Disguised as a review this essay draws on the insights of recent books as well as other significant studies and reports in order to develop an analysis of the protests and the structures of power in contemporary Hong Kong. Somewhat like peeling an onion, it unfolds in five sections or problems. Beginning with a look at the nature of the protests themselves, it shows that recent uprisings are but the most extreme manifestation of tens of thousands of demonstrations occurring every year. The second section examines protestors’ most common demand, universal suffrage, and how the political structure of Hong Kong coupled with Beijing sovereignty makes its fulfillment impossible. The third section turns to Beijing’s efforts since 2003 to integrate Hong Kong into China and undermining Hong Kong civil society. The forth and fifth sections shift to probe the historical context, first by exploring the colonial period and the problem of the drafting of the Basic Law, which has served to empower an economic and political elite; and then by unveiling the problem of the political economy and land monopolies as premised on principles of the free-market economic orthodoxy, which is structured in a way to further the concentration of economic power. What becomes apparent from this unpacking is that the political and economic elite have morphed into a single class, resulting in policies that privilege the power and wealth of the few but disenfranchise the many.
Ritual performance is well understood in organizational maintenance. Its role in leadership and processes of change, however, remains understudied. We argue that ritual addresses key challenges in institutionalizing leadership, particularly in fixing the relation between a charismatic leader and formal governance structures. Through a historical case study of the institutionalization of the emperor in Qing China (1636–1912), we argue that the shaping of collective understandings of the new emperor involved structural aspects of ritual that worked through analogical reasoning to internalize the figure of the leader through focusing attention, fixing memory, and emotionally investing members in the leader. We argue that data from the Qing dynasty Board of Rites show that ritual was explicitly designed to model the new institutional order, which Qing state-makers used to establish collective adherence to the emperorship. We further discuss the implications of this case for understanding the symbolic and performative nature of leadership as an institutional process.
Since inception three years ago, Xi Jinping’s anticorruption campaign has targeted some of China’s biggest political and military figures and implicated tens of thousands of cadres. This article argues that the current campaign can be distinguished from the many others over the past thirty years not on account of its extensiveness, but rather in its systematic coupling with two other key moves: administrative reform and disciplinary regulation. Together, these three initiatives aim to not only clean up the malfeasance, graft, and bribery pervasive in Chinese political life today, but also to change the political culture. We demonstrate that through these initiatives the current leadership is forcing a shift in political norms and behaviors, and changing the shared assumptions and practices that inform the political dealings of the society, from the approval of permits to the promotion of judges.
Appendix 1 to my dissertation. Rulers of the agrarian empires throughout history faced the issue of what to do with their imperial relatives. It was most acute at the founding of the dynasty, when the terms of settlement were not yet set and the positions of power not yet institutionalized. During these times, the ruler had to make a decision about what to do with the relatives—to use them or to isolate them. The problem might also arise in the midst of a mature dynasty especially if a system for the imperial relatives had not been institutionalized and a succession crisis set off challenges for the throne. This could lead to internal struggles, a breakdown in political order, or even civil war.
This was a near universal dilemma for the agrarian empires. This appendix undertakes a comparative investigation of how rulers handled this situation. It makes three interrelated arguments. First, the rulers had a limited number of options available to them in how to deal with their relatives. Second, the option employed by any given ruler had consequences for the politics of the state and the life of the empire. Third, the method of dealing with relatives was less a choice, but rather largely contingent upon the cultural background, the historical circumstances, and the internal politics of the day.
This paper was presented at the Association for Asian Studies annual conference in Chicago on March 26, 2015, where it won the “Best Paper Prize” for work on China and Inner Asia. It is the basis of my forthcoming article in Late Imperial China, “Administrative Law and the Making of the Da Qing Huidian in Seventeenth-Century Qing China.”
In 1631, Manchu state-makers set up an administrative apparatus that included a ministry for implementing and legislating li (often translated as rites or ritual), the Board of Li. Over the next sixty years the Board of Li helped develop the rules and regulations of the Manchu state, which were codified in an administrative code in 1690. This dissertation looks at the role of li and the Board of Li in early Manchu state-making efforts, and finds that li was more than simply rituals and ceremonies, it was intimately tied to the formation of politics and administration. The dissertation argues that from 1631 to 1690, state-makers developed the practices of li as sociopolitical and cultural systems that made possible a unified political order that embraced disparate ethnic groups and facilitated the conquest and rule of a multiethnic empire, the Qing, which ruled China and parts of Eurasia from 1636 to 1911. It finds that contrary to conventional understanding, the Manchu practices of li were not copied from the Ming, nor were they inherently Chinese; rather, in response to the immediate political and social circumstances of the time, the Manchus remade and reimagined li through ritual, politics, and law.
This argument is made in three parts. Part one demonstrates the indeterminate nature of li and how it could be employed for different state building projects in different periods of Chinese history; part two looks at the Manchu transformation of li through political struggles for power, and the process of the formation of laws and practices to regulate the political settlements; part three takes up the codification of li, and examines the emergent system of political order and administrative law. These three parts further build upon recent insights into the nature of the Qing as a multiethnic, expansionist empire, and show that the Manchus developed li in their construction of an inclusive political culture and administrative apparatus that enabled the Qing to succeed where previous conquest dynasties had failed in the building and running of a multiethnic empire.
In the early to mid-nineteenth century a bitter rivalry between the US and Britain over world markets shaped US East Asia policy and determined how the West interacted with East Asia, I argue that contrary to the standard interpretation of US and British cooperation in the region, the two countries were in fact engaged in a rivalry over how to define and shape the spatial order of the earth. The US sought to route all trade, commerce, and financing through New York, while Britain fought to keep it in London. I further argue that as part of a larger American vision of world hegemony, the US government assumed a positive role in East Asia at mid century with the first articulation of US China and East Asia policy in 1844 with the Treaty of Wangxia---not, as commonly held, in 1898 with the Open Door Notes---and the opening of Japan in 1853.