In This Review

Creating a Chinese Harbin: Nationalism in an International City, 1916-1932
Creating a Chinese Harbin: Nationalism in an International City, 1916-1932
By James H. Carter
Cornell University Press, 2002, 217 pp
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The city of Harbin, built in the late 1890s by Russian engineers constructing the Chinese Eastern Railroad, quickly became a vibrant cosmopolitan city ("Moscow of the East") but remained until 1917 a Russian-dominated city. The tension between Russian influence and a growing sense of national identity among the Chinese led to confusion over what was needed to make the city truly "Chinese." Here Carter's story charts the rise of various competing versions of Chinese nationalism. These included an aggressive, violent, radical student version as well as a more peaceful, middle-class, merchant-oriented version. All the while, politicians represented the state through ties with warlords and ultimately the Nationalist government in Nanking. Each had a different vision of how to incorporate the West in forming a new Chinese nationalism, and how old traditions should be carried on. Carter's conclusion is a disturbing one for those who hope that China will produce a civil society capable of supporting democratic practices. As he sees it, the efforts to "Chineseify" Harbin illuminate the larger Chinese problem -- that the state dominates society so much that the end result is a state without a nation.