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Empire careersWorking for the Chinese Customs Service, 1854–1949$
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Catherine Ladds

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780719085482

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719085482.001.0001

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‘That chaotic and Gilbertian Service’: working life in the Customs

‘That chaotic and Gilbertian Service’: working life in the Customs

Chapter:
(p.80) Chapter Four ‘That chaotic and Gilbertian Service’: working life in the Customs
Source:
Empire careers
Author(s):

Catherine Ladds

Publisher:
Manchester University Press
DOI:10.7228/manchester/9780719085482.003.0004

This chapter reconstructs the working environments of staff in the various branches of the Service, demonstrating how employees of imperial institutions were required to steer creatively through turbulent political currents in their professional lives. Particular attention is paid to the dramatic changes wrought upon working life in the Customs by the growth of popular nationalism in the 1920s, the rise to power of Chiang Kai-shek's Guomindang (Nationalist Party) in 1927, and the War of Resistance (1937–45). Although the Inspectorate insisted that it was a politically neutral institution, in reality its contentious position at a crossroads between the Chinese and foreign worlds placed it at the centre of political storms. Negotiating delicate relationships with other powerbrokers, such as local Chinese officials and foreign consuls, was essential to performing Customs work. Overall this chapter shows that colonial administrative services were not impregnable bastions of imperial power; instead versatility and compromise were vital to their day-to-day running.

Keywords:   Chinese politics, colonial administrative services, consuls, Guomindang, nationalism, War of Resistance, working life

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