chapter  10
17 Pages

Equality and the ‘Unequal Treaties’: Chinese émigrés and British colonial routes to modernity

China’s ‘Unequal Treaties’ with Britain were unequal in more ways than one. They were procedurally unequal in that they were negotiated and signed under duress. In compelling territorial concessions and fi nancial indemnities that infringed on China’s sovereignty, they failed to uphold the principle of the equal sovereignty of states. And they were unequal in the sense that they were not in all respects reciprocal. A number of specifi c concessions embedded in the treaties, including the concession that Britons should be tried in China under British legal jurisdiction (extraterritoriality), applied to just one partner to the treaties. From the Treaty of Nanking in 1842 to the Boxer Protocol of 1901, Britain’s treaties with China warrant the twentieth-century title of ‘Unequal Treaties’ (Dong 2005 ; Hou 2006 ).