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Sample text

While one allied with the self-styled revolutionaries of the Canton government, the other group aligned itself with the Cantonese Communications Clique in the Peking government. These merchants did not constitute a ‘public sphere’ independent from the ‘state’. Instead, they were dependent on the state, and their rivalries were an extension of political rivalries at the national and local levels in China, and among the overseas Chinese communities. In other words, a ‘public sphere’ or a ‘civil society’ could not be found in Republican China.

Mary B. 45 Marie-Claire Bergere, in her study of the Republican period in Shanghai, calls this era the ‘golden age of the Chinese Bourgeoisie’. She argues that as the central government was in political eclipse, a bourgeoisled public sphere grew after 1911. This ‘golden age’ however, came to an end in 1927, when China was nominally unified under Chiang Kai-shek, who established a central government in Nanking. Under this new government, parallel organisations were set up to replace the chambers of commerce.

16 The Kung-So employed a team of watchmen and a fire brigade for selfprotection. This practice of employing private watchmen was not restricted to the Nam-Pak Hong. Groups of Chinese in Sheung Wan district also organized themselves into several ‘neighbourhood associations’ (Kaifongs in Cantonese) and employed their own watchmen to patrol their regions. 17 Religious practices were an important means through which the Chinese immigrants in Hong Kong aligned themselves into a community. 18 For the guilds and neighourhood associations, the temple was a place for meetings and worship.

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