(all original material on this site © Pamela Kyle Crossley)
[2.20.2016] War of the Worlds! 论战
Was There Ever a 论战 between Ho Ping-ti and Evelyn Rawski?
No, there wasn’t. But manufacturing one is an essential element of the mythology of “New Qing History.”.
Before she got pegged as a guiding spirit of “New Qing History,” Evelyn Rawski was a leading historian of early modern Chinese economy and society. She has always opened new frontiers in these fields, exploring the question of “sprouts of capitalism,” of literacy, class and gender in Qing economic and political development, and the material evidence for continuities and discontinuities in the imperial culture of the Qing. Today she is leading the way in establishing the foundations for comparative and transnational histories of Northeast Asia. Her interest in Manchus and the Manchu language was a product of her wider interests in Chinese and ultimately East Asian historical trends of the sixteenth through early twentieth centuries. It was for the breadth of her achievements that Rawski was elected President of the AAS, and at the 1995 meeting she delivered her presidential address, “Re-envisioning the Qing” (which today can be read as “Presidential Address: Reenvisioning the Qing: The Significance of the Qing Period in Chinese History,” Journal of Asian Studies 55 :4 829-850).
She opened with a reference to Ho Ping-ti’s “The Significance of the Ch’ing Period in Chinese History,” Journal of Asian Studies 26:2:189-195) thirty years earlier, and commented in a way most listeners found unsurprising: “Since that time, there have been major shifts in scholarly perceptions of the nature and significant of Qing rule that bear directly on contemporary issues of nationalism and ethnicity.” She proceeded to report on the state of the field. In a very lengthy initial passage, she detailed changes in the access of foreign scholars to Manchu archives and referred to recent publications derived from or influenced by them. In a subsequent long passage, she referred to changes in the theoretical orientation of cultural studies, and the benefits of new approaches to identity and cultural change for the long histories of “non-Han” cultures and conquest regimes in eastern Eurasia. She lavished some words on the question of persisting —not disappearing— conquest elites in some of these regimes, and returned to the Qing specifically in order to describe it as a “multi-national empire.” In a penultimate passage she described the impact of Chinese nationalism in the obscuring or marginalization of the cultural history of these conquest regimes in the narratives produced in the early twentieth century. She reminded her listeners of Ho Ping-ti’s observation in 1967: The Qing was without doubt “the most successful dynasty of conquest in Chinese history.“ She concluded her speech with a simple observation: Because we have new sources and perspectives on Qing history, the last empire in China should continue to be considered important. She made no special claims for any research based on any particular sources or perspectives, and predicted that even the latest perspectives would not prevail over the long term: “The next thirty years wil continue to overturn our generalizations about the significance of Qing history.” What she was arguing was that while methods of researching Qing history might change, Qing history itself would remain important and continually renewed (a message to the large portion of the field arguing that Qing history was now finished and could be put away so that everybody could concentrate on the twentieth century) —exactly the argument foreshadowed in the title of the talk.
Who would find such a state-of-the-field report, culminating in an argument for the continuing significance of research on the history of the Qing, objectionable? We are to believe that Ho Ping-ti (passed away in 2012), was so outraged by the Rawski speech —which respectfully and repeatedly recalled his own paper of 1967— that he wrote “In Defense of Sinicization: A Rebuttal of Evelyn Rawksi’s ‘Reenvisioning the Qing,” which AAS published in 1998. It was a remarkable achievement for a man in such frail health, but then Ho was known for his remarkable feats of research and writing. The self-styled “rebuttal” opened with a very sour observation that Rawski had done Ho wrong by referring to his 1967 talk as presidential; in fact, Ho reminded his readers, his presidency of AAS did not arrive until 1975-76 (at which belated point, I should add, he became the first person of Asian descent to be president of AAS). Interestingly, it was Ho who decided that “sinicization” was where he was going to make his stand. Rawski’s own comments on “sinicization” rested on just two widely-spaced points: She referred to Ho’s own argument in 1967 that “the key to [Qing] success was the adoption by the early Manchu rulers of a policy of systematic sinicization” —Ho actually confirmed and repeated this as his main thesis in his reply— and credited Ho among other historians as establishing this thesis, which became central to the later interpretations of modern Chinese history by John King Fairbank and Mary Wright. Rawski went on to say that more recent interpretations were opposite to this: That the secrets of Qing success lay not in dissipation of the cultural identities of conquest elites but in the persisting coherence of the conquest elites. Rawski returned very briefly to “sinicization” in her conclusion, calling it “the thesis that all [note: all] the non-Han people who entered the Chinese realm have eventually been assimilated into Chinese culture” and denoting it as “a twentieth-century Han nationalist interpretation of China’s past.”
Rawski’s speech was historiographical, and I have not to this day read a “critique” of it by anybody who thinks that her reporting was faulty. What she described were the trends of scholarship in 1995, and very properly she acknowledged the ways in which Ho’s work created a reference point for discussions of Qing success. Rawski had noted, for instance, that Ho’s assumption of “sinicization” as an explanation for Qing success was no longer current in the scholarship, not that it was false. For reasons that are not really obvious, Ho Ping-ti seemed to assume that Rawski’s talk was actually about him and his “thesis,” and in the opening sentence of his “rebuttal” he plainly described her speech as an “attack” on him. He objected acidly to Rawski’s inadequte attention to his own multi-faceted theory of the Qing heritage, and to her abbreviated representation of his general theories on the origins of Chinese civilization. How or why Rawski should have turned her state-of-the-field address of 1996 into a lengthy and detailed examination of Ho’s ideas about Qing history —which he claimed to not have worked on for decades— was not explained. In his reply (which despite the title was not directed at Rawski’s entire speech but a few passages to which he gave grossly distorted importance), Ho showed a very detailed knowledge of recent publications, surprising for somebody who by his own description was no longer in the field. I was stunned and of course honored to learn in reading it that Ho —who like all of my generation I had revered from my first knowledge of him— knew anything about me at all. But though Ho’s apparent knowledge of names and titles relating to recent Qing scholarship in English was rich, his knowledge of the content seemed limited or absent.
Rawski’s invocation of the critique of “sinicization,” which I had written, was not to the entire argument, but only to the issue of elite identity in conquest regimes (particularly the Qing). The critique of the use of “sinicization” in English-language scholarship was not a denial that language, customs or instituitons that were originally Chinese had over time been adapted by neighboring or interstitial peoples. It was first an expression of discomfort with the simplistic idea that identity is ever reducible to either/or. It was also skepticism about the use of “sinicization” to suggest that these changes in Chinese history were not mundane “assimilation” or “acculturation,” but were part of a unique process by which Chinese culture charismatically transformed the wider cultures of eastern Eurasia, without apparent need of military or economic intervention. That is, “sinicization” in Fairbankian disccourse was suggested as a historical process founded on something other than the material hegemony of Chinese economy or military presence, and by implication provided no explanation for the extraordinary expansion of Chinese territory between, say, 2000 BCE and 1800 CE other than the (otherwise unexplained) power of Chinese culture. In short, the critique of “sinicization” was that it displaced the processes of assimilation and acculturation with a charismatic myth of cultural transformation that obscured the true complexities, variations, and limitations of assimilation and acculturation. And the inevitable question that arises from the critique of “sinicization” in English-language scholarship is: What best explains the extraordinary expansion of Chinese dominion in the historical period? Is it best explained by economic hegemony, frontier colonialism and military conquest, or is it best explained by the charm of Chinese culture?
In short the critique of “sinicization” as of 1995 was a simple outgrowth of the concepts and vocabulary common to historical and cultural study in that period. The only way to fail to see that was to read Rawski’s speech and subsequent article completely outside the professional context in which it occurred. But Ho’s response of 1998 demonstrated that such a misunderstanding was in fact possible. His article was a long narrative on the spread of Chinese culture, completely unrelated to the critique of “sinicization” in Qing historiography to which Rawski had been referring. It was an imposing and interesting historical review that ended as far off-base as it started: “Rawski might more usefully have begun the work of tracing into the present sinicization’s evolutionary role in Chinese history —sinicization’s new relevance to Western and modernization now that contemporary China is engaged in redefining its cultural relations with the West— instead of settling far too easily and comfortably into the currently fashionable school fo ‘cultural critics’ who mechanistically substitute ideology for scholarship and historical vision.” In retrospect one is struck by how useful it would have been for Ho to actually have found out what Rawski was referring to as “sinicization” and addressed that, instead of attempting to kill the messenger of historical trends that Ho fundamentally mischracterized.
Rawski never replied to Ho’s denunciation. There was no debate, no battle, no anything except for Ho’s attack on Rawksi for having delivered a state-of-the-field presidental address that was not mostly dedicated to reproducing Ho’s theories of Qing expansion. Why, today, do some Chinese historians talk about a 论战 and connect it to “New Qing History,” something to which neither Evelyn Rawski nor Ho Ping-ti made any reference?
The obvious answer is that it is part of the myth-making that is basic to the critiques of “New Qing History,” in which the Rawski speech and the Ho “rebuttal” are regarded as founding documents. This partly explains the basic inanity of the entire “New Qing History” idea. Rawski was reporting on English-language historiography, its sources and its trends, while Ho was reporting on what he regarded as objective history, which he imagined somehow invalidated the content of what Rawski had said —when in fact it was unrelated to it. But, beyond the need to manufacture some kind of documentary and theoretical base-line for “New Qing History,” there is something else going on. We have historians now who find it necessary to continue to distort Rawski’s speech, in order to add imaginary claims for “New Qing History” and refute them.
One of the latest additions to the anti-“New Qing History” stream is by Xu Hong 徐泓, writing in 首都師範大學學報(社會科學版, February 2016 issue (the text I read was in 繁體字). The article is not written in the high-pitched bellow of the earlier contributions by Li Zhiting, or the specious snark of Zhong Han. It is written soberly and with a good deal of information about what is actually happening in American historiography on China. I consider it one of several recent pieces showing a genuine interest in meaningful historical exchange between Chinese and American historians. Unfortunately the fantasies begin in the abstract, where we are told that “New Qing History” has its origin in Rawski’s attack on Ho Ping-ti’s 1967 article. We are then told that after the year 2000 (why? what was supposed to have begun then?) both the China and Taiwan academic worlds entered into a “violent and intense” debate 論爭劇烈而白熱化. This article, we are told, will examine the debate using academic standards, “avoiding non-academic fervor” 避免非學術意氣.
Sounds good, but how is all this objectivity to be achieved when the basic myths have already been accepted without question?
The article contains a good deal of perfectly credible characterizations of scholarship coming both from the USA and from China. These include the skepticism of American academics toward nationalism, and the anxiety in the USA after 1989 (Xu does not explain what this date might relate to) about human rights in China. The article points to Ding Yizhuang and Liu Xiaomeng as examples of Chinese scholars who have advocated an objective review of Western scholarship to identify honest advantages, even if other parts of the scholarship are ignored or repudiated (Liu’s guidelines on this are quoted in detail). And Xu eloquently describes the dilemma of contemporary Chinese historians of Chinese history who are still dependent upon Western-generated concepts of historical change. “We cannot just leap free of international historical discourse to discuss China, and we have no way outside Western constructs to produce a self-generated and self-powered China.” 我們無法跳出世界（歷史）的 語境討論中國，更無法在西方 之外建構出一個自給自足的中 國。
The problem is that when Xu attempts to put these observations and a good amount of detail together to produce a grand theory of a deceptive political motive behind “New Qing History,” we quickly enter the realm of false assumptions and illogic.
Xu begins by invoking his foundation documents. There is Rawski 1996, and there is Joanna Waley-Cohen’s 2004 article in International History Review —the article that has unfortunately given Chinese historians who read it naively the impression that “New Qing History” was a real thing, not a historiographical construct of the author. Then there is Ho 1998, which Xu thinks pointed out many “distortions” in Rawski’s “argument” by conclusively showing that non-Han conquest dynasties up to and including the Manchus did indeed adopt Chinese traditions and institutions. Either Xu does not realize that Ho’s retort to Rawski did not address any of the actual content of the anti-sinicization critique, or he just doesn’t see a reason to point that out to the reader.
Nor does he understand anything about the etiquette of American academics. In a grimly pretentious set-off paragraph he writes, “After He Bingdi refuted Rawski, Rawski did not respond, and no other scholars had any reaction.” 何炳棣批駁羅友枝之後，羅友 枝並無回應，其他學者亦無多 大反響。撰文回應的西方學者. That’s correct. We do not respond to unfavorable book reviews except in very rare instances (as rare as publishing a "rebuttal" of a disliked AAS presidential address), and we try to tolerate in silence as much petty insult as we can. It is the culture. Ho, a revered scholar then retired and known to be in uncertain health, would have been the last individual against whom other scholars would evince indignation. We know that even geniuses can have a bad day and produce a ponderous irrelevance such as Ho 1998. Only a crude sort of person would have forced Ho into more strenuous and probably equally sideways disquisitions by provoking him further. And any reply would have been rather short —basically “That is not what we are talking about.”
The documents that Xu collects next include Zheng Xuewei’s well-balanced but brief and incomplete internet essay, “Sinicization vs. Manchuness: The Success of Manchu Rule;” Lynn Struve’s edited book, Temporality, and Imperial Transition: East Asia from Ming to Qing, (2005, though Xu has it as 2004; Xu tags this book as a “New Qing History” work, with no explanation). Amazingly, Xu never mentions the only true “New Qing History” work —Elliott, Millward, Foret and Dunnell, eds., New Qing Imperial History (2004). Essentially, we seem to be getting Xu’s working bibliography on this, which is more remarkable for its eccentricity than anything else. After the omission of New Qing Imperial History, Xu remarks with evident perplexity that “it seems that the ‘New Qing History’ controvery died down.” 似乎西方學界的“新清史”論 爭已沈寂下來. He sounds puzzled.
Xu proceeds to note what he regards as a powerful wave of post-Ho-Ping-ti Ping-ti-ism (evidently washing away any New Qing impertinence still silently brewing in the hearts of Rawski or her minions). This begins with Zhao Gang’s influential article “Reinventing China” (see my notes previously on the complexities of dulimbai gurun omitted from this article) and continues (after an evident interlude of six years) with Huang Pei’s 2011 book, Reorienting the Manchus: A Study of Sinicization, 1583-1795. The latter, another learned book from a distinguished scholar, was in Xu’s view a book that attempted to synthesize the New Qing perspecive, and also to correct some of the excesses of the New Qing claims that the Qing empire had retained Manchu characteristics. Xu noted that Elliott criticized Huang for this view, which to Xu means that there is an ongoing debate between American New Qingists and Chinese Ping-ti-ists. Elliott's review of Huang, published in Journal of Economic and Social History of the Orient, was in my view unfortunate in a few respects, specifically its affirmation of a "polemic" between Rawski and Ho (what evidence there could have been of a polemic from Rawski is left quite empty) and its assumption --very much like Xu's-- that "New Qing History" is a thing; scholars with as incomplete a reading list as Xu need only to look at the review (which Xu evidently did) to think that all American scholars are swept up in this dramatic "polemic" and eagerly queueing to take pot shots at Ho, Zhao, Huang and anybody else who defies the intellectual fashion police.
In fact Elliott's review is a careful analysis of the contradictions between Huang's reliance on recent scholarship and his simultaneous view that there is nothing particularly useful about such methods. Xu's view of the review is nevertheless something to think about. Xu believes (in my view, because he has not read enough, though he has read a lot of more American scholarship than most of his colleagues) that American specialists of the Qing think only in terms he ascribes to "New Qing" --conquest, "ethnically sovereign" Manchus, Manchu language documents, enclaves, "ethnic" enmity, and so on. He also reads Elliott's review of Huang as defensive --as meaning that US scholars challenged on their "New Qing" methods will resort to stiff reifications of a Rawski-Ho controversy, of a "New Qing" school, and claims of huge new revelations produced by New Qing scholarship. To Xu, this means that his one-note characterization of American scholarly attitudes toward Qing history is on the mark, and that a one-note critique of American scholarship is justified. To see the narrowness of Xu's reading of this review, it is salutary to read something like Madhavi Thampi's "Reinterpreting China" (CHINA REPORT 49 : 2 (2013): 197–204). She reviews the most important changes in interpretations of Chinese history in last 30 to 40 years, and while non-Chinese language sources and new interpretations of Qing rulership get noticed, she reminds us of changes that are as big or bigger: demise of the challenge-response model, discreditation of "sinocentrism" as an easy explanatory tool, uses in China and in the "West" of class dynamic models (civil society, entrepreneurialism, urbanization), revised and more modern demographic studies, reappraisals of nationalism and its effects, and new modernization models. There is a great deal in there that Chinese and American historians share, and a great deal that is owed to Rawski in contexts quite different from anything associated with "New Qing History." Qing specialists in both countries might think about the degree to which their views of the profession become parochial through the effects of using "New Qing History" as an orienting point for study of the Qing period generally.
Apart from this review, Xu is under the impression that Huang's book was ignored, which I don't think is quite right; nevertheless Xu's assumption that Elliott's review is the total of the opinion of the American scholarly community leads him to assume that most “Western” China scholars uncritically accept the "New Qing" position that the review studiously reifies. It does not seem to occur to him that few other scholars comment on “New Qing History” because it doesn’t exist. A handful of scholars used the term around 2004 to brand themselves, but to most other scholars the work of Rawski, me, Elliott, Millward, Ed Rhoads and everybody else was just within the mainstream of modern historical discourse (regardless the regional specialization), where “identities” are understood to be multivalent and dynamic, where historical exceptionalism is passé, where linguistic diversity is considered a normal social and national condition, where new sources for research are eagerly sought in envelpes where previous indifference to difference (class, gender, culture) had prevented exploration.
Xu proceeds to tell an important part of the story of how the “New Qing History” myth grew “after 2000” (that part of the chronology is still mysterious to me; surely he means after 2004). In China, and in Taiwan, scholars including Ding Yizhuang, Wong Young-tsu, and others began to sponsor conferences about “New Qing History.” From 2006 on the number of conferences and publications increased. According to Xu, and I believe this from other evidence, these conferences were not entirely critical, but were conducted in the spirit of raising the level of information. What he does not notice is that nobody else in the world was having any confabs on anything called “New Qing History.” Xu has omitted an important conference held in Seoul in 2008, “Towards a New Paradigm in East Asian Cultural Studies,” attended by Ding Yizhuang, James Millward, and me, among others. Ding presented a fascinating paper, “Thinking of the Re-Construction of ‘Manzu’ since 1950s,” Millward’s paper was “Chinese World Views and How the World Views Them: Inventing and Reinventing China” and my paper was “The Influence of Altaicism on the Development of East Asian Studies.” Never a “New Qing History” reference among them. However, parts of my paper were published the same year in Korean and the next year in Chinese as “A Reserved Approach to ‘New Qing History,’” a dissent against of the idea in China that there was such a thing as “New Qing History.” This paper was widely circulated in China, and was read by Professor Li Zhiting’s students (and I assume but do not know, Professor Li himself) before he his essay “新清史”：“新帝國主義”史 學標本 appeared in 2014. This Xu also leaves out.
Xu’s discussion of the role of Manchu language sources (for some reason he does not discuss Mongolian beyond a mention) in the work of those he has labelled as “New Qing” historians shows a characteristic combination of accuracy and illogic. He notes that the role of Manchu documents in the work of the “New Qing” historians varies. Ed Rhoads used none in Manchus and Han; Rawski used some Manchu archival sources but for the most part used Chinese documents; Crossley used mostly sources from the already-published Manzhou laodang; Elloitt used a large number of Manchu 朱批奏摺, but most had long before been translated into Chinese. This seems mostly fair (though I used passages from Mukden i fujurun bithe and the Manchu translation of the Zhongyong at least as much as the Manzhou laodang) but what does he think it means? According to him, Rawski 1996 demanded that Qing specialists all start learning and extensively using new Manchu documents. The variability of Manchu document use in the work of those he identifies as “New Qing” is, in his view, an indictment of Rawski; she made claims, according to him, that are not actually evident in the work of his target historians. He complains that there are even “people” who insist that without Manchu nobody can research Qing history at all 甚至有人極端地提出：不識滿文 就不能研究清史. Is any of that true? Rawski reported on the opening of new sources and their impact on the field. True, but not what Xu is describing. There are people who point out that learning to read documentary Manchu is extremely easy (in contrast to Mongolian) and that graduate students who do not acquire it for researching Qing history are probably making a mistake. True, but not what Xu is describing.
As for the use of Manchu documents in published work, we are looking here at an honest difference between academic worlds. Chinese scholars tend more than American scholars of China to design their work around the review and quotation of previously unreviewed (even if published) documents; what comes of that, or what interpretations might arise —if any— are secondary. American scholars tend to identify historically meaningful problems and then check the documents to see if there is sufficient volume to proceed; if the documents are new, good, if not, they may still be revealing in a new light. Moreover, the value of acquiring the ability to read documentary Manchu and the number of documents used are not related; to use even one Manchu document, a scholar must have the ability to read Manchu. Xu, for instance, rightly regards Zhao Gang 2006 as a significant article. It doesn't offer any new documents or information, but uses the author's knowledge of Manchu to propose an interpretation that Xu acknowledges as important. What Xu does not acknowledge is that without the academic technologies to which Rawski drew attention in 1996, Zhao's article would be unlikely to exist. As for the period Ed Rhoads’ treated in Manchus and Han, nobody claims Manchu documents would be critical; they could be useful, particularly for Xinjiang, but nobody thinks Rhoads missed something important because he did not use Manchu documents. In the case of Evelyn Rawski, access to Manchu documents and the degree to which they revealed information not available in Chinese varied; she was under no obligation to use a majority of Manchu documents and she did not claim that she did so. As for the fact that Elliott’s sources had already been translated into Chinese, this is irrelevant. Anybody who has worked with Manchu sources and their Chinese equivalents knows that the information and nuance are not identical; there is always something to be gleaned from one that is not present in the other. This is especially true when the Manchu documents are originals and the Chinese documents are translations. As for my work, with only one or two exceptions I can think of now, my sources have all been published, and repeatedly published in prominent imperial editions. They have all been translated into Chinese. My subject is ideology. The thing about ideology is that it is propagated; there might be such a thing as secret, unpublished, unknown ideology document, but I can’t imagine what it would be. The connotations and discursive qualities of the words are my subjects; if I don’t read Manchu, I can’t do any of the work. To make an analogy, I have seen at least three translations of the U.S. Constitution into Chinese. Should we no longer require that Chinese specialists on American history learn English?
Xu goes on to discuss 漢化 (which he means to signify the English language “sinicization,” see my previous note on this) but he merely repeats the dreary historiographical misconceptions of Ho 1998. It is a long part of the article and strenuous —new evidence of Qing adaptation of Chinese institutions! We will skp this.
More significant, Xu concludes the article by exploring what he considers the ideological threat of the “New Qing” practitioners. He notes that Rawski 1996 article has never been entirely translated into Chinese, and so most Chinese scholars only have indirect summaries or partial translations of a carefully selected segment, “Qing History and Chinese Nationalism,” to work with. Xu captures the dilemma of many Chinese scholars with this extraordinary comment: “Whether it is intentional or not that this article supports ‘New Qing History,’ people have not read enough to know; nobody talks about it, it seems they are afraid that after reading it, readers will on account of it have doubts about the academic quality of Rawski’s writings.” 支持“新清史”的文章，不知 是故意的，還是沒讀到，對羅 友枝這段論述總是略而不談， 似乎是怕讀者讀到之後會引起 對羅友枝論文學術性的懷疑. Really? Does Xu really mean that the professional judgment of Chinese historians is so fragile that disapproving even one of Rawski’s opinions would cause doubts about all her work? (Rhetorical question: Yes, I know that is what he means.) To help the reader to understand the true New Qing ideological plot, Xu proceeds to translate her last paragraph of that section, with its concluding statement: “John Fitzgerald (1996) concludes that China is a ‘nationless state.’” 他的總結是中國是一個“沒有 真正融合成為一個民族的國家( nationless state)”.
Xu follows with two credible points. First, Western scholars tend to be skeptical of nationalism, blaming it for most of the trouble in the world. Second, after 1989 (he doesn’t say why), there was a reversal in American academic attitudes toward China, with a new emphasis on human rights. But Xu then concludes on the basis of these points that the tendency to omit this section of Rawski’s 1996 article obscures the plain political agenda of “New QIng History.” To him, this very dangerous paragraph, and its omission from existing translations of this segment of Rawski 1996, encompasses the political ideology of New Qing history and the degree to which it worries Chinese readers. It is anti-national, and uses the cover of “anti-colonialism” to promote the idea of political distinctness and cultural independence in China’s border regions. According to Xu, it is likely that this ideological deception on the part of “New Qing” historians is deliberate. Therefore, he advises that Chinese historians should, on the one hand, follow Liu Xiaomeng’s advice and learn what they can from the New Qing historians; on the other hand, be vigilant against the creeping ideology of the New Qing history and its threat to China’s political stability, and to its ability to generate its own national narrative. Xu is from beginning to end arguing that “New Qing” history was invented in all but name by Rawski in 1996, and only later propounded as “New Qing” by the supposedly gullible and easily suggestible Elliot and Millward in 2004. The true hero of the movement to repudiate New Qing History is, in Xu’s view, Ho Ping-ti.“New Qing History” is only another way of naming Rawski-ism (that is my term not Xu’s), which since 1998 has been opposed by Ping-ti-ism (ditto).
Despite the sober tone and the many observations that strike me as accurate, the fundamental assumptions of Xu’s long piece are disturbing. He sees a continuing, if punctuated, struggle between the heirs of Ho Ping-ti on one side and the heirs of Evelyn Rawski on the other. He also perceives an unspoken ideological battle between, on one side, Chinese historians who are struggling to find not only a China-centered but a China-generated history, and on the other side a bunch of historians not of Chinese descent who are working to thwart the development of that history. This mental structure runs very deep and appears highly resistant to fact. It might have been unwise for a small group of historians to identify themselves as “New Qing History” c. 2004; they may have intended to create a brand, but they actually created a target (a target subsequently slapped on the back of many historians other than themselves). On the other hand, it appears that if such a target had never been offered, a segment of Chinese historians would have created one themselves by now (according to Xu, Rawski 1996 and Ho 1998 are sufficient to frame the entire debate over “New Qing History”). These are tough times in which to attempt the creation of any exceptionalist, nationalist history —a narrative in which conquest is not conquest, dominance is not dominance, war is not war, victory is victory and defeat is victory. The entire force of current international historical thinking is contrary to it —instead of tending to isolate national histories from global perspectives, the trend is to try to put national histories into global and comparative frameworks. Xu Hong has put his finger on this, and though he does not claim that only “New Qing History” is to blame for the difficulties of Chinese historians, he does think they are working consciously against the aspirations in China for a new national narrative. He produces no evidence that this is true, and the facts are that if he looked into the personal careers of the people he claims are part of the “New Qing History” 学派 he would find that hurting China has been the furthest thing from their minds. In the world of English-language historiography of China, we are all the heirs of Ho Ping-ti and we are all the heirs of Evelyn Rawski. We are not riven by factional struggles, but are all as individuals influenced by the major international trends of our time. Only in a solipsistic scholarly world would Rawski-ites and Ping-ti-ites be objectified as separate and hostile tribes.
I would suggest that when Chinese historians start reading our work themselves they will find that the threat comes not from “New Qing History” but from the mainstream intellectual trends that make “New Qing History” indistinguishable from any other kind of history practiced by American, European and Japanese historians. I personally think Xu is correct that every historical narrative has its ideological framing and limitations, despite the protestations of some historians to be objective and impartial. If the historians labelled as “New Qing historians” are really claiming to be objective and impartial in fact (as distinguished from in intention), then don’t believe them. But my more urgent advice is that if you want to continue to criticize Rawski, then read Rawski and find out what she actually wrote (it wasn’t about Ho Ping-ti). If you want to understand all the ways to use Manchu documents, then start using them and find out (it won’t be exclusively about finding shiny new information that is not in Chinese). If you want to criticize the critique of “sinicization” then find out what it is about (it is not about whether or not conquest dynasties adapted Chinese institutions or language or dress or anything else). If you believe that every historical trend masks an ideological imperative, then look behind the criticisms of the mythical “New Qing history” and find it.