RAS Lecture Programme 2013-2014 (free admission, everybody welcome)
When: Thursday 16th January. The lecture starts at 6.00 pm and will be followed by a Q & A session and a drinks reception.
Hans van de Ven is Professor of Modern Chinese History at Cambridge University. He has worked on the history of the Chinese revolution as well as the second world war in China. For the last decade, his research has focused on the Chinese Maritime Customs Service, whose archives, consisting of no less than 55,000 files, he helped make available to researchers. His account of the Customs Service, and China’s rocky entrance into global political economy, will be published by Columbia University Press in February 2014 under the the title Breaking with the Past: The Chinese Maritime Customs Service and the Global Origins of Modernity in China.
|Image showing Chinese customs ensign|
Professor van de Ven’s talk will examine the rise of markets for China bonds in the late 19th century and the influence this had on the outcome of the 1911 Revolution. The HSBC and the Chinese Maritime Customs Service were two key institutions for the floating of China bonds in London and other European capitals. Because of the indemnities imposed on China after the 1894-95 Sino-Japanese War and the Boxer Rebellion, China became dependent on international lending, at the same time that a China bubble took hold among European and US investors. Qing efforts to build a domestic bond market and so become less dependent of foreign funding ended in embarrassing failures. As a result of these developments, maintaining China’s international credit became important during the 1911 Revolution not only for all those who had invested in China’s bonds, the HSBC, and the Customs Service, but also for China’s political leaders, especially because the 1911 Revolution had caused the implosion of China’s fiscal system and so it was clear to all that after the revolution would be in need of further funding. Against this background, it becomes understandable that the 1911 Revolution was not ‘socially recessive but politically progresive’, as Joseph Esherick famously argued. Instead, China became a client state, with foreign countries in control of China’s most important revenue sources, which they used to service the debts owed to, or imposed by, them. Rather than describing the 1911 Revolution as a domestic affair, this talk seeks to highlight the international political and financial context in which it took place, and which shaped, not its origins, but its unfolding, in profound ways.