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Title: 'Designs against a common foe' : the Anglo-Qing suppression of piracy in South China
Author: Kwan, Nathan
ISNI:       0000 0004 9357 5718
Awarding Body: King's College London
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2020
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By the nineteenth century British and Qing authorities had developed distinct understandings of piracy and means for its suppression. The British colonisation of Hong Kong in 1842 brought these two systems into contact. After establishing sovereignty over their new colony, British officials, by headquartering the Royal Navy’s East Indies and China Station at Hong Kong and establishing a Vice-Admiralty Court there, developed the means of projecting their authority over Hong Kong's surrounding waters and exercising state power at sea. The prevalence of piracy in British and Chinese sources, however, suggests that British maritime control was limited. Piracy threatened British and Qing interests in South China and became a basis for cooperation. Though British and Qing officials were often suspicious of each other’s motives in the nineteenth century, they nonetheless cooperated against a common foe: Chinese pirates. Anglo-Qing cooperation against pirates created a nexus between British colonial and consular authorities, officers of the Royal Navy, and local and metropolitan Qing officials that challenges traditional narratives of gunboat diplomacy. The relationship between Britain and China was far more complicated than the former using the threat of naval intervention to extract concessions from the latter. British naval hegemony complemented Qing deficiencies, while Qing officials' local intelligence and criminal justice system made them more efficient at punishing pirates. These complementary aspects of the British and Qing maritime states developed into a cooperative system in which British and Qing officials engaged with each other’s understandings of piracy, maritime control, and international law. This system developed and persisted despite misunderstandings and conflicts between its participants. Using records and archival materials in English and Chinese, this thesis looks at Anglo-Qing relations through the prism of their efforts in suppressing piracy. It argues that such efforts produced a ‘collaborative imperial hydrarchy’, in which Royal Navy ships helped uphold Qing and treaty law in Chinese waters. Agents of the British and Qing empires cooperated in an attempt to establish control over the waters of South China. This thesis investigates the implications this collaboration had for imperialism and international law in nineteenth-century China.
Supervisor: Jackson, Ashley Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available