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- Author: Christian Henriot x
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Historians of imperialism have paid little attention to the Japanese experience. This chapter outlines the nature of the Japanese community in Shanghai and its major characteristics. It examines its major organisations and how they shaped a community life. The chapter explores the major activities and challenges of the Japanese residents. Shanghai's reputation as a city of opportunities must have circulated broadly in Japan and the city served as a magnet for a domestic population facing the scarcities of a rigorous war economy. Of all the foreign communities in Shanghai, and probably in China, the Japanese were beyond any doubt the most organised and regulated. Two major factors may explain this phenomenon: the strong involvement of the state in the control of its subjects, and the overreaction of Japanese residents to Chinese nationalism.
In the new world order mapped out by Japanese and Western imperialism in East Asia after the mid-nineteenth century opium wars, communities of merchants and settlers took root in China and Korea. New identities were constructed, new modes of collaboration formed and new boundaries between the indigenous and foreign communities were established. This book explores two themes at the heart of the colonial process: agency and identity. The agents of British empire in China included the usual suspects: Britons from the official and military castes, as well as Iraqi Jewish merchants, Parsis and Indian Jews, Eurasians, South East Asian Chinese. The reliance of colonial regimes on local middlemen has become an essential part of any explanation of colonialism, though it is only very recently that the model has been systematically applied to Hong Kong. The Daniel Richard Caldwell affair could hardly have broken out at a more difficult time for the young and problematic British colony at Hong Kong. The book defines the ambiguous positioning of the Baghdadis vis-a-vis the British, and shows that their marginality did not represent, as a whole, a significant hindrance to their sojourn in the Shanghai foreign settlements. In Shanghai the German community recognised the leading role which the Nazi party held and which everyone, even the other foreign communities, seemed to accept. The book also looks at the aspects of their economic, social and political life that Indians led in the colony of Hong Kong and in the Chinese treaty ports.
Imperialism made a wild frontier zone of East Asia, and the story of decolonisation in the region is the story of the reassertion of state control over the new communities that developed there. Despite its grossly tangible historical presence, imperialism is a spectre which haunts the historiography of East Asia by its absence. New frontiers were created within China. Imperialism changed Chinese identities in the treaty ports, and, as Judith Wyman demonstrates, new tensions were created and old ones metamorphosed deep in China's 'interior'. The high politics of imperialism, rather than the low pragmatism of colonialism, have also provided manageable frameworks for analysis. The social history of colonialism in East Asia has received little attention; and even then the social and political history of colonialism and imperialism has obscured what is mostly obviously a part of the international history of migration.