This article examines points of convergence and divergence in Chinese and Anglo-US notions of animal protection and shows how representations of animals and animal protection in late Qing Shanghai constituted claims to moral authority. It draws on representation of animal cruelty and animal protection in court reports and visual culture and argues that ideas about Sino-foreign cultural difference should be viewed as a product of social and political conflict and are not necessarily, as is commonly assumed, the basis or source of such conflict. The article shows this by demonstrating that even though Chinese and Anglo-US notions of animal cruelty were rooted in different assumptions, they nonetheless shared a notion of humaneness that fostered a meeting of minds with regard to the administration of animal protection. Social and political circumstances, however, focused the attention of city residents on points of difference, and the circulation of representations of difference — of an apparent Chinese indifference to cruelty, and of an Anglo-US disregard of certain cosmological forces of retribution — produced a legacy of cultural differentiation in Shanghai that strained Sino-foreign relations.

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