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72 TWENTIETH-CENTURY CHINA Twentieth-Century China, Vol. 30, No. 2 (April, 2005): 72-100. REDEEMING “A CENTURY OF NATIONAL IGNOMINY”: NATIONALISM AND PARTY RIVALRY OVER THE UNEQUAL TREATIES, 1928-19471 DONG WANG, GORDON COLLEGE The Unequal Treaties (不平等條約, bupingdeng tiaoyue) occupy a central position in the collective Chinese memory of the nation’s humiliation between 1842 and 1943, a period characterized by historian John K. Fairbank as the “treaty century.”2 However, the endless repetition of the phrase and constant agitation over the Unequal Treaties show no signs of fading more than half a century after the end of that epoch. The issue is sensitive for Chinese nationalists, including both the Communist Party (CCP) and the Nationalist Party (Guomindang, GMD). Their competitive efforts to define “China” and its “national crises” and to establish party authority make clear that nationalism remains central to Chinese politics. (Surprisingly, the actual use of this expression is rarely studied, despite the frequent occurrence of the term in both Chinese- and English-language historiographies.)3 1 Funding for this article was provided by the East-West Institute of Gordon College. I wish to thank Paul A. Cohen, John Fitzgerald, Stein Haugom Olsen, Christopher A. Reed, Ronald K. Richardson, Mark Selden, Paul Sorrell, Peter Zarrow, and two anonymous readers for their comments and suggestions. Ma Xiaohe in the Harvard-Yenching Library helped me with biographical dates. 2 John King Fairbank and Merle Goldman, China: A New History, enlarged ed. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999), 201-205. 3 Recent scholarly discussions on H-Asia have also remarked on such a pattern in Chinese historiography, e.g., “endless repetition of slogans such as ‘gundipl’ [Gunboat diplomacy] or ‘uneqtreaties’ [Unequal Treaties] etc. but equally the paucity of the information upon which these slogans rest.” 15 January 2005 post by Ian Welch, see Standard works in English on modern China and Chinese foreign relations have paid scant attention to the rhetoricalization of the expression of the Unequal Treaties in the rise of Chinese nationalism. See: Jonathan Spence, The Search for Modern China, 2nd ed. (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1999); Fairbank and Goldman, China; Patricia Buckley Ebrey, The Cambridge Illustrated History of China, (1996; reprint; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003); Warren I. Cohen, America's Response to China: A History of Sino-American Relations (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000); Robert E. Gamer, ed., Understanding Contemporary China, 2nd ed. (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2003); Gungwu Wang, Anglo-Chinese Encounters since 1800: War, Trade, Science, and Governance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003); Jerome Ch'en, “The Communist Movement 1927-1937, ” in The Cambridge History of China, eds. John K. Fairbank and Albert Feuerwerker (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986); Michael H. Hunt, The Genesis of Chinese Communist Foreign Policy (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996). Although Hunt places the CCP’s foreign relations within a larger historical perspective, he fails to consider the Unequal Treaties, an issue to which both the Nationalists and Communists have devoted time and resources to score points off each other. Similarly, the polemical use of the term the Unequal Treaties by the GMD and CCP remains an understudied topic in the rich Chinese historiography on the Unequal Treaties. See Li Kan, et al., eds., Zhongguo jindaishi (Modern Chinese history) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 2001), 4th ed., 1993, 24th reprint. 73 DONG WANG In this article, I argue that ever since the break-up of the two parties’ alliance in 1927, the interpretations of the Unequal Treaties has remained a hotly contested area in the struggle of the CCP and the GMD for power and legitimacy.4 A careful examination of CCP and GMD party documents related to the Unequal Treaties between 1928 and 1937 suggests that the Communists—as an outlawed and persecuted party in the late 1920s and early 1930s—did not cede the “high patriotic ground” of national independence to the incumbent Nationalist government. 5 The representations of the Unequal Treaties by both the GMD and the Communists during their anti-Japanese struggle from 1937 to 1945 display—in their references to both the past and the present—an emphasis on unity, coalition, and contested claims to...


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