The Diplomacy of NationalismThe Six Companies and China’s Policy toward Exclusion

The Diplomacy of NationalismThe Six Companies and China’s Policy toward Exclusion

Yucheng Qin

Print publication date: 2016

ISBN: 9780824832742

Publisher: University of Hawai'i Press


This is a striking, original portrait of the Chinese Six Companies (Zhonghua huiguan), or Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, the most prominent support organization for Chinese immigrants in the United States in the late nineteenth century. As a federation of “native-place associations” (huiguan) in California, the Six Companies responded to racist acts and legislation by organizing immigrant communities and employing effective diplomatic strategies against exclusion. The book substantiates recent arguments that Chinese immigrants were resourceful in fighting for their rights and argues that through the Six Companies they created a political rhetoric and civic agenda that were then officially adopted by Qing court officials. Out of necessity, these officials turned to the Six Companies for assistance and would in time adopt the tone and format of its programs during China’s turbulent transition from a tributary system to that of a modern nation-state. Eventually the Six Companies and Qing diplomats were defeated by a coalition of anti-Chinese interest groups, but their struggle produced a template for modern Chinese nationalism—a political identity that transcends native place—in nineteenth-century America. The book redefines the historical significance of the huiguan, paying close attention to the transnational experience of the Six Companies, which provides a feasible framework for linking its diplomatic activism with Chinese history as well as the history of Chinese Americans and Sino-American relations.