Entangled Empires, Divided Interests: Chinese and European Networks on and beyond the China Coast, 1800s–1940s
4: A Time of Transition: South China and European Colonialism in the Late 1940s
Sunday, March 27, 2022
10:45am – 12:15pm EST
Virtual Paper Presenter(s)
University of Bristol, United Kingdom
The late 1940s were years of great transition in China: from Second World War to post-war and Cold War (as well as a return to civil war), from Nationalist to Communist rule, and from a century of foreign imperial impositions to an era of decolonisation. This presentation explores connections, ruptures and continuities in three territories under European colonial rule in South China during this complex period: Hong Kong, Macau, and Guangzhouwan. Unlike most other foreign-ruled territories in China that returned to Chinese control after the war, the first two would remain in foreign hands until the late 1990s. This paper argues that the dismantling of French power in Guangzhouwan and the atypical maintenance of British and Portuguese rule in Hong Kong and Macau owed as much to these territories’ specific experiences during World War Two as to post-war intersections of imperial and nationalist interests for which the globally-connected Pearl River Delta was key. Drawing on multilingual sources, this comparative study sheds new light on the challenges and opportunities posed by remnants of European colonialism in South China to different Chinese and foreign actors.