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A tricky business: Swiss perceptions of informal imperialism in China in the 1920s


Knüsel, Ariane (2014). A tricky business: Swiss perceptions of informal imperialism in China in the 1920s. Journal of modern Chinese history, 8(2):210-229.

Abstract

This article analyzes the role that commercial interests played in Swiss perceptions of
informal imperialism in China during the 1920s. Commercial interests were the driving
force behind the establishment of Swiss relations with China in 1918 and Swiss rejections
of Chinese demands to abolish extraterritoriality in the 1920s. Swiss commercial
relations with China were deeply rooted in the social, economic, and political institutions
and processes developed by informal imperialism in China. During the Chinese antiforeign
agitation in the 1920s, the Swiss press criticized the unequal treaties as an
example of imperialism in China but ignored Switzerland’s participation in it. This
discrepancy between the official and media perceptions of Swiss commercial interests
in China was caused by the fact that Switzerland’s dependence on privileges connected
to the unequal treaties clashed with Swiss national mythology, which was based on
neutrality and anti-imperial narratives. Moreover, the negligible importance attributed to
Swiss trade with China and the increasing focus on the nationality of foreign companies
in China allowed the Swiss media to ignore Swiss commercial interests in China. As a
result, Swiss complicity in informal imperialism was downplayed by the Swiss press,
which ignored the importance of Swiss commerce to Sino–Swiss relations.

Abstract

This article analyzes the role that commercial interests played in Swiss perceptions of
informal imperialism in China during the 1920s. Commercial interests were the driving
force behind the establishment of Swiss relations with China in 1918 and Swiss rejections
of Chinese demands to abolish extraterritoriality in the 1920s. Swiss commercial
relations with China were deeply rooted in the social, economic, and political institutions
and processes developed by informal imperialism in China. During the Chinese antiforeign
agitation in the 1920s, the Swiss press criticized the unequal treaties as an
example of imperialism in China but ignored Switzerland’s participation in it. This
discrepancy between the official and media perceptions of Swiss commercial interests
in China was caused by the fact that Switzerland’s dependence on privileges connected
to the unequal treaties clashed with Swiss national mythology, which was based on
neutrality and anti-imperial narratives. Moreover, the negligible importance attributed to
Swiss trade with China and the increasing focus on the nationality of foreign companies
in China allowed the Swiss media to ignore Swiss commercial interests in China. As a
result, Swiss complicity in informal imperialism was downplayed by the Swiss press,
which ignored the importance of Swiss commerce to Sino–Swiss relations.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of History
08 University Research Priority Programs > Asia and Europe
Dewey Decimal Classification:900 History
Language:English
Date:2014
Deposited On:25 Feb 2015 20:02
Last Modified:08 Dec 2017 12:19
Publisher:Routledge
ISSN:1753-5654
Official URL:http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/rmoh20/8/2#.VO4oI8ayleU

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