Sovereignty, status quo and diplomacy : a case study of China's interaction with the Great Powers 1912-22
This thesis is a study of the diplomacy of China in its quest for sovereign integrity from 1912 to 1922. Such a pursuit began in 1912 when the status quo in China had been accepted by the great powers as the legitimacy which represented a foreign-imposed "treaty rights system" in China. Its central argument is that the foreign policy elite-the President's office and Foreign Affairs Ministry-fundamentally altered Chinese foreign policy during the post-monarchic era. To that end, they gave away the age-old approach of the ancient regime, which had prevailed prior to 1912, and turned to the Western doctrines ranging from sovereignty to the balance of power. This study argues that modem China's diplomacy absorbed the enormous impact of European ideas and forces while pursuing its objectives of sovereign integrity and international equality. Positions in this study are taken up based on the analysis that the foreign policy elite masterminded China's foreign policy in dealing with the most immediate issues of its sovereign integrity and the foreign treaty system. When the 1922 Washington Conference confirmed China's claims for sovereignty, victory went to those who were committed to Chinese involvement in the legitimate system and to those who reacted pragmatically with the great powers. The thesis makes the effort to explain how and why they were able to do this and the consequences of their doing so. The thesis indeed reveals the limitations of the diplomacy of a weak power, like China. But it challenges the current assessments which argue that the policy of the Republic was unrealistic because it pursued a goal beyond its capability, and that its diplomacy was docile, for it was totally dependent upon the great powers' policy instead of its own initiatives. The conclusion presented here unfolds China's quest for sovereignty and how its foreign policy assisting her to realise that goal was based on the pragmatic calculation of domestic political concerns and foreign policy imperatives during that volatile decade. As a result, China's diplomacy in 1912- 1922 should be given a fair and deserved place in modern Chinese history.