Trade Wars and Ultimate Unity in the Time of Progress--Shanghai and Tianjin Chambers of Commerce in Late Qing and Early Republic (1904-1927).
|關鍵字:||商會;團體行會;商人;guil;chambers of commerce;merchant organizations||公開日期:||2004||摘要:||提要
Abstract Chinese chambers of commerce from their setting up during the late Qing “New Policies” through the early Republic, were very visible institution in big cities as well as in smaller commercial centers. Chinese chambers of commerce attracted much attention of contemporary Western observers. They all emphasized crucial role of those chambers in managing daily affairs of their cities, especially their power and ability to regulate local market and commercial life. Western historians too often took these accounts for granted, but more detailed studies of the chambers reveal many constraints on their power. This paper compares chambers of commerce in two of the most important commercial centers of contemporary China, Shanghai and Tianjin, and analyses the differences and similarities between them to better understand the mixed impact of central government policies and local conditions on the organizational life of merchants. The paper describes circumstances that led to establishment of chambers of commerce in the beginning of the twentieth century, early activities of the chambers in Shanghai and Tianjin, and organizational continuities and changes in the early Republic. The title of the thesis serves to emphasize many contradictory aspects of chambers’ activities. Only in describing all those aspects we are able to get a more balanced understanding of the role of the Chinese chambers of commerce in economic and social life of that period. Setting up of local chambers of commerce was directly encouraged and urged by the central government in Beijing, as well as local officials, to “unite officials and merchants”, but the chambers’ most vigorous activities were often designed to defend their organizational autonomy which led to many conflicts between merchants and officials. Nevertheless, chambers of commerce never denied government’s right to supervise and the conflicts were rather caused by different understanding of the extent of the autonomy and supervision. Chambers of commerce and local as well as central government officials were usually willing to compromise and cooperate. One of the most important aspects of chambers’ activities was to facilitate contacts between merchants and officials and in spite of many conflicts, the ability to keep good relations with the government was crucial part of chambers’ legitimacy. Another contradictory aspect of chambers’ activities was their role in “trade war”. Although chambers were designed by government and willingly accepted by merchants to help resist foreign economic “intrusions”, but at the same time they were also to facilitate contacts with outside world and to help Chinese merchants take part in worldwide development. Chinese chambers of commerce were set up as a broad federation of local guilds, and in spite of many organizational changes they kept this characteristics throughout the period. This kind of arrangement gave the chambers both organizational strength and constraints. Chambers used close links with guilds to supervise and regulate local markets, but in order to do this the chambers relied on guilds’ willingness to cooperate. Chambers didn’t challenge or displaced guilds as basic institution regulating local commercial life, but became an elitist merchant organization responsible for mediating and compromising many different interests of local merchants. At the same time, the elitist features of the chambers helped them to become the most prestigious merchant organization and gave them leverage when dealing with guilds, other local elites, as well as with government officials.
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