HKUEMS :: Event Details

Learning Western Techniques of Empire: China and the New Legal Framework for Managing Tibet
posted by Faculty of Law for HKU and Public
Event Type: Public Lecture/Forum/Seminar/Workshop/Conference/Symposium
Event Nature: Law and Politics

Event Details

Learning Western Techniques of Empire: Republican China and the New Legal Framework for Managing Tibet

Dr. Maria Adele Carrai

Date: January 16, 2018 (Tuesday)
Time: 1:30pm – 2:30pm
Venue: A723, 7/F, Cheng Yu Tung Tower, Centennial Campus, HKU
Language: English

At the end of the nineteenth century, China found itself torn between its imperial past and its nation-state future. By the time it became a Republic in 1911, China had to redefine its territory in new national sovereign terms. Until then its territory had been inscribed in more malleable frontiers and boundaries within the normative framework of the so-called ‘tribute system’. This talk shows how, applying the new legal techniques of empire learned from the West, the Chinese central government, wherever possible, attempted to expand its new sovereign domain in territories like Tibet, Xinjiang, and Mongolia, where, according to international law, all the rerequisites existed for national self-determination and independence. In the context of opposing British and Tibetan claims, the Chinese appropriation of international law in the Republican period (1911–1949) helped China not only to assert itself in the international domain as a sovereign state, defending itself against Western imperialism, but also to pursue its own fictional imperial claims over Tibet, without which the Communists’ ‘liberation’ of Tibet would have not been possible. This talk highlights the interplay of imperial techniques based on international law, the relativity of this legal language, and how the strategies of empire are not only a prerogative of the West, but can be quickly adopted by those who have been subjected to them, resulting in a vicious circle.

About the Speaker:
Maria Adele Carrai is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Princeton-Harvard China and the World Program (2017-18) and recipient of a Marie Curie Fellowship [PEGASUS]2 at the Leuven Centre for Global Governance Studies – KU Leuven (2017-20). Her research focuses on China’s legal history and how it affects the country’s foreign policy. As a fellow at the China and The World Program she looks at China as a normative actor and its impact on the international economic and legal order, with a particular focus on the Belt and Road Initiative. Before she arrived at the China and the World Program, she was a Max Weber Fellow at the European University Institute of Florence (2015-17), a Global Hauser Fellow at the New York University Law School (2016-17) and a Visiting Scholar at Columbia University (2017). She completed her PhD in 2016 at the University of Hong Kong, with the thesis “A Genealogy of Sovereignty in Modern China, 1840-present.”


Date/Time16/01/2018 13:30-14:30
VenueA723, 7/F, Cheng Yu Tung Tower, Centennial Campus, HKU

Registration Instruction

Registration is open from 14/12/2017 15:00(HKT) to 16/01/2018 16:00(HKT) on a first-come-first-served basis. The registration quota for this event is 50.

* Registration is now closed.

Contact Information

Should you have any enquiries, please feel free to contact Shelby Chan by email at