Managing Land and Producing Citizens: State Building and Identity Formation in Manchuria, 1900-1920

Shuang Chen, University of Iowa

Recent scholarship on empire studies challenges the dichotomy between empire and nation-state and highlights the complex nature of the collapse of land empires and the formation of modern states during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The demise of the Qing empire (1636/1644-1911) and the subsequent political transformation is a prime example of this intricate narrative. In this paper, I examine how this process occurred in Manchuria. Particularly, I investigate the impact of the Late Qing Reform policies on reshaping the social relations within the subject population of the Qing in this region, which allowed a rather smooth transition to a multi-ethnic modern state after the collapse of the dynasty. In the early 1900s, the Qing government initiated a series of reforms aimed at establishing a constitutional monarchy and adopting a Western-style governance model. In addition, the reforms in Manchuria also aimed to replace the previous military administration with civilian provinces, thus consolidating the governance system across the entire country. The government pursued this objective by modernizing the fiscal structure, privatizing farmland that was previously reserved for the privileged bannermen, and starting elections to establish township councils and provincial assemblies. Following the collapse of the Qing dynasty, some elite bannermen, including Manchu and Mongols, naturally identified themselves as “citizens (gongmin) of the Republic of China,” effectively reconciling their ethnic and national identities. The origins of this identity formation can be traced back to the state-building efforts pursued by the Qing government during the final decade of its rule.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 230. The Ideology and Governance of the Late Chinese Empire