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

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 paper 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 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.