Weihaiwei Territory, one of the least lustrous gems in Queen Victoria's imperial tiara, was a 285-square-mile leasehold located on the northeastern coast of Chinas Shantung Province near the tip of the peninsula.
The prevailing view continues to be that the British commandeered the Weihaiwei leasehold as a "counter-poise" to Russia's occupation of Port Arthur, a strategically formidable anchorage some 90 miles to the north.
One argument for occupation was the claim that Weihaiwei would be "a strategic reply to Russia's strategic action in seizing Port Arthur," but in fact Weihaiwei never played a role in British naval strategy except as a base from which to evacuate British ships from north Chinese waters in the event of war.
Acquiring Weihaiwei was a step in the wrong direction, they argued, away from "our sphere of influence" in the Yangtze river region.
Weihaiwei appears to have been taken, in short, without firm conviction that its acquisition would have much effect on Russian policy in northern China.
Once in possession, the British found Weihaiwei to be what most had predicted: militarily worthless.
24) His sarcasm reflected what the government had been told about Weihaiwei prior to its acquisition, namely that it was "absolutely of no value commercially.
But any chance for a commercial transformation for Weihaiwei disappeared at the outset when the Salisbury cabinet in April 1898, in pursuit of German goodwill, formally assured Berlin that "since Wei-Hai-Wei cannot be made a commercial port .
Had Weihaiwei no intrinsic value other than serving, in the words of one zealot, as "another testimony to [Britain's] God-given ability to assume the White Man's Burden?
Explaining how the Union Jack came to fly over Weihaiwei despite its questionable assets is not, however, what makes the British experience there worth examining as a case study in the mind of empire.