CWR > Volume 6(1); 2020 > Current Development
Research Paper
Published online: March 1, 2020

The 1907 Hague Peace Conference: Understanding China’s Initial Steps towards the ‘International Society’

Clémence Lizé
Corresponding Author:

ⓒ Copyright YIJUN Institute of International Law. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Prior to the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, the Qing diplomats had laid the foundations for China to interact within the international governmental system established by European States. The 1907 Hague Peace Conference’s conclusion on the Convention on the laws of warfare and peaceful settlement through arbitral proceedings demonstrated Chinese diplomats increased involvement in multilateral negotiations. The Qing participation, albeit discreet compared to other States, was noticeably more engaging in 1907 compared to 1899, with the marked support from the imperial court in Beijing to adhere to Western diplomatic conduct, especially outside of its borders. As revealed in the 1907 Conference, the Chinese interaction with the Westphalian-inherited legal system was characterised by a technical understanding of international law. However, archives demonstrate that the Chinese were not oblivious to realpolitik influence on the practice of international law. They adhered to the juridical system so as not to be excluded from the emerging world governmental system, whilst retaining a certain distance from the ideals advocated by several eminent pacifists of the time, whom viewed international law as the salvation to the horrors of nations’ warfare. More importantly, China’s participation to The Hague Conferences revealed the Qing court’s efforts to extract itself from its traditional tributary system and to actively seek an alignment with Western standards, prior to the subsequent Republican era. The Chinese awareness of its identity did not fade out through mere adhesion to Western diplomatic standards however, and remained aligned with the concept of ‘中体西用’. International law was considered first as an instrumental means to forward its State’s interests and to increase its status in a changing world scene.

Keywords : 1907 Hague Peace Conference, Qing diplomacy, International Law, European System of Public Order

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