Organized Panel Session
This paper examines the hybrid legal system that British colonial officials in Upper Burma and local Chinese authorities in Yunnan province devised to settle disputes arising from cross-border crime in the Kachin areas of the Sino-Burmese borderlands. Established in 1902 with the signing of the Minai Agreement, this hybrid legal system consisted of periodic meetings between Qing and British officials to adjudicate disputes among the border populations. Although this system survived the collapse of the Qing dynasty in 1911 and persisted until the late 1930s, the Chinese and the British had to regularly negotiate adjustments to adapt it to the changing nature of their rule. Indigenous responses to colonial conquest and state-building also played a pivotal role in the transformations that this system underwent during the Republican period.
This paper shows how this hybrid legal system reshaped the relationship between the border populations, state agents, and colonial officials. I argue that the Chinese and the British regarded this system as a means of extending the reach of state institutions in the region and transforming collective identities among the local inhabitants. In addition, it enabled state and colonial officials to gain a deeper understanding of the dynamics behind local alliances and blood feuds. I also contend that this system provided border inhabitants with the opportunity to take advantage of the rivalry between the Chinese and the British.