and Wang Guowei (1877-1927) to the glorification of the Qing achievements of Luo Zhenyu (1866-1940) and Chen Yinke (1890-1969), the Qing loyalists employed various measures to keep alive the memory of the defunct dynasty.1 To the penchant of the Qing loyalists, the political turmoil that unfolded in the 1920s and 1930s—the rise of the warlords, the power struggle between the Nationalists and the Communists, and the Japanese invasion—gave them hope that the restoration of the Manchu government was within reach and their loyalty to their former rulers would pay off.
Yet, when compared to their predecessors, the Qing loyalists were totally unique in two aspects. First, they were loyal not only to the fallen dynasty, but also to the imperial system that had lasted for two thousand years. By professing loyalty to the imperial system, they positioned themselves as critics of the modern nation-state, exposing its limitations as a hegemonic structure of coercion, centralization, and homogenization. Second, they claimed that they transcended the narrow ethnic nationalism of their contemporaries by being loyal to the Manchu [End Page 129] rulers that had been demonized by the revolutionaries. By being loyal to the Manchus, they presented themselves as defenders of multi-ethnic harmony, criticizing the Republican government for its ethnic nationalism and unfair treatments of minority races.
In current scholarship, except for biographies and individual essays,2 there have been no concerted efforts to study the significance of Qing loyalists in China's political modernity. In this regard, Lin Zhihong's book, The Republic of China Is the Enemy: The Qing Loyalists and the Changes in Chinese Political Culture, breaks new ground by treating the Qing loyalists as political players who actively participated in the discourse of the nation. In the book, Lin depicts the Qing loyalists as diverse personalities who had different agendas in professing loyalty to the fallen Qing regime. Their differing agendas notwithstanding, they were united in opposing the Chinese Republic; thus, the title of the book. As a result, when the political environment of the Chinese Republic changed, the Qing loyalists adjusted their agendas and allegiances. In many instances, Lin argues, the Qing loyalists made difficult decisions to achieve their political goals.
The Republic of China Is the Enemy is divided into seven chapters. In the introduction, Lin sets the tone by discussing two important concepts: political identity and political culture . By political identity, Lin refers to the attempts by the Qing loyalists to recast their political roles after the 1911 revolution. For many Qing loyalists (especially those who held high positions in the Qing government), the 1911 revolution was a devastating event that disrupted their lives, decimated their dreams, and destroyed their political careers. As sensitive souls, they had to find ways to link the past with the present. For better or worse, Qing loyalism was a convenient way for them to create a self-identity in an alien political environment (pp. 21-22). By political culture, Lin refers to a system of rewards and punishments that supports a political regime. The Qing loyalists felt clearly estranged from the new political culture of the Chinese Republic that stressed competition, openness, and accountability. As astute political players, however, they found ways to participate in the new political game, even though...