Telegraphs, sovereignty, and Chinese nation-building from the late Qing to the end of World War II

Presented by ANU College of Asia & the Pacific

China's efforts to reclaim sovereignty over the development and use of cable telegraphs has escaped the attention of historians of modern China. Yet this was not merely a technical issue; it involved a multi-layered process of international negotiation, replete with political and cultural tensions.

This seminar examines China's interactions and rivalries with three foreign cable companies from the late Qing period to the end of World War II. It analyses the development of China's cable telegraph system in four phases-the competition of central and local governments during the late Qing period; the intra-clique struggle of the early Republic and the warlord era; the rivalry of the party, military, and the state during the Nanjing decade; and the direct conflict between China and Japan during wartime.

The seminar argues that existing political tensions played a crucial role in shaping how China's cable policies were devised. In this context, ideologies of imperialism and nationalism provided the rhetorical basis for diverse interest groups to advance their respective agendas.

About the Speaker

Wei Shuge is a postdoctoral fellow in the School of Culture, History and Language, ANU. Her book To Win the West: China's Propaganda against Japan in the English-Language Press, 1928-1941 will be published by Hong Kong University Press. She is currently working on grassroots movements in Taiwan and China as part of the ARC Laureate project entitled 'Informal Life Politics in East Asia'.

After the Seminar

To allow for informal discussion, the seminar will be followed by a dinner with the guest speaker at 6:15pm. The location of the restaurant will be announced at the seminar. All are welcome, though those who attend will need to pay for their own food and drinks. As reservations must be made at the restaurant, please RSVP by noon of the day before the seminar to

The ANU China Seminar Series is supported by the China Institute, the Research School of Asia and the Pacific, and the Australian Centre on China in the World at The Australian National University.