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February 13, 2009 in The China Beat


Copyright February 13, 2009. Used by permission.


Paul French is the Shanghai-based author of Carl Crow, a Tough Old China Handand keeps the blog China Rhyming, as well as acting as publishing and marketing director at Access Asia. French’s next book, Through the Looking Glass: China’s Foreign Journalists from the Opium Wars to Mao, will be published June 1 by Hong Kong University Press.

Obama claims to be a break with the past by which, in a very American way of defining the past, he seems to mean the last few years. Instructive as some recent China books may be, perhaps the President would care to go back a bit further and consider the opinions of some older Americans and one Brit with plenty of China experience.

The revival of American extraterritoriality (extrality) in Iraq does not appear to have spurred much interest in historians to go back and look at previous examples of the practise. But in pre-revolution Shanghai, Americans were at the forefront of the debate and history has a tendency to echo. So he might benefit from ploughing through the great American journalist in Shanghai Thomas Fairfax Millard’s The End of Extraterritoriality in China (1931). Millard’s book influenced a whole gang of Americans in Shanghai to oppose extrality – China Weekly Review editor JB Powell did and he was drummed out of the right wing American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai (some things never change!) for his position. A more recent examination of the failings of America’s attempts at extrality in China, Ellen P. Scully’s Bargaining With the State from Afar: American Citizenship in Treaty Port China 1844-1942 (2001), might also prove useful.