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Policing the Imperial Nation: Sovereignty, International Law, and the Civilizing Mission in Late Qing China

  • Tong Lam (a1)

On 15 August 1902, a battalion of Chinese police officers under the command of Superintendent Zhao Bingjun marched into city center of Tianjin and toward the Yamen Complex, the ceremonial site where the Eight Power Alliance was handing back the city to Governor General Yuan Shikai after two years of occupation following the Boxer Uprising. As they approached the complex, allied officials and commanders, standing with Yuan Shikai and his entourage under a “Friendship Forever” banner, were shocked and dismayed. As one of the preconditions for its resumption of the control of the city, the Qing government had agreed to the allied demand that its troops would not enter the vicinity of Tianjin, and some allied officials had even thought that Yuan would be compelled to beg the allied forces to stay and continue to maintain law and order. Yuan Shikai's sudden show of forces was a slap in their faces and potentially a violation of an international agreement. “What is the meaning of this?” asked an allied representative with raised voice. “Look carefully. These are not troops,” Yuan replied with a smirk, “They are policemen.” Not knowing what to do, allied officials pointed fingers at each other, blaming the stupidity of those who had designed the agreement. “It is not we who are stupid,” one said, “It is Yuan Shikai who is so cunning.”

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1 The epic popular historical drama series Zouxiang gonghe (Toward a republic) was simultaneously released in television and book formats. Lei, Zhang, “Di ershiqi ji (Episode 27),” in Zouxiang gonghe (Toward a republic) (China Central Television, 2003).

2 Shikai, Yuan, “Chuangli Baoding jingwuju bing tianshe xuetang yiding zhangcheng cheng lan zhe (A memorial report on the establishment of the Police Bureau and Police Academy in Baoding with regulations attached),” in Yuan Shikai zou yi (Court memorials by Yuan Shikai), Yizhong, Liao and Zhenrong, Luo, eds. (Tianjin: Tianjin guji chubanshe, 1987), 604–17; Li, Zongyi, Yuan Shikai zhuan (A biography of Yuan Shikai) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1980).

3 Shikai, Yuan, “Gongbao di Jin riqi jieshou qingxing (A report on regaining control of Tianjin),” in Yuan Shikai zou yi (Court memorials by Yuan Shikai), Yizhong, Liao and Zhenrong, Luo, eds. (Tianjin: Tianjin guji chubanshe, 1987), 620–22.

4 As Ruth Rogaski argues, while the term “semi-colonialism” is sometimes used to imply a “half-full” form of colonialism, the case of treaty-port Tianjin suggests that it was actually “hypercolonial,” in the sense that native reformers and intellectuals often wholeheartedly embraced the colonial project of modernization in order to resist further colonial intrusion. Rogaski, Ruth, Hygienic Modernity: Meanings of Health and Disease in Treaty-Port China (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004), 11.

5 Stapleton, Kristin Eileen, Civilizing Chengdu: Chinese Urban Reform, 1895–1937, Harvard East Asian Monographs 186 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Asia Center, 2000); Wang, Di, Street Culture in Chengdu: Public Space, Urban Commoners, and Local Politics, 1870–1930 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003).

6 Dodsworth, Francis, “The Idea of Police in Eighteenth-Century England: Discipline, Reformation, Superintendence, c. 1780–1800,” Journal of the History of Ideas 69, 4 (2008): 583604.

7 Strand, David, Rickshaw Beijing: City People and Politics in the 1920s (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989), 87.

8 Wakeman, Frederic, Policing Shanghai, 1927–1937 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995), 6077.

9 In recent years, some scholars have begun to pay attention to reform efforts at the national level in the final years of the Qing. Thompson, Roger, “The Lessons of Defeat: Transforming the Qing State after the Boxer War,” Modern Asian Studies 37, 4 (2003): 769–73.

10 In other words, authoritarian governmentality, like liberal governmentality, should be seen as a subset of modern governmentality. Dean, Mitchell, Governmentality: Power and Rule in Modern Society (London: Sage Publications, 1999), 144–46.

11 Duara, Prasenjit, Sovereignty and Authenticity: Manchukuo and the East Asian Modern (Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2003), 9, 19.

12 They argue that Benedict Anderson has failed to demarcate these two very different forms of imagined communities. Kelly, John and Kaplan, Martha, Represented Communities: Fiji and World Decolonization (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001), 14.

13 Hevia, James L., English Lessons: The Pedagogy of Imperialism in Nineteenth-Century China (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2003).

14 I use this term with full acknowledgment of its controversies. I do not use the concept “semi-colonial” as a way to ghettoize Chinese history, or argue for its exceptionalism and incomparability with other colonial experiences. I think we can use the term productively to describing native regimes that actively sought to remake themselves by appropriating the logic and language of colonialism. Colonial modernity and semi-colonialism, in other words, need not be two incompatible concepts. For discussions on semi-colonialism, colonial modernity, and the multiplicity of colonialisms, see Barlow, Tani, “Introduction: On ‘Colonial Modernity,’” in Barlow, Tani, ed., Formations of Colonial Modernity in East Asia (Durham: Duke University Press, 1997), 120; Shih, Shumei, The Lure of the Modern: Writing Modernism in Semicolonial China, 1917–1937 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001); Cooper, Frederick, “Postcolonial Studies and the Study of History,” in Loomba, Ania et al. , eds., Postcolonial Studies and Beyond (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2005), 401–22.

15 Weihai, Wang, Zhongguo huji zhidu: lishi yu zhengzhi de fanxi (The registration system of China: A historical and political analysis) (Shanghai: Shanghai wenhua chubanshe, 2005), 221–22; Bernhardt, Kathryn, “Elite and Peasant during the Taiping Occupation of the Jiangnan, 1860–1864,” Modern China 13, 4 (1987): 379410.

16 Yanlong, Han and Yigong, Su, Zhongguo jindai jingcha shi (A history of the modern Chinese police), vol. 1 (Beijing: Shehuikexue wenxian chubanshe 2000), 51.

17 Ibid., 5.

18 Zunxian, Huang, Riben guozhi (Japan teatise), in Baoping, Wang, ed., Wan Qing dongyou riji huibian (Compilations on late Qing journeys to the east) (Shanghai: Shanghai guzi shudian, 2001). Zunxian, Huang, ed., Riben zashi shi (Poems about Japan), vol. 1, Huang Zunxian ji (Collected works of Huang Zunxian) (Tianjin: Tianjin renmin chubanshe, 2003), 23.

19 Yuzhen, Liu, “Qianyan (Preface),” in Riben guozhi (Japan treatise), Wan Qing dongyou riji huibian (Compliations on late Qing journeys to the east) (Shanghai: Shanghai guzi shudian, 2001), 126. Thompson, Roger, China's Local Councils in the Age of Constitutional Reform, 1898–1911 (Cambridge, Mass.: Council on East Asian Studies, Harvard University Press, 1995), 79. Huang nonetheless by the 1890s became enthusiastic about building a police force based on the Japanese model. Stapleton, Civilizing Chengdu, 61.

20 For the duties and structure of the Board of Defense, see Zunxian, Huang, “Hunan Baoweiju zhangcheng,” in Huang Zunxian ji (Collected works of Huang Zunxian) (Tianjin: Tianjin renmin chubanshe, 2003), 570–74, 591; Yanlong and Yigong, Zhongguo jindai jingcha shi, 18–48; Mengxi, Liu, “Chen Baozhen he Hunan xinzheng (Chen Baozhen and new policy reform in Hunan),” Zhongguo wenhua (Chinese culture) 19–20 (2002): 6064.

21 Many local merchants and elites wrote to Huang Zunxian to demand this organization be established. Zunxian, Huang, “Shangmin qing suban baoweiju bingpi,” in Huang Zunxian ji (Collected works of Huang Zunxian) (Tianjin: Tianjin renmin chubanshe, 2003), 578–80.

22 “Xianzheng biancha guan zou zhunian choubei shiyi dan (Year-by-year itemized plans of the Bureau of Constitution Preparation),” in Yasha, Jiang, ed., Minzhengbu zouzhe huicun, Guojia tushuguan cang lishi dangan we xian congkan (Archival materials of the National Library) (Beijing: Quanguo tushuguan wenxian suowei fuzhi zhongxin, 2004), 117–24.

23 While my research focuses mostly on Beijing, Kristin Stapleton's study of Chengdu also shows how the old baojia system was reconstituted as a civilizing force by the local elites. In Civilizing Chengdu, 134–35.

24 Yanlong and Yigong, Zhongguo jindai jingcha shi.

25 MacKinnon, Stephen, Power and Politics in Late Imperial China: Yuan Shi-kai in Beijing and Tianjin, 1901–1908 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980), 138–43.

26 Reynolds, Douglas R., China, 1898–1912: The Xinzheng Revolution and Japan, Harvard East Asian Monographs 162 (Cambridge, Mass.: Council on East Asian Studies, Harvard University, 1993), 164.

27 Shu Hongyi. “Xunjingbu qing gesheng zhaoban xunjing xiekuan youguan wenan (Documents by the Ministry of Police to provincial authorities),” First Historical Archives of China, Beijing, 1906, Xunjingbu 1501.19.

28 Hongyi, Shu and Lansun, Zhang, Dongying jingcha biji (Notes on the Japanese police system), vol. 1 (Shanghai: Shanghai lequn tushu bianyiju, 1906), 2.

29 Ibid., 2–3.

30 Anaya, S. James, Indigenous Peoples in International Law, 2d ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 452–53; Horowitz, Richard, “International Law and State Transformation in China, Siam, and the Ottoman Empire during the Nineteenth Century,” Journal of World History 15, 4 (2005): 445–86.

31 Wheaton, Henry, Elements of International Law (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1936), 15.

32 Ibid., 28.

33 Anaya, Indigenous Peoples in International Law, 20–22.

34 Liu, Lydia, The Clash of Empires: The Invention of China in Modern World Making (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2004), 24, 108–13.

35 Kelly and Kaplan, Represented Communities, 1–4.

36 Like their Japanese counterparts, Qing officials and intellectuals certainly wanted to repudiate these treaties signed under gunpoint. Yet, as Dong Wang has demonstrated, there was little use of the term “unequal treaties” (bupingdeng tiaoyue) in China prior to 1923. Wang, Dong, China's Unequal Treaties: Narrating National History, Selden, Mark, ed. (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2005), 64; Brooks, Barbara J., Japan's Imperial Diplomacy: Consuls, Treaty Ports, and War in China, 1895–1938 (Honolulu: University of Hawai`i Press, 2000), 85.

37 Wheaton, Elements of International Law, 27–29.

38 Ibid., 28.

39 Gong, Gerrit W., The Standard of “Civilization” in International Society (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984); Horowitz, “International Law and State Transformation.”

40 Wheaton, Elements of International Law, 19.

41 Liu, Clash of Empires, 121–22.

42 Mehta, Uday Singh, Liberalism and Empire: A Study in Nineteenth-Century British Liberal Thought (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999), 30.

43 Dudden, Alexis, Japan's Colonization of Korea: Discourse and Power (Honolulu: University of Hawai`i Press, 2005); Brooks, Japan's Imperial Diplomacy.

44 Up to this point, given the regime of extraterritoriality, the Qing had little means to police the foreign population. Nonetheless, in light of the constant troubles created by missionaries, the Qing insisted that they and churches, just like monks and monasteries, register with the government through the baojia household registration system. Cohen, Paul A., China and Christianity: The Missionary Movement and the Growth of Chinese Anti-Foreignism, 1860–1870 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1963), 254.

45 Tingshou, Lei, Riben jingcha diaocha tigang (An outline of the Japanese police system) (Weinan: Lei shi bizhai 1907), preface.

46 Wang Jiaxiang, “Liuxue Riben Jingshiting youdeng biyesheng Jiangsu houbu zhao mo Wang Jiaxiang jinchen guanjian chengqing (A Petition from returned police student Wang Jiaxiang of the Jiangsu Province),” First Historical Archives of China, Beijing, 1906, Xunjingbu 1501.271.

47 “Lun Xijiang shijian zhi jipo (On the urgency of the Xijiang incident),” Dagongbao, 9 Dec. 1907: 1.

48 Ibid.; “Xijiang jingquan wenti (Problems of police rights in the West River),” Dagongbao, 10 Dec. 1907: 2.

49 Chunming, Zheng, “Wei Xijiang jingquan shijian jinggao tianxia tongbao (An open letter to all fellow compatriots regarding the issue of police rights in Xijiang),” Dagongbao, 13 Dec. 1907: 1.

50 Deflem, Mathieu, “International Policing in Nineteenth-Century Europe: The Police Union of German States, 1851–1866,” International Criminal Justice Review 6 (1996): 3657.

51 Hongyi and Lansun, Dongying jingcha biji, 5.

52 “Xupin riren Chuandoa ren xunjing xuetang jiandu xiuding hetong (The revised contract with Superintendent Kawashima at the Police Academy),” First Historical Archives of China, Beijing, 1906, Xunjingbu 1501.249.

53 Haiwen, Liu and Guohui, Yin, “Qingmo Xujingbu yu gaodeng xujing xuetang (Patrol Police Department and Patrol Police Academy at the end of the Qing),” Henan daixue xuebao (shehui kexue ban) [Journal of Henan University (Social Science)] 1 (2006): 90.

54 “Xupin riren Chuandoa.”

55 Waicheng xunjing zongting, “Waicheng zongting shenbao Shanghai Hunan dengdi ji liu Ri xuesheng fandui Riren mouduo Zhongguo jingchaquan huodong qingxing (Oppositions from Chinese students in Shanghai, Hunan, and Japan regarding the Japanese conspiracy to seize control of the Chinese police rights),” First Historical Archives of China, Beijing, 1906, Xunjingbu 1501.202.

56 “Xupin riren Chuandoa.”

57 Hongyi and Lansun, Dongying jingcha biji, 1.

58 Ibid., 14.

59 Ibid.

60 Qichao, Liang, Xin Minshui (On new citizens) (Taipei: Zhonghua shuju, 1959), 16.

61 Holquist, Peter, “‘Information Is the Alpha and Omega of Our Work’: Bolshevik Surveillance in Its Pan-European Context,” Journal of Modern History 69, 3 (1997): 415–50.

62 Hongyi and Lansun, Dongying jingcha biji, 3.

63 Jiaxiang, “Liuxue Riben Jingshiting.”

64 Strand, Rickshaw Beijing, 65–97; Wakeman, Policing Shanghai, 43–59.

65 “Jingshiting xingzheng jingcha (On administrative police),” First Historical Archives of China, Beijing, 1906, Xunjingbu guancang, 18.

66 Hongyi and Lansun, Dongying jingcha biji, 6–8.

67 Theiss, Janet M., Disgraceful Matters: The Politics of Chastity in Eighteenth-Century China (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004).

68 Many existing studies argue that the penal systems and their underlying modalities of power shifted from punishment to discipline in modern China and Japan as a result of their encounter with the industrial West. These rather straightforward, or sometimes mechanical, applications of Foucault's analyses to East Asia have often failed to account for the complexities of how “pre-modern” Chinese and Japanese societies were ruled and governed. For examples of these works, see Botsman, Dani, Punishment and Power in the Making of Modern Japan (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005); Dikötter, Frank, Crime, Punishment and the Prison in Modern China (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002).

69 Even at the British proclamation about the cession of Hong Kong to Britain in 1841, colonial officials stated that the local population would “be governed, pending Her Majesty's pleasure, according to the laws, customs, and usages of the Chinese (every description of torture excepted) by the elders of the villages, subject to the control of a British magistrate.” Charles Elliot, “Proclamation to the Chinese Inhabitants of Hong Kong” (Hong Kong, 1841). Other attempts to accommodate Chinese law and custom are evident in subsequent legislation.

70 Prakash, Gyan, Another Reason: Science and the Imagination of Modern India (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999), 34.

71 Inspired by the Qing baojia system, as early as the 1860s, colonial police in Hong Kong had used similar methods to divide the territory into sub-districts and neighborhoods. For one example, see Crisswell, Colin and Watson, Mike, The Royal Hong Kong Police (1841–1945) (Hong Kong: Macmillan Publishers 1982), 52. For the case of Macao, see Zhoufu, Li, “Be Ao zuihou yige dibao zoule (The death of the last local gentry of Macao),” Aomen ribao, 20 Nov 2006: B9. Even in the early eighteenth century, French Jesuit Jean-Baptiste Du Halde (1674–1743) was already praising the statewide “police” system in China. Du Halde, J. B., The General History of China, vol. 2 (London: printed by and for John Watts, 1736), 8486.

72 Naoyuki, Umemori, “Kiritsu no ryotei: Meiji shoki keisatsu seido no keisei to shokuminchi (Itinerary of discipline: Colonial impact on the police system in Meiji Japan),” Waseda seiji keizaigaku zasshi (Waseda journal of political science and economics) 354 (2004): 51.

73 Ibid., 56–57; Sumio Oohinata, Keisatsu no shakaishi (A social history of police) (Tokyo: Iwanami, 1993), 31–32.

74 Chen, Ching-chin, “The Japanese Adaptation of the Pao-Chia System in Taiwan, 1895–1945,” Journal of Asian Studies 34, 2 (1975): 391416.

75 Tani Barlow, “Introduction.” For a discussion of translation as more than a linguistic process, see chapter 4 of Liu, Clash of Empires.

76 Yanlong and Yigong, Zhongguo jindai jingcha shi, 61.

77 Umemori Naoyuki, “Kiritsu no ryotei,” 56.

78 “Qingcha jingshi hukou xiaoyu jumin gaoshi gao (A public notice on the household surveys in Beijing),” First Historical Archives of China, Beijing, 1906, Xunjingbu 1501.282.

79 Foucault, Michel, Security, Territory, Population: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1977–1978, Davidson, Arnold, ed., Burchell, Graham, trans. (New York: Palgrave MacMillam, 2007), 336–38.

80 Dray-Novey, Alison, “Spatial Order and Police in Imperial Beijing,” Journal of Asian Studies 52, 4 (1993): 885922; Dray-Novey, Alison, “The Twilight of the Beijing Gendarmerie, 1900–1924,” Modern China 3, 3 (2007): 349–76.

81 In order to effectively communicate intentions to the public, these announcements were written in colloquial language. “Qingcha jingshi hukou xiaoyu jumin gaoshi gao.”

82 Lam, Tong, A Passion for Facts: Social Surveys and the Construction of the Chinese Nation-State (Berkeley: University of California Press, forthcoming 2011).

83 Since taxation was the focus, the Board of Revenue (Hubu) was the only agency in the central government that received a copy of the register.

84 For an example of how police districts were set up, see “Zhejiang jingcha zongju shenbao banli ge shu jingwu qingxing (A report on the progress of the formation of the Zhejiang Police)” First Historical Archives of China, Beijing, 1905, Xunjingbu 1501.182.

85 “Minzhengbu zou xiding benbu ji neiwai cheng xunjing ting quanxian jiangcheng zhe (Guidelines setup for the police authorities by the Ministry of Civil Affairs),” Dongfang zazhi (The eastern miscellany) 7 (1907): 152–61.

86 Minzhengbu, , “Zunyi benbu zhunian choubei weijin shiyi zhe (A year-by-year plan on the implementation of the outstanding projects),” in Yasha, Jiang, ed., Minzhengbu zouzhe huicun (Compilations of Ministry of Civil Affairs records), Guojia tushuguan cang lishi dangan we xian congkan (Archival materials of the National Library) (Beijing: Quanguo tushuguan wenxian suowei fuzhi zhongxin, 2004), 2128.

87 “Henan jingjie zhi xin guimo (The new capacity of the Henan police),” Dagongbao, 11 Oct. 1910.

88 Chen Dequan, “Heilongjiang jiangjun Cheng Dequan chenbao jingcha qingxing ziwen (A progress report on of the formation of the police forces),” First Historical Archives of China, Beijing, 1906, Xunjingbu 1501.22; “Xinjiang xunfu zi song zhengdun xunjing changzheng (Regulations on the revamping of the police forces),” First Historical Archives of China, Beijing, 1906, Xunjingbu 1501.26.

89 The results of this project were often mixed. In Sichuan, for instance, by the end of the dynasty many police duties were still in the hands of the local elites rather than the national government. Stapleton, Kristin, “County Administration in Late-Qing Sichuan County Administration in Late-Qing Sichuan: Conflicting Models of Rural Policing,” Late Imperial China 18, 1 (1997): 100–32.

90 Chen Dequan, “Heilongjiang jiangjun.”

91 “Xinjiang xunfu zi song zhengdun xunjing changzheng.”

92 Wang Jiaxiang, “Jiangsu jingcha biye xueyuan Wang Jiaxiang jinbing (A petition from Police Academy graduate Wang Jiaxiang of the Jiangsu Province),” First Historical Archives of China, Beijing, 1906, Xunjingbu 1501.271.

93 Wang Jiaxiang, “Liuxue Riben.”

94 Xianzheng biancha guan, “Xianzheng biancha.”

95 Stapleton, Civilizing Chengdu; Wang, Street Culture.

96 Foucault, Security, Territory, Population, 341.

97 Ibid., 339.

98 Ibid., 340–41, 350.

99 Foucault, Michel, “Governmentality,” in The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality with Two Lectures by and an Interview with Michel Foucault, Burchell, Graham, Gordon, Colin, and Miller, Peter, eds. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991), 102.

100 Agamben, Giorgio, State of Exception (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005). For the original quote, see Schmitt, Carl, Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985), 5.

101 Agamben, State of Exception, 5.

102 According to Foucault, as a result of the “governmentalization of the state” in eighteenth-century Europe, the old model of sovereign power was replaced by a new rationality of government that no longer relied on coercion to enforce the juridical writ of the sovereign. “Governmentality,” 193–204.

103 Agamben, Giorgio, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, Heller-Roazen, Daniel, trans. (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998).

104 Lei Tingshou, Riben jingcha diaocha tigang, 7.

105 Ibid., 5.

106 In many ways, Chinese history through the entire twentieth century can be considered as a series of “exceptions.” This seemed obvious during the Nationalist and Communist periods as the entire country was plagued by constant revolutions and wars. But even during the post-socialist era, the need for market reform was portrayed in similar terms. That is, to quote Deng Xiaoping, “Let some people get rich first.” Only now, arguably, are we beginning to witness a rise of neo-liberal governmentality.

Acknowledgments: My thanks to four anonymous CSSH reviewers for their critical readings of this manuscript. I am also grateful to Prasenjit Duara, Takashi Fujitani, James Hevia, Li Chen, and participants of the “East Asia: Trans-Regional Histories Workshop” at the University of Chicago for their comments on the early drafts. I am responsible for any shortcomings.

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