Transnationalism in the Era of Nation-States: China, 1900–1945

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Abstract

Transnationalism tends to be seen as a late twentieth century development associated with advanced capitalism, flexible production and post-modernism. However, if, as many claim, nationalism emerged in the era of capitalism, then it surely had to deal with the boundary-crossing and globalizing impetus of capitalism from its inception. This article explores how nationalist regimes and spokesmen dealt with the transnational flows, demands, and ideals generated not only by capitalism, but by historical forces such as universalizing religions and the distribution and movement of populations across territorial nations. Focusing on East Asia in the first half of the twentieth century, three cases are studied: the convergence of Chinese and Japanese ideals of pan-Asianism; the Chinese republican regime's effort to incorporate the non-Chinese peoples of the vast peripheries into the territorial nation-state; and this regime's efforts to cultivate the loyalty of overseas Chinese to the nation-state. Mobilizing and deploying these transterritorial phenomena was crucial to the nation-state's internal power, yet such a mobilization tended to transgress the conception of territorial sovereignty upon which the nation-state was equally dependent both domestically and internationally. The recent signs of a tendency for the territorially sovereign nation to develop into a deterritorialized nation has consequences that can only be understood in the context of the nation's relationship to transnational forces in this earlier period.

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