Benjamin D. Ziomek '13
Das Prestige der Reiche : Geostrategische Konstellationen, interkulturelle Wahrnehmungen und die Gründung einer deutschen Kolonie im heutigen Qingdao, 1987-1914
At Bowdoin I focused my studies in three areas: German, Economics and Chinese. When it came time to decide on a topic for my Honors Project I wanted to combine my areas of interest as much as possible. As I had long been interested in German international relations, I settled on a more historical tack: German Colonialism in China.
I started my research in my junior year while studying abroad in Hong Kong. As well as improving my Chinese, during my time in Asia I traveled to the German colonial city of Qingdao, where I visited historical sites and collected materials for my research. Upon returning to Bowdoin I also secured a grant to travel to the German Federal Archives in Berlin, where I spent a week leafing through diplomatic dispatches and 19th-century news articles. Combining my three major types of sources--primary documents from Qingdao, archival material from Berlin, and academic papers--the outline of my work was clear: German Colonialism in China was very different from European colonialism in other areas.
While the Imperial Navy had long desired an East Asian coaling station, Germany's decision to occupy Qingdao was not a part of an overarching strategy of Pacific dominance; instead, it was an opportunistic move that took advantage of favorable geostrategic conditions in the region. Sino-German relations were also unique; the Germans were more concerned with securing their global geopolitical position than dominance on the Chinese mainland, and even had a grudging respect for Chinese history and cultural achievements. The Chinese, for their part, considered the Germans to be a better sort of foreigner than the Brits, Russians, and Japanese, and this mutual respect persisted after the colony's occupation by the Japanese during WWI.