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The conclusion of this book considers China's role in international legal order on the basis of the history recounted in the preceding chapters and the realities of its current integration in global institutions. It suggests that China's increasingly “central” role has locked in a high degree of participation in international legal institutions, albeit one that sometimes leads to tensions over constraints of agency.
Already during the period between the two Opium Wars, China and its vast potential market had become a key site for legal and administrative innovations by Western diplomats, missionaries, and traders. The Qing conception of guoti 國體 or “state form/stateliness,” in particular, was creatively redeployed in an effort to articulate a diplomatic compromise during key meetings at Tianjin, Shanghai, and Beijing between 1858 and 1860, when a new multilateral international law regime for China was crafted by the invading Western powers.
This chapter recounts China’s participation at the First Hague Conference of 1899, where the Qing Empire was a formally included but in practice highly marginalized participant, and the implications of the so-called Boxer Rebellion that also erupted in 1899, and was followed by the subsequent Eight Nation collective occupation that radically escalated nineteenth-century practices of intervention. The use of international law as a mechanism for systematically coordinating the interests of expanding Western commercial empires in non-Western spaces was now accorded quasiconstitutional status by the new treaty arrangements reconstructing the nearly collapsed Qing political authority.
Chapter 7 provides an overview of the international law scene in China during the 1920s and, in particular, the new phenomenon of continuous representation at key international organizations and international law settings, including the role of China’s diplomats at the League of Nations, its first international judge, Wang Chonghui, and its first members of the Institut de Droit International and other bodies of elite international law professionals. At the same time, the chapter examines the new emergence of major contesting ideologies and schools of thought regarding international order and international law – competing internationalisms.
The chapter explains how newly imported ideas faced sharp limits of official interest and perceived commensurability with Late Qing political cosmology, though they did play a role in early diplomatic disputes. While Chinese officials were tentatively exploring a new role for their state in a multilateral world order, however, the jurists of that order were also pondering the world-historical significance of this new “entrant into the Family of Nations” – and the profits to be made from it. It was during these very years in the 1860s–1870s that the field of “international law” in the West took on many of its key subsequent characteristics and a priori assumptions about both itself and the non-Western periphery. China played a major role in that process.
Chapter 9, finally, examines China’s interrelated international and domestic public law developments from the time of the signing of the United Nations Charter, where its unified delegation represented the Guomindang, Communists, and key third parties, through the Cold War era and its own drastic implications for diverging Chinese views on global legal order.
Chapter 8 explores the ways that China’s “sovereignty” was reconceived and reconstituted through multilateral forums and transnational legal discourses during the periods of Guomindang regime consolidation, Japanese invasion, and postwar planning. It examines how developments in China played an important but now often forgotten role in discussions of world order and state sovereignty during this period.
The introduction to this book provides a brief exposition of its major themes, including the Eurocentric character of the international legal order as it existed when introduced to China and the latter's eventual active participatory role in it. The introduction also summarizes each subsequent chapter.
Diplomatic conflict with a newly rising Meiji Japan spurred the first significant importation into official discourse of notions of “sovereignty” in the sense of state authority over a specified territory based on a legal title. Earlier accounts of sovereignty via diplomatic encounters and Martin’s translations had, by contrast, emphasized only its aspects related to “independence” of a state vis-à-vis others. The notion of a legally defined title to state territory was thrust into the Qing consciousness by Meiji efforts to annex the Ryūkyū Kingdom and Taiwan, which reached a climax in 1875 and affected the reshuffling of Qing politics and diplomacy that came in the wake of Emperor Tongzhi’s untimely death that same year.