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postgraduate thesis: A genealogy of sovereignty in modern China, 1840-today

TitleA genealogy of sovereignty in modern China, 1840-today
Authors
Issue Date2015
PublisherThe University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)
Citation
Carrai, M. A.. (2015). A genealogy of sovereignty in modern China, 1840-today. (Thesis). University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong SAR. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.5353/th_b5774073.
AbstractSovereignty has been a fundamental concept in the modern history of the normative order of Western states and with the universalization of international law it started to define the global normative framework. It is not surprising that sovereignty is a highly contested concept and its meaning varied within the history of international law in the West and elsewhere. When it was introduced into other normative systems, like the Chinese one, it acquired different meanings, and it was articulated by the local agencies in a variety of manners that departed from Western formulations. Before it was swallowed up in the teleology of modernity and in the Western normative order characterized by equal sovereignty of states and international law, China used to be an empire with universal aspirations grounded on a hierarchical cosmology and the ontology of Chinese centrality. After the first and second Opium wars, China came to terms with international law and the notion of sovereignty contained in it. The translation and introduction of the concept of ‘sovereignty’ and of international law in China in the 19th century have been largely studied but often in a way that treats them as a monolithic result of European history, considering China as a passive entity that simply absorbed the Western notions. If the hybridity of the concept of sovereignty before, during and after it was systematically introduced in China in the mid-19th century has been already discussed at length, the agency of China in appropriating and modifying the term, interrupting its meaning and eventually also contributing to the shaping of international law has not received enough attention, as studies that specifically look at the genealogy of sovereignty in China in the period from the first introduction of the term in 1860s until its present use are lacking in this dimension. Employing the method of conceptual history, this thesis looks at China as a legitimate shaper and breaker of international norms and concepts. Its aim is to narrate a history of the formation and emergence of a new Chinese international identity through discourses of sovereignty and to understand the passage to modernity in China. The neologism zhuquan created to render the notion of sovereignty indeed did not mean necessarily the same thing it meant in the West, and China was far from being a passive receiver of Western legal knowledge; rather it was an active appropriator of newly translated Western concepts, adapting them to better serve China’s own purposes. In particular, this dissertation argues that the discourse of sovereignty in modern China has not been determined by any particular moral Chineseness or a Confucian ethical essence, but rather by the prerogatives dictated by what can be described as a pragmatist nationalist approach, aimed to serve China’s national interest. Moreover, the dissertation aims to contextualize the globalization of the Western normative order in the 19th and 20th century, broadening the often too Eurocentric history of international law with histories often neglected due to legal orientalism, which objectifies China, neglecting its history and its contributions to the development of international law. This way of writing histories not only has been unsatisfying, in that China so far has often deviated from the Eurocentric model, but it is not helpful to understand the prerogatives and preoccupations that guide China’s use and understanding of sovereignty, which will likely determine its conceptual development in China and China’s international identity in the future.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy
SubjectChina - Sovereignty
Dept/ProgramLaw
Persistent Identifierhttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/240167
HKU Library Item IDb5774073

 

DC FieldValueLanguage
dc.contributor.authorCarrai, Maria Adele-
dc.date.accessioned2017-04-14T23:12:26Z-
dc.date.available2017-04-14T23:12:26Z-
dc.date.issued2015-
dc.identifier.citationCarrai, M. A.. (2015). A genealogy of sovereignty in modern China, 1840-today. (Thesis). University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong SAR. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.5353/th_b5774073.-
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/240167-
dc.description.abstractSovereignty has been a fundamental concept in the modern history of the normative order of Western states and with the universalization of international law it started to define the global normative framework. It is not surprising that sovereignty is a highly contested concept and its meaning varied within the history of international law in the West and elsewhere. When it was introduced into other normative systems, like the Chinese one, it acquired different meanings, and it was articulated by the local agencies in a variety of manners that departed from Western formulations. Before it was swallowed up in the teleology of modernity and in the Western normative order characterized by equal sovereignty of states and international law, China used to be an empire with universal aspirations grounded on a hierarchical cosmology and the ontology of Chinese centrality. After the first and second Opium wars, China came to terms with international law and the notion of sovereignty contained in it. The translation and introduction of the concept of ‘sovereignty’ and of international law in China in the 19th century have been largely studied but often in a way that treats them as a monolithic result of European history, considering China as a passive entity that simply absorbed the Western notions. If the hybridity of the concept of sovereignty before, during and after it was systematically introduced in China in the mid-19th century has been already discussed at length, the agency of China in appropriating and modifying the term, interrupting its meaning and eventually also contributing to the shaping of international law has not received enough attention, as studies that specifically look at the genealogy of sovereignty in China in the period from the first introduction of the term in 1860s until its present use are lacking in this dimension. Employing the method of conceptual history, this thesis looks at China as a legitimate shaper and breaker of international norms and concepts. Its aim is to narrate a history of the formation and emergence of a new Chinese international identity through discourses of sovereignty and to understand the passage to modernity in China. The neologism zhuquan created to render the notion of sovereignty indeed did not mean necessarily the same thing it meant in the West, and China was far from being a passive receiver of Western legal knowledge; rather it was an active appropriator of newly translated Western concepts, adapting them to better serve China’s own purposes. In particular, this dissertation argues that the discourse of sovereignty in modern China has not been determined by any particular moral Chineseness or a Confucian ethical essence, but rather by the prerogatives dictated by what can be described as a pragmatist nationalist approach, aimed to serve China’s national interest. Moreover, the dissertation aims to contextualize the globalization of the Western normative order in the 19th and 20th century, broadening the often too Eurocentric history of international law with histories often neglected due to legal orientalism, which objectifies China, neglecting its history and its contributions to the development of international law. This way of writing histories not only has been unsatisfying, in that China so far has often deviated from the Eurocentric model, but it is not helpful to understand the prerogatives and preoccupations that guide China’s use and understanding of sovereignty, which will likely determine its conceptual development in China and China’s international identity in the future.-
dc.languageeng-
dc.publisherThe University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)-
dc.relation.ispartofHKU Theses Online (HKUTO)-
dc.rightsThe author retains all proprietary rights, (such as patent rights) and the right to use in future works.-
dc.rightsThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.-
dc.subject.lcshChina - Sovereignty-
dc.titleA genealogy of sovereignty in modern China, 1840-today-
dc.typePG_Thesis-
dc.identifier.hkulb5774073-
dc.description.thesisnameDoctor of Philosophy-
dc.description.thesislevelDoctoral-
dc.description.thesisdisciplineLaw-
dc.description.naturepublished_or_final_version-
dc.identifier.doi10.5353/th_b5774073-

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