AAS Annual Meeting

China and Inner Asia Session 197

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Session 197: New Perspectives on the Institutional Changes of 1950s China across the 1949 Divide: The Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) as a Critical Juncture - Sponsored by The Historical Society for 20th-Century China

Organizer: Sei Jeong Chin, Ewha Womans University, South Korea

Chair: Julia C. Strauss, SOAS, University of London, United Kingdom

Discussant: Parks M. Coble, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, USA

One of the most formidable intellectual challenges confronting China scholars has been to explain the logic of institutional change from the 1930s through the 1950s and demonstrate the existence of causal connections across the 1949 divide. Although recent studies suggest that the elements of post-1949 institutional and structural arrangements and ideological systems developed well before 1949, many scholars continue to treat China during the 1930s and the 1950s as separate entities of research. While acknowledging the CCP’s success in bringing about radical institutional change characterized by path-independence, this panel maintains that the CCP’s efforts to change China’s economic, cultural and military institutions in the 1950s were also path-dependent in nature. In particular, the Sino-Japanese War brought about significant institutional change that exerted a lasting impact on the restructuring of the postwar Chinese state and society. This cross-temporal panel aims not only at pushing the scholarly frontier into the 1950s but does so by examining China’s economic, cultural and military institutions in that decade in the context of developments during the Sino-Japanese War. Morris L. Bian analyzes the formation of a regional state enterprise system in Guizhou province from the 1930s to the 1950s and argues that the Chinese Communist Revolution in economic institutions was characterized by transforlution. Julia Strauss examines the development of organizations and discourses of grain supply system both in the PRC and Taiwan in the context of militarization process from the wartime to the post-1949 era, and recognizes the significance of institutional changes during the wartime in the consolidation of state institutions in the post-1949 period. Sei Jeong Chin explores the nationalization process of newspapers in the early 1950s by tracing its historical origins in the structural changes during the Sino-Japanese War.

Redefining the Chinese Communist Revolution in Economic Institutions: Transforlution of Guizhou Regional State Enterprises through War and Revolution, 1937-1957
Morris L. Bian, Auburn University, USA

Although there is a plethora of literature on the Chinese Communist Revolution, few scholars have examined it in terms of change of Chinese institutions across the 1949 divide. In bridging this temporal divide and drawing extensively on newly available archival material, this paper offers a new perspective on the Chinese Communist Revolution by focusing on regional state enterprises in Guizhou province from the late 1930s to the late 1950s. The paper demonstrates that the institutional change occurred during these decades were characterized by both transformation (path-independence) and evolution (path-dependence), hence transforlution. Furthermore, this institutional transforlution resulted in the formation of a regional state enterprise system in Guizhou province. Central to this regional state enterprise system were bureaucratic enterprise governance, CCP control over enterprise employees, and distinctive enterprise management and incentive mechanisms. In addition, this paper shows that despite Chinese regional state’s ownership over some or all of Guizhou regional state enterprises, both endogenously generated institutional resources and exogenously generated but indigenized institutional resources contributed to the formation of Guizhou regional state enterprise system during the early years of the People’s Republic. Although the timing of their indigenization was different, ultimately each indigenized institutional resource found expression in the new institutional arrangement of Guizhou regional state enterprises. The evidence reveals that the Chinese Communist Revolution in economic institutions was characterized by both path-independence and path-dependence in part because Communist economic institutions not only contained elements of existing non-Communist institutions but also represented an extension and expansion of certain existing institutions.

“Nourishing the People, Feeding the Army: The Impact of Wartime Institutions and Ideology in Grain Supply in post-1949 Su’nan and Taiwan”
Julia C. Strauss, SOAS, University of London, United Kingdom

Although it is widely recognized that the hyper-militarization of China’s state and society in the 1940s had an extraordinary impact on the subsequent evolution of the Chinese state, there are few studies that trace the specific ways in which these patterns of militarization were solidified in post 1949 state institutions. Drawing on contemporary semi-official periodicals and republished archival documents, this piece lays out both the discourse on and the organization of grain supply during the Sino-Japanese War (requisitioning, rationing and distribution) and civil war years for both the Guomindang and Chinese Communist Party. It then traces how the ideas and institutions borne of wartime emergency were and were not replicated, adapted, and institutionalized in the emerging, much stronger Party-states of the People’s Republic of China and The Republic of China on Taiwan between 1949 and 1956, suggesting that despite the significant ideological differences between these two mutually hostile variants on the modern Chinese state, both held much more in common than either was able to admit, at least in part because of the impact of the Sino-Japanese War, and relentlessly escalating militarization over the course of the 1940s..

Historical Origins of Nationalization of Newspaper Industry in Modern China
Sei Jeong Chin, Ewha Womans University, South Korea

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) that came to power in 1949 managed to nationalize the nation’s newspapers by 1952. As a result of the successful nationalization, the privately-owned commercial newspapers that flourished in the Republican era (1911-1949) had disappeared by the mid-1950s. Despite its obvious importance, the issue of why and how the CCP succeeded in realizing the nationalization of the newspaper industry and achieving unprecedented degree of centralization of state power and control within such a short span of time have not been adequately or fully addressed. In the past, scholars had often attributed the nationalization of China’s newspapers to the CCP’s autocratic characteristics and the CCP’s adoption of the Soviet model of newspaper centralization and control. Recent studies demonstrated, however, that the process of nationalizing the newspaper industry was not what scholars assumed it to be; it was much more complex and full of contradictions, one that required the CCP to accommodate and adapt existing practices to a considerable degree. Drawing on archival materials, memoirs, and newspaper clippings, this paper explores the nationalization of China’s newspaper industry and places it in the context of developments during the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945). In particular, the paper examines the process by which the CCP’s Shanghai newspaper, the Jiefang ribao took over the Shen bao, China’s largest privately-owned commercial newspaper before 1949. The paper presents the argument that the process of newspaper nationalization in the early 1950s can be traced to the structural change of the newspaper industry during the war, which shifted the balance of power to the state.