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East Asian Studies Undergraduate Journal ISSN 1920-0978


(re)viewing ASIA

Copyright © 2009 East Asian Studies Student Union – University of Toronto, All Rights Reserved ON EAST is an established academic undergraduate journal under the support, awareness, and approval of the Arts and Science Student Union at the University of Toronto. The ON EAST Academic Journal is an Open Access Journal. This means that anybody may access the contents. It also means that visitors may freely copy, print or download material FOR THEIR PERSONAL USE only. The author retains all rights to his or her intellectual property. As with any publication, print or electronic, the possibility of plagiarism, commercial exploitation or unauthorized use exists. Thus authors should avail themselves of an appropriate level of copyright protection under applicable copyright law. The East Asian Studies Student Union (EASSU) assumes no responsibility or liability for unauthorized use of materials published on The ON EAST website. It must be noted that EASSU does not authorize copies, replications, or republication of any of the materials without express permission from the author(s) of a work or works, except for personal use only. Except for personal use, no material, either text or image, shall be copied without the explicit consent of individual authors. For third parties to obtain permission to further use material the material within the journal, please contact the author or for non-authored material the direct Managing Editor(s) of the relevant publication year.

By submitting an academic piece to EASSU and the ON EAST Journal committee, authors implicitly certify that it is wholly the author’s own work, that he/she holds the intellectual property rights to it, and that the author agrees that EASSU has the right to publish the work on its web site, subject to the decisions and policies of the Managing Editor(s) of EASSU: ON EAST Committee. The creator, however, may withdraw the work and such permissions at any time. For copyright purposes, the effective date of the copyright is that of the last amendment to the page excluding amendments to the borders present on the page.

Authors should note the following. EASSU has issued transfer of copyright to all authors, which transfers a one-time copyright from the writer to the journal. Correspondence to this, the form indicated as follows: “I (the author) hereby agree to the first time and one time only publication of my (article) entitled (‘so and so’) in the English language in the (year) publication of the ON EAST Undergraduate Academic Journal. “ However, the author may also add a clause specifying a time limit, beyond which the permission is revoked... This makes it evident that the author retains the right to do what he/she prefers with the material, when he/she likes, and that the journal must seek the author’s permission if it wishes to make further use of their work, such as republication, publication elsewhere, serialization, translation, and so forth. Readers and Users should not the following: ON EAST is a free publication sponsored by the Arts and Science Student Union at the University of Toronto, through the editing and compilations of the EASSU ON EAST Committee. Thus, the ‘free’ indicated here is the non-profitable aspect of the journal. Any further usage of any materials within the journal would be a violation to the copyright law of Canada, and consequences may follow. ISSN 1920-0978

Supervisor Yinsey Wang

Layout Editor/Cover Designer Trinh Quan Academic Adviser Professor John Edward Stowe

Graduate Editing Committee William Hetherington Jennifer Lau Yanfei Li Mark McConaghy Sara Osenton James Poborsa Josh Xiong Lidu Yi

Undergraduate Editing Committee Michael Jud Lowell Lee Poorva Misra Joelle Tapas Siuhong Van

Sponsor/Contributors Arts and Science Student Union East Asian Studies Student Union With gratitude to the Deans Initiative Award Publisher Thistle Printing Limited.


Faculty Selection Committee Professor Janet Poole Professor Thomas Keirstead Professor John Edward Stowe Professor Andre Schmid


Co-Chairs Andrew Campana Luke Witzaney


Dear Reader,

Welcome to the second volume of ON EAST: (Re)Viewing Asia. This has been long in the making, and all towards one purpose: to showcase the outstanding efforts of undergraduate students at the University of Toronto in research.

A vast number of people have been involved in the making of what you now hold in your hands or are reading on your screen. From a vast pool of submissions, every one of which we were extremely grateful for, papers were selected in a threestep blind process by the undergraduate editing committee, the graduate editing committee, and the faculty committee. It cannot be overstated how much enthusiasm, knowledge and good humour all three of these groups brought to the project— they made ON EAST what it is. Another exciting development this year was the second ON EAST undergraduate conference in March, with an excellent turnout for the presentation of nine undergraduate papers. The atmosphere was thoughtful and the discussions were intense and inspiring—with any luck, the conference will continue in the years and decades to come. I would finally like to thank our mighty faculty advisor, Professor Stowe, our tireless supervisor Yinsey Wang, our unfailingly brilliant layout editor Trinh Quan, and of course my fantastic Co-Chair Luke Witzaney. It was a pleasure and an honour working with all of you. Enjoy the journal.

Sincerely, Andrew Campana Co-Chair

In having now firmly established ON EAST as an annual publication, I am pleased to bring you Volume II. Based upon the success of the inaugural Volume of ON EAST, this year’s contribution establishes a newly minted tradition of academic scholarship at the University of Toronto. What is so essential about this publication is that it continues to provide a platform for those undergraduate students who have an expressed interest in the East Asian and Asia-Pacific Region in doing just what they ought to be doing; that is, in expressing themselves – doing so to the letter of academia.

Now a decade into the second millennium, it goes without saying that the course of history – and hence, international attention – is heading East as opposed to West. However, such an about face of attention must not come at the expense of inquiry both critical and thoughtful. For that point, the present publication is herein representative. The success of this year’s Journal was based largely upon the collective effort wrought not by myself but by Andrew Campana, alongside the Editors, Special Advisers, and EASSU Executives that made this year’s publication possible. Luke Witzaney Co-Chair



Dear Reader,

Challenges and Prospects of the Green Movement in the Republic of China - Weronika Czapla .................................................................. 12 China and the Challenge of AIDS/HIV - Yinsey Wang .......................................................................... 22

The Significance of the Treaty of Nerchinsk - Philip Sochan ......................................................................... 36


Kirishitan a Political Threat?: The Failure of the Christian Century in Early Modern Japan - Yoonhee Lee ........................................................................... 62

A Text-Based Interpretation of the Happy Fish Paradox - Matthew Howe ...................................................................... 74


Cyborgs in Hoop Skirts: Apparatus and the Problem of the Transnational in the Films of Shinya Tsukamoto and Jane Campion - Andrew Campana ................................................................ 84 Searching for an Authentic Korean Homosexual Identity in No Regret - Michel Marion ....................................................................... 94


Pious Politics: A Study of Islam and Political Development in Indonesia and Malaysia - Ailsa Chau ............................................................................... 52




is a third year international student from Poland, combining Asia Pacific Studies, East Asian Studies and Political Science. Her academic interests revolve around transformations in 20th century China, and international development. She is a keen environmentalist, an aspiring photojournalist and a declared travelholic.


has finally graduated from University of Toronto, having completed majors in East Asian Studies and Economics. She is a proud alumna of the East Asian Studies Students’ Union and is literally a de facto resident of Robarts Library. She plans to pursue a degree in Law after finishing her own “Odyssey” of travels in mainland China this coming summer.


is currently a fourth year undergraduate student studying East Asian Studies, Political Science, and History. As getting more interested in complex political situations in East Asian history, he wants to live a simple life but enjoys struggling with contradictions in his daily life.





ABSTRACT: Despite growing international concerns regarding proceeding negative environmental trends that are triggered by industrialization and resource intensive materialistic culture, debate on environmentally hazardous side effects of development practices, brought about with the rise of Taiwanese economy, did not yet enter the forefront of public attention. The Green Movement continues to occupy a narrow niche in Taiwanese politics which is reflective of (1) science behind environmental processes lacking much understanding among most of Taiwanese citizens, (2) other issues being continously prioritized over environmental protection, (3) concerned civil agents being too organizationally and resourcefully weak to foster effective political and educational campaigns. Although reliance on nuclear power plant-generated electricity is arising much opposition, as well as toxic fear of industrial spill-offs, rural communities lack organizational and economic power to make their voices heard by politicians at the top. Nonetheless, Green civil agents advocate for tangible, socially and economically relevant problems, which from a perspective of advancing threats to global security embedded in global climate change, are important not only locally but also globally. In the Asian context, the importance of the Green movement’s condition and popularity is compounded by a capacity of its activities to mobilize people around values, which could supersede divisions in the society historically drawn along generational and ethnic differences. Moreover, the citizen mobilization it inspires is deepening participatory character of the Taiwanese public sphere by voicing a necessity to recognize social injustices resulting from fast economic growth. Whereas the claims it advocates for are occasionally brought to the level of official decisionmaking, more often themes regarding environmental protection and sustainability become politicized when they enter political debate only with approaching election. In addition to that, a sense of fear towards policy changes that might affect Taiwan’s economic standing is constantly perpetuated, discouraging Green economic standards. The paper argues among obstacles to the Green movement’s expansion and increased effectiveness are: not yet well-consolidated partnerships with its international counterparts, public under-engagement with environmental issues, and incompatibility between strong green orientation and emphasis on accumulation of material wealth – both on formal and informal level. Ultimately though, the future is in the hands of the young generation, Information and Communication Technology-literate, interconnected with international networks of civil movements and globally oriented. With increased realization that nature knows no ideological or political boundaries, Taiwanese environmental activists may become protectors of Taiwan’s natural endowment as a metaphorical basis of the modern, cosmopolitan Taiwanese identity.


Challenges and Prospects of the Green Movement in the Republic of China

Studies demonstrate that the Taiwanese civil society is still relatively weak in structure, lacking organizational robustness as well as broad grassroots base1. Due to such drawbacks its effectiveness in forging meaningful partnership with policy-making bodies is limited in scope and impact. The Taiwanese civil movement continues to emerge, and therefore, its capacity to persuade lags behind what was achieved by its counterparts in the Western developed countries. One of the best-organized civil society movements in the Republic of China is the Green movement. By stepping out in the forefront of the public sphere and thus advancing its participatory character it has contributed significantly to the democratic transformations of 1990s, challenging the passive dynamic between the government and the people as a result2. The Green movement represents a platform for manifestation of some of the objects of social contention, which historically tended to be superseded by the debate on Taiwanese nationalism in regards to the cross-Taiwan Strait relations. Issues brought to public attention by the environmentalists, demonstrate a network of inequalities and injustices hidden behind the government’s proclamation on the collective fate of the nation in economic development. Unfortunately, while environmental non-governmental organizations are willing to enter into alliances, build partnerships with political actors and work on government-sponsored projects recognizing the potential to advance environmental justice – their role is limited to acting as secondary advisors in design and implementation of environmental laws. In consequence, their formal status remains quite low3. Political actors tend to regard dialogue with environmentalists as a means for appeasing or simply winning over the electorate. Ideological principles of environmentalists are subject to political manipulation4. Manipulation of environmental stakes, and under-engagement with underlying social injustices, is not surprising recognizing that the most pressing issue on the government’s agenda is the provision of stimuli for economic growth. Meanwhile, the side effects of the economic opportunism are overshadowed. A lot of important environmental issues do not ascend to the level of public debate, even such a pressing issue as the global climate change does not attract much formal attention. Lack of transparency translates 1

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation. An Assessment of Civil Society in Taiwan (2005) (Kaohsiung: Center for International NGO Studies National Sun Yat-sen University, 2005), 8 2

Jerry McBeath and Leng Tse-Kand, “Environmentalism and Civil Society in Taiwan and Mainland China.” American Political Science Association Annual Meeting. September 2005. http:// (accessed November 26, 2009), 3 3

Shen Tzung Lin, “The Evolution of Taiwan’s Environmental Movement,” Green NGO and Environmental Journalist Forum Report (Hong Kong: The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 2001), 10 4

Jerry McBeath and Leng Tse-Kand, “Environmentalism and Civil Society in Taiwan and Mainland China.” American Political Science Association Annual Meeting. September 2005. http:// (accessed November 26, 2009), 4



into lack of public concern and engagement with the issues. This situation could be linked to the fact that the hazardous effects of industrial ventures are also missing appropriate coverage in media. Extensive scientific and journalistic scrutiny of such projects is required to note their dire long-term environmental and social consequences5 in form of, among others, excessive toxic spills decreasing wildlife diversity and acid rains damaging natural rural ecosystems6. Formal mechanisms of communication are urgently needed to provide local activists with greater legitimacy, when advocating for implementation of stricter environmental measures. Greater cooperation between environmental groups, both locally and internationally, would provide impetus for launching more successful educational campaigns. The public demonstrates a lack of adequate access to education, which would explicitly deconstruct the intricacies behind environmental problems, and explain a connection between local issues and broader patterns. In consequence, the Green movement finds it challenging to establish a reliable network of financial contributors and supporters. The overall poor condition of social engagement in public sphere further deteriorates the prospects of the Green movement. In this paper I will discuss the complex interplay of environmental stakes and claims to recognition of neglected aspects of social justice. I will argue for this relationship having a challenging, transformative character for the shape of the Taiwanese public sphere for it transcends the government’s attempts at engineering a sense of Taiwanese identity. I will begin by outlining atmosphere in which the environmental movement has emerged, the causes for which it advocates and explain how the social justice issue is involved. I will proceed by elaborating on the obstacles to its success, which are linked to limited liveliness of the populace focused on material wellbeing, lack of strong external links with global agents geared towards social change, and finally, its conflict with a state-engineered sense of Taiwanese identity. I will conclude by underlining the role of young people in leading the Green movement into the future of Taiwanese civil society, and explicating how such activism could impact the dialogue across the Taiwan Strait. Looking back at Taiwan’s short history of liberalism and popular engagement with policy-making bodies, the incapacity of civil society to mobilize behind causes silenced in the government’s agenda is of little surprise7. Perceived vulnerability of Taiwan’s economic success discourages support of 5

Shen Tzung Lin, “The Evolution of Taiwan’s Environmental Movement,” Green NGO and Environmental Journalist Forum Report (Hong Kong: The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 2001), 9 6

Jerry McBeath and Leng Tse-Kand, “Environmentalism and Civil Society in Taiwan and Mainland China.” American Political Science Association Annual Meeting. September 2005. http:// (accessed November 26, 2009), 3 7

Jerry McBeath and Leng Tse-Kand, “Environmentalism and Civil Society in Taiwan and Mainland China.” American Political Science Association Annual Meeting. September 2005. http:// (accessed November 26, 2009), 17


Challenges and Prospects of the Green Movement in the Republic of China

independent ways of civil mobilization. The Republic of Taiwan’s ambiguous international status further complicates the processes of integration with resourceful international networks of non-governmental organizations. Nevertheless, the Green movement demonstrates potential for propagating a preemptive approach towards emerging environmental and social injustices, as it nourishes activism in the public sphere and challenges official notions of identity. If the elections of 1994 have opened the era of democratic Taiwan, then one would expect the civil society movement to unfold as the key advocate of the participatory public sphere. However, the democratization of Taiwan proceeded from within the ruling elites, via the ‘silent revolution’. It was a successful attempt at reframing the regime’s ideological and strategic tenets – degree of pressures to its instability were recognized and resolved in time, Kuomintang did not transform by surrendering to external pressures. From this perspective it could be argued that there is a short tradition of honest dialogue between decision makers and the masses. For this reason it is understandable when claims raised by citizens do not receive appropriate attention beyond their local context. Nonetheless, one of the initial civil society movements, the Green movement, seems to constitute a force challenging to this pattern of state-society relations8. Recognizing that Kuomintang’s democratization aimed at cultivating legitimacy and popular support, encouragement of vibrant discussion in the public sphere is expected to follow if the government is to be accountable to its people. Democratic form of governance entails not only adherence to a system of check and balances, but also responsiveness to concerns voiced in the public. Gradual advance of environmental movements in 1980s and 1990s9 demonstrates increased confidence of private citizens to mobilize behind issues largely neglected by the political parties as well as in official decision-making processes. The Green movement was initially considered radical because it revolved primarily around nature conservation and in opposition to expansions of nuclear power plant network. However, increased media coverage of controversial development projects and concerned voices of indigenous populace seeing their ecosystem endangered, persuaded decision makers to partially include environmentalism in the official agenda. Another factor positively influencing the spread of the Green movement in Taiwan was the support it gained from members of academia10 who by nature are well renowned and highly respected in the Asian culture. 8 9

Ibid., 18

Jerry McBeath and Leng Tse-Kand, “Environmentalism and Civil Society in Taiwan and Mainland China.” American Political Science Association Annual Meeting. September 2005. http:// (accessed November 26, 2009), 3 10

Shen Tzung Lin, “The Evolution of Taiwan’s Environmental Movement,” Green NGO and Environmental Journalist Forum Report (Hong Kong: The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 2001), 9



Nowadays, over three hundreds environmental NGOs operate in Taiwan11, leading grass-roots environmental activism, acting as advisors in the design and implementation of environmental policies and organizing educational campaigns. The establishment of the Environmental Impact Assessment Law accounted for generation of a channel through which to bring cases of environmental violation and to successfully legal punishment12. Moreover, the Eco-Conservation Alliance demonstrates a persistent effort in trying to forge formal communication mechanisms, mechanisms, which could smoothen cooperation between environmental activists and their external counterparts13. It reflects recognition of the necessity to contribute their expertise in environmental assessment as well as the necessity to circulate knowledge over negative trends in forefront of public attention. It embraces fair partnerships with legislators rather than passiveness in to response to attempts at politicizing environmental issues14. Those actors stress dialogue and the universal importance of nature, nature, which knows no ideological or political boundaries. On the other hand, the environmental justice remains of little priority to policy makers concerned with economic development first and foremost. Although the creation of the cabinet-level unit of environmental protection in form of the New Environment Foundation may be indicative of positive long-term trends – as it fosters the spread of information on government proceedings and provides consultative services15; there is a gap between the highlights of grass-roots perception of the environmental social justice issues and the government’s sentiments. Underlying rapid economic development, presented as the common goal and fate of the Taiwanese population, there is a problem of social injustice it causes and perpetuates with continued emphasis on environmentally hazardous industrial growth. Initially, environmental damage impacts the low-wage strata of the society living in the rural areas. In consequence, when environmental activism escalates it is likely to unfold another side effect of rapid industrialization – growing class divisions – an issue persistently ignored due to its leftist connotations. Including class-consciousness in the public discourse has been long suppressed16 by superimposition of nationalistic sentiments and 11

12 13

Ibid., 9

Ibid., 9

Shen Tzung Lin, “The Evolution of Taiwan’s Environmental Movement,” Green NGO and Environmental Journalist Forum Report (Hong Kong: The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 2001), 10 14

Jerry McBeath and Leng Tse-Kand, “Environmentalism and Civil Society in Taiwan and Mainland China.” American Political Science Association Annual Meeting. September 2005. http:// (accessed November 26, 2009), 4 15 16

Kelly Her, “Going Green,” Taiwan Review, January 8, 2002

Ming-yan Lai, Nativism and Modernity: Cultural Contestation in China and Taiwan under Global Capitalism (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2008), 44


Challenges and Prospects of the Green Movement in the Republic of China

propagating a popular desire to unify with Mainland China, which nowadays are replaced by propagation of an aspiration to full international recognition. It reveals that environmentalism has the potential for reversing such trend with oppressing effects of industrialization expanding social inequalities. It would a contribution of a more individualistic character to a formally generated sense of Taiwanese identity. As outlined, the rise of environmental concerns is more evident in the rural areas, where harmful effects of intrusion in nature’s processes are more readily observable17. There is room for vigorous civil mobilization, though the resources to proceed with environmental advocacy are limited, as is the manpower18 and the willingness in the face of threatened economic opportunities. In addition, scarcity of links with well-founded organizations and cutting edge transnational experts negatively impacts movement’s robustness and a sense of legitimacy. In addition, it restrains the extent of its transparency. This logic could be attributed to the fact that voicing the importance of inclusion of environmental stakes in the government’s agenda is diluted when the issues are removed from the global context. Should the bigger picture be brought to attention, perhaps the side effects of rapid development would not be considered neglectful, and as a result consequently would not be pushed to the margins of budget allocation. Unhelpful to Taiwanese environmental movements tightening their transnational partnerships is Taiwan’s locked membership in the United Nations19. It impedes U.N. humanitarian and environmental programs’ solid engagement with Taiwanese activists, it restrains widespread diffusion of ideological standards governing environmental activism, and delays investment in financial and knowledge transfer to Taiwan. Empowerment of the newly emerged Green civil society movement depends to a large extent on the exchange of ideas and resources, with its foreign counterparts as the learning process is accelerated when immature and inexperienced agents of social change are provided with crucial feedback on how to reinforce its organizational structure, how to foster more effective campaigns, how to reach out to broader audiences, and most importantly, how to lobby successfully. The situation is further deteriorated recognizing the relatively poor popular comprehension of science behind environmental problems. With lack of significant financial support from neither international organizations nor skeptical and disengaged locals – more willing to donate to charitable and social welfare organizations – environmental movement is 17

Shen Tzung Lin, “The Evolution of Taiwan’s Environmental Movement,” Green NGO and Environmental Journalist Forum Report (Hong Kong: The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 2001), 9 18 19

Kelly Her, “Going Green,” Taiwan Review, January 8, 2002

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation. An Assessment of Civil Society in Taiwan (2005) (Kaohsiung: Center for International NGO Studies National Sun Yat-sen University, 2005), 34



trapped competing over scarce resources20 and consequently finds it difficult to appeal to broad audiences. The way Taiwanese identity is configured to either cherish or disregard the value of natural endowment plays a key role in defining the future of the Green movement. Similarly to how Taiwan’s national priorities are advanced, the process of shaping national Taiwanese identity was to a large extent engineered from above, shifting the focus from one inherently China-centered to one embedded in the specificity of the islanders’ historical experience21. Contemporary sense of Taiwanese identity, as to achieve a sense of commonality between citizens of different ethnic background, is intended to overcome divisions drawn along different generations’ heritage. A modern sense of commonality supersedes both ethnic and generational sentiments by fostering a spirit of popular mobilization behind the goal of economic growth. If the new Taiwanese identity, which transcends historically and regionally problematic divisions, is embedded in the embrace of Taiwanese land as the focal point of common experience22 and a symbolical stage of enacting the goal of advancing material welfare23, then the Green movement originating in vicinity of hazardous development projects may with time become involved in politics as not only environmental activists but also as protectors of what constitutes to be a metaphorical basis of the New Taiwanese identity. However, if the vision instilled in Taiwanese identity is of increasing economic wealth, neglectful of environmental sacrifices, then prospects for the environmental movement to enter the forefront of policy making are dire. Ecological sustainability is not compatible with Taiwan’s complex economic position, whereas measures typically recommended by Green movements are oriented in long-term and thus show little immediate results, which could gain them immediate popularity24. The Western notion of sustainable development, inherent in the modern Green movement, manifests itself as void, if not corrupt, in the in Taiwanese atmosphere of preoccupation with maintenance of sustained economic growth25. The Republic of Taiwan is constantly challenged by 20

Jerry McBeath and Leng Tse-Kand, “Environmentalism and Civil Society in Taiwan and Mainland China.” American Political Science Association Annual Meeting. September 2005. http:// (accessed November 26, 2009), 7 21

André Laliberté, “Taiwan: Between Two Nationalisms,” Institute of International Relations at the University of British Columbia Working Paper 12 (Vancouver: University of British Columbia, 1997), 32 22

Ming-yan Lai, Nativism and Modernity: Cultural Contestation in China and Taiwan under Global Capitalism (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2008), 97 23

Han-pi Chang, Taiwan: Community of Fate and Cultural Globalization (Münster: LIT Verlag, 1996), 135 24 25

Kelly Her, “Going Green,” Taiwan Review, January 8, 2002

Jerry McBeath and Leng Tse-Kand, “Environmentalism and Civil Society in Taiwan and Mainland China.” American Political Science Association Annual Meeting. September 2005. http:// (accessed November 26, 2009), 5


Challenges and Prospects of the Green Movement in the Republic of China

the prospects of its industries relocating their manufacturing base to the Mainland China in order to take advantage of cheap labor and increase returns on capital. When the government implements measures restrictive to the greenhouse gas emissions and expands areas under environmental protection in this already territorially constrained state, it further decreases incentives for local investment and so, from the economic point of view such policies prove counterproductive to the society at large. Furthermore, concepts operating in Western post-modernity, such as sustainable development, are not automatically transferable to Taiwanese environment. External pressures calling for implementation of measures, which would reduce negative environmental impact of industrialization are perceived as harmful to an image of Taiwan as welcoming environment to both foreign investment and local entrepreneurship – especially considering increasing competition from the ascending Southeast Asian states. At most, Taiwanese political actors may incorporate some of the broadly agreed upon environmental recommendations into their electoral agendas for the purpose of appealing to particular communities, inevitably politicizing environmental issues. On contrary to general pattern of environmentalists’ popularity, the urban youth is more inclined to support the Green movement because young people are actively engaged in the global transfer of knowledge by making use of Information and Communication Technology26, including the knowledge on the environmental science. They are equipped in the means for building strong networks of support and information exchange. Moreover, urban youth is looking for alternatives to politically engineered scope of political choices. Realizing the dependence of future generations on the legacy of modern developments, as well as seriousness of international patterns of environmental threats, young people are the most inclined to oppose politicization of environmental issues. Furthermore, there is potential for joint environmental action across the Taiwan Strait, as the nature knows no political boundaries. Other citizens experiencing direct effects of environmental catastrophes could also be mobilized if their current priority of material advancement is altered. Finally, with proceeding global climate change, the environmental concerns may soon supersede the unification dilemma. If the environmental movement is to strengthen itself, however, it requires greater involvement of young people in the public sphere because urban youth still demonstrate relatively low levels of political participation27. 26

Shen Tzung Lin, “The Evolution of Taiwan’s Environmental Movement,” Green NGO and

Environmental Journalist Forum Report (Hong Kong: The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 2001), 11 27

Meggie Lu, “Election Fallout: Green Party stays upbeat despite poor performance,” Taipei

Times, January 14, 2008.




Chang, Han-pi. Taiwan: Community of Fate and Cultural Globalization. Münster: LIT Verlag, 1996.

Chang, Mau-kuei. “Taiwan’s democratic movement and push for independence,” International Institute for Asian Studies Newsletter 34 (2004): 11.

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation. An Assessment of Civil Society in Taiwan (2005), Kaohsiung: Center for International NGO Studies National Sun Yat-sen University, 2005. Her, Kelly. “Going Green,” Taiwan Review, January 8, 2002.

Lai, Ming-yan. Nativism and Modernity: Cultural Contestation in China and Taiwan under Global Capitalism. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2008, Chapter 2. Laliberté, André. “Taiwan: Between Two Nationalisms,” Institute of International Relations at the University of British Columbia Working Paper 12. Vancouver: University of British Columbia, 1997.

Lin, Shen Tzung. “The Evolution of Taiwan’s Environmental Movement.” In Green NGO and Environmental Journalist Forum Report, edited by J.L.Turner and F.Wu. 9-11. Hong Kong: The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 2001. Lu, Meggie. “Election Fallout: Green Party stays upbeat despite poor performance,” Taipei Times, January 14, 2008. Maguire, Keith. The Rise of Modern Taiwan. Brookfield, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company, 1998.

McBeath, Jerry and Tse-Kand, Leng, “Environmentalism and Civil Society in Taiwan and Mainland China.” American Political Science Association Annual Meeting. September 2005. meta/p42587_index.html (accessed November 26, 2009). Turner, Jennifer and Wu, Fengshi. “Editor commentary: Development of Environmental NGOs in Mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.” Green NGO and Environmental Journalist Forum Report, edited by by J.L.Turner and F.Wu. 1-3. Hong Kong: The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 2001.




“AIDS is an extraordinary kind of crisis; it is both an emergency and a long-term development issue”. —The UNAIDS 2004 Report on the Global AIDS Pandemic

“We cannot escape the reality that the HIV/AIDS epidemic is undermining and destroying the most valuable and vulnerable asset of many developing countries—the people.”

—Marisa Casale and Alan Whiteside, “The Impact of HIV/AIDS on Poverty, Inequality and Economic Growth,” IDRC Working Papers on Globalization, Health and Poverty, (March 2006), pp. 53


A test of a government’s legitimacy in ruling a country can be conducted in many ways. One of the most powerful of tests is when a crisis hits, especially when that crisis has to do with a contagious disease or threatens the health or lives of the population. Hu Jintao was seriously challenged by the SARS crisis of 2003, as international watchers and citizens criticized the Chinese government’s “inactivity” and attempts to cover up the outbreak, and rumours even circulated concerning whether Hu would have to step down from his leadership position in the CCP. Similarly, the bird flu epidemic provided another obstacle for the CCP in legitimating its role as protecting society’s interests. Although at first glance, much of the CCP’s legitimacy lies in its ability to promote economic development in a health crisis, especially one that threatens lives and livelihoods, it is likely that legitimacy based on economic development would be reprioritized when citizens assess the CCP’s right to rule. In particular, I believe that the issue of AIDS/HIV presents one of the most serious issues facing the government’s legitimacy and the wellbeing of its people if it is not tackled in its early stages in both treatment and prevention. This is especially considering how health care was previously neglected in terms of treating AIDS (although this has changed since 2002), the lack of education on AIDS/HIV and its association with the taboo topic of sexual intercourse has resulted in Chinese society’s underexposure to prevention strategies and how to deal with AIDS/HIV. Even the government admitted that in 2007, cases of AIDS/HIV soared by 45% compared to 2006 , and there are constantly predictions that there will be an impending AIDS crisis in the near future. The way the Chinese government has been tackling AIDS/HIV has been under much scrutiny and presses some serious challenges to its legitimacy, which would be endangered if there were to be a huge AIDS/HIV disaster. Yet even the government realizes this as shown by its recent reforms. In this essay, I would like to examine the relationship between the CCP’s hold on power and the sustainability of economic, social and political legitimacy in China, in relation to the CCP’s ability to look after the health of its citizens, particularly regarding its treatment of the AIDS/HIV threat.


China and the Challenge of AIDS/HIV

Talk of China usually revolves around her prospects for economic growth, her rampant corruption and growing inequality. Healthcare is related to all three of these issues, and is crucial in order to ensure that China’s government’s position remains stable and economic growth continues in the long term. It is important to assess the general patterns of the spread of AIDS and HIV, in order to understand the implications the threat might pose for the stability of China’s society. The first official indigenous diagnosis of AIDS/ HIV in China appeared in 1989.1 Given how by 2006 there were an estimated over 700,0002 citizens in China affected by the disease (and even this number may be too low according to many sources), and how the infection rate increased from 2006 to 2007 by 45%3, it is extremely important to take into account the rapidly increasing threat that is emerging. Also, as China has an enormous population, a small increase in the prevalence of AIDS/HIV could be “devastating,” according the Bates and Okie;as Wu Zunyou (the director of China’s National Center for AIDS/STD Control and Prevention) noted, “If it went up to 4%, we would have 52 million infected, more than the total global figure today.”4 Generally, according to the World Health Organization, there are three main ways by which AIDS is spread in China: “48.6% are caused by drug use, 49.8% by sexual transmission, and 1.6% by mother-to-child transmission.” 5 Nonetheless, the patterns of spread can range, including that of organ donation, the imported blood crisis of the 1990s, and the fact that many sex workers are actually drug users themselves and are able to spread the disease to many more people, particularly among the rich who can afford their services.6 Interestingly, the same foundations on which the CCP is relying for part of its legitimacy are linked to some of the patterns of spread of AIDS and HIV, reflecting on how their policies may not be so sustainable unless treatment and prevention are made more readily available. Normile noted that China’s openness to the international world and marketization have actually encouraged the opening of many routes for AIDS/HIV infection that were virtually nonexistent during Mao’s time.7 For example, China’s marketization has led to the boom in the lucrative sex trade,and the influx of foreigners attracted to the economic success in China that carried the disease 1

Wu, Zunyou., Sullivan, Sheena G., Wang, Yu., Rotheram-Borus, Mary Jane., Detels., Roger., “Evo-

lution of China’s response to HIV/AIDS,” Public Health, Lancet (2007), Vol 369, pp. 679 2

3 4

Coonan, Clifford. Ibid.

Bates, Gill., Okie, Susan., “China and HIV – A Window of Opportunity,” The New England Journal of Medicine. Boston, (May 3, 2007),  Vol. 356, Iss. 18;  pp. 1801 <http://proquest. ientId=12520&RQT=309&VName=PQD> 5 6 7


Wu et al., pp. 679

Normile, Dennis., “China Awakens to Fight Projected Aids Crisis,” Science Mag, (30th June 2000), Vol 288, pp. 2312



has helped its spread.8 In addition, the gap between the rich and poor has increased dramatically, leading to the rich to having a higher ability to pay for commercial sex and many poor workers immigrating to the richer areas, under desperate circumstances attempting to sell their bodies to earn an income to survive.9 Additionally (although arguably), exposure to Western media and degradation of traditional values can be seen as causes for the increase of sexual relations between youths and unmarried couples, leading to sexual transmission of the disease.10 Although there is little data about the relationship between China’s policies outside of health, marketization and increased sexual activity11 are certainly major causes of the spread of AIDS/ HIV. Additionally, it is the case that AIDS/HIV is not limited to rich or poor in China, and that it is a very fluid in its infection channels.

Although much of the problem can be traced back to and are more prominent in the poor rural areas such as Henan12 where blood is often sold to commercial collection centers, AIDS/HIV contraction is not limited to rich or poor. However, the most adverse effects of AIDS/HIV are likely to affect the poorest that cannot afford treatment, although this is changing. Yet AIDS/ HIV spreads very easily due to the increased migration of China’s “floating population” as the rural poor move to the rich industrialized cities, and how the health care system has been tainted in its sharing of needles13 and use of infected blood donations that can circulate into the richer areas. Symptoms are difficult to spot when approaching an individual with early stages of the disease and also many are very hesitant about getting tested due to fear of stigmatization and lack of confidentiality in the health care system, serving as additional barriers to resolving the problem and also making estimation of the number of people with AIDS/HIV difficult. Given that the main mode of HIV’s spread is sexual transmission, it is even more difficult to curb given it deals with one of the most intimate parts of people’s lives. One of the strongest confirmations of the AIDS/HIV threat is how the CCP is acting to curb the spread of AIDS/HIV through the “Four Free and One Care” policy established in 200314. 8 9

AIDS/HIV can threaten the progress that China has achieved in

Wu et al., pp. 679

“China’s sex disease crisis,” BBC News Website, (12 March 2003) < hi/asia-pacific/2841931.stm> 10

“Dangers behind China’s sexual revolution,” BBC News Website, (12 March 2002) <http://> 11

12 13


Wu et al., pp. 683

“China risks daily needle infection,” BBC News Website, (23 November 2002) <http://news.> 14

Wu et al., pp. 679


China and the Challenge of AIDS/HIV

economic development. With an emphasis on its internationally competitive labour force (which has even been dubbed the “world factory floor”15) and a growing interest in improving the social capital of the country, AIDS/HIV can severely threaten these aspects of China’s project of having a large, more educated and competitive workforce. There are countless ways in which health crises can affect the economic development of a country as well as threaten the stability of the central authority overall. Specifically concerning AIDS/HIV, its effects on economic development in terms of the labour force could potentially be drastic if policies are unable to catch up with the pace of infection. If a HIV-infected person does not have access to adequate drugs then they could be virtually unable to work. Even with treatment, they likely need to take drugs on a daily basis in order to ensure the body retains its immunity,16 which translates into greater costs for infected individuals, or paying firms/governments. With AIDS, the situation would considerably worsen, reducing the life expectancy of these people by a considerable amount; in some African countries it can fall by 20 years.17 If this were to happen on a countrywide scale, then many companies would be deprived of labourers if they were infected with HIV, and health care costs would shoot up for the government and/or the companies that employ Chinese citizens. This could therefore, on a macroeconomic scale, lead to “second order effects”18 as money is diverted into other areas instead more socioeconomic areas such as managing the economy or investing in expansion. Companies also would be less likely to want to hire people with AIDS/HIV because of medical expenses that might be imposed on them, or if they find the worker is not as reliable as they could be. If AIDS/HIV spread rapidly through the country, this could result in a serious economic crisis, and discourage foreign investors as they are faced with a dying workforce, or huge medical expenses. The rate and numbers of which by SARS spread was much less than that of HIV in China, yet it had a huge impact on the confidence of investors, the citizens and the legitimacy of the government. In terms of macroeconomics, the increased costs on a microeconomic scale could also cause problems for families’ savings as well as that for funeral expenses, causing less consumption and savings in the economy, thus threatening GDP growth.19 15

Hennock, Mary., “China: The World Factory Floor,” BBC News, (11 Novermber 2002), <http://> 16

“HIV,” BBC Relationships (Date Unknown) < sexual_health/stis_hivaids.shtml> 17

“AIDS Life Expectancy in Africa,” BBC News Website, (18 March 1999) <> 18

Casale, Marisa., Whiteside, Alan., “The Impact of HIV/AIDS on Poverty, Inequality and Economic Growth,” IDRC Working Papers on Globalization, Health and Poverty, (March 2006), pp. 18 19

General Economic equation where investment and consumption are required in the economy, also ties into the multiplier effect. Equation: GDP = C + I + G + (X-M)



Not only can AIDS/ HIV reduce the chances of improving the quality of China’s labour force, it can also reduce the impact of the CCP’s anti-poverty and equity programs. Given the huge wealth gap, as the impoverished ridiculously outnumber the rich, it appears that the poor, the majority of China’s population, will have less possibility to address the challenge of AIDS/HIV in their lives than the rich given expensive medical costs. Those trying to escape poverty will find it an even more serious challenge if they are affected by AIDS/HIV as they are deprived of the ability to work and their children will be in a difficult position to get an education and make a better life for themselves materially. What is particularly threatening about AIDS/HIV is that it is a virus that “can affect three human generations.” 20 Social capital could also be adversely affected, threatening long term growth, as this could also cause many children or family members of the infected person to sacrifice an education. They would likely have to drop out of school and look after the HIV infected person as well as work to bring in an income to help pay for medical expenses, especially if the infected person was a breadwinner of the family. With China’s one child policy history, this could be even more detrimental as many children could be sole breadwinners of their aging family members and as the potential next generation of workers, robbed of their education as they are forced to support their infected family member(s). Additionally, findings from the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center showed that 70% of the 77 new HIV patients it has seen in 2007 were young and well-educated. Sun Hongqing, the head, blamed a “lack of knowledge about sexually transmitted diseases.” Thus, we can see the extent that AIDS/HIV can threaten social capital directly as well as indirectly.21

The SARS epidemic of 2003 caused major instability in the region and reached the thousands22 in death tolls (compared to the hundreds of thousands infected with AIDS/HIV) , causing a global panic leading to warnings of travelling abroad and uncertainty.23 The ambiguity of a spreading disease can cause enough panic and fear, causing citizens to even flee abroad and foreigners to stop engaging with the economy as the aftermath of the crisis is unexpected and potentially threatening to their health/businesses. 20

Casale, Marisa., Whiteside, Alan., “The Impact of HIV/AIDS on Poverty, Inequality and Eco-

nomic Growth,” IDRC Working Papers on Globalization, Health and Poverty, (March 2006) 21

Watts, Jonathan, “Sex, Drugs and HIV in China,” The Lancet, (12 January 2008) , Vol 371, pp. 104 22

Beech, Hannah., “Unmasking a Crisis” Time Asia Magazine, (14 April 2003), <http://www.> 23

“The Threat From SARS,” BBC News Website, (24 April 2003), < programmes/breakfast/2971871.stm>


China and the Challenge of AIDS/HIV

Thus, it is important for leaders that the government is seen in control and that information is transparent. For example, Jiang Zemin’s position was seen by analysts as having been degraded due to his mishandling of SARS in his ineffectiveness to make the problem as publicly known as possible.24 The lack of government transparency during this period severely weakened its image internationally and in the eyes of its citizens. As one paper notes, “SARS showed… how infectious diseases could threaten economic and social stability.”25 It lead to the realization that purely economic goals could not be pursued as crises of such a nature held a serious burden on the economy and political stability was severely undermined.

The treatment and prevention of diseases also relates to human rights issues and thus can help determine China’s international legitimacy. Internationally, as announced by the UN High Level Meeting on AIDS in 2006, “the full realization of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all is an essential element in the global response to the AIDS/HIV pandemic.”26 Thus, given its connotations with human rights as well as the threats health crises pose to stability and the economy, social wellbeing and health emerged as new focuses27 for the government, snd more contact was established between the government and international agencies such as the World Health Organization and the UN after the SARS crisis.28 This actually had an impact on the government’s stance on AIDS/HIV, as many techniques used to control SARS such as realtime electronic case reporting were introduced for AIDS/HIV policy.29 One of the key differences between SARS and AIDS/ HIV is, however, that the spread of HIV differs from SARS as the threat can be avoided by individuals more easily than SARS if there is enough knowledge about prevention and evasion. Yet panic can still ensue as people worry about whether they have the disease or because they know little about it, especially if there is little transparency on part of the government. Additionally, foreign investment may be curbed as the workforce is seen as redundant or because there is too much risk involved as the AIDS/HIV may be more serious than it is portrayed, especially given the perceived lack of information or presence of unreliable information on part of the CCP concerning those infected. Overall, it is clear that health threats of such a nature that can reach large numbers and be potentially degrading to people’s ability to work and in providing a livelihood for themselves and so on, linking into the CCP’s legitimacy and 24 25 26

Lam, Willy Wo-Lap, “Hu uses Sars to tighten grip,”, (20 May 2003) Wu et al., pp. 684

Jurgens, Ralf., Cohen, Jonathan., “Human rights and HIV/AIDS Now More Than Ever” Open Society Institute (September 2007) < articles_publications/publications/human_20071017/english_now-more-than-ever.pdf> 27 28 29

Wu et al., pp. 684 Ibid., pp. 680 Ibid.pp. 684



China’s acceptance in the world stage.

Wang claims that “[t]he overall course of the government’s response to the epidemic could be summarized as: moving from denial to taking positive action; from policy advocacy to policy implementation; from a purely health-oriented response to a multi-government response, with greater involvement from non-governmental organizations; and from small demonstration projects/programs to countrywide scale-up.”30 The success of the response to AIDS/HIV ,however, is debatable, especially as many international watchers still feel that China is not stepping up to the challenge as it should given its high infection rate,31 its inability to tackle high-risk groups and its crackdown on civil society initiatives. The huge rise in AIDS/ HIV may be in part due to more testing initiatives so the growth figures may be somewhat inflated; but in terms of absolute numbers, there likely are much more infected with HIV than officially recognized.32 Additionally, there are improvements in treatment and prevention, as China’s attitude to AIDS/HIV is changing. Given the devastation AIDS/HIV has caused in many countries, beginning in the 1990s, Chinese officials began study tours “to learn from the successes and failures of other countries in combating AIDS/HIV and bring back information about strategies for AIDS/HIV control that could be adapted for China.”33 There has been a realization that AIDS/HIV affects long-term goals, as seen by how new rules have been announced to combat AIDS/HIV spread.34 Additionally, the national budget for the prevention and treatment of AIDS/HIV increased from roughly $12.5 million in 2002 to $100 million in 2005 and around $185 million in 2006.35 Numerous success stories are beginning to arise, such as how in 2006, a middle-aged rural woman who had become infected in 1990s found that China’s new HIV treatment program had “changed [her and her family’s] lives.” Her 12-year-old daughter told foreigners how her HIV-infected mother had been too sick to work, and thus the daughter had to leave school to help at home and work in the fields. Yet, after having access to antiretroviral drugs, the woman’s health improved swiftly, she returned to farming and her daughter was able to go back to school.36 From cases like these, CCP policies appear to be relatively wide reaching. The “Four Free and One Care” policy objective stated that retroviral drugs would be freely available to all in the Chinese health care system, and any health units that denied free HIV testing on request would 30 31 32 33 34



Wu et al ., pp. 684 Ibid., pp. 680

New rules to combat AIDS spread. China Daily (Beijing), October 28, 2005 <http://www.> 35 36

Bates and Okie. Ibid.


China and the Challenge of AIDS/HIV

be subject to a penalty.37 Progress has been extremely impressive, given how there is now free HIV testing in 2300 counties in 15 provinces as of 2006, compared to 365 in 2002. In terms of mother to child transmission, there has been significant progress and fast action. 500,000 women in high risk areas/ groups were tested for HIV in 2005, 80% that were positive were given antiretroviral drugs. Also, plans are being made to ensure by 2010, 90% of all infected pregnant women can be covered. 38

Prevention strategies are often seen as difficult to implement in China when concerning AIDS/HIV, especially as its main form of transmission is through sexual intercourse, which is often perceived as a taboo subject in China. Wang Xuehai, a company executive, noted that “there is low acceptance of condom use, and people think that if it’s related to sex it’s a bad product,” and that “our biggest barrier has been China’s traditional ideas.”39 China’s sexual revolution40 in complement to this may appear to make it very difficult to curb the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV as many are reluctant to look into preventative measures. Yet, from banning condom adverts that show how they can prevent HIV in 199941 to installing 1000 condom machines in Beijing in 200442, the CCP is attempting to make contraception more readily available and a plausible option for China’s population. What appears to be more dangerous is the lack of awareness and education about AIDS/HIV in the population than what may be seen as a cultural given that discussion of sex is taboo in China. Although sexual relations do deal with a very intimate part of individuals’ lives in China, awareness of AIDS/HIV prevention can be increased through encouraging education and exposure to the public; for example, one survey found that condom use increased by 10% following a five site trial of behavioural intervention43. A survey conducted in Wuhan and published in 2008 showed that “most students did not know about voluntary HIV counselling and testing centres,” and most medical students “thought that universities should pay 37 38 39

Wu et al., pp. 684 Ibid., pp. 684

Rosenthal, Elisabeth., “With Ignorance as the Fuel, AIDS Speeds Across China,” The New York

Times, (30 December 2001) < 0F933A05751C1A9679C8B63> 40

“Dangers behind China’s sexual revolution,” BBC News Website, (12 March 2002) <http://> 41

“China bans Condom Advert,” BBC News Website (2 December 1999) <> 42

“Beijing installs condom machines,” BBC News Website (10 October 2004) <> 43

Wu et al., pp. 683



more attention to HIV prevention within the campus.” Many students felt that they were being underexposed. Nonetheless, the same survey showed that “the majority of undergraduates had a moderate level of knowledge about HIV/AIDS, and were moderately accepting of and positive towards people with HIV/AIDS,” suggesting that AIDS/HIV information can be accepted and responded to, despite sex being somewhat taboo in Chinese society.44 China’s release of its first sex education textbook in 2004 offers hope in this respect,45 but it is clear that there is still some controversy about the topic.46 More lacking is the range in which education and awareness policies are being implemented, given many rural areas are impoverished and are unlikely to gain these benefits. It will also likely take many years for the public to come to terms with AIDS/HIV, sex as a topic of discussion, and combat AIDS/ HIV stigmatization. Even among university students, many surveys showed that knowledge about “transmission” and “risk” concerning AIDS/HIV was “alarmingly low.”47 Drug use is also a controversial subject and drug users may not be as willing to consult with others for information regarding AIDS/ HIV for fear of stigmatization and as their activity is illegal.48 The battle against stigmatization is also challenging, especially given that high risk groups are actually the ones that are most likely to be prejudiced against, including homosexuals, sex workers and drug users. There were attempts to combat stigmatization, as when just before the 2004 World International AIDS Day, President Hu Jintao and other government leaders visited AIDS/HIV patients, calling for the elimination of bias against this group, and emphasizing that AIDS/HIV cannot be transmitted via “casual contact.”49 Although it is illegal to discriminate against those infected with AIDS/HIV, barriers persist, such as how homosexuality is seen as “hooliganism.”50 Additionally, a major problem concerning stigmatization is that it is causing many to become reluctant in testing whether they are positive, reducing the effectiveness of prevention and awareness. As one scholar notes, good policy “doesn’t always translate into


Tan, Xiadong “Results of a questionnaire survey amoung Chinese students on knowledge of and attitudes about HIV/AIDS,” Blackwell publishing Ltd, Medical Education (2008) Vol 42, 224-227 45

“China School Breaks Sex Taboo,” BBC News, (7 September 2004) < hi/asia-pacific/3634146.stm> 46

Fan, Maureen., “In China, Delicately Testing the Taboo on Talking about Sex,” The Washington Post, (11 September 2006) <> 47 48 49 50

Wu et al., pp. 683 Ibid., pp. 683

Ibid., pp. 683 Ibid., pp. 683


China and the Challenge of AIDS/HIV

a sound program.”51 China’s progress in tackling the problem has been impressive, yet what is lacking lies in China’s treatment of civil society movements in relation to AIDS/HIV, and the problem of implementing these policies successfully, given the wealth gap evident in the population and the difficulty of bypassing local governments. Gao Qiang, executive vice minister for health and acting health minister, in an interview in 2003, mentioned how “I think that especially in the case of local governments are not taking AIDS seriously enough and isn’t working hard enough,” and that “In particular the public’s knowledge of how HIV is transmitted, and how they can prevent transmission, is still lacking.”52 There is not enough data as of yet to confidently conclude how far reaching and how effective the reforms have been on the whole at this stage, but it is clear that policy enforcement has been lax in some cases. Lower levels of government have significant levels of autonomy, and thus there has been a “mixed response and inconsistent enforcement of HIV/AIDS policy.” Things such as “conflict of interest between departments,” 53 like between that of Health and Justice, mean the government is divided when implementing policies concerning AIDS/HIV and marginalized groups such as sex workers or drug users. Additionally, there is an unsubstantial amount of resources and trained personnel. This is the case especially in the poorer rural areas where social capital is relatively low compared to richer industrial centres, and so it is harder to train people without as much educational background to effectively monitor tasks and spread awareness. 54 This is where civil society could help abate the problems of local governance that link into a reluctance to dedicate resources into fulfilling the requirements of the policies as set by the Centre. The attitude of the government towards civil society initiatives has been seen as incompetent and reluctant in its tackling of the AIDS/HIV epidemic. An example is the widely publicized harassment of Dr. Gao Yaojie (as recent as April 2007), who exposed a “blood transfusion scandal that infected thousands of people in Henan province” in the 1990s. As a Human Rights Watch paper notes, “senior Chinese officials have shown a growing awareness about the need to mobilize civil society in order to combat a range of social problems, ranging from humanitarian relief to education and legal defense.” Thus many nongovernmental organizations, grassroots and charitable organizations have “sprung up around the country.”55 Yet cases 51 52

Bates and Okie.

< er/24/aids_interviews.shtml> 53 54 55

Wuet al., pp. 686 Wuet al., pp. 686

Anon, “Restrictions on Aids Activists in China,” Human Rights Watch (June 2005), Vol 17, No. 5, pp. 1



such as Gao Yaojie’s are still continuing, including the 11 patients who faced a beating after protesting their anger at contracting AIDS from a hospital in the 1990s56 and the closing of an orphanage in Henan that took in children who lost parents to AIDS/HIV. 57 Many scholars find that a vibrant civil society and array of nongovernmental organizations are extremely effective in working with high risk groups, especially “those that engage in behaviours deemed to be illegal or immoral, and to provide care and outreach where overstretched health services cannot,” such as sex workers and drug addicts. Thus, the dilemma this presents concerns the way the government is crushing seemingly beneficial AIDS/HIV support from civil society. High profile critiques of government policy in tackling AIDS/HIV may welcome antagonistic criticism against the government in general. This can be seen in how nongovernmental organizations that are not affiliated with the government have to go through a complex registration procedure to be officially recognized,58 showing how the government wants strict control over these organizations. Overall, the stigmatization of AIDS/HIV carriers, the lack of awareness on part of Chinese citizens, the difficulty of controlling the spread of the disease, and the suppression of civil society have all made AIDS/HIV a formidable threat to the stability of China’s population, health system, economic development and consequently, the CCP’s legitimacy as well. Yet the reactions to the epidemic suggest that the CCP realizes the threats that AIDS/HIV pose. As China is rising rapidly onto the world’s stage, the Chinese Communist Party’s legitimacy does not only rest on economic development but also its treatment of the AIDS/HIV situation in China. Not only does it tie into the issue of human rights, such as the right of each individual to healthcare), but also it can undermine political internal stability itself as well as economic development as discussed. Additionally, as seen by the case of SARS, the stability of economic and political policies are threatened by crises that instil panic and threaten livelihoods, businesses and the development of future social capital. In terms of economic development, it is clear that the challenge of AIDS/HIV cannot be ignored when formulating long term goals. There is serious laxity in the spread of AIDS/HIV education and information among the population and there are challenges ahead when implementing policies so that all may have high quality access to treatment and testing. I speculate that the limitations on civil society initiative movements are not necessarily reflective of the government’s inability to recognize the threat 56

Sanderson, Henry., “Activist says AIDS protestors beaten when trying to protest in front of

China’s Premier,” National Prevention Information Network, Associated Press (10 April 2008) <> 57

Anon, “Restrictions on Aids Activists in China,” Human Rights Watch (June 2005), Vol 17, No. 5, pp. 3 58

Wu et al.,, pp. 684-687


China and the Challenge of AIDS/HIV

of AIDS, but rather that so these protests are not seen as a criticism of the government in this area of policy which might reduce the government’s legitimacy in general. Yet, given how the government is working more closely with NGOs and adhering to international pressure, there are significant strides being taken to address AIDS/HIV’s spread in a more open and engaged manner, thus also curbing the threat to the stability and sustainability of the CCP’s policies elsewhere and allowing the CCP to continue its rule over China. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Bibliography (In order of appearance) Lifen, Zhang., “Beijing’s Credibility Test Over Sars,” BBC World Service, (30 April 2003). < stm> Coonan, Clifford., “China admits that cases of HIV/Aids have risen 45 per cent” The Independent, (23 February 2008), <http://www.independent.>

Wu, Zunyou, Sheena G. Sullivan, Wang Yu, Mary Jane Rotheram-Borus and Roger Detels. “Evolution of China’s response to HIV/AIDS,” Public Health, Lancet 369 (2007). Bates, Gill and Susan Okie. “China and HIV – A Window of Opportunity.” The New England Journal of Medicine 356, no. 18 (2007). Normile, Dennis. “China Awakens to Fight Projected Aids Crisis.” Science Magazine 288: 2312. “China’s sex disease crisis,” BBC News Website, (12 March 2003) <>

“Dangers behind China’s sexual revolution,” BBC News Website, (12 March 2002) <> “China risks daily needle infection,” BBC News Website, (23 November 2002) <>



Hennock, Mary. “China: The World Factory Floor,” BBC News, (11 November 2002), <> “HIV,” BBC Relationships (Date Unknown) < hivaids.shtml>

“AIDS Life Expectancy in Africa,” BBC News Website, (18 March 1999) <> Casale, Marisa and Alan Whiteside. “The Impact of HIV/AIDS on Poverty, Inequality and Economic Growth,” IDRC Working Papers on Globalization, Health and Poverty, (March 2006). Watts, Jonathan. “Sex, Drugs and HIV in China,” The Lancet 371 (2008): 104.

Beech, Hannah. “Unmasking a Crisis” Time Asia Magazine, (14 April 2003), <> “The Threat From SARS,” BBC News Website, (24 April 2003), <http://news.> Lam, Willy Wo-Lap. “Hu uses Sars to tighten grip,”, (20 May 2003)

Jurgens, Ralf and Jonathan Cohen. “Human rights and HIV/AIDS Now More Than Ever” Open Society Institute (September 2007) < publications/publications/hum a n _ 2 0 0 7 1 0 1 7 / e n gl i s h _ n o wmore-than-ever.pdf>

New rules to combat AIDS spread. China Daily (Beijing), October 28, 2005 <> Rosenthal, Elisabeth., “With Ignorance as the Fuel, AIDS Speeds Across China,” The New York Times, (30 December 2001) < 933A05751C1A9679C8B63> “China bans Condom Advert,” BBC News Website (2 December 1999) <> “Beijing installs condom machines,” BBC News Website (10 October 2004) <>

Tan, Xiadong. “Results of a questionnaire survey among Chinese students on knowledge of and attitudes about HIV/AIDS,” Blackwell publishing Ltd, Medical Education (2008) Vol 42, 224-227


China and the Challenge of AIDS/HIV

“China School Breaks Sex Taboo,” BBC News, (7 September 2004) <http://>

Fan, Maureen., “In China, Delicately Testing the Taboo on Talking about Sex,” The Washington Post, (11 September 2006) <http://www.chinadaily.>

Anon., “Restrictions on Aids Activists in China,” Human Rights Watch 17, no. 5 (2005). Sanderson, Henry. “Activist says AIDS protestors beaten when trying to protest in front of China’s Premier,” National Prevention Information Network, Associated Press (10 April 2008) <http://www.cdcnpin. org/scripts/display/NewsDisplay.asp?NewsNbr=50616>




ABSTRACT: This essay seeks to add to the sparse material covering an important, yet frequently underappreciated, early pivotal moment in the history of the relationship between Russia and China, namely the 1689 Treaty of Nerchinsk. The encounter between expanding Russian and Chinese spheres of influence will be examined in light of their respective political and economic positions. Their actions in the context of their own domestic weakness and turbulence will be highlighted. This essay will review the history leading up to the treaty to help explain the motivations of the two states in the formulation of the treaty, and comment on the historical impact of the peace treaty for both the Russian and Chinese Qing empires. The essay utilizes Russian diplomatic documents from the era, as well as Russian and English secondary sources discussing Chinese, Manchu, Latin and Russian documents. The resulting 150 years of relative stability on the Russian-Chinese border is considered to be a consequence of a diplomatic solution to a historic conflict that could have been far more unstable and uncontrollable.


The Significance of the Treaty of Nerchinsk

Introduction The relationship between Russia and China is a long one, filled with many boundary disputes throughout the centuries. In 1689 C.E., China and Russia signed the Treaty of Nerchinsk, the first time a border dispute was settled through negotiation rather than military force between the two countries. The Treaty of Nerchinsk set the tone of the relationship between Russia and China for the next 150 years. While the Russian and Chinese (Qing) empires were both expansionist states and arguably bound to come into conflict, this negotiation created a peaceful relationship which allowed them to focus on resolving other internal and external threats to the prosperity of their respective nation states. To understand why this conflict was settled by negotiations rather than war, it is important to look at the history of the countries leading up to the treaty and how it shaped both countries’ policy objectives regarding expansion, economic development and security. Russian Expansion

Figure 1.0 - Tribal peoples and Russian settlements in the sixteeth and seventeeth centuries 1

The defeat of the Khan Kuchum’s forces by the Russian Cossack Yermak in 1582 was Russia’s first major expansionist victory in the forests of Siberia. After this victory, Russia was able to consolidate territorial gains and expand further east, as there were no other major powers in the Siberian forests. The fort of Tobolsk was founded in 1587, and served as Russia’s first administrative centre in Siberia. From Tobolsk, Russian entrepreneurs 1

Peter C. Perdue, China Marches West: The Qing Conquest of Central Eurasia (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2005), p.95



followed Siberian rivers eastward in the hunt for furs, especially sable furs2 which they could sell for great profit to other countries, as well as to the nobility in Moscow. They established towns along the rivers, and after a few years in each town they would establish additional forts or towns further east, creating a pattern of leapfrogging. It was the exploration of these rivers that allowed Russia to reach the Pacific Ocean within 60 years of the founding of Tobolsk in spite of the poor and extraordinarily limited knowledge Russian explorers had of Siberia.

The method used by the Russian settlements in Siberia for obtaining food and provisions consisted almost exclusively of raiding local settlements and demanding tribute (or iasak, as it was known by the parties concerned). Within a short space of time, the local populations were unable to adequately supply the rapidly growing number of Russians. When Russian towns tried to grow the food themselves, they found the soil and climate unsuitable. Much of Siberia is tundra like forest, not very accommodating to the manner of farming techniques used in continental Russia to support large populations. As its population in Siberia grew, Russia was forced to look for better farmland and eventually found some in 1645 in the Amur River valley, an area north and west of Manchuria. Compared to Siberia, the valley had very good land, capable of supporting farming. In 1651, the fort of Albazin was established on the Amur River, and Russian settlers began cultivating the land. It was during this period of time that Russia and the Qing Empire first came into direct contact.

The Russian settlers of Albazin had followed the standard pattern of Russian diplomacy with local tribes, namely “bullying” them into submission. These tribes however were already considered tributaries of the Qing Empire. The Qing did not take kindly to the Russian newcomers raiding and terrorizing local tribes (“Chinese tributaries”) in the Amur area. The Qing were not familiar with Russia, as the last contact between Russia and China had been when the Mongols had ruled China and the lands of the Kievan Rus some 300 years earlier. Then, an embassy went from Russia to the Ming Empire in 1618, only to be forgotten in the changeover in government, and belatedly discovered in the archives of both countries in the 1670s. Most likely, the Qing viewed the Russians to be a small tribe unfamiliar with the area.3 In 1658 Chinese forces destroyed the fort of Albazin, forcing the Russian inhabitants to withdraw. The destruction of Albazin had no effect however on the influx of peoples from Russia into Siberia. Russians continued to hunt for furs, the “soft gold” that had funded the Russian treasury for centuries and would continue to do so for several more.4 Russia continued to develop 2

John Baddeley, Russia, Mongolia, China Vol I (NY: Burt Franklin, 1960) p. xcvi


Perdue, p. 84


V.S. Miasnikov, The Ch’ing Empire and the Russian State in the 17th Century (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1985)


The Significance of the Treaty of Nerchinsk

its position in Siberia. Qing Expansion

The Qing expansion was of a different nature than that of Russia. Around 1600 CE, the Manchu (who would later become the Qing) were a relatively small, fractured nomadic people in Manchuria. Over the next 45 years a Jurchen tribe under the leader Nurhaci (the Taizu Emperor) united Manchuria. Under his son Hong Taiji, the Manchu conquered the Ming Empire. In many ways the conquest of the Ming empire was due to the defection of many prominent Ming generals and armies, and especially, the defection of the Ming general Wu Sangui. The conquest was also aided by rebellions within the Ming Empire itself, as the Ming Empire was forced to divert troops to suppress numerous internal rebellions. Beijing (the Ming capitol) was captured in 1644 by a Chinese rebel, Li Zicheng, not the Manchu forces. The Manchu forces used this conquest by Li Zicheng as a way of legitimizing their own conquest of Beijing, â&#x20AC;&#x153;claimingâ&#x20AC;? that they were avenging the murdered Ming emperor. In establishing the Qing dynasty, the Manchu claimed all the territory and tributaries that had ever been a part of China during any period in history. Conquering China brought about new problems for the Qing. Significant opposition to Qing rule in China continued to exist from loyalists of the previous Ming dynasty. Until the opposition was quelled, Qing eyes would consistently be directed inwards, only peripherally noticing the expanding Russian state northwest of China. Manchu forces set about consolidating their power and control over the areas they had conquered while continuing to subjugate remaining Ming loyalist forces.

The death of Hong Taiji in 1643 left the Manchu under the control of successive regencies. Despite the infighting that the Manchu leadership experienced during these regencies, authority continued to be centralized in the body of the Emperor, who was at the time generally a child5. Eventually the regencies crushed the last of the Ming pretenders, a Ming prince named Zhu Youlang, in 1662. As a reward for their service, Wu Sangui and two other Chinese generals were installed as military governors of much of Southern China. This would come back to haunt the Qing Empire when the generals decided to rebel. The reassertion of rule by Qing Emperor Kangxi (r.1661-1722) in 1669 facilitated a long term view for Qing strategy and for the first time those views included Russia. 5

Perdue, pp. 114-115



The Economic Preoccupation of the Russian State An important factor in Russian policy decision making regarding its eastern border was that Siberia was mostly conquered by Russian private entrepreneurs. There was little direction and support from the Russian government beyond commands to bring wealth into the Tsar’s treasury. Why was such a large, dramatic expansion of Russian territory not the focus of Moscow’s attention? The answer lies in any political map of Eastern Europe in the late 17th century.

Figure 2.0 - The Great Northern War, 1700-21 6

To the south, Russia had the Crimean Khanate constantly raiding its borders, requiring a standing army of 60-70 thousand every year to defend its population and major wars in 1676-1681 and 1686-1700. To the west, Russia had the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth as a territorial rival with which it fought in the War for Ukraine (1654-1667). To the northwest, Russia had a militaristic Sweden to contend with (The Russo-Swedish War of 1656-1658 and The Great Northern War of 1700-1721). These were militarily powerful neighbours on its western doorstep, and threatened the very existence of the Tsardom of Muscovy. For many government officials Siberia was beyond the Ural Mountains thousands of miles away. It was not a military threat capable of conquering Russia. Politicians in Moscow were content to use a “hands-off” approach to Siberia, allowing them to concentrate their energies on closer neighbouring threats. In the 17th century, Russia was often involved 6

Herman Kinder and Werner Hilgeman, Penguin Atlas of World History Vol I (Aylesbury, GB: Penguin Books, 1979) p. 270


The Significance of the Treaty of Nerchinsk

in wars with one or more of its neighbours. Fortunately for Russia, these wars were mostly successful, especially those which weakened the PolishLithuanian Commonwealth.

Russia continued to consolidate its presence in Siberia with more and more settlements and even returned to the Amur valley fort of Albazin in 1672. Russia was also involved in efforts to establish an equal trading relationship with the Qing, as shown by the continuous stream of missions and embassies sent from Russia to the Qing capital, beginning with the Baikov embassy of 1654-55.7 The potential profits from trade were demonstrated in 1672 when the trader Ablin returned to Russia with 18,700 rubles after trading in Beijing from an initial investment of 4,500 rubles.8 Russia’s main policy objective regarding the Qing Empire was to create a trading relationship that would enrich the Russian treasury. A war in Siberia would have been disastrous for Russia as it was already busy fighting three powerful neighbours (Poland, the Ottomans, and Sweden). The death of Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich Romanov in 1676 led to additional infighting as Tsar Alexei’s heir died shortly after inheriting the throne and factions of the Russian court competed for control of the regency. The rulers of Russia, especially Peter the Great’s half-sister Sophia, focused on achieving quick victories that would legitimize their rule of the country. These struggles would not end until the ascent of Peter in 1694, five years after the signing of the Treaty of Nerchinsk. The Ambitions of the Qing Empire

While Russia’s pretensions to the Amur River valley were both economic and territorial in nature, the Qing dynasties’ were wholly focused on security and expansion. For the Qing, it was important to avoid a war in Siberia at all costs, so that Emperor Kangxi would be able to deal with one major problem at a time. The first of these was the rebellion of the three feudatories in the south of China (led by Shang Kexi, Geng Jingzhong, and Wu Sangui) in 1673. These rebellions would take eight years to subdue. This left scant time and resources to devote to another threat facing China –the Mongol aggression in the west. Kangxi wanted to permanently eliminate the threat the Mongols posed, especially the Zhungar Mongols, a faction that was powerful and very hostile to the Manchu Qing. Despite the Mongol threat, Kangxi and his Chinese officials become more aware of the potential problems they faced from Russia. The possibility of the Zunghar Mongols and Russia forming an alliance concerned Kangxi. His main objective in relations with Russia was keeping Russia neutral in 7 8

Miasnikov gives an excellent, detailed and thorough examination of these embassies. Perdue, p.165



the war between the Zhungar Mongols and the Qing, while gaining as much territory as possible. Kangxi was fortunate that Russia desired a peaceful trading relationship with China. One of the factors ultimately threatening Qing security was the expanding Russian sphere of influence with both the Mongol tribes and the Amur River valley. In the Russian expansion across Siberia, many local peoples began paying iasak to Russian forts. All along the Mongol border, the Russians continued these demands for tribute, gradually dominating some tribes. One tribe, the Torghuts, relocated their entire tribe to the Volga River from the central Eurasian steppes.9 Further along in the Amur River valley, other tribes also began paying iasak. The defection of tribes that had once paid tribute to China, or tribes that in the Qing mind should have been paying tribute to China, troubled Qing policy makers. In particular, Chinese and Russian communications centred around the defection of a chief by the name of Gantimur and his tribesmen,10 seen by both sides as representative of the various shifts in allegiances of the local peoples. The Qing searched for a way to prevent any more defections of tribute paying peoples, because this shrank the Qing sphere of influence. These two practical issues dominated Qing foreign policy regarding Russia. Before the Negotiations Proper

The events leading up to the negotiations at Nerchinsk generally strengthened the Chinese position at the expense of the Russians, especially in terms of relative local military strength. The most significant Qing activities were the establishment of two forts close to Albazin. One of them, Aigun, served as a springboard for attacks on Albazin by the Qing. In the early 1680s, Moscow tried to re-enforce its fortifications on the Chinese border at Albazin. The Qing detected this, and in 1684 dispatched an army to capture Albazin. The Russian forces surrendered the fort after a short siege, and promptly departed. The Qing forces then burned the fort and left without destroying the crop, convinced that the Russians would not return since they felt Russians would not want return to a razed town. The Russians did return to harvest the crop, however, and by 1685 the fort had been rebuilt. It then housed some 800 Cossacks, as well as 12 gun emplacements.11 The Qing laid siege to the fort again in 1686 with a slightly larger army, this time about 5000 men. After four months the leader of the Russian force Tolbuzin was dead and approximately 140 Cossacks remained. Of these, 50 of the remaining Cossacks defected to the Qing. Surprisingly the Qing forces still did not take 9

Perdue, pp. 97-98


See Document No. 1 from the Archives of the National Palace/Museum of Peiping, Kang-hsi Chienlong Period. 11

W. Bruce Lincoln. Conquest of a Continent: Siberia and the Russians (Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 2008) p.71


The Significance of the Treaty of Nerchinsk

the fort, and suffered disproportionate losses compared to the Russians. This siege and other skirmishes demonstrated the superiority of Russian arms, if not numerical superiority. Qing military ventures, nevertheless, did not go deeper into Siberia until treaty negotiations entered a more serious stage.

The attacks by Chinese forces served as a useful evaluation of the relative might of the deployed Chinese and Russian forces. It was clear that Qing forces greatly outnumbered the Russian presence, and that they would use this numerical superiority to pressure Russia. In fact, the Qing forces stationed at Aigun grew, and by the time of the treaty negotiations Qing forces totalled approximately 12,000 people, more than enough to exert influence over Russian negotiators whose towns seldom, if ever, rose above 1,000 people.

Figure 3.0 - The Sino-Russian frontier 12 12

Perdue, p. 168



In 1686, yet another war broke out between the Russian and Ottoman Empires. The regent Sophia made the decision to concentrate Russian military power on two campaigns in Crimea in 1687 and 1689, each involving over 100,000 men. This left few troops to re-enforce the less important Siberian border with China. Most of the troops escorting the Russian diplomatic party for the Nerchinsk negotiations came from the smaller provincial capitol Tobolsk as the chief negotiator for Russia was Fyodor Golovin, the son of the governor of Tobolsk. As it was, Russia managed to muster a paltry 1,500 troops for the treaty negotiations, one eighth of the Qing forces present. The Negotiations

The location of the treaty negotiations played a large role in the outcome. Originally, Moscow had agreed that the negotiations would take place at the fort of Seleginsk. This fort was located close to the Khalka Mongol tribe. At the time the Khalka were allies of the Qing that had agreed to raid Russian forts nearby, including Seleginsk. With the defeat of the Khalka Mongols in battle by the Zhungar Mongolâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s leader Galdan, the Qing delayed negotiations and successfully moved them to Nerchinsk. Both of these locations were deep within sparsely populated Russian territory. Even though both were locations to which the Qing could reasonably send a 12,000 person army and were not strongly fortified, the position of the Qing in Nerchinsk was stronger. Not surprisingly, the Qing decided to send a large army with its envoys, which it would use to pressure Russia into accepting treaty terms favourable to the Qing. This show of force negated the tactical disadvantage that Galdanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s victories over the Khalkas had created for the Qing and improved the overall Qing position. On July 21, 1689 the Qing embassy led by Songgotu, an uncle of the Empress, arrived at Nerchinsk, where he was joined by the army that had been besieging Albazin for the past few years. When Golovin arrived on August 9, 1689, Nerchinsk was surrounded by Qing forces and Russian tributaries were gradually defecting to the Qing, and aiding in the encirclement of Nerchinsk. Golovin was forced to negotiate from a very disadvantageous position, under pressure from the Qing military. The Results of the Treaty

The Russian-Qing border was settled at the Argun River, west of Albazin. Qing control would extend north of the Amur River to a nearby mountain range. Albazin was to be razed, and the fortress of Argunsk on the south bank of the Argun River was to be moved to the north bank. The Qing extracted these territorial concessions from Russia as they viewed any territorial expansion of Qing dominance as desirable. However, leading up to the negotiations, Moscow had authorized this concession. If it meant peace and trade with China, Moscow was willing to give up the Amur River valley,


The Significance of the Treaty of Nerchinsk

an area that was not as economically important in Moscow’s eyes as trade with China.

The Qing did agree to trade, as another of the treaty’s provisions allowed for licensed traders from either country to operate inside the other’s borders. It allowed for large trade caravans to come from either country, achieving Russia’s main goal of commerce in the negotiations. Finally, Russia agreed to be neutral in the upcoming conflict between the Qing and the Mongols.13 Galdan’s requests for Russian aid in his war with the Qing went unanswered.

Figure 4.0 - The Kangxi emperor’s Zunghar campaigns, 1690-1697 14 13

Praskov’ia Tikhonova Iakovleva, Pervyi Russko-Kitaiskii dogovor 1689 goda pp.214-216, for the Russian copy of the Treaty of Nerchinsk. 14

Perdue, p. 182



The Repercussions of the Treaty The treaty guaranteed that there would be no more defections of tributaries between the two countries. This removed the need for competition between the two states militarily, as deserters would be returned to their â&#x20AC;&#x153;empire of originâ&#x20AC;? for punishment. Over the next decade the Qing Emperor Kangxi continued to isolate Galdan from potential allies while bringing more of the Khalka Mongol tribes under Qing control. Qing historians of the time referred to the treaty as an unabashed success, and praised Kangxi for achieving it. Eventually, the Qing refined the trading mechanism with Russia, establishing border outposts at which trade would be conducted. The Qing Empire enjoyed friendly relations with Russia for the next 150 years. This peace allowed China to deal with other threats (both real and imagined) to its national security. It was a much warmer relationship than the Qing had had with any other western nation. In terms of what was possible and the conditions preceding the treaty, Qing historians of the time such as Chang Shu (the court historian) were right to record the treaty as a great success for China.15 Russiaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s gains from the treaty were not all positive. The loss of the Amur River valley precluded the development of an agricultural base to support a growing Russian population in eastern Siberia. Russia did, however, retain a path to the Pacific north of the new boundary. It also gained the ability to trade with one of the richest nations in the world. Trade with China had shown that China also had an appetite for Russian furs. Eventually, profits from this trade would form a significant portion of Russian treasury income. More importantly, the income and peace from the treaty allowed Russia to fully direct its military might to the wars it was engaged in, first with the Ottoman Empire and Crimean Khanate, then its war with Sweden. Most border and trade matters that were left unresolved at the treaty of Nerchinsk, such as the exact territorial boundaries of the countries north of the Amur (the treaty only mentions a mountain range) were later clarified in the Treaty of Khiatka in 1727.16 At that time Russia had a much stronger position, having been greatly modernized by Peter the Great and also having defeated the Swedes at the Battle of Poltava in 1709. At Nerchinsk, the treaty proclaimed equality between two great empires as a way to appease Russia for its loss of territory. At Khiatka, this was true in reality as well as on paper. 15 16

Miasnikov, p. 287 Perdue, p. 168.


The Significance of the Treaty of Nerchinsk

Conclusion Who got the better deal? Despite the fact that the treaty benefitted both countries, the Qing Empire clearly benefited the most, because the benefits to the Qing did not come with concessions. The Qing did not lose any territory they held before the treaty. In fact, the Qing gained territory. Russia gained much economically, but lost significant agricultural territory it would not regain for 150 years. Both countries were satisfied that they had a peaceful, relatively stable border which remained in place for the next 150 years. A good way of looking at the treaty is that Russia won much, but China won more. Both nations created a relationship that would prove mutually beneficial for over a century and allowed both countries to concentrate their resources to address other internal and external threats they faced.



Bibliography Baddeley, John, Russia, Mongolia, China Vol I-II, New York: Burt Franklin, 1960.

Fairbank, John K. And Edwin Reischauer, China: Tradition & Transformation, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1973. Gelber, Harry G. The Dragon and the Foreign Devils: China and the World, 1100 BC to the Present, London: Bloomsbury, 2007.

Iakovleva, Praskov’ia Tikhonova, Pervyi russko-kitaiskii dogovor 1689 goda, Moscow: USSR Academy of Sciences, 1958. Kinder, Herman and Werner Hilgemann. The Penguin Atlas of World History Vol. I. Aylesbury, Great Britain: Penguin Books, 1979. Lincoln, W. Bruce. The Conquest of a Continent: Siberia and the Russians, Cornell University Press, 2008.

Miasnikov, V.S., The Ch’ing Empire and the Russian State in the 17th Century, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1985. Perdue, Peter C. China Marches West : The Qing conquest of central Eurasia, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005. Sebes, Joseph. The Jesuits and the Sino-Russian Treaty of Nerchinsk (1689), Rome: The Gregorian University Press, 1962 Spence, Jonathan. The Search for Modern China, New York: Norton, 1990.

Voskressenski, Alexei D. Russia and China: A Theory of Inter-State Relations, London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003. Documents in Russian Preserved in the National Place Museum of Peiping, Kanghsi-Chienlung Period, “Nakaz Nerchinskogo voevoda D. D. Arshinskogo Ignatiu Milovanovu Apr. 4, 1670,” The National Palace Musuem of Beijing, 1936



originally hails from Vancouver, B.C., but is currently a third-year student at the University of Toronto. Though her academic interests on the political science front are varied, she is mostly preoccupied with the vagaries of democratic transition in Asia and eastern Europe. When she is not procrastinating her way towards a History/Political Science Joint Specialist degree, Ailsa can often be found reading, eating cheese and pretending to be from another country.


is a fourth year history specialist who is mainly interested in modern European history (such as Soviet Russia), but is flirting with the history of other periods and regions as well. She likes reading memoirs and diaries, and hopes to continue doing so in the future in a graduate history program.


is a recent graduate from U of T with an honours philosophy specialist. He enjoyed the Chinese philosophy he studied at U of T more than a lot of the contemporary Western philosophy. He says he doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t plan on continuing philosophy post-graduation because Zhuangzi wouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have approved.





ABSTRACT: Are all, or only some, of the world’s religions politically compatible with democracy? With religious resurgence and democratization coming to the forefront as two of the most preeminent issues in the international arena over the past few decades, and coupled with events such as 9/11, this particular question becomes especially salient in regards to Islam. There is a substantial amount of literature in the field arguing that democracy is in fact fundamentally incompatible with the Islamic tradition, as well as scholarly assertions warning against the ‘Islamic free-elections trap.’ At the same time, others insist that the relationship between Islam and democracy in the contemporary world is much more complex, noting points such as the fact that Islam is no more ideologically monolithic than any of the world’s other major relations to bolster their stances. This paper will examine two predominantly Muslim countries in Southeast Asia—Indonesia and Malaysia—and examine the role of Islam in each respective case. From analyzing the role played by Islam in Indonesia and Malaysia, I argue that Islam has functioned as a mobilizing oppositional ideology that mainly bolsters democracy by contributing to the growth of a democratic culture and civil society in the two countries. However, the relationship between democracy and Islam is not completely straightforward, as findings additionally indicate that Islam has the potential to weaken democracy by fostering values antithetical to democracy and exacerbating social cleavages.


Pious Politics: A Study of Islam and Political Development in Indonesia and Malaysia

In contrast with the decline of the social and political importance of religion in the West—as noted by the ‘secularization paradigm’—it is undeniable that religion has also played a significant role in the recent political affairs of many states. From civil conflict in Nigeria to debates over Islam and political reform in the Middle East, religion has generally retained a relatively high level of influence among non-Western countries of the so-called Third World, even among rapidly modernizing states. Part of this stems from the use of religion as a facet of anti-colonial nationalism—as Jeff Haynes puts it, “opposition is the traditional forte of political religious groups, and has been since the early years of the twentieth century.”1 It is within this historical context that one must view the current manifestations of religious influence in politics, especially in Southeast Asia, where Islam holds sway over 200 million followers. As such, Islam has mainly shaped political development in Southeast Asia by functioning as a mobilizing oppositional ideology that mainly bolsters democracy by contributing to the growth of a democratic culture and civil society, as shown by using Indonesia and Malaysia as case studies. However, Islam can also weaken democracy by fostering values antithetical to democracy and exacerbating social cleavages. Despite the tendency to exclusively identity Islam with the Arab world in the popular imagination, Asian Muslims constitute the largest Muslim community in the world with 49.7 percent of all Muslims.2 Indonesia itself has the largest Muslim population of any nation in the world, with 88.2 percent of its total population identifying itself as Muslim while Muslims make up 60.4 percent of Malaysia’s total population.3 Religious interest groups, religious political parties and individual religious leaders have figured prominently in both the Indonesian and Malaysian public spheres for years, prior to and after their respective independences. Against this backdrop of religious consciousness, a series of drastic developments had swept across the Asia-Pacific region in the latter half of the twentieth century, including the flighty spectre of democratization. Given the prominent role of Islam in the Indonesian and Malaysian public spheres, how has Islam shaped political development in these two countries? To start off, Islam has shaped political development in Indonesia and Malaysia by contributing to the growth of democratic cultures in the two states. This, of course, brings up the hoary chestnut that has especially come into vogue after 9/11: whether Islam is compatible with democracy in the 1

Jeff Haynes, “Religion, Secularisation, and Politics: A Postmodern Conspectus,” Third World Quarterly 18 (1997): 718. 2

John L. Esposito, “Introduction: Islam in Asia in the Twenty-First Century,” in Asian Islam in the 21st Century, ed. John L. Esposito, John O. Voll, and Osman Bakar (New York, New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 3. 3

Greg Fealy, Virginia Hooker, and Sally White, “Indonesia,” in Voices of Islam in Southeast Asia: A Contemporary Sourcebook, eds. Greg Fealy and Virginia Hooker (Singapore: ISEAS Publications, 2006), 39.



first place. For instance, Samuel Huntington has memorably argued that “in Islam, God is Caesar,” in essence warning that Islamic civilizations lack the unique bundle of cultural characteristics necessary to support democracy.4 Despite what Huntington and other like-minded individuals may insist, it is important to note that Islam—like virtually every major religion—is multivocal and subject to differing interpretations due to substantial variation in the interpretation of religious texts. For every Islamic fundamentalist who argues for the absolute sovereignty of Allah and the primacy of divine law, there are Muslims like Ahmad Shawqi al-Fanjari, who pinpoints democratic rights and liberties in major Islamic writings and concludes that “what is called freedom in Europe is what is defined in [Islam] as justice (‘adl), right (haqq), consultation (shura) and equality (musawat).”5 In this context, there are clearly elements within Islam that are conducive to political development along democratic lines. In Indonesia, Muslim associations have contributed to a burgeoning democratic culture by playing a key role in fostering civil society. As Alexis de Tocqueville’s musings on democracy in America emphasize, democracies depend not only on the government and elections but also on the habits of society at large. Formal democracy requires a culture and organization beyond the government itself, and such is why an independent civil society is an especially important factor in political development— as Robert Putnam famously argues, an active civil society builds social capital, trust and shared values that are eventually transferred into the political sphere.6 In the case of Indonesia, the two mass organizations of Muhammadiyah and Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) have dominated Indonesian Islam for most of this century, claiming a substantial 68 million members between them.7 Historically, both organizations have figured prominently as oppositional forces in Indonesia. For example, NU played a part in the struggle for Indonesian independence in 1945, and became an especially potent political force under Suharto. Much of this was due to the fact that Suharto kept a tight leash on any potential sources of opposition to his regime. Consequently, the only area of civil society that was mostly outside government control was Islam, and as Muhammadiyah and NU were the only religious organizations with a truly national reach, the two organizations had the unique role of being “the last bastion of civil society” in Indonesia during 4

Alfred Stepan, “Religion, Democracy, the ‘Twin Tolerations,” in World Religions and Democracy, eds., L. Diamond, M. Plattner and P.J. Costopoulos (Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 2005), 4. 5

John O. Voll, “Islam and Democracy: Is Modernization a Barrier?” in Modernization, Democracy, and Islam, ed. Shireen T. Hunter and Human Malik, (Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, 2005), 85. 6

Robert Putnam, “Bowling Alone: America’s Declining Social Capital,” Journal of Democracy 6, no.1 (1995), 7

Greg Barton, “Islam and Politics in the New Indonesia,” in Islam in Asia: Changing Political Realities, eds. Jason C. Isaacson and Colin Rubenstein (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 2002), 5.


Pious Politics: A Study of Islam and Political Development in Indonesia and Malaysia

this period.8 Though Suharto sought to limit Islam in the political sphere through various means, by the 1980s, a sort of ‘cultural Islam’ emerged with Muhammadiyah and NU at the forefront that criticized the New Order’s political agenda and sought to redefine Islam’s relations with the state.9

Even since Suharto’s fall, Muhammadiyah and NU have continued to foster civil society in Indonesia through primarily social and cultural means. Both Muhammadiyah and NU dedicate a substantial amount of their resources to community development, which is approached and implemented in a bottom-up method with local support.10 As such, Muhammadiyah has been particularly prolific in building schools, orphanages and hospitals across Indonesia, while NU has been involved in its pesantren (Qur’anic school) network and charitable foundations—such are examples of a more indirect, social approach to implementing the idea of a civil society in Indonesia, in as much as the very presence of voluntary organizations lays the foundation for the basic structure of civil society. Moreover, both organizations profess to be devoted to values such as open-mindedness, tolerance, and pluralism in Islam—for instance, NU is currently expounding democratic elements in its classical religious discourse, particularly the concept of akhlaq al-karimah, or civic virtues in politics.11 With this emphasis in mind, Muhammadiyah and NU thus have contributed and continue to contribute to civil society in a vital way by internalizing important civic virtues and an understanding of democratic processes through their extensive educational institutions and social programs.12 This much is evident when one examines the prominent figures in Indonesian civil society—a large number of Indonesia’s investigative journalists and NGO activists come from a religious background, while religious figures such as Abdurrahman Wahid have become influential reformist intellectuals. In Malaysia, Islam has similarly played an important role in fostering an active civil society. Despite the considerable extent to which the Malaysian government controls the core institutions of Islamic leadership and intellectual thought, it is still possible to speak of independent expressions of Islamic opposition. This opposition partly stems from both political disaffection and disenchantment with the official Islamic thought. 8

Mohammad Fajrul Falaakh, “Nadhlatul Ulama and Civil Society in Indonesia,” in Islam and Civil Society in Southeast Asia, eds. Nakamura Mitsuo, Sharon Siddique, and Omar Farouk Fajunid (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2001), 33. 9

Joseph Chinyong Liow, Piety and Politics: Islamism in Contemporary Malaysia (New York, New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 190. 10

M. Amin Abdullah, “Muhammadiyah’s Experience in Promoting Civil Society on the Eve of the 21st Century,” in Islam and Civil Society in Southeast Asia, eds. Nakamura Mitsuo, Sharon Siddique, and Omar Farouk Fajunid (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2001), 33. 11


Fajrul, “Nadhlatul Ulama and Civil Society in Indonesia,” 39. Greg Barton, “Islam and Politics in the New Indonesia,” 68.



Consequently, this parallel Islamic discourse has resulted in an increasingly vibrant civil society that has, as Joseph Liow argues in his study of Malaysian civil society groups, “sought to engage and affect the identity and structure of the Malaysian state in relation to the role of Islam.”13 Major Islamic organizations such as the Malaysian Islamic Youth Movement (ABIM) have played a crucial role in empowering Muslims into participatory and political action. ABIM, for instance, is involved in a variety of activities that range from organizing public forums to address issues such as human rights to actively participating in the Reformasi movement in protest against the government’s treatment of Anwar Ibrahim.14 Another important facet of this parallel Islamic discourse concerns the emergence of advocacy groups promoting the rights of women within the framework of Islam. Sisters in Islam (SIS) is a prominent example of such a group: despite opposition from more conservative Islamic groups, SIS has championed the rights of Muslim women by not only raising awareness and fomenting debate on the subject, but also checking the Islamist policies of the government and its repercussions on civil and women’s rights. SIS, for instance, has particularly been active in the field of Islamic family law by actively lobbying for shari’a court reform in order to acknowledge justice for women and children, which they argue is a core principle of the Qur’an.15 The emergence of this alternative Islamist discourse contributes to the growth of the Malaysian democratic culture in a variety of ways. Firstly, the vigor of these civil society organizations points to the healthy democratic practice of debate centered on important issues such as human rights, tolerance and social justice. Secondly, the state has recognized the increasingly burgeoning role of these civil society organizations and has to some extent been compelled to provide room for their activities, thereby widening the public space for discussing fundamental issues outside the sphere of institutional party politics.16 Thirdly, the activism of such civil society groups has challenged the hegemony of the UMNO-led government over matters of public policy, especially those pertaining to religion. As many scholars such as Sharifa Hassan note, Malaysian civil society has increasingly called on the state for public accountability on matters of public policy and questioned the legitimacy of certain state practices ever since the Anwar Ibrahim crisis.17 Clive Kessler even argues that this Islamic civil society has not simply just become a parallel form of civil activism, but has come to be “the dominant force in Malaysian public life…and is beginning 13 14 15 16 17

Liow, Piety and Politics, 114. Ibid., 117.


Liow, Piety and Politics, 189.

Sharifah Zaleha Syed Hassan, “Islamization and the Emerging Civil Society in Malaysia,” in Islam and Civil Society in Southeast Asia, eds. Nakamura Mitsuo, Sharon Siddique, and Omar Farouk Fajunid (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2001), 85.


Pious Politics: A Study of Islam and Political Development in Indonesia and Malaysia

to set important policy and political terms to both the main Malay-backed parties.”18 In sum, the increased assertiveness of an Islam-based civil society appears to have become an important actor in bolstering democratic culture among Malaysian Muslims.

From examining both Indonesia and Malaysia, the resiliency and vibrancy of Islamic civil society in both countries can easily be discerned. However, one should also heed Robert Hefner’s warning that “civil association is necessary but never sufficient to guarantee a civil-democratic politics.”19 It is important to recognize that the strengthening of a Muslim civil society might not necessarily lead to democratic civility—after all, history gives many examples of how religion-based civil societies can so easily degenerate into communal violence and the disintegration of the nation-state along religious-ethnic lines. With this critical point in mind, it is clear that Islam has not necessarily been solely fostering democratic values in Indonesia and Malaysia; instead, one can also discern how Islam can be working against the processes of democratization and political development.

In Indonesia, incidents such as the devastating 2002 Bali nightclub bombing and other similar suicide bombings, coupled with heightened international attention after 9/11, have brought radical Islam to the forefront of Indonesian political affairs. One such example of radical Islam was embodied by Laskar Jihad, an organization described by the New York Times magazine as a Muslim paramilitary group “renowned for its fanaticism and brutality.”20 Jaffar Umar Thalib, the former leader of Laskar Jihad, makes his feelings on Islam and democracy clear—he argues that democracy is “incompatible with Islam,” believes that Indonesia should be governed under strict Islamic laws, and advocates using violence to achieve political goals.21 In other words, Jaffar and Laskar Jihad reject many fundamental elements of liberal democracy. Laskar Jihad was by no means the only manifestation of anti-democratic Islamic radicalism—also prominent have been a range of other paramilitary groups, from the multinational Jemaah Islamiyah (the organization responsible for the aforementioned Bali nightclub bombing) to smaller groups such as the Hizbullah Front, Laskar Mujahidin, and the Islamic Defenders Front, all listed by the US government as coercive, violent and extremist.22 Though Laskar Jihad disbanded its ranks several years ago, Jaffar’s anti-democratic agenda is still pursued by groups such as Jemaah 18 19

Liow, Piety and Politics, 114.

Robert Hefner, Civil Islam: Muslims and Democratization in Indonesia (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2000), 20. 20 21 22

Andrew Marshall, “The Threat of Jaffar,” New York Times Magazine, March 10, 2002, 45.

Ibid., 47.

Fred R. von der Mehden, “Islam in Indonesia in the 21st Century,” in Asian Islam in the 21st Century, ed. John L. Esposito, John O. Voll, and Osman Bakar, (New York, New York: Oxford University Press, 2008),23.



Islamiyah to this day, who openly portray themselves as oppositional forces to both the state and democracy.

Though radical Islamic movements embodied by paramilitary organizations such as Laskar Jihad had received much press coverage, perhaps a more subtle danger to a pluralist Indonesian democracy lies in the views of nonviolent conservative Islamic organizations and individuals within mainstream civil society. Many of these organizations and individuals are influenced by Wahhabi ideas from Saudi Arabia that espouse a puritan Muslim lifestyle as well as the rejection of what is seen as the immorality of Western influences.23 Though adherents to such beliefs do not call for the complete implementation of an Islamic state in Indonesia, they have been engaged in an effort to promulgate conservative Muslim legislation that limits religious equality and other civil liberties. Examples include the push for greater acceptance of shari’a law, as well as restrictive laws regarding extramarital sex and other forms of social legislation.24 It appears that some inroads have been made on this front: examples include a provincial shari’a court formed in Aceh, and a bill that was passed in 2003 to require non-Muslim schools to hire Islamic teachers to teach Islam to their Muslim students.25

In Malaysia, Islam is perhaps an unfortunate example of how an active civil society can reinforce the so-called bane of democracy: the ‘tyranny of the majority.’ Malaysia suffers from extremely entrenched ethnic divisions that shape many aspects of the Malaysian public sphere. As the majority of Malays—the majority ethnic group—are Muslim, Islam acts as a basis for Malay identity; indeed, Islamic resurgence in Malaysia has even been referred to as ethnic Malay nationalism.26 As such, Islam—combined with the potent force of ethnicity—helps exacerbate cleavages within Malaysian society. Despite the presence of more moderate organizations such as ABIM, a substantial number of civil society groups champion positions on Islam that are extremely severe. Consequently, democratic values such as religious freedom are under threat due to the continued passage of legislation that favors Muslims over adherents to other religions. In his study of Malay Islamism, Robert McAmis even argues that the basic human rights of non-Muslims have been seriously eroded due to constitutional changes that systematically favor Malay Muslims at the expense of the minority non-Muslim ethnic groups.27 23 24

Fred R. von der Mehden, “Islam in Indonesia in the 21st Century,” 24.

Fred R. von der Mehden, “Hindrances to Democracy and Modernization in Indonesia,” in Modernization, Democracy, and Islam, ed. Shireen T. Hunter and Human Malik, (Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, 2005), 232. 25 26


Robert Day McAmis, Malay Muslims: The History and Challenge of Resurgent Islam in Southeast Asia (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2002), 87. 27

McAmis, Malay Muslims: The History and Challenge of Resurgent Islam in Southeast Asia, 89.


Pious Politics: A Study of Islam and Political Development in Indonesia and Malaysia

Consequently, the result of this has been a polarization along religious lines, yet another partition atop the fundamental divisions in Malaysian society. This religious polarization, coupled with ethnic polarization, represents a formidable barrier to Malaysian unity and stability—a problematic situation as such a highly exclusivist environment is hardly conducive to political development or democratic norms such as pluralism.

Islam clearly holds a rather mixed record on shaping political development in Indonesia and Malaysia. However, if one were to hazard a rather sweeping judgment on the subject, it would not be too presumptuous to argue that Islam has not been a major stumbling block for Indonesian and Malaysian political development. In the case of Indonesia, the presence of radical Islamic groups has caused much hand-wringing in both media and scholarly circles, but the focus on such radicalism has arguably been disproportionate to its actual influence. Radical Islamic groups are miniscule in terms of membership when compared to mainstream organizations—for instance, while the largest radical groups have at most around several tens of thousands of members, NU and Muhammadiyah boast tens of millions of members respectively.28 The general tenor of Indonesian politics and society reflects this disparity, as its orientation clearly leans towards a more moderate approach with the majority of Islamic parties and organizations openly supporting democracy.29 As for the more subtle encroachments on democratic values by conservative nonviolent organizations, these types of organizations are also not as popular among mainstream Muslims. Also, most of the legislation based on shari’a law was passed at the local level, and the adoption of shari’a has not developed into a national trend.30 Finally, it should be noted that Indonesia—the most populous Muslim country in the world— is in fact widely deemed a veritable democracy,31 the great counterargument to those who insist that Islam is not conducive to democracy. In this light, the negative impact of Islam in Indonesian political development appears to be minimal compared to the benefits reaped by the work of Islamic organizations such as NU and Muhammadiyah. Malaysia, on the other hand, is a more complex case. Unlike Indonesia, Malaysia has only merited a ‘partly free’ rating by democracy aggregator Freedom House, with particularly low scores on political rights and civil liberties. The trajectory of the increasingly exclusivist Islamism is worrying, but one should keep in mind that the fundamental problem at stake in Malaysia is not religion per se, but ethnicity. Islam has certainly exacerbated 28 29 30

Fealy, Hooker, and White, “Indonesia,” 50.

Mehden, “Hindrances to Democracy and Modernization in Indonesia,” 28.

Freedom House, “ Country Report Indonesia 2008,” Freedom House Inc., 31

Freedom House, “ Country Report Malaysia 2009,” Freedom House Inc.,



the problems that divide Malaysian society, but ethnicity is the driving force behind Malaysia’s bitter divisions and the problems that it holds for political and economic development. This, then, brings to mind an important point about the realities of political development: that democracy and political development are also dependent on a complex interplay of a myriad of other factors that often have little to do with religion. In Indonesia, for instance, the decisions that have challenged democracy—such as ending the first democratic experiment under Sukarno—have generally not been controlled by Islamic political organizations or politicians. This is not to say that Islam has very little influence on political development, but that there are definitely pitfalls to blaming problems for democracy on Islam alone while neglecting the overall ethnic, sociopolitical, economic and international contexts.

In conclusion, the effect of Islam on political development in Indonesia and Malaysia is as complex and varied as the religion itself. On one hand, Islam can be viewed as a positive driving force for democratic development through fostering the growth of civil society. Yet at the same time, Islam is embraced by others as an ideology that is completely antithetical to democracy. Rather fittingly, the multivocality of Islam also applies to its influence on political development as well. Though the final verdict on whether Islam contributes positively or negatively to political development is still contested, what is clear is that Islam is not wholly incompatible with democracy and democratic values. However poor the Islamic world’s record in terms of democracy has been, the experiences of Indonesia and Malaysia show that Islam alone is hardly the root cause of the political malaise that afflicts the Islamic world. Recognizing this is the first step towards finding a solution that may actually bring about substantive political development in the Muslim world. Bibliography Esposito, John L., John O. Voll, and Osman Bakar, eds. Asian Islam in the 21st Century. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008. Fealy, Greg, and Virginia Hooker. Voices of Islam in Southeast Asia: A Contemporary Sourcebook. Singapore: ISEAS Publications, 2006.

Freedom House. “ Country Report Indonesia 2008.” Freedom House Inc. < age=363&year=2008&country=7412> (accessed 20 July 2009).

Freedom House. “ Country Report Malaysia.” Freedom House Inc. < year=2009&country=7654> (accessed 20 July 2009).


Pious Politics: A Study of Islam and Political Development in Indonesia and Malaysia

Haynes, Jeff. “Religion, Secularisation, and Politics: A Postmodern Conspectus.” Third World Quarterly 18 (1997): 709-728.

Hefner, Robert W. Civil Islam: Muslims and Democratization in Indonesia. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2000.

Hunter, Shireen T., and Huma Malik, eds., Modernization, Democracy, and Islam. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, 2005. Huntington, Samuel P. The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996. Isaacson, Jason F., and Colin Rubenstein, eds., Islam in Asia: Changing Political Realities. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 2002.

Liow, Joseph Chinyong. Piety and Politics: Islamism in Contemporary Malaysia. New York, New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Marshall, Andrew. “The Threat of Jaffar.” New York Times Magazine, March 10, 2002. McAmis, Robert Day. Malay Muslims: The History and Challenge of Resurgent Islam in Southeast Asia. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2002.

Mitsuo, Nakamura, Sharon Siddique and Omar Farouk Bajunid, eds. Islam & Civil Society in Southeast Asia. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2001. Putnam, Robert. “Bowling Alone: America’s Declining Social Capital.” Journal of Democracy 6, no.1 (1995),< of_democracy/v006/6.1putnam.html.>

Stepan, Alfred. “Religion, Democracy, the ‘Twin Tolerations.’” In World Religions and Democracy. Eds., L. Diamond, M. Plattner and P.J. Costopoulos. Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 2005: 3-23.




ABSTRACT: In the sixteenth and seventeenth century, Western Europe vigorously engaged in global expansion in through not only economic activity but missionary work as well. The case of Japan and the Christian Century was curious. Nowhere did Christian missionaries receive a heartier welcome, yet nowhere were they more savagely destroyed. The Christian missionaries found great success within Japan initially. The Japanese were interested in the wisdom and technology the West had to offer. Moreover, the Christian message found favour among those disillusioned by warfare. Yet, the Christian missions ultimately failed in Japan, because of its political implications and alien nature in a country increasingly concerned with peace and stability brought on by centralized authority. The Jesuit missionariesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; dependency on the Macao silk trade pushed the missionaries into the political sphere. Economic incentives sustained a partnership between the Jesuit missionaries and local lords (daimyo), which created problems of political allegiance. The Christian missionaries appeared to act as patrons of competing local lords, which the central government viewed as a threat. In fact the missionaries themselves seemed to become a rival political power, demonstrating similar traits to the despised militant Buddhist sects. This interference into the balance of domestic politics became a pressing issue for the Japanese central rulers who sought absolute authority.


Kirishitan a Political Threat?: The Failure of the Christian Century in Early Modern Japan

In addition, the missionariesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; ties to the Iberian Empire aroused images of foreign imperial conquests. The rivalry between the Portuguese Jesuits and the Spanish Franciscans affirmed that these missionary groups operated under the patronage of imperial forces. Moreover, the hubris of the missionaries often evoked possibilities of foreign conquest and imperial designs. Thus, the Japanese rulers regarded the Christian missionaries as an extension of economic and military expansion of empires.

Moreover, the very success of the Christian missionaries amongst the lay population of Japan created an alarming subversive atmosphere. Despite the placement of anti-Christian laws, massive numbers converted to Christianity, forming a formidable Christian community. These Kirishitansâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; overt display of solidarity and religious zeal revealed the political and social power of this native Christian community. Not surprisingly, the Japanese rulers feared the possibility of mass rebellion of the Kirishitans. Even with anti-Christian legislation, the missionaries were continuously tolerated due to their connection to the silk trade. Yet, with the arrival of the Dutch and English who offered economic trade without religious motive, the need for Christian missionaries was eliminated. As a result, in the seventeenth century the persecution of Christians increased in number and severity. Ultimately, Christianity was brutally eradicated from Japanese soil, as Japan banned not only religious elements but all foreign entities.



The Sakoku Edict of 1639 signalled the end of the dynamic Christian Century and consequently a two centuries period of Japanese seclusion from the world. The brief Christian Century in Japan from the mid-sixteenth century to the mid-seventeenth century was characterized by a paradox. Nowhere did Christian missionaries receive a heartier welcome, yet nowhere were they more savagely destroyed.1 The Christian missionaries failed in Japan, despite initial success, due to the political implications of these foreign bodies in a country increasingly concerned with peace and stability brought on by centralized authority. The Japanese rulers interpreted the Jesuits’ alliance with local political powers as interfering with internal affairs. Furthermore, the patronage of the Iberian Empire aroused images of imperial conquests. Lastly, the massive true conversions among the lay people created a subversive atmosphere. Hence the Japanese rulers merely tolerated missionary activity due to its ties to the silk trade. Eventually, however, the need for political security overshadowed economic motivations, leading to the brutal eradication of Christianity from Japan. The Jesuit missionaries initially found a favourable situation in Japan, for the Japanese were engrossed in their foreign wisdom. The Portuguese ships brought arquebuses which garnered the interests of the Japanese.2 The western technologies that the Jesuits introduced to Japan, such as fine crystals, spectacles, brocades and clocks, impressed the backward Japanese.3 Unlike the Chinese who regarded these foreigners as barbarians, the Japanese willingly took initiative in seeking new knowledge.4 This open attitude distinguished Japan from China and won the favour of the Jesuits. Francis Xavier was so taken with the Japanese that he envisioned Japan as a Catholic island as a replacement for the heretic British Isles.5 The affable rapport between the Portuguese Jesuits and Japanese facilitated the introduction of Christianity onto Japanese society.

Christianity offered stability to the Japanese who were disillusioned by constant warfare and religious sectionalism. Religious discussion flourished in various circles among Japan. In fact, women’s social groups consisting of wives of local lords frequently discussed Christianity, comparing it to other religions.6 Kitanomandokoro, the military leader Hideyoshi’s wife, exclaimed that Christianity appeared to be superior than Japanese religions due to its 1 2 3

G. B. Sansom, The Western World and Japan (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1965), 174. Ibid., 105.

Bailey W. Diffie, Foundations of the Portuguese Empire 1415-1580 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1977), 401. 4 5 6

Sansom 175. Diffie, 392.

Tomoko Kitagawa, “The Conversion of Hideyoshi’s Daughter Go,” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 34, no.1 (2007): 23.


Kirishitan a Political Threat?: The Failure of the Christian Century in Early Modern Japan

adherence to one truth rather than the divergent Buddhist doctrines.7 The unity and stability the Christian faith promised attracted the Japanese who struggled through incessant feuding among rival sects. In addition, the strong moral teachings of Christianity matched the Japanese samurai values.8 As a result, Christian beliefs found a receptive audience in Japan. The spiritual activities of the Jesuits were welcomed in Japan; however, political activities were not.

The Christian Century in Japan coincided with the political evolution of decentralized feudal Japan to a central and stable nation. Japan endured long periods of warfare in which contending local factions fought for supremacy.9 This time period, known as Sengoku Jidai (Country at War), destabilized the country as local daimyo competed to increase their political domain while Japan was devoid of central authority.10 With the emergence of Oda Nobunga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu, however, the country became united under a single military power: the shogun.11 This unification of the island introduced relative peace and stability, which the central powers sought to maintain.12 The Tokugawa especially embarked on a policy that guarded their absolute political power over the country, suppressing rival powers and revolts. For instance, the Tokugawa strategically reorganized fiefdoms to equalize political powers of the local daimyo.13 This transformation in the Japanese domestic sphere had consequences for the foreign missionaries. As an alien entity, the Jesuit Mission took on an unwelcome political dimension.

By focusing on the local leaders who constantly competed for dominance, the Jesuit Mission inadvertently entrenched itself in Japanese politics. Valignano firmly believed that the most effective method of spreading Christianity was through the local daimyo who had the power to induce their subjects to accept Christianity.14 As a result, political patronage became the foundation of the Mission’s existence in Japan.15 Jesuit activity depended 7 8

Ibid., 20.

George Elison, Deus Destroyed: The Image of Christianity in Early Modern Japan (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988), 45. 9

Sansom, 108.


John Nelson, “Myths, Missions, and Mistrust: the Fate of Christianity in 16th and 17th century Japan,” History and Anthropology 13, no. 2 (2002): 97. 11

Ikuo Higashibaba, Christianity in Early Modern Japan: Kirishitan Belief and Practice (Boston: Brill, 2001),127. 12

Joao Paulo Olivera Costa, “The Brotherhoods (Confrarias) and Lay Support for the Early Christian Church in Japan,” Japanese Journal of 68. 13 14

Sansom, 170.

J. F. Moran, The Japanese and the Jesuits: Alessandro Valignano in sixteenth-century Japan (New York: Routledge, 1993), 97. 15

Elison, 85.



largely upon the cooperation and favour of the local daimyo. Yet, due to the instability of political power in Japan, Christianity’s status was never secure. The fate of Christianity in Japan depended upon the changing political scene of Sengoku Jidai (Country at War).16 Thus, missionary effort focused largely on obtaining the favour of the Japanese daimyo to the Jesuit mission. This mobilization of powerful individuals affected the internal political structure of Japan. The Jesuit mission failed to separate itself from politics. The political dimensions of the Jesuit mission resulted from the intricate ties between the Portuguese involvements in the Sino-Japanese silk trade. The financial issues of the Jesuits necessitated Jesuit links to the Macao trade. Although the Portuguese Empire and the Catholic Church fervently encouraged missionary endeavours, receiving funding was difficult. The Portuguese crown failed to be a reliable patron, as the unpredictability of the long voyages between Lisbon and Japan resulted in unstable and irregular monetary support.17 Papal sources also proved to be irregular.18 Moreover, the local Kirishitan community could not fully support the Japanese Church either. The Christian daimyo, despite their local authority, had little economic resources due to incessant warfare. In fact, their main source of income was rice, which the daimyo distributed to the samurai as stipend.19 Although the donations of local Christians supplied many Jesuit projects, Valignano believed that their contributions could not maintain the mission alone.20 Therefore, the Society had to resort to an alternative and controversial source – the profitable silk trade.

The Christian missions’ fate was closely tied to the Macao silk trade. Valignano estimated that half the financial requirement of the mission was met by the profits from the Macao trade.21 Undoubtedly, the Jesuit mission depended upon the annual arrival of the Great Ship. This combination of religion and material incentives embarrassed the Japanese Jesuits, yet no other option seemed to be available. Consequently, although a formal ban on ecclesiastical trading existed, Pope Gregory XIII permitted the Jesuits in Japan to be involved in commercial trade.22 Despite criticisms from the Chinese Jesuits and Spanish Franciscans, the silk trade remained as an 16 17 18

Ibid., 21.

Moran, 42.

Andrew C. Ross, A Vision betrayed: The Jesuits in Japan and China 1542-1742 (Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh Press, 1994), 91. 19

C. R. Boxer, The Christian Century in Japan 1549-1650 (Los Angeles: University of California Press,1967), 115. 20 21 22

Costa, 71; Ross, 91. Elison, 102.

Boxer, 118.


Kirishitan a Political Threat?: The Failure of the Christian Century in Early Modern Japan

integral financial source for the Jesuit Society.23 The “China-ship alms,” as Father Cabral eloquently framed, allowed for the Christian mission in Japan to flourish.24 Unfortunately, this dependence on commercial trade compromised the Jesuits. The Jesuit’s association with the Great Ships were not only a source of economic power, but political power as well.

The Jesuits in fact manipulated the Great Ships to draw local lords who sought to enhance their economic stature to Christianity. Many local lords believed that Christianity ensured the Great Ships to dock at their harbours.25 The Jesuits used the economic motives of the daimyo to their advantage, persuading captain-majors to land only in harbours of cooperating daimyo.26 For example, the lord of Hidaro reopened the church once he heard that the Portuguese trade ships refused to enter an anti-Christian port.27 Hence, the Great Ships induced the daimyo to adopt a friendly attitude toward the Jesuits. On the other hand, the local lords demanded their subjects to renounce their faith if profits from the Portuguese trade were inadequate.28 The conversion of local daimyo, and subsequently their subjects, depended upon the arrival of the Great Ships. Valignano even wrote that “after the grace and favour of God, the greatest help that we have had hitherto in securing Christians is that of the Great Ships.”29 The allure of material profits attracted powerful lords to Christianity, which posed political problems to the emerging central political power. The Jesuits invited further political contention through the establishment of Jesuit political sovereignty over the Japanese territory of Nagasaki The local lord Omura Sotorin, baptized Barholomeu, conceded Nagasaki Bay to the Jesuits in the hopes of securing profits from the Great Ships’ voyages and to guard against a rival daimyo, Ryuzoji.30 The transfer of Nagasaki into Jesuit authority resulted in the gain of a thousand ducats per year for the Jesuits and three thousand ducats for Omura.31 Not only were there financial benefits, but the Jesuits also acquired a formal voice in the regulation of Portuguese trade.32 Furthermore, Nagasaki acted as a semi23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32

Ibid., 120.

Boxer., 55.

Sansom, 124.

Nelson, 98.

Sansom, 124. Ross, 48.

Boxer, 93.

Diffie, 403.

Nelson, 99.

Elison, 101.



military colony fortified against Japanese aggression.33 This presence of Jesuit political authority on Japanese soil alarmed the Japanese rulers, who regarded the Jesuit possession of Nagasaki as an encroachment of Japanese sovereignty. In response to this threat, Hideyoshi reabsorbed Nagasaki under his political domain.34 Nonetheless, the Nagasaki affair encouraged the notion that the Christian missionaries had devious political motives.

The increasing influence of Christianity in Japan raised the problem of the political allegiance of the Christian daimyo. The rapid and expansive submission of local lords to Christianity produced uneasiness among the Japanese central powers, who struggled to assert their political authority. This suspicion was confirmed by the Jesuits’ insensitive remarks. In 4 May 1586, the Jesuit superior Father Coelho had an audience with Hideyoshi which outwardly seemed a success, but in reality produced disastrous results.35 Father Coelho, in his eagerness to please Hideyoshi, promised the collaboration of Christian daimyo in Hideyoshi’s campaign to subdue the unruly fiefdoms.36 Coelho unconsciously stated that the Jesuit Society commanded the loyalty of Christian lords in not only spiritual matters, but secular matters as well. The Kirishitan presence supporting Toyotomi Hideyori against Ieyatsu at the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600 did nothing to qualms of a Christian political threat.37 The fear that major daimyo would conspire with the foreign Jesuits and their links to military firearms to overthrow the Tokugawa reign permeated through the early seventeenth century.38 The presence of Christianity among the powerful imposed a threat on Japanese central authority. The Jesuit Society increasingly demonstrated similar traits to the despised military Buddhist sects which wielded political power. One of the reasons Christianity enjoyed success in Japan was due to the decline of Buddhism. Nobunga disliked Buddhists for their interference in the political arena and militant use of force.39 In contrast, Nobunga thought that Christians knew their place, dealing only in spiritual matters. Thus, Christianity enjoyed the protection of Nobunga and his anti-Buddhist stance.40 Yet the growing influence of the Japanese Church revealed that the Jesuit missionaries shared similarities with their religious opponents. In fact, the shoguns increasingly 33 34 35 36 37

Ibid., 102.

J. S. A. Elisonas, “Journey to the West,” Japanese Religious Studies 34, no.1 (2007): 47. Elison, 112.

Nelson, 101.

Many Christian daimyo had to flee after Hideyori’s defeat, incluing Hideyoshi’s daughter’s Go. Kitagawa, 21. 38 39 40

Sansom, 179.

Nelson, 99.

Ross, 51.


Kirishitan a Political Threat?: The Failure of the Christian Century in Early Modern Japan

identified the Kirishitan with the Ikko, who displayed strong single mindedness in their faith.41 The parallel between the expanding political influence of missionaries and the Buddhists foreshadowed the heightening anti-Christian attitude of the Japanese rulers. This image of Christianity as a political threat was exacerbated by the national rivalry between the Jesuits and the Franciscans. The Portuguese Jesuits objected to the Spanish Franciscan arrival to Japan, claiming a violation of the Treaty of Tordesailles.42 In addition, the Franciscans displayed a complete disregard for the delicate Christian toleration in Japan, encouraging their converts to burn Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. This method succeeded in the Spanish missions in Mesoamerica; however, the Japanese situation greatly differed from Mexico.43 While the Jesuits operated cautiously after Hideyoshi’s edict banning missionaries in 1587, the Franciscans displayed apolistic fervour, openly flouting Japanese law.44 This blatant disrespect for Japanese sovereignty underscored the dangers of the foreign Christian forces in destabilizing internal Japanese politics. Moreover, the clear separation of the Portuguese and Spanish missions emphasized the ties to foreign colonial Empires. The imperial implications of the Christian missions antagonized the Japanese rulers. The fact that missionary activity was sponsored by foreign powers who boasted vast empires did not go unnoticed. The widespread anti-Christian literature of the Tokugawa period encouraged the notion that missionary activity hid designs of European imperialism.45 In the famous novel Kirishitan Kanagak or “Christians in Plain Text,” the author Chijiwa, an apostate, argued that Christianity involved a conspiracy of world domination.46 The San Felipe incident cemented this idea, as Spanish ships revealed the power of the Spanish Empire and activities of missions in paving the way for foreign invasion.47 Aware of Spanish conduct in the Philippines and activities of conquistadores, the Tokugawa feared a foreign conquest of Japan. For example, in 1622 the shogun allegedly discovered evidence linking the Catholic Church to a Spanish invasion of Japan.48 The threat of the Christian missionaries and their power pressed upon the Japanese shoguns and their internal rule. 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48

Higashibaba, 129. Moran, 46.

Nelson, 102.

Sansom, 131. Elison, 134.

Elisonas, 48. Ross, 75.

Sansom, 172.



The concern that the Christian missionaries wielded too much power was compounded by its success among the Japanese population irrespective of anti-Christian laws. The Japanese Church boasted a significant native population. In fact, the Japanese carried out most daily activities regarding the Church, not the Portuguese.49 The indigenous Kirishitans – many long time believers or born into Christian families – formed brotherhoods or confraternities.50 These local groups, such as the infamous Misericórdias, acted as comprehensive welfare institutions from caring for the sick to providing dowries for orphan girls.51 Japanese catechists also played a crucial role in missionary activity. For instance, the female catechists within Hideyoshi’s castle acted as an integral communication channel for the padres in spreading Christianity throughout the castle.52 Women catechists were instrumental in the conversion of Hideyoshi’s daughter Go.53 Therefore the extensive involvement of local Japanese within the Church structure reinforced the notion of Christianity’s power over the population. The large Church community caused great alarm regarding the possibility of mass insurrections. By 1615, approximately 750,000 Japanese Christians resided in Japan, accounting for one and a half percent of the population.54 The shoguns were wary of this large presence of Christians who exhibited questionable loyalties. The shoguns regarded the various confraternities with some having up to 9,000 members as militant lay communities.55 The social and political power of these communities in undermining the Japanese rulers’ power could not be ignored. For example, during a local persecution of eight Christian families at Atima, a large crowd of 20, 000 gathered singing and praying for the martyrs.56 This overt display of solidarity and disregard for anti-Christian policies appeared to mock and ridicule the authority of the shoguns. Not surprisingly, a peasant rebellion of mostly Christians broke out in 1637 in response to grievances over taxes and harsh persecutions of Christians.57 The Shimabara rebellion illustrated how deeply Christianity permeated through segments of Japanese society. The Japanese Christians posed a threat to Japan’s internal stability through their fervent devotion to their faith. 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57

Costa, 71.

Costa., 79.

Elisonas, 55.

Kitagawa, 14.

Ibid., 22.

Higashibaba, 138. Costa, 77. Ross, 93.

Nelson, 105.


Kirishitan a Political Threat?: The Failure of the Christian Century in Early Modern Japan

Despite the hostility towards Christianity, Japanese rulers permitted missionary activity due to its ties with the profitable Macao silk trade. The annual Great Ships not only aided in converting souls, but was also the basis of toleration for the Church’s existence.58 The Portuguese held a monopoly on the Macao-Nagasaki silk trade, profiting from the prohibition on trade between China and Japan.59 Thus, the Portuguese became instrumental in providing the high demands for Chinese silk in Japan.60 The role of the Jesuits as facilitators of this trade was crucial. For example, Ieyasu appointed the Jesuit Tcuzzu as an official agent in Nagasaki responsible for the Chinese silk trade.61 Similarly, Hideyoshi’s desire to engage in trade with the Philippines ensured the presence of Spanish Franciscans in Japan.62 Hence Christian missionaries survived because they were indispensable for Japanese rulers seeking foreign trade. However, the arrival of the Dutch and English who had no religious motives eliminated the need for Christian missionaries in Japan. The Dutch and English allowed for foreign trade without the intervention of the missionaries.63 Moreover, the protestant Dutch aided in spreading antiIberian and anti-Catholic sentiment in Japan with the establishment of a trading post at Hirado.64 The protestant Will Adams, who became Ieyasu’s chief advisor, warned of “papist pirates” and missionaries’ roles in imperial conquests.65 Thus, the Tokugawa ruler sought to increase in secular trade with the English and Dutch, while diminishing the Iberian trade and its religious links. Already in 1612, Portuguese ships were limited to Nagasaki.66 Not surprisingly, even after the closing of the country to all foreign contact including trade, a few Dutch merchants were allowed to continue trade at Nagasaki Bay.67 Nevertheless, the introduction of secular trade removed the justification for the continual existence of dangerous foreign Christian missionaries. The persecutions of Christians magnified. The mass persecutions of Christians followed the increasing implementation of anti-Christian law. Although Hideyoshi’s edict in 1587 58 59 60 61 62

Boxer, 104. Ibid., 106.

Diffie, 396. Ross, 91.

The Spanish government required that Franciscans be used as emissaries for Japanese negotiations for trade with Manilla. Sansom,131. 63 64 65 66 67

Higashibaba, 137. Ross, 80.

Nelson, 102.

Higashibaba, 137.

Sansom, 178.



was not strictly enforced, by 1614 the situation had changed. The 1614 edict issued by Ieyasu expanded the previous decree banning the practice of Christianity and expelling all Christian priests and foreigners from Japan.68 Although enforcement of the law was sporadic, harsh persecutions took place locally, resulting in large numbers of martyrdoms.69 The advent of Hidetaya, Ieyasu’s successor, elevated the persecutions to a mass systematic campaign which intensified even more under his successor Iemitsu.70 The horrific martyrdoms at Kyoto, Nagasaki and Edo demonstrated the Tokugawa’s fierce desire to eradicate Christianity from Japan.71 In 1633, Iemitsu prohibited overseas travel closing the country off from the world.72 Even the lure of economic profits could not save the Japanese Christians. Consequently, the Tokugawa embarked on a campaign to eliminate Christianity and foreign forces that threatened the stability of centralized Japan. Christianity contributed to the history of early modern Japan. The Jesuit missionaries converted hundreds and thousands of Japanese lost souls to Christianity. The missionaries opened Japan’s doors to the world, which had paradoxical consequences, inviting increased trade but also unwanted foreign influences in Japanese domestic politics. Due to this political dimension of the Christian missionaries, Japan ultimately rejected Christianity in favour of cultivating internal peace and stability. The rise of Christian local lords threatened the central powers of Japanese rulers who sought absolute authority. Furthermore, these Japanese rulers viewed the Christian missionaries as analogous to the Portuguese and Spanish Empire. The very success of Christianity in reaching the Japanese masses accounted for the missions’ failure, as the Japanese rulers became wary of mass support for Christianity. As a result, Christianity was brutally eliminated from Japanese soil, as Japan blocked itself off from all foreign forces. Yet, the severity of the measures revealed the extent to which Christianity permeated through Japan during the Christian Century.

68 69 70 71 72

Ross, 80.

Sansom, 171. Ross, 82.

Higashibaba, 140.

Nelson, 155.


Kirishitan a Political Threat?: The Failure of the Christian Century in Early Modern Japan

Bibliography Boxer, C.R. The Christian Century in Japan 1549-1650. Berkley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1967. Costa, Joao Paulo Oliviera. “The Brotherhoods (Confrarias) and Lay Support for the Early Christian Church in Japan.” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 34 (2007): 67-84.

Diffie, Bailey W. Foundations of the Portuguese Empire 1415-1580. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1977. Elison, George. Deus Destroyed: The Image of Christianity in Early Modern Japan. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988.

Elisonas, J.S.A. “Journey to the West.” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 34 (2007): 27-66. Higashibaba, Ikuo. Christianity in Early Modern Japan: Kirishitan Belief and Practice. Bosotn: Brill, 2001.

Kitagawa, Tomoko. “The Conversion of Hideyoshi’s Daughter Go.” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 34 (2007): 9-25. Moran, J.F. The Japanese and the Jesuits: Alessandro Valignano in sixteenthcentury Japan. New York: Routledge, 1993.

Nelson, John. “Myths, Missions, and Mistrust: The Fate of Christianity in 16th and 17th century Japan.” History and Anthropology 13, no. 2 (2002): 93-111. Ross, Andrew C. A Vision Betrayed: The Jesuits in Japan and China 1542-1742. Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh Press, 1994. Sansom, G.B. The Western World and Japan. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1965.




ABSTRACT: My essay, “A Text-Based Interpretation of the Happy Fish Paradox” is an attempt to explain a paradoxical argument between Zhuangzi the Daoist sage and Hui Shi the dialectician and politician. The debate has been mystifying to some Western readers; as Peter Hoffman puts it: “This little story had become a symbol. A symbol for the problems Westerners have with China or, in less self-critical instances, a symbol for the illogical queerness of Chinese thinking.”1 In contrast, the central issue in Eastern scholarly debate is who won the argument.2

Hoffman argues that the ambiguity of interpretation of Classical Chinese allows us to understand the debate as artistic and linguistic playfulness, whereas Norman Teng argues against Hansen’s thesis that Zhuangzi won the debate. Teng instead shows that Hui Shi’s dialectic moves correspond to the forms of logical debate contemporary to the exchange to argue for the legitimacy of Hui Shi’s positions. My own strategy is to closely read the debate and compare it with other parts of Zhuangzi’s philosophy to show that the exchange itself is best understood as an expression of Zhuangzi’s philosophy. The argument is not an expression of a philosophical claim or an argument, as other parts of Zhuangzi’s writing is, but a recapitulation of essential points of his philosophy, such as the undermining of the value of dialectic, the transcendent unity of the world in the unknowable Dao, and the strong attention to philosophical relativism. I take the Happy Fish Paradox to be debate-as-metaphor, and an effective, dense expression of Zhuangzi’s Daoism. Both interlocutors’ characters are integral to understanding the text so I make their characters explicit. I accept that Zhuangzi’s philosophical positions are true, at least hypothetically, in order to see how they could help us understand this passage. Because of the position each disputant holds relative to Zhuangzi’s relativist philosophy, we should not attempt to understand the debate in absolute terms or to understand it absolutely. After all, Zhuangzi states that argumentation is limited in its use, and there are important truths that are inexpressible. Keeping this in mind, it may be reasonable to see Hui Shi and Zhuangzi as sharing a moment of deep contemplation instead of chopping logic at each other, and Zhuangzi’s apparently glib last word can be given a depth appropriate to someone characterized as a sage of great enlightenment. 1

Peter Hoffman “Yuzhile: The Joy of Fishes, or, The Play of Works” aktuell/paperYuzhile.doc 2

Norman Y Teng, “The Relatively Happy Fish Revisited”, Asian Philosophy 16, no. 1 (2006), http://


A Text-Based Interpretation of the Happy Fish Paradox

In this essay I examine the Happy Fish Paradox and argue for an interpretation of the exchange by appeal to a close reading of the “Autumn Floods” and the “Qi Wu Lun”, both from Yutang Lin’s translation. Two philosophical difficulties are raised by the argument between Hui Shi and Zhuangzi: the epistemic limitation of the subjective perspective, and the impossibility of expressing the objective perspective. I refer to the first issue throughout as the Relativist Problem, and the second issue as the TaoPerspective. Each of these issues is deeply connected with sections of the “Autumn Floods” and of the “Qi Wu Lun.” Through analysis of these issues relative to many areas of the text, I intend to show that the Happy Fish Paradox can be understood as a demonstration of Zhuangzi’s philosophy. I will begin by characterizing the two interlocutors. (In this essay, I will quote extensively from the texts, as it is necessary for the interpretation.) Zhuangzi is said in the “Autumn Floods” to be an enlightened sage, and in some sense, above argument1. Also, Zhuangzi tells Hui Shi, through analogy, that he is nobler and more sophisticated in his tastes2. It is reasonable to ascribe to Zhuangzi the deep understanding described in the “Autumn Floods” and the “Qi Wu Lun,” because he is unequivocally described as being enlightened, and, given that this is his philosophy it is reasonable to assume that his descriptions of a deep and mysterious wisdom are from experience3. In so doing, what specifically are we ascribing to Zhuangzi? 1

1) That affirmations and denials are not his purview nor strictly relevant to his positions4,

“I vanquished the wisdom of all the philosophers, and overcame the arguments of all people. I thought that I had indeed understood everything. But now that I’ve heard Chuang-tzu, I am lost in astonishment. I know not whether it is in arguing or in knowledge that I am not equal to him.” Chuang Tzu Chapters in Lin Yutang’s Translation, ( html#11). Autumn Floods, section 7. “Chuang-tzu is now climbing up from the realms below to reach high heaven. For him no north or south… no east or west - starting from the Mystic Unknown, he returns to the Great Unity. And yet you think you are going to find his truth by dogged inquiries and arguments!” - Autumn Floods, section 7. 2 3

Autumn Floods, section 9.

Questions about which parts of the text are more likely to be genuinely reflective of Zhuangzi than other parts are not within the scope of this essay, and it is broadly assumed that both the Autumn Floods and the Qi Wu Lun are sufficiently reflective of Zhuangzi for the purposes of this paper. 4

“Judgements of true and false were still unknown. When these appeared, Tao began to decline. And with the decline of Tao, individual bias (subjectivity) arose.” Chuang Tzu Chapters in Lin Yutang’s Translation, ( Wu Lun, section 8. “The true Sage keeps his knowledge within him, while men in general set forth theirs in argument, in order to convince each other. And therefore it is said that one who argues does so because he cannot see certain points… speech which argues falls short of its aim.” Qi Wu Lun, section 11. “How can Tao be obscured so that there should be a distinction of true and false? … Each denying what the other affirms and affirming what the other denies brings us only into confusion.” Qi Wu Lun, section 5.



2) That he is aware of the unity of all things5, which is part of the cause of the next property, 3) That the normal strong restrictions of the individual’s perspective do not apply to him. This is not to say that he is omniscient, but only that as a wise sage, he is aware of the inescapable limitations involved in perspective, and has access to the truth of universality mentioned in 2. 6

If we grant that Zhuangzi has all of these characteristics, which is evidenced by the text, then his position in the debate with Hui Shi should not be taken as expressing any highly specified philosophical claims: after all, “Tao by its very nature can never be defined.”7 Rather, we can understand that Zhuangzi is engaging with Hui Shi in the debate that the latter has challenged him to, and using it as a vehicle to express, via metaphor, the indefinable Tao, and other aspects of his philosophy. This will be further explored later. Hui Shi is a politician and a very talented dialectician8, but as has been evidenced by passages already referenced, argument is not a legitimate path to enlightenment or ultimate truth. Also, he is afraid of Zhuangzi, seeing him as a threat to his political power9. It is clear by his line of argument in the 5 “There is nothing under the canopy of heaven greater than the tip of a bird’s down in autumn, while the T’ai Mountain is small… The universe and I came into being together; I and everything therein are One.” Qi Wu Lun, section 9. “Which being the case, the true sage rejects all distinctions and takes his refuge in Heaven (Nature) … When this (subjective) and that (objective) are both without their correlates, that’s the very ‘Axis of Tao.’ And when that Axis passes through the centre at which all Infinities converge, affirmations and denials alike blend into the infinite One.” Qi Wu Lun, section 5. 6

“Does then the distinction between this and that really exist or not? When this (subjective) and that (objective) are both without their correlates, that’s the very ‘Axis of Tao.’” Qi Wu Lun, section 5. “Only the truly intelligent understand this principle of the levelling of all things into One. They discard the distinctions and take refuge in the common and ordinary things… the true Sage brings all the contraries together and rests in the natural Balance of Heaven.” Qi Wu Lun, section 7. “Judgements of true and false were still unknown. When these appeared, Tao began to decline. And with the decline of Tao, individual bias (subjectivity) arose.” Qi Wu Lun, section 8. 7 8

Qi Wu Lun, Section 10

“Hueitse (the sophist) stopped arguing, they all understood the approach of Tao. These people are the best in their arts, and therefore known to posterity.” Qi Wu Lun, section 8.

9 “ ‘Hueitse was Prime Minister in the Liang State, and Chuang-tzu was on his way to see him.

Someone remarked, “Chuang-tzu has come. He wants to be minister in your place.’ Thereupon Hueitse was afraid, and searched all over the country for three days and three nights to find him.” Autumn Floods, section 9. Demotivation for taking Hui Shi to be afraid of Zhuangzi can be found in other encounters between them. An explanation of their relationship that takes all evidence into account would be best, but my claim should be taken to be limited to just that Hui Shi is portrayed, in this piece of the text, as afraid of Zhuangzi.


A Text-Based Interpretation of the Happy Fish Paradox

Happy Fish debate that Hui Shi is inclined to relativism10 and this has been persuasively argued for by Chad Hansen11. However, given his fear of Zhuangzi, and the establishment of Zhuangzi as a sage and Hui Shi as a dialectician (recall the usefulness of argument is downplayed), it is reasonable to think of Zhuangzi as the superior intellectual, at least insofar as the texts I am focusing on indicate.

In the argument itself, I follow, mainly, the analysis put forth by Chad Hansen in “The Relatively Happy Fish” (Hansen, 2003). It is a five part argument: i) Zhuangzi comments that the playful swimming of the fish is their happiness; ii) Hui Shi challenges this claim, saying that Zhuangzi is not a fish, and asking how he can know this; iii) Zhuangzi rebuts by asking how Hui Shi, not being Zhuangzi, can know that Zhuangzi does not know; iv) Hui Shi takes the relativist position implied by Zhuangzi’s rebuttal, and presents the parallel that he does not know what Zhuangzi does or does not know, and likewise, Zhuangzi does not know what the fish are experiencing (here, Hui Shi contradicts himself); v) Zhuangzi says that in his first question, Hui Shi, asking a procedural question (“How do you know?”), took it for granted that Zhuangzi did in fact know, and offers the somewhat glib answer that he knew it over the Hao river.12 The Relativist Problem is the problem for knowledge posed by the limits of perspective. Zhuangzi is challenged by the claim that he cannot know where fish happiness lies, since, not being a fish, he does not see things from their perspective. Similarly, Hui Shi cannot know whether Zhuangzi knows, because he is not Zhuangzi. I provided a characterization of Zhuangzi in order to provide support for the position that Zhuangzi may surmount the Relativist Problem. Given the presence of relativism as well as a disdain for sophisticated argument and precision, I feel that the best way to describe how Zhuangzi knows the happiness of the fish is that he “just knows,” without any argument in support of the position. Though this is typically a very unphilosophical way of knowing, argument is undermined in these texts. Also, the awareness of fish happiness may be one of the “common and ordinary things” to which a sage should attend, instead of obscurities13, and indeed, a philosophical justification for his epistemic access is quite likely 10 11

12 13

Autumn Floods, section 10.

Hansen, Chad, “The Relatively Happy Fish,” Asian Philosophy, 13:2, (2003): 145-164, pg.148.

Autumn Floods, section 10.

“Only the truly intelligent understand this principle of the levelling of all things into One. They discard the distinctions and take refuge in the common and ordinary things. The common and ordinary things serve certain functions and therefore retain the wholeness of nature. From this wholeness, one comprehends, and from comprehension, one comes near to the Tao.” Qi Wu Lun, section 7. “Therefore the true Sage discards the light that dazzles and takes refuge in the common and ordinary. Through this comes understanding.” Qi Wu Lun, section 8.



to violate the injunction toward common and ordinary things, as well as the injunction against argument. In addition, we may allow that the unity of all things grants him access to the fish’s consciousness in a holistic way. This interpretation would be consistent with v, in which Zhuangzi claims that Hui Shi does know that Zhuangzi knows; a claim which goes against the inescapable perspective limitations of the Relativist Problem by offering the Tao-Perspective as a solution. How this solution works is expanded on below. Another aspect of the Relativist Problem which is demonstrative of Zhuangzi’s philosophy as a whole is the subtle way in which Hui Shi’s position is frustrated. It may be true that one knower must be identical to a subject in order to know the latter’s inner mental states. It would follow from this that Zhuangzi does not know fish happiness. But it is impossible for Hui Shi to assert that Zhuangzi does not know fish happiness because it equally follows from this epistemic barrier to other minds that Hui Shi does not know whether Zhuangzi knows. This is a highly condensed and effective expression of the inability to make a statement from the perspective of, as it were, nowhere, or the objective perspective. If we take the Happy Fish Paradox as a demonstration of Zhuangzi’s philosophy, as I am arguing we should, then this does not need to be interpreted as Zhuangzi winning the debate or Hui Shi losing; the answer to that would depend on what philosophical dogma is brought to the analysis. Rather, this is an instance of a skilled dialectician falling into the sort of perspective-related difficulties cautioned against throughout the “Qi Wu Lun”14. This is not to say that the idea Hui Shi is trying to communication is wrong but that the perspective from which there is a “fact” of the matter is not available to him, or at least, not expressible by him. This “perspective from nowhere” is, I propose, the Tao-Perspective, an integral aspect of Zhuangzi’s philosophy and also well demonstrated in the Happy Fish Paradox. It is demonstrated by Hui Shi in his fumbled attempt to grasp it, and by Zhuangzi in his possession of it in knowing both Hui Shi’s inner states and the fish’s. The Tao-Perspective is evasive, but when it is said that “this (subjective) and that (objective) are both without their correlates, that’s the very ‘Axis of Tao’” (Qi Wu Lun, section 5), or that “the true Sage brings all the contraries together and rests in the natural Balance of Heaven” (Qi Wu Lun, section 7), I believe a non-perspective is being advocated. What precisely this is I cannot describe, for reasons demonstrated by Hui Shi, but there are parts of the “Autumn Floods” that advocate negation of self15, which seems to be a 14

“If then all things are One, what room is there for speech? On the other hand, since I can say the word ‘one’ how can speech not exist? … And thus, among distinctions made, there are distinctions that cannot be made; among things expounded, there are things that cannot be expounded.” Qi Wu Lun, section 10. 15

“ ‘I’ve heard say, ‘The man of Tao has no (concern) reputation; the truly virtuous has no (concern for) possessions; the truly great man ignores self.’ This is the height of self-discipline.’ … “From the point of view of Tao,” replied the Spirit of the Ocean, “there are no such distinctions


A Text-Based Interpretation of the Happy Fish Paradox

plausible means to taking the Tao-Perspective as one’s own. Consider that the Tao-Perspective is the solution to the problem of the limits on a subjective perspective. Negation of self, and negation of subjectivity, while retaining perspective, is a cogent way to understand reaching the Tao-Perspective. The idea of the Tao-Perspective is useful in explaining those parts of the “Qi Wu Lun” that detail that the sage “keeps his knowledge within him” (section 11), and that “perfect Tao cannot be given a name” (section 11). Also, the difficulties posed to speech and discourse by the unity of all things are clarified by the Tao-Perspective: if you are looking from nowhere, how can you express what you see in language, which is inherently perspective-based?

The debate seemingly leads to a stalemate when Hui Shi contradicts himself, though reasoning well, in claiming that Zhuangzi cannot know the happiness of a fish. Zhuangzi responds with apparent sophistry, saying that Hui Shi implicitly assumed that Zhuangzi did know fish happiness by asking ‘how’ he knew, as a procedural question. He then says he knows the fish happiness over the Hao. This apparently unsatisfactory ending can be understood as Zhuangzi expressing the unity of all things by agreeing that Hui Shi does have access to Zhuangzi’s internal states, just as Zhuangzi has access to the fish’s. This unity of things is seen from the Tao-Perspective, which does not offer arguments or justifications, and this explains why it is legitimate for Zhuangzi to say simply that he knew fish happiness “over the Hao.”

The debate of the Happy Fish Paradox serves as an excellent demonstration of principles which are expressed, albeit obscurely, throughout the “Qi Wu Lun” and the “Autumn Floods.” One principle, which I have called the Relativist Problem, is that argument limits knowledge, as well as aids it, shown by Hui Shi’s grasp of the Tao-Perspective at the same time that he fumbles his attempt to express it. Another is the principle (?) that the comingling of all subjects, in the “Great Unity” (seen from, as I have argued, the Tao-Perspective), is well-expressed by awareness of “common and ordinary” beings around us, just as Zhuangzi knows the happiness of fish. It has been necessary to combine and interpret many statements from these texts in order to interpret the Happy Fish Paradox as an expression, in the form of debate-as-metaphor, of Zhuangzi’s philosophy. But I think such an interpretation is necessary. Zhuangzi’s philosophy is not transparent, and analyzing this debate in isolation from the text in which it occurs does not reveal its merit; Zhuangzi’s philosophy posits a view from nowhere, a transcendent unity, and relativism about truth, all philosophical positions which are unpopular now. But these positions are essential to fully understand this debate, or so I have tried to show; the confusing and opaque nature of the debate is a demonstration of these positions. of high and low… To know that the universe is but as a tare-seed, and the tip of a hair is (as big as) a mountain,—this is the expression of relativity.’ ” Autumn Floods, section 3.



Bibliography Hansen, Chad. “The Relatively Happy Fish.” Asian Philosophy 12, no.2 (2003): 145–164. Hoffman, Peter. “Yuzhile: The Joy of Fishers, or, The Play of Works.” <http://>

Teng, Norman Y. “The Relatively Happy Fish Revisited.” Asian Philosophy 16, no. 1 (2006): 39–47. Yutang, Lin (trans.). Chuang Tzu. Tormod Kinnes. < sa3ra11.html>



is going into his fourth year at U of T as an East Asian Studies specialist and a minor in Zoology. His research interests include contemporary Japanese cinema, literature, new media, Buddhism, food, and just about any paper topic he can affix a bizarre title to. He is honoured and humbled to be included in this yearâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s edition of ON EAST.


is currently completing his third year, which he decided to spend abroad in Seoul. Between studying the Korean language, learning theories in English and speaking to his hometown friends in French, completely lost in translation, he likes to reconsider what he learnt and thought about Korea, and how it relates to what he currently experiences there. So far, he is still confused on a daily-basis, but hopes it might still lead him toward a career in Korean Studies.





ABSTRACT: What is transnational cinema? The discourse tends focus on the ways the national is transcended through cinema to create something called the “transnational,” but this both strengthens the role of a nation’s borders as its most significant feature, and disregards many of the myriad ways the idea of the “nation” relates to the “transnational.” In order to resolve this problem, I consider the works of the Japanese filmmaker Shinya Tsukamoto and the New Zealand filmmaker Jane Campion. Through their treatment of the relationship between physical apparatus, such as props and costumes, and the body/subjectivity of their films’ characters, I believe these two directors present a new way of looking at the problem of the transnational, a cinematic argument of the nation itself as apparatus. These films show the way we fetishize the “national” to the extent that it is drawn into our concept of self and augments our own subjectivity, especially when relating to the “transnational,” thus becoming an apparatus. I then consider the possible role of these films themselves as apparatus to the viewers’ perception of the outside world.


Cyborgs in Hoop Skirts: Apparatus and the Problem of the Transnational in the Films of Shinya Tsukamoto and Jane Campion

“George has fashioned me a metal fingertip. I am quite the town freak, which satisfies.” —Ada McGrath, The Piano.1

When approaching the problem of transnational cinema, it is necessarily by way of the national—the transnational is contingent upon the existence of the nation. But is not enough to simply reify the “nation” as something that must be transgressed or transformed in order to create something called the “transnational.” Andrew Higson asks, “Are the limits of the national the most productive way of framing arguments about cultural diversity and cultural specificity?”2 My answer is no—the focus on the “limits” and the borders of the national that so often characterizes the discourse is but one way to enter into the problem of the representation of cultures, societies and communities in a globalized world. To centre the discussion of the transnational solely on the concept of “border-crossing” effectively strengthens the presence of those boundaries by making them necessary to the creation of meaning in a transnational context, and does not effectively take into account the plurality of ways the concept of the nation can interface with the transnational beyond just being “something which must be moved beyond.” 3

One way to resolve this is to view the transnational—both within cinema and beyond it—as a category that can only exist when mediated through a subjectivity that uses the nation as apparatus. What if the transnational is something that emerges depending on the way in which we use our nation to experience and interact with the world around us? How have we each reified, fetishized and used the “nation” so that it has stopped being an object and has become a part of our concept of self, a subject? How does this newly augmented subjectivity interact with other subjectivities in the context of the transnational? Questions about the self and the apparatus are constantly dealt with in the works of Shinya Tsukamoto and Jane Campion, a “Japanese” and a “New Zealand” filmmaker respectively. In their films, the physical object—most commonly, in the form of a prop or a costume—is obsessed over by both character and director, acting to extend the body both in its subjectivity, how it experiences and interacts with what is outside of it, and its objectivity, how it is experienced and interacted with. These physical apparatus play several roles in the films: as ways to augment and modify perception, as armour, as arsenal, and even as bodies and subjectivities in and of themselves. After an examination of this motif in a wide variety of Campion’s and Tsukamoto’s works, I will go on to consider how the films themselves can act as apparatus to our own experience, and how they clarify, 1

The Piano, DVD, directed by Jane Campion, 1993 (Santa Monica: Lions Gate Entertainment, 1998). 2

Andrew Higson, “The Limiting Imagination of National Cinema,” in Transnational Cinema: The Film Reader, eds. Elizabeth Ezra and Terry Rowden (New York: Routledge, 2006), 23. 3

Ibid., 19



define and challenge the relationship between the subject and object, the national and the transnational. One of, if not the most literal representation of the relationship between the body and the apparatus is the cyborg: the combined human and machine. Tsukamoto’s work is often discussed in terms of how he uses the cyborg figure. Its presence is most obvious in his breakthrough film Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989), in which a salaryman finds metal bursting out of his body, culminating in his becoming a living scrap heap. Yet the cyborg has grown beyond the literal melding of flesh and metal, both in its representation in film and in its academic treatment. As Grayson Cooke points out, the original concept of the “cyborg” was effectively killed when it became a synonym for “human”—for we are all effectively living a cyborg lifestyle in a cyborg realm, our bodies, perception, minds and memories inextricably linked to a wide variety of technology.4 With increasingly flexible views about the relationship between technology and the human—and flexibility also about what those categories actually entail—the cyborg is thus no longer limited to the realm of science fiction, cyberpunk and the imagined future.

One can find this new kind of cyborg in Tsukamoto’s later “noncyberpunk” work, such as A Snake of June (2002), in which the characters communicate through cellphones, see through cameras, and pleasure themselves with vibrators. As Greg Tuck argues, in the opening scene where a woman is driven to orgasm by the flash of a camera, this kind of technological apparatus is “not simply a technology of mediation which captures her sexual being, but a facilitator of it.”5 These physical objects both augment the body’s senses and also act to replace it: Rinko, the main character, for example, is a phone counsellor who exists to most only as a voice on a speaker, and the physical presence of her voyeur for most of the film consists only of the cellphone he sends to her. The cyborg may even be found in films depicting time periods well into the past. Ada, the central character in Jane Campion’s The Piano (1993), could be described as a cyborg herself: completely mute, she communicates through a notepad strung around her neck, and of course, through the titular piano; she dresses in rigid, armourlike hoop skirts and bonnets, and eventually—giving the film an unexpected resonance with Tetsuo—must replace one of her fingers with a jointed metal facsimile. Her voice and tactility are mediated and displaced by physical objects, which thus firmly become part of her pseudo-cyborg subjectivity, the body inextricably linked to the apparatus. Her body itself, however, may be the most important apparatus of all in the film, with regard to both her and the viewer’s experience: her body is the flesh mechanism through which both 4

Grayson Cooke, “Human – 1/Cyborg– 0: A Personal History of a Human-Machine Relation,” Nebula 3, no. 1 (2006): 25. 5

Greg Tuck, “Sex with the City: Urban Spaces, Sexual Encounters and Erotic Spectacle in Tsukamoto Shinya’s Rokugatsu no Hebi—A Snake of June (2003),” Film Studies 11 (2007): 58.


Cyborgs in Hoop Skirts: Apparatus and the Problem of the Transnational in the Films of Shinya Tsukamoto and Jane Campion

perception and performance occur. From the beginning, the film is eminently tactile, set up from the opening shot through Ada’s fingers, her body thus immediately becoming, Gail Jones argues, “not an object but a subject.” 6 This haptic subjectivity continues throughout, with Ada’s sign language being her main method of communication, the erotic her way to freedom, and with her (and the viewer’s) richly textured “vision” of the world being unmistakably based on touch as much as on sight. This serves to evoke something Jamie Bihlmeyer calls “a pre-rational, body centered subjectivity.”7 It is too simplistic to see the metal appendages, notepads, cameras, bonnets, phones and hoop skirts of these films as merely intrusions upon the body, solely external phenomena, or invasions and dilutions of the subject by the object. As Bernd Herzogenrath says in his reading of Tetsuo, “the machine is the essence of the body.”8 The object in these films becomes an apparatus: an extension or even replacement of the centre rather than a mere mediation or obfuscation of it, an augmentation and transformation of subjectivity that may certainly be described as cyborg-esque.

The apparatus in the works of these directors is also intimately connected to the idea of the fetish. The fetishized object or act differs from film to film, but the theme of visceral (often sexual) obsession remains a constant. In Tsukamoto’s work, one can find it in the machine-fixation of Tetsuo (in which the character who starts the transformation process in the salaryman is indeed called “the metal fetishist”), in the sadistic/masochistic play of Tetsuo II: Body Hammer (1992), the body-building and piercings of Tokyo Fist (1995), the voyeurism and exhibitionism of A Snake of June, and the ritualized dissection of the body in Vital (2004). In Campion’s work, it is just as prevalent, and one can find elements of fetish in the Beatles paraphernalia of A Girl’s Own Story (1984), Kay’s neurosis surrounding trees in Sweetie (1989), the rigid, layered costumes and dressing and undressing in The Piano and Portrait of a Lady (1996), the Hindu goddess-like adornments and the male cross-dressing in Holy Smoke (1999), and the bondage and handcuffs of In the Cut (2003). Higson argues that labelling cinema as national “is always to some degree tautologous, fetishising the national rather than merely describing it.”9 Yet the process of fetishization is not necessarily undesirable: the films of Tsukamoto and Campion present an argument for a fetishistic subjectivity, where the obsession with the object is turned outward so that the fetish 6


Gail Jones, The Piano (Sydney: Currency Press, 2007), 13.

Jamie Bihlmeyer, “The (Un)Speakable FEMININITY in Mainstream Movies: Jane Campion’s The Piano,” Cinema Journal 44, no. 2 (2005): 72. 8

Bernd Herzogenrath, “The Question Concerning Humanity: Obsolete Bodies and (Post)Digital Flesh,” Enculturation 3, no. 1 (2000), 9

Higson, 16.



becomes an apparatus to the subject, allowing it to open up the conception of the self and its experience of the world, rather than merely act as a limitation.

In The Piano, for example, the “fetishistic male gaze” is challenged by the film’s alignment with Ada’s tactile subjectivity.10 The view of fetishas-object is also confounded as the fetish is drawn into the subject, the clothes becoming one with the body; Stella Bruzzi notes that “fetishism is dependent on an implied separation of garments from the body (and thus of imagination from fulfilment),” but in the scenes with Ada and Baines, “the (touching of) clothes and body are part of the same ritualistic process.”11 In her transgressive desires and her choice to use jouissance «as a support of subjectivity,» Samir Dayal argues in a Lacanian analysis of the film, Ada moves beyond the human, as «only an inhuman being could dwell in or with jouissance.»12

One can see a similar process reflected in Tsukamoto’s A Snake of June. Indeed, it and The Piano essentially share the same basic plot, of a woman’s sexless marriage with the attention of a third man acting as the catalyst to her coming into her own as a sexual being and thus achieving a kind of freedom. The voyeuristic objectification in A Snake of June of the female by the male is met by the exhibitionism of the female subject, the subject/object imbalance of power usually implied by the fetish disrupted and equalized. In Tetsuo, too, the fetishized object—that is, metal—results in a strengthening and liberation of the subject. The fetishistic, sadomasochistic repetition of shots of metal bursting out of flesh, Claudia Attimonelli notes, results in a kind of ecstatic disincarnation, the “loop” acting as a way to achieve a vision of pleasure without end, instead of being something imprisoning or constricting.13 In ways such as these, fetishization is shown in these films to be something other than obsessive and limiting objectification. Instead, it becomes something that enhances and extends subjectivity: the fetish transforms into the apparatus. The exact form the apparatus takes in the works of Campion and Tsukamoto often depends on the heated personal conflicts at the heart of each film, the apparatus becoming the ways in which the characters arm and defend themselves—that is, the apparatus as arsenal and as armour. The weaponized apparatus is particularly prominent in the films of Tsukamoto, from the drill-phallus of Tetsuo and the chest-gun of Tetsuo II: Body Hammer, 10

Stella Bruzzi, “Tempestuous petticoats: costume and desire in The Piano,” Screen 36, no. 3 (1995): 262. 11


Bruzzi, 264.

Samir Dayal, “Inhuman Love: Jane Campion’s The Piano,” Postmodern Culture 12, no. 2 (2001): 39. 13

Claudia Attimonelli, “Techno-logie Incarnate II. Fetish, teorie e videoclip.” E/C Rivista dell’Associazione Italiana di Studi Semiotici (2005): 9.


Cyborgs in Hoop Skirts: Apparatus and the Problem of the Transnational in the Films of Shinya Tsukamoto and Jane Campion

to the hyper-muscled bodies in Tokyo Fist, and of course, the revolver around which the plot hinges in Bullet Ballet (1998). Huang reads the “act of taking on an arsenal body” as the salarymen protagonists' way of mimicking the increasingly abstracted and violent space of the city of Tokyo, resulting from the constructions of global capital.14 The violated concepts of home and nation are quite literally joined to the characters' bodies and manifest within them the paraphernalia of combat and war, a visceral and disturbing, though not necessarily pessimistic argument for the ways in which the nation acts as apparatus in the realm of the transnational—for the destruction unleashed by these weapons eventually results in a firm conclusion and rebirth, even amidst the eschaton.

In Campion's work, the apparatus as armour is equally ubiquitous as the arsenal apparatus is in the films of Tsukamoto, from Ruth's white sari in Holy Smoke to the carapace-like corsets, hoop skirts and bonnets of The Piano, Portrait of a Lady and Bright Star (2009), and the literal carapace of the titular human-insect hybrid in her short film The Lady Bug (2007). These apparatus usually serve as armour for the lead female characters, either literally or psychosocially: in Holy Smoke, Ruth puts on the sari as a symbol of her new faith and to proclaim otherness from her old life and her family; and in Bright Star, the dress-making lead character, Fanny Brawne, adorns herself dramatically with a new costume every scene, most strikingly with the crustacean-like “triple-pleated mushroom collar”15 at the ball. Sometimes the armour is turned against the female characters: Osmond takes away Isabel’s parasol in Portrait of a Lady, and uses it as a “tool of seduction” when he spins it “so that its concentric stripes become hypnotic”16; in Holy Smoke, sunglasses are the only way Ruth's most reasonable brother, Tim, can keep his stoic expression in the face of her desperate pleading during the family intervention. It is also difficult at first to see Ada's large hoop skirt in The Piano as anything but burden and obstacle as she trudges through the mud and the woods, but it later reveals its richness as a symbol of her firm control over her body, fortifying herself as a subject by resisting objectification. This is most obviously the case when the skirt protects her from being raped by Stewart in the woods, but also when it is used as a tent on the beach to create a safe place (and shadow puppet theatre) for mother and child, when Baines during a sex scene is “permitted under the hoops” to pleasure her17, and in one of the most striking scenes of the film, when it slowly balloons 14

Tsung-yi Michelle Huang, “Amidst Slums and Skyscrapers: The Politics of Walking and the Ideology of Open Space in East Asian Global Cities,” PhD diss., State University of New York at Stony Brook, 2001. 15 16

Bright Star, directed by Jane Campion (Newcastle: Jan Chapman Productions, 2009).

Annabel Cooper, “‘I am Isabel, You Know?’: The Antipodean Framing of Jane Campion’s Portrait of a Lady,” M/C Journal 11, no. 5 (2008): 17

Bruzzi, 263.



outwards and cushions her fall when she collapses after her finger is severed by Stewart. Costume in Campion’s films, both period and contemporary, is not a part of the male-imposed female masquerade; they are signs of the female characters' control of their bodies and subjectivities. Armour as apparatus is thus presented in these films not just as a way to close one's self off from the outside, as strengthening the borders of the subject by limiting external influence. It also opens up the subject by empowering it and giving it constancy, allowing it to assert and define itself differently as needed in every context, and not just by the contingencies of that particular situation. I will conclude by discussing one last form the apparatus takes on in these films—that is, as lens. These apparatus become the means through which these directors craft the subjectivity of the film itself, which in turn, becomes apparatus to the subjectivity of the viewer. Campion’s Bright Star sets up its subjectivity with its arresting opening shot, literally through the eye of a needle, and then with another extreme closeup of that needle diving in and out of an expanse of white fabric that fills the screen. The eye of the needle is a fitting representation of subjectivity at its most precise, focused and critical—yet it is not soley deconstructive. It is one thing to deconstruct, but quite another to create something new, and the needle is also the apparatus by which the main character, Fanny, unleashes her creativity and defines herself.

The apparatus as lens also occurs literally in these films: in Tsukamoto’s A Snake of June, the camera is one of the central motifs, and it is through its viewfinder or photographs that we see much of the film. In a later dream sequence, too, this is taken to an extreme: the main character’s husband has a ludicrous cone-like device strapped onto his face, only able to see out of its tiny aperture. Yet the most remarkable aspect of the film is that though it is filmed in black and white, it is entirely tinted blue, an unsettling decision for an erotic (or any) film, as it is one that draws attention to its mediation of our visual experience; conventionally colourized and black and white films, on the other hand, are common enough for their colour schemes to receive no special attention. This radical use of colour affects the viewer’s experience of every scene. Tuck notes that it has the effect of rendering every surface—“skin, sky, the city and the incessant rain”—uniform and boundaryless: “flesh and world merge such that these characters are not simply in the city but of it, creating an entwined complex of the natural and the man made, the flesh-of-the-world.”18 The body and subjectivity are thus extended by the apparatus of “blue” to encompass the entire world of the film, creating an experience where self and other, subject and object, natural and artificial, national and transnational are all one and the same (and all are secondary to the power of human desire). 18

Tuck, 51.


Cyborgs in Hoop Skirts: Apparatus and the Problem of the Transnational in the Films of Shinya Tsukamoto and Jane Campion

The colour wash returns in Tsukamoto's next film, Vital, where blue is joined by orange and green. Vital is concerned with the relationship between the soul and the flesh; both the main character and the camera dissects the body, trying to locate the self within it. This tension is reflected in cinematography that alternates between the subdued, clinical and distant, and the colour-washed, passionate and romantic. Jay McRoy sees the body in the film as â&#x20AC;&#x153;at once cold and sensuous, discretely material and warmly erotic.â&#x20AC;?19 Vital presents an optimistic view of the body, the subject, the nation and the transnational that embraces and thus transcends its contradictions: the self is both within and without the flesh, apart from and deeply connected to the world outside of it. The viewer, perhaps using these films as apparatus to their own subjectivity, may draw the same conclusions while watching them, and considering the power of the works of Campion and Tsukamoto, long afterwards as well.


Jay McRoy, Nightmare Japan: Contemporary Japanese Horror Cinema (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2007): 196.



Bibliography Attimonelli, Claudia. “Techno-logie Incarnate II. Fetish, teorie e videoclip.” E/C Rivista dell’Associazione Italiana di Studi Semiotici (2005). Bihlmeyer, Jaime. “The (Un)Speakable FEMININITY in Mainstream Movies: Jane Campion’s The Piano.” Cinema Journal 44, no. 2 (2005): 68–88. Bruzzi, Stella. “Tempestuous petticoats: costume and desire in The Piano.” Screen 36, no. 3 (1995): 257–266. Cooke, Grayson. “Human -1 / Cyborg - 0: A Personal History of a HumanMachine Relation.” Nebula 3, no. 1 (2006): 19–30.

Cooper, Annabel. “’I Am Isabel, You Know?’: The Antipodean Framing of Jane Campion’s Portrait of a Lady.” M/C Journal 11, no. 5 (2008). <http:// viewArticle/99> Dayal, Samir. “Inhuman Love: Jane Campion’s The Piano.” Postmodern Culture 12, no. 2 (2001): 1–86. Herzogenrath, Bernd. “The Question Concerning Humanity: Obsolete Bodies and (Post)Digital Flesh.” Enculturation 3, no. 1 (2000). <http://>

Higson, Andrew. “The Limiting Imagination of National Cinema.” Transnational Cinema: The Film Reader, 15–25. Elizabeth Ezra and Terry Rowden, eds. New York: Routledge, 2006

Huang, Tsung-yi Michelle. “Amidst Slums and Skyscrapers: The Politics of Walking and the Ideology of Open Space in East Asian Global Cities.” PhD diss., State University of New York at Stony Brook, 2001. Jones, Gail. The Piano. Sydney: Currency Press, 2007.

McRoy, Jay. Nightmare Japan: Contemporary Japanese Horror Cinema. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2007.

Tuck, Greg. “Sex with the City: Urban Spaces, Sexual Encounters and Erotic Spectacle in Tsukamoto Shinya’s Rokugatsu no Hebi—A Snake of June (2003).” Film Studies 11 (2007): 49-60.


Cyborgs in Hoop Skirts: Apparatus and the Problem of the Transnational in the Films of Shinya Tsukamoto and Jane Campion

Films “A Girl’s Own Story.” Sweetie. DVD. Directed by Jane Campion. 1984; New York: The Criterion Collection, 2006.

Bright Star. Directed by Jane Campion. Newcastle: Jan Chapman Productions, 2009. Bullet Ballet. DVD. Directed by Shinya Tsukamoto. 1998; Artsmagic, 2005.

Holy Smoke. DVD. Directed by Jane Campion. 1999; Burbank: Miramax, 2000. In the Cut. DVD. Directed by Jane Campion. 2003; Culver City: Sony Pictures, 2004.

“The Lady Bug.” Chacun Son Cinéma (To Each His Own Cinema). Limited edition DVD. Directed by Jane Campion. Hong Kong: Deltamac, 2007. The Piano. DVD. Directed by Jane Campion. 1993; Santa Monica: Lions Gate Entertainment, 1998.

Portrait of a Lady. DVD. Directed by Jane Campion. 1996; New York: PolyGram Video, 1997.

A Snake of June. DVD. Directed by Shinya Tsukamoto. 2002; New York: Tartan Video, 2005.

Sweetie. DVD. Directed by Jane Campion. 1989; New York: The Criterion Collection, 2006. Tetsuo—The Iron Man. Special edition DVD. Directed by Shinya Tsukamoto. 1989; New York: Tartan Video, 2005.

Tetsuo II: Body Hammer. DVD. Directed by Shinya Tsukamoto. 1992; Los Angeles: Manga Video, 1999. Tokyo Fist. DVD. Directed by Shinya Tsukamoto. 1995; Los Angeles: Manga Video, 1999.

Vital. DVD. Directed by Shinya Tsukamoto. 2004; New York: Tartan Video, 2006.




ABSTRACT: It is only within the past decade that films dealing with homosexuality in South Korean society have begun to appear. Among the few films dealing wuth the topic of homosexuality, Leesong Heeil?s No Regret stands out with a particular attempt at changing attitudes on homosexuality. This essay attempts to look at the particular techniques used in No Regret which might affect the viewerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s views on homosexuality. First, Leesong achieves this through introducing a distinct distinct identity for the protagonist, Su-min, as well as sensualizing him.By consciously locating his protagonist within the mainstream of Korean society and using popular trends in Korean society, Leesong effectively introduces the issue of homosexuality in South Korea, making No Regret particularly significant within the issue of homosexuality in South Korea.


Searching for an Authentic Korean Homosexual Identity in No Regret

It was quite surprising when the South Korea film No Regret, directed by Leesong Hee-il, became the top independent film at the 2006 box office despite openly dealing with homosexuality as its main subject. More than just a matter of cinematic success, however, No Regret should be regarded as an effort by the openly-gay Leesong to formally introduce the issue of homosexuality into the Korean public sphere and to foster a positive image of homosexuality in the mainstream. First, Leesong achieves this through instilling a distinct identity for the protagonist, Su-min, which stands unaffected by his sexual identity. Second, it is by consciously locating his protagonist within the mainstream of Korean society and using popular trends in Korean society to render homosexuality exotic that Leesong effectively achieves his aim of introducing the issue and imbuing it with positivism.

In No Regrets a young orphan, Su-min (played by actor Lee Young Hoon), leaves his orphanage in the country and decides to try his chance at life in Seoul. After several blue collar jobs, Su-min finally ends up at a gay establishment in Seoul’s underground gay neighbourhood which offers customers the company of attractive male hosts. While the bar owner is at first reluctant to hire Su-min because openly-gay hosts often leave the bar after falling in love with customers Su-min convinces him by claiming that he has given up on love. This event marks his formal repudiation of love and in the process, is a repudiation of his own sexual identity. Hereupon begins troubled internal negotiations between Su-min’s doubts upon his ability to abide by his choice as he encounters love. Films dealing with homosexuality have a limited presence in South Korean media. Gay culture indeed faces several obstacles preventing its penetration into South Korean mainstream culture. While there is no overtly repressive environment against homosexuals in South Korea, historical conditions and strong social factors have kept the issues of the minorities secondary to that of the importance of a homogenic society. 1 While foreign films and television series dealing with homosexuality have not been actively rejected, the introduction of these has not resulted in an outright introduction of homosexuality in South Korean media. 2 Even in academia, sexual minorities have been an unpopular subject and have predominantly been discussed as a peripheral topic.3 In this context, Leesong’s film serves to formally introduce the issue of homosexuality on the South Korea public sphere. While Leesong does not 1

Youngshik D. Bong, “The Gay Rights Movement in Democratizing Korea,” Korean Studies 32 (2008): 88. 2

Lim In-sook, “The Trend of Creating Atypical Male Images in Heterosexist Korean Society,” Korea Journal 4, no. 4 (2008): 124. 3

Bong, 87.



engage in a counter-hegemonic exercise per se,4 he uses techniques similar to that of Asian American cineastes who countered prevailing derogatory representations of Asians in American movies, to emphasize instead, “Asian life in America or portray a more realistic image of Asians, Asian culture, and Asian life in America”5 These were attempts to dilute pre-held beliefs by presenting alternatives representations to society. In contrast, Leesong, instead of presenting alternatives to strongly held pre-existing images of homosexuality apart from the fact that it might have been seen as deviant and unrelated to the Korean case, strive to speak for homosexuality and define how it ought to be seen as. Easing the task is the rapid democratization of the peninsula that has brought to the fore the question of human rights in South Korea. Efforts by domestic gay-activist coupled with modernizing social values have all challenged the absence of debates on homosexuality and the prevailing view of homosexuality as a foreign plague. For example, the Seoul Broad Casting System (SBS) has made movies dealing explicitly with gay characters and themes. The issue, nonetheless, has not been publicly discussed on the public sphere. Where Leesong film is effective, thus, is through its introduction of homosexuality separated from previous themes typically associated with homosexuality such as HIV or prostitution and instead present it was desirable while always remaining relevant to Korean society. While greater acceptance of gay identity cannot be solely credited to increased representation in the media, its transformative effect cannot be underestimated.6 The first significant dialectic at work in No Regret is the instilment of a distinct identity to Su-min that is neither defined by his sexual identity or life-style. This issue comes to the fore when Su-min comes into contact again with a former customer, Jae-min (played by actor Lee Han), a former customer who Su-min had driven when working as driver, Jae-min had repeatedly professed his interest in Su-min, but each time been rejected. To finally reach to him, Jae-min hires Su-min for one night and brings him home. As Su-min performs a sexual act awkwardly on Jae-min, Jae-min mentions how it would be good if Su-min’s penis were a gun, so that Jae-min could pull the trigger inside himself. It is through a slow elevation of the camera toward Su-min’s disconcerted face that we are able to notice his perturbation as he turns his back to the camera and to his client to finally say, “You are 4

Hegemony being the cultural dominance of certain beliefs sustained through consent but not by force. 5

Hemant Shah, “‘Asian Culture’ and Asian American Identities in the Television and Film Industries of the United States.” Studies in Media & Information Literacy Education (SIMILE) 3, no. 3 (2003): 6. 6

Lim, 121.


Searching for an Authentic Korean Homosexual Identity in No Regret

disgusting. Have been disgusting from the very beginning.” After leaving in haste, the camera slowly follows Su-min as he wanders on a street waiting for a taxi and is reflective and calm. Where he is most perturbed, however, is when he discovers that on his fingers are the remains of the hygienic paper he had used to clean himself. What is peculiar about this shot is that it demonstrates Su-min’s desire to remain pure against his current life-style. While director Leesong seems to imply that Su-min is living a “shameful” life, he actually challenges these preconceptions by creating a sharp separation between how Su-min lives his life and Su-min’s personal values.

Indeed, before Su-min can attain happiness, he must first come in term with the contradictions structuring his life. Su-min’s disgust with Jeemin and his own life is only emblematic of Su-min’s larger internal struggle to contain his desire to love. It is only after several attempts by Jae-min at romance that Su-min finally lets himself follow his instincts and fall in love. The oppressive melancholy that dominates the beginning of the movie serves to emphasize the problematic nature of his initial decision to renounce love. Yet, as he finally accepts his true desires, the melancholy disappears to give room to joy and serenity. To mark the clear separation from his past, lovedenying life and his new identity, Su-min finally decides to quit his job as host. This event finalize the revelation of his true identity and present his samesex love as natural and not a result of Su-min’s lifestyle or a consequence of his life situation while also standing in complete separation from any lifestyle he might have. Su-min, instead, is presented as pure, moral and true to his values. He is looking for a simple love, and when he finally accepts it, at that moment, he is not a homosexual, an orphan, a bar host or even a homosexual, but simply a man in love. Equally important in Su-min’s identity creation, and by extension homosexuality, is his peculiar position within Korean society; not at the periphery yet neither at the centre. The fact that he is orphan is important because he does not have to deal with the societal pressure imposed by parents. As mentioned by Jae-min himself, “[Su-min] Having no parents is good in this point.” Yet, what ultimately prevents Su-min from being happy is Jae-min’s rich and conservative family family. Jae-Su’s parents are aware of their son’s sexuality, but this does not change the fact that he will have to marry the woman of their choice. By being unacceptable to the upper strata of Korean society typically represented as conservative in regards to love affairs, Su-min, as a symbol for homosexuality, stands against the “centre” of Korean society, the family. The family is not seen as working for the ultimate moral well-being of the characters, but instead is represented as an agent of pain. Jae-min’s inner pain is seen in several scenes throughout the movie, all of them after interactions with his family. In the first of such examples, Jae-min is seen



shooting bullets, or breaking mirrors in the elevator with his fist. It is only when the two characters escape the pressures imposed by both families and by society that they are able to freely enjoy their love. Indeed, most of the scenes where they show homosexual intimacy are in dark places, emphasizing the double life they are living. But as they finally escape the city together for a trip where the director emphasizes isolation rather than the country side, they are able to freely feel their love for each other, making the city’s pressure and the family the core obstacle to their love. Su-min’s identity, however, does not threaten the core of the society but rather adds to it a new level, preventing homosexuality from standing at the periphery of society. Indeed, the obstacles the couple has to face to save their love re-emphasize the viewer’s affection for the couple and work to create a desire for a happy relationship. The couple’s happiness outside the family is important. Chris Berryin claims that several East Asian movies from the late 1990s “prop their locally specific meanings upon the widespread modern interpretation of the broad Confucian family-based culture as one where space outside family and family roles is dystopic and anomic rather than liberating.”7 In this way, director Leesong’s characters defy class structures and social conventions and creates a specific place for the couple within Korean society. Another dialectic at work is that of the use of sensuality to further present Su-min and his identity as objects of desire. One distinctive feature of the movie is clearly the number of time Su-min appears half-naked or even naked. Throughout the movie, such scenes appear 16 times, some for periods lasting over one minute. In most, the body of the handsome actor Lee Young Hoon is depicted with sensuality and caressed by the close shots of the camera.

The creation of this sensuality takes advantage of new conceptions of masculinity in Korean society. As noted by Lim In-sook, “[i]n the Korean media after the year 2000, new forms of masculinity, including kkot minam (‘flowerlike handsome men’ or pin-up boys), metrosexuals, ubersexuals, and cross-sexuals debuted in turn, and news stories explaining and defining these novel forms of masculinity were frequently aired.”8 The phenomenon is strikingly similar to the similar discourses on Bishonen that gained prominence in Japan in recent years. Part of this sensualization of the male body is tied to the rise of Korea as an economic power and the commercialization of Korean society. As this sensualization of the male body mostly caters to feminine audience, Lim thus demonstrates that one important factor in this trend has been the cosmetic industry’s attempt to 7

Chris Berry, “Happy Alone? Sad Young Men in East Asian Gay Cinema,” Queer Asian Cinema: Shadows in the Shade, Andrew Grossman ed. (London: Routledge, 2001), 188. 8

Lim, 116


Searching for an Authentic Korean Homosexual Identity in No Regret

expand their market.9 These new definitions of masculinity were also part of larger new attitude on sex in general propelled by the Korean media as well as redefinitions by movies, particularly, of the concept of the family.

By creating a new desirable homosexual identity in touch with ongoing trends such as the flowerlike man, director Leesong presents homosexuality as a desirable product and the viewer is invited to create a different type of bond with Su-min. Through these sensual depictions of his body, the viewer, whether gay, female or straight, is pushed into establishing a connection based on desire. At the same time, however, Su-min’s sexuality is never ignored, and is always at the centre of the story. This continuing focus on Su-min’s sexual orientation, while at the same time sensualizing his identity, prevents the audience to condemn his sexuality as a deviant form of heterosexuality. In the end, while No Regret has been able to attract a significant amount of viewers, its actual audience is relatively limited compared to major South Korean blockbusters. Nevertheless, director Leesong’s film challenges prevailing conceptions of homosexuality through such techniques as the creation of a distinct identity for the protagonist and his sensualization, and the relevance of the characters to Korean society. Leesong’s endeavor may be a stepping stone for subsequent gay-themed South Korean movies. In this sense, while the film no doubt cannot be said to represent the American-type of gay liberation film, through the form, and narrative technique of the movie, director Leesong is able to accurately situate the debate within Korean society and bring to the front a more open and suitable representation of homosexuality in South Korea.





Bibliography Berry, Chris. “Happy Alone? Sad Young Men in East Asian Gay Cinema.” Queer Asian Cinema: Shadows in the Shade. Andrew Grossman, ed. London: Routledge, 2001 Lim, In-sook. “The Trend of Creating Atypical Male Images in Heterosexist Korean Society.” Korea Journal 4, no. 4 (2008): 115–146. Shah, Hemant. “‘Asian Culture’ and Asian American Identities in the Television and Film Industries of the United States.” Studies in Media & Information Literacy Education (SIMILE) 3, no. 3 (2003): 1–10.

Ho, Yi Ch’ang. “Korean Competitors at Barcelona Fest”. HanCinema, 19 March 2007; originally published by the Korean Film Council. Bong, Youngshik D. “The Gay Rights Movement in Democratizing Korea.” Korean Studies 32 (2008): 86–103.


ON EAST: EASSU's Undergraduate Academic Journal Volune 2  

A journal of a selected number of undergraduate articles, circling the subject of East Asian Studies. This was the second edition, published...

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