Papers on Modern History III

Exchange
Thursday
9:00 am – 10:45 am
Room A

  • Georges Moraitis, “The Cadiz Affair, Zhenjiang [1874–1878]: Jurisdictional Competition and Foreign Influence in Late Qing China”
  • 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”

Georges Moraitis, “The Cadiz Affair, Zhenjiang [1874–1878]: Jurisdictional Competition and Foreign Influence in Late Qing China”

The Cadiz hulk case is a peculiar manifestation of Sino-British jurisdictional competition in late-nineteenth-century China. Initially a local dispute over damage caused by a private British ship to the embankment’s foundations of the treaty port in Zhenjiang, the case engaged over time both Chinese and British authorities into a legal battle regarding China’s sovereign right to order the removal of foreign vessels from its berths. This can be seen as an important and largely understudied episode in the resistance of the Chinese state to foreign imperialism not only because it addresses the jurisdictional blind spots the unequal treaty system created but also because it serves as an on-the-ground demonstration of how Chinese state institutions confronted British merchants and officials asserting control of China’s inland waterways. The Sino-foreign government tax collection agency the Chinese Imperial Maritime Customs (CIMC) played a major part in the development of the dispute. In Zhenjiang, the Customs Commissioner led the negotiations with the local British authorities while in Beijing, the Northern Irish Inspector General of the institution, Sir Robert Hart, articulated China’s position on the grounds of jurisdiction recognised in Western international law, though doing so came at the cost of China seeking the recognition of its sovereignty on Western terms, namely through Western legal institutions. Though the CIMC can be seen as an imperial institution, in this instance this study demonstrates how it also defended China’s sovereignty. As the Cadiz affair unfolded, a wide range of political and economic interests tied to the development of the case were brought to the surface, thereby illuminating the connection between Sino-British jurisdictional conflicts and the tactics of the British colonial merchant class in its efforts to secure greater privileges for business in China.

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.

Event Timeslots (1)

Room A
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Exchange