China Beat Archive


Date of this Version


Document Type



2011 in The China Beat


Copyright 2011. Used by permission.


Several months ago, I was lucky enough to get my hands on an advance copy of The Scramble for China: Foreign Devils in the Qing Empire, 1832-1914, Robert Bickers’ fascinating new book. Published in the United Kingdom and most other parts of the world in February, this work will be released in the United States later this month. In anticipation, I caught up with Robert (an old friend and sometime co-author of mine, as well as a past contributor to China Beat) and asked him some questions about the book. A stylishly written and carefully researched work, it contains everything from lively accounts of battles to insightful ruminations on the very different ways some pivotal events and incidents (e.g., the looting of artifacts from Beijing palaces) are remembered inside and outside of China. It also includes an illuminating discussion of the origins and spread of the treaty-port system. This makes it fitting that he sent his answers to the questions I emailed him (I only caught up with him virtually, as he was across the Pacific from me during our interview) while gazing out at the Huangpu River, the most important waterway in Shanghai, the most celebrated and notorious of China’s onetime treaty ports.