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The Cross and the Flag

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image of Mission Studies

China has always occupied a special place in the history of Christian Missions. The second half of the nineteenth century was a time of especially intense missionary interest in China that coincided with a rapid overseas economic, military, and political expansion of the Western world. Conventionally, there have been two approaches to the question of the relationship between Christian missions and Western expansion. One paints missionaries as the vanguard of Western colonization, while the other stresses the detached idealism of the missionaries. In fact, the relationship between Christian missions and Western expansionism is a complicated one. This article considers this problematic relationship from a diplomatic perspective based on the views of Max von Brandt, a veteran German diplomat and expert in East Asian affairs at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries. Retiring from diplomatic service after thirty-three years in East Asia, Brandt served as an adviser to the German Foreign Office, and wrote a dozen books and over a hundred periodical articles on East Asian and other topics. The article briefly sketches Brandt's involvement with the mission question as a diplomat, and then analyses his writings on the subject. It shows how complicated the relationship between Christian missions and the policies of the Western governments really was. On the one hand, as the German envoy in China, Brandt promoted the German government protection of Catholic missionaries and intervened with the Chinese government repeatedly for the safety and security of Western missionaries when it suited the basic aims of government policy. At the same time, however, Brandt's diplomatic reports and later writings clearly reveal a basically negative appraisal of the effects of missionary activity. From Brandt's diplomatic perspective, Christian missions in China were both boon and bane.

Affiliations: 1: Nanzan University, Nagoya, Japan, university's Centre for European Studies


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