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Sovereignty and the Chinese Red Cross Society: The Differentiated Practice of International Law in Shandong, 1914–1916

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image of Journal of the History of International Law / Revue d'histoire du droit international

This article looks at the strategic manipulation of national Red Cross Societies as markers of sovereignty during a period of heightened world nationalism in the early twentieth century. Using Chinese archival materials, it examines how in 1916, on China's much contested Shandong Peninsula, a Japanese delegation set up a Japanese Red Cross chapter and hospital in the Chinese port city of Longkou, in flagrant disregard of widely recognized principles of sovereignty and international law. Occurring just as the larger “Shandong Question” was roiling the international legal community, this incident shows how the local practice of international legal statutes diverged from a more publicized, transnational discussion of those same principles. The article explores this disjuncture, and considers one instance of what I term the differentiated practice of international law: the early twentiethcentury Japanese “double policy” – “one policy for the East and another for the West.” Revealing much about the use of humanitarian activity and the laws of war to further national agendas, the Longkou Incident was later used by the Chinese Red Cross Society as precedent for checking further incursions into China's sovereignty.

Affiliations: 1: Assistant Professor, Department of History, Emmanuel College, Boston, MA, U.S.A.


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