The Diplomacy of Nationalism

The Diplomacy of Nationalism: The Six Companies and China’s Policy toward Exclusion

Yucheng Qin
Copyright Date: 2009
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt6wqct2
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  • Book Info
    The Diplomacy of Nationalism
    Book Description:

    This is a striking, original portrait of the Chinese Six Companies (Zhonghua huiguan), or Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, the most prominent support organization for Chinese immigrants in the U.S. in the late nineteenth century. As a federation of "native-place associations"(huiguan)in California, the Six Companies responded to racist acts and legislation by organizing immigrant communities and employing effective diplomatic strategies against exclusion. Yucheng Qin substantiates recent arguments that Chinese immigrants were resourceful in fighting for their rights and, more importantly, he argues that through the Six Companies they created a political rhetoric and civic agenda that were then officially adopted by Qing court officials, who at first were unprepared for modern diplomacy. Out of necessity, these officials turned to the Six Companies for assistance and would in time adopt the tone and format of its programs during China's turbulent transition from a tributary system to that of a modern nation-state.

    Eventually the Six Companies and Qing diplomats were defeated by a coalition of anti-Chinese interest groups, but their struggle produced a template for modern Chinese nationalism-a political identity that transcends native place-in nineteenth-century America. By redirecting our gaze beyond China to the Six Companies in California and back again, Yucheng Qin redefines the historical significance of thehuiguan.The ingenuity of his approach lies in his close attention to the transnational experience of the Six Companies, which provides a feasible framework for linking its diplomatic activism with Chinese history as well as the history of Chinese Americans and Sino-American relations.

    The Diplomacy of Nationalismenlarges our view of the immigrant experience of Chinese in the U.S. by examining early Sino-American relations through the structure of Six Companies diplomacy as well as providing a better understanding of modern Chinese nationalism.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-3757-0
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    This is the transnational story of how the Chinese Six Companies in California responded to racist challenges by organizing its own community, developing modern nationalism, and teaching the Qing dynasty how modern nationalism should be pursued diplomatically. The Six Companies, or the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, was the most important popular Chinese organization in the United States in the nineteenth century. It began ashuiguan,or native-place associations, long-standing institutions found everywhere the Chinese migrated both inside China and abroad. During the anti-Chinese movement in the United States, the Six Companies stepped into the void created by the slow and...

  5. CHAPTER 1 A Meeting of Market Economies: The Arrival of the Gold Mountain Guests
    (pp. 13-22)

    When the Chinese arrived on the west coast of the United States in the nineteenth century, these men, who came without bringing their families,¹ called themselves “jinshan ke” (gold mountain [San Francisco] guests). Despite their residence in the United States, they did not alter their Chinese identity. So what was the cause of the exodus from China? It used to be understood as one aspect of a larger historical process—capitalist expansion. The encroachment of capitalism and growing impoverishment were believed to have forced peasants to leave their villages for an industrialized environment. Now scholars in growing numbers are coming...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Continuity and Change: The Chinese Huiguan Tradition Crosses the Pacific, 1850s
    (pp. 23-37)

    These strangers from a different shore met a reception that ranged from warm to cold. In an address in 1852 Governor John McDougal of California declared that more Chinese migrants would be needed to help drain the state’s swamps. As “one of the most worthy of our newly adopted citizens,” he found them “peculiarly suited” to California’s conditions.¹ In just four months, however, the next governor, John Bigler, sent a message to the California Assembly urging that “to enhance the prosperity of this State,” the tide of degraded and inferior “coolie” immigration “under contract to work in our mines for...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Toward a New Chinese Self-image: The Beginning of Modern Chinese Nationalism in California, 1860s
    (pp. 38-56)

    In late April 1868 the Gangzhouhuiguan,dressed in its holiday best, displayed the following poetic couplets inside its building: “Wandering aimlessly in a strange land, under the canopy of the moon and the stars, we were without the blessing of the throne; Meeting [the Qing officials] in a foreign country, why not present wine with all respect to share the affection for our mother country.”¹ The Chinese had special reason to be excited—the year was witnessing the first Qing mission to the United States, a great change in Sino-American relations.

    After Anson Burlingame resigned as American minister to...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Becoming the Chief Target: The Six Companies in the 1870s
    (pp. 57-77)

    One question, which first arose at the beginning of the Chinese immigration but has persisted to the present, is whether the Six Companies acted as the chief labor broker for the Chinese during the late nineteenth century. In 1987, for example, Patricia Cloud and David Galenson used the records of the legislative hearings of 1876 to assert that the Six Companies played a central role in importing Chinese laborers. In response Charles McClain branded the charges and the argument as groundless assertions: “No first-person accounts of their experiences by 19th century Chinese immigrants have to my knowledge survived.”¹ However logical...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Setting the Tone and Format: The Six Companies as Spokesman, 1870–1878
    (pp. 78-97)

    As the representative of all the Chinese in the United States and the chief target of the anti-Chinese movement in the 1870s, the Six Companies was clearly pushed to its limits. As a federation ofhuiguan, the Six Companies had an obligation, among other services, to defend its members. This practice had begun in China. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, for example, Ningbo merchants in Wenzhou were authorized under an imperial edict to ship rice from any region of China to any other region, and their trade had been successful. Local authorities at Wenzhou, however, detained their vessels...

  10. CHAPTER 6 “Superseding the Six Companies”: The Qing Legation, 1878–1890
    (pp. 98-118)

    On July 26, 1878, San Francisco’s Chinatown was aglow with excitement. Chen Lanbin, the first minister plenipotentiary from China, accompanied by a full diplomatic corps, was about to arrive. The news was received with outbursts of delight among the Chinese in the city and rapidly spread throughout the state. The prominent Chinese merchants immediately hired nearly forty carriages to be driven to the wharf. Chen Lanbin remained secluded in his cabin on the Pacific Mail Steamship Company’s steamerCity of Tokiountil Shuck Pun, the delegate of the Chinese merchants, arrived and went in to meet him. Each dropped onto...

  11. CHAPTER 7 “As Skilled in Dialectics”: The Qing Legation, 1890–1906
    (pp. 119-138)

    After a decade’s practice in modern diplomacy, the Qing legation finally won acclaim from Americans as this chapter’s epigraph from theNew York Timesdemonstrates. Unlike the Indians, the Chinese diplomats were “as skilled in dialectics as the officials of the United States,” and “as keenly aware of their rights and as much disposed to insist upon the same.” It is apparent that the activities of the Qing legation in the 1890s deserve close attention.

    In the 1890s the Qing legation continued to enlist the services of the Six Companies. This development had a psychological as well as political significance....

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 139-146)

    The diplomacy of the Six Companies provides a framework for connecting the elements that made up one of the most important developments in nineteenth-century Chinese-American history, modern Chinese history, and the early history of Sino-American relations. It is evident that modern Chinese nationalism first emerged in California from thehuiguanor native-place associations and that the Six Companies’ modern nationalist diplomacy set the tone and format for late Qing-U.S. policy and piloted China’s turn toward modern nationalist foreign relations. Viewing the Six Companies, rather than the Chinese government, as the center of modern Chinese diplomacy during its crucial beginnings, this...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 147-190)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 191-206)
  15. Index
    (pp. 207-213)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 214-215)