Matthew Douthitt

Graduate Fall 2023: Matthew J. Douthitt

Clandestine China: Extraterritorial Violence and the National Revolution Abroad, 1895-1919

Department of History

My project explores the seldom-discussed yet pervasive incidents of extraterritorial violence during the period of Chinese nationalist uprisings preceding and in the decade following the Xinhai Revolution of 1911. Fugitive revolutionaries traveled across the Pacific region, generating support for regime change on the Chinese mainland. Travelling nation-builders like Sun Yat-sen and the financial contributions of Huaqiao communities are prominent in the national histories of both the People’s Republic and Taiwan (ROC). Nevertheless, state-centric narratives obscure the turbulent nature of partisan violence in favor of linear storytelling and the elevation of national heroes. More than simply financing the revolution, Chinese émigrés in North America and Southeast Asia helped orchestrate political violence both on the mainland and abroad. These acts of extraterritorial violence, and the transpacific networks that enabled that violence, were carried out and supported by disjointed groups of nonstate actors and illicit organizations. 

By de-territorializing China’s national uprisings, my research intends to challenge our previous understandings of the Xinhai Revolution. Violent revolution is seldom contained to the geopolitical bubble of the nation-state. Organizations in the revolutionary underground—many of which eventually united to form the Guomindang Party—often used violent means to advance their ethnonationalist ambitions abroad.  By framing the Xinhai Revolution as an international affair, my research seeks to contextualize the revolutionary role of the Chinese migrant working-class and the influence of Chinese revolutionary organizations abroad in the early twentieth century.