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postgraduate thesis: The Sino-French controversy over Vietnam 1880-1885 : from tributary system to international legal system

TitleThe Sino-French controversy over Vietnam 1880-1885 : from tributary system to international legal system
Authors
Issue Date2017
PublisherThe University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)
Citation
Zhang, X. [张晓诗]. (2017). The Sino-French controversy over Vietnam 1880-1885 : from tributary system to international legal system. (Thesis). University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong SAR.
AbstractMost studies on Imperial China’s reception of international law in the nineteenth century debate about how much China integrated international law as guidance for its state behavior. Some scholars argue that Imperial China’s reception of international law was only for the sake of survival. China adhered to international law out of consideration of expediency. Chinese officials’ reference to China’s traditional rights and culture seemed to further suggest that the violent encounter between Imperial China and Western states in the nineteenth century was the result of cultural incommensurability. The present study uses archival research to find out the answer to Imperial China’s reception of international law. By looking into the archives of diplomatic affairs, the study seeks to discover whether Chinese officials had legal motivations in making state decisions. The thesis examines the Sino-French controversy over the status of Vietnam in the 1880s as a case study. The controversy was an example of Western Imperialism interfering with China’s pre-modern tributary system which had regulated inter-state relations in East Asia before the international legal system. The controversy manifested itself as a conflict between the tributary system and the international legal system. Because the two world orders were the manifestation of the civilizations of the two nations, the conflict appeared to be a case of cultural incommensurability. However, the examination of Chinese officials’ uses of international law during the controversy demonstrated that Imperial China’s reception of international law was not expedient. Although the dominant political figures in China made great efforts to maintain China’s privileged position in the tributary system, they also allowed legal motivations to guide their political choices. These Chinese officials had realized that the normative requirements of the tributary system were not applicable for the new international environment anymore. The collapse of the tributary system was considered the result of Imperial China’s power decline and change of power configurations in East Asia. For the Chinese officials, the controversy was an inevitable power struggle between China and France. Although the thesis was initially only concerned with whether China had accepted international law or not, the findings also show that international law was not a complete system in the nineteenth century. International law was subject to power politics. The behaviors of the Chinese, French, British and American officials demonstrated that they were aware of politics’ influence over international law. In summary, Imperial China was not a passive receiver of international law in the nineteenth century, but an engaging member of the expanding international society regulated by international law. Moreover, instead of using cultural differences to explain different state behaviors, acknowledging the influence of international politics over the development of international law could provide a more accurate picture of the history of the international legal system.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy
SubjectInternational law - China - History
Sino-French War, 1884-1885
Dept/ProgramLaw
Persistent Identifierhttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/244300

 

DC FieldValueLanguage
dc.contributor.authorZhang, Xiaoshi-
dc.contributor.author张晓诗-
dc.date.accessioned2017-09-08T08:33:32Z-
dc.date.available2017-09-08T08:33:32Z-
dc.date.issued2017-
dc.identifier.citationZhang, X. [张晓诗]. (2017). The Sino-French controversy over Vietnam 1880-1885 : from tributary system to international legal system. (Thesis). University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong SAR.-
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/244300-
dc.description.abstractMost studies on Imperial China’s reception of international law in the nineteenth century debate about how much China integrated international law as guidance for its state behavior. Some scholars argue that Imperial China’s reception of international law was only for the sake of survival. China adhered to international law out of consideration of expediency. Chinese officials’ reference to China’s traditional rights and culture seemed to further suggest that the violent encounter between Imperial China and Western states in the nineteenth century was the result of cultural incommensurability. The present study uses archival research to find out the answer to Imperial China’s reception of international law. By looking into the archives of diplomatic affairs, the study seeks to discover whether Chinese officials had legal motivations in making state decisions. The thesis examines the Sino-French controversy over the status of Vietnam in the 1880s as a case study. The controversy was an example of Western Imperialism interfering with China’s pre-modern tributary system which had regulated inter-state relations in East Asia before the international legal system. The controversy manifested itself as a conflict between the tributary system and the international legal system. Because the two world orders were the manifestation of the civilizations of the two nations, the conflict appeared to be a case of cultural incommensurability. However, the examination of Chinese officials’ uses of international law during the controversy demonstrated that Imperial China’s reception of international law was not expedient. Although the dominant political figures in China made great efforts to maintain China’s privileged position in the tributary system, they also allowed legal motivations to guide their political choices. These Chinese officials had realized that the normative requirements of the tributary system were not applicable for the new international environment anymore. The collapse of the tributary system was considered the result of Imperial China’s power decline and change of power configurations in East Asia. For the Chinese officials, the controversy was an inevitable power struggle between China and France. Although the thesis was initially only concerned with whether China had accepted international law or not, the findings also show that international law was not a complete system in the nineteenth century. International law was subject to power politics. The behaviors of the Chinese, French, British and American officials demonstrated that they were aware of politics’ influence over international law. In summary, Imperial China was not a passive receiver of international law in the nineteenth century, but an engaging member of the expanding international society regulated by international law. Moreover, instead of using cultural differences to explain different state behaviors, acknowledging the influence of international politics over the development of international law could provide a more accurate picture of the history of the international legal system. -
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.lcshInternational law - China - History-
dc.subject.lcshSino-French War, 1884-1885-
dc.titleThe Sino-French controversy over Vietnam 1880-1885 : from tributary system to international legal system-
dc.typePG_Thesis-
dc.description.thesisnameDoctor of Philosophy-
dc.description.thesislevelDoctoral-
dc.description.thesisdisciplineLaw-
dc.description.naturepublished_or_final_version-
dc.date.hkucongregation2017-
dc.identifier.mmsid991043953695303414-

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