Print and Politics: Shibao and the Culture of Reform in Late Qing China

Print and Politics: Shibao and the Culture of Reform in Late Qing China

Print and Politics: Shibao and the Culture of Reform in Late Qing China

Print and Politics: Shibao and the Culture of Reform in Late Qing China

Synopsis

This book offers a cultural history of a late Qing newspaper, Shibao, the most influential reform daily of its time. The book examines Shibao as both an institution and text.

Excerpt

In April 1904 three men held a series of secret meetings in the foreign quarters of Shanghai. One of them, Liang Qichao, was a fugitive from the Qing government with a price of 100,000 taels on his head. Another, Di Baoxian, had played an instrumental role in organizing an uprising against the dynasty in 1900. When they met that spring, their purpose was not to plan the overthrow of the imperial regime or to subvert the existing system of authority, however. It was to advance political opposition through other means--the creation of a daily newspaper.

Liang, Di, and the other journalists who would work for the newly founded daily, Shibao, thus drew an explicit link between print and politics: adopting a new form of print mediation--the political press--they promoted a new mode of politics--constitutional reform. Casting themselves as members of the "middle level of society" (zhongdeng shehui), they saw their role as one of negotiating between the dynasty "above" and the common people "below." From this intermediate ground they struggled-- as both publicists and activists--to shift the locus of authority downward and channel the abilities of the people upward. This intermediate ground, including both the metaphoric space that their journalistic writings occupied and the actual sphere of their social and political initiatives, constitutes the late Qing middle realm.

Focusing on the new-style press--the preeminent institution and primary text of the middle realm--this book tells the story of the formation, expansion, and meaning of this emerging space. Shibao, the most influen-

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