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Ethnicity ancl Revolution in South China: The Case of Jinggangshan by Stephen C. Averill Among the casual cultural characterizations which scholars of China commonly accept with little conscious reflection is that the subset of Chinese known as the Hakka (Kejia renor "guest people") are particularly pugnacious and prone to rebellion. One of the many territorially- or ethnically-based stereotypes widely held by Chinese themselves, the image of Hakka feistiness and rebelliousness was amply confirmed for nineteenth-century Westerners by observation of Hakka involvement in many lineage and ethnic feuds, the large-scale Guangdong "Hakka-Punti Wars," and the even more widespread Taiping Rebellion . The fact that the Taiping leader Hong Xiuquan and the core of his original followers were Hakkas-informationthatis stress~d in virtually all accounts of the rebellion-has been particularly important in promoting the image of Hakka rebelliousness. Recently Mary Erbaugh has revived and extended this characterization to cover Hakka involvement in the twentieth-century revolution that brought the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to power in 1949.I Erbaugh notes that although many of the revolutionary bases formed in central and southern China were located in areas heavily populated by Hakkas, many Hakkas joined the revolution, and disproportionate num~ers of them rose to become high-level party leaders, there has been little open acknowledgement of the Hakka contribution to the revolution. She aims to change this by revealing the "secret history" of what she terms "the Chinese Revolution as a Hakka enterprise." Much of what Erbaugh writes falls into the category of "recovery literature ": accounts that seek to identify and describe neglected personages and achievements of groups which have been poorly represented in the historical record. Occasionally, however, she also seeks to explain why Hakka participation in the revolution was so notable. This was not simply due to chance, she argues, but rather stemmed primarily from Hakka socioeconomic characteristics : ...Hakka-speakers and peasants in Hakka regions ...participated heavily in the very beginnings of revolution. Although Hakka have a widespread reputation for involvement in rebellion and warfare, their socioeconomic situation REPUBLICAN CHINA, 22.2 (April 1997): 41-92 42 Republican China undoubtedly made socialist revolution attractive, helped them survive it, and even helped shape its course . ...Hakka were highly mobile newcomers, poor, heterodox, militarily active , and had close links to minorities. As migrants, they had fewer local ties to discourage rebellion, and were more hardened for guerrilla war. But poverty is likely to have been the most important factor in attracting individuals from poor Hakka regions to revolution. 2 James Polachek has also explored the connection between revolution and peasant characteristics in the mountainous, Hakka-dominated areas of Jiangxi and Fujian where many base areas developed.3 Polachek notes that when building rural bases Communist leaders faced two different social systems, each with different risk-sharing methods and notions of justice. On one side was a lowland "clan-village" society whose well-developed lineages and rice-based wealth enabled its members to dominate local affairs, and on the other side was a "hill village" society of Hakka peasants who used sworn-brother fraternities to compensate for weak lineages, and struggled to close the gap between themselves . and their richer lowland neighbors. When revolution came, Polachek suggests, "outside revolutionaries were usually pulled onto one or the other side in a polarized social setting, and were used to diminish the power of or to gain resources belonging to rival groupings." As the revolution deepened, Mao and other party leaders ultimately chose to use "the Hakka peasant's traditional resentment against the privileged status ofpowerful kinship groups," and decided "to annihilate all political ties with clan society in order to speed up the confiscation and redistribution of old-settler landholdings." In sum, Polachek argues, "Mao had not created a new vision; rather he had enlarged on an old millenarian dream that bore the stamp of Hakka society ....The Revolution, in other words, was to be pushed forward by bringing it more fully into line with the impulses of Hakka rebellion."4 Polachek's account is more historically contextualized and analytical than . Erbaugh' s work, and deals more centrally with issues of socioeconomic structure and process. Polachek also outlines the constraints...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1940-5065
Print ISSN
1521-5385
Pages
pp. 41-92
Launched on MUSE
2021-05-25
Open Access
No
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