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-19SEMINAR ON LOCAL AND PROVINCIAL POLITICS IN NATIONALIST CHINA For three days in October 1974 a group of scholars with a common interest in provincial and local affairs during the Nanking Decade m~t together in Boulder, Colorado, for a topical seminar on sub-national politics sponsored by the Social Science Research Council. The conference had a dual purpose of assessing the present state of our knowledge on local affairs while stimulating fresh.discussion on new interpretations or research projects. There were four panels on the agenda, with one formal paper and discussion for each. A concluding panel summarized conference findings. Even though the conference directed most attention to provincial affairs, the first panel addressed the question of defining the type of relationship that existed between center and province, specifically the relationship of Nanking with the provinces during the Sian Incident in 1936. In early years of Nationalist rule, political ties between Nanking and provincial leaders tended to be loosely defined and fragile, with Nanking asserting potent authority only in a few provinces in the lower Yangtze. Van Slyke proposed that the Sian Incident marked a watershed in the reintegration of national unity as earlier independent provincial leaders swore allegiance to the patriotic consensus that China should unify to counter Japanese aggressi.on. Preceding his forceful abduction, Chiang had asserted new influence in Southeast China under the guise of eliminating communists on the Long March, neutralized Feng Yu-hsiang, and undermined the challenge of Kwangtung and Kwangsi leaders for national prominence. Chiang's subsequent pledge to terminate civil war and join with his arch rivals, the communists, in a new united front bonded together disunified groups such as students, regional and communist leaders, and urban bourgeois elements who had earlier competed, often antagonistically, with each other. Paradoxically, just as China gained a new sense of nationalism to replace the debilitating regionalism she entered eight long years of damaging war that once again generated independent and hostile relations between Chinese. Seminar members probed for sp.ecific motivations of personalities connected with kidnapping such as the hardliners in Nanking and junior staff officers of Chang Hsueh-liang, but answers remained knowledgeable speculation due to inaccessible KMT archives. Seminar members also wondered about the impact of Japanese invasion in 1937 on provincial officials, their regional governments, and on their relationship with the capital. From national-provincial relations, the focus of attention shifted in Panel II to intra-provincial affairs and the relationship between the political establishment and local elite. After outlining the basic roles of gentry and provincial elites under the Ch'ing, Buck suggested that this elite underwent a basic social and political transformation in Republican China. Seeking to retain their wealth and influence in the new republican society, the elite moved their residences from rural to urban centers, changing their occupations concurrently from bureaucratic offic±als to commercial entrepreneurs or professionals in imitation of Western elites. Increasingly isolated in urban commercial endeavors, the provincial elite lost touch with rural society and provincial politics, losing their former power to regional g~n€rals or peasant associations. While the new gentry often originated in the families of traditional scholars, this new elite had only a weak political role in provincial affairs. In discussion, several participants noted the absence in previous scholarship on Nationalist China of a clear definition for amorphous social entities such as the "gentry" or "elites"~ definitions that encompassed variations of geography, education, or economic position. While gentry may have abandoned rural areas in Shantung, many remained situated in the countryside elsewhere in China. Other questions included: What was the connection between the elite and foreigners? How did the elite relate to the provincial establishment outside Shantung? All agreed that we need more study of class composition and interaction at local levels to rectify present inadequacies. -20In Panel III, the seminar moved into the subject of the relationship between politics and economic development at the regional level. Using Kwangsi as the object of examination, Deal outlined critical difficulties faced by regional leaders working to industrialize the province. While lack of modern transportation impeded industrialization by complicating the arrival of raw materials or exit of manufactured products, the emphasis upon regional independence...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1940-5065
Print ISSN
1521-5385
Pages
pp. 19-21
Launched on MUSE
2021-05-25
Open Access
No
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