In This Review

Bargaining with the State from Afar: American Citizenship in Treaty Port China, 1844-1942
Bargaining with the State from Afar: American Citizenship in Treaty Port China, 1844-1942
By Eileen P. Scully
Columbia University Press, 2001, 521 pp

Chinese nationalists have long charged that "extraterritoriality" -- the exemption from local legal jurisdiction -- was a century-long humiliation that the West imposed on China to protect Western citizens from the supposed lack of proper legal systems there. In this illuminating work, Scully shows that "extrality" (as it was commonly called) was in fact far more complex. She explores the legally uncharted question of whether the U.S. government had a right to control the actions of American citizens living abroad, even in matters ignored at home. Often these citizens had more problems bargaining with Washington than they had with China. Numerous Americans, from legitimate entrepreneurs to con artists to prostitutes, went to great lengths to seek exemption from U.S. jurisdiction, preferring to deal with the Chinese authorities; in the 1920s, American missionaries even asked the State Department to have extrality suspended -- without success. Meanwhile, U.S. officials felt that they had the right and duty to discipline -- and if necessary banish -- any American whose conduct they thought an embarrassment to America's image of superior propriety.