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East Asia before 'diplomacy': the transformation of China and Japan's foreign policy-making, 1858-1881

Sawai, Isami (2021) East Asia before 'diplomacy': the transformation of China and Japan's foreign policy-making, 1858-1881. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.00004378


The evolution of East Asian international relations in the nineteenth century has traditionally been regarded as a transformation from the Chinese world order to the modern Western international order. This dissertation rethinks this framework by focusing on the East Asian perspectives on their own foreign policy-making. In the 1860s-70s, Chinese documents used the term zhongwai jiaoshe[Sino-foreign negotiation], and Japanese documents used the term gaikoku kōsai [foreign intercourse] rather than the term ‘diplomacy.’ This implies Chinese and Japanese concepts of foreign relations were fundamentally differed from each other’s and those of Western diplomats. Relying on East Asian primary sources, this dissertation compares Chinese and Japanese foreign policy-making from the difference between Chinese and Japanese conceptions of foreign relations. In China, Prince Gong’s group intended to establish a centralised system to secretly manoeuvre the foreign powers, resulting in failure due to the huge geographical distances involved. Prince Gong’s group included high-ranking local officials in the foreign policy-making process, which led to the rise of Li Hongzhang in Tianjin, who coordinated negotiations with the foreign powers. In Japan, the Tokugawa Bakufu’s foreign policy-making was rapidly transformed through the political struggle between Edo and Kyoto, and Hitotsubashi Yoshinobu succeeded in taking control of foreign relations through his manoeuvre. Although the Meiji government initially regarded the foreign relations as pure ‘intercourse’ with other countries, the Gaimushō (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) gradually found a way to pursue its goals through trial and error. The nature of their communications with Western powers in the late 1870s eventually reflected key differences between China and Japan’s foreign policy making; that is, the relationship between the central governments and foreign legations by telegraphy, and their contrasting attitudes towards the establishment of the ‘standard of civilisation’ in international law.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2021 Isami Sawai
Library of Congress subject classification: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CD Diplomatics. Archives. Seals
D History General and Old World > DS Asia
J Political Science > JZ International relations
Sets: Departments > International History
Supervisor: Best, Antony

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