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The Eagle and the Dragon: Tsingtau and the German Colonial Experience in China, 1880-1918
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When Germany forced China to surrender part of the province of Shantung and the village of Tsingtau in 1897, it secured the long-standing wishes of a German China lobby that had articulated visions of empire that would achieve their individual objectives. While their various ideas were broad and not well defined, at their heart was that Germany should embrace a liberal, commercial model of empire: a “German Hong Kong” that would be a paradigm of colonial rule and a major power center in Asia. There exists a critical need to place Germany’s colonial experience in China in its proper historical context and appreciate its role in German imperialism and the development of a more globalized world at the turn of the twentieth century. This study critically analyzes the colony of Tsingtau in order to elucidate German ideas about empire during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The 3500 Germans in Tsingtau and their supporters created a nexus of associations to build a commercial center to rival British Hong Kong. Inspired by new historical trends, this work examines mid-level state and military officials, diplomats, businessmen, and religious leaders, the “middle management of empire,” that helped develop Tsingtau. In doing so, it studies the colonial experience as “history from the middle,” highlighting the critical role Tsingtau played in Germany’s emergence as a world power. To tell the story of Tsingtau, my research utilizes sources from German, Chinese, and American archives, ascertaining how leaders in Germany and Tsingtau viewed the colony, as well as the impact of colonists’ experiences on German policy. This is supplemented with records of imperial officials, colonial leaders, corporate organizations, and other influential members of the community. These mid-level individuals devised and implemented projects to enhance life for the colonists and, sometimes, natives. Their records show how economic, political, and cultural interests worked together to develop the colony and enhance Germany’s status as a world leader. My research identifies new ideas about German visions of empire-particularly that a strong liberal impulse existed in German imperialism-and shows that Germany was a key player in early globalization and that its East Asian presence was an integral part of its global power projection. Consequently, this transnational study substantially enriches our understanding of imperialism at the turn of the twentieth century and our perception of the formation of an interconnected global society.
Yokell, Matthew Allison (2018). The Eagle and the Dragon: Tsingtau and the German Colonial Experience in China, 1880-1918. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from