Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Department of History
Between the mid-nineteenth century and the 1930s, Shantou, a treaty port located at the southeast coast of China, evolved from a mere fishing village into an international port and a thriving commercial city. Shantou presents an unusual case study among the treaty ports of China on account of its location at the periphery of the empire and its connection to a South China Southeast Asia trading zone. The absence of Chinese imperial as well as foreign influence, combined with the centrality of trade to the city, allowed the local merchants to play dominant roles, settling trade disputes and taking over functions of the municipal government. When the modern state was established, it initiated an ambitious modernization agenda by launching a series of urban renewal projects. The post-1911 Nationalist government, however, tried without success to gain control of Shantou's financial affairs. The Nationalist government was never able to dominate the local merchants, who preserved their independence in the city's financial affairs.
The study of Shantou, thus facilitates re-examination of the relationship between state and society in urban China before the Communist takeover. This case study calls into question the basic assumption that state and society were mutually exclusive domains locked in a zero-sum game to gain power. Instead, the thesis asserts that the two parties typically engaged in a complex interaction that entailed cooperation, contestation, and negotiation
Luo, Fusheng, "Merchant Guilds, Local Autonomy, and Municipal Governance in a South China Treaty Port: Shantou, 1858- 1939" (2015). Theses and Dissertations. 367.