SOAS Research Online

A Free Database of the Latest Research by SOAS Academics and PhD Students

[skip to content]

Chen, Ling-chieh (2023) 'Censorship and the Postal Service in China during World War One.' British Journal of Chinese Studies, 13 (1). pp. 41-62.

Text - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 (CC-BY 4.0).

Download (463kB) | Preview


This paper focuses on the first state-organised nationwide postal censorship in China during World War I (WWI). The war had far-reaching effects on China, both in terms of the subsequent development of the internal political situation and her international relations. Although scholars share a meaningful view of China’s ‘internationalisation’ during and after WWI, the immediate impact on China is rarely discussed. One area where the war did have a significant effect was Sino-European postal communication, as this was probably the first time that mail was subjected to censorship in China. This research draws on material from the diplomatic archives to discuss how the nationwide postal censorship was established in China and how it impacted the public during the war. It argues that WWI was a crucial moment for the Chinese government in establishing a comprehensive and nationwide system of postal censorship. Censorship was a government policy for war purposes and, most of all, something that was requested by both China’s allies and enemies. This article suggests that this form of censorship during and after WWI overall reflects both that the Chinese government regarded it as a strategy to prevent information leakage, but that it was also a useful tool in domestic policy and diplomacy.

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: postal service, censorship, World War One, Beiyang government
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > School of History, Religions & Philosophies > Department of History
Departments and Subunits > Department of East Asian Languages & Cultures
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General)
D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D501 World War I
D History General and Old World > DS Asia
ISSN: 20480601
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2023 10:22

Altmetric Data


Download activity - last 12 monthsShow export options
Downloads since deposit
6 month trend
6 month trend
Accesses by country - last 12 monthsShow export options
Accesses by referrer - last 12 monthsShow export options

Repository staff only

Edit Item Edit Item