AAS Annual Meeting

Interarea/Border-Crossing Session 344

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Session 344: The 1911 Revolution and the Transpacific Chinese Diaspora

Organizer: Zhongping Chen, University of Victoria, Canada

Chair: Elizabeth J. Perry, Harvard University, USA

Discussant: Chi-Kong Lai, University of Queensland, Australia

In commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Republican Revolution in modern China, this interdisciplinary panel advances broader, deeper and more complicated understandings of the revolutionary movement in the context of the transpacific Chinese diaspora. For the purpose of engaging the audience in discussion, Chi Kong Lai’s opening discussion outlines the spread of Sun Yat-sen’s revolution from Hawaii to China and the Chinese diaspora, and highlights the transpacific approach and perspectives to be presented in the four papers. The four subsequent presentations are limited to 15 minutes each and divided into pairs, which focus respectively on the revolutionary efforts to mobilize the transpacific Chinese diaspora, and on the latter’s reactions and conversion to the radical politics. Sin-Kiong Wong examines how Sun Yat-sen developed his revolutionary party, its peripheral organizations and newspapers, to arouse the Chinese in Southeast Asia and acquire their support. Hideo Fukamachi also demonstrates how the three major revolutionary newspapers in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore preached diverse revolutionary ideas for the purpose of wining support from the different Chinese communities overseas. By contrast, Zhongping Chen’s case studies of three Chinese individuals in Canada reveal how they turned from reform to revolution for their personal reasons and because of revolutionary influence in the transpacific arena. Finally, Laixing Chen suggests that Chinese merchants in Japan converted to the Republican Revolution through their varied social networks, ranging from their native-place ties with Sun Yat-sen to their newly formed institutional links with Chinese politics at the moment of the 1911 Revolution.

A Tripartite Revolutionary System in Southeast Asia: Sun Yat-sen and the Chinese Diaspora, 1900-1911
Sin-kiong Wong, National University of Singapore, Singapore

This paper examines a tripartite revolutionary system which was set up by Sun Yat-sen in Nanyang (literally meaning ”South Seas”) or Southeast Asia, especially in British Singapore and Penang, and it also highlights the involvement of the Chinese diaspora in this tripartite system. Sun visited Singapore and Penang several times in the period between 1900 and 1911. From 1905, he decided to intensify his revolutionary campaign not only through a revolutionary party but also through its peripheral organizations, reading clubs, and its major propaganda machine, newspapers. The political party, the Revolutionary Alliance (Tongmeng hui), was the pivot of the revolutionary movement, but it had to act secretly in the British colonies. The reading clubs were prominent revolutionary organizations under the guise of public, cultural and educational institutions. The newspapers were the mouthpieces of revolutionary organizations. With this tripartite system, Sun Yat-sen and his followers were able to generate political awareness of the Chinese communities in the region and subsequently receive their support for his revolutionary endeavor. This unique system in the region explains why Sun Yat-sen received tremendous help, in finance and manpower, from Southeast Asian Chinese for his uprisings against the Manchu dynasty, eventually overthrowing it through the 1911 Revolution.

The Wandering Prophet and His Apostles: Sun Yat-sen’s Revolutionary Propaganda in the Tokyo-Hong Kong-Singapore Nexus, 1905-1911
Hideo Fukamachi, Chuo University, Japan

It is well known that Sun Yat-sen formulated his revolutionary ideas into a systematic theory called the Three People’s Principles (Sanmin zhuyi) for the first time in his 1905 address to Chinese intellectuals sojourning in Japan. This theory became the official doctrine of the Nationalist Party (Guomin dang) later on. In their propaganda campaigns across the Chinese Diaspora in East and Southeast Asia, however, Sun Yat-sen and his followers, such as Hu Hanmin, Wang Jingwei, Zhu Zhixin, and Feng Ziyou, seldom advocated the whole set of revolutionary theory, in particular the principle of the people’s livelihood (minsheng zhuyi) or equalization of landowning (pingjun diquan). In order to gain support from various Chinese communities scattered over the different areas, these revolutionaries carefully catered to their audience and flexibly selected slogans from Sun’s revolutionary theory for their propaganda. By analyzing the editorials and articles published in the three major propaganda organs of the Revolutionary Alliance, the People’s Journal (Minbao) in Tokyo, the China Daily (Zhongguo ribao) in Hong Kong, and the Chinese Resurgence Daily (Zhongxing ribao) in Singapore, this paper demonstrates the ideological diversity within the revolutionary camp. It was mainly through such flexible and adaptable propaganda that these revolutionists mobilized the overseas Chinese community for the Republican Revolution in China around 1911.

From Reform to Revolution: Political and Personal Transition in the Chinese Diaspora of Canada and the Transpacific Arena, 1895-1911
Zhongping Chen, University of Victoria, Canada

This paper examines the political transition of the overseas Chinese from reform to revolution between 1895 and 1911 through analysis of three personal cases in Canada and the transpacific arena. After Kang Youwei initiated the Chinese Empire Reform Association (Baohuang hui) in Canada in 1899, the major leader of the association, Li Fuji, brought his oldest son, Li Bohai, into the reformist cause, but the junior Li became the earliest Canadian participant in Sun Yat-sen’s Revolutionary Alliance in Japan around 1905. Similarly, one of Kang’s former students and a reformist journalist, Cui Tongyue, left Japan for Canada in 1907 and soon became a revolutionary propagandist in North America. In particular, Feng Ziyou, the son of a rich Chinese merchant in Yokohama, successively followed his father to join Sun Yat-sen’s revolutionary organization and Kang Youwei’s reformist activities between 1895 and 1899. But the junior Feng finally became the major revolutionary leader in Canada between 1909 and 1911. Because of his political mobilization, the Chinese community in Canada, especially the Triad Society, provided the largest share of financial support for Sun Yat-sen’s Revolutionary uprising in Canton in April 1911. The three cases exemplify how the overseas Chinese turned from reform to revolution for both political and personal reasons. While reformist and revolutionary movements split overseas Chinese communities down to the familial and personal levels, they also linked up the transpacific diaspora with new organizational relations and increasingly radical politics.

Merchant Networks and Revolutionary Conversion in the Chinese Diaspora of Japan, 1895-1912
Laixing Chen, University of Hyogo, Japan

Previous studies of Sun Yat-sen’s revolutionary movement in Japan have always stressed his relations with Chinese students, but merchant groups from China have rarely received scholarly attention. In fact, Sun’s earliest supporters in Japan were mostly Cantonese merchants in Yokohama. In 1895, they helped Sun found the Japanese branch of the Revive China Society (Xingzhong hui) and led other regional groups of Chinese merchants to initiate a pro-revolution school. Although many of these Cantonese merchants gradually turned to Kang Youwei’s reformist faction thereafter, a few rich businessmen from Sun’s home county, Xiangshan, continuously provided him with support. Moreover, the San-Jiang group of merchants, who came from the lower Yangtze River valley, resented Cantonese domination of the school and instead established another school under revolutionary influence. In particular, the Chinese merchants in Kobe, where Sino-Japanese trade was concentrated, developed close relations with domestic politics in late Qing China through the newly formed Chinese chambers of commerce and business magazines based in both countries. As a result, they quickly reorganized the Kobe Chinese Chamber of Commerce into the United Overseas Chinese Merchant Federation of the Republic of China after the 1911 Revolution broke out in Wuchang. Thus, this paper argues that the Chinese merchants in Japan converted to revolution through the operations of their varied social networks, including their native-place connections with Sun Yat-sen, the clashes of their regional groups with the reformist rivals of Sun, and their new institutional links with domestic politics at the time of the 1911 Revolution.