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Chen, Ling-chieh (2023) War and Postal Communication in Republican China. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This thesis explores why and how the postal service continued to service the public in unfortunate conditions when China was involved in conflicts and wars in the Republican era. It discusses the national and international transformation and maintenance of postal communications in China during these protracted wars and conflicts of the early twentieth century, with a particular focus on the ideas of postal modernity and the modern national postal service as an extension of national sovereignty. It asks how postal communication could be maintained by only one national postal service, while the state was divided into several mutually hostile regimes, and why the system survived until the end of the Second Sino- Japanese War, but did not eventually make it through the Chinese Civil War and the end of the Nationalist regime on the mainland in 1949. It attempts to provide a reappraisal of the modernisation concept of postal communications in previous studies and argues that the modernity of the postal service and communication was changeable and flexible, and that it was shaped by the complicated interactions between the state and society in Republican China. Through the analysis of official records, newspapers, private sources, and mail items, this study suggests that the maintenance of China’s national postal service involved the imagination of a modern state for the Chinese, the modern postal system’s internationality and transnationality, the neutralisation of the Chinese Postal Service due to foreign postal staff management, and the public’s needs for postal communication. Observing postal communication in wartime China, ‘postal sovereignty’ was more related to the autonomy of China’s national postal administration and was conceptualised by former Chinese postal employees as an absolute right of the state only after the 1950s. It reflects the interweaving of multiple Chinese nation-building efforts and the imagination of a modern state. Finally, the case of the Chinese Postal Service in wars and conflicts shows that the ‘modern’ and ‘national’ postal system was not only a communication service in a state but also an international institution, which in fact operated beyond nations and regimes to ensure that postal communication worked worldwide and met users’ postal needs.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Andrea Janku, Michael Charney and Lars Laamann
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 11 Aug 2023 12:09

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