Papers on Modern History III

9:00 am – 10:45 am
Room A

  • Chaired by Eric Vanden Bussche
  • Luke Yin, “A Transnational Bigamy: Gender, Marriage, and Law in Treaty Port Shanghai”
  • Eric Vanden Bussche, “Law and Ethnic Identity in China’s Southwest Borderlands, 1920s–30s”
  • Ylber Marku, “Global Encounters: China, Albania, and the International Communist Movement during the Cold War”
  • Jinping Ma, “The China Association of the Federation of British Industries”

Luke Yin, “A Transnational Bigamy: Gender, Marriage, and Law in Treaty Port Shanghai”

On the 24th of December 1909, a Chinese international student at Yale Law School, Guan Ruilin 关瑞麟, married a 16-year-old New Haven Girl, Dorothy Dorr in Hartford, Connecticut. Little did he realise then that around three years later, the Chinese wife whom he had wed before travelling to the US would sue him for bigamy in the Mixed Court of Shanghai International Settlement.  The case raises issues of sex and race in the context of Western imperialism. Sex and race are crucial aspects of the global colonial discourse of modernity that prevailed at the turn of the twentieth century. This paper is concerned with the shape assumed by this discourse in geographically and culturally disparate areas. Locality produced variations in the manifestation of global phenomena. The bigamy case in this paper occurred at a crucial moment of modern Chinese history: the transformation of China from an Empire to a Republic. Sino-American relations were also at an important juncture. The paper argues that interpersonal relationships cannot take place in isolation from these political and economic developments. The records of the mixed-race marriage, its bigamous character, the divorce, and the aftermath of all this enables a re-envisioning of gender, marriage, and legal practices in both China and the US in the context of the relations between the two societies.

Eric Vanden Bussche, “Law and Ethnic Identity in China’s Southwest Borderlands, 1920s–30s”

This paper sheds new light on the relationship between legal institutions and the formation of identities along China’s peripheries by examining the pluralistic legal practices in the Sino-Burmese borderlands during the 1920s and 30s. Throughout this period, Chinese authorities in Yunnan province and British colonial officials in Upper Burma held periodic meetings to jointly adjudicate legal cases arising from cross-border disputes and crimes by drawing on local customs and rules. The origins of these periodic meetings can be traced to concerns over rising tensions between local ethnic groups in the Sino-Burmese borderlands during the early twentieth century. Although this practice survived the collapse of the Qing dynasty in China in 1911 and persisted until the late 1930s, the Chinese and the British had to regularly negotiate adjustments to this pluralistic legal system to adapt it to the changing nature of their rule. Indigenous responses to Chinese state-building efforts also played a pivotal role in reshaping these legal practices.
Drawing on Chinese, Taiwanese, and British archival sources, this paper has three objectives. First, it investigates how this pluralistic legal system influenced state-building efforts along with one of China’s most ethnically diverse borderlands. Second, it analyses how legal practices transformed collective identities among the border populations by creating new discourses of ethnic identity and national belonging. Third, this paper emphasises the wider implications and the legacy of these legal practices in the conceptualisation of the Chinese nation-state as well as its place in Chinese legal history.

Ylber Marku, “Global Encounters: China, Albania, and the International Communist Movement during the Cold War”

The dynamics of the relationship between China and Albania—one of the Cold War alliances least studied by scholars—in the period 1961–78 provides insights into the global reach of China’s revolution. Following the Sino-Soviet split in the early 1960s, Tirana intensified efforts to build an extended network of relations with communist parties in Eastern and Western Europe, Africa, and South America, with the intention of securing their adherence to rigid ideological principles and gaining recognition and legitimation for the Sino-Albanian Marxist-Leninist cause. China’s ambition was to supplant the Soviet Union as leader of the international communist movement and to establish influence over a number of newly-independent countries.
Based on newly released archival sources, my research reveals how China’s revolution, through Albania, reached protagonists operating in distant contexts, often transcending ideological boundaries established in the context of the Cold War. Yet, the reorientation of China’s domestic and foreign policy from 1972, most significantly showed by the Sino-American normalisation, dramatically impacted the international communist movement. These new dynamics were also a sign of the limited reach of the Chinese struggle against the Soviet Union but were also a sign that revisionism (and the struggle against it) was a constructed term by two countries—China and Albania—whose models of communism had clearly shown the limits of their own regimes. In fact, China understood such limits and reshaped its foreign and domestic policy, and pursued political pragmatism rather than ideological radicalism, to which Albania responded by severing ties with China in 1978.

Jinping Ma, “The China Association of the Federation of British Industries”

With the rising of the Chinese economy in the international market and the processing of Brexit, Sino-British economic future has received unprecedented attention. The China Association, which existed for more than a century, has been playing a key role in nongovernment trades and affecting Foreign Office policies facing China. Working closely alongside the London Chamber of Commerce, local Chambers, the Federation of British Industries and the Foreign Office, the Association took on the grievances of British traders in China and presented these to the British government and the Chinese authorities. Many scholarships combed British industrial policies toward China and the China Association. Yet, they focus mainly around and after 1949 on the Communist Party diplomatic policies. Although these are fundamental in deciding the current commercial setup, closer examination of these bilateral relations increasingly calls for attention to social and cultural factors accompanied by trading activities to an earlier stage. This history was not disappeared from later trading. Rather, I argue that memories from this period continuously affected later policymaking.
This study will take a social and cultural perspective in examining the Sino-British trade history. By analysing minutes, committee papers, and corresponding files of the China Association from 1880s to 1961, this paper will present a vivid picture beyond political and institutional history. It will also demonstrate how foreign policies and individual commercial activities were inseparable from social processes and cultural elements. By exploring the history of this single association, this research probes into how nations, organizations, and individuals are manipulated to achieve their respective interests.

Event Timeslots (1)

Room A