AAS Annual Meeting

Interarea/Border-Crossing Session 516

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Session 516: Regional and Transnational Networks of Trade and Diaspora in Asia ( I )

Organizer: Ulises Granados, Instituto Tecnologico Autonomo De Mexico (ITAM), Mexico

This panel seeks to examine Asia’s trading past and present, from the long-duree to contemporary times, with a focus on regional and transnational trade and diaspora networks. It hopes to capture relevant regional dynamics of trade, looking both within and beyond political national borders to include networks extended into larger economic-cultural zones operating in transnational settings. Socio-cultural linkages among cities and other regions, investors from China in Southeast Asia and vice versa, as well as the returning non-resident Indians in Southeast Asia, are just a few of these modern and contemporary manifestations of regional trade`s dynamics at play. Apart from examining traders and commodities, the panel includes aspects of navigation, migration, mobility, investment and trade by Chinese and Indian overseas diasporas, as well as identities of communities impacted by networks of trade. The first set of papers dealing with China, Japan and India addresses patterns of trade, maritime transportation and connections, as well as the role played by merchants, sojourners and ethnic-investors in trans-local, trans-regional movements of goods and in society in general. The second group of papers, geographically focused on South and Southeast Asia, explores networks of trade and communication, history of inter-Asian trade of art and iconography, as well as South Asian diaspora’ developments at connecting spaces along Southeast Asia nation-states.

1. Sojourners’ network and the variegated public: merchants and locality in early modern China
Yongtao Du, Oklahoma State University, USA

Public obligations undertaken by the local gentry in early modern China, such as the charitable projects, often covered people of their home locale only. In this approach, the locale was coterminous with the public. By investigating the charitable spending of the sojourning merchants of Huizhou (Anhui), this paper makes a case of an alternative approach to the public that was embraced by the emerging Shishang (gentry-merchant) elite. For the latter, the geographical scope of public engagement was both narrower and broader than the local arena. On the one hand, charitable projects in host places launched under the motto of “communal righteousness” (xiang yi) provided assistance to people of common native-place origin only, thus creating a “particularistic” type of public obligation inside a local place. On the other hand, the same motto inspired the sojourning merchants to expand their public obligations way beyond the host places where they had business, covering their home place Huizhou as well as other cities where their fellow Huizhou men sojourned. For example, during the 18th century, active participation by sojourning Huizhou merchants in Yangzhou became crucial for famine reliefs in Huizhou and the renovations of native-place lodges (huiguan) in Beijing. In this sense, there formed a network of sojourners across local and regional boundaries. The local and the public became distinctive domains.

Modernization and Regionalism in South China: Notes on Coastal Navigation in Guangdong Province during the late-Nineteenth, early-Twentieth Century
Ulises Granados, Instituto Tecnologico Autonomo De Mexico (ITAM), Mexico

During the last decades of the nineteenth century in China proposals for a modern, domestic sea transport industry crystallized in the China Merchant´s Steam Navigation Company, the first serious effort to challenge foreign firms in this sector. However, in view of the quick decline of this government-sponsored experiment and the prevalence of Shanghai as a major hub of foreign and domestic navigational activities, several questions remained as to how this and other proposals in southern China, mainly Guangdong province, coped with foreign competition. This essay highlights patterns of development in the navigation industry in this province, both junk and non-junk, steamships, as well as the struggle in investment and routes coverage by Chinese entrepreneurs amid the well consolidated presence of foreign firms in the coastal and blue water transportation business. This research also inquires into the role played by Guangdong merchants in the quest of modernization of this transportation sector and those proposals for regional development in south China littorals during the last years of the ailing Qing dynasty.

3. Tokyo and Osaka -- Close but Oh so Far: The differing trade networks of two Japanese cities
David Rands, Austin Peay State University , USA

It is interesting that although when looking from outside of Japan the country is most often presented as extremely homogenous and unified, but from within Japanese themselves are quick to point out the differences in the country’s regions. The Japan Times starts a review of an upcoming TV drama with the following sentence. “Tokyoites and Osakans like to believe that they not only differ in terms of local customs, but that they practically come from different planets.” Indeed these two cities have very different pasts that have led distinct regional and transnational connections. This paper explores how Tokyo has become tied to the West, while merely 550 kilometers away Osaka, Japan’s second city, is connected to the Asian continent. By comparing the historical development of the two cities this paper shows how the urban developments shaped the regional and transnational patterns of trade of these two Japanese metropolises.

4.EDI versus FDI: How Transnational Diaspora Networks Impact China and India’s Economic Reforms?
Min Ye, Boston University, USA

Existing literature in international political economy and comparative politics has explored the role and implication of foreign direct investment (FDI) in developing countries without paying any attention to a crucial subset of FDI, investment made by diasporas. I use co-ethnic foreign direct investment (EDI) to describe this subset and argue that EDI, as well as transnational diaspora networks, have catalytical impacts on their homeland developments. I use China and India’s economic reform as core cases. EDI is different from FDI in at least three aspects. First, it tends to enter the host economy earlier than FDI, as their ethnic affinity reduces institutional threshold for their entry. Non ethnic investors tend to wait until proper physical and institutional infrastructure is in place. Second, co-ethnic investors tend to have wider domestic reach than non ethnic investors. Non-ethnic investors tend to work with central bureaucrats or major domestic companies, neglecting the numerous, politically influential sub-national actors. Third, EDI less likely leads to nationalist backlashes, because they blend in domestic context better than FDI. This paper disaggregates EDI from FDI in China and India and addresses three main questions. One, how EDI has influenced reform in China? Two, to what extent has non-resident Indians played a role in India’s FDI liberalization? Three, what are the political implications of these two different FDI patterns in China and India?