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MUNICIPAL POWER AND LOCAL ELITES[l] by Christian Henriot The coming to power of the Guomindang (GMD) in 1927 was supposed to herald a new era in Chinese history. The Nationalists invested the State and set up new institutions, spearheaded by a multitude of projects designed to free the Nation from foreign tutelage, rebuild and modernize the economy, and set in motion a process of cultural renewal. The establishment of the Shanghai city government (Shanghai shi zhengfu)[2] was part of this movement in which the Nationalist regime sought to implement new political, economic, and social policies through the local vehicles of its power. However, this programme meant that the State had to find the relays in society through which to transmit its projects and have them accepted by the entire population. Here then, at the outset, is the central theme of this article, one that has already been dealt with many times in this journal by historians of Republican China: that of the relationship between the Nationalist regime and society at large.[3] It is not my intention to provide a definitive treatment of this essential issue but to try and throw new light on it through the study of a specific institution, the Shanghai city government. Shanghai, in many ways, represented a special case in China[4]: it was a metropolis divided, politically and administratively, into three parts (the International and French Settlements and the Chinese sector); it had a local cosmopolitan society that concentrated the essence of the Chinese bourgeoisie and a modern, flourishing economy from which the Nationalist government drew a substantial part of its revenues. It is easy to understand why the new regime should have. striven to take control of the city and assert its power with respect to both foreigners (which it did in moderation) and the social groups that traditionally dominated local political and economic life. From the top ranks of the latter came the Chinese bourgeoisie with its numerous strata of elites and intermediate layers[S] each with its representati've institution (examples of these were the Chambers of Commerce, the Chinese Bankers• Association, the guilds, and the Street Unions). Politically, the Nationalist regime was represented in Shanghai not only by the city government but also by the local bureau of the GMD which strove, at least until 1932, to take over the political leadership of the city by a series of moves that were aimed as much against the bourgeoisie as against the municipal administration itself. The purpose of this article is to describe the development of relations between the city government and these two groups and the three-sided play that resulted, and to try to place this story in the broader context of relations between the regime and society. The relations between a local government and a bureau of the GMD at the same level were theoretically defined by texts that delimited their respective roles(6]: that of the party was to guide and oversee. However, this broad definition lent itself to all manner of interpretations depending on the personalities or wishes of local political and administrative officials. As many studies have shown, party-government relations at the local level were at times difficult and even conflict-ridden.(7] They were set, above all, in a web of subtle relationships that is barely glimpsed in the written sources of the period.[S] The Local Bureau of the Guomindang In 1927, after Jiang Jieshi's sanguinary blow against the Communists, the local branch of the GMD, whose membership had swollen inordinately in the previous year, underwent an extensive purge. ±n 1929, after the official reorganization of the party, only a third of the 1927 membership remained in the ranks.(9] In the meantime, the direction of the local party passed into the hands of representatives appointed by Nanjing and by the city's new strongman, General Bai Chongxi. None of the leading organs set up in Shanghai was truly composed of local activists. It was only with the establishment of the Guiding Committee (zhidao weiyuanhui) in April 1928 that there emerged some of those personalities, like Pan Gongzhan, Wu Kaixian, and Wang Yansong, who were to dominate the Guomindang...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1940-5065
Print ISSN
1521-5385
Pages
pp. 1-21
Launched on MUSE
2021-05-25
Open Access
No
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