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In , fresh off the plane in Beijing, I was asked to judge an English competition for high-school seniors. My two co-judges were pleasantly cynical middle-aged sociologists, both professors at Tsinghua University. After listening to the umpteenth speech about how China used to be poor, but was now rich and powerful, I remarked to one of them that the students seemed a little sheltered.

None of this generation do. The young get it from left and right. With such a lack of character and determination and such physical weakness, how can they shoulder the heavy responsibility? The year I arrived, when I was going through the near-obligatory expat period as a teacher before becoming a full-time writer and editor, I had to forcibly drag a year-old out of a classroom after he threw a temper tantrum, drummed the floor and refused to leave.

Ironically, the children of army officers seem especially pudgy. The raft of criticisms being levelled has very little to do with the actual failings of the young, but is a symptom of the yawning, and unprecedented gulf between young urban Chinese and their parents. Parents who spent their own twenties labouring on remote farms have children who measure their world in malls, iPhones, and casual dates.

This kind of distance is not unique to China. But most other countries can claim far greater continuity between generations. My adolescence in Manchester in the s was different in degree, not in kind, from that of my parents in Bristol and Sydney in the s. In their adolescence, there was one phone per village, the universities were closed and jobs were assigned from above. Parents who spent their own early twenties labouring on remote farms have to deal with children who measure their world in malls, iPhones and casual dates.

O lder Chinese, especially those now in their fifties or sixties, often seem like immigrants in their own country. In their relationships with their children, they remind me of the parents of the Indian and Bangladeshi kids I grew up with, struggling to advise their children about choices they never had to make.

Yet for all the dissonance that geographical dislocation creates, the distance between a Bangladeshi village and a Manchester suburb is, if anything, smaller than that between rural China in the s and modern Beijing. Immigrants often have a stable set of values from their home culture from which to draw sustenance, whether religious or cultural.

Then they were fed a trickle of socialism, rapidly belied by the rush to get rich, and finally offered the hint of a liberal counter-culture in the s before Tiananmen snatched it away. Money — at least the fantasy of it — has never abandoned them. While immigrants dream of their children becoming doctors, lawyers, or professors, domestic Chinese ambitions mostly lie elsewhere.

Doctors are poorly paid, overworked, and unpopular, thanks to a flailing and corruption-ridden medical system. Lawyers are bound to the vagaries of the ever-shifting judicial system. Professors earn marginal incomes and rely on outside work to get by. Zhang is a fast-tracked young academic who regularly attends high-level diplomatic and security conferences. She was the only person I talked to who asked to use a pseudonym, conscious of her own Google sensitivity.

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Last new year, I was home and my cousin was there too. What that means is that he sells fake or overpriced drugs to hospitals, with the collusion of the doctors, and they split the profits. He makes so much money! But you need to fork over the money to the judges to be in the running. We taught them ideals that were instilled in us, a kind of innocence. A midlevel position is a licence for extortion and string-pulling. Getting an initial opening requires parental backing. When a list of candidates for an entry-level job in a provincial state-owned enterprise was leaked online in December, it included the most influential relatives of each applicant.

Not every post can be bought. Li Xiang, a handsomely fey year-old, is in the middle of the examination and interview process to become a central government official. He outlined the pros and cons of his move as we ate a pricey yuan steak meal. The first year or two is on probation, at 70 per cent of that. But the hospitals designated for officials are the best, especially the central government. The job is safe. Social security is strong. And I really do want to serve the people.

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My parents were mad at me! They yelled at me for going for a position without any power. L ike Li, many of the post generation — contrary to their reputation for greedy materialism — want to help others. Levels of volunteering are higher than ever, though still significantly lower than in the West, and college students or young white-collar workers are the primary founders of NGOs.

But to their parents, charity can be a dirty word. And for parents whose own dreams were frustrated by history, the temptation to force their children into the path they wanted for themselves is even stronger. When I first met Luo Jingqing, with her confidence and air of slight world-weariness, I assumed she was older than her real age of We talked over lunch in Element Fresh, an upmarket Shanghai-based chain popular with young professionals like her. These documents were actually written over a long period of time, so we should expect some topic drift.

This is addressed after application of the model, rather than within the model. Even with the twenty-character cutoff, shorter Documents are less likely to be assigned sensible Topic proportions. Single characters are analyzed because there are no good word-delimiting algorithms for classical or modern Chinese. As with document length and section headers, certain types of word formations, including many proper nouns, are actually reverse engineered by the topic analysis and placed into discrete Topics. Clearly there are some problematic assumptions in this document model.

Subculture & Counterculture

As I have noted above, the topic analysis proves capable of reverse engineering certain structures that are not part of the model, such as multi-character words. However, one especially problematic assumption is made in this analysis - it does not account for words, grammar or other intratextual structures. This analysis is very powerful at accounting for many corpus-level, intertextual phenomena - exactly the type of analysis needed to probe the dark areas of the textual map.

But it is not a substitute for other approaches to understanding the more proximate realms of meaning of individual texts within the corpus. I accounted for these shortcomings in two ways — by reimposing temporal meta-data on the records after running the topic model, and by close reading of as many documents as possible. Not all of the Documents covered by these Topics deal with mass violence, but all of these Topics relate to many instances of violence and unrest. Closer examination will reveal a complex pattern of concern with different ways in which subjects violated the peace and sovereignty of the dynasty.

The LDA analysis provides two obvious approaches to understanding the meaning of these Topics; it outputs the Words of high proportion within each Topic, as well as the proportion of Topics in each Document. To unpack these patterns, I will use both sources of information. First I will give a general impression based on the proportion of Words within each Topic and then make a closer reading by surveying a random selection of Documents featuring high proportions of each Topic. No labels are provided for the Topics by the model. For convenience, I have given the Topics titles based on my impression of their content.

Hopefully, my analysis below will justify these labels. A survey of the common Words in the six Topics of interest suggests a neat split between ordinary incidents or crime that was reported to higher administrators as a matter of course, and extraordinary incidents or rebellion that involved the central bureaucracy because they required more resources and centralized planning.

At face value, there are few major differences between these Topics. Clearly it is referring to rebellion or warfare involving non-Han ethnic groups or border regions. As we will see below, the differences between these Topics are not at the level of Words, but rather in the distribution of groups of Words. Let us look at these Topics one by one. As noted above, the most closely associated Words are mostly related to the processes of interrogation, legal precedence and judgment. A survey of Documents featuring this Topic shows that it primarily captures the pattern of records of legal court proceedings, as suggested by the representative terms.

It covers a wide range of violations of the law of the state. Many of the crimes captured by this Topic are nonviolent, albeit serious. Many of the entries featuring this Topic are routine reports of executions, or of changes to earlier judgments. Figure 1: Crime Topic proportion over time The temporal pattern of Crime Figure 1 further suggests that it shows the routine administration of judgments and punishments.

Compared to other Topics, its shows a moderate amount of variance. Its standard deviation of 1. But this standard deviation is significantly less than the rebellion Topics which all have values above 2.


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Crime is not strongly correlated with any of the other five Topics examined here, except for Sedition see section 3. It is the only Topic that has a strong seasonality: it has an R-squared value of around 0. Generally routine executions and the like were held in the fall, the local peak in this Topic in the ninth and tenth lunar months largely accounts for this seasonal variation.

While Crime shows a high degree of seasonality, it has the lowest degree of persistence: the R-squared values of its time-lag regressions against itself decay very quickly. There is an increase in Crime starting in the reign of the Qianlong Emperor that is in keeping with a general increase in the number of entries in the Veritable Records in this period.

After that, it shows a gradual secular decline over the course of the dynasty. As I will explore in more detail in section 3. Like Crime section 3. At face value, this topic is the counterpoint to Crime - Mass Violence entries are about catching criminals, and Crime is about judging and punishing them. However, a closer reading of the related documents suggests some clear differences.

While both Topics address a range of criminal behavior, Mass Violence has proportionally more violent crime and Crime covers more crimes of property. To understand why entries about trials covering a range of offenses concentrate in the Crime topic and entries about policing violent criminals concentrate in the Mass Violence topic, we should consider the incentives of the officials that reported these incidents. Local officials had three basic incentives in fighting and reporting crime. First, they would generally be rewarded for success in cracking down on crime.

Second, they would be punished for failing to capture criminals.

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Finally, they would be punished for failure to report crimes. It was therefore in the interest of local officials to report any major criminals once they were caught. However, they were incentivized to underreport criminals that remained at large, to avoid being demoted for failing to fight crime. Finally, officials would be more likely to report unresolved crimes if they were afraid of being caught underreporting. We expect captured criminals to be fully reported, and criminals at large to be underreported.

We also expect that criminals at large were more likely to be reported if their crimes were hard to hide. I would argue that instances of mass violence were exactly the type of crime most likely to attract outside attention, even if they were not reported by the officials responsible. This fact in turn made mass violence the type of unresolved crime that local officials would be most inclined to report - the possibility of being demoted for weakness on crime was counterbalanced by the hazard of being cashiered for failure to report major unrest.

This incentive structure seems to account for the differences we see in relative proportion of violent crimes reported in trial as opposed to those reported as unresolved. The Crime Topic is a good record of crimes that were successfully prosecuted; this includes an impression of the overall makeup of major crimes, as well as the success of administrators in resolving them.

We expect it to be complete to the extent that these types of crimes were reported to the highest level of authority. Mass Violence, on the other hand, is a highly biased indicator of crimes that were still under investigation and criminals still at large. It is skewed toward more complete reporting of large groups of armed criminals, and less complete reporting of crimes involving fewer people or activities that were easier for both criminals and officials to hide.

The Mass Violence Topic is therefore an imperfect but important record of this type of event. Figure 2: Mass Violence Topic proporiton over time An appraisal of the temporal patterns substantiates this impression of difference between Crime Figure 1 and Mass Violence Figure 2. Mass Violence has a broadly similar pattern to Crime - moderate variance around a fairly consistent mean throughout the period - with a standard deviation of 1. Mass Violence is also more persistent than Crime: it has R-squared values of above 0. And where Crime has a slight downward trend, Mass Violence generally has an upward trend.

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Mass Violence is also somewhat correlated with rebellion — including both Rebellion and Major Rebellion Topics. Major Rebellion weakly causal of Mass Violence for at least two years R- squared between 0. Major Rebellion, but not Rebellion, is also somewhat causal of Mass Violence for up to six months — the regression of Mass Violence with lag of Major Rebellion up to six months has R-squared between 0. This suggests that major violent unrest could become rebellion, and rebellion could leave pockets of violence behind.

It is interesting, but perhaps not statistically rigorous, that the violence from the really major rebellions of the 19th century left persistent violence for as much as six months, but that the administration seems to have been successful in quashing the aftershocks of smaller rebellions, which do not appear to lead to lasting violence. Starting as early as the White Lotus Rebellion, and continuing through the Taiping and later revolts, the government lacked the capacity to fight on its own.

These latter groups of bandits, secret societies, pirates and smugglers made up the bulk of rebel armies. A closer examination of some documents covered by this Topic suggests that it is related to seditious use of language or symbols. Nonetheless, it appears to be a good general indicator of dynastic awareness of crimes whose primary component is sedition or treachery. Rebellion and its enemies in late imperial China, militarization and social structure, Rebels and revolutionaries in north China, See also Little, D.

Chapter 5. Figure 3: Sedition Topic proportion over time It is curious to note that Sedition, as captured in this topic model, has essentially no relationship to rebellion. Of the major rebellions in the mid- to late Qing addressed below in 3. Other instances of rebellion, including the major rebellions of the late nineteenth century, are accompanied by rising Mass Violence, but not Sedition. Other rises in Sedition are not during periods of major violence or rebellion. This impression from the graph above is borne out in the statistics: regressions of Sedition against Mass Violence, Rebellion, Major Rebellion and Border Rebellion and time lags of these Topics all lack conclusions of statistical significance.

The only correlation with Sedition is Trials, which has an R- squared value of 0. This suggests that crimes of sedition, heresy and treachery only came to the attention of the central court as part of active crackdown campaigns. The Qianlong Emperor was by far the most aggressive in pursuing these campaigns; his central supervision in turn meant that criminals were generally brought to trial.

Later in the Qing, extending dynastic orthodoxy by cracking down on heretics and dissenters was not a top priority — perhaps in light of the violence that posed a more direct threat to the dynasty. On closer inspection, it is specific to a particular type of border wars.

The spikes in , and Figure 4 all indicate wars fought on the near northwestern frontier. Other maxima pick up the wars in Burma in , Vietnam in , in Tibet in The offensive campaigns in Xinjiang barely register in this Topic. There is another Topic — Western Campaigns - that registers these wars among the most significant military events of this period, but in Border Rebellions wars in Vietnam, Burma and Tibet loom far larger than the conquest of Xinjiang.


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At the same time, this Topic does not capture the minority revolts in the late nineteenth century. The Panthay Rebellion in the southwest and the Dungan Revolt in the northwest are captured in the two Topics below 3. The Gurkha Wars were similarly concerned with driving out rival claimants to power in 23 Atwill, D. Co-curated with David. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Seattle: University of Washington Press. Modern China , July and October. Co-edited with Elizabeth J. Co-edited with Jonathan N. Co-edited with Deborah Davis. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press.

Edited Volume. Editted Volume. Boulder: Westview Press. Nanning: Guangxi People's Press. In Arthur P.

Violence in China: Essays in Culture and Counterculture (Suny Series in Chinese Local Studies)

Wolf, ed. In William H. Newell, ed. The Hague: Mouton. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion , March. Journal of Asian Studies 38, 3. In Arthur M.