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Home > Books & Journals > Journal Abstracts Last Updated: 14:23 03/09/2007
Journal Abstracts #250: October 2, 2006

Modern Asian Studies

Journal Name: Modern Asian Studies: Volume 40 - Issue 03 - July 2006
Print ISSN: 0026-749X Online ISSN: 1469-8099


Robert Hart and the Chinese Maritime Customs Service (pp545-548)
HANS VAN DE VEN (University of Cambridge)
In September 2003, academics from China, Europe and the USA gathered at Queen's University Belfast. They came first to attend an exhibition and then to present and discuss papers on the career in China of Robert Hart. Largely forgotten in Britain and even Northern Ireland, although not in the academic field of Chinese Studies, Robert Hart was born in County Armagh and studied at Queen's before travelling to Hong Kong in 1854 as a young recruit to the British Consular Service for China and Japan. He soon found himself despatched to the British consulate at Ningbo to study consular procedures and learn Chinese with the aid of a Chinese tutor and one of the Confucian classics, the Mencius. At this time, much of south China was engulfed by the Taiping Rebellion, which was inspired by Christianity.

Research Articles

Politics, Power and the Chinese Maritime Customs: the Qing Restoration and the Ascent of Robert Hart (pp549-581)
RICHARD S. HOROWITZ (California State University, Northridge)
On 6 November 1865, Robert Hart, the 30-year-old Inspector General (I.G.) of the Imperial Maritime Customs Service, presented to his supervisors in the Zongli Yamen, the Qing Empire's new foreign office, a long memorandum critiquing Chinese administrative practices and offering suggestions for improvement. He criticized corruption and inefficiency at all levels of government, called for tax reform, greater specialization and better technical education of officials, improving contacts with the outside world, and promoting foreign methods and technology. The memorandum, written in Chinese, was entitled the 'Bystander's View' (juwai pangguan lun). A few months later it was submitted by the Zongli Yamen to the throne, and together with a similar tract by British diplomat Thomas Wade, distributed to senior Qing officials for comment. It had little impact at the time. But forty years later, when the Empress Dowager Cixi reportedly told the author that she wished she had followed his advice, it became a foundation stone of the mythology of Robert Hart, a symbol of the failure of the Qing court to take full advantage of the Portadown native's wisdom. Hart's premise, encapsulated in the title, was that as an outsider to the Qing system he could see problems that insiders could not. 'The true face of Mount Lu can only be seen in its entirety by one who stands away from it.' But the memorandum, for all of its notoriety, was uncharacteristic of Hart.

Robert Hart in China: The Significance of his Irish Roots (pp583-604)
RICHARD O'LEARY (Queen's University, Belfast)
As Inspector General of the Maritime Customs Service, Robert Hart (1835–1911), born in County Armagh in Ireland, was a chief fiscal administrator of the Chinese Empire. Hart was a British citizen, yet he was employed by the Chinese government and was responsible for hundreds of Western (mostly British) and thousands of Chinese employees. His ability to straddle cultures has been noted by the historians Bruner, Fairbank and Smith who refer to a trait of cultural sensitivity that was unusual among the merchants of the treaty ports in China. The source of this cultural sensitivity is of interest and some insights can be gleaned from his Irish origins. The employment under Hart of many persons from Ireland, family and others, in the Chinese Maritime Customs (CMC) has also raised questions about nepotism and favouritism. We will see that Hart did not only favour his family but was generally well disposed to long-standing acquaintances, whether they were Irish or not. Furthermore, his Irish contacts in both Ireland and China were of advantage to him in his career and his attainment of higher social status. Our examination of Hart's network of Irish contacts and his ideas about Ireland also reveal his multi-national identity. This seemed to allow Hart to be both pro-British while also retaining a critical perspective, as might be expected by someone who by place of birth, social class and religion was not from the heart of the English establishment.

Robert Hart and China's Statistical Revolution (pp605-629)
In 1890 Robert Hart was elected Honorary Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society. Hart had sent copies of the statistical publications of the Maritime Customs Service regularly to the Society, but he himself was no statistician. He did publish one piece in the Journal of the Statistical Society of London, but this was no more than an extract of a conclusion Hart wrote to reports written by the Commissioners at China's Treaty Ports on local opium consumption. But Hart, as Inspector General of the Maritime Customs Service, bore general responsibility for its publications and involved himself deeply in its statistical projects. H. B. Morse, who would serve as Statistical Secretary, wrote: 'while weak in the fiscal and economic field, he was a marvel in organisation and the direction of the work of others'. Within the Customs Service, it was the Statistical Secretary who had immediate responsibility for the statistical publications of the Customs. He was stationed in Shanghai, China's busiest port, rather than Beijing, where the Inspectorate had its offices close to the Zongli Yamen, the Qing agency overseeing China's relations with Western countries.

Robert Hart and Gustav Detring during the Boxer Rebellion (pp631-662)
HANS VAN DE VEN (University of Cambridge)
This article focuses on Robert Hart during the Boxer Rebellion. My reconstruction of his activities is based on a recently discovered file in the archives of the Chinese Maritime Customs Service held at the Second Historical Archives in Nanjing. While it has long been known that Hart corresponded with Qing officials during the Siege itself and while a few letters have been published, the file contains more than one hundred exchanges between Hart and Qing officials written after the end of the Siege of the Legations. I have further relied on a box of documents dealing with the Boxer Rebellion in the Hart Manuscript Collection at the Queen's University of Belfast, including Hart's notes on his meetings with Qing officials. These materials provide insight into the way Hart was able to persuade the Qing and foreign countries to begin negotiations and illustrate the critical role he played in fashioning the Boxer Protocol signed on 7 September 1901.

The Boxer Indemnity-'Nothing but Bad' (pp663-689)
FRANK H. H. KING (University of Hong Kong)
There was nothing unusual in an indemnity per se. Indeed, an indemnity could be seen as a forward step in European civilization, replacing the regime of indiscriminate plunder which preceded it-although it could equally be argued that in their pacification of north China following the razing of the Siege of the Legations in 1900 the Allies, through their looting of the Tientsin and Peking areas in disregard of recently agreed definitions, had acquired both indemnity and plunder. Indeed the chaos was such that among the first financial and contradictory consequences of the post-Boxer period was Sir Robert Hart's successful arrangement with the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation of a loan of Ts10,000 a month for the chief Chinese negotiator, Prince Ch'ing [I-K'uang], on the one hand, while in Shansi the Protestant Church refused to accept any indemnity for the Christian lives lost; consequently the authorities voluntarily agreed to establish a University on Western lines, to be maintained by the authorities, and to operate under joint control for ten years at the annual cost of Ts 50,000.

Purloined letters: History and the Chinese Maritime Customs Service (pp691-723)
ROBERT BICKERS (University of Bristol)
For John King Fairbank the establishment of the foreign inspectorate of the Chinese Maritime Customs Service was a key symbolic moment in modern Chinese history. His landmark 1953 volume Trade and Diplomacy on the China Coast culminates with the 1854 Inspectorate agreement, which, he argued, 'foreshadowed the eventual compromise between China and the West-a joint Chinese and Western administration of the modern centers of Chinese life and trade in the treaty ports'. Without the CMCS, he implied, there could be no modern China. It was the 'the institution most thoroughly representative of the whole period' after the opening of the treaty ports down to 1943, he wrote. By 1986 he was arguing that it was the 'central core' of the system. 'Modernity, however defined, was a Western, not a Chinese, invention', he claimed, and Sir Robert Hart's Customs Service was its mediator.

Sealing the Mouth of Outrage Notes on the Meaning and Intent of Hart's These from the land of Sinim (pp725-736)
FRANK H. H. KING (University of Hong Kong)
Seal up the mouth of outrage for a while,

Till we can clear these ambiguities,

And know their spring, their head, their true descent…

And let mischance be clove to patience.

–Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

Sinim. A name…taken by many scholars as meaning China under the name Ts'in, but modern opinion mostly regards it as referring to Syene…

–Couling, Encyclopaedia Sinica (1917)

Foreign Devils, Finance and Informal Empire: Britain and China c. 1900–1912 (pp737-759)
IAN PHIMISTER (University of Sheffield and University of Pretoria)
'An imperial policy is essentially a commercial policy'

(Charles Addis, 1905)

'Look at the way we have swindled the Chinese in the case of the Pekin Syndicate and still worse in the case of the Chinese Engineering and Mining Company'

(G.E. Morrison, 1906)

Recast(e)ing Identity: Transformation of Inter-caste Relationships in Post-colonial Rural Orissa (pp761-796)
AKIO TANABE (Institute for Research in Humanities, Kyoto University)
Caste in contemporary Indian society has often been seen as a remainder of waning tradition. Advent of egalitarian liberalism and/or capitalism is taken to be the force of change which is destroying or restricting the relevance of caste in contemporary society. Against such a view, this paper will argue that caste remains an important frame of reference for defining people's identity especially in rural society. In particular, I would like to discuss the role of people's agency in the reshaping of caste in contemporary rural Orissa. It is the aggregate efforts of different groups of people in local situations to constantly redefine the form and meaning of caste that maintains its relevance. I feel this aspect has been neglected in many previous theories, which have tended to consider caste concerns merely in terms of the presence or absence of 'hierarchy' or in terms of 'substantialized' group formations.

India's Unfinished Journey Transforming Growth into Development (pp797-832)
DEEPAK NAYYAR (Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi)
This paper situates the economic performance of independent India in historical perspective to evaluate the past and reflect on the future. It shows that the turning point in economic growth was circa 1951 in the long twentieth century and circa 1980 in India since independence. Thus, it is not possible to attribute the turnaround in India's performance to economic liberalization beginning 1991. During the period 1950–1980, economic growth in India was respectable, for it was a radical departure from the past and no worse than the performance of most countries. During the period 1980–2005, economic growth in India was impressive, indeed much better than in most countries. The real failure in both these periods was India's inability to transform this growth into well-being for all its people. And India's unfinished journey in development cannot be complete as long as poverty, deprivation and exclusion persist. Even so, with correctives, it should be possible to reach the destination.

Modern Asian Studies (2006)
Copyright ©2006 Cambridge University Press

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