Apr 19 2023


5:30 pm - 7:00 pm


Department of History

Department of History

At the Edge of the Maritime Frontier: The Qing Empire and its Coastal Islands Prior to the First Opium War

Dr. Ronald C. Po
London School of Economics and Political Science

19 April 2023 (Weds) 5:30 p.m.

Run Run Shaw Tower 4/F 4.36

China’s offshore islands played a unique and notable role as an interface between the mainland and the inner sea throughout the long eighteenth century. The interrelations between the central regime and these small, outlying, and seemingly peripheral islands were not necessarily weak. The Qing court had been proactive in the way it coped with the opportunities and problems posed by these coastal islands’ location and marginality as well as its uniqueness as a dotted landscape across the maritime frontier. The islands off the coast of China, whether fortified or not, had in fact been making contributions to the Qing empire’s maritime shield. Their geographical positions and strategic advantages affected the naval blueprint that had been set up by the Qing’s emperors and its high officials, shrewd administrators, and military planners. After all, the Qing’s vision of its offshore islands and its foresight in not giving up on or abandoning them is clearly illuminated through the many sea charts and other textual records that had been produced prior to the First Opium War.

Ron Po is a historian of late imperial China from the fourteenth to the early twentieth centuries. Since completing his doctorate at Universität Heidelberg in 2013, he has taught in Germany, the United States, and Canada, and is currently an associate professor of the Department of International History at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He is the author of The Blue Frontier: Maritime Vision and Power in the Qing Empire, published by Cambridge University Press in 2018, and two books in Chinese, entitled The Placid Ocean: Qing China and the Asian Seas, and Turning the Tide: Historical Actors and Social Memories in Late Qing China, both of them published by China Times Publishing Co. in Taiwan. In 2019, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

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