British Journal of Chinese Studies

dragon mural beijing 2018 copyright Gerda Wielander
Vol 13 No 1 (2023)

Censorship and the Postal Service in China during World War One

Ling-chieh Chen
School of Oriental and African Studies
Published January 28, 2023
How to Cite
Chen, L.- chieh. (2023). Censorship and the Postal Service in China during World War One. British Journal of Chinese Studies, 13(1), 41-62.


This paper focuses on the first state-organised nationwide postal censorship in China during World War I (WWI). The war had far-reaching effects on China, both in terms of the subsequent development of the internal political situation and her international relations. Although scholars share a meaningful view of China’s ‘internationalisation’ during and after WWI, the immediate impact on China is rarely discussed. One area where the war did have a significant effect was Sino-European postal communication, as this was probably the first time that mail was subjected to censorship in China. This research draws on material from the diplomatic archives to discuss how the nationwide postal censorship was established in China and how it impacted the public during the war. It argues that WWI was a crucial moment for the Chinese government in establishing a comprehensive and nationwide system of postal censorship. Censorship was a government policy for war purposes and, most of all, something that was requested by both China’s allies and enemies. This article suggests that this form of censorship during and after WWI overall reflects both that the Chinese government regarded it as a strategy to prevent information leakage, but that it was also a useful tool in domestic policy and diplomacy.

  • postal service,
  • censorship,
  • World War One,
  • Beiyang government,
  • postal communication
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