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146 China Review International: Vol. 5, No. 1, Spring 1998 Huang Jianli. The Politics ofDepoliticization in Republican China: Guomindang Policy towards Student Political Activism, 1927-1949. Bern, Switzerland: Peter Lang, 1996. 242 pp. Hardcover $52.95, isbn 3-906756-46-7. Huang Jianli has proven what many scholars have long known: the Guomindang (GMD) was opposed to radical student activism. Using documents collected from the Nanjing Second Historical Archives and the Taiwan Guomindang Archives, and a political science concept called "depoliticization," Huang shows in minute detail how, from its assumption of power in 1927 until its defeat in 1949, the GMD politically isolated the students and channeled their energies toward "study and character building," ostensibly in preparation for national reconstruction. In spite of its name, depoliticization was a political act, for it sought to emasculate student activists, making them politically inactive and preventing them from taking radical positions. Unfortunately for the GMD, nationalist leaders succeeded all too well, depriving the party of a political force that could have been used against its enemies. But mass mobilization was anathema to the GMD, so nationalist leaders surrendered this powerful weapon to their mortal enemies, the communists , who, as history has shown, mobilized the students around Chinese nationalism and used them against the GMD. What Huang does (and does well) in this highly focused institutional study is to examine how the GMD viewed student political activism and devised a scheme to stifle it. (Readers interested in student activism per se will have to look elsewhere .) Huang shows that the GMD developed a two-pronged strategy for controlling student activism: first, it used a legislative-administrative approach, enacting a set of restrictive regulations to control student organizations; second, it used a so-called educational approach, indoctrinating students with its own ideology and encouraging them to engage in self-cultivation. The educational effort was aimed at creating a cadre of pro-GMD student activists devoted to Jiang Jieshi and willing to work through such official agencies as the Three People's Principles Youth Corps. Relying on party political "hacks" to inculcate students with an increasingly irrelevant Sun Yat-senism probably did dampen the political ardor of the students, making many of them apolitical. However, the GMD's gain would be China's loss. The strength of Huang's study is his detailed description of the convoluted history of this strategy. After initially tolerating student political participation, theĀ© 1998 by University GMD changed its policy to limiting student political activism. Dai Jitao, the party ofHawaii Pressideologue, and Cai Yuanpei, the well-known educational leader, were the main architects ofthis policy shift. To accomplish it, they first had to take over the Committee for the Training of the Masses, a leftist GMD agency that sought the Reviews 147 active mobilization ofstudents. With the January 1930 proclamation ofregulations restricting the activities of student unions, the Dai-Cai policy was triumphant . But nationalist leaders realized that rules and regulations were insufficient to control students, though valuing them for their symbolism and for expressing their intentions toward the students. They needed people to carry them out. Eventually, the Three People's Principles Youth Corps, which was established in July 1938, served that purpose. (Originally, the Youth Corps was intended to reform the parent party, recruiting adults during the first two years ofits existence rather than students.) As with many of its plans, die GMD's policy ofdepoliticization was a failure. As Huang points out, it was a fundamentally flawed policy because it was based on the erroneous assumption that student organizations were breeding grounds for political activism and that they needed to be controlled lest they give birth to opposition to the Nanjing government. In reality, Chinese student activism was a spontaneous phenomenon resulting from the many provocative events and controversial issues that were central to the history of modern China. Ofthese events and issues, none was more important than those involving Chinese nationalism and none more emblematic of Chinese nationalism than the December 9th Movement. A meaningful response to the students' nationalistic concerns was really the only effective way to deal widi tiieir protests. To use the language ofpop psychology, nationalist leaders were "control freaks," fearful ofthe very spontaneity...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 146-148
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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