How the Chinese in the Spanish Philippines Negotiated Commercial Boundaries in the Colonial Economy

In: China and Asia
Tina S. Clemente Asian Center, University of the Philippines-Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines

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While various dimensions of Chinese commercial achievement have gained longstanding attention in the literature, this article argues for the reconsideration of Chinese commercial performance in the Spanish Philippines based on the confluence of various factors, including the altered conditions of economic engagement in the islands, the character of political economy during the colonial period, and the gaps in provisioning the colony. Against the backdrop of the socio-political and economic dynamics of the Spanish empire, I analyze narratives that emanate from the interests of the colonial authorities, the clergy, and the Chinese traders themselves. I utilize sixteenth-to-eighteenth-century historical accounts and consider these narratives as frames of various motivations by the different actors. I examine these representations and underscore how the Chinese negotiated various parameters set against them that limited their access to commercial opportunities and settlement.

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