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East & South-East Asia Titles:
China: Political Reports 1911–1960

ISBN: (13) 978-1-85207-930-7
Extent: 11 volumes, 6,970 pages

Editor: R.L. Jarman
ISBN: (10) 1-85207-930-4
Published: 2001
Paper: Printed on acid free paper
Binding: Library bindings
See sample pages: not available

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China Political Reports 1911-1960 is a collection of reports which has been established as an integrated series by Robert L. Jarman, F.R.G.S. The documents are listed in detail at the front of each volume and source references given for the benefit of scholars.

The collection begins with the 1911 annual report and ends with the annual report for 1960. Many different kinds of report come and go but the annuals are the backbone of the collection. This period covers the history of the rise of Communism in China and its effects over more than half a century. Although the period covers the First and Second World Wars the impact of these world events is almost matched for the Chinese by their internal struggles. After the declaration of the People’s Republic of China, Chinese diplomacy took a more international turn but by then the international arena had become paralysed by the effects of the cold war and the prevailing beliefs of the Great Powers were anti-Communist in nature thereby continuing the isolation of China.
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Historical Overview

This collection of political reports begins with the 1911 annual report. To summarise this report would be to say it describes the fall of the Manchu Dynasty, but any attempt to do so reveals the nature of all these reports on China. The vastness of the land area of China, the many different peoples and the different political character of the many provinces mean a level of detail that defies any attempt at simplification. Furthermore, China shares external boundaries with 14 countries to the north, west and south and has 14000 kilometres of coastline to the east.
The reports follow the dynastic ambitions of Yuan Shikai, former Commander-in-Chief of the imperial army; the rise of republicanism in China and the revolution itself; the developing struggle between Kuo Min-tang and Communists; the leadership of Dr Sun Yat Sen and later Chiang Kai-Shek, their ideological and physical battles with the Communists and the emergence of Zhou Enlai and Mao Tse Tung.

They describe the effects of the 'Long March' and the support of, and finally severance from, the Soviet Communist Party; the Japanese invasion and retaliation towards Chinese guerrilla resistance and its galvanising effect upon a previously apolitical peasantry; the Chinese civil war which saw the Kuo Min-tang, backed by the USA, retreat to Taiwan but continue to claim to be the legitimate government of China; and the installation of the new government of China, declared on 1 October 1949, under 'Chairman' Mao Tse Tung, head of the Communist Party since 1935. After the declaration of the People's Republic of China, internal politics have a less dramatic feel to them but foreign policy issues increase in importance. The war with Korea and the wider implications it had for relations with the Soviet Union and the United States of America; and relations with the bordering states of India and Tibet, in particular, feature largely in the correspondence. This collection of reports ends in 1960 with the effects of the 'Great Leap' forward of 1958 just beginning to be felt; the first suggestions of dissent within the leadership of the Communist Party; and the process of the elevation of Chairman Mao to cult status well under way.
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Documentary Importance

This collection draws together the periodic political reports sent by British Officials based in China back to the British Foreign Office. Some of these reports were destined for official publication and are now located either in the Official Publications rooms of the British Museum or Cambridge University Library. Other reports were intended to be confidential and were seen only by the Foreign Secretary and permanent officials in the British Foreign Office. Such reports are generally released, after 30 years, into the public domain via the Public Record Office. Still further reports are retained by the Government indefinitely due to their perceived sensitivity.

The most important series of reports is the Annual Reports series, initiated by Sir Edward Grey in a memorandum of 6 April 1906 sent to British representatives in 46 countries. He suggested that the report should ´deal fully with events and matters of interest concerning that country which have occurred during the preceding twelve months, and should explain their bearing on its position and policy´; he also suggested topics that should be covered such as foreign relations, naval policy, the machinery of government, finance, education, and the press and its influence on public opinion.

Although the standard series of annual reports begins in 1906 we have chosen to begin this collection in 1911 as a particularly important year for China with the fall of the Manchu Dynasty. Therefore the annual reports run for 1911, 1912 and 1913 and then the Foreign Office decided to cease publication for the duration of the First World War. There are no reports for 1914 to 1918 and the series begins again in 1919. The annual reports run through to 1960 with only two exceptions: no reports can be found for either 1945 or 1949. The decision was made to carry on reporting during the Second World War, but to limit the report to a review of the year and to expand it again in peacetime. The reviews indeed continued throughout the war but remained thereafter as a review.

More frequent summaries of events were often produced in addition to annual reports and the first of these other series for China is the Quarterly Consular Summaries beginning in 1919. These were produced by the British Legation, Peking and were a summary of the intelligence reports received in Peking from all the British Consular Officers in China for each quarter. They continue more or less regularly until 30 June 1929. A memorandum dated 20 September 1929 from Sir M. Lampson at the Foreign Office notes that there is no need to continue with quarterly summaries when the actual reports are also being received in the Foreign Office.
From 1920 onwards a series of periodic despatches was forwarded to the Foreign Office to support the annual reports and quarterly summaries. These periodic reports were produced on a monthly basis until 1937 when a series called Monthly Reviews took over. The monthly reviews ran until the end of February 1949 and were themselves supported by a series of weekly news summaries from 1946 to September 1949.

By 1950 all these different periodic reports had ceased except the annual review. A new series called Peking Summaries of Events took over, produced on a tri-weekly basis, and was run in conjunction with a series of press and propaganda summaries until 1964 when they were replaced by the Weekly Peking Press Themes. In parallel, the Peking Monthly Observations start in 1961 and continue until August 1964. In 1954 the British Legation, Shanghai began a series of [Shanghai] summaries of events, press and propaganda. With its position in such a large port and its distance from Beijing, the reports arising from Shanghai have quite a different perspective from those centred in Beijing. These Shanghai Summaries continue through until the end of 1963 to be replaced by Shanghai Observations in April 1964. In January 1966 Peking Press Summaries appear and run to February 1967. Correspondingly, Shanghai Press Summaries begin in February 1966 but come to and end in July 1966.

There are two further types of report: personality reports and occasional despatches. The personality reports run from 1933 to 1949. They are a catalogue of the leading personalities in China during those years and are an extraordinary record of the political leaders, main party activists, diplomats, and industrialists of the time. The occasional despatches are not properly a series at all but are included because of the value of the information or political comment contained in them. Such reports as: ´Political Survey of Republican China, 1911-1926´ provide an invaluable background to the main reports series.

At the beginning of each volume there is a detailed contents listing and it is hoped that combined with this brief introduction to the documents the reader may easily find a route into the information contained within the collection.
From the Editor’s Introduction
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Arrangement of volumes

Volume 1: 1911-1921
Volume 2: 1922-1923
Volume 3: 1924-1927
Volume 4: 1928-1932
Volume 5: 1933-1936
Volume 6: 1937-1941
Volume 7: 1942-1945
Volume 8: 1946-1948
Volume 9: 1949-1954
Volume 10: 1955-1957
Volume 11: 1958-1960
Within the volumes all the documents are arranged in strictly chronological order apart from one or two occasional reports which span a number of years. These are placed in the final year to which they refer.
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Contents Outline

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Key documents

Consideration of this historical material is essential for understanding contemporary political ideology and positioning. The following extract from this Peking Summary in 1951 has a familiar theme to it.

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Editor's Introduction

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Related Titles:
China: Political Reports 1961–1970
Hong Kong: Annual Administration Reports 1841–1941
Japan: Political And Economic Reports 1906–1970
Korea: Political And Economic Reports 1882–1970
Straits Settlements Annual Reports (Singapore, Penang, Malacca, Labuan) 1855–1941
Taiwan Political And Economic Reports 1861–1960 
Vietnam:  British Government Records. Vietnam under French Rule 1919-1946: the nationalist challenge and the Japanese threat