The tricolor "Kapok Flag" often used by modern Cantonese nationalists.[1][2]
Guangdong (in red)

Cantonese nationalism, sometimes known also as the Cantonia Independence Movement, refers to the advocacy and movement for the establishment of an independent or autonomous political entity in Guangdong or Cantonese-populated areas, believing that the Cantonese people form a nation and should not be subject to external jurisdiction and interference, taking pride in their own culture, history and identity.

In the late 19th century and early 20th century, many individuals have proposed this idea, including Au Ku-kap [zh], a disciple of Kang Youwei (who Au later fell out with due to differences in opinions). Au proposed the idea of establishing "a Guangdong people's Guangdong" in his work New Canton. In the year 1911, the Xinhai Revolution begun at the end of October, Cantonese members of the Tongmenghui, including Chen Jiongming, Deng Keng, and Peng Ruihai, organized troops in various parts of Guangdong to launch an uprising. On November 9, Chen Jiongming's troops recaptured Huizhou and declared independence on the same day, establishing the Military Government of Guangdong Province of the Republic of China. On January 1, 1912, the Republic of China was established, and Guangdong became one of its provinces. In the early years of the Republic of China, influenced by the idea of provincial autonomy, Guangdong Province drafted the "Draft Constitution of Guangdong Province," which was passed by its provincal assembly on December 19, 1921. However, this proposal for the future planning of Guangdong Province did not receive sufficient support and was aborted due to the intervention of the Soviet Union in the Far East and the Northern Expedition of the Kuomintang and the Chinese Communist Party.

In contemporary times, there are also some advocacies for "Cantonia Independence," which mostly comes from the Internet.[3] Some individuals overseas have displayed flags or slogans representing the movement during demonstrations against the Chinese authorities, even taking action within China itself.[4][5]

History

Late Qing-dynasty

Liangguang independence

In the late Qing Dynasty, internal and external troubles and the rapid development of the Boxer Rebellion caused divisions within the Qing ruling group. Empress Dowager Cixi issued an edict on June 21, 1900 to appease the Boxers and declare war on the Eight-Nation Alliance. The majority of viceroys who held local power strongly opposed this decision and firmly supported the peace faction, creating a situation of open confrontation and division between the local and central governments. After the Qing government declared war, Li Hongzhang (then Viceroy of Liangguang), Liu Kunyi (then Viceroy of Liangjiang), Zhang Zhidong (then Viceroy of Huguang), Xu Yingkui (then Viceroy of Min-Zhe), Yuan Shikai (then Viceroy of Shandong [zh]) and other viceroys and governors established the Mutual Defense Pact of the Southeastern Provinces, openly violating the orders of the Qing government and refrain from waging wars. Li Hongzhang even issued an extremely strong response to the Qing Empire's edict declaring war on the eleven Western countries: "This is a misguided order issued in panic, and Guangdong will not obey the edict!". At this time, the southeastern provinces resisted the imperial court's foreign policy and signed treaties with western countries on their own, effectively becoming political entities separated from the control of the Qing government. At the same time, since the people in Guangdong have always had a unique identity and accepted modernization early, the idea of separatism gradually emerged.[6] The gentries of Guangdong suggested to Li Hongzhang that Guangdong and Guangxi should be separated and establish an independent country; businessmen traveling between Guangdong and Hong Kong sought assistance from the British Hong Kong government, and the British Hong Kong government also intended to promote it in order to expand British interests in Guangdong and Guangxi.

At the same time, the revolutionaries had been planning to take advantage of the situation to establish a base in Lingnan. As early as the turn of May and June when the Qing government had not yet declared war on other countries, Kai Ho, an unofficial member of the Legislative Council of British Hong Kong and the first Chinese knight, consulted the British Hong Kong government and contacted Chen Shaobai, a member of the Revive China Society who stayed in Hong Kong. Ho suggested that the Society shall cooperate with Li Hongzhang to establish an independent government for Guangdong and Guangxi. Chen agreed and immediately contacted Sun Yat-sen who was in Japan; the British Hong Kong side also began to get in touch with Li Hongzhang.

In early June 1900, Li Hongzhang contacted Sun Yat-sen through his confidential staff, Cantonese gentry Liu Xuexun [zh], hoping to invite Sun to Guangzhou to discuss cooperation matters. Liu was also very enthusiastic about this plan. Later, Liu asked Sun through telegraph: "Due to the boxer chaos in the north, now I would like to achieve the independence of Guangdong, and for this I would like sir to come and help. Please come to Canton as soon as possible."[7] Sun was focusing on launching the Huizhou uprising at the time. His attitude towards this was opportunistic, thinking that he might as well make use of it: "This move has a chance of success and will be a blessing to the overall situation, so it is worth giving it a try.".[8][9] After June 15, the Qing government repeatedly ordered Li Hongzhang to take up his post in Beijing. Li Hongzhang was on the fence and made excuses to delay.

According to Feng Ziyou [zh]'s account, in the fifth month of the Gengzi period, Kai Ho "saw the urgent situation and the disaster of partition was imminent. If Canton did not urgently seek self-protection, it would never be able to survive. He proposed suggestions to China Daily (Hong Kong) [zh] President Chen Shaobai and advocated that revolutionaries should cooperate with Li Hongzhang, the Viceroy of Guangdong, to save the country. First, he mobilized Li to declare the independence of Canton to the Qing government and other countries, and the Prime Minister shall led the members of Revive China Society to assist... Then Blake, based on the reasons in the book, turned to Hongzhang, proposed an independent plan for Canton, and introduced Sun, the leader of the Revive China Society, to cooperate with him. If Hongzhang agreed with this, he would send a telegram to invite the Prime Minister to return to China and form a new government."[10] Chen Shaobai recorded: Kai Ho "discussed with me privately that we could borrow the power of the Governor of Hong Kong to persuade Li Hongzhang to declare independence; he was willing to speak to the Governor of Hong Kong and persuade Li Hongzhang on his behalf."

Kai Ho's role is to win the support of Sir Henry Arthur Blake (then Hong Kong Governor). Ho first discussed with some members of the Revive China Society the plan to transform China after the independence of Liangguang, which resulted in the "Letter from the Patriots of South China to the Governor of Hong Kong" that was then translated into English by Ho and handed over to Blake. Drafted by Ho, the program known as the "Pingzhi Charter"[11] supports the reorganization of China's political system under the trusteeship of the western imperialist powers. It includes "moving the capital to a suitable place such as Nanjing and Hankou" and "establishing an autonomous government in each province." , "separate management based on qualifications", westernize the judicial and educational systems, open the Chinese market to foreign businessmen, and establish a parliamentary system:[12]

A provincial council shall be established, with a number of tributes from each county as members. The province shall have full power to manage all its issues of politics, expropriation and official supplies, and is not subject to remote control by the central government. However, a certain percentage of the money received throughout the year shall be transferred to the central government; this is to clear foreign debts, provide military salaries, and pay for the palace and the government. The militia and police headquarters in the province are all under the control of the autonomous government. The provice shall appoint locals as its provincial officials and they must be publicly elected by the provincial assembly. As for the representatives in the council, they were supposed to be voted by the people; however, at the beginning of the new constitution, the law was not fully prepared, so they were temporarily selected by the autonomous government. They would be elected by the people in a few years, with the current consuls general of each country as temporary advisory members.

Kai Ho, Pingzhi Charter

On June 11, Sun Yat-sen, Yang Quyun, Zheng Shiliang [zh], Miyazaki Torazo and others set out from Yokohama and arrived at the sea of Hong Kong on the 17th, where they met the warship sent by Li Hongzhang to greet him. Worried that this was a trap set by the Qing government to arrest him, Sun did not dare to board the ship, so he sent Miyazaki and other three Japanese (who then had extraterritorial rights) to attend the meeting on his behalf. At about 10 o'clock that night, Miyazaki and others arrived at Liu Xuexun's residence in Guangzhou, and the two sides began their secret negotiations. During the negotiations, Liu Xuexun said that Li Hongzhang "would not be able to express anything" before the imperialist powers captured Beijing, implying that independence would have to wait until Beijing changed hands. Miyazaki proposed that Li Hongzhang should ensure Sun's safety and lend 60,000 yuan to the Revive China Society as the basis for cooperation between the two parties. Liu Xuexun immediately asked Li Hongzhang for instructions and agreed, and paid 30,000 yuan in person. At 3 o'clock in the morning the next day, the five-hour secret negotiation ended. Miyazaki and others immediately returned to Hong Kong overnight. Sun also set off on the same day, heading to Singapore via Hanoi.

In order to safeguard Britain's special interests in the Pearl River Basin, the British Hong Kong government was also very interested in Li Hongzhang's cooperation with the revolutionaries; it determined to prevent Li Hongzhang from going north, hoped that Li Hongzhang would stay in Guangdong to found the country, and supported Ho's proposal that Li Hongzhang cooperate with the Revive China Society to implement the independence of Guangdong and Guangxi. Blake tried his best to promote the cooperation between Li Hongzhang and Sun Yat-sen. Blake and Sun promised Li that if independence succeeds, they will elect Li as the "President" of the "Republic of Liangguang". In order to stabilize the situation in South China, Li Hongzhang was very interested in this plan, negotiated with the revolutionaries and granted loans. On June 20, the acting Governor of Hong Kong, Major General Gascoigne, sent a telegram to the Colonial Office requesting the British government to allow the Hong Kong government to intervene in Li Hongzhang's trip. However, British Prime Minister Salisbury ordered on the 22nd to prohibit the British Hong Kong government from intervening. Blake ended his trip and returned to Hong Kong on July 2. He immediately contacted the Revive China Society through Kai Ho and continued to lobby the United Kingdom.

However, as the war situation worsened, the voices of the peace faction in the Qing court became more prevalent, and Li Hongzhang received another telegram from the Qing court on July 8. Cixi appointed Li Hongzhang as the Viceroy of Zhili and Beiyang Trade Minister [zh]. Li Hongzhang realized that the government might begin to develop in a direction that was beneficial to the peace faction, so he decided to change his decision and leave Canton for the north.[13] Before leaving, he first arrived in Hong Kong by boat from Guangzhou to pay a visit to Blake and expressed his stance to the Hong Kong government in person.[14][15] However, Blake still haven't give up at this point and also learned that Sun Yat-sen was setting off from Singapore to Hong Kong. He sent an urgent telegram to London:[15]

The American admiral has been asked by Li Hung-chang to take him north ... I have informed the American admiral of the desire of H.M. Government that Li Hung-chang should remain in Canton for the present ... The American admiral has delayed taking any action. Li’s presence in the South is very necessary.

Blake

During the conversation, Blake said to Li Hongzhang: "I think that having regard to the present state of the North, such a movement is very probable and that we ought to be prepared and to look after our interests",[16] and expressed that Li should become the leader of the independent Liangguang while Sun Yat-sen should be only an advisor. Li did not respond. At this time, Legislative Council member Wei Yu met with Blake and requested the Hong Kong government to use force to retain Li Hongzhang. However, British Foreign Minister Joseph Chamberlain repeatedly ordered that Blake be prohibited from taking any action, so the plan for an independent South China eventually fell through.

After the failure of the plans for Liangguang's independence, Kai Ho continued to lobby the British in Hong Kong about his ideas and plans to transform the Chinese dynasty. On July 21, Kai Ho reported that Blake supported the establishment of a republic in South China. On August 1, He published an article based on this political program in The China Mail.[17] On August 10, he further published in the newspaper about the establishment of an "independent republic" in southern China.[18] On August 22, Ho published an open letter summarizing his views in The China Mail using the pen name "Sinensis" and the title "An Open Letter on the Situation". The recipient of the letter is "Mr. John Bull":[19]

Chinese of different provinces have their several distinctive characteristics, and in the distant future they are more likely to separate into distinct states than to unite into an immense nation.

Kai Ho (as Sinesis)

Ho believed that China would eventually fall apart without the help of the great powers, and that helping China carry out reform and disintegration was a noble but arduous undertaking, so he hoped to get support from the British. He said: "many of her intelligent and gifted sons are most enthusiastic over it.”.[20] Some scholars believe that this is precisely another aspect that many previous studies on Kai Ho have ignored.[21]

"Canton Independence Association"

The Qing court signed several unequal treaties, ceding territories and paying indemnities after multiple foreign wars. In the spring of 1901, rumors circulated that the Qing court would cede Guangdong to France. Responding to this, Feng Sizhuan, Zheng Guanyi, Li Zizhong [zh], Wang Chonghui, Feng Ziyou [zh] and Liang Zhongyou, among other Cantonese students in Japan, initiated an organization called the Canton Independence Association.[22] They advocated for Guangdong to declare independence from the Qing court, emphasizing that Guangdong belonged to its people, and its fate should be decided by them, not the Qing government.[23] The call resonated with many Cantonese expatriates in Japan, with "over two hundred participants" joining. The founders also visited Sun Yat-sen in Yokohama to discuss strategies. This marked the beginning of the cooperation between the Guangdong students in Japan and the Revive China Society.[24] Although not purely a student organization, it was led primarily by students. Since it was started because of rumors about Guangdong's cession and it was also mainly a club for people who came from the same area, it ceased operations shortly after its establishment.

Au Ku-kap and "New Canton"

The situation in late Qing Dynasty China sparked contemplation among intellectuals and social figures. From various perspectives and standpoints, they proposed numerous divergent propositions and schemes. Kang Youwei and his disciples advocated for the establishment of a constitutional monarchy for a Chinese nation through petitioning for reform. Meanwhile, Sun Yat-sen who led the Tongmenghui and other revolutionary organizations, promoted revolution throughout the country and advocated for "expelling the Tartar (Manchu) Barbarians and restoring China."

After the defeat in the First Sino-Japanese War, the Qing court was forced to sign the Treaty of Shimonoseki in April of that year, ceding Taiwan and its surrounding islands to Japan. This move faced strong opposition from the indigenous peoples of Taiwan. As a result, some Taiwanese elites urged the former viceroy of Taiwan, Tang Jingsong, to declare independence on May 25 of the same year. Thus, one of Asia's first self-proclaimed democratic states was established, named the Republic of Formosa. Although the Republic of Formosa existed only briefly, it inspired later claims for provincial independence and had a significant impact.[25]

In 1902, Kang Youwei's disciple, Au Ku-kap, serialized a lengthy article titled Discussion on the Necessity of Canton Independence and Breaking Away from Qing Restraints (《广东独立脱离满清羁绊之说》) under the pen name "The Pacific Gentleman" in the San Francisco-based newspaper Datong Daily, where Au is the editor-in-chief. The article spanned around fifty to sixty thousand Chinese characters and was published over several dozen days, advocating for the necessity of Canton independence and separation from the Qing Dynasty, receiving a warm welcome from readers. These political essays were quickly reprinted by the Xinmin Congbao 《新民丛报》 (whose editor-in-chief was Liang Qichao, another disciple of Kang) in Yokohama, Japan, and published as a single volume entitled New Canton (《新广东》), which sometimes also titled Canton for the People of Canton (《广东人之广东》). The volume featured a colored map of Guangdong and included an image of the Independence Hall of the United States. On February 22, Xinmin Congbao published an advertisement for the publication of Canton for the People of Canton promoting the book:

Its title is New Canton, so although the book has not been opened, the general purpose of its contents can already be inferred. The author was previously the chief editor of the Shanghai "Shi Wu Bao" and the Yokohama "Qingyi Bao," and currently serves as the chief editor of a certain newspaper in the United States and known for his literary accomplishments. It is not desired to explicitly mention the name of the author, nor is it necessary for readers to delve deeply into the identity of the author. However, upon reading it, one may feel its compelling nature, as if his brain stimulated by an electric shock, giving rise to unconventional thoughts. This is the nature of the book. At the beginning of the volume is a beautifully crafted and colorful map of Canton, which adds vibrancy to the entire book.

Au Ku-kap explained his title and proposition in the work:[26]

People will not put forward as much courage when dealing with public affairs as when dealing with their private affairs, they will not be as eager to save people they don't know as to save their own family and relatives, and they will not love China as much as their own provinces. This is the natural tendency, which rarely changes. For this reason and through my observations of the current trend, it is best for each province to take the initiative to chart its own course towards independence... I'm from Canton, thus I propose to begin this independence trend from Canton. Let us tentatively call this proposal "New Canton" to signify our desire as people from Canton to enjoy the blessings of a new nation.

Au Ku-kap, New Canton

Au Ku-kap believes that "those who speak of self-reliance among the Chinese take Taiwan as the starting point," and considers publications like the Hunan Daily (1898) [zh] founded by Tan Sitong and Tang Caichang as "the beginning of the voice for independence of various provinces in China." In his writing, he lists four "traits of self-reliance" in Canton: "outstanding talent," "abundant financial resources," "control of key regions," and "population growth." He proposes three methods to achieve independence: "independent newspapers," "independent schools," and "secret societies" (utilizing underground party organizations). Au also believes that the three major ethnic groups in Canton, namely the locals (i.e. Cantonese people), the Hoklo (i.e. Min language speakers, mainly the Teochew people), and the Hakka, are all indispensable parts of the Canton community:[26]

These three ethnic groups share the same origin, differing only in the language they speak... In terms of intellect, thoughts, perspectives, and physical and mental attributes, these three ethnicities are equally matched. Speaking in terms of their genealogy, all three of them are mostly descendants of their ancestors who migrated from the central plains due to upheavals, moving south across the mountains. The locals mostly migrated from Nanxiong to Guangzhou and Zhaoqing; the Hakka mostly migrated from Ganzhou; and the Hoklo mostly migrated from Jiangsu and Zhejiang to Fujian and Chaozhou. The variation in their dialects is also influenced by the regions where they reside... Hence, there is no doubt that these three are of the same ethnicity.

Au Ku-kap, New Canton

Later in the article, Au Ku-Kap also further proposed the disintegration plan of the eighteen mainland provinces and the idea of establishing a federation between Guangdong and Guangxi:[26]

The people of Guangxi originally migrated from eastern Guangdong, and since the territories are contiguous and the sentiments are deeply connected, forming a federation is the easiest thing to do here. This is a natural boundary in terms of geography and ethnicity. It's not just Guangdong and Guangxi; if we were to divide the territories governed by the current governor-general of China into separate countries, it would also be feasible since it matches in terms of ethnicity and geography. For example, under the governor-general of Zhili, the provinces of Zhili, Shandong, Shanxi, and Henan could form an independent country; under the governor-general of Liangjiang, Jiangsu, Anhui, and Jiangxi could form one; under the governor-general of Lianghu, Hubei and Hunan could form one; under the governor-general of Yungui, Yunnan and Guizhou; under the governor-general of Shaan-Gan, Shaanxi and Gansu; and under the governor-general of Min-Zhe, Zhejiang and Fujian (previously including Taiwan as three provinces, now ceded to Japan), each pair of provinces could form an independent country; and under the governor-general of Sichuan, Sichuan alone could be an independent country. If we compare this to the powerful countries in Europe (excluding Russia and excluding colonies), there is no one that can match the extent of their territory. Even if this is not possible, dividing them into three major parts based on the flow of rivers - provinces north to the Yellow River and east to the Yin Mountains could joint forces and form an independent country, provinces south to the Yellow River and north to the Yangtze River could form one, and provinces south to the Yangtze River and north to the Southern Sea could form one. These three new countries could be very powerful and countries as powerful are rarely seen of in modern times. Nevertheless, regardless of whether it's the South, the Central or the Northern, and regardless of whether the provinces are grouped together, if one province declares independence, it will naturally align with its respective region. If, due to differences in dialects, customs, and political systems, a northern province aligns with the central region, a central province aligns with the southern region, or a southern province aligns with the central region, as long as they can stand independently, they can choose their own direction.

Au Ku-kap, New Canton

Au Ku-kap's article sparked widespread discussion and attention. This book also led to harsh criticism from Kang Youwei, who stated, "Ku-kap has deviated from the classics and should be expelled from the school." Kang also wrote to Au, saying, "Receiving your book, I was speechless and struck with a headache. You are pushing us to a dead end," and "The only choice is to sever ties with you and inform the world." Kang Youwei subsequently wrote several articles vehemently opposing Au's proposal for the provinces of the China proper to become independent, arguing that the downfall of India was due to the provinces' independence. In 1902, Han Wenju, writing under the pen name "Man Who's Worried," praised Au Ku-kap's theory of independence in the "Mianshi Tanhu Lu" column of Xinmin Congbao, believing that this was a method for the Chinese people in the mainland to achieve self-reliance, and advocating for people from all over China to join this movement:[27]

As I read this, I was greatly convinced. I hope that the people of Chu will seek a new Chu, the people of Shu will seek a new Shu, the people of Wu will seek a new Wu, the people of Yue will seek a new Yue, and the people of Ou (Southern Zhejiang) will seek a new Ou, and even Yan, Qi, Qin, Jin, Dian, and Qian.

Han Wenju: On New Canton

In 1903, a year after the publication of "New Canton", Yang Shouren [zh], an anti-Qing figure from Changsha studying in Japan, followed Au Ku-kap's work and published an article titled "New Hunan" under the pen name "Hunan for the People of Hunan." Yang's arguments were deeply influenced by Au, also advocating the disintegration of mainland China. The article began with the statement: "The Pacific Gentleman wrote 'New Canton'; we the disgruntled people have read it and admired it." Yang proclaimed, "Canton advocates it, and we Hunan shall harmonize with it; Canton plays its music, and we Hunan shall dance to it; we Hunan to Canton is exactly like the straps on a chariot's horse."[28] Yang even likened the disintegration of the Qing Empire to the collapse of the Roman Empire and compared the independence of Hunan to the construction of European nation-states.[29]

The textbook "Local History of Canton", published in 1905, stated that "Canton has ethnic groups known as Hakka and Hoklo, which are neither Cantonese nor Han", considering Hakka, Hoklo, Cantonese, and Han as four different ethnic groups.[30][31]

On May 8, 1905, the Qing Dynasty's Grand Council sent letters to provincial governors ordering the strict prohibition of "rebellious" publications including "New Canton", "New Hunan", and "Xinmin Congbao", which all advocated for reform or revolution.[32] Feng Ziyou also mentioned in his memoir Revolutionary Anecdotes that "New Hunan" vigorously advocated for the independence of Hunan Province from the Qing Dynasty, similar to "New Canton" written by the Cantonese Au Ku-kap, which was widely circulated at that time. It is worth noting that Chen Jiongming later proposed the idea of "provincial autonomy," which was greatly inspired by Au's ideas.[33]

In 1908, Au Ku-kap, who had already broken ties with Kang Youwei, along with Liu Shiji [zh] and others, hoped to invest in industry in Guangxi and other areas. When Au went to New York to raise funds for his Zhenhua Company, he told people that "Our current investment in Zhenhua stocks is only to pave the way for future control of the Liangguang. I have been planning this for more than ten years. If Zhenhua and Guangmei companies succeed, my goal can be achieved." In 1909, conflicts between Kang Youwei's faction and Au Ku-kap's group intensified. Several people, including Liu Shiji, were assassinated. Au had to "move around with bodyguards" and lived in constant fear. However, Kang Youwei took the initiative and reported that Au was plotting unrest and advocating for the independence of Liangguang, secretly planning a revolution.[34] Kang accused Au in his report of "pretending to be loyal to the party, attempting to deceive people's hearts, and then betraying the party's purpose, which was severely criticized by the party leader and not tolerated. He is a man who would cunningly change his stance", "plotting unrest, mobilizing forces in the three provinces of Guangdong, Yunnan, and Guizhou, and purchasing weapons and ammunition which cannot be achieved without raising tens of thousands of funds through stock offerings", "plotting to seize power", "using the power of the governor to coerce merchants and seize their assets, making use of Guangxi's remote location for planning unrest, and intending to establish independence in Guangxi, Guangdong, Yunnan, and Guizhou".[35] Kang Youwei therefore proposed to the Imperial Supreme Court to demand the return of the stock funds and requested the capture of the "ringleader of unrest Au Ku-kap". Au had to live a hermit life and eventually passed away.

After Xinhai Revolution

After the 1911 Wuchang Uprising in Hubei, various sectors in Canton "planned for Canton's self-preservation." On November 9, the Canton Consultative Bureau announced Canton's independence from the Qing Dynasty. The gentry class in Canton had their first taste of modern political participation during the late Qing Dynasty's Advisory Council reforms. For them, the Xinhai Revolution was an opportunity to lead the practice of Canton's independence and autonomy.[36] Liu Yongfu, who became the head of the Canton Militia after its independence, stated in a public announcement for calming the public:[37]

We Canton borders Hokkien to the east, Kwangsi to the west, Wuling to the north, and the ocean to the south. Our customs, language and preferrences are different from those of the Central Plains, so it is natural for us to be an independent country. Zhao Tuo of the Qin Dynasty, Feng Ang [zh] and Deng Wenjin [zh] of the Sui Dynasty, and He Zhen of the Yuan Dynasty all took advantage of the turbulent times to rise up, stabilize the society, and consolidate the territory. Now that the army is strong and the situation of independence is complete, there are more than ten thousand ways to plan for the good of the future! ... "Canton shall be the Canton for the people of Canton", this kind of words should already be familiar to you.

Liu Yongfu, Announcement on the Inauguration of the Leader of Canton Militia (《就任广东省民团总长通告》)

However, some people also pointed out that Canton's independence in 1911 was just a step for local gentry to break away from the Qing Empire; they still greatly desired to join the yet-to-be-established Chinese republican regime. The republican faction in late Qing Canton had a dual loyalty to "China" and "Canton." For instance, there were those who, in articles celebrating independence, distinguished this independence from the founding of the United States, the independence of Greece, and the establishment of the Southern Han state and the He Zhen regime in Canton's history:

Independence must have its purpose. Washington's soaring in America, I do not pursue that, since I do not desire to separate from the mother country; the vigorous efforts of Kapodistrias in the Balkans, I do not pursue that either, since I still wish to restore the old capital. But Canton's purpose is already set, hence this is not like the independence of the United States or Greece, but it's simply the independence of Canton.

Independence must have its organization. The establishment of Liu Yan's country in Canton, I do not pursue that, since I do not aim for a separatist hegemony; the preservation of the land by Hezhen in Canton, I do not pursue that either, since I do not wish to cling to the Qing system. But now that Canton's organization is complete, it is not for the independence of old Canton, but for the independence of present-day Canton."

《興漢紀念廣東獨立全案 —— 廣東獨立記》 (Comprehensive Record of Canton Independence in Memory of the Rise of Han: Canton Independence Records)。[38]

Influence of the "federated provincial autonomy" ideology

In the early years of the Republic of China, influenced by the trend of provincial autonomy, politicians and local military figures proposed a reform plan for the political system of China, advocating for a federal system where each province would have constitutional autonomy.

At that time, Chen Jiongming, who was in power in Canton, also supported this type of political system and promoted the drafting of the Draft Constitution of Canton Province by the Canton Assembly. It stipulated Canton's independence and autonomy in military and financial matters, as well as its relationship with the Republic of China. Meanwhile, under the influence of the trend of provincial autonomy, Chen's administration in Canton initiated the first-ever county magistrate elections in Chinese history. In September 1921, the election of county councilors across the province was completed, and in November, the election of county magistrates was also completed. In an issue of the magazine La Jeunesse, a reader wrote a letter expressing great encouragement for the elections in Guangdong and advocated that Canton should no longer seek actions for "unifying China" but instead "become a model new country in the world":

As for Canton, the last thing I want from it is any further action to unify China - it is just a waste of effort and will result in our people falling deeper into hell. The trend of evolution - no matter what kind of evolution - is to move from a confusing so-called "unity" to smaller "unities" that are more complete and promising. I feel that there are so many enthusiastic people overly confused by words like "thoroughness", "sacrifice" and "struggle" that they have accomplished nothing, and I only hope that Canton will become a model new country in the world. ...With the area and population of, Canton is enough to qualify as a country. Otherwise, I am afraid that external attacks and internal criticism will completely wipe out any promising shoots and roots, which will make realization in the future extremely difficult. A single bit of fire that's lit to shine brightly in the darkness is easy to extinguish, but when you are in a position where you can shine and cause other things to burn, you will naturally work hard to spit out flames and illuminate everything! People like Sun, Chen, and others are like this powerful fire within Canton; and when Canton burns red hot, other places would see that Canton is where the sun is from!

La Jeunesse, Vol. 9, Issue 4.[39]

In Hunan, Mao Zedong and others launched the Hunan Independence Movement, opposing the "Great Republic of China" and advocating for the "Hunan Republic" and the independent establishment of countries by each province in China. This was supported by people inside and outside China, including Hu Shih and John Dewey:[40]

I am against the "Great Republic of China" and I support the "Republic of Hunan". What's the reason for this? There may have been a fallacy in the past, that is, "the countries that can survive in the world in the future must be big countries." The venom of this kind of opinion expands imperialism, suppresses the small and weak nations of our country, fights for overseas colonies, turns semi-civilized and uncivilized nations into complete slaves, stifles their survival and progress, and only makes them submissive... China couldn't even have a "success that was actually not"... Among the eighteen provinces, provinces such as Hunan, Sichuan, Canton, Hokkien, Zhejiang, and Hubei all became conquered provinces, repeatedly trampling on others' horseshoes, and suffering endless consequences. Whose sin are these consequences? I dare to say that it is the sin of being an empire, the sin of being a big country, and the sin of the fallacy that "a country that can survive in the world must be a big country"; and fundamentally speaking, it is the sin of the people... What about China? We are also awake now (except for politicians, bureaucrats and warlords). All the fake "republic" attempts that were nothing but infighting forced people to wake up and realize that the overall construction of this country was completely hopeless within a period of time. The best way is not to seek general construction but to split the country, to pursue separate construction in each province and implement the principle of "self-determination of the people of each province". Twenty-two provinces, three special zones and two vassals, a total of twenty-seven places, can best be divided into twenty-seven countries.

Mao Zedong, The Fundamental Issues of Hunan's Construction, or: The Republic of Hunan (《湖南建设问题的根本问题—湖南共和国》)[41]

Unlike Chen Jiongming, who advocated for the establishment of a provincial constitution in Canton and provincial autonomy, the Kuomintang, including Sun Yat-sen, believed that provincial autonomy and the establishment of provincial constitutions would only promote the fragmentation and disintegration of China, leading to regional independence or even the founding of separate countries. Sun Yat-sen argued, "Under current conditions in China, federalism will act as a centrifugal force. Ultimately, it will only lead to the division of our country into many small nations, where principle-less suspicion and hostility will determine their relationships." In the Manifesto of the First National Congress of the Kuomintang of China, Sun strongly opposed the advocates of provincial autonomy, arguing that its result would only "split China, allowing small warlords to occupy each province and pursue their own interests."[42] After the enactment of the Canton Provincial Constitution, Liao Zhongkai, Zou Lu [zh], and Gu Yingfen [zh] opposed and resisted it, viewing it as:

...was trying to divide China into 20-plus small countries. The provincial constitution itself is all about local divisions and there is no unified country. If the provinces followed this idea and declared autonomy, they will make their own plans and do their own things, and China will inevitably fall into pieces.

Hu Hanmin pointed out that "Chen Jiongming's drafting of the provincial constitution is purely based on the interests of the province. Apart from seeking to consolidate the province's military power and not being controlled by the central government, it even declares war externally. The 'national government' has only the right to command the provincial army and not the right to mobilize it. The organization of the provincial army and other matters are determined by provincial laws, concentrating military and political power in the hands of the provincial governor. On the surface, it appears to follow the system of separating civil and military officials, but in reality, it is simply trying to be an independent kingdom."[43]

The disagreement between Chen Jiongming and the Kuomintang eventually led to the June 16th Incident. Subsequently, the Kuomintang and the Comintern engaged in large-scale cooperation, leading to the formation of First United Front. Later, the National Revolutionary Army launched the Eastward Expedition [zh] and defeated Chen Jiongming. Economist Xiaokai Yang believes that during the warlord era, if warlords could "form multiple small countries and establish an inviolable order of borders," then it would be "possible to create a situation of equal competition among multiple countries like in Europe." Yang argues that the local autonomy and federalist ideology represented by figures like Chen Jiongming represent the potential for China to develop towards a multi-state system.[44] Dissident historian Liu Zhongjing believes that if the practice of inter-provincial autonomous constitutionalism had not been interfered with by the Northern Expedition of the Kuomintang and the Communist Party, it would eventually have slowly eroded the power of the central government of the Republic of China. The protection of different regional warlords by foreign powers would have effects similar to the disintegration of Spanish America. Liu also believes that during the Five Dynasties period in China, both Lingnan and Vietnam were held by the remnants of the Tang Dynasty's Jiedushi. Eventually, the Southern Han state was eliminated by the Song Dynasty while the Tĩnh Hải quân became a vassal of China, which is why these two regions later took different paths.[45]

Modern times

In 2015, China's National Development and Reform Commission included Guangzhou, Huizhou, Dongguan and Shenzhen Guangming New District in Guangdong Province as part of a pilot project to improve the welfare of migrants at an estimated cost of 149 billion Chinese Yuan, a move that sparked a war of words on the Internet. Some Guangzhou netizens expressed their dissatisfaction on Weibo, believing that the plan did not take into account the feelings of the local people, and criticized people from other provinces for not being determined enough to integrate and learn Cantonese culture, saying that they "have no obligation to distribute Guangzhou's resources to other provinces." Some people even expressed their dissatisfaction. Calling "Guangzhou shall starts its war of independence! One vote per person, we shall determine the future of our own place!" Netizens from other places pointed out that Guangzhou people are intolerant and believed that people across the country should be allowed to move freely to Guangdong. They even said that "without the foreign population, Guangzhou's economy will be paralyzed".[46]

In January 2017, Guangzhou Wuyang Primary School launched "Yangcheng Readings in Cantonese", the first Cantonese textbook for primary schools. It received enthusiastic responses from many Guangzhou locals. However, this has set off a heated discussion on the Chinese Internet. Some people criticized the promotion of Cantonese as an obstacle to the promotion of national standard language education. "It is obviously a kind of localism and is extremely detrimental to national stability and unity." They hope that the authorities will stop it. They also questioned whether this move was to build students' pride in using Cantonese. A high school Chinese teacher in Anhui named Zhang Xiaohua even said on Weibo that this was advocating Canton independence and suspected that the school violated the Constitution and many laws.[47] Zhang Xiaohua also believes that the Chinese should "maintain the authority of the central government, promote national unification, and promote national integration", otherwise they will repeat the mistakes of the disintegration of Yugoslavia. Some netizens reported Wuyang Primary School’s practices to the Ministry of Education. Hong Kong I-CABLE News contacted Zhang Xiaohua about this matter, but the other party refused to respond. The incident put Wuyang Primary School under pressure. The school declined to be interviewed many times, and even pointed out that the school textbooks were out of stock and could not be lend to the general public.[48]

In November 2019, people in Maoming, Guangdong, shouted the slogan "Liberate Maoming, the revolution of our times" during a protest against the government's construction of a crematorium, echoing the anti-extradition bill movement in Hong Kong at the same time ("Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our times" was a protest slogan created by Hong Kong politician Edward Leung Tin-kei), and clashed with the police, overturning many police cars.[49]

In 2021, the social media app Clubhouse gained popularity in China, leading to many mainland Chinese individuals of different viewpoints engaging in discussions and debates on the platform. Among them, some individuals from Guangdong Province began discussing contemporary Guangdong's local Civil society and culture. Some users proposed constructing "Canton nationalism" based on the modern culture of Guangdong, a cultural nationalism distinct from ethnic nationalism advocated by others. They believe that:

The identity of "Cantonian" is not about blood ties, ancestors, culture, or race. In Canton nationalism, "the nation" does not specifically refer to any ethnic group in Canton (such as Cantonese, Teochew, Hakka, migrants from other provinces, etc.), but rather to any group formed by Canton citizens who identify with Canton's culture and values. Therefore, Canton nationalism advocates for a national identity shared by all ethnic groups, including Cantonese, Teochew, Hakka, descendants of migrants from other provinces after the establishment of the People's Republic of China, the so-called "new Canton people".

Later, some individuals began to brew the idea of rebuilding the Canton civic community and started operating personal media on other social platforms about local culture.[50]

From March to April 2022, the Chinese government locked down multiple areas in Guangdong due to the COVID-19 pandemic. During protests against the lockdown, some people shouted slogans advocating for "Daya Bay independence".[51]

In September 2022, the Guangzhou metro and other public facilities in Guangzhou were restricted due to epidemic prevention measures, leading to a large number of Guangzhou netizens expressing dissatisfaction on social media platforms such as Weibo. Some netizens even proposed the idea of "Guangzhou people governing Guangzhou" and "Canton people governing Canton." Some citizens interviewed felt that such remarks "gives people the feel of advocating for 'Canton independence'".[52]

National security issues

In August 2018, someone claiming to be a member of the police system within the Chinese Communist Party exposed information about China’s big data intelligence system online. The leaked information shows that the police system’s classification of “extreme speech individuals” includes individuals who advocates "Guangdong independence" alongside those who advocates Inner Mongolian independence, Xinjiang independence, Tibetan independence, Taiwan independence and Shanghai independence.[53]

On January 1, 2019, during the Hong Kong new year march, the Kapok flag which represents Guangdong independence movement also appeared in the Hong Kong National Front parade that advocated for Hong Kong independence. The parading group also included those who supports Tibetan independence, Taiwan independence, East Turkestan independence, Inner Mongolian independence, Manchuria independence, Hokkien independence, Bashuria independence and Shanghai independence.[54] In addition to Hong Kong independence slogans, demonstrators also chanted slogans like "Independence for Guangdong, Guangxi, and Fujian".[55] Paladin Cheng, a Hong Kong pro-independence activist who participated in organizing the parade, said in an interview that although the parade had little response in Hong Kong, it received a lot of support from pro-independence factions in China and overseas. They responded enthusiastically and wanted to fund the march. Regarding the purpose and role of this parade, Cheng believes that Hong Kong is an international platform, so "it can achieve a great propaganda effect with very few resources" and "advocate the independence of China's provinces" so that "the Communist Party's efforts to engage in Hong Kong are dispersed." , also pointed out that we need to break away from the limitations of traditional pan-democrats and localists who do not care about the separatist forces in mainland China.[56]

At the end of June 2020, China passed the Hong Kong National Security Law, which attracted global attention. In Hong Kong Police Force's operational guidelines for the law, examples of behavior endangering national security were mentioned, including demonstrators waving designated flags. Examples of flags listed by the police include the Guangdong Independence Flag that appeared in the 2019 New Year's Day parade.[57][58]

On October 26, 2022, Chan Taai-sam, an autistic Hong Kong independence supporter in Hong Kong, was charged with inciting illegal assembly and committing acts with seditious intent for calling on Hong Kong people to take to the streets to protest and overthrow the Chinese Communist Party on platforms like LIHKG and Telegram. He pleaded guilty to all charges in the District Court. The defendant advocated "national self-strength and Hong Kong independence" and praised the "Hong Kong independence faction" as "the freedom fighters of Hong Kong people." In addition to advocating for Hong Kong citizens to exercise and form an "independent revolutionary army", he also advocated joining forces with people from various provinces in China, including Guangdong, to overthrow the Communist regime. The defense had earlier argued that the crime of incitement was of serious nature and that the District Court had no jurisdiction to try it and should be handed over to the High Court for trial by a jury or three designated judges. In the end, Judge Kwok Wai-kin, designated under the National Security Law, ruled that the crime of incitement was a "summary crime" and the District Court have the right to try.[59] On November 15, Chan Taai-sam was sentenced to 12 months in prison by the District Court.[60]

On January 5, 2023, Wong Jeun-git, a man who worked as a courier in Hong Kong, was sentenced at the West Kowloon Magistrates' Court for content he posted on multiple social media in early 2021. In addition to making remarks advocating "Guangdong independence", the defendant also reposted remarks such as the wrong clip of the national anthem. Therefore, he was charged with "committing one or more acts with seditious intent." In his judgment, Chief Magistrate Victor So Wai-tak, designated judge under the Hong Kong National Security Law, held that the defendant not only shared other people's information, but also personally produced and wrote the content. The content promoted local independence in the mainland, split the country, and advocated the use of force to carry out "revolution", "uprising" and "war", it was believed that the defendant's remarks clearly threatened public safety. In order to prevent others from implementing these extreme illegal ideas, a deterrent penalty must be imposed, so the defendant was sentenced to 8 months in prison.[61][62]

Overseas activities

In August 2019, during the anti-extradition bill movement in Hong Kong, a number of posters with the words "Independence for Canton", "Cantonia Independence" and the "tricolor Kapok Flag" appeared on the Lennon Wall near the Fortress Hill Station.[63]

On August 23, 2019, the anti-communist independence movement political party conference jointly organized by the Shanghai National Party and the Uyghur American Association was held at Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., the capital of the United States. Participants include supporters of the independence movements in Hong Kong, East Turkestan, Southern Mongolia, Guangdong and other places, as well as pro-democracy activists in the People's Republic of China.[64][65]

On September 30, 2021, activists from different ethnic groups such as Uyghurs and Afghans held a rally to protest against China’s National Day outside the Chinese Embassy in Washington D.C.. Participants burned the PRC flag and the Chinese Communist Party flag. The group of protestors also included pro-democracy activists who supported Guangdong independence who waved the "tricolor Kapok flag", a contemporary symbol of Guangdong independence movement. Chen Shisheng, a supporter of Canton independence who participated in the event, expressed his support for the independence and self-determination of people of all ethnic groups under the rule of the CCP, and said: "We people in Canton don't have votes, despite the fact that we also deserve the right to hold referendum."[1]

On October 1, 2022, China's National Day, anti-China demonstrators of various ethnic groups from Vietnam and the Philippines gathered in front of the Chinese Consulate General in San Francisco, including Guangdong independence supporters who displayed the "tricolor Kapok Flag" and expressed their opposition of China's expansion in the South China Sea and the belief that languages and culture in Guangdong are being wiped out by China.[66][67]

On World Human Rights Day in 2022 and 2023, people from Canton carried the "Kapok Flag" representing the Cantonia independence movement and participated in rallies against China in Canada, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and other places to declare their Cantonese identity to the world.[68][69][70] A young participant from Guangzhou said in an interview that his view on local independent identity was inspired by the Hong Kong localist movement.[5] Some participants also stated that the protest was to oppose CCP's suppression on Canton's culture and dissidents.

On July 1, 2023, at the July 1 commemoration event organized by the Hong Kong exile group in London, a self-proclaimed supporter of Cantonia independence took the stage to give a speech. The speaker believed that Hong Kong was once the "West Berlin of East Asia" and had sheltered many refugees fleeing the totalitarian power of the Chinese Communist Party, which also provided him with political enlightenment. What happened in Hong Kong exposed the lie of "one country, two systems". He hoped that Hong Kong and "Cantonia" could one day establish independent countries and become "very good neighboring countries". Finally, he led the people at the rally to shout the slogans of Hong Kong independence and Cantonia independence.[71][72][73][74][75]

In August 2023, Lai Ching-te, then Vice President of the Republic of China, visited the United States. Supporters of Cantonia independence participated in an Overseas Taiwanese welcome event in San Francisco. The supporters held signs saying "Taiwan Independence, Cantonia Independence," "Disintegrate China," and the "tricolor Kapok Flag." They intended to protest in front of pro-Communist demonstrators but were stopped by the police. Interviewees expressed that there is no way to voice their opinions in China and stated, "The enemy of the Communist Party is our friend. Taiwan represents democracy and freedom. Supporting Taiwan means supporting democracy and freedom."[76]

On August 31, 2023, the fourth anniversary of the 2019 Prince Edward station attack, a group of Hong Kong people held a commemorative gathering at the San Leandro Marina Park in the San Francisco Bay Area. Among them were supporters from Guangdong, displaying the "tricolor Kapok Flag" symbolizing Canton independence and localism.[77]

On October 1, 2023, the National Day of China, demonstrators gathered in Dam Square in Amsterdam, and Trafalgar Square in London, among other places, to hold anti-China protests. Among them were individuals displaying the "tricolor Kapok Flag" symbolizing the Cantonia independence movement.[78][79] One protester carrying this flag claimed to be from Guangdong and expressed support for the Hong Kong protests, stating, "Our common enemy is the CCP. The CCP not only deprives Hong Kong people of their freedom but also carries out massacres and deprives freedom in various parts of the mainland."

In November 2023, when Xi Jinping attended the APEC summit in the United States and visited California, protesters against China staged demonstrations at locations such as the Chinese Consulate General in San Francisco. Among them were supporters of Cantonia independence, who carried the "tricolor Kapok Flag" and held signs saying "Expel the Communist Criminals, Reclaim Our Territory."[80] One participant, interviewed by the media, expressed identification with "Cantonia" rather than China as their home country, stating, "The only way out for China is for each province to become independent." They emphasized the need for not only Guangdong but also other provinces like Fujian, Shanxi, and Inner Mongolia to seek independence, citing the disputes caused by China in the South China Sea as evidence, saying, "If China disintegrates, the world will be more peaceful."[81][82][83][84][85]

In December 2023, the Chuka Seitaigo Restaurant controversy [zh] occurred in Tokyo, triggering conflicts between Chinese residents in Japan and supporters of the restaurant. After the restaurant resumed operations, the owner replaced the original sign that read "Chinese not allowed" with posters featuring images and text related to sensitive Chinese issues such as Hong Kong independence, 8964, and "Cantonia Independence" to prevent pro-Communist Chinese from entering the establishment.[86]

On May 5, 2024, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Paris, France, and encountered large-scale protests from various ethnic groups, including Tibetans and Uyghurs. Activists called on France and Europe not to cooperate with Xi Jinping. Among the crowd was Lau Feilung, an advocate for the Cantonia independence movement. Lau was arrested and detained by French police near the Arc de Triomphe while protesting. He had his flags and banners confiscated and was fined. Lau believes that the actions of the Paris police were influenced by pressure from the Chinese Communist Party.[87] Additionally, in December 2022, Lau Feilung joined other Uyghur protesters at Dam Square in the Netherlands to protest the Urumqi fire incident and China's pandemic policies.[88][89]

On June 2, commemorative gatherings for the June 4th incident were held in both Parliament Square in London, UK, and Dam Square in Amsterdam, Netherlands. A participant from Canton advocating for Cantonia independence stated that, as a person from Canton, similar to some young people from Hong Kong, they would mourn and pay attention to the June 4th incident from a humanitarian perspective and a local viewpoint. Lau Feilung, a member of the Cantonia Independence Party, emphasized the special role of Canton in the 1989 pro-democracy movement and the history of demonstrations that swept across the province. He urged the younger generation of Canton to remember the history from 35 years ago and to strive for Canton's democracy, freedom, and independence. Lau believes that "for China to achieve democracy and freedom, separation and independence are the only way.[90]"

On June 9, 2024, Hongkongers in London took to the streets in protest, demanding the closure of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in London. A speaker advocating for the independence of Guangdong expressed hope that Hong Kong and Guangdong would soon become independent countries free from Chinese Communist Party control. He stated, "It took 40-plus years of Cold War for the Soviet Union to disintegrate, but I am still willing to stand with everyone. I hope we can win this battle, I hope that China will collapse like the Soviet Union, and I hope that after shaking off the authoritarian rule, Hong Kong and Guangdong can finally become independent nations."[91] On the 12th, people from various ethnic groups, including Filipinos and Vietnamese, gathered at noon outside the Chinese Consulate General in San Francisco to protest against China's expansion in the South China Sea. Participating Hongkongers also commemorated the fifth anniversary of the Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill Movement. The event included independence activists from Guangdong, Yunnan, and Shanghai, carrying flags advocating for the independence of Guangdong, Shanghai, and Yunnan. Protesters chanted slogans such as "China get out of the Philippines," "China get out of Vietnam," "China get out of Guangdong," and "Free Cantonia." Cheng Wing-wa, a member of the Cantonia Independence Party, spoke at the event, criticizing China's pollution and overfishing in the South China Sea, which have caused severe environmental damage. He argued that China's "Nine-dash line" extending into the nearshore areas of Vietnam and the Philippines is unreasonable, accusing China of having ambitions to dominate the world and enslave the globe. He condemned China's "lawless and barbaric behavior" and called for protests alongside people from more countries. "Stand together with Filipinos, Vietnamese, Hongkongers, people from Yunnan, and all freedom-loving people in the world forever!" Xu Ke from Shanghai advocated for Shanghai's independence, expressing hope for "a peaceful world without the Chinese Communist Party. Shanghai people, Hongkongers, people from Guangdong, and other ethnic groups should be able to live freely and with dignity, without fear or oppression, and be able to choose their own future."[92][93][94][95]

Street slogan incidents

On March 12, 2018, media reported that various public facilities in Guangzhou were inscribed with slogans in Traditional Chinese characters. The slogans included phrases such as "Guangzhou Independence, Hong Kong Add Oil," "Canton Independence," and "Free Cantonia." These phrases were found on transportation vehicles and pedestrian pathways, including at The Memorial Museum of the Generalissimo Sun Yat-sen's Mansion [zh] bus station, Xin Hong Garden bus station, and the backs of seats on several buses. The fonts of the phrases appearing in different locations were similar, leading to suspicions that it was the work of the same individual. Later, it was confirmed through Facebook that the person responsible was Ng Wai-ho, a supporter of Guangdong. He was subsequently detained by the national security department for several months and was made to write a statement of repentance. Some pro-China media outlets, such as Hong Kong's Oriental Press, believe that this reflects the "unhealthy trend of (pursuing) independence" from Hong Kong spreading to the mainland and consider such random graffiti in public places to be against public morality.[96] According to a Twitter user with 110,000 followers, "After the appearance of 'Hong Kong Independence' banners and posters last year, even Guangzhou has 'Guangdong Independence' slogans, and the independence trend is spreading to mainland China!" He also said, "Hong Kong independence supporters pays homage to Cantonia independence supporters, as Hong Kong independence movement is a natural ally of Cantonia independence movement." Some netizens do not believe that it was done by people from Guangzhou, thinking that they do not understand Traditional Chinese characters. "Guangzhou independence in Traditional Chinese characters? Hong Kong cockroaches surely are good at camouflaging." Some netizens also think that Guangzhou's independence is not good enough and believe that "Guangdong independence would be more appropriate." Some netizens who support Hong Kong independence express their admiration, believing that there is only one path to democracy in China, and Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Shanghai, the Northeast, and Tibet should all become independent to break free from the control of the central government, which would help preserve cultural heritage and improve living standards. They suggest that the central government only needs to control Hebei and Beijing. Some Hong Kong netizens also post messages like "Keep it up, Guangzhou! Hong Kong citizens send their congratulations."[97][98]

Some rights activists, in interviews with foreign media, stated that this is due to local people's unbearable suffering from the Chinese Communist Party's suppression of Cantonese culture and its disregard for people's demands, leading to acts of resistance. Liu Kim-ho, a rights activist in Guangzhou, told Radio Free Asia that he had seen a piece of A4 paper near the Peasant Movement Institute station of Guangzhou Metro with "Guangdong Independence" written on it. Liu believes that the emergence of such phenomena represents social progress. However, Guangzhou rights activist Au Siu-kwan [zh] expressed opposition to the idea, stating that while they hope to promote democratic progress, they also oppose the division of the country, believing that the people of a country should stand united.[99] Arnaldo Gonçalves, a political scientist at the Macau Polytechnic Institute, while acknowledging that the people of Guangdong have their unique identity, also questions the consistency of this movement.[100]

In late August 2019, Guangzhou witnessed another incident of street graffiti with slogans advocating for Cantonia independence. Yeung Yuk-ban, a freelancer in Guangzhou who had repeatedly expressed support for the Hong Kong anti-extradition bill movement on his real-name Twitter account, was arrested by the police on the 24th and 26th in the Xiaozhou Village area of Haizhu District, Guangzhou, for spraying slogans such as "Guangdong Independence," "Revolution of Our Times," "Liberate Guangzhou," "Support HK," "Freedom," and "Democracy" in multiple locations. At the time of his arrest, the police found items such as gas masks, helmets, and spray paint in his home. He was charged with the crime of picking quarrels and provoking trouble. The Haizhu District People's Court in Guangzhou held a video hearing on the case on January 13, 2020. During the hearing, Yeung admitted to writing those slogans and voluntarily pleaded guilty. A week later, the court issued a written judgment, ruling that based on the evidence and Yeung's lack of objection to the charges, his actions constituted the crime of picking quarrels and provoking trouble, sentencing him to nine months in prison, until May 25, 2020. The indictment stated that Yeung's graffiti on the streets caused crowds to gather, ignoring the national laws; it also accused him of causing disturbances and disrupting social order in public places.[101]

Dissident writer Ye Du expressed to the media that since the time of imprisonment is only three months away from Yeung's release, it can be anticipated that Yeung probably won't appeal. Some Cantonia independence parties strongly condemned the court's decision on social media, criticizing the court's ruling as "once again demonstrating the Chinese government's contempt for basic human rights and oppression of people in Canton." They demanded that the Chinese authorities immediately release Yeung Yuk-ban and called on the international community to pay attention to Yeung's case.[102]

On October 13, 2022, a protest against Xi Jinping took place at Sitong Bridge [zh] in Beijing, triggering responses from people who opposed the CCP in China and abroad. On the 16th, a person who was said to be a member of the "Cantonia Independence Party"[103][104] and advocated for Guangdong independence hung a banner with red characters on a white background that imitated the Sitong Bridge protesters outside the Los Angeles City Hall with slogans in Traditional Chinese Characters:[105][106][107]

不要核酸要法治,不要封城要自由,不要華語要母語,不要奴役要獨立,不要中國要解體,不要廣東要粵國。

[Reject (the excessive) PCR tests and demand the rule of law; reject lockdown and demand freedom; reject the Chinese language and demand our own mother tongue; reject slavery and demand independence; reject China and demand the disintegration of China; reject "Guangdong" and demand Cantonia.]

According to reports, the Cantonia Independence Party is an organization that "advocates for the independence of Guangdong Province from China" and claims to be "a democratic party." Members of this organization have also organized protests against China in the Los Angeles area during the anniversary of the Support Cantonese parade, displaying slogans such as "Cantonia Independence" and "Free Cantonia." Some netizens claimed that the banners were hung in Guangzhou, and this misinformation spread widely on platforms such as YouTube and Twitter. Subsequently, media outlets debunked this misinformation through image search tools like Google Lens, and found the original posts shared by the organization on Twitter:[108][104][109][103]

@CantoniaIP (2022-10-16). "今日,我哋一位黨員響應北京四通橋抗議,張掛咗抗議中國嘅橫幅。我哋欽佩彭義士嘅勇氣,不過我哋認為只有中國解體,各地獨立,先可以有真正嘅民主自由。" [Today, one of our party members responded to the protest on the Sitong Bridge in Beijing and hung a banner protesting against China. We admire Peng's courage, but we believe that true democracy and freedom can only be achieved when China is disintegrated and all regions become independent.] (Tweet) (in Cantonese) – via Twitter.

According to an exclusive interview by Radio Free Asia with the protester, he expressed admiration for the courage of the Sitong Bridge protester and felt compelled to respond to their call. However, he believes that in addition to opposing Xi Jinping and the CCP, there should be fundamental opposition to China's "Grand Unification", because "this system does not respect the interests and history of people's homelands... it only perpetuates tragedy." Despite feeling afraid when taking action, he still believes it is necessary. Regarding the spread caused by the banner, he believes its content resonated with many, and he believes that through this action, the idea of "Cantonia independence" has gained more attention.[110]

In 2023, a young man named Cheng Wing-wa, who advocates for Cantonia independence, spray-painted slogans such as "Canton Independence" and "Hong Kong Add Oil" on the streets of Guangdong. He stated that he was inspired by the Hong Kong protests. Later, he found that the graffiti he sprayed on the bus stop had been erased, and at the locations where he had sprayed the slogans, there were police cars parked, and people were inspecting surveillance cameras. Fearing attention from the Chinese Communist Party's national security departments, he ultimately decided to escape from China through "underground" means, traveling overland from the South American country of Ecuador and finally arriving in the United States in July.[83]

Pop culture references

From 1902 to 1904, Au Ku-kap, under the pen name "New Canton Gentleman," published the reformist Cantonese opera script The Returning of Huang Xiaoyang (full title: "New Revised Version of The Returning of Huang Xiaoyang"). The drama prominently advocated the idea of Canton independence described in Au's New Canton and dramatized the independence strategy proposed by Au in the book. In the plot devised by Au, the protagonist Huang Zhongqiang is the reincarnation of Huang Xiaoyang [zh], the leader of the peasant uprising in Guangdong during the Ming Dynasty. Au Ku-kap used the folk rhyme from Guangdong, "Nine cows float on the water, Xiaoyang is returning," "Big stones sink to the bottom, white geese float, thirty years later, Xiaoyang returns," to achieve the purpose of propaganda. The plot of this drama tells the story of Huang Zhongqiang leading the people to strive for Canton independence, and Huang Zhongqiang also advocates, "The future independence of Canton depends entirely on the people." Au even referred to the Philippines' struggle for independence at the time. In the script, Aguinaldo ultimately decided on the national policy of "We the Philippines shall support and protect the independence and autonomy of Canton."[111][112]

In his 1999 military novel "Chinese Canton Army Uprising," Japanese right-wing writer Masahiro Miyazaki envisioned the plot of the division of South China amid Sino-Japanese conflicts. Following Deng Xiaoping's death, the turmoil in China led the successor Li Bingzhang's regime to decide on expansion into Taiwan, the South China Sea, India, and other areas to divert attention from internal conflicts. The withdrawal of US forces from Japan also led to a comprehensive crisis in Japan. The protagonist of the novel, a Japanese female painter, encountered a secret organization supporting Guangdong and Tibet independence, collaborating with the underworld, during her journey to Kashmir. China plunged into chaos, casting a shadow of war over East Asia at the turn of the century.[113]

The plot of Guangdong's independence is mentioned in two works of Japan's best-selling military novelist Ei Mori [ja]. In his military novel The New Japan-China War published from 1995 to 2003, Mori created a fictional plot in which China's internal power struggle led to regional conflicts after the death of Deng Xiaoping. Because of differences in attitudes toward Taiwan's independence under the lead of Lee Teng-hui, the Guangdong authorities declared independence. The Chinese Civil War thus broke out.[114] In the military novel The New Japan-China War: The Century of Raging Waves which is set in the fictional 2020s, Guangdong also declared its independence in the later stages of the military conflict between China and Japan and the United States.[115] At the end of both novels, the troops of the "Canton Republic" join the United States, Japan, and Taiwan in the war against China.

Chinese dissident writer Wang Lixiong's novel The Yellow Peril depicts the independence of the southeastern coastal provinces, including Guangdong, from Beijing in order to protect their own interests as a result of the internal power struggle in the People's Republic of China. This eventually led to the Chinese Civil War, which eventually spread into a global war.[116]

In the turn-based strategy game "Age of 1911" which set against the backdrop of the Republic of China, players can choose from various factions representing different forces in modern China, including the Canton clique [zh], Tibet, Manchukuo, and the Second Republic of East Turkestan. The game is set in East Asia in 1925, 1935, and 1946, and players can select any faction to enter the game. In the 1925 scenario, just as in history, the Kuomintang government quickly goes to war with the Canton clique led by Chen Jiongming in eastern Guangdong. The game's designers allow players controlling the Canton clique to alter history, such as unifying East Asia, unifying China, implementing federated provincial autonomy, achieving financial monopoly, or establishing the independent "Canton Republic." If the player chooses to establish a country as the victory condition, the "Canton Republic" will eventually join the United Nations after the war. However, just one month after the game's release, the Ministry of Culture of the People's Republic of China banned it for the reasons of the game has "serious impact on national cultural security."[117][118][119]

Since 2020, a tabletop game (later also in PC game and mobile game forms) called "Reversed Front" is being developed by a Taiwanese team. The game allows players to take on the roles of various underground forces in East Asia, facing off against the formidable conqueror known as the "Red Army" (alluding to China). Among the "rebellion" factions are regional separatists dubbed the "Cathaysian" (e.g., Cantonia and Basuria), as well as other factions such as Kuomintang supporters and the Falun Gong.[citation needed]

Understandings from different parties

Government parties and official media

In April 1979, at the work conference of the CCP Central Committee, Xi Zhongxun, then the first secretary of the Guangdong Provincial Committee, proposed that the central government shall delegate power to Canton. Hua Guofeng, who presided over the meeting, wondered what power Xi wanted. Xi said on the spot: "If Guangdong was an 'independent country', it could only take a few years to achieve (great development); but under the current system, it will not be easy.” This speech caused a massive response at the conference.[120] On October 5, 2020, multiple media reported that the Hong Kong Education Bureau accused a teacher from Kowloon Tong Alliance Primary School [zh] of designing a school curriculum to systematically spread information about "Hong Kong independence"; the Bureau canceled his teacher qualification at the end of September. According to the curriculum exclusively obtained by Sing Tao Daily, in the summary part, the teacher mentioned that "someone has proposed splitting the country" in China, saying that Mao Zedong, the Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party, once advocated the establishment of a "Republic of Hunan", and the veteran of the Party, Xi Zhongxun, also said in 1979 that "If Canton were an independent country, it would now surpass Hong Kong." The teacher asked, "In the face of these historical facts, can Hong Kong's patriotic pro-establishment faction give any explanation to the Hong Kong citizens? Isn't what they do just plain old 'rules for thee but not for me'?"[121][122][123] Sing Tao Daily commented that the teacher's claim that Xi Zhongxun advocated for "Canton independence" completely distorted the original meaning and was "misinterpreting history." Xi Zhongxun's statement was "just a hypothesis and has nothing to do with 'Canton independence'." Some Hong Kong pro-establishment media outlets believe that the teacher was deliberately "taking things out of context".[124][125]

On September 11, 2008, Southern Metropolis Daily published a full-page report titled "If Canton was an independent economy." The article said: "Let us imagine if Canton was a country... We will try to look at China in a new way from an outsider's perspective" and calculated that if China's provinces were treated as independent countries, "the 'Republic of Canton' would become the 14th largest economy in the world (in terms of purchasing power parity)."[126]

In August 2019, Luk Chung-hung, a member of Hong Kong’s pro-establishment camp and a member of the Federation of Trade Unions, declared on his personal Facebook page that the five major demands put forward by Hong Kong demonstrators during the anti-extradition bill movement were only part of the U.S. imperialist plan for “global domination.” In the road map he pointed out, Luk believed that the United States' plan included instigating Hong Kong's independence, inciting an independent rebellion in Canton, and dismembering China. Luk Chung-hung's remarks have also incited heated discussions among netizens who supported the demonstrations, who believed that his ideas hinted at the directions of the Hong Kong independence movement.[127]

Chinese scholar Li Yi, who actively promotes "reunification through military action" regarding the Taiwan issue and staunchly opposes Taiwan independence, believes that the emergence of independence consciousness in Taiwanese society is due to the fact of cross-strait division and Taiwan's regular elections. He thinks that with these conditions existing for a sufficient period, Taiwan will develop a separate consciousness from the mainland. Using the hypothetical scenario of Canton independence as an example, he suggests that if Canton were to "hold presidential elections every four years starting from 1996," then it would also develop the consciousness of being an independent country separate from China, believing that "there are no Chinese in Canton" and viewing China as a foreign country. In this hypothetical situation, "Canton" would also revise its history and geography textbooks, defining the highest mountains and longest rivers as the Pearl River and so on. "(If they do this) starting from '96 till now, if you still want to say you are Chinese and you would like to reunify with them, wouldn't they disregard you as a lunatic?" His remarks sparked vigorous discussion among netizens both domestically and internationally.[128][129]

Chinese parties

Exiled Chinese dissident writer Liao Yiwu believes that China "is best divided into 10 countries",[130] including Yunnan, Sichuan, Guangdong and other places. He believes that the Chinese Communist Party is not capable of "ruling such a large country" and advocates the first step of local divisions It should be local autonomy,[131] thus achieving the same effect as the disintegration of the Soviet Union. As a result, his remarks were fiercely criticized by pro-establishment scholars in China, who said that he had an “disgusting stance” and would “definitely be nailed to the pillar of shame”.[132]

Historian Liu Zhongjing also advocated that China should be disintegrated into different nation-states, and called Canton after independence "Cantonia".[133][134][135] Some Canadian scholars who study contemporary social trends in China believe that Liu's admiration for "regionalism", including support for separatist activities in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tibet and other places, is extremely dangerous to China's future. Some scholars who are pro-China's establishment severely criticized Liu Zhongjing's theory for advocating the split of China, calling Liu "a scum in an imposing attire".[136][137] In addition, many overseas scholars jointly submitted a letter arguing that Liu's "Cathaysian theory" was historical nihilism, and the reason why China is China is that the unity of the Chinese nation overcame division during the formation process which undoubtedly established the Chinese history. They also claimed that Liu's theories are all based on assumptions instead of facts, and by fabricating more than 20 fictional countries such as "Cantonia" and "Yuyencia" out of thin air, his theory is no longer just academic research, but a theoretical weapon to overthrow state power. In addition, Dr. Li Junjie said in an interview that the stupidity of Liu Zhongjing’s logic surpassed Gorbachev’s. “He dreamed of splitting China into 20 pieces, and even returned to the time when there were 800 princes 3,000 years ago. Isn't this kind of research result utterly ridiculous?”, and said that his theory is an unattainable and nihilistic fantasy and no country will accept it.[138][139]

Australian Chinese economist Yang Xiaokai, originally from Hunan, has repeatedly discussed the differences in economic systems and histories between China and Europe in his works, and envisioned the disintegration of East Asia into a multinational system and the emergence of Canton and other places as sovereign countries, which would have a positive impact on free trade. "If Hunan and Canton were two countries today, the difference in per capita income between them would be about double, and the competitive pressure would be very strong. But since Hunan and Canton are not sovereign countries, they would not be able to make a strong reaction to this competitive pressure."[140] Yang also believes that the disintegration of China is conducive to political freedom and constitutionalism: "China is very large, and there are no countries around it that can compete with it, so China cannot form a feedback circle... the political force and contitions that promotes constitutional reform do not exist... There is no place for the Chinese to run. If China were now divided into seven countries, China would have accepted constitutionalism long ago. Because if any country does not comply with constitutionalism, the residents of that country will run away. For example, if everyone in Shandong flees to Canton, the Shandong government will collapse, just like East Germany."[141]

Tam Chi Keung [zh], a Hong Kong pundit who was born in Macau, does not believe that Hong Kong independence is feasible, but Canton satisfies the conditions for independence. Tam reiterated Chen Jiongming's concept of provincial autonomy and argued that from a geographical point of view, Guangdong could be independent as long as the three mountain passes bordering Fujian and Hunan and the waterway in Zhaoqing were closed.[142]

Chinese dissident writer Wang Lixiong once corresponded with Uyghur East Turkestan independence activist Mukhtar while in prison to discuss China's unification and secession. Wang Lixiong used the assumed situation of Guangdong independence as an example, questioning China's inability to follow the model of Soviet Union's dissolution, because if the principle of residents' self-determination is implemented, "if separation is based solely on residents' self-determination, most people in Canton will think that Canton can live a better life being independent, and the residents of the Pearl River Delta may in turn think that it is better to break away from Canton, and the citizens of Shanghai may also think that an independent Shanghai can become another Singapore. Many places in China may have the demands and motivations for independence, and they will also win the approval of the majority of local residents. When that time comes, will China fall apart and become unable to sustain itself as a single entity?”[143]

When commenting on the anti-extradition bill movement in Hong Kong in 2019, Xie Xuanjun [zh], a Chinese scholar in the United States, believed that the CCP’s totalitarian rule in China has given rise to a growing sense of independence in more and more regions. The ideology of Hong Kong independence and related movements are likely to inspire similar "Shanghai Independence" and "Canton Independence" movements.[144]

On October 16, 2023, the Foshan Civil Affairs Bureau (People's Republic of China) [zh] announced the banning of an organization called "Lingnan Model United Nations" because it "conducts debate training on sensitive issues." In June, the group planned to hold a simulated debate on "provincial constitutionalism" and "federated provincial autonomy" in the settings of the National Assembly of the Republic of China.[145][146] Some commentators believe that the authorities consider this topic sensitive because "Canton once played a very important role in the federal autonomy movement" and that the debate "involves the federalist trend of thought in modern history, and (the authorities) are afraid that it will eventually evolve into the ideological trend of separatism and local independence."[147][148]

Hong Kong game developer, entrepreneur, and political commentator Cheng Lap [zh]recalled his experience while working in China. He had met many Chinese people who would privately discuss Canton independence, and described the statement "if our hometown had become independent" as something "very easy to hear (from Chinese people)". He also pointed out that people who discussed Canton independence with him often had divisive political views, for example, they would fiercely advocate attacking Taiwan. He described this kind of divisive thinking as confusing to him.[149]

The protagonist of the Li Yizhe incident [zh] who posted big-character posters on the streets of Guangzhou to criticize the CCP during the Cultural Revolution, Wang Xizhe, a democratic activist of the People's Republic of China, once recalled his experience growing up in Guangzhou in an article that strongly criticized the Taiwan independence movement.[150] As a descendant of cadres who moved south, he felt the strong xenophobic sentiment of the people in Canton. Because during that time almost all the leaders of Canton's ruling institutions from top to bottom were from other provinces, he and his classmates from other provinces often had verbal and physical conflicts with the locals. He described this xenophobic sentiment as "Canton independence doctrine" and said this phenomenon gradually disappeared during the Cultural Revolution.

As an opponent of Taiwan independence, Wang Xizhe believes that more and more Taiwanese people support Taiwan independence because, like Manchukuo, Taiwan has established a central government that separates itself from China's actual operations for far too long. He believed that if Manchukuo could have existed for a longer period of time, the people in Manchuria would have a "Manchukuo people" identity that was different from that of China itself. He went on to use Canton and Shandong as an example:[151]

Even if it is any province or region of Han China, such as Canton and Shandong, if you let it have an actual operating "central government" that has been separated from the motherland for more than fifty years, you can ask the "ordinary people" there and most people will definitely tell you: they all support "Canton independence" or "Shandong independence" and they are "Canton people" or "Shandong people" instead of Chinese. (They'll tell you,) "Please China, don't invade us!"

Wang Xizhe

In 2016, protests broke out once again in Wukan village of Lufeng, Canton. Some localist commentators who advocate Hong Kong independence believe that people who support Hong Kong independence should also support "Canton independence", because if people who support a "Great Unified China" and sincerely believe that "Hong Kong people should support mainlanders" "truly wants to save Wukan, the only way to it is through Canton independence. If Hong Kong people want to help Canton become independent, they must first become independent themselves; if all the provinces could encumber the Communist criminals at the same time, it will be impossible for them to focus on one province or one region."[152]

Regarding the emergence of "Canton independence" voices on the Internet in recent years, some online commentators believe that some local people in Canton possess a "local superiority complex" and "local sense of crisis," which they consider as a form of "cyber-neotribalism." They also view the "support Cantonese language" rallies in response to the Guangzhou Television Cantonese controversy in Canton City as evidence of heightened conflicts. The commentators further state that historical instances like Li Hongzhang's and Au Ku-kap [zh]'s plans for Canton independence were aimed at restoring unity rather than independence being the goal. On the other hand, Mark Koyama, an economic historian at George Mason University, mentioned in an interview his experiences and perceptions in conversations with Chinese people, noting that Chinese people "are more separatist than I would have thought before I knew as much about the country," especially those from the "Shanghai region, or people from Guangdong and Hong Kong." He also points out that throughout Chinese history, the country has entered periods of fragmentation every few hundred years, suggesting that in the event of a major disaster or collapse in the future, it is likely to fragment once again.[153]

Guo Wengui, a famous Chinese businessman who was wanted by the Chinese government and fled to the United States, once commented on the Russia-Ukraine war and believed that Russia would eventually disintegrate and split into more than a dozen countries. Therefore, he believes that China must implement a federal system and even allow Canton, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Tibet and Xinjiang to become independent.[154]

Leader of Hong Kong's localist camp and the spokesperson of Hong Kong Indigenous Ray Wong Toi-yeung, who advocates Hong Kong independence, believes that "if Canton, Sinkiang and other provinces in China are not independent," there is no way to achieve Hong Kong independence. Therefore, Hong Kong independence is also "an ideal imagination for the entire China." Wong believes that “different provinces and different people can freely choose the future of their place and the future of their group." "If different people and different nationalities in China are allowed to truly have their autonomy, only by breaking the framework of Grand Unification can we have the space to think about how to have our own subjectivity".[155] Regarding Wong's views, Huang Yicheng, an exiled social activist who participated in the White Paper movement in Shanghai, believes that independence based on provinces is impossible because "China's provincial boundaries and cultural geography units are staggered." and Wong does not have enough understandings of China's geography. Regarding the emerging independent thoughts and movements including Canton independence, he believes that they are "a valuable attempt to break through the shackles of Grand Unification and build a stable community." However, he also believes that some voices that only exist on social media have not been able to build a stable community offline.[156]

Non-chinese parties

In May 1931, Hu Hanmin, who attempted to block Chiang Kai-shek's provisional constitution, was put under house arrest by Chiang; this caused the event later dubbed the "Nanking-Canton Confrontation" and the establishment of the adversary Canton National Government by anti-Chiang factions in Canton City. In August, an editorial titled "REALITIES: Recognition is not Intervention" was published in the English-language newspaper "The Far Eastern Review" in Shanghai. The author, George Bronson Rea, argued that the foreign powers should recognize Manchukuo and that the Chinese nation is not a unified entity; in the article, he stated that the unity of China would bring disaster and opportunities for the expansion of Soviet influence. The article also attempted to hypothesize the scenario where the powers support the independence and founding of the Canton National Government.[157]

Would it not be better for humanity if Canton’s independence was recognized by the foreign powers, on the condition that the new state agrees to assume its share of the foreign debt, join the League of Nations, sign the Kellogg Peace Pact and concentrate its energies on improving the welfare of its people! If we admit the right of the Mongolia and Central Asian tribes in Xinjiang to apply the principle of self-determination; if the successors of Chang Tso-lin can defy the power of the Central Government and preserve an autonomous existence, why should Canton be denied the same right? If the recognition of Canton as a sovereign state will be the means of putting a stop, even a temporary one, to these insensate internecine wars, humanity, common-sense and practical politics demands action along these lines.

An independent Canton, including Kwangsi, Yunnan and Kweichow, will provide the restless and progressive Cantonese the opportunity to show the world and the rest of China what can be done under a government of, by and for the people. Give Canton a chance to work out a solution to this problem as a lesson to the more backward states of China. Under new treaties and guarantees, and a consolidation of its share of the foreign debt, there should be no reason why foreign capital should not flow into the South China Republic, develop its resources and open up a new era of prosperity to the tax-burdened peoples. Intervention, by recognition of the realities may be the only way left open to save China from splitting up into a congery of small Soviet republics tied to Moscow’s leading strings. The battle ground of communism for the control of Asia and the world is definitely fixed in China. Communism must be fought with its own weapons. If the Powers insist upon adhering to the outworn doctrine of John Hay, the Soviet will triumph. The country is too vast, the interprovincial jealousies and prejudices too bitter, to assure unity under one government. Only by the creation of at least four or five distinct compact states can the danger be now averted. *Recognition of the realities is not intervention!*

The Far Eastern Review

Stanford University anthropology associate professor Melissa J. Brown, who researches identity issues between Taiwan and China, points out in her book "Is Taiwan Chinese?" that Sinicization is a fundamental assumption in the development of Chinese civilization, underpinning the concept of "China" as a cohesive national entity. She mentions the possibility of Canton separatism, thereby posing deeper questions about the colonial behavior of Chinese nationalism. Moreover, she believes that Taiwanese independence movement will challenge the view that regions including Canton belong to China, leading to a domino effect:[158]

Between 1945 and 1991, Taiwan’s government portrayed Taiwan as ethnically Han and nationally Chinese, even claiming that it was the lawful government of mainland China. Since 1987, for the obvious political purpose of justifying their distance from the PRC, people in Taiwan have increasingly claimed Taiwanese identity to be an amalgam of Han culture and ancestry, Aborigine culture and ancestry, and Japanese culture (but not ancestry), in the making for almost 400 years, and separate from China for the entire twentieth century (cf. Chang 2000). An independent Taiwan poses problems for China’s national identity. (...) an independent Taiwan also raises issues for ethnic territories under Chinese authority: if Taiwanese are allowed to “leave” the nation because of ethnic differences, then why not Tibetans, or Turkic Muslims (such as the Uighur), or even Cantonese? Taiwan independence could have a domino effect that would break up the PRC, like the USSR or, worse, Yugoslavia.

Melissa J. Brown, "Is Taiwan Chinese?"

Japanese right-wing commentator, writer, and journalist proficient in Chinese, Masahiro Miyazaki, a member of the "South China Sea Issue Study Group," combines his own experiences in China to argue that not only Inner Mongolia, Tibet, and East Turkestan, but also regions including Canton, Hong Kong, Macau, Hokkien, and Shanghai, due to being divided into different economic spheres, all possess independent potential and possibilities.[159] Miyazaki believes that there are significant differences among ethnic groups in China, with people in Canton traditionally exhibiting a vigorous "anti-central government, independent spirit."[160] Combining his analysis of the sentiments in other regions of China and the power struggles within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Miyazaki points out that China actually faces various possibilities of division because the CCP finds it difficult to simultaneously address economic, border, stability maintenance, and capital outflow issues.

After the 2020–2021 China–India skirmishes, some Indian media, including the famous news channel NewsX, circulated and displayed maps of China after its disintegration, in which Canton was often split into its own country named "Cantonia". Some commentators believe that this is to deconstruct China's national construction.[161][162][163]

See also

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