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A Preliminary Model of Particularistic Ties in Chinese political Alliances: Kan-ch'ing and Kuan-hsi in a Rural Taiwanese Township

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 February 2009


When one becomes an official, the entire family prospers … they host banquets and send presents (ch'ing-k'o sung-li). … One can see no organization. Personal acquaintances (ssu-jen) are employed, factions are active, and there are feudal relationships (kuan-hsi) …

Why were the big and small “fleets” [of Lin Piao's anti-party group] openly able to carry out the schemes of forming cliques, engaging in factionalism, and carrying out conspiracies by such acts as hosting banquets (ch'ing-k'o), sending gifts (sung-li), offering official positions and making promises?

In addition to providing himself with extravagant pleasures, Wang Hungwen used the illegally obtained money and goods to host banquets (ch'ing-k'o), and send presents (sung-li) in order to recruit corrupt cadres and conduct anti-party factional activities. So many filthy political exchanges are just so happily arranged in an atmosphere of wine and women. Eat, Eat, Drink, Drink had already become a gauge by which Wang Hung-wen and his “little brothers” measured political relationships (kuan-hsi).

Research Article
Copyright © The China Quarterly 1979

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18. Matsu is a pseudonym for the township in honour of the goddess much beloved by the residents of the field site and the people of Taiwan in general.

19. I have used the Bodman system as modified by Wu Su-chu for Hokkien terms. In the Bodman system an “h” indicates aspiration (as does the apostrophe in Wade-Giles) and a colon “:” signifies a nasalized vowel. See Bodman, Nicholas Cleave-land, Spoken Amoy Hokkien, Vols. I and II (Kuala Lumpur: Charles Grenier, 1955, 1958)Google Scholar; Su-chu, Wu, An Introduction to Taiwanese (Taipei: Yung Ziang Press, 1967)Google Scholar; Su-chu, Wu, Spoken Taiwanese (Taipei: Inter-University Program for Chinese Language Studies, n.d.)Google Scholar.

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21. See Jacobs, J. Bruce, “Local politics in rural Taiwan: a field study of kuanhsi, face and faction in Matsu township” (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Columbia University, 1975), pp. 12, 31–33, 119–33Google Scholaret passim.

22. In the discussion below I have attempted to show when political alliances based on particularistic ties can become issue-oriented.

23. I have used the Chinese term kuan-hsi in this article for three reasons. First, I wish to emphasise the analysis pertains to Chinese particularistic ties and not to particularistic ties in general. Secondly, the most accurate translation, “Chinese particularistic ties,” is quite awkward. Thirdly, non-speakers of Chinese have indicated that such simpler English translations as “relationship” and “connection” confuse more than they enlighten owing to a lack of equivalency between languages.

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25. Generally, at higher levels, the locality kuan-hsi ties persons who are residing in an administrative centre away from their native place. The general Chinese term for the locality kuan-hsi, t'ung-hsiang (Hokkien: tong-hiong), can be literally translated as the “same native-place” kuan-hsi. (Hsiang, the same character as “rural township,” here means the less specific “native-place.”) Within Matsu almost all political leaders and voters continue to live in their native-place and the term “locality” is used (ti-yü; Hokkien: te-hng for which the Mandarin is ti-fang). Regardless of residence or terminology, however, the kuan-hsi remains the same, a commonality of shared identification with native-place.

26. Chinese sometimes indicate this flexibility by distinguishing between a broader concept of native place (ta t'ung-hsiang) such as the whole of Fukien Province and a narrower concept (hsiao t'ung-hsiang) such as southern Fukien.

27. For specific voting data, see Jacobs, “Local,” Chs. vi and vii.

28. Mother's brother (chiu-chiu; Hokkien: a-ku), a very important relationship; in the Chinese kinship system.

29. This division follows Matsu practice where most people clearly distinguish, agnatic kin (ch'in-t'ang; Hokkien: chin-tong) from affinal kin (ch'in-ch'i; Hokkien: chin-chiek). On occasion one can hear Matsu residents use the term ch'in-ch'i to include both agnates and affines and a few people say this usage is correct. Most Matsu informants, however, insist the term ch'in-ch'i does not include agnates.

30. Patrilocality generally assures limitation to one village. Ethnographers have reported lineage branches forming in neighbouring villages, but this atypical pattern did not occur in Matsu Township with one possible exception: the Chin of one village had the same origin as the Chin who dominated an adjacent single-surname village, but no kinship, political, social, or religious consequences flowed from this fact.

31. Wolf, Margery, “Child training and the Chinese family,” in Freedman, Maurice (ed.), Family and Kinship in Chinese Society (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1970), pp. 5354, 61Google Scholar.

32. Spatial aspects of an affinal kinship survey sampling 2,759 marriages in Matsu are analysed in Jacobs, , “Cultural,” pp. 8688 and 96–97Google Scholar. Widely distributed affinal kinship relationships are also preferred in Hsin Hsing; see Gallin, Bernard, Hsin Hsing, Taiwan: A Chinese Village in Change (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1966), pp. 149–51Google Scholar.

33. Ricci, Matthew, China in the Sixteenth Century: The Journals of Matthew Ricci, 1583–1610, transl. by Gallagher, Louis J. (New York: Random House, 1953), p. 70Google Scholar.

34. Shao-hsing, Chen and Fried, Morton H., The Distribution of Family Names in Taiwan, Vol. II, The Maps (Jointly published by the Department of Sociology, College of Law, National Taiwan University and the Department of Anthropology and East Asian Institute, Columbia University, 1970), p. 44Google Scholar.

35. If a surname is rare, two otherwise unrelated persons tend to feel a special kuan-hsi with each other; but, since the surname is rare, the utility of the same surname kuan-hsi for obtaining political support would be quite limited in this case.

36. Fried, Morton H., “Clans and lineages: how to tell them apart and why with special reference to Chinese society,” Bulletin of the Institute of Ethnology, Academia Sinica, No. 29 (Spring 1970), p. 27Google Scholar.

37. For example, Fried, Morton H., “Some political aspects of clanship in a modern Chinese city,” in Swartz, Marc J., Turner, Victor W. and Tuden, Arthur (eds.), Political Anthropology (Chicago: Aldine Publishing Company, 1966), pp. 292–93Google Scholar; Baker, Hugh D. R., “Extended kinship in the traditional city,” in Skinner, G. William (ed.), The City in Late Imperial China (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1977), pp. 504505Google Scholar.

38. Fried, “Some political aspects.”

39. DeGlopper, Donald R., “Social structure in a nineteenth-century Taiwanese port city,” in Skinner, (ed.), The City in Late Imperial China, pp. 638–42Google Scholar; DeGlopper, Donald R., “City on the sands: social structure in a nineteenth-century Chinese city” (unpublished Ph.D. Thesis, Cornell University, 1973), pp. 190211Google Scholar.

40. DeGlopper, Donald R., “Doing business in Lukang,” in Willmott, W. E. (ed.), Economic Organization in Chinese Society (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1972), p. 302Google Scholar.

41. A phratry (tsung-ch'in hui or lien-tsung) joins together two or more surnames which trace their origins back to a common ancestor. Thus, Chinese marriage is supposed to be phratry-exogamous as well as surname-exogamous. A list of clans and phratries registered in Taiwan can be found in T'eng-yüeh, Li et al. (eds.), T'ai-wan sheng t'ung-chih kao (A Draft Comprehensive History of Taiwan Province) erh, ch'an [Volume II], chih, jen-min, p'ien, shih-tsu (Taipei: T'ai-wan sheng wen-hsien wei-yiian-hui, 1960), pp. 280–86Google Scholar.

42. On this point see the excellent analysis of DeGlopper, , “Doing,” pp. 301305Google Scholar and the sources he cites on p. 301.

43. The discussion of kuan-hsi dynamics below shows “utilization” helps make a kuan-hsi closer.

44. Same-surname can be an exception, but, as noted above, the same-surname base is not important in Matsu.

45. In Matsu the Party secretary, police chief and some school principals are Mainlanders though some principals, full-time party cadres and policemen are Taiwanese. The Township Party Committee consists of native Matsu political leaders as does, of course, the leadership of the Public Office, the Farmers' Association and the Township Assembly.

46. The party deliberately attempts to assign professional party cadres to areas where they have no kuan-hsi. Like the Imperial Chinese “rule of avoidance,” party cadres are not supposed to be assigned to their home areas. Another party policy reminiscent of Imperial China is the periodic reassignment of party cadres. Both of these party cadre assignment policies are designed to prevent the development of close kuan-hsi between the cadre and local leaders and thus to make the cadre responsive to the party organization instead of local interests. (The Imperial Chinese policies of assigning officials had the same objective.)

47. Thus, the phenomenon of public kuan-hsi resembles the “family circles” or “family groups” reported in the Soviet polity.

48. The term “public kuan-hsi” had a different meaning in Taiwan during the Japanese period (1895–1945). According to informants, it meant a willingness to be active in public affairs, such as a willingness to serve as village head, help the poor, donate land for a school or cemetery, etc.

49. Nathan, , Peking Politics, pp. 5055Google Scholar; Ch'i, , Warlord Politics, p. 68Google Scholar.

50. Stover, Leon, The Cultural Ecology of Chinese Civilization: Peasants and Elites in the Last of the Agrarian States (New York: New American Library, 1974), p. 261Google Scholar; and Solomon, , Mao's Revolution, pp. 124–25Google Scholar.

51. Fried, Morton H., Fabric of Chinese Society: A Study of the Social Life of a Chinese County Seat (New York: Praeger, 1953Google Scholar; reprinted New York: Octagon Books, 1969), p. 226 et passim.

52. Pasternak, Burton, Kinship and Community in Two Chinese Villages (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1972), pp. 6566, 72 and 105–110Google Scholar; Diamond, Norma, K'un Shen: A Taiwan Village (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1969), pp. 7576Google Scholar; and Wolf, Margery, Women and the Family in Rural Taiwan (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1972), pp. 4252, 75 and 146–47Google Scholar.

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55. Foster, George M., “The dyadic contract: a model for the social structure of a Mexican peasant village,” in Potter, Jack M., Diaz, May N., and Foster, George M. (eds.), Peasant Society: A Reader (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1967), pp. 213–30Google Scholar. “Patron-client” contracts, according to Foster, are hierarchical dyadic contracts while “colleague” contracts are horizontal dyadic contracts (p. 216).

56. Ibid. p. 215.

57. Ibid.

58. Jacobs, , “Local,” pp. 143–44Google Scholar.

59. “[A]bsolute, isolated measurement is meaningless. In all useful measurement, an implicit comparison exists when an explicit one is not visible. ‘Absolute’ measurements is a convenient fiction and usually is nothing more than a shorthand summary. …” Webb, Eugene J., Campbell, Donald T., Schwartz, Richard D., Sechrest, Lee, Unobtrusive Measures: Nonreactive Research in the Social Sciences (Chicago: Rand McNally & Company, 1966), p. 5Google Scholar.

60. DeGlopper, , “Doing,” p. 318Google Scholar.

61. Fried, Fabric.

62. Ibid. p. 103.

63. Ibid. pp. 103, 227.

64. Ibid. p. 226.

65. Ibid. pp. 103–104.

66.Kan-ch'ing as the term is used in Lukang, refers to the affective component of all human relations” (emphasis added). DeGlopper, , “Doing,” p. 318Google Scholar. In Hsin Hsing kan-ch'ing occurs in agnatic and affinal kinship relationships, but the relationships, must be hierarchical. Gallin, , Hsin Hsing, p. 171Google Scholar.

67. Many Matsu informants note the word kan-ch'ing can also be used to describe love between man and woman, but they say this type of kan-ch'ing is not the same as the kan-ch'ing we are presently analysing.

68. A variety of terms are used: e.g. t'eng (Hokkien: thia:), ai-hu (Hokkien: ai-ho) and jen-tz'u (Hokkien: lin-chu).

69. Fried, , Fabric, p. 103Google Scholar.

70. DeGlopper, refers to the kan-ch'ing of another group, the family. “Doing,” p. 318Google Scholar.

71. A few Matsu informants say kan-ch'ing can also be “bad” (huai; Hokkien: phai:). However, most Matsu people feel unsure or simply reject this usage. In Matsu people do say that kan ch'ing has “become had” (huai-le; Hokkien: phai:-le).

72. Ward, Barbara E., “A small factory in Hong Kong: some aspects of its internal organization,” in Willmott, W. E. (ed.), Economic Organization in Chinese Society (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1972), pp. 371, 382 and 385Google Scholar.

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74. I used the word li-yung (Hokkien: li-iong) which means “utilize” or “use” and connotes self-interest because the usual Chinese word for “exploitation” (po-hsiao; Hokkien: pak-siaq) has very strong implications as well as political overtones.

75. See DeGlopper's, superb analysis of hsin-yung in business relations, “Doing,” pp. 304311Google Scholar.

76. One-candidate elections are an attempt to overcome electoral loss and the consequent loss of face which causes resentment and protracted conflict. If a pre-election agreement can be made, the “winner” gains office and usually saves considerable campaign funds. The “loser” also wins because he obtains a new; post, the promise of a future uncontested election, and/or money. For Matsu examples see Jacobs, “Local,” Ch. vi.

77. Ibid. pp. 97–99.

78. For the development of Matsu Township's factions and the factions in this village, see ibid. Ch. vi.

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84. For the importance of the Field Army, see Whitson, Chinese High Command.

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86. Madsen has recently completed postgraduate work at Harvard. Several persons have praised his work, but, unfortunately, I have been unable to see it as of this writing.

87. This approach has been applied to Matsu politics in Jacobs, “Cultural.”

88. For a literate, concise statement noting the persistence of “tradition” in “modern” societies, see Rudolph, Lloyd I. and Rudolph, Susanne Hoeber, The Modernity of Tradition: Political Development in India (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1967), pp. 314Google Scholar.

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90. Nakane, , Japanese Society, pp. 23ff., 102–103Google Scholaret passim. For a good, short introduction to the political implications of Japanese social structure, see Stockwin, J. A. A., Japan: Divided Politics in a Growth Economy (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1975), pp. 2234Google Scholar.

91. On wantoks in general see Strathern, Marilyn, No Money on Our Skins: Hagen Migrants in Port Moresby (Port Moresby and Canberra: New Guinea Research Unit, The Australian National University, 1975), pp. 288–99Google Scholar. For the role of wantoks in PNG administration, see Ballard, J. A., Wantoks and Administration (Port Moresby: University Printery, University of Papua New Guinea, 06 1976)Google Scholar.

92. See, for example, Nakane, , Japanese Society, p. 13Google Scholar and Stockwin, , Japan, p. 27Google Scholar. An interesting attempt to compare Chinese and Japanese organizational behaviour can be found in Silin, Robert H., Leadership and Values: The Organization of Large-Scale Taiwanese Enterprises (Cambridge and London: East Asian Research Center, Harvard University, 1976), pp. 131–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

93. On ringisei see Tsuji, Kiyoaki, “Decision-making in the Japanese Government: a study of ringisei,” in Ward, Robert E. (ed.), Political Development in Modern Japan (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1968), pp. 457–75Google Scholar and Silberman, Bernard S., “Ringisei – traditional values or organizational imperatives in the Japanese Upper Civil Service: 1868–1945,” The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. XXXII, No. 2 (02 1973), pp. 251–64CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

94. See, for example, Phillips, Herbert P., “Social contact vs. social promise in a Siamese village,” in Potter, et al. (eds.), Peasant Society, pp. 348 and 357–58Google Scholar.

95. John F. Embree, as quoted in ibid. p. 358.

96. Potter, Jack M., Thai Peasant Social Structure (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1976)Google Scholar.

97. Newman, Robert S., Brahmin and Mandarin: A Cultural and Philosophical Comparison of the Cambodian and Vietnamese Revolutions (Melbourne: Monash University Centre of Southeast Asian Studies Working Paper, forthcoming)Google Scholar.