- Fodder Is in the Eye of the Beholder:A Response to Donald A. Jordan's Review of Shanghai's Bund and Beyond: British Banks, Banknote Issuance, and Monetary Policy in China, 1842-1937
Professor Donald A. Jordan should have begun his review by disclosing the relevance of his own work to mine, including the detailed criticisms I leveled at his 1991 monograph.1 I am, therefore, grateful to the CRI editorial team for allowing me to comment in the interest of observing proper standards in an intellectual argument.
It goes with saying that Professor Jordan has every right to question the value of my research. However, such a debate has to be conducted factually and honestly, so that CRI readers can judge for themselves the points of variance or potential conflicts of interest. That Jordan chooses instead to assail my writing style is, as I will demonstrate below, merely a smoke screen that can be quite easily dispelled. Neither will venting one's frustration at university press editors nor censuring PhD supervisors be seen as a mark of great scholarship, I suspect.
One may not always represent other scholars' work accurately. However, to provide false information is a much more serious matter. For the record, my book consists of 240 pages, not 160 as Jordan states. These pages include six chapters combining quantitative and qualitative analyses, based on data from four different archives, as well as extensive reference material. Even if we assume that "160" was simply a typo, the blame must then be placed on Jordan's cavalier attitude to numerical data.
Focusing on a two-year period (1931-1932) in Sino-Japanese relations, Jordan's own monograph aimed to offer an in-depth analysis of the impact of Chinese nationalist boycotts on Japanese and British foreign policy leading up to World [End Page 62] War II. He concluded that the boycott was a scam conceived by KMT business cliques. That scam was mostly driven by "virulent anti-imperialism" (p. 336). But it yielded, in his view, little more than short-lived "vituperative anti-Japanese mass demonstrations." In sum KMT foreign policy proved misguided because, according to Jordan, it merely served to aggravate Japanese militarism.
Jordan belittled the detrimental economic effect of boycotts on Japanese firms operating in prewar China. But, in the same breath, he curiously suggested that these boycotts had, in fact, "dramatized for the Japanese their need to seek new markets elsewhere" (p. 335). One might suppose that an examination of the reaction of Japanese business people and politicians to the Chinese boycott of 1931-1932 would entail some meaningful reference to previous phases of anti-Japanese agitation, particularly during the years 1919-1928. One might even wish for such an examination to draw on Japanese diplomatic and corporate archival material for a sense of what went on behind closed doors. Yet readers will search in vain for such bigger-picture hints in Jordan's book. For these and other reasons, Yungdeh R. Chu, in an incisive review for the Journal of Asian Studies, suggested that Jordan was "looking at a single tree, but missing the entire forest."2
My own book, Shanghai's Bund and Beyond, contextualized a large number of important pertinent studies—including Jordan's—in an effort to provide a balanced portrayal of Chinese boycott dynamics between 1905 and 1937. At the same time, the book took to task a few studies—including Jordan's—for their analytical framework or for overlooking key primary-source data.
Jordan suggests that understanding the arguments I put forward is very difficult because of "dangling" prose and "obscurantist" terms. His proof is a sentence of "some forty words" that had been picked out of a paragraph on page 116 in my book. Curiously enough, he believes such length merits a Guinness Book of Records entry. Problems with this proposition immediately spring to mind. All of the "obscurantist" terms Jordan refers to throw up thousands of relevant matches on any simple Google search, and can easily be found in most dictionaries. More important, readers will find that the second sentence in Jordan's own monograph, right on page 1, churns out no fewer than fifty...