Empire-Building on China's Frontiers: Reclamation, Religion, and Rebellion, 1644-1911
2: Empire Building from the Ground Up: Local Governance and Social Transformation in Manchuria, 1880-1911
Friday, March 25, 2022
1:30pm – 3:00pm EST
Location: Conv. Center, Room 313C
University of Iowa, United States
The establishment of three northeastern provinces in 1907 marked the final incorporation of Manchuria into the Chinese state. Despite its significance, our understanding of the social and institutional transformation at the grassroots level leading up to this change is still limited. This paper offers a close look at the development of local governance and politics at the village and county levels in Jilin in the last three decades of the Qing. Beginning in the 1880s, to compete with the colonial interests of Russia and Japan, the Qing court gradually lifted the ban on free migration to Manchuria and established civilian county governments under the Banner General of Jilin to administer local societies. During the process of settlement and land reclamation, disputes arose between old and new immigrants, civilian commoners and bannermen. By analyzing legal cases on land disputes from the local archives, the paper traces the expansion of civilian institutions and their interactions with the banner administration at the local level. It shows that, while the central and provincial governments’ reluctance in the reform resulted in much policy fluctuation in this period, the civilian governance in local society had transformed the society and politics at the local level. Although the civilian institutions were initially designed to administer the affairs of civilian commoners, bannermen also increasingly tended to enlist the civilian government to adjudicate their disputes. Thus, the administrative reform in Manchuria was not only from the top down but also from the bottom up.