Forthcoming in the Cambridge Studies in International and Comparative Law Series, Cambridge University Press
Sovereignty in China, A Genealogy of a Concept Since 1840 examines the contested notion of “sovereignty” and how it was appropriated by Chinese diplomats and intellectuals over the course of the past two centuries. Despite the strong critiques of sovereignty in the 1990s, since the global expansion of international law over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, sovereignty has defined and continues to constitute, the normative framework against which countries and polities define themselves. When, alongside international law, sovereignty was introduced into other normative political systems, as in China, the term acquired different meanings and was articulated by local agents in a variety of ways that departed from Western conceptualizations. Employing the method of conceptual history, my book examines China as a legitimate shaper and breaker of international norms and concepts and as a creator of its own modern history. It traces the formation and emergence of a new Chinese international identity through discourses of sovereignty. The book helps to contextualize the globalization of the Western normative order in the 19th and 20th centuries by nuancing the often too Eurocentric history of international law. The work shows the colonial and imperial nature of international law and how sovereignty, which should guarantee the principle of equality, in reality, has been often manipulated to serve different purposes both by Western powers and China. It also shows the non-linear path of the development of international law and globalization.
The Qing Blue Map is as Courtesy of Sotheby’s.