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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 Research Priority Programs > Asia and Europe
Dewey Decimal Classification:900 History
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > History
Language:English
Date:2014
Deposited On:25 Feb 2015 20:02
Last Modified:25 Mar 2020 23:34
Publisher:Taylor & Francis
ISSN:1753-5654
OA Status:Green
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1080/17535654.2014.960152

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