China's Unequal Treaties

Narrating National History

By (author) Dong Wang

Publication date:

01 October 2005

Length of book:

190 pages

Publisher

Lexington Books

ISBN-13: 9780739112083

This study, based on primary sources, deals with the linguistic development and polemical uses of the expression Unequal Treaties, which refers to the treaties China signed between 1842 and 1946. Although this expression has occupied a central position in both Chinese collective memory and Chinese and English historiographies, this is the first book to offer an in-depth examination of China's encounters with the outside world as manifested in the rhetoric surrounding the Unequal Treaties. Author Dong Wang argues that competing forces within China have narrated and renarrated the history of the treaties in an effort to consolidate national unity, international independence, and political legitimacy and authority. In the twentieth century, she shows, China's experience with these treaties helped to determine their use of international law. Of great relevance for students of contemporary China and Chinese history, as well as Chinese international law and politics, this book illuminates how various Chinese political actors have defined and redefined the past using the framework of the Unequal Treaties.
This is a perceptive study of a vitally important topic. Dong Wang is less interested in the unequal treaties as such than in the range of discourses (moral, legal, and rhetorical) they have elicited over the past century and the tie-ins between these discourses and Chinese politics and nationalism. The book is essential reading for anyone interested in the historical underpinnings of China's current view of the world and its place in it.