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The Oxford History of the British Empire: Volume IV: The Twentieth Century$
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Judith Brown and Wm Roger Louis

Print publication date: 1999

Print ISBN-13: 9780198205647

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198205647.001.0001

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(p.643) 28 China 
The Oxford History of the British Empire: Volume IV: The Twentieth Century


Oxford University Press

Britain emerged from the First World War with her overall position in the East Asian structure of power diminished, but with the institutions of formal and informal empire in China unharmed. During 1929–30, two of the most profitable public utility companies in Shanghai passed from British into American ownership. Between 1911 and 1913, the Great Powers, acting in relative harmony, had seized the chance of a collapsing ancien régime to humiliate China in unprecedented ways. Until 1926, the British saw no need for a major revision of their China policy. The decentralization or even disappearance of state authority in China jeopardized the foundations of informal empire. Chinese nationalism had no coherent doctrine and no unified political movement. There were reasons to doubt the dogma that British well-being in China depended on extraterritoriality and consular jurisdiction. Britain's Imperial retreat from China went through a number of stages. The temporary rescue of a late Imperial British position in China was mainly a result of the split of the Chinese revolutionary movement in 1927 and of the victory of moderate élite nationalism over radical mass nationalism.

Keywords:   Britain, Great Powers, China policy, Chinese nationalism, Imperial retreat, Chinese revolutionary movement

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