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Guilty of IndigenceThe Urban Poor in China, 1900-1953$
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Janet Y. Chen

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780691152103

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691152103.001.0001

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Keeping Company with Ghosts

Keeping Company with Ghosts

(p.173) Chapter 5 Keeping Company with Ghosts
Guilty of Indigence

Janet Y. Chen

Princeton University Press

This chapter shows how the GMD regime proved incapable of coping with increasing urban disorder in both Shanghai and Beijing. With refugees from battleground areas in the countryside continuously fleeing to the cities, the municipal governments tried to use relief agencies to serve both charitable and punitive purposes. In Beijing, desperate refugees starved in winter shelters and workhouses. In Shanghai, conditions in government institutions were equally deplorable, and many of the destitute preferred the squalor of their own straw huts to relief based on the deprivation of freedom. Thousands of refugees also forced their way into the coffin repositories of native place associations, choosing to “keep company with ghosts” rather than submit to government custody. By 1949, these grim examples of suffering fatally exposed the Nationalist government's inability to fulfill its own commitments.

Keywords:   Nationalist government, urban disorder, refugees, relief agencies, workhouses, government institutions, straw huts, coffin repositories, government custody

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