Negotiated Sovereignty: The Fisherfolks and the State in the Northern Gulf of Tonkin, 1954‒1964

Qingfei Yin, London School of Economics and Political Science 

From the mid-1950s to the early-1960s, the Chinese and Vietnamese governments launched a series of reforms in the fishing societies along the northern coast of the Gulf of Tonkin and signed a fishing agreement to regulate the use of historical fishing grounds in the Gulf. Based on archival sources, official history, and local gazetteers in Chinese and Vietnamese, this talk demonstrates that overlapping territorial claims was only one, and not always the most severe, of many contests at the maritime border. The most bitter dispute took place between the Chinese and Vietnamese communist states that spatially and institutionally expanded into the littoral societies along the Gulf of Tonkin, on one side, and the seafaring communities that openly or passively resisted such intensive state making and nation building activities on the other. 

Qingfei Yin is Assistant Professor of International History at LSE. As a historian of contemporary China and inter-Asian relations, her research focuses on China’s relations with its Asian neighbours, Asian borderlands, and the Cold War in Asia. She is particularly interested in how the global Cold War interacted with state-building in societies at the margin of political authorities. She is currently revising her book manuscript State Building in Cold War Asia: Comrades and Competitors on the Sino-Vietnamese Border (under contract with Cambridge University Press). Subsequent projects are on how capitalist Southeast Asian countries shaped China during the latter’s early reform era in the 1980s and the historical memory of the Sino-Vietnamese Cold War partnership in the two countries. Qingfei completed her PhD in History at George Washington University. Before coming to LSE, she was Assistant Professor of History at Virginia Military Institute.