Media, nationhood, and state: Zheng Guanying and the urban cultural sphere in late Qing Shanghai

Submitted by James Miller on Tue, 02/14/2012 - 15:25
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TitleMedia, nationhood, and state: Zheng Guanying and the urban cultural sphere in late Qing Shanghai
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsWu, G.
Corporate AuthorsRudolph, Jennifer
Academic DepartmentProQuest Dissertations and Theses
Page - 330 p.
Date Published2006
PublisherState University of New York at Albany
Place PublishedUnited States -- New York
ISBN Number9780542823978
KeywordsBiographies, History

Zheng Guanying (1842-1922) was an influential late Qing thinker, merchant and entrepreneur. He was the first person to openly advocate the establishment of a parliamentary system in China as early as the 1870s. Compared with other contemporary enlightened thinkers, Zheng Guanying did not even have the elementary degree of Xiucai, and had never gone to the West. The contrast between his academic achievement and intellectual breadth makes his experience in Shanghai as a comprador merchant significant. From the 1860s, he moved to Shanghai from his Cantonese hometown and became an employee in a British company. Influenced by the liberal education in the missionary school and the rise of print media in Shanghai, he engaged in thinking and writing about current affairs and contributed to the widely circulated newspaper Shenbao, founded by an American merchant in 1872, and edited by Chinese literati. The editors and Zheng as well as other literary men with similar experience actually formed a new urban cultural space in Shanghai actively engaged in the propagation of new concepts and reformist ideas. Supra-local social networks based on common political concerns and public sphere such as the Zhangyuan garden further enhanced this new urban space. Zheng's reformist ideas covered the domains from education, press, to nation defense, etc. Among the ideas elaborated by Zheng in his works, his incipient conceptions of nationalism, democracy and strong advocating of mercantilism were particularly outstanding. As a merchant and entrepreneur, Zheng also made contribution to the development of the official sponsored endeavors such as China Merchant Steamship Company and Shanghai Cotton Cloth Mill, but during this process, he realized the huge gap between the goal of the government and that of the merchants, and between the understandings of the particular term "public." Zheng's political attitude was moderate and he did not sanction the actions of radical leaders like Kang Youwei, however, he fully accepted the Republican revolution led by Sun Yat-sen, and opposed Yuan Shikai's efforts of imperial restoration. A famous reformer as he was, Zheng still stuck to the Confucian Way--- Dao and eventually turned to religious Daoism for personal and social salvation.