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My research interest, since the dissertation, has focused on commerce and STM (science, technology, and medicine) in treaty-port China and Hong Kong in the nineteenth century. Merchants, especially those of steam shipping and marine insurance interests, had exerted great influence on STM in the heterogeneous societies along the China coasts. In major port cities, Chambers of commerce and the commercial newspapers, the only media, had enhanced merchants to deal with the rising Sino and foreign states in new official institutions like the consular systems, Tsungli Yamen, the British Colonial Government of Hong Kong, and the Chinese Maritime Customs. Together with the improvement of means of communication such as regular steam liners and telegraph, there existed, I argue, an “inter-port discursive space,” for various ideas and practice, in which these merchants had been the initiatives and major players. By exploring the agency of this mercantile class (the “1%” in treaty-port China) advocating the Free Trade principle in the age of globalization, it might be possible to reshape the concerned historiographies.
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