X-perts (2): A Distant Reading of the Chinese Economic Journal (1924-37)

This is the second instalment of my series devoted the Chinese Economic Journal (CEJ) and the development of technocratic expertise in modern China. While my previous post consists in a general introduction to this journal, this one will provide a deeper insight into its contents and contributors.

  1. What did the journal look like, materially? How many articles and pages did it contain? How did its physical outlook change over time?
  2. What types of contents did it publish? What issues did it address? What were the most featured articles? Did the journal have consistent themes and recurrent topics? Did the focus of interest shift over the fifteen years of publication?
  3. Who were the authors? How many articles, how often and for how long did they contribute to the journal? Can we sketch their profiles? How did the contributing population change over time?
  4. Where did they come from? Where and what did they study? In which institutions and sectors of activity did they work? Can we trace their social careers and life trajectories? Given their educational background and professional experience, can we speculate on the reasons why they were invited to contribute? Or did they have special, hidden links with the editors of the journal and the director of the bureau?

The CEJ offers a unique window onto the development of social engineering and technocratic expertise in modern China.  The contents of articles provides a glimpse of the topics that were of interest for technocratic and political elites at the time. We use it a starting point for giving shape to the hazy field of professional expertise in Republican China. The journal may also serve as a barometer of the contemporary development of modern sciences in Republican China. Furthermore, the list of CEJ authors provides a preliminary (fairly) representative sample of early social-economic experts and technocrats in modern China.

In this post, we will present the method for extracting and processing information. In the next one, I will survey the journal materially (number and length of articles) and the topics it addressed throughout the fifteen years of its existence (1924-37). The third essay will sketch its contributors’ profiles, tracing their educational background and their social-professional careers. The last series of posts will try to reconstruct their life trajectories using sequence analysis, and to detect relational patterns and clustering effects using social network analysis.

Data and methodology

The original dataset is available on MADSpace, with a detailed description of the methodology.

For this preliminary exploration the CEJ,  I focused on authored articles only – except for a few contributions that contain substantial research and yet remain anonymous. This means excluding routine reports and regular sections (book reviews, monthly price index…). For each article, I recorded its title, the author’s name, the date of publication, the volume and issue it belonged to, and its page numbers. I also coded the main topic it addressed (the classification system I used will be described later).

Regarding contributors, I sought extra information in order to flesh out their biographical profiles, especially their nationality, gender, educational background (highest academic degree, field of study, educational institution, country of education), social-professional occupations (position, institution, sector of activity) in China or abroad at the time they contributed to the journal. Biographical information come from contemporary Who’s Who and various web sources (Wikipedia/Baidu…). Although I tried to fill missing information as much as possible, there are still 75 (of 148) contributors who remain unidentified, or for whom I have only partial information regarding their educational and professional background.

For further analysis, I also computed the total number of articles that each author contributed to the journal, the length of their contribution (in years) and the range of topics they covered. By combining these variables, I established a typology of contributors’ profiles, including their degree of specialization (on a scale ranging from 1 to 7 distinct topics) and the frequency of their contribution (regular, exceptional, intensive, extensive), as shown below:

Contributors’ profiles, based on the length and frequency of contribution, and the range of topics covered

Length of contribution
Long-term (>5) Short-term (<5)
Number of contributions Many (>10) Regular Intensive
Few (<10) Extensive Exceptional

 

Scale of specialization
Range of topics covered Profile
1 monomath
2 very high
3 high
4 medium
5 low
6 very low
7 polymath

In addition, five other types of information were coded for further analysis:

  • the nature of authorship : single author, co-authors, acknowledgments, translation, anonymous (this refers to unauthored articles that nonetheless contain substantial research, as explained above)
  • the topics of articles : based on the title of articles, I classified the topics they addressed into 9 categories (which I described more fully in the « topics » section) : foreign trade (1), economy and finance (2), agriculture and natural resources (3), population and sociological studies (4), transportation and communications (5), industry (6), local monograph (7), war and Japan (8), and miscellaneous subjects (9).
  • authors’ fields of specialization (academic disciplines in which they majored) were classified into 7 main categories : agricultural studies (1), natural sciences (2), engineering (3), economics (4), business, law and finance (5), social sciences (6), humanities and miscellaneous (7).
  • the institutions that employed CEJ authors were classified into 9 major sectors: academic, central government (Chinese), foreign government, government agency, local government, political party, private company, transnational organization, and miscellaneous.
  • the period of publication, as described in the next section :

Periodization

For this research, I arranged the articles into four main successive periods, which correspond to four major moments in the history of the Bureau of Economic Information/Foreign Trade.

  1. Prior to August 1928 (exclusive) : the Bureau of Economic Information was in charge of the Chinese Economic Monthly (CEM).
  2. August 1928 – June 1931 (inclusive) : the Bureau of Economic Information was reorganized as the Bureau of Industrial and Commercial Information, which became in charge of issuing the CEM.
  3. July 1931 – December 1935 (inclusive) : the Bureau of Industrial and Commercial Information was reorganized as the Bureau of Foreign Trade, and the Chinese Economic Monthly was refounded as the Chinese Economic Journal (CEJ).
  4. From January 1936 : the (monthly) CEJ merged with the (weekly) Chinese Economic Bulletin (CEB) into the Chinese Economic Journal and Bulletin (CEJB). The Bureau of Foreign Trade was still in charge of its publication.

Now that we have explained the methodology, we can start by examining the material aspects and contents of articles.

To be continued… 

References

Guan Yongqiang, and Wang Yuru. « Jindai zhongguo guanfang jingji diaocha de faduan: jingji taolun chu xilie jigou chutan (1920-1937) » (‘Origins of official economic surveys in modern China: An exploration of the bulletin series of the Bureau of Economic Information (1920-1937)’). Qinghua daxue xuebao (zhexue shehuikexue ban), no. 4 (2015).

Zhang Guoyi. « Chuangxin yu duncuo : Minguo guoji maoyi ju shulun » (‘Innovation and frustration : the Bureau of Foreign Trade in Republican China’). Shilin, no. 5 (2016).

For a biographical approach, see: Yu Xiangfang, and Yan Chaoyang. « Zhongguo jindai maoyi shichang de He Bingxian » (‘He Bingxian and the history of modern trade in China’). Nankai xuebao (zhexue shehui kexue ban), no 3 (2018).

Cécile Armand

Ancienne élève de l'Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS) de Lyon (2006), agrégée d'histoire (2009), docteure en histoire (2017), postdoctorante à Stanford University (2017-8) puis Aix-Marseille Université dans le cadre du projet ERC “Elites, Networks and Power in modern China” (2018-). Ma thèse soutenue à l’ENS Lyon en juin 2017 proposait une histoire spatiale de la publicité à Shanghai (1905-1949). Mon nouveau projet porte sur l’invention du consommateur et de l’expertise sur le marché en Chine républicaine. Au-delà, mes centres d'intérêt couvrent l'histoire urbaine, spatiale et sociale, les outils et méthodes numériques en sciences sociales, l'historiographie et l'épistémologie en général.

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Cécile Armand

Ancienne élève de l'Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS) de Lyon (2006), agrégée d'histoire (2009), docteure en histoire (2017), postdoctorante à Stanford University (2017-8) puis Aix-Marseille Université dans le cadre du projet ERC “Elites, Networks and Power in modern China” (2018-). Ma thèse soutenue à l’ENS Lyon en juin 2017 proposait une histoire spatiale de la publicité à Shanghai (1905-1949). Mon nouveau projet porte sur l’invention du consommateur et de l’expertise sur le marché en Chine républicaine. Au-delà, mes centres d'intérêt couvrent l'histoire urbaine, spatiale et sociale, les outils et méthodes numériques en sciences sociales, l'historiographie et l'épistémologie en général.

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