The 2022 Hoover Institution Workshop on Modern China and Taiwan was held August 1 through August 5, 2022. This year the workshop featured five experts who explored the Hoover Library & Archives’ rich historical holdings and shared their research findings to an audience from the Stanford campus as well as from all over the world. Multiple subjects were discussed and ranged from the imperial Chinese legal system to Chinese collaborators with Japan during WWII, and from the February 28, 1947 Incident of Taiwan to the top leadership of the Chinese Communist Party. Participants were as follows:
Maura Dykstra (Caltech) kicked off this year’s event by presenting an overview of one of the most popularly used sources studied for Qing history: a set of documents generally called the Routine Memorials of the Board of Punishments. These files from the imperial court, of which over 100,000 survive, are narratives of crimes and investigations from the provinces that were submitted to Beijing for review and confirmation. By reviewing how these sources came into existence and were used, Dykstra revealed a fundamental facet of their function that has been overlooked in scholarship: the fact that these documents were created not only for exerting legal discipline but also for asserting disciplinary control over Qing officials. By elaborating on how these historical materials were used both for the operation of justice and for the discipline of the bureaucracy, Dykstra reevaluated the information that scholars rely upon to study the history of corruption and the decline of the Qing bureaucracy from the eighteenth century forward.
Victor Louzon (Sorbonne University) addressed issues surrounding what is known as the February 28 Incident, a 1947 Taiwanese uprising against Chinese Nationalist rule that ended in bloody suppression. Existing research, as well as public history, has mostly focused on the causes of popular discontent in 1947 and on the questions of Taiwanese identity and autonomy in light of contemporary political struggles in cross-Strait relations. Instead, Louzon took violence, in its most practical and concrete dimensions, as his object of inquiry: namely, what forms did the violence take, both on the insurgents’ and the state’s sides, and how did the violence originate? Louzon analyzed this well-studied and highly controversial tragedy from a larger historical context, interpreting the incident within the framework of imperial legacies and the concept of total war in China’s modern history.
Joseph Torigian (American University) explored the succession politics of the Chinese Communist Party and their implications for Xi Jinping’s family in the 1980s. He argued that after the Cultural Revolution, a threefold succession crisis loomed. First, at the very top, old party cadres dominated and were reluctant to relinquish their positions. Second, at the grassroots level, the party faced the question of how to manage those young individuals who engaged in frenzied and fanatical behaviors during the Cultural Revolution but who, at the time, thought they were enacting Mao Zedong’s wishes. Third, while “princelings” were seen by many old revolutionaries as the most trustworthy inheritors of the revolution, as a group they suffered a poor reputation in society. Xi Zhongxun was the top figure on the secretariat managing these issues at the same time that his son Xi Jinping was rising in the political ranks in the 1980s. But family ties were a double-edged sword for the young Xi Jinping. The situation was further complicated by disputes in Beijing and provincial capitals on how quickly to reform. Twice, pro-reform leaders close to Xi Zhongxun were pushed out shortly after his son arrived to work in the provinces they led. Ultimately, the story of the Xi family in that decade is a microcosm of how the party struggled to resolve the succession controversies bestowed by Mao.
Weiting Guo (Aix-Marseille University) explored the life and images of Huang Baiqi (whose personal collection is at Hoover), a female bandit, guerrilla leader, and women's organization coordinator. During the Sino-Japanese War (1937–45), Huang was involved in smuggling and trade with pro-Japanese forces. The Nationalist authorities recruited her troops and hid her past by portraying her as a wartime heroine and model housewife. Yet, in later times she participated in guerrilla warfare and was portrayed as a pirate queen and a Han Chinese traitor, and her public roles and images changed dramatically with the wars. Drawing on multiple archival sources, Guo examined how Huang developed survival strategies during turbulent times and how competing regimes used her images discursively to promote various social and political agendas and to stimulate Chinese patriotism and war commemoration in different historical periods. Guo’s case study illuminates how Huang’s changing roles and competing representations were deeply embedded in the wartime politics of modern China and Taiwan. Huang’s guerrilla practices, as well as her involvement in banditry, formed an integral part of her survival strategies and activated a range of options for her to achieve political legitimacy.
Sang-soo Park (Korea University) closed this year’s workshop with a presentation that addressed issues surrounding collaboration during World War II. By broadly appropriating the concepts and theories proposed by existing studies on wartime collaboration internationally, Park relativized and contextualized the activities of the Chinese collaborators in the prewar, wartime, and postwar Chinese sociopolitical environments. As Park argued forcefully, while Chinese and Southeast Asian collaborators aligned themselves with the building of “the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere” advocated by Japan, they could not ideologically identify themselves with the underlying Japanese imperial system and the national Japanese religion of Shinto. Their participation in a variety of Japanese-led goals was often due to tactical imperatives rather than a commitment to Japanese imperialism or pan-Asianism, or to any sort of fascist orientation on their part. A comparative perspective on the environment of Chinese collaborators and the outcomes of their activities, as Park pointed out, will deepen our contextual and conjunctural understanding of the set of nuanced circumstances that prevailed in China during World War II.