Piers Brendon

Never the Twain Shall Meet

A Dance with the Dragon: The Vanished World of Peking’s Foreign Colony

By

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‘When China awakes, the world will tremble.’ This warning, attributed to Napoleon, became a commonplace during the Victorian era. China was a sleeping giant with the potential to regain the pre-eminent place it had once occupied in the world. It was a slumbering dragon which, with a mere flick of the tail during the Boxer Rebellion of 1900, threatened to exterminate all the foreign devils in Peking. Writing in that year, Sir Robert Hart, inspector general of the Chinese customs service for over forty years, prophesied that within a century China could become ‘the most powerful empire on earth’.

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