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Informal Empire in Crisis: British Diplomacy and the Chinese Customs Succession, 1927-1929

72 InformalEmpire
Martyn P. ATKINS
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The Inspector-General of the Chinese Maritime Customs Service was, without doubt, the highest-ranking foreigner in the Chinese Government. His position at the heart of China's fiscal, commercial and mercantile systems was crucial to the continued prosperity of the foreign business community in Shanghai and elsewhere. This work draws on unpublished British Foreign Office records and other contemporary sources to support its examination of the issues surrounding the appointment of a new Inspector-General in 1928, and the bitterness and intrigue which these issues engendered. The underlying debate between the British Legation in Peking and the Foreign Office in London illustrates the dilemma of a diplomatic establishment no longer able to rely upon the use of force to defend British interests in China. | 142 pages


  • Acknowledgments
  • Abbreviations
  • Preface
  • The Nature of Informal Empire
  • Whitehall's Response to Chinese Nationalism
  • Synarchy and Revenue
  • The Maritime Customs: In Whose Service? Dual Control
  • The Question of Character
  • Nationalist Politics and the Customs Crisis
  • Resignation, Resolution, Retreat
  • The Future of Informal Empire
  • Bibliography


  • "Atkins has done a very good job of illustrating an important aspect of imperial decline in China." — International History Review
  • "Provides scholars of Republican-era history with a useful opening into the way some British official minds reacted to the fact of successful anti-imperialist nationalism in China." — The China Quarterly

  • From 1990 to 1992 Martyn ATKINS held the Sidgwick Scholarship at Telluride House, Cornell University. He is now North Senior Scholar at St. John's College, Oxford. 

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