From Urban Press
Semicolonialism, as Jurgen Osterhammel noted, is a label that has been generally applied to China "without much regard for its potential theoretical implications" (Osterhammel 1986, 296). The partial character of semicolonialism- as incomplete colonialism-poses the question of what difference it made that throughout the modern period China never in fact became a subject nation, but retained sovereignty over nearly all of its territory and was recognized as a sovereign nation by international law. The writings of twentieth-century Chinese nationalists and a recent profusion of theorizing about colonialism and "colonial modernity" in China, by emphasizing colonialism (Barlow 1997), have perhaps obscured rather than clarified the answer to this question. Moreover, semicolonialism in China, as a gradual accretion of phenomena associated with imperialism, varied substantially over time. Its significance for understanding nineteenth-century China, when the foreign presence within China was still quite limited, remains unclear. Several decades of research on imperialism in Shanghai have produced much debate, but no clear mapping of "where, when, how and to what effect did which extraneous forces impinge" on Chinese life (Osterhammel 1986, 295).
(Goodman 2000, p 889)
No longer viewed as naturalized "traditions" representing unified communities or cultures, public rituals have become fertile ground for examining the attempts of new states or modernizing elites to fix ideological meanings on moments of radical change that characterize modernity. Recognition of the historical appearance of new forms of festivals and other ceremonial representations of community has provided modern historians with material for the examination of the his- torical innovations of nationalism, the nation-state, and colonial authority. In keeping with recent reorientations of anthropology toward investigations of the process of modernity, hybridity, and polyphony within and across cultural borders-as culture itself is understood to be both more porous and more closely connected to history and politics-historians' under- standings of community, culture, and modernity have also become less stable.
The public display orchestrated by the Shanghai Municipal Council to celebrate the first half-century of Shanghai's opening to foreign trade offered a sort of tableau vivant for contemporary public reflection. As such, the event and the social commentaries it engendered at the time express both the meanings attributed to the Settlement by different elements of the community and modes of interaction and participation in a common municipal arena after fifty years of collective history. Juxtaposition of Chinese and Western records and pictorial representations of this event permits an analysis of the significance of ceremonial innovation and the appropriation of meanings by various groups of participants, including both the largely Anglo-American Shanghailanders who fashioned the International Settlement after their own interests, and the various groups of Chinese residents in the Settlement who had interests of their own.
The Awkwardness of Symbolizing the Colonial
Some of the areas of delicacy may be indicated by a quick contrast with the celebration of the Jubilee of Queen Victoria by the Shanghai British community, an event that took place only six years before the Jubilee of the International Settlement. This "lavish and magnificent" display of 1887 in some ways served as a model for the 1893 Jubilee (Shanghai 1893, 49). The Queen's Jubilee celebrated the British empire, received funding from the British government, and was unabashedly colonial in tone.
Not only were the constituent foreign communities themselves divided by nationality, but foreign residents were unclear as to the extent to which their Shanghai included the resident Chinese, who vastly outnumbered them in the city and outspent them in taxes paid to the Municipal Council. In the minds of its Western residents, Shanghai was celebrating its fiftieth year "as a foreign city," and as "the only republic on Asiatic soil," "a unique instance of a republic dropped down on an alien empire." This was a city in which "people of almost all the nations of Europe, with numerous representatives from America, as well as a strong contingent of natives of other Asiatic countries [are] unitedly living in harmonious intercourse"(Shanghai 1893, 1; Jubilee of Shanghai 1893, 3). The International Settlement was not, of course, an independent republic, but Shanghailanders liked to view it in this fashion.6 The assertion of transnational municipal unity to be found in this rhetoric sits uneasily with the simultaneous insistence that Shanghai was a foreign city on Chinese soil, an insistence that reveals the degree to which the International Settlement embodied aspirations to appropriate and reshape China. (In this respect it seems worth noting the linguistic originality of the neologism Shanghailanders, the self-appellation of Anglo-American residents in the city, which staked the foreign settlers' claim to Shanghai while distinguishing them from the Chinese Shanghainese, whose own birthright was thereby implicitly challenged.)
Foreign traders quickly learned that they faced, not individual Chinese counterparts, but highly organized "guilds" of Chinese traders organized along occupational and native-place lines. These huiguan and gongsuo complicated and at times stymied European attempts to penetrate Chinese markets (Hamilton 1977; Shanghai 1893, 31; Goodman 1995, 41-46). Native-place associations were also at the center of the first major popular conflicts between Chinese and foreigners in post-Taiping Shanghai, the Siming Gongsuo Riots of 1874 and 1898, which erupted in the course of struggles of the Ningbo community to protect burial grounds located on valuable land in the French Concession from French encroachment.
Western accounts from the 1890s waxed nostalgic for the bygone days when "Foreign Consuls were men," when, at the least Chinese insult, the British Consul would blockade the port with gunboats to show "that the British Government was behind every one of its subjects and would not allow them to be injured with impunity".
This reliance encompassed the regular solicitation of substantial contributions for the joint Fire Commission of the Foreign Concessions... routine reliance on native-place associations to resolve disputes within the Chinese population, and assistance in maintaining order in times of heightened popular anxiety. By the late Qing, the Municipal Council recognized a group of major "Chinese guilds" in what amounted to an informal consultative relationship in the governance of the Chinese urban community within the Settlement boundaries...
The leaders of late nineteenth-century Shanghai native-place associations were among the wealthiest merchants of the city, men who regularly engaged in economic transactions with foreigners and in some cases had foreign-language skills. The structure of native-place associations, in which a large (and more culturally insular) body of sojourners came to identify with such men as the leaders of their native-place community, served to gradually adapt and assimilate a variety of new foreign things and practices into the broader Chinese community.
The Jubilee ceremony of 1893 highlights the economic and power relations as well as the public prejudices that organized social relations between Chinese and Westerners within the International Settlement at this time...On the Western side, the conventional representation assimilated the complexities of Shanghai social relations to a model of progress in which Westerners led and Chinese-at least the progressive commercial sector of society and the urban population more broadly-willingly followed. On the Chinese side, we see narratives of commercial opportunity that assimilated new political visions and negotiated challenges to Chinese notions of sovereignty, morality, and cultural superiority.
The Jubilee in Western Eyes
In the words of the Chairman of the Municipal Council: "as residents of Shanghai, we have become members of a truly cosmopolitan community" (Shanghai 1893, 55). Needless to say, this cosmopolitanism was limited by the political frameworks and mentalities of European colonialism of the period, as modified in the commonly evoked identity of the Shanghailander (whose position was secured and protected by the force of the Western powers, but whose municipal government imagined itself free of control by any outside government, Chinese or Western). It therefore comes as no surprise that the Jubilee display, as well as the evocation of cosmopolitan community, was almost entirely Western in terms of conception and participation.
In the absence of a strict colonial situation, we find the invention of a new type of cosmopolitan colonial entity, one in which the participating powers adopted the municipal motto, omnia juncta in uno (all joined into one).9 This was a cosmopolitanism that could only be sustained at a distance from the nationalist rivalries that characterized the European continent, an exclusive cosmopolitanism that was fashioned in the face of the Chinese community, which was its foil.
At 11:30 the Reverend William Muirhead would deliver a public speech at the Bund between Nanjing and Beijing Roads, encompassed within a protective cordon formed by the Navy and the Volunteers (separating Westerners, and Western women in particular, from the native population)... The impression of European exclusivity and the colonial-style military character of the jubilee celebration is reinforced by commemorative photographs published by the Shanghai Mercury (Figures 1-3), which focus entirely on the Western participants, buildings, and Western-identified terrain of the ceremonies (Shanghai 1893).'13 Indeed, the only photograph that features a Chinese face was clearly framed with the intent of excluding everyone from the picture but Europeans (Figure 3). In this photograph of the jubilee speech by William Muirhead, the camera was poised directly behind the military cordon separating the Western audience from Chinese spectators... Muirhead is surrounded by an evidently Western audience (recognizable by the Western top hats and coats). The military cordon of Western sailors appears across the bottom of the photo, and, indeed, the sailors are the largest figures in the picture. The reportedly massive Chinese audience at this event would be entirely invisible in this photograph but for a lone Chinese face--of a man who evidently moved unexpectedly into view just after the picture was framed-which appears in the bottom left-hand corner.
Given the way in which the Jubilee events served to showcase European military force,'4 as well as the emphasis on Western terrain (the buildings, routes, and parks" identified), we might wonder at the distinctive role of the Chinese associations in the celebration. Like certain other non-European people-Sikhs, for example-a unit of Chinese police also participated in a police procession, but here they appeared in the clear but unstated role of colonial subjects, dressed in uniforms, following orders and integrated into a larger, disciplined British-directed body.'6 In contrast, the parade of the Chinese associations was independently organized by the associations themselves, which were neither subject to nor employed by foreign powers.
It is clear from reports in the Western press that, for Western observers, the participation of the Chinese "guilds" in the procession confirmed the success of the cosmopolitan "model settlement." Western commentators characterized the major guilds as both "a formidable factor in the commonwealth of [the] Model Settlement," and as a progressive element of the Chinese community
The Western commercial community exulted in the enthusiasm of this sector of the Chinese community for the Jubilee: "The Chinese Guilds have so thoroughly entered into the spirit of the Jubilee procession that they have induced the Committee responsible for the programme to allow them to have a procession ... on Friday night and another procession to themselves on Saturday morning." Chinese participation also added local color, providing the exotic treats of a living Chinese cultural museum, "marvellous and strange," "novel and fantastic," to an otherwise more familiar public display (Shanghai 1893, 67).
The foreign community was advised to attend: The Chinese Guild processions tomorrow and on Saturday will be by no means the least interesting feature in our celebration. Banners, lanterns, and other paraphernalia, the like of which has never been seen before in Shanghai, have been brought up specially from the South, and a magnificent display will be made. We hear that among the sights to be seen in the Jubilee Procession of the Canton guild will be a unique representation of seventy-six little children gorgeously attired in the ancient Chinese dress to represent a hunting expedition of olden times.Despite such favorable anticipation of Chinese participation in the Jubilee, the foreign community was to be disappointed in that portion of the actual event... Something went wrong with the parade of the Chinese guilds, which perturbed the smooth Western narrative:
(NCH 16 November 1893, 771)
It was unfortunate that owing to some misunderstanding the Chinese procession got separated from the Firemen, and. .. turned round, so that the people along the Bund north of the great triumphal arch never saw it at all. It was hoped that they would be able to make up on Saturday for this disappointment, but again there was some misunderstanding, and though fragments of the procession were seen from time to time . .. the expected general Parade of the Guilds was a failure. How this happened is not clearly understood, but it appears to have been due to some inter-provincial jealousy, some dispute between the men of Canton and the men of Ningbo as to which should have precedence. This was the only drawback to the complete success of the celebration..Western disappointment at missing the promised intricate and exotic Chinese displays was somewhat assuaged by the North China Heral/s speculative analysis of the problem, that interethnic Chinese rivalries interfered with the expression of greater urban community (NCH 24 November 1893, 831). If problems with the Chinese parade could be attributed to weaknesses within the Chinese community, they need not interfere with general satisfaction with the Jubilee's ability to mark, in the words of the British Minister to Beijing who reflected on the event, "the progress and development of friendly commercial relations with China during the last fifty years."
(NCH 24 November 1893, 808)
The Western parade was declared "a triumphant success," with large French and British naval contingents marching in perfect concert with the Volunteers. Muirhead's address was similarly "magnificent," providing eloquent testimony to the European mission "to be a leaven in the vast mass of China." The Chinese audience for the parade was also celebrated: "thousands of blue-coated Chinese massed in the roadways," whose rapt witnessing of the spectacle made it especially memorable for Western viewers. The "dense congregation" of the Chinese audience ("eager spectators of the proceedings which they could not altogether follow with full knowledge, but into the spirit of which they seemed to enter heartily") was well-behaved and kept to its designated place, "outside the lines of the Navy and Volunteers." In these respects the proceedings demonstrated to the British viewer the formidable and well-oiled municipal machinery introduced into China by the British, and the receptive and willing position of the Chinese. Chinese eagerness, in this view, confirmed the superiority of the Western model; Chinese dimness and obedience confirmed the appropriateness of Western leadership and guidance. There was no question, in short, of "the amenability of the Chinese native when he comes under firm and friendly control" (NCH 24 November 1893, 808, 827-28).
The Jubilee in Chinese Eye
Issues of Sovereignty and National Identity
The two dominant Chinese papers at this time, the Shenbao and the Hubao, were both foreign-owned commercial ventures, as was the pictorial newspaper Dianshizhai huabao. As Rudolf Wagner has pointed out, the public articulation of "Chinese" views at this time was itself a product of the Western presence (Wagner 1995)... The texture of the accounts analyzed below, and the context of British concern about the contents of Chinese papers, together reinforce the impression that these papers expressed distinctively Chinese viewpoints (though the ideas and practices of Chinese public opinion at this time must be understood as culturally hybrid, encompassing both Chinese classical language and referents together with newly assimilated Western cultural elements.
On the Western side this preference to avoid mention of the violent origin of Western residence in Shanghai may be identified, in the words of Mary Pratt, as a narrative of "anti-conquest," or a "strategy of representation whereby European[s. ... seek to secure their innocence in the same moment as they assert European hegemony" (Pratt 1992, 7)...
On the day before the Jubilee celebration a Shenbao editorial, evidently seeking to ease potential reader discomfort with the Jubilee celebration... took as its task an explanation of the history of the opening of trade... Without making any reference at all to the Opium War hostilities or treaties, the editor's narrative creates the impression that the development of treaty ports resulted from Chinese initiative:
Daoguang reign, or July 20, 1843 in the Western calendar, the Imperial Commissioner and Liangjiang Governor-Genera... , the Governor-General of Guangdong and Guangxi..., the Governor of Guangdong... , and Inspector of Guangdong Customs... presented a joint memorial to the Throne. They then received the edict to determine a set of regulations on tariffs and trade. The vermilion rescripts from the emperor ordered the Grand Councillor to quickly discuss [the regulations] with his board and report. Soon the Grand Councillor and others presented their memorials, saying that since Guangzhou was opened for trade ... the four areas of Fuzhou, Xiamen, Ningbo and Shanghai should also be opened to obtain uniformity... A fifteen-clause trade regulation was drafted at that time. On [August 141, a memorial was presented reporting this and the edict was issued for compliance. This was the earliest clear expression [of permission] for the opening of trade between China and foreigners. Fuzhou, Xiamen and Ningbo were opened successively. Shanghai was opened on [November 171... . Being opened in the twenty-third year of Daoguang's reign, the trading port of Shanghai finds this the fiftieth anniversary... It is only appropriate to hold a celebration at this timeAfter describing fifty-year Jubilee celebrations as an ancient Western practice, the writer rhetorically asked whether such a celebration was appropriate for the Chinese people. His answer emphatically dismissed any doubts: "Why do [some Chinesel fail to understand that foreign trade has been beneficial not only for Westerners, but to us Chinese as well? . . . Without trade, how could the domestic produce of China, silk and tea for example, be shipped overseas to compete for profit? . . . How could the provincials of Fujian and Guangdong traverse the blue sea to San Francisco and ports in Southeast Asia to make money? Even just speaking of Shanghai . . . if not for Westerners . . . how could the [barren northernl area [of the cityl be transformed into thoroughfares and high buildings? Thinking of this it is possible to understand that foreign trade is irreplaceable and has also been greatly beneficial for China" (SB, 16 November 1893). The evident shift in the emphasis of the Jubilee here-from the establishment of a foreign settlement on Chinese soil to a discussion of the benefits of trade-provided a legitimate object for Chinese celebration. Such celebration of the architectural achievements and economic dynamism of the International Settlement and avoidance of the violent foundations upon which it was founded was typical of Chinese accounts of Shanghai at the time.21 Such elisions indicate a discomfort with Shanghai history, even as the texts in which these narratives appear express an evident identification with and enthusiasm for the economic and cultural attainments of the International Settlement.
(SB 16 November 1893)
[A lithograph in the Chinese pictorial newspaper Dianshizhai huabao] fortunately corresponds to the photograph in Figure 3, depicting the Jubilee speech by William Muirhead. The contrasting representation of the event is instructive (see Figure 4). Muirhead, now stereotypically depicted as a large, bearded foreigner in a top hat, appears off center, addressing-not a Western audience at all-but an orderly crowd of nicely attired Chinese. Not only is the privileged, intervening Western audience erased from the picture, but the military cordon restricting the Chinese audience is also gone. Instead a small group of Western soldiers stands at attention behind Muirhead, not between him and the crowd.
A reading of Chinese sources suggests that we may better understand motivations on the Chinese side if we disaggregate the Chinese community. We may begin the process of disaggregating different levels of Chinese participants and their motivations by noting the obvious, that the Chinese associations involved in the procession-the guilds-were deeply involved in foreign trade... As we begin to consider the individuals involved, we may also imagine that this was one level of the Chinese community with which Westerners were anxious, despite the arrogance of their rhetoric, to make contact, even to please... Some of the most prominent huiguan leaders made fortunes as both compradors for Western firms and as investors in modern industry, and were wealthier than most of the foreigners who sat on the Shanghai Municipal Council. Indeed, one commemorative album of the Shanghai Jubilee, which otherwise celebrated foreign achievements in the city, bemoaned a relative decline in the foreign life-style ("a sad falling off in the style of living") in Shanghai and lamented that in the past decade it was not foreigners but "the Chinese who have most largely profited" (Shanghai 1893, 43).
Chinese merchants may have viewed the Jubilee as an opportunity to give themselves (and the associations they directed) greater "face," both in the Chinese community and in Western eyes. As men who still felt constrained to purchase offices and the trappings of scholarship (if not actually to become scholars) to elevate their status, they may have also welcomed a public celebration of commerce, which was poorly recognized in the Chinese official order of things.
Though the day before yesterday marked the fiftieth year of foreign trade, it was also the revered birthday of the [Empress Dowager Cixil. It wouldn't be proper if the [Chinesel people [in the procession) only celebrated the birthday. But what the Westerners intended to celebrate was the opening of the port and the beginning of trade, which would ignore people's love and respect for the [Empress Dowagerl. Either way was embarrassing and there was no easy solution. [The only method) was that, on the lanterns of the different associations, on one side was written "celebration of longevity" (gongzhu wanshou) and on the other side "celebration of the opening of trade" (tongshang daqing)... In this fashion we can say that the matter was appropriately arranged and all the parties were catered to.The assertion of Chinese loyalties in contradistinction to Western interests is striking here. If such proclamations may be dismissed as rationalization of Chinese participation, the rationalization is important. Evidently, participation in the Western parade called into question loyalties to something Chinese, which needed to be reaffirmed because of the Western challenge... The fact that huiguan and gongsuo normally held no celebration of the Empress Dowager's birthday was no impediment to the invention of tradition on the Chinese side. Nor was Cixi's unpopularity an impediment, because-though she was otherwise vehemently denounced for her extravagance in the Chinese press at the time30 -in the iconographic context of the semicolonial Jubilee she symbolized China. The result was a new and important development-the public ceremonial affirmation of connection between Chinese guilds and the national polity.
(SB, 19 November 1893)
Issues of Native-Place Identity
The format of the Jubilee proceedings embedded a Chinese procession within a Western ceremony. Structurally, this format constituted the participating Guangdong and Ningbo participants as "Chinese." Nonetheless, all accounts of the Chinese procession make clear that it was comprised of competing corporate groups with distinct identities, and that there was no overarching "Chinese" organization to it... The evident reason why the Chinese procession disappointed the foreigners and failed to go by the Bund, where the foreigners were waiting, is that the Guangdong processionists were parading for their own (Guangdong) constituency and were indifferent (indeed, after their encounter with the Western police, perhaps even hostile) to their Western audience. The Guangdong shops that lined the streets had made contributions for the festivities, much in the fashion through which popular religious festivals were funded. Unable to pay their ritual respects to one sector of this community and unwilling to follow the directions of the Settlement police, the processionists dispersed... The significance of such details is of course lost in the Western newspaper accounts, which attributed the guilds' "failure" to internecine strife. But for the Chinese the procession evidently was an important occasion for expressing and catering to native-place loyalties.
The Guangdong bang also had its reasons for insisting on changing the route. Most Guangdong people in Shanghai live in the Hongkou area. The residents in the Xihuade Road area are mainly [from Guangdongj. All of the sons and daughters of the Pearl River expected [the procession) to pass by their doors so that they could watch the scene from their pearl-curtained carved windows. Those running hotels or shops had also purchased firecrackers to greet [the processioni. Valuing their native place above all, the Guangdong group therefore intentionally changed the course so as not to fail their fellow provincials.
(Shenbao quoted in ibid., p 914)
Even an apparently harmonious moment of Chinese and Western participation in a municipal Jubilee ceremony makes very clear that the hierarchical and exclusionary social relations of semicolonialism - contrary to the recent arguments of Robert Bickers and Jeffrey Wasserstrom - were not subtle and cannot be characterized by reciprocity. The most prominent ceremonial feature of the Jubilee was the display of Western military force, a reminder to all of the relationship "of trust between the Naval and Military Authorities of all nations and [the Municipal Council's) Volunteer Corps, [which has] been of immense advantage to the latter" (Shanghai 1893, 55). The closeness of this relationship should be sufficiently evident to suggest the disingenuousness of Shanghailander rhetoric of independence and to raise questions about the degree to which any interpretation of the culture of the International Settlement can be understood, without taking into account such displays of superior power...
Patterns of interaction and interdependence are of course regular features of formal and informal empire (Osterhammel 1986, 273). Their existence does not mark the absence or suspension of the larger economic and political power relations in which they were embedded. The pattern of Chinese elite interaction with foreigners that is visible in the Jubilee resembles in certain respects colonial cultivation of elite collaboration. Nonetheless, the term collaboration is misplaced as a description of a time when Chinese were not only not colonial subjects, but when there is no evidence that Chinese viewed foreigners and their interactions with them in terms of anything resembling colonized subjectivities
The postcolonial idea of the collaborating colonized elite is too universalized and too infused with knowledge of later developments to describe the complexities of behavior and elite commentary visible in the Jubilee, at a time when China still substantially retained its sovereignty, and when Chinese merchants "by and large outcompeted Western traders" because of the strength of indigenous native-place and trade organization (Hao 1986, 345-46)...
As these points about sovereignty and the relative strength of Chinese merchants suggest, though semicolonialism may be characterized by numerous "colonial" aspects and effects, it was in some respects qualitatively different (Osterhammel 1986; 1997)... Instead of colonial authority, the Jubilee was marked by a cosmopolitan pastiche of colonial-style symbolism. The innovations of the Jubilee ceremony matched the instabilities of the historical anomaly of the semicolonial International Settlement. The cosmopolitan republican rhetoric and the treaty limitations of the International Settlement both undercut the exclusionary inclinations of the Shanghailanders who (even less than colonials, who had greater military resources and a real government at their disposal) were not in a position to control the script of their Jubilee ceremony.
A similar impression is left by a single and brief literary depiction of the Jubilee, which appears on three pages of the late Qing novel, Dreams of Shanghai Prosperity (Haishangfanhua meng). In this account, the Jubilee appears only as a moment of usual diversion (renao yichang). It is in no way controversial (Sun [18981 1988, 395-97). Secondly, it is also important to recognize that the ethnic and class dynamics of Chinese society were at least as fundamental as the Western presence in processes of signification in Chinese society at the time. These complexities do not correspond easily to ideas of "colonial modernity," at least insofar as this category is defined by an overriding preoccupation with the epistemic rupture of colonialism.
Rethinking the Construction of Nationalism as an Element of Chinese Modernity
Whereas in the political flux of the last decade of the nineteenth century it was possible to simultaneously identify with the native-place group, the International Settlement, and the entity that would become the Chinese nation, the clearer marking of political positions in the next decade made this more difficult. At the same time that the first decade of the twentieth century bore witness to the full scope of urban social transformations we identify with "modernity," the development of a new Han nationalism prevented the easy identification of this modernity with either the decadent Qing dynasty or the embarrassment of a foreign settlement on Chinese territory.