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A Specter of Extraterritoriality

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The Legal Status of u.s. Troops in China, 1943–1947

image of Journal of American-East Asian Relations

The Sino-u.s. agreement of May 1943 that granted the u.s. military exclusive criminal jurisdiction over its troops in China was a continuation of extraterritorial rights that the United States supposedly abolished the previous January. In light of the earlier British-u.s. negotiations on the same issue, China was an integral part of a legal regime that during World War ii shielded globally deployed u.s. troops from local laws. The Chinese Guomindang (gmd) government’s renewal of the 1943 agreement in June 1946 extended the wartime legal privileges of u.s. troops into an era of precarious peace in China and set a precedent for the Status of Forces Agreements between the United States and various allies during the Cold War. The demonstrations after the Shen Chong Incident in late 1946, a largely nationalist movement that the Chinese Communist Party (ccp) co-opted, highlighted the inadequacy of public indignation and ccp manipulation in mounting a consistent legal effort to challenge the entrenched extraterritorial privileges of u.s. troops and restore Chinese jurisdiction. The gmd government also lost the opportunity to use the jurisdictional issue to demonstrate its nationalist credentials to an agitated public.

Affiliations: 1: Northwestern University,


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