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Chen Jiongming's Federalism


bhchao
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During the early ROC years, the Cantonese warlord Chen Jiongming had a federalist concept to deal with the lack of strong, central control immediately following the collapse of the Qing.

He said that each province should be autonomous in its own way, with a "governor" having the responsibiltiy to develop his province according to the "governor"'s own agenda, free from any meddling from the state central government.

This idea stirred much controversy then, since many people interpreted this as a kind of warlordism. But Chen argued that it is better to develop the provinces on an individual basis first, rather than concentrate on forming a strong central government like Sun Yat-sen suggested. This would provide a solid internal foundation that would make it easier to produce a strong central authority.

Due to his clash with Sun Yat-sen and his subsequent warfare with Chiang on the battlefield before 1926, combined with his controversial, federalist concept, Chen was shunned as a villain in the eyes of ROC and PRC.

However in my opinion, this concept deserves at least a bit of attention, especially considering the internal strife and backwardness in China during the warlord years and the war with Japan.

Even today some provinces are quite backward compared to the development that has transformed the coastal provinces.

Any thoughts on Chen's concept?

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Chen advocated a multiparty federalism and the peaceful unification of China.

This model makes a lot of sense for China. It was unfortunate that Sun Yatsen et al. did not embrace it. The full Communist takeover of China would not have happened under this model (you could bet that the southeastern states would have openly challenged northern communism, and it also would have allowed easier and more targetted American support). We wouldn't be in a Mainland-Taiwan situation if China had been federalized from the get-go. You would have seen outright secession when the Communists tried to take over the southern states; the fighting would have been much more personal and prolonged, and Americans would have been involved. It would be my province(state) versus your province(state), rather than vague notions of ROC versus CCP/revolution.

Reasons why federalization made sense then and still makes sense today for China:

1. Han China is multilingual and multicultural. I'm talking more than just cuisines and dresses, but instead about how different regions of China have widely different attitudes toward tradition/religion, education, business/commerce, freedom and authority.

2. Provincial lines have been drawn for hundreds of years, and so there is strong political identification to them. Even today, people are widely "patriotic" of their own provinces. Go to a Chinese forum or news discussion board and you see provincial verbal fights all the time. Bottom line: Chinese people see provinces as valid and potent political identities to which they are citizens of. Every Chinese person I know want to make their own provinces strong and rich first.

3. Certain provinces in Han China are historically backward for the past thousand years. They have no one else to blame but themselves. The coastal provinces weren't rich simply because of treaty ports as the common myth goes, they have been centers of Chinese culture and economy since the Northern and Southern Dynasties a millennium ago.

4. Each province of Han China has populations from 60 million (Zhejiang smallest) to 120 million (Henan largest). These are populations sizes identical to Britain, France or Germany. It makes sense to give greater authority for governors of these regions.

The only thing the new Chinese federal government had to be responsible for was this:

- National transportation and management of trade relations between provinces

- National army

- Coherent foreign policy

- National taxation for the above 3 services (this won't be a big tax)

Why would warlords agree to the deal? Greater security for themselves (they don't have to wage war all the time) and unified protection against foreign exploitation (greater bargaining power against foreigners).

This modest simplicity would have ensured greater cooperation of warlord states with the Republic of China government, because the warlords would not feel threatened but rather more secure with the ROC relationship (each is guaranteed protection by ROC). With cooperation of the warlords, the ROC gov't also didn't have to alienate so many people in the quest of obtaining power. The ROC would have also had a lot more time and money to establish a national army during that time to ward off Japanese invasion. The ROC would have also permitted northern states to be communist-majority (since Chen was pro-multiparty), and this would have ironically made the Chinese Communist Party more impotent (as the CCP would be REGIONALLY CONFINED).

In the end, it was unfortunate for China that Sun Yatsen did not know American history and government very well. He was rather influenced by socialist and communist ideologies brewing in Europe and Russia at the time. Had Chen's multiparty and federalist ideas won, China would be a greatly different country today.

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I dont agree. Unlike the US, where states share pretty much the same values, same culture, same language, and same wealth, China's provinces are too different (even Amerca's federalism wasn't smooth sail in the early days). What bounds them together is a common history and a strong centralized government. Federalism would create multiple Taiwans, and if the development levels are different in each province, some are bound to identify more with themselves than with the country (American civil war). At a time of warlordism, federalism could only be in name since each warlord would hold real power for his territories, and fights between warlords could easily drive the country into pieces. (e.g. north and south Koreas, north and south Vietnams... and more). Just like advocating phonetic scripts for different dialects, ala, I think you are the one that places more importance in the security of your own province than that of the whole country. It's true that citizens of every province want their province to get rich first, but isn't that true in every country (sports games)? It's positive competition within a stable framework. Federalism is what I would call an unstable framework.

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you could bet that the southeastern states would have openly challenged northern communism, and it also would have allowed [b']easier and more targetted American support[/b]
You would have seen outright secession when the Communists tried to take over the southern states; the fighting would have been much more personal and prolonged, and Americans [/b']would have been involved.
In the end, it was unfortunate for China that Sun Yatsen did not know American [/b']history and government very well.

Why this emphasis on "American"?

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I remember this guy. Long before, ala had a thread advocating Wu dialect. He also alleged that the central government is deliberately oppressing southern cultures. Back then I felt he had some disguised intentions and his stance could be lured and used by some extremism. But I supported him on that we should advocate southern cultures and dialects.

But now his post proves that my feeling was right.

This is even worse than TI, because TI only tries to separate Taiwan from China. If TI is any smarter than they are, they could vaguely possibly achieve their dreams. But I don’t see where you’re going. This is not good for your health, because when you face the end of your life, you can’t say “Now I live closer to my dream.” like many others could.

I won’t say “good luck” to you, because first, I don’t support you, and second, “good luck” won’t help you.

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Back then I felt he had some disguised intentions and his stance could be lured and used by some extremism.

But now his post proves that my feeling was right.

This is even worse than TI' date=' because TI only tries to separate Taiwan from China. If TI is any smarter than they are, they could vaguely possibly achieve their dreams. But I don’t see where you’re going. This is not good for your health, because when you face the end of your life, you can’t say “Now I live closer to my dream.” like many others could.

I won’t say “good luck” to you, because first, I don’t support you, and second, “good luck” won’t help you.[/quote']

Outofin, your comments are beyond inappropriate, they also expose your own dogmatic fears and intellectual intolerance. What? Is the word "federalism" a taboo now? Am I a traitor for believing that federalism is a better model for China? Who do you think you are? My health is very good, thank you very much, and I live in the United States, so you can say my dream is already satisfied. I don't need your support, I am not an activist (I'm a busy med student working hard for my rice bowl), I'm not running in the streets declaring independence; I am merely expressing my belief that China would do better with a more localized administrative framework. Laws in China ought to be more localized, instead of over-sweeping from top-to-bottom; this way the laws are more locally appropriate, respected and enforceable (many of China's laws today are not enforced, and that is the problem). It is more efficient to operate this way. We have emperical evidence, see Shenzhen-Guangzhou, Shanghai economic areas. How did Shenzhen and Shanghai develop so quickly? Because of greater local autonomy to do whatever it can to achieve economic growth, local governments didn't need Beijing's approval on every little minute detail and central government taxation was reduced.

And this is not a dream (the only one dreaming is you of your "centralized socialist utopia")... there's a gradual progression toward federalism in China already! It's called economic and cultural reality. Do you really think censorship in China is going to work in the long-term? Censorship, like your comments, are tell-tale signs of fear and fragility within the centralized system; they are signs of weakness and instability. Like a house of cards, a little agitation can topple everything, is that what you fear? The Chinese provinces are going to gain greater and greater autonomy over the next 50 years whether you control-freaks like it or not. In that same 50 years, China will be as powerful as ever in its history. You are obviously not very familiar with growth models in Chinese history, China was often most culturally dynamic and economically powerful in-between dynasties and during periods when the imperial court was relatively weak.

Unlike the US' date=' where states share pretty much the same values, same culture, same language, and same wealth

China's provinces are too different (even Amerca's federalism wasn't smooth sail in the early days). Federalism would create multiple Taiwans. [b']Federalism is what I would call an unstable framework[/b].

Like you said, US wasn't always that homogenous, it gradually became so over the course of its history, proving that federalism has a uniting force and need not be divisive. Also, centralism does not prevent civil wars either; in fact my point is that centralism generates more "revolutionary" violence that collapses the country in its entirety as seen by the Communist takeover. Whereas federalism will often only manifest smaller and more localized scales of conflict, preventing catastrophic collapses. People often have the romanticized notion that federalism = war/divison and centralism = peace/stability, but is this really the reality in Chinese history during the 20th century? No. The warlord years were pretty darn peaceful in comparison to later civil wars between ROC and the Communists. China has gone through 3 centralized governments in the last 100 years, the US, albeit a few crises, is still in-tact since 1776. So, who has a more stable framework? Had China not created autonomous economic zones during the 1980s under Deng Xiaoping, the PRC would have likely been finished by now. Much of Shenzhen and Shanghai's initial "foreign" investment came from autonomous Hong Kong and Taiwan. Do you see where I am going with this?

Also, there is logical and spiritual inconsistency in your counter-argument that "since China is diverse it ought to be strongly centralized." This is called going against the flow of the current, it is resource intensive and inefficient. I don't think China needs to prove anything, China doesn't need to prove that centralism and authoritarian governments work (against all contrary evidence), what the Chinese government has a responsibility for is the well-being of its population. A gradual system (as you can probably tell, I am against all revolutions) towards greater efficiency and transparency is in the best interests of the population and the longterm stability of the nation. Federalism provides this efficiency and allows greater local participation within national government, hence more transparency and representation. With centralism, you are asking for revolutions (from disenfranchisement, lack of representation), hence censorship and repression are necessary to prevent these revolutions, which in turn generate even greater passions for revolution. Centralism is one paranoid mess. China with each new centralized government has a new country name and flag. As Sun Yatsen himself had said, we are a nation without a name. How can this be considered stable? It's a fantasy.

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ala, I think there is always centralism in federalism, and there can be provincialism in centralism, it's just a matter of calibrating to a balance of the two. Some countries start from federalism and reach the balance, while others start from the other end. Both have their own risks, pros and cons. I don't think it really matters at this point, we can always adapt as we develop, the name is meaningless. That said though, I still don't think we would still be one country today if we adopted federalism, the risk of fragmentation was too great (America was lucky).

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What if China were to become a democracy in the future? How would this future system (if it were to happen) flourish without a federalist framework? I'm not asking this as a rhetorical question. I'm really curious how this system would work if we were to go without a federalist framework.

If elections were to take place (local, provincial, state), to what degree will popularly elected county or provincial governors have jurisdiction over their constituencies, and to what extent will the state central laws supercede the local laws?

It is true that having more local autonomy have risks, such as identifying more with themselves than with the country as Quest mentioned. But look at Hong Kong. People there want a large degree of autonomy without any meddling from the state central government. Yet people in Hong Kong still identify themselves as Chinese and many HKers are very patriotic to China as a whole despite wanting more autonomy.

I think we can also say the same thing to Taiwan, excluding the TI advocates of course. Many Pan-Blue people in Taiwan identify the island as being a province of China, yet still want the island to enjoy de facto autonomy. Had Taiwan not been de facto ruled in an autonomous manner all this time, it would not have experienced the industrialization that made the island one of the Four Economic Tigers. Imagine Mao having direct control over the island during the 50's and 60's.

Regarding the diversity in dialects and cultures among the Mainland provinces, would the national language of Mandarin be a unifying force in a federalist structure with more local autonomy, despite dialect preferences in each province?

Just like English is the official language of the US, immigrants still widely speak their own language, like the growing importance and usage of Spanish in California.

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Actually when Mao was a hot-head youngster in Hunan in 1910s, he already proposed "Autonomy via provincial alliances".

And in term of economic sphere, China has gradually devolved its power to the local government during the last two decades. Now it becomes when Beijing draws up the plan, the local government already has ways to bypass it (if the policy hurts its interest).

For political power, sooner or later Beijing has also to devolve into the local governments to some degrees.

However, even in the local government level, there can be huge conflict of political/economic interest. For instance, the proposed Guangzhou/HK/Macau bridge project is still in limbo because there are huge conflicts of interest between Guangzhou<=>Shenzhen, Shenzhen<=>HK, HK<=>Guangzhou, Zhuhai<=>Macau,....etc.

Even after Beijing's meddling, the project is still in hold.

Even in such small place like Hawaii, there are overlapping apparatus of Federal, State and County governments.

And the US Federal government is more powerful and more encompassing than what ala listed. For instance, bank robbery is a crime that is under the jurisdiction of FBI.

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In China there are 300 plus cities with population of 1 million or more. Each of these big cities are increasingly becoming an independent "city-state", soliciting business investments and formulating taxation rules on their own. This is very similar to the "American Federal model" that has proven to be very successful. The prevalent view that there's big giant central goverment in China today dictating every decisions is outdated.

For an example, a few years ago, central government invited mayors of China biggest cities to convene at a Mayor Conference to be hosted by the city of Dalian. Dalian for those of not familiar with China, is a seaport in the Northeast coast of China, and has become modern city with solid infrastructure and favorable investment climate. The central goverment's goal was to showcase Dalian as model of a well-run city-state for other big cities to emulate.

http://www.dlsp.com.cn/english/Investment/investment.asp

This framework of emulating the system that works best is what is at work in the USA. In the US, there are 50 states, each with its own rules and regulations without much interference from the federal government. If a state decide to adopt a set of rule (e.g. California emission control) and has proven to be sucessful, other state will start emulating it. In other words, for each state in the union, there are potentials 49 state to compare with and to seek out the best system (in this case if a state wants an emission control law, it can emulate and adopt Cali's successful law (possibly with some modifications) for its own state. This is very similar what's happening in the China. Although not a democratic system, there is a great deal of de facto federalism in practice today, and it is this practice that has made China's economic growth so successful, so rapid.

No, I don't think the US was lucky, it was seriously tested in numerous occasions, but it escaped them to be even stronger than before.

I believe national identity and economic self-interest in China is high enough that a federalist model will not lead to separatism and suffer severe economic/political isolation. It is now in every region's interest to remain a part of China. But some autonomy is necessary to ensure greater efficiency and local representation, which in the longrun stems national unrest, any unrest will take form locally and hopefully be resolved on the local level. Blame can be spread across both the local and national governments. Right now in China, public anger first goes to the lowest local leader and then straight to the central government. Where is the buffer in between? That's where a federalist framework comes in, it gives local governments enough authority and competence to handle local conflicts.

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And the US Federal government is more powerful and more encompassing than what ala listed. For instance, bank robbery is a crime that is under the jurisdiction of FBI.

Also hate crimes are under the jurisdiction of FBI.

If a state decide to adopt a set of rule (e.g. California emission control) and has proven to be sucessful, other state will start emulating it.

Yes that is already happening right now. California has the toughest emission standards in the US, which other states are viewing as a model for improving their own standards.

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And the US Federal government is more powerful and more encompassing than what ala listed. For instance, bank robbery is a crime that is under the jurisdiction of FBI.

These were gradual developments through legislation and interstate cooperation over the course of hundreds of years. The original US federal government was pretty limited. I guess I'm saying that the federalist framework is the best way to improve yourself (through emulation of others) and settle grievances, because it tries to avoid open conflict, rioting and war (although sometimes still unavoidable). Whereas a centralist system merely tries to crush these conflicts, which is not feasible in the longterm and harmful for national integration. A federal government doesn't have to be perfect, issues can be slowly worked out with the local governments; a federal government merely provides an open forum for this to take place. There is a lot of regional mistrust in China right now, and I feel that a controlled federal model will resolve many of these issues over time.

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Chen Jiongming's multiparty federalism was not too far off from Song Jiaoren's parliamentarism.

I believe that Chen and Song would have teamed together well had Song not been assassinated. Song's assassination was a pivotal point that put the forming of the ROC on the wrong track.

Sun opposed Song Jiaoren's parliamentary ideas. With a country as diverse as China, a multiparty parliament could have represented those constituencies well.

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I think China has the worst of both systems right now. It’s de-facto federalist, in the sense that local party officials often don’t heed the central government’s explicit instructions, for better or for worse. There is a high degree of local autonomy. And yet, on paper, the local districts obey the central authority completely. This is might be termed 阳奉阴违. I think that’s one reason why the Party still outranks the government in the overlapping bureaucracy, for fears that in a democracy a local government might simply refuse to listen to Beijing’s orders.

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Bhchao:

Chen's scheme has nothing to do with democracy or multi-party Federalism.

It was merely a proposal to justify the de facto status quo in his era -- warlord in each province that ignored the central government after Yuan Shih Kai's failed attempt to become an Emperor.

Some old folks in Guangdong are nostalgic about another warlord -- Chen Jitong who ruled the province from 1929-1936. My mom still recalled how good those days were.

And Chen Jitong was a well-known patriot. He dispatched the 19th Route Army to defend Shanghai in the 1932 assualt.

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Chen's scheme has nothing to do with democracy

Of course it has nothing to do with democracy. Chen wanted a confederation of self-governing provinces, with each province having a representation in a national goverment.

However in my opinion, this system is better than Sun's Leninist one-party central authority.

If you take Chen's concept and incorporate it with a democratic formula, this system could work in the modern world.

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Bhchao:

We have to look at what really happened in that period before we came to the conclusion that Chen's scheme was better than Sun's scheme.

There is very important reason why Sun adopted the Leninist-style KMT in his latter years:

(1) Many of those KMT Parliamentarians in Beijing betrayed the party when Sun exiled to Japan after the abortive 2nd revolution in 1913. Except a few, those KMT Parliamentarians were hardly democrats and later became subverient to whoever became President, That is why Sun reformed KMT under strict discipline and his absolute leadership.

(2) Sun had been fancied with those democracy ideas that the western powers manifested especially with President Wilson's principle of "National Self-Determination". But in the Versailles Conference, Sun's hope was totally dashed. What the western powers manifested contradicted with what they actually did.

(3) When the Bolshevik Revolution succeeded, its motto was very attractive. Lenin made the famous "Joffe Declaration" which relinquished all extra-territoriial rights and treated China on an equal status. (But what Lenin actually meant was to relinquish all those leased territories in the port cities -- ceded territory in 1858 and 1860 and Chinese Eastern Railway were excluded.) Of course Sun was fascinated with the newly born USSR after he got totally despaired with the western powers.

(4) And of course the most most important point is that Lenin agreed to send Soviet military adviser and 1,000 rifles to the provisionary government in Guangzhou. After 30 years of revolutionary experience, Sun understood why KMT failed repeatedly -- because KMT lacked its own force.

So the 1,000 rifles changed the fate of China. And by that time, Sun's Leninist-style party was more attractive than the western style democracy. That is why so many youths rushed to gather in Guangzhou.

Of course Sun had never been to Moscow. But the Soviets were born propagandists. Even Sun believed in what Lenin said.

However, deep in Sun's mind, he had reservation. Otherwuse he would not appoint Chiang as the Chancellor of the Huang Pu Military Academy.

But according to Sun's scheme, he would convert China into a full democracy six years after KMT unified the whole China.

Too bad Sun died too early.

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One-party China led to a lot of intolerance that brew ill will, especially pertaining to the communists. It also established a dangerous precedent for the new China (and it was repeated). One wonders if a controlled multiparty system (that is, consisting of maybe 2-3 national parties) would have prevented civil war, at least maintained the continuation of the ROC and also been more effective against the Japanese? It would've certainly made the communist attempt to settle problems by revolution a lot harder (less justifiable); the communist could win a few seats but could not topple the nation. Part of reason why ROC national flag had to be replaced was because it had the KMT emblem in its canon. It's an issue that annoys even the DPP in Taiwan to this day.

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