Talks and lectures

Hilary Term 2022

(Sunday 16 January to Saturday 12 March 2022)



Missionaries, Civil Servants, and Military Officers: Competition and Entanglements in East and Southeast Asia

International History of East Asia Seminar Series

To attend this seminar (via Zoom), please register here

‘The Competition between Civil Servants and Military Officers in Foreign Affairs: Indonesia-Taiwan Relationship Establishment in the Late 1960s’
Dong-Yu (Donny) Lin, National Taiwan Normal University

‘Missionaries, “Returning Overseas Chinese”, and National Reform – Xiamen’s Entangled History during the Era of Colonialism in China (1842-1945) with a Focus on Southeast Asian Connections’
Sebestyén Hompot, University of Vienna


‘Distant Shores: Colonial Encounters on China’s Maritime Frontier’

China Studies Seminar Series

To attend this online talk (via Zoom), please register here.

In a story that dawns with the Industrial Revolution and culminates in the Great Depression, Distant Shores reveals how the migration of Chinese labourers and merchants across a far-flung maritime world linked their homeland to an ever-expanding frontier of settlement and economic extraction. At home and abroad, they reaped many of the benefits of an overseas colonial system without establishing formal governing authority. Their power was sustained instead through a mosaic of familial, brotherhood, and commercial relationships spread across the ports of Bangkok, Singapore, Saigon, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Swatow. The picture that emerges is not one of Chinese divergence from European modernity but rather of a convergence in colonial sites that were critical to modern development and accelerating levels of capital accumulation. With a focus on the Chaozhouese (Teochew) native place group of Chinese, this talk will address these claims while discussing the methodological challenges of writing translocal history.

Melissa Macauley (PhD Berkeley, 1993) specializes in late imperial and modern Chinese history, 1500 to 1958. Her research focuses on such topics as the interrelated history of southeastern China and Southeast Asia; colonialism and imperialism in East and Southeast Asia; and legal culture in Chinese social history. Her most recent book, Distant Shores: Colonial Encounters on China’s Maritime Frontier, was published by Princeton University Press in 2021 (the China Times Publishing Co. will publish a Chinese  translation in 2023). Her first book, Social Power and Legal Culture: Litigation Masters in Late Imperial China, was published by Stanford University Press in 1998 (a Chinese-language version was published by Beijing University Press in 2012). Most of her early work concerned the Qing period (1644-1912), but her current book project focuses on the twentieth century. Tentatively titled Villages of the Sea: War and Revolution in Translocal China, 1929-1958, she is exploring the common experience of war and revolution in the Chaozhou region of China, Cochinchina (Vietnam), and British Malaya. She is also writing a comprehensive history of the South China Sea, tentatively titled A People’s History of the South China Sea.


‘Making Sustainable Urbanization in China: Environmental Externalities, Income Inequality and Resources Governance in the Post-carbon Era’

Mandarin Forum

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Sustainable urbanization has become an urgent priority not only for scholarly research but also for its practical challenges. How to remake sustainable urbanization for individuals, places and regions across time? How to quantify it for diversifying and targeting coping governance strategies? How to identify the trade-off among scale and agglomeration economies, environmental externalities and inequality? How is sustainable urbanization challenged from a dynamic, relational and multi-scalar approach? This talk focuses on the China case, offering solutions and policy implications in terms of achieving economic, environmental and socially equitable growth without engendering external cost for sustainable urbanization.

Professor Xiaoling Zhang teaches at the Department of Social Policy at City University of Hong Kong. She received her PhD from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Her research focuses on sustainability science and resource management and economics, and political economics of environmental studies and energy studies. Professor Zhang serves as Associate Editor for npj Urban Sustainability (Nature) and is one of the special recognition diplomas’ awardees for the 35th World Cultural Council.

Mandarin presentation; English PPT; bilingual Q&As


‘Being Transgender in China: Trans Celebrity, Queer Activism and Feminist Politics’

China Studies Seminar Series

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This talk examines trans issues in contemporary China by comparing the lives of three trans women celebrities: celebrity dancer and talk show host Jin Xing, trans and queer activist Chao Xiaomi, and social media celebrity Daxige. It asks when and under what circumstances trans issues can be articulated with feminist and queer politics in contemporary China. Jin Xing aligns herself closely with state and neoliberal feminism while self-consciously distancing herself from queer issues. Chao Xiaomi actively participates in queer activism and manifests the clearest queer and trans feminist stance among the three. Daxige, a trans person from a working class background, identifies themselves as neither a feminist nor a queer person; they articulate their subject position from the socialist political position of human dignity and class equality. From the examples of these three trans celebrities, it is clear that trans articulations with feminist and queer issues are contingent and subject to complex and intersectional interplays between structural issues and individual agency. There are multiple forms and possibilities of trans politics, and not each one celebrates gender and sexual equality and diversity. The future of trans politics in China therefore cannot be taken for granted. This talk suggests that we pay acute attention to how gender, sexuality and class participate in the global, regional and national neoliberal projects to create new genders, sexualities and desires; and these new identities carve out new forms of spaces, alliances and potentials.

Hongwei Bao is Associate Professor in Media Studies at the University of Nottingham, where he directs the Centre for Contemporary East Asian Cultural Studies. He is the author of three research monographs on queer culture in China: Queer Comrades, Queer China and Queer Media in China. He serves on the editorial boards of British Journal of Chinese Studies and Chinese Independent Cinema Observer. He also serves on the international advisory board of Queer Asia book series (Hong Kong University Press).


‘The Taiwanese Roots of East Asia’s War Litigation Movement: An Alternate Genealogy’

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Professor Timothy Webster (Western New England University) will be discussing his draft paper, ‘The Taiwanese Roots of East Asia’s War Litigation Movement: An Alternate Genealogy’, with Professor Rana Mitter (University of Oxford). The discussion will be followed by Q&As. All welcome.

Conventional wisdom pinpoints the origins of East Asia’s World War II compensation movement in 1990, with the emergence of the ‘comfort women’ issue and the profusion of transnational litigation.  This Article challenges that narrative by excavating a series of lawsuits, filed by Taiwanese citizens in Japanese courts, from the 1970s.  It offers the first English-language account of the activists, scholars, lawyers and plaintiffs who used civil litigation to seek compensation from Japan for war-era wrongs, a practice that continues into the present, and across the Pacific.  By examining activists’ newsletters, plaintiffs’ testimony, judicial opinions and scholarly accounts, this Article fills a gap in current discussions of war compensation, transitional justice and transnational human rights litigation.  After tracing the formation of the transnational activists that filed, archived and propagandized the lawsuits in the 1970s, this Article critically assesses the Taiwanese jurisprudence.  It then links the sociological and legal developments of the 1970s to the compensation movement unfolding in the present.

Timothy Webster, Professor of Law, Western New England University, teaches International and Comparative Law. He began his academic career as a lecturer at Yale Law School, and senior fellow at Yale’s China Center.  He then joined Case Western Reserve, where he was a professor, director of Asian Legal Studies, and co-founder of the Joint Program in International Commercial Law and Dispute Resolution with a Chinese law school.  Webster writes about the interactions between international law and the domestic legal systems of East Asia, from international trade and foreign investment to transnational human rights litigation.  His latest work, on East Asia’s World War II reparations movement, appears in the VirginiaHarvardN.Y.U. and Stanford Journals of International Law. Webster chairs or has chaired interest groups for the American Society of International Law, American Association of Law Schools, Asian Society of International Law, and the American Society of Comparative Law, where he currently serves on the Executive Committee.

To request a copy of the paper in advance, please contact

Co-sponsored by the Oxford Programme in Asian Laws


‘What are we speaking about when we speak of China?’

China Centre Conversation

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What does the term ‘China’ describe? A geographical place? A political project? A historical, cultural and linguistic community? Something else or something more? And what does the ways in which the term ‘China’ possibly tell us about those who utter it? In this latest instalment of the University of Oxford’s China Centre Conversations we invite three distinguished speakers to share their thoughts on this topic. 

Biao Xiang项飙is Director of the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Germany, and was previously a Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Oxford.  Xiang is the author of Global Bodyshopping (2008 Anthony Leeds Prize), 跨越边界的社区 (Transcending Boundaries in English, 2005; reprinted in 2018 as a contemporary classic) and 自己作为方法 (Self as Method, co-authored with Wu Qi; ranked the Most Impactful Book in China 2020).

Yangyang Cheng is a fellow and research scholar at Yale Law School’s Paul Tsai China Center, where her research focuses on the development of science and technology in China and US‒China relations. Her essays on these and related topics have appeared in The New York TimesThe GuardianThe AtlanticMIT Technology Review and many other publications. Born and raised in China, Cheng received her PhD in physics from the University of Chicago and her bachelor’s from the University of Science and Technology of China’s School for the Gifted Young. Before joining Yale, she worked on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) for over a decade, most recently at Cornell University and as an LHC Physics Center Distinguished Researcher at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. 

Rachel Leow is is Associate Professor in Modern East Asian History, and a Fellow of Murray Edwards College, at the University of Cambridge. Before coming to Cambridge, Dr Leow held a postdoctoral fellowship at the Center for History and Economics at Harvard University. Dr Leow’s research is broadly concerned with the social, cultural and intellectual links between China and Chinese communities in maritime Southeast Asia; with British imperialism in Asia; and with histories of ideas beyond Europe. She is the author of Taming Babel: Language in the Making of Malaysia (Cambridge University Press, 2016).


‘Translation Matters: Problems of Inference in Assessments of China’s Intentions’

International Relations of China Seminar

To attend this online talk (via Zoom), please register here

As the US gears up for the ‘great power competition’ with China, accurate translation of Chinese sources is increasingly important. Different translations can lead to different inferences about intentions, which in turn can affect policy analysis. In this talk Professor Johnston looks at a key inference in recent US policy documents about China’s long-term intentions, an inference that is based, in part, on a problematic translation and decontextualization of key phrases in a speech by China’s leader, Xi Jinping. This same translation has also been invoked by analysts and pundits to argue that there is no more need to debate China’s long-term intensions. A more contextualized reading of these key phrases suggests that they do not support any particular inference about long-term goals. The takeaway ‒ given the issues at stake in the ‘great power competition’, analysts should think about setting up a translation review process where potentially analytically significant and policy-relevant translations are subject to double blind peer review, something akin to an academic product.

Alastair Iain Johnston is a professor in the Government Department at Harvard University. He is the author of Cultural Realism: Strategic Culture and Grand Strategy in Chinese History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995) and Social States: China in International Institutions, 1980‒2000 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008), as well as articles on identity, strategic culture, and socialization theory, mostly with application to China’s international relations.


Health and Hygiene in Late Modern Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore

International History of East Asia Seminar Series

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‘From Hygienic Modernity to Green Modernity: Two Modes of Modern Living in Hong Kong Since the 1970s’
Loretta Lou, University of Macau

‘Bitter Herb to Newborn Babies and New Nations: Tackling the Toxicity of Huang-Lian (Rhizoma Coptidis) in Singapore and Taiwan after World War II’
Po-Hsun Chen, University of Manchester


‘The Future Is Now: Theory and Method of the Newborn Socialist Thing’

China Studies Seminar Series

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Whereas the contemporary era in China is often depicted in terms of rampant, ideologically vacuous commodification, the Cultural Revolution (1966‒76) is typically cast as a time of ubiquitous politics and scarce goods. Indeed, the media and material culture of the Cultural Revolution are often characterized as a void, out of which the postsocialist world of commodity consumption somehow sprang fully formed. By contrast, this talk argues that the Cultural Revolution media environment and the ways in which its constituent elements engaged contemporaneous discourses of materiality and political economy anticipated the widespread commodification now so closely associated with the Reform Period (1978‒present).

To that end, this talk offers a brief history of the ‘newborn socialist thing’ (shehuizhuyi xinsheng shiwu), which, as a technical term originating in the 1950s, refers to a harbinger of a progressive future emerging in the present. Not only did newborn things, always at odds with ‘old things,’ help define socialism as a transitional stage of development prior to communism, they also promised to integrate the material and the social under one conceptual roof. This talk develops a historical methodology inspired by the relational nature of the newborn thing, which traces fugitive constellations of objects, bodies, institutions, and social formations pertaining to the Cultural Revolution’s media environment. Of particular interest are the forms of mediation enacted by and through these constellations and the dialectic they were often said to create with the commodity-form.

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Laurence Coderre is an assistant professor of East Asian Studies at New York University. She received her PhD in Chinese from UC Berkeley in 2015. Prior to moving to NYU, she was a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Michigan. Coderre’s work focuses on Chinese socialist and postsocialist cultural production. She is the author of Newborn Socialist Things: Materiality in Maoist China (Duke, 2021), which examines the material culture of the Cultural Revolution. Her research has appeared in Comparative Studies of Society and History, Journal of Material Culture, Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, and Journal of Chinese Cinemas, as well as numerous edited volumes. She is currently embarking on a new project on theory and the everyday in the late Mao era.


‘The Impact of COVID-19 on Mental Health and Beyond: Reflections from China’

Mandarin Forum

COVID-19 became a pandemic that caused widespread panic and increased anxiety and stress in individuals all over the world (World Health Organization, 2020). Many countries closed their schools in early 2020. Professor Chongying Wang’s team conducted one of the earliest longitudinal studies to investigate the anxiety experienced by Chinese university students after the outbreak of COVID-19, just before the start of the new spring term, one month later and three months later. Her research group also examined the mental health of caregivers for children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders and other developmental disorders, as well as the role of social support mediating between the severity of symptoms and parenting stress during COVID-19. In this talk, Professor Wang will briefly talk about the results of her studies.

Professor Chongying WANG teaches at the Department of Social Psychology, Zhou Enlai School of Government, Nankai University. She received her DPhil in Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford. She was a Fulbright Visiting Scholar at Stanford University School of Medicine and was a visiting scholar at the School of Psychology and Public Health at La Trobe University, Melbourne. She is the founding director of the Center for Behavioural Sciences, Nankai University, and is currently the director of the Autism Research Center, Nankai University. She has received the Professional Award for Developing Countries and the Cultural Diversity Research Award from the International Society for Autism Research.

Mandarin presentation; English PPT; bilingual Q&As


‘Typographic Bodies: Futurist Biopoetics in Republican China’

China Studies Seminar Series

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Because of Futurism’s brief life in modern Chinese letters, Futurist poets and their poetics of speed, violence and technology, are often left out of anthologies of modern Chinese poetry, or their poetry is attributed to other movements such as concrete poetry or new sensationalism. This talk examines the poetry of Qian Juntao, Ouwai Ou, Xu Chi and others, and argues that the little-studied Futurist literary movement in Republican Era China was part of a broader aestheticization of politics by the Nationalist state. It proposes the term ‘biopoetics’ to articulate how Futurist representations of sublimated violence, industrialization and mechanized female bodies mirrored the New Life Movement’s attempts to regulate the bodies and desires of the population. To achieve this, these poets both drew on the models of F. T. Marinetti and Ezra Pound and refigured classical poetic and calligraphic techniques. Specifically, through the Futurist technique of ‘typographic analogy,’ Chinese Futurists conceived of the zi, or character, as a site where nationalism could be aestheticized and fascist politics could be enacted.

Chloe Estep is the Joseph E. Hotung Postdoctoral Research Scholar at the Weatherhead East Asia Institute at Columbia University. Her research focuses on poetry and the politics of script aesthetics in modern China. Her translation of Lu Yao’s novel Life, known as the ‘migrant workers’ bible,’ was published in 2019.


‘Chinese Scholars and the Studies of Chinese Foreign Policy’

International Relations of China Seminar

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What is the relationship between Chinese International Relations (IR) scholars and China’s foreign policy? How do we study China’s foreign policy through the eyes of Chinese IR scholars? Although Chinese scholars are normally quoted as valuable sources in the study of Chinese foreign policy in general, there is no systematic study of China’s IR scholars per se. This talk will examine an emerging research program focusing on the study of Chinese international relations (IR) scholars, especially their internal debates, as a new venue to understand China’s foreign policy. In addition, researchers need to pursue theoretical innovations on the relationship between different types of IR scholars and foreign policy inquiries, advance multi-method research designs across the different methods of field interviews, textual analysis, and opinion surveys, as well as encourage international collaboration between Chinese scholars and non-Chinese scholars.

Kai He is Professor of International Relations and Director of the Centre for Governance and Public Policy, Griffith University, Australia. He was an Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellow (2017‒2020) and a postdoc fellow of Princeton‒Harvard China and the World Program Postdoctoral Fellowship (2009‒2010). He is the author of Institutional Balancing in the Asia Pacific: Economic Interdependence and China’s Rise (Routledge, 2009) and China’s Crisis Behavior: Political Survival and Foreign Policy (Cambridge, 2016). His latest book includes Contesting Revisionism: China, the United States, and Transformation of International Order (with Steve Chan, Huiyun Feng, Weixing Hu, Oxford, 2021). His research is also funded by the Australian Research Council (2017‒2020; 2021‒2023), the MacArthur Foundation, USA (2016‒2018), and the Korea Foundation (2016/2020).


Baillie Gifford Distinguished Speaker talk

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Relations between the US and China are at the tensest point for half a century. Can we look to history to understand why we have reached this point? In the next decade, global prosperity and peace will depend on this bilateral relationship being managed well.  How likely are the prospects of that?  In conversation with historian of China Rana Mitter, Robert B. Zoellick will draw on his long experience of public service relating to China and his new book on US diplomacy to discuss these urgent issues.

Robert B. Zoellick has served as President of the World Bank (2007‒12), Deputy US Secretary of State (2005‒6), and US Trade Representative (2001‒5).  He delivered the keynote speech in 2005 that called on China to act as a ‘responsible stakeholder’ in the global community.  He is author of America in the World: A History of US Diplomacy and Foreign Policy (2020), which was recently published in paperback.



Militarizing Atomic Energy across the Taiwan Strait in the Cold War and Challenging the Nuclear Family in 19th Century Korea

International History of East Asia Seminar Series

‘Flexing the Nuclear Muscle: Atomic Energy in the Conflict between the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan at the Time of the Cold War’
Laura Pflug, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

‘From Good Wife to Female Patriot: How Neo-Confucianism gave birth to female political agency in nineteenth century Korea’
Young-Chan Choi, University of Oxford


‘Back Down to the Countryside: Contextualizing the Fanxiangqingnian “Return Youth” Phenomenon, A case study of Heyang Village’

China Studies Seminar Series

Linda Qian, University of Oxford

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From the novel repurposing of the anthropological term ‘involution’ (neijuan) to the phenomenon of ‘996.ICU,’ anxieties over expectations and pressures to ‘succeed’ are dimming the once seductive allure of China’s first and second tier cities. In contrast, small towns and villages are appearing in both official discourse and popular media as new lands of ‘opportunity’ for China’s youth, especially those seeking the proverbial ‘good life.’ Within this context, this paper discusses the emergence of a novel social category known as the fanxiangqingnian, ‘return youth,’ in Xi Jinping era China. Using empirical evidence collected from fieldwork conducted in the village of Heyang, in Zhejiang province, the experiences of several post-90’s youth with various backgrounds of urban socialization are discussed through the lens of fanxiangqingnian. Each case study explores how a new generation of educated youth have elected to ‘return to the countryside’ after feeling disillusionment and ‘burnout’ in their respective jobs and lives in urban milieus. Having become active participants in the village’s endeavour to construct rural tourism, Linda Qian explores, on the one hand, the affective dimensions of these youths’ arrivals to Heyang, and on the other hand, the policies that not only enabled their entrepreneurship in the tourist site, but that also used their presence as a means to advance the various political agendas of different governing bodies.

Although the fanxiangqingnian phenomenon is certainly not to be confused with the ‘sent-down’ youth of the 1960s‒80s, history does not form in a vacuum; Any mention of ‘educated youth’ and the state’s involvement in their (self)rustication inevitably brings to mind Mao’s infamous ‘Up to the Mountains and Down to the Countryside Movement.’ This paper therefore further contextualizes this discussion of fanxiangqingnian in relation to the zhishiqingnian (educated youth) of the Mao-era. In doing so, it illustrates how there is historical continuity in the state’s envisioned role of the country’s youth as the lynchpins between the urban and the rural with varying degrees of successes and setbacks.

Linda Qian is a doctoral candidate at the University of Oxford’s School of Global and Area Studies. Qian, who also completed her MSc with distinction at Oxford, approaches her research through a highly interdisciplinary lens. Her current research looks at rural revitalization in Xi-era China, and it sits particularly within the intersections of political economy and cultural politics. In the spirit of Raymond Williams, her doctoral thesis explores and problematizes the Chinese concept of ‘xiangchou’ ‒ that is, ‘homesickness’ or ‘nostalgia’ ‒ as an affective and effective ‘keyword’ within contemporary discourses for not only ‘rural development,’ but also urban‒rural relations by various state and societal forces. Prior to her doctoral studies, Qian was a Post Graduate Research Fellow at the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, based in Vancouver, where she co-created a podcast series on youth in East Asian metropolises.



‘Developing “Street Brains”: Actors and Smart City Governance at Neighbourhood Level in Beijing’

Mandarin Forum

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Our everyday life has experienced digitalisation over the past few decades. In many countries, Covid-19 has accelerated the trend, and led to further development of smart cities across continents. In China, the boom of smart cities started in 2012, when the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development launched a nation-wide smart city pilot programme. Over 100 cities joined the pilot in the following years. Established literature has discussed the role of IT corporations, government or citizens in smart city development. A great body of literature has been critical of state and corporation-led smart urbanism, and called for a bigger role of citizen participation. However, little attention has been paid to the interrelation of actors in smart city practice in specific institutional contexts, especially at a neighbourhood level, which is crucial for developing strategies to transform the power relation. Shuwen Zhou’s research examines the relation of different actors in a ‘Street Brain’ project in Beijing. Placed in a Chinese context, it attempts to explore the ‘room for manoeuvre’ in transforming the power relation in smart city development.

Shuwen Zhou is an urban geographer, documentary maker, and former Project Lead of the Poverty and Urbanisation Portfolio at the United Nations Development Programme in China. She is currently pursuing a DPhil in the Sustainable Urban Development Programme, University of Oxford.

Mandarin presentation; English PPT; bilingual Q&As

Convenor: Dr Annie Hongping Nie



‘Jokebooks and Humour Publications in Late-Ming China’

China Studies Seminar Series

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(Artist) Traditionally attributed to Zhou Wenju

From the mid-1500s onwards, Ming China saw a boom in printing and publishing which generated an explosion of fresh intellectual currents, increased the accessibility of all kinds of information and fundamentally altered people’s relationship with knowledge and the written word. This talk will place the spotlight on the little-studied corpus of jokebooks and humour publications that rose up amid this flurry of activity.

The publishing boom placed the crucial choice of what kind of material to disseminate in the hands of a new group of men – an ascendent class of world-savvy publishing bosses who presided over print enterprises of varying sizes and levels of influence. The talk will adopt the perspective of these compiler-publishers, whose mindfulness of the exposure and perceived responsibilities that came with their newfound platform is betrayed by the prefaces and public-facing paratextual materials they composed for their books. Through a close examination of these texts, Dr Smithrosser explores how, caught between a humour-hungry readership and inherited negative prescriptions against/circumscriptions of humorous material, publishers made use of the prefatory space to perform a careful yet precarious dance, which on the one hand defended their decision to publish, while on the other was cautious to distance themselves from the material itself.

Elizabeth Smithrosser is currently a Fellow of the International Institute for Asian Studies, Leiden. She received her DPhil in Oriental Studies from Pembroke College, University of Oxford in 2021 for a thesis entitled ‘”Good Wood on Crowdpleasers”: Humour Publications in the Ming Wanli Period’. She is currently preparing a translation of three pre-modern Chinese jokebooks for Oxford University Press, and writes a monthly column on Tang-Song China for


‘Politics of AI in China’

International Relations of China Seminar

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China’s open ambition to become a global AI superpower has attracted considerable policy, media and academic attention. This talk will focus on national strategy, security and governance aspects of China’s AI approach. It will discuss why China’s AI approach is sophisticated and multifaced, and how it has brought about both considerable benefits and challenges to China.

Jinghan Zeng is Professor of China and International Studies at Lancaster University. Previously he was a Senior Lecturer of International Relations and Director of Centre for Politics in Africa, Asia and the Middle East at Royal Holloway, University of London. Before his academic career, he worked for the United Nations’ Department of Economic and Social Affairs in New York City.

Professor Zeng’s research lies in the field of China’s domestic and international politics. He is the author of Slogan Politics: Understanding Chinese Foreign Policy Concepts (2020) and The Chinese Communist Party’s Capacity to Rule: Ideology, Legitimacy and Party Cohesion (2015). He is also the co-editor of One Belt, One Road, One Story? Towards an EU-China Strategic Narrative (2021). He has published over twenty refereed articles in leading journals of politics, international relations and area studies including The Pacific Review, Journal of Contemporary China, International Affairs, JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies and Third World Quarterly.

He frequently appears in TV and radio broadcasts including the BBC, ABC Australia, Al Jazeera, Voice of America, DR (Danish Broadcasting Corporation), Russia Today (RT), China Central Television (CCTV) and China Global Television Network (CGTN). He has been quoted in print/online publications including Financial Times, Forbes, South China Morning Post, PULSO and TODAY. He has written op-ed articles for The Diplomat, BBC(Chinese), The Conversation, Policy Forum among others.


‘Micro-Institutional Foundations of Capitalism: Sectoral Pathways to Globalization in China, India and Russia’

China Studies Seminar Series

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What is the relationship between internal development and integration into the global economy in developing countries? How and why do state–market relations differ? And do these differences matter in the post-cold war era of global conflict and cooperation? Drawing on research in China, India and Russia and examining sectors from textiles to telecommunications, Micro-institutional Foundations of Capitalism introduces a new theory of sectoral pathways to globalization and development. Adopting a historical and comparative approach, the book’s Strategic Value Framework shows how state elites perceive the strategic value of sectors in response to internal and external pressures. Sectoral structures and organization of institutions further determine the role of the state in market coordination and property rights arrangements. The resultant dominant patterns of market governance vary by country and sector within country. These national configurations of sectoral models are the micro-institutional foundations of capitalism, which mediate globalization and development.

Roselyn Hsueh is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Temple University, where she co-directs the Certificate in Political Economy. She is the recipient of the Fulbright Global Scholar Award for research in India, Mexico and Russia. Her new book, Micro-Institutional Foundations of Capitalism: Sectoral Pathways to Globalization in China, India, and Russia, is forthcoming with Cambridge University Press (2022). She is the author of China’s Regulatory State: A New Strategy for Globalization (Cornell University Press, 2011), and scholarly articles and book chapters. BBC World News, The Economist, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, National Public Radio, The Washington Post and other media outlets have featured her research. She has testified before the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission and consulted for The Center for Strategic and International Studies. She previously served as a Global Order Visiting Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania, a member of the Georgetown Initiative for US-China Dialogue on Global Issues, and a Residential Research Faculty Fellow at UC Berkeley. She also lectured as a Visiting Professor at Tecnológico de Monterrey in Mexico. She held the Hayward R. Alker Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Southern California and conducted international fieldwork in China, Japan, and Taiwan as a US Fulbright Scholar and David L. Boren National Security Fellow. She earned her BA and PhD in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley.


Between and Beyond Nation-Building and Self-Representation

International History of East Asia Seminar Series

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‘Between Westernization, Japanization and Self (Re-)Presentation: The Assessment of Art during the Era of Park Chung-hee, 1961-1979’
Maria Sobotka, Freie Universität zu Berlin

‘Beyond the Nation-Building Narrative: Spatializing the Exhibitionary Complex in Republican Shanghai’
Yiwen Liu, Cleveland Museum of Art


‘Do you feel accepted? Perceived acceptance and its spatially varying determinants of migrant workers among Chinese cities’

Mandarin Forum

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Dr Hengyu GU, The Chinese University of Hong Kong

Mandarin presentation; English PPT; bilingual Q&As

Convenor: Dr Annie Hongping Nie



‘Foreigners and outsiders: Chinese views of Jesuit missionaries in the late Ming period’

China Studies Seminar Series

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Ana Carolina Hosne, National University of San Martin

MONDAY 7 MARCH, 10-11.30AM


In-person event, China Centre, first floor, Lucina Ho Seminar Room

‘Poverty and Squalor in Modern Chinese Realism’

Oxford Seminar on Visual Culture in Modern and Contemporary China

In the early twentieth century, Chinese intellectuals looked beyond Chinese borders to the foreign other, Western cultures that offered alternatives to indigenous tradition; and within Chinese borders they became concerned about the social other, substrata of Chinese society that had hitherto largely escaped literary notice. Contact with the foreign literary other – particularly Russian realism – facilitated Chinese literary representation of the social other – the poor. This talk demonstrates that Chinese realist writers frequently turned to the topic of material poverty – the lack of adequate resources such as food, clothing and shelter –to convey their sense of textual poverty and national backwardness. Deploring the moral poverty of their culture, their answer was to depict, with radical seriousness and concern, the bodily suffering of the poor – homeless vagrants, servants and bondmaids, prostitutes, rickshaw pullers, street food hawkers, silkworm farmers and starving artists. The combination of a radically new subject matter and experimentation with foreign literary resources generated major innovations in narrative technique.

In particular, Dr Cai focuses on how writers drew upon Russian intertexts to represent the nation in narrative form. Chinese intellectuals such as Lu Xun wished to produce literature that would awaken the Chinese masses to their national plight, cultural backwardness, and literary deficiencies. How, then, were they to describe a problem prevalent on a massive scale, endemic to an entire population, in a narrative that follows merely a handful of individual characters? I show how appropriations from Russian realist texts equipped Lu Xun with strategies to encapsulate the general in the specific, the national in the individual, by portraying poverty and squalor. Enabling these kinds of narratives were the rhetorical affordances of metonymy and synecdoche. These strategies arose from Lu Xun’s study of Gogol, and set a precedent for Chinese realist writers following him.

Keru Cai is a Junior Research Fellow at Magdalen College, University of Oxford; and this fall begins as Assistant Professor of Asian Studies and Comparative Literature at Penn State University.


‘An English Schoolboy in War-torn China’

Walford Gillison, in conversation with Rana Mitter

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International Relations of China Seminar 4

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‘Making China Great Again? China’s “Green” and “Digital” Belt and Road Initiative’

Speaker: Dr Yuka Kobayashi, SOAS

Michaelmas Term 2021


‘Understanding China in Uncertain Times’

A conversation with Biao Xiang, Ingrid d’Hooghe and David Ownby

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How should we China scholars respond to the rapidly changing relations between China and the West? What counts as effective knowledge? In the West, public awareness of China is high and rising, perception about China is divided and even polarized, but knowledge about China is limited. How should we understand these changes, and how should we respond? In particular, what can we do in order to make China studies more interactive and communicative – to communicate to the divided public and with stakeholders, including those in China, more effectively? This will require new ways of doing research and presenting knowledge.

Biao Xiang (Chair)Biao Xiang 项飙is Director of the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Germany, and was previously a Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Oxford.  Xiang is the author of Global Bodyshopping (2008 Anthony Leeds Prize), 跨越边界的社区 (Transcending Boundaries in English, 2005; reprinted in 2018 as a contemporary classic) and 自己作为方法 (Self as Method, co-authored with Wu Qi; ranked the Most Impactful Book in China 2020).

Ingrid d’Hooghe is a Senior Research Associate at the Clingendael Institute and Senior Fellow at the Leiden Asia Centre, The Netherlands. She lectures and conducts research on China’s foreign policy and diplomacy, and China’s international collaboration on science and technology. She is also a policy advisor to Dutch government organizations and the European Commission. Recent work includes ‘China’s Public Diplomacy Goes Political’, in The Hague Journal of Diplomacy (2021), ‘China’s BRI and International Cooperation in Higher Education and Research: A Symbiotic Relationship’ (2021)  and ‘Towards Sustainable Europe-China Collaboration in Higher Education and Research’ (2020).  

David Ownby is Professor of History at the Université de Montréal, Canada, and is a member of the Centre for Asian Studies at the same institution.  At the beginning of his career he worked on the history of secret societies and brotherhoods in early modern China, publishing Brotherhoods and Secret Societies in Early and Mid-Qing China (Stanford, 1996).  He subsequently transitioned to the field of Chinese popular religion and to more contemporary topics, and published notably his Falungong and the Future of China (Oxford, 2008).  For the last decade or so, he has shifted his focus yet again, and is working on the topic of establishment intellectuals in contemporary China.  He translates, curates and writes about the ideas and writings of these thinkers on his website, Reading the China Dream, in addition to publishing several books of translations, including Xu Jilin on Rethinking China’s Rise (Oxford, 2018) and Qin Hui on Globalization after the Pandemic (Hong Kong, 2021).


‘Decolonization and Human Rights Discourse within the Taiwan Independence Movement in Japan, 1960-2000’

International History of East Asia Seminar Series

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Wolfgang G. Thiele (Free University of Berlin)


‘An Archive of Comparison: Between Adab, Wenxue and Literature’

China Studies Seminar Series

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This talk draws from ongoing research on parallels and points of intersection between Chinese and Arabic literatures from the late nineteenth through mid-twentieth centuries. Professor Hill takes up a portion of the writings and translations of a group of Muslim intellectuals from the Republic of China who studied at Al-Azhar University in Cairo in the 1930s and 1940s. These intellectuals left behind an extensive archive of writings that worked to think through the connections between China, Islam, the Arab world and, in some cases, literatures in Chinese and Arabic. Examples of these efforts include the Book of the Sayings of Confucius (Kitāb al-Hiwār li-Kūnfūshīyūs, 1935), an Arabic version of the Analects translated by Ma Jian (1906–1978) and Recollections of Childhood (Tongniande huiyi), a version of Taha Husayn’s The Days (al-Ayyām, 1947) translated by Ma Junwu (1918–1971). These works make surprising connections between texts and traditions and, on a methodological level, provide a valuable resource for scholarship work that attempts to go beyond East/West approaches to cultural exchange and encounter.

Michael Gibbs Hill is associate professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures at William & Mary and a current National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow. He is the author of Lin Shu, Inc.: Translation and the Making of Modern Chinese Culture (Oxford, 2013) and the translator of China from Empire to Nation-State by Wang Hui (Harvard, 2014) and What is China? Territory, Ethnicity, Culture, and History by Ge Zhaoguang (Harvard, 2018).

(Image: Arabic advertisement for Ma Jian’s translation of the Analects.)


‘The Construction of the Civil Service in China: Issues and Suggestions’

Mandarin Forum

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Party politics and civil service are common features of modern states. After the reform and opening-up took place in Deng’s era, the Party-state began to construct its civil service.  From the provisional regulations of the state civil service in 1993 to the Civil Service Law of 2006 and then to the revision of the Civil Service Law in 2019, the process lasted for 30 years. The construction of China’s civil service has much in common with the civil service in other countries, but it has its uniqueness as well as many problems. Professor Guirong Mao argues that the Chinese civil service has been grafted in the Party’s cadre system and failed to become a standardized and effective modern civil service system. Professor Mao also offers a few suggestions to reform the Chinese civil service.

Professor Guirong Mao received his BA degree from Fudan University. He received both his MA and LLD from Nagoya University. He is the former Dean of the Department of Political Studies, Meijigakuin University and former Director of Law Faculty Research Institute, Meijigakuin University. He has published widely in both Japanese and Chinese.

Online via Microsoft Teams; Mandarin presentation; bilingual Q&A Convenor: Dr Annie Hongping Nie


International History of East Asia Seminar Series

‘A Jinnah for Chinese Islam’: Muslim Politics between South Asia and China, 1940-1949

Aaron Glasserman (Harvard University)

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‘The Politics of Financial Control in China: Mutual Endangerment in State-Business Relations’

China Studies Seminar Series

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For the first two decades of the reform era, China’s financial system was essentially closed to non-state firms. In the early years of the 2000s, however, and accelerating after the global financial crisis, China’s banking system and debt and equity markets opened significantly to the private sector. Non-state firms both established themselves as financial institutions and enjoyed wide access to financial resources. Instead of leading to greater competition and more ‘efficient’ resource allocation, however, financial liberalization led to a pattern of state-business relations that Professor Rithmire calls ‘mutual endangerment,’ by which business and political elites colluded in financial fraud, malfeasance and looting. Much of this behaviour culminated in a financial crisis in 2015, after which the state adopted a much stronger role in corporate governance. The talk draws on interviews, document research, and corporate filings to narrate the political rationale for financial liberalization and its political and economic failures. By comparing China to other authoritarian regimes in Asia that underwent similar liberalization processes (Malaysia and Indonesia), Professor Rithmire shows that mutual endangerment is a form of state-business relations with a particular moral economy and obtains when political and business elites fundamentally distrust one another.

Meg Rithmire is a F. Warren McFarlan Associate Professor of Business of Administration in the Business, Government, and International Economy Unit at Harvard Business School. Professor Rithmire holds a PhD in Government from Harvard University, and her primary expertise is in the comparative political economy of development with a focus on China and Asia. Her first book, Land Bargains and Chinese Capitalism (Cambridge University Press, 2015), examines the role of land politics, urban governments and local property rights regimes in the Chinese economic reforms. A new book in progress examines state-business relations in authoritarian Asia, comparing China under the CCP, Malaysia under the Barisan Nasional, and Suharto’s Indonesia. Related work concerns the role of the Chinese Communist Party in China’s political economy, and trade and investment conflict between China and the United States. Her work has been published in World Politics, the China Quarterly, and Politics & Society, among other scholarly journals, and her commentary has appeared in The Atlantic and the Washington Post.


‘Influences, Unintended Consequences and Ripple Effects: Conceptualizing the Presence of China in Southeast Asia’

International Relations of China Seminar Series

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Existing studies on China’s relations with Southeast Asia tend to focus on China’s power dynamics with regional states, and how such power has been used to achieve influence in the region. Focusing on intentionality, influence is thus defined as how China uses its power to coerce, induce and persuade others to behave in a particular way. Relatedly, much emphasis has been put on the Chinese state as the willing agent. This talk goes beyond such convention, and intends to explore, in addition to influences, what are the unintended consequences and ripple effects related with the presence of China in Southeast Asia. This talk thus lays down a typology for thinking through the varieties of China’s presence in Southeast Asia in their everyday forms. It argues that we need to understand such complexity to make sense of China’s relations with Southeast Asia and the implications of such relations.

Enze Han is Associate Professor at the Department of Politics and Public Administration at the University of Hong Kong. His research interests include ethnic politics in China, China’s relations with Southeast Asia, and the politics of state formation in the borderland area between China, Myanmar and Thailand. He is the author of Asymmetrical Neighbours: Borderland State Building between China and Southeast Asia (Oxford University Press, 2019) and Contestation and Adaptation: The Politics of National Identity in China (Oxford University Press, 2013). He is currently a Lee Kong Chian Distinguished Fellow on Contemporary Southeast Asia at the National University of Singapore. 


China Town Hall

National Committee on US-China Relations (NCUSCR)

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Featuring CNN Worldwide host, columnist and best-selling author Fareed Zakaria and media and technology expert Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief, SupChina

Following the US broadcast with Fareed Zakaria, join us for a short conversation and Q&A with Jeremy Goldkorn on media, technology, and regulation in today’s China.

Images: Fareed Zakaria (top); Jeremy Goldkorn


International History of East Asia Seminar Series

‘Rockefeller Bolshevik: John Black Grant and the Conception of Modern Public Health in China and India’

Tiasangla Longkumer (Jawaharlal Nehru University)

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‘Cybersecurity and Informatization: Restructuring Chinese Governance Through Technology’

Chinese Studies Seminar Series

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In 2014, Xi Jinping declared that China should become a ‘cyber power’ (wangluo qiangguo). On the basis of this strategy, China has sought to not only build its hard technological capabilities, but also integrate digital technologies with economic and social processes. In particular, it is developing new tools to enhance governance and reform the functioning of the (party-)state. Yet at the same time, deepening digitisation has resulted in new challenges and risks. Reflecting these realities, the Chinese digitisation policy intends to balance ‘informatization’ with ‘cybersecurity’, and both concepts have moved increasingly to the centre of politics, integrating and sometimes supplanting earlier organisational principles. This presentation will review this process of evolution, discuss the ideological background of the Chinese approach to technology, and assess how it may impact scholarly analysis of governance in China.

Rogier Creemers is an Assistant Professor in Modern Chinese Studies at Leiden University. With a background in Sinology and International Relations, and a PhD in Law, his research focuses on Chinese domestic digital technology policy, as well as China’s growing importance in global digital affairs. He is the principal investigator of the NWO Vidi Project ‘The Smart State: Big Data, Artificial Intelligence and the Law in China’. For the Leiden Asia Centre, he directs a project on China and global cybersecurity, funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He is also a co-founder of DigiChina, a joint initiative with Stanford University and New America.


‘The Devil is in the Details’: Mao Zedong before and after the Luochuan Conference, August 1937

Mandarin Forum

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The Luochuan Conference of August 1937 was a crucial moment in Mao Zedong’s struggle for power. Mao tried to force the party to adopt his guerrilla war strategy; he failed. Mao nonetheless exploited his position as the Politburo member in charge of military affairs and put his strategy into action in fall 1937. Mao’s actions worried Josef Stalin, who was depending on Chiang Kai-shek to keep Japan from invading Siberia. Mao therefore moderated his behaviour but clung to his strategy. This talk discusses how Mao managed to win Stalin and the CCP over to his strategy, and thus consolidated his hold on the CCP.

Dr Sherman Xiaogang Lai is affiliated with Queen’s University at Kingston and the Royal Military College of Canada. His publications include Chiang Kai-shek and the Battle of Burma (Routledge, 2015), A Springboard to Victory: Shandong Province and Chinese Communist Military and Financial Strength, 19371945 (Brill, 2011), ‘The Birth of China’s Post-Cold War Military Strategy’ (Journal of Military Strategic Studies, 2016) and ‘China’s Arctic Policy and Its Potential Impacts on Canada’s Arctic Security’ (Canadian Naval Review, 2019).

Online via Microsoft Teams; Mandarin presentation; bilingual Q&A Convenor: Dr Annie Hongping Nie


International History of East Asia Seminar Series

‘Between Escapism and Propaganda: Cultural Activities in Soviet POW Camps After World War II’

Clara Momoko Geber (Free University of Berlin)

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‘Classical Learning and the Politics of the Common Good in Early China’

China Studies Seminar Series

This talk will be conducted in hybrid format – both online and in person (all welcome).

The talk will take place in the China Centre’s King-ku Cheng Lecture Theatre

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Recent work on the Documents classic has led Professor Nylan to return to her initial interests in Chinese history and what propelled her to be a Han historian, and specifically what institutions (domestic and official) are needed for human beings to flourish and for the court to claim legitimacy for most of its subjects?  As a scholar of classical learning during the early empires (roughly 323 BC–AD 316), Professor Nylan asks the basic question: what do the Five Classics enjoin as vital to good governance in the way of court culture, court customs, and sociopolitical institutions?  (In the early empires, the Documents classic — and not the Analects, Mencius, or Rites classics — was the key repository of authoritative political models.)  This talk will perforce undercut many presumptions most bring to these questions, given the pervasive commonplaces regarding ‘Asian Values’ and ‘traditional’ culture? Also, what attitudes did the early governing elites bring to classicizing Ru practices and teachings?  And probing further, how should we understand the rhetorical projects undergirding the texts we casually cite as ‘evidence’ for the period?  In effect, her talk will touch upon larger methodological issues, including the following (1) how do we currently read our sources, whether they are Classics, histories, or archaeological evidence?  (2) how should we ideally change our reading habits? and (3) how should we weigh the bits of information that have come down to us more than two millennia later, given the social practices of the text in manuscript culture?

Michael Nylan (PhD ’83) now writes in three main academic disciplines: the history of early China (roughly 300 BC–AD 300), early Chinese philosophy, and the art and archaeology of China.  She has an abiding interest in the use and abuse of history in the modern period, as well as in the politics of the common good, which entails researching the ‘logics of legitimacy’ inscribed in the early empires vs. late imperial China and the modern Chinese nation-states (i.e., the implied social contracts forged between the rulers and ruled at different times and places).  Current projects include a reconstruction of a Han-era Documents classic (submitted to press and under review); a general-interest study of the ‘Four Fathers of History’ (Herodotus, Thucydides, Sima Qian and Ban Gu), which is nearly done, and a study of the politics of the common good in early China tentatively entitled The Air We Breathe.  Recent published books include The Chinese Pleasure Book;and in translation The Art of War; and Chang’an 26 BCE: an Augustan Age in China, on the Han-era capital and empire, with substantive


International History of East Asia Seminar Series

‘Seeing the World Through the Atom: Readings of Fallout in Postcolonial North and South Korea’

Derek J. Kramer (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

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China Studies Seminar Series

‘Rural Development in China and East Asia’

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This talk addresses the question of how countries achieve rural development and offers a new way of thinking about East Asia’s political economy that challenges the developmental state paradigm. Through a comparison of Taiwan, South Korea, and China, Looney shows that different types of development outcomes were realized to different degrees, at different times, and in different ways. She argues that rural modernization campaigns, defined as policies demanding high levels of mobilization to effect dramatic change, played a central role in the region and that divergent development outcomes can be attributed to the interplay between campaigns and institutions. The analysis departs from common portrayals of the developmental state as wholly technocratic and demonstrates that rural development was not just a byproduct of industrialization. Looney’s research is based on several years of fieldwork and makes a unique contribution by systematically comparing China’s development experience with other countries. Her book, Mobilizing for Development, was published by Cornell University Press in 2020, and a related article appeared in World Politics in 2021.

Kristen Looney is an assistant professor of Asian Studies and Government at Georgetown University, where she teaches courses on Chinese and Comparative Politics. Her research is on East Asian development and governance. She holds a BA in Chinese Studies from Wellesley College and a PhD in Government from Harvard University.


‘Missionary Yijing in Qing China: Dialogues between the Yijing and the Bible’

Mandarin Forum

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The multifarious symbolism of the 64 hexagrams in the Yijing (The Book of Changes), the highly venerated and influential Chinese classic, attracted substantial attention from leading Christian missionaries in late imperial China. This lecture compares and contrasts three distinctive perspectives of missionary interpretation of the Yijing during the Qing period, including the Figurist approach of the French Jesuit Joachim Bouvet (1656-1730), the mythological reading of the Irish Anglican Thomas McClatchie (1814-1885), and the moralistic/philosophical interpretation of the Scottish Presbyterian James Legge (1815-1897). These pioneering attempts of introducing and translating the Chinese classic to the West engendered profound inter-religious encounters and dialogues between the Yijing and the Bible.

John T. P. LAI received his DPhil (Oriental Studies) from Oxford (2005), and is currently Professor in the Department of Cultural and Religious Studies and Associate Dean of Arts, Chinese University of Hong Kong. His research focuses on the interdisciplinary study of religion, literature and translation. He has published more than ten books, including Literary Representations of Christianity in Late Qing and Republican China (2019), and An Annotated Anthology of the Yijing Commentaries by the Early Qing Jesuit Joachim Bouvet (2020).

Online via Microsoft Teams; Mandarin presentation;  bilingual Q&A; Convenor: Dr Annie Hongping Nie


Baillie Gifford Distinguished Speaker Series

‘Where is the UK National Interest in our Economic Relationship with China?’

John Edwards, Her Majesty’s Trade Commissioner for China (HMTC)

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The UK’s Integrated Review published earlier this year called for deepening trade and attracting more investment from China. And called China the biggest state-based threat to the UK’s economic security. HM Trade Commissioner to China and Hong Kong, John Edwards, will set out why that is not a contradiction but a reflection of a complex relationship with the world’s second largest economy.

John Edwards was one of the nine Trade Commissioners appointed by the British government to promote the UK in important global markets. As the head of the Department for International Trade in China, John is in charge of all bilateral trade issues and works closely with Her Majesty’s Ambassador in Beijing to promote UK trade and prosperity. John has twenty-five years of experience working for the UK government, with more than half of that time spent in China including as HM Consul General in Shanghai (2015–19) and Minister Counsellor at the British Embassy (2012–15).

In his previous roles in China, John has led teams across China dealing with science and innovation, energy, climate change and health policy. As Consul General in Shanghai he was responsible for the trade and investment relationship across East China. In his most recent role as Deputy Trade Commissioner he was responsible for the advanced manufacturing, Tech, education, life sciences and healthcare sectors.

Outside of China, John was the speechwriter for three Foreign Secretaries and was the Deputy Consul General in Jerusalem. John graduated from Oxford University with a degree in Ancient and Modern History.


International History of East Asia Seminar Series

‘The Anti-Hong Kong Dollar Campaign and the Making of China’s Exchange Rate Regime, 1949-1951’

Leung Ho-chiu (University of California, San Diego)

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China Studies Seminar Series

‘Dog Days and Salted Fish: Malaise of Indolence among Young Migrant Café Workers in Shanghai’

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Rural-to-urban migrants have largely been portrayed as future-oriented, striving subjects, living ‘in suspension’ and enduring precarious conditions for the sake of desired futures. This talk works from the premise that such depictions tend to naturalize purposefulness as a constant mode of being requiring no efforts to be sustained against other temporal and affective (dis)orientations. Drawing on fieldwork conducted in 2017–2018, the talk zeroes in on the lives of young migrant café workers in Shanghai who turned to the cosmopolitan service sector in pursuit of self-development and entrepreneurial futures. If aspirations configure self-narratives and trajectories, close-up observation reveals more ambivalent modes of subjectivity, oscillating between affective engagements with the future and expressions of indolence. At a time when discourses of the ‘Chinese dream’ coexist with vernacular celebrations of inactivity, what happens when young migrants encounter themselves as no longer inclined toward remaining aspiring, purposive, striving, if only temporarily? While the recent emergence of catchwords such as xianyu (‘salted fish’) or tangping (‘lying flat’) have been interpreted as signs of disenchantment and passive revolt, the talk suggests that appropriations of such repertoires do not necessarily mean embracing disengagement as a norm. It may instead nurture a sense of ethical discomfort and self-responsibility.

Lisa Richaud is FNRS Post-doctoral fellow in social anthropology at the Université Libre de Bruxelles. Previously, she worked as a post-doc researcher at Fudan University and King’s College London on the ESRC-NSFC project ‘Migration, Mental Health and the Chinese Mega-City’. She is the editor of a special section in HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory on the politics of negative affects in post-Reform China (to be published by the end of 2021). Based on her doctoral research, her monograph in preparation focuses on the collective performance of Maoist tunes by Beijing parkgoers, asking what happens when a practice once designed to produce socialist commitment is reframed as casual.


‘The Role of Practice Diffusion in China’s Engagement in Global Standardization’

International Relations of China Seminar Series

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Over the past decade, the influence of Chinese actors in global technical standard-setting has grown substantially. In parallel to a thorough reform of the domestic standard-setting system, the central government set the goal of becoming a ‘world standards power’ by working through bodies such as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) as well as leveraging the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to promote Chinese standards abroad. Our research focuses on the role of what we term ‘practice diffusion’ in China’s efforts to become a world standards power. Drawing from the IR ‘practice turn’ literature, we view practice – the ‘inarticulate know-how’ about ‘what it is to be done’* – as an important, and underappreciated, feature of how latecomers encounter global governance. While existing literature has focused primarily on the role of practice in binding together communities of practice, practice also serves as a barrier to entry for members outside, or on the margins, of such groups. Building on our case study of the Sino-German Technical Standardization Partnership on Industrie 4.0, we argue that formal and informal linkages between community insiders and outsiders are crucial mechanisms of practice diffusion. We also explore the role of practice diffusion in China’s nascent efforts to lay the groundwork for China-oriented standardization bodies. (*V. Pouliot, ‘The Logic of Practicality: A Theory of Practice of Security Communities. International Organization62(2) (2008), pp. 257-288)

Sarah Eaton is Professor of Transregional China Studies at Humboldt University of Berlin. She is interested in the study of contemporary Chinese politics and political economy from comparative and transregional perspectives.

Daniel Fuchs is Assistant Professor at the Institute for Asian and African Studies at Humboldt University of Berlin. His research focuses on migration, labour relations and industrial policy in China and the Global South.


China Studies Seminar Series

‘Sharing Food, Vulnerability, and Intimacy in a Global Pandemic: The Digital Art of the Chinese Diaspora in Europe’

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This talk examines the digital artworks created by three Chinese diaspora artists based in Europe: Berlin-based queer filmmaker Fan Popo’s short digital video Lerne Deutsch in meiner Küche (Learn German in My Kitchen), London-based performance artist Zeng Burong’s performance Non-Taster, and London-based writer David K. S. Tse’s digital radio play The C Word. All three artworks were created in 2020 during the pandemic and all deal explicitly with the issues of anti-Asian racism and cross-cultural understanding. All these artworks also engage with issues of food and culinary practices. Through an analysis of the three artworks, Professor Bao argues that making digital art about food can serve as a creative and culturally sensitive strategy to engage with pandemic politics. Indeed, in an era of rising nationalism and international antagonism, diasporic Chinese artists have turned to seemingly mundane, apolitical, and non-confrontational ways such as creating digital artworks about food to engage with the public about anti-Asian racism and cross-cultural understanding. This functions as a creative and culturally sensitive strategy to conduct social and political activism and to enhance cross-cultural understanding. It also showcases the political potential and social relevance of digital art for a pandemic and even a post-pandemic world.

Hongwei Bao is Associate Professor in Media Studies at the University of Nottingham, UK, where he directs the Centre for Contemporary East Asian Cultural Studies. He is also a research associate of the Birmingham School of Art. Hongwei is the author of three research monographs on queer culture in China: Queer Comrades, Queer China and Queer Media in China. He serves on the international advisory board of Queer Asia book series (Hong Kong University Press). He also serves on the editorial boards of British Journal of Chinese Studies and Chinese Independent Cinema Observer. He writes and edits a column titled Queer Lens for the Chinese Independent Film Archive.


‘The Battle of Images: The Sino-Hollywood Negotiation’

Oxford Seminar on Visual Culture in Modern and Contemporary China

HYBRID EVENT: in-person event: China Centre, King-ku Cheng Lecture Theatre; Online (via Zoom): please register here

Hollywood dominated Chinese film market during China’s Republic era, triggering a mixture of fascination and resistance. The Communist victory in 1949 and the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950 led to an official ban on Hollywood imports by the PRC government in 1950. China’s film market reopened to Hollywood in 1994 amidst China’s declining domestic output and theatre attendance. Hollywood has since become a regular fixture in China, spurring simultaneously rejection, admiration, emulation, competition and coercion. Rejection and repulsion for Hollywood’s historical injustice to the China image; admiration and emulation for the sheer allure and market prowess of Hollywood pictures; competition and coercion for Hollywood’s global dominance and a new determination to draft Hollywood into serving China’s global image campaign. This talk compares the context and terms of Hollywood’s Republic era China triumph to those of its repeated performance in the post-1994 era, and the subsequent expansion of a powerful Chinese film market to suggest historical contingencies, continuities and changes in an ongoing Sino-Hollywood dynamic with competing political, cultural and economic interest on and off screen.

Ying ZHU is a faculty member at the City University of New York and Hong Kong Baptist University, and a visiting fellow at the Oriental Institute at the University of Oxford and a visiting professor in the Film Studies Program at Columbia University. The founding editor of Global Storytelling: Journal of Digital and Moving Images, her research areas encompass Chinese cinema and media, Sino-Hollywood relations, and TV drama and online streaming. She has published ten books, including Soft Power with Chinese Characteristics: China’s Campaign for Hearts and Minds (2019) and Two Billion Eyes: The Story of China Central Television (2013). Her first research monograph, Chinese Cinema During the Era of Reform: The Ingenuity of the System (2003) pioneered the industry analysis of Chinese film studios. Her second research monograph, Television in Post-Reform China: Serial Drama, Confucian Leadership and the Global Television Market (2008), together with two edited books – TV China (2009) and TV Drama in China (2008) – pioneered the subfield of Chinese TV drama studies. Her works have been translated into Chinese, Dutch, French, Italian and Spanish.

Zhu is the recipient of a US National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, an American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship, and a Fulbright Senior Research Fellowship. She reviews manuscripts for major publications and evaluates grant proposals for research foundations in Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, the UK, Sweden and the US. Her writings have appeared in major academic journals as well as established media outlets such as The Atlantic, Foreign Policy, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times  and The Wall Street Journal, etc. Her new book, Hollywood in China: Behind the Scenes of the World’s Largest Movie Market is forthcoming.


‘China’s Role in Post-Pandemic Asia: Trade, Vaccines and Infrastructure’

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There are many different perspectives on the BRI – from the financing that underpins it to the effects on Global South actors engaging with it.  This seminar will explore beneath the surface rhetoric to examine the complexities of the changing BRI framework.

Mr Tillman, after a thirty-year career in global Wholesale Banking management (Barclays, ABN AMRO and Wells Fargo), is the Chairman Grisons Peak Services, a London based consultancy specialising in capital raising for UK/EU companies focussed on healthcare, renewables, tech and new energy. In 2008, Grisons Peak launched China Investment Research  (which tracks all China outbound M&A/equity investments, Venture Capital and, since 2018, also all inbound investments into China. Through this data, Mr Tillman speaks frequently on the BRI at various governments, corporates and universities. In 2018, Mr Tillman co-authored a research study with the Shanghai Institute of International Studies (China) on the Polar Silk Road, focussed on the Northern Sea Route (NSR) and Arctic LNG, which he follows closely as it continues to attract new partner countries.  In 2021, he co-authored two 2021 publications on the Health Silk Road, adding to his 30+ years of providing advice to global healthcare organisations.

Dr Ganeshan Wignaraja is a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore and a Senior Research Associate at the Overseas Development Institute in London. Previously, he was the Director of Research at the Asian Development Bank Institute in Tokyo, a Visiting Scholar at the IMF in Washington DC, the Executive Director of Sri Lanka’s Foreign Ministry Think Tank and a Member of the Sri Lankan Prime Minister’s Task Force on the India Ocean. He holds a DPhil in economics from the University of Oxford and has authored or edited twenty books including Connecting Asia and Asia’s Free Trade Agreements.


International History of East Asia Seminar Series

‘Recontextualizing Japanese Views of African Americans from the Arrival of Commodore Perry (1853) to the Paris Peace Conference (1919)’

Tarik Merida (Free University of Berlin)

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‘The Reform of the Legal System of Taxation in China in the Last Two Decades and Future Prospects’

Mandarin Forum

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From the tax reform in 1994 to the Corporate Income Tax Law in 2008 and then to the Personal income Tax Law in 2019, the tax reform in mainland China has been carried out in several stages. An improvement of the Chinese taxation system in the future constitutes an important part of the implementation of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021‒2025) for National Economic and Social Development. It is expected that the reform of the legal system of taxation in the future will further exert the regulatory function of taxation to promote social equity.

Yan Xu is an Associate Professor at the Comparative Law Institute of China University of Political Science and Law. She received her PhD in Jurisprudence from Beijing University and conducted postdoctoral research at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. She is also a visiting scholar at Tübingen University, Freiburg University, Boston University and the Academia Sinica in Taiwan. She is mainly interested in tax law, economic law and social law. She has presided several national/international projects and published twenty-nine articles in core journals.

Online via Microsoft Teams; Mandarin presentation;  bilingual Q&A; Convenor: Dr Annie Hongping Nie


(Rescheduled from 5 November)

‘Disaggregating China, Inc.: State Strategies in the Liberal Economic Order’

International Relations of China Seminar Series

To attend this talk (via Teams), please register here

China’s entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001 represented an historic opportunity to peacefully integrate a rising economic power into the international order based on market-liberal rules. Yet rising economic tensions between the US and China indicate that this integration process has run into trouble. To what extent has the liberal internationalist promise of the WTO been fulfilled? To answer this question, Professor Tan’s book, Disaggregating China, Inc.: State Strategies in the Liberal Economic Order, breaks open the black box of the massive Chinese state and unpacks the economic strategies that central economic agencies as well as subnational authorities adopted in response to WTO rules demanding far-reaching modifications to China’s domestic institutions. The book explains why, rather than imposing constraints, WTO entry provoked divergent policy responses from different actors within the Chinese state, in ways neither expected nor desired by the architects of the WTO.

Yeling Tan is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Oregon. She is also a non-resident scholar at UC San Diego’s 21st Century China Center and a public intellectual fellow with the National Committee on US-China Relations. She holds a PhD in Public Policy and an MPA in International Development from Harvard University, and a BA in International Relations and Economics from Stanford University. Professor Tan’s work has been published in Comparative Political Studies, Governance, the China Journal and Global Policy. She is co-author of China Experiments: From Local Innovation to National Reform (Brookings Institution Press) and co-editor of Asia’s Role in Governing Global Health (Routledge). Her latest book is Disaggregating China, Inc.: State Strategies in the Liberal Economic Order (Cornell University Press). She has also written for Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy and The Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog.


‘Reimagining the World Order: Chinese Literary Conventions and the Representation of International Relations in the Mongol Yuan Dynasty’

Ming Tak Ted Hui (Oxford)

To attend this talk (via Zoom), please register here

The relationship between the Mongol Yuan dynasty and the Kingdom of Annam (northern Vietnam) in the 13th and 14th centuries was previously believed to have been defined by the tributary system of foreign relations inherited from preceding Chinese dynasties. While scholars are aware of the necessity to incorporate historical accounts from Annam when discussing the diplomatic relations of the period, there is less emphasis on how these diplomatic relationships were represented by documents crafted in accordance with Chinese literary conventions. This presentation argues that Chinese linguistic conventions determined how foreign relations were negotiated and recorded, creating an illusion of continuity that ignores the multilingual dimension of the Mongol Empire.

This presentation seeks to explore the intricate relationship between literary conventions and the understanding of the foreign world through the works of two Yuan Dynasty envoys, Chen Fu 陳孚 (1259-1309) and Fu Ruojin 傅若金 (1303-1342). On the one hand, Dr Hui argues that Chinese literary conventions mask potential changes in the Sino-Vietnamese relationship. And on the other hand, through a closed reading of these envoys’ poetry, he shows how the generic conventions of Chinese poetry were challenged by the envoys’ attempts to write about their experience in the foreign land. With a case study of the literary works pertaining to Yuan-Annam relations, this presentation reflects upon the role of Chinese literary conventions in the representation of cultural others.

Ming Tak Ted Hui is a Post-doctoral Research Officer working on the TEXTCOURT project at the University of Oxford. He earned his BA and MPhil from the Chinese University of Hong Kong and his AM and PhD from  Harvard University. His current research focuses on language policies and the representation of cultural others from the twelfth to the fourteenth century. His interests include the poetics of space, theatre and theatricality of late imperial China, book history and digital humanities.


International History of East Asia Seminar Series

‘Legacies of minjok and neo-Confucianism in the construction of early DPRK political apparatus’

Noël Seulgi Um-Lo (Columbia University)

To attend this seminar (via Zoom), please register here


‘The Politics of Nuclear Commemoration in Asia: The China Case’

International Relations of China Seminar series

To attend this talk (via Teams), please register here

In the study of China’s foreign affairs, historians like to suggest that the past is always present. A ‘Century of Humiliation’ in the nineteenth century or fighting the Japanese in the 1930s and 1940s are often referenced. Yet another historic development, namely China’s development of nuclear weapons in the 1950s and 1960s, is often absent from this assessment. In contrast to many other nuclear weapons states, China has largely been quiet about its nuclear past. Only in the last years of former leader Hu Jintao (2003‒2012) and now the current leader, Xi Jinping (2013‒) has China started to commemorate its nuclear weapons development more seriously. This talk sets out to understand both the nature and timing of this commemoration within China but also the wider implications of nuclear commemoration for regional and international security. Ultimately, under Xi Jinping, China’s nuclear past is finally becoming present.

Nicola Leveringhaus is Lecturer in East Asian Security and International Relations at the Department of War Studies, King’s College London. Dr Leveringhaus specialises in nuclear weapons issues in Northeast Asia, especially related to China. She has lectured at Sheffield University (2015‒16) and was a British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellow (2012‒15) at the University of Oxford. She has been a Senior Visiting Scholar at Tsinghua University; and a Pre-Doctoral Fellow at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. She holds an MPhil in Modern Chinese Studies and DPhil in International Relations from St Antony’s College, Oxford. Her second book China and Global Nuclear Order, from Estrangement to Active Engagement was nominated for the 2017 ECPR Hedley Bull Prize.

Trinity Term 2021

The China Centre  events for the Trinity Term (Sunday 25 April-Saturday 19 June) will take place online. Details on how to join each event will be added to the website throughout the term.


Baillie Gifford Distinguished Speaker Series

‘Maoism: A Global Story’

Professor Julia Lovell, Birkbeck College, University of London

Since 2012, China has experienced an official revival of Maoist culture and politics, as part of a generalized invigoration of ideology under Xi Jinping. Despite the huge human cost of Mao’s rule, on 1 October 2019 (the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China) the Chinese Communist Party celebrated Mao as august builder of the party and nation. This ideological, authoritarian retrenchment, alongside the PRC’s newly assertive foreign policy, has alarmed Western governments. Fears of a new Cold War, now centred on China, have seized imaginations across the Anglophone world.

But the PRC’s definition of Mao as respectable paterfamilias obscures other, more destabilising legacies of Maoism – a volatile mix of militarised autocracy, anti-colonial rebellion and ‘continuous revolution’. Although Mao remains central to China’s increasingly authoritarian government, his ideas have also fuelled global insurgency and subversion across the last eighty years, in revolutions and insurrections that have transformed states and left millions dead.

In these febrile times, as we seem to be slipping back into a polarised Cold War world, it is more important than ever to understand the PRC’s complex history of global interventions, from Mao to now. And the unpredictable transnational journeys of Maoism are at the centre of that story. This lecture will explore how Mao’s ideas have shaped the world, as well as China, since World War II. It will conclude by assessing China’s current partial Maoist revival and its significance for China’s self-positioning in the world.

Julia Lovell is Professor of Modern China at Birkbeck College, University of London. She is the author of Maoism: A Global History (2019 Cundill History Prize), and The Opium War (2012 Jan Michalski Prize). Her many translations of Chinese fiction into English include The Real Story of Ah Q and Monkey King.

This event supported by Baillie Gifford & The University of Oxford China Centre


International History of East Asia Seminar

‘Mexican Japanese: Experiences of Mestizaje, Ethno-Racial Exclusion and Strategies to Attain Equality’

Jessica A. Fernández de Lara Harada, University of Cambridge


Mandarin Forum



International History of East Asia Seminar

‘One Empire, One Nation: Imperial Reconfiguration Projects in Britain and China (1880‒1920)’

Asier Aguirresarobe, University of the Basque Country


Oxford China Conversation I

What are the historians’ biggest frustrations with popular conceptions of China in the United Kingdom?’

Professor Rana Mitter (Chair, Oxford), Professor Henrietta Harrison (Oxford), Professor Robert Chard (Oxford), Dr Rachel Leow (Cambridge).

Rana Mitter (Chair) is Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China at the University of Oxford. His books include China’s War with Japan: The Struggle for Survival, 1937-1945 (Penguin, 2013), [US title: Forgotten Ally] which won the 2014 RUSI/Duke of Westminster’s Medal for Military Literature, and was named a Book of the Year in the Financial Times and Economist, and China’s Good War: How World War II is Shaping a New Nationalism (Harvard University Press, 2020). His recent documentary on contemporary Chinese politics ‘Meanwhile in Beijing’ is available on BBC Sounds. He is a Fellow of the British Academy.

Henrietta Harrison is Professor of Modern Chinese Studies in the Faculty of Oriental Studies at the University of Oxford and Stanley Ho Tutorial Fellow in Chinese History at Pembroke College.  She is a Fellow of the British Academy.  Before coming to Oxford, she taught in the Department of East Asian Studies at the University of Leeds, and in the Department of History at Harvard University.  Her books include The Perils of Interpreting: The Extraordinary Lives of Two Translators between Qing China and the British Empire (Princeton University Press, forthcoming), The Man Awakened from Dreams: One Man’s Life in a North China Village 1857‒1942 (Stanford University Press, 2005) and The Missionary’s Curse and Other Tales from a Chinese Catholic Village (University of California Press, 2013). 

Robert Chard was educated at the University of California, Berkeley, and taught at SOAS before coming to Oxford in 1990 as University Lecturer/Associate Professor of Classical Chinese and Tutorial Fellow in Chinese at St Anne’s College. From 2012 to 2020 he was also Guest Professor at the Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia, University of Tokyo, and is currently Guest Professor in the Department of History, Peking University, and Researcher at the Toyo Bunko. His disciplinary focus is deliberately fuzzy, but he identifies more as a historian than anything else. His recent work has focused on Confucianism as a culture (rather than a philosophy) in ancient and medieval China, and in Edo-period Japan, especially in the field of ritual. A new book Creating Confucian Authority: The Field of Ritual Learning in Early China to 9 CE (Brill, 2021) is in press.

Rachel Leow is a Senior Lecturer in Modern East Asian History, and a Fellow of Murray Edwards College, at the University of Cambridge. Before coming to Cambridge, Dr Leow held a postdoctoral fellowship at the Center for History and Economics at Harvard University. Dr Leow’s research is broadly concerned with the social, cultural and intellectual links between China and Chinese communities in maritime Southeast Asia; with British imperialism in Asia; and with histories of ideas beyond Europe. She is the author of Taming Babel: Language in the Making of Malaysia (Cambridge University Press, 2016).

TUESDAY 11 MAY, 10am

International Relations of China Seminar

‘Orchestration: China’s Economic Statecraft Across Asia and Europe’

Professor James Reilly, University of Sydney

In this talk, James Reilly will discuss his new book on China’s economic statecraft.  Drawing on extensive field research, Orchestration traces the origins, operations and effectiveness of Beijing’s economic statecraft across Asia and Europe.  China’s unique experience as a planned economy, and then a developmental state, all under a single Leninist party, left Chinese leaders with unchallenged authority over their economy. However, despite successfully mobilizing companies, banks and local officials to rapidly expand trade and investment abroad, Chinese leaders largely failed to influence key policy decisions overseas.  Economic engagement with China thus yields more benefits with fewer costs than generally assumed. Orchestration concludes by placing China in comparative perspective, laying the foundation for a new research field: comparative economic statecraft.

James Reilly is an Associate Professor in the Department of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney. He holds degrees from George Washington University, University of Washington, and Guilford College.  He has been a Jean Monnet Fellow at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy, and a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Oxford.  He also served in China as the East Asia Representative of the American Friends Service Committee from 2001-2008.  His articles have appeared in numerous edited volumes and academic journals.  He is also the author of Strong Society, Smart State: The Rise of Public Opinion in China’s Japan Policy, and the co-editor of Australia and China at 40. 


International History of East Asia Seminar

‘Multiple Jeju(s): Representation of the U.S. Occupation on Jeju Island during Jeju 4.3’

Youjoung (Yuna) Kim, Johns Hopkins University


Oxford China Conversation II

‘How Communist Is the People’s Republic of China?’ 

Professor Patricia Thornton (Chair, Oxford), Professor Daniel Koss (Harvard University), Professor Joseph Fewsmith (Boston University), Professor Rebecca Karl (NYU)

Patricia M. Thornton (Chair) is an associate professor in the University of Oxford’s Department of Politics and International Relations, and a Fellow of Merton College. She is the author of numerous articles in scholarly journals, and is currently editing a special issue of The China Quarterly forthcoming this autumn to mark the CCP’s centenary. Her recent publications include (with Vivienne Shue) To Govern China: Evolving Practices of Power (Cambridge, 2017); (with Chris Berry and Sun Peidong) Red Shadows: Memories and Legacies of the Chinese Cultural Revolution (Cambridge, 2017); and Disciplining the State: Virtue, Violence and State-Making in Modern China (Harvard, 2007).

Joseph Fewsmith is Professor of International Relations and Political Science at Boston University’s Pardee School of Global Studies. He is the author or editor of eight books, including, Rethinking Chinese Politics, to be published in July 2021. For eleven years, he was one of seven regular contributors to the China Leadership Monitor, a quarterly web publication analysing current developments in China. His articles have appeared in such leading journals as The China Quarterly and The Journal of Contemporary China. He is currently working on a new book, called Forging Leninism in China, which is a re-examination of the Communist movement in Jiangxi in the late 1920s and early 1930s. He is an associate of the John King Fairbank Center for East Asian Studies at Harvard University.

Rebecca Karl teaches history at NYU-NY. She is author, most recently, of China’s Revolutions in the Modern World: A Brief Interpretive History (Verso 2020). Her previous books include The Magic of Concepts: History and the Economic in Twentieth-Century China (Duke UP 2017), Mao Zedong and China in the Twentieth-Century World: A Concise History (Duke UP 2010), among others. She is co-editor/co-translator with Lydia Liu and Dorothy Ko of The Birth of Chinese Feminism: Essential Texts in Transnational Theory (Columbia 2013). As a founding editor of and founding member of Critical China Scholars, she works with scholars and activists across many fields to create spaces for leftist analysis of China and Asia.

Daniel Koss is a research scholar and lecturer at Harvard’s Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations. He works on political parties and their history, with regional expertise in East Asia. His first book was published in 2018 and is entitled Where the Party Rules: The Rank and File of China’s Communist State. It investigates the multiple functions of political parties under authoritarian regimes, through the case of China’s Communist Party, by focusing on the party’s grassroots-level, and approaching contemporary outcomes from a historical perspective. Koss has spent several years in East Asia, for field research in China and Japan, and as an Assistant Research Fellow with the Institute of Political Science at Academia Sinica in Taipei. He holds a PhD from Harvard’s Department of Government.

FRIDAY 14 MAY, 1pm

Mandarin Forum


MONDAY 17 MAY, 5pm

‘Networks of Exchange Poetry in Late Medieval China: Notes toward a Dynamic History of Tang Literature’

Professor Thomas Mazanec, University of California, Santa Barbara

The TEXTCOURT Project is honoured to have Professor Thomas Mazanec to be our third speaker in the talk series. He is going to share with us his article on ‘Networks of Exchange Poetry in Late Medieval China: Notes toward a Dynamic History of Tang Literature,’ which combines qualitative and quantitative methods to rethink the literary history of late medieval China (830-960 CE). In this talk, a total of 10,869 poems exchanged between 2,413 individuals are catalogued to seek the structure of the collectively imagined literary relations of the time. This catalogue is subjected to social-network analysis to reveal patterns and peculiarities in the extant corpus of late medieval poetry, which in turn prompt close readings of the sources. This combination of network analysis and close reading highlights the dynamic nature of Chinese literary history, providing insight into the ever-shifting conjunctures of forms, genres, expectations, and relations in the late medieval literary world. 

Thomas Mazanec is Assistant Professor of premodern Chinese literature at the University of California, Santa Barbara, in the Department of East Asian Languages & Cultural Studies and, by affiliation, the Departments of Comparative Literature and of Religious Studies. His research is focused on Chinese literature of the medieval period (third through tenth centuries CE). His first book project concerns the emergence of Chinese Buddhist poetry and the rise of the poet-monk in the ninth and tenth centuries CE. Other research interests include literary theory, translation studies, religious studies, and digital humanities. He is also an avid collector of bizarre and obscure translations of Chinese poetry into English.  

You will receive a confirmation email containing the MS Teams link to the talk after registration. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to email us at


Oxford China Conversation III

‘Is the meaning of family changing in China, and if so, how?’ 

Professor Rachel Murphy (Chair, Oxford), Professor Xiaoying Qi (Australian Catholic University), Professor Suen Yiu Tung (CUHK), Professor Harriet Evans (University of Westminster/LSE)

Rachel Murphy (Chair) is Professor of Chinese Development and Society and a Fellow of St Antony’s College, University of Oxford. Professor Murphy’s research sits at the intersection of area and development studies, sociology, anthropological demography, and social policy. She examines social changes occurring in China because of industrialization, urbanization, demographic transition, migration, marketization, education and state policies. Professor Murphy served as Head of the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies (OSGA) for nearly four years from 2015-18 and as Director of the Asian Studies Centre at St Antony’s College, 2009-12. She has served two terms on the executive committee of the China Quarterly editorial board, and is President of the British Association for Chinese Studies. Her latest book, The Children of China’s Great Migration, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2020. 

Xiaoying Qi is Associate Professor of Sociology, Australian Catholic University. She is the author of Remaking Families in Contemporary China (Oxford University Press, 2021) and Globalized Knowledge Flows and Chinese Social Theory (Routledge, 2014). She edited Chinese Sociology, Sociology of China, a special issue of the Journal of Sociology (2016). Xiaoying has published articles in leading sociology journals, including American Journal of Cultural SociologyBritish Journal of SociologyCurrent SociologyInternational SociologyJournal of Sociology, and Sociology.    

Yiu-tung SUEN (DPhil in Sociology, University of Oxford) is Assistant Professor and Graduate Division Head at the Gender Studies Programme, Faculty of Social Science, of the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He is a leading researcher in the area of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT+) law and policies in Hong Kong and has done comparative research in other parts of Asia. Internationally he has consulted and written reports for the United Nations Development Programme and the International Labour Organization on LGBT+ issues. His research has a strong component of social exchange, and he is frequently invited to speak to a wide range of audiences including policy makers, business leaders, lawyers, health care professionals, and service providers, as well as with the international and local media. 

Harriet Evans is Professor Emerita of Chinese Cultural Studies (University of Westminster) and Visiting Professor of Anthropology (LSE). She has written extensively on the politics of gender and sexuality in China, and on political posters and visual culture of the Mao era. Her third monograph, Beijing from BelowStories of Marginal Lives in the Capital’s Center was published by Duke University Press in 2020. Grassroots Values and Local Cultural Heritage in China, co-edited with Michael Rowlands, and based on a research project funded by the Leverhulme Trust, is due to be published in late 2021 by Lexington Books. 


International History of East Asia Seminar

‘From Harbin to Paris: A Transnational History of Russian Refugees during the Great Famine in China 1958‒1962’

Yuqing Qiu, Centre d’histoire de Sciences Po


Oxford China Conversation IV

What does it mean to be “Chinese” outside of China today?’

Professor Biao Xiang (Chair, Max Planck Institute/Oxford), Dr Simeng Wang (The French National Centre for Scientific Research), Professor Gregory Lee (University of St Andrews), Professor Gracia Liu-Farrer (Waseda University).

Biao Xiang (Chair): Biao Xiang 项飙is a Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Oxford, and Director of Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Germany. Xiang’s research addresses various types of migration – internal and international, unskilled and highly skilled, emigration and return migration, and the places and people left behind – in China, India and other parts of Asia. Xiang is the winner of the 2008 Anthony Leeds Prize for his book Global Bodyshopping and the 2012 William L. Holland Prize for his article ‘Predatory Princes’. His 2000 Chinese book 跨越边界的社区 (published in English as Transcending Boundaries, 2005) was reprinted in 2018 as a contemporary classic, and 自己作为方法 (Self as Method, co-authored with Wu Qi) was ranked the Most Impactful Book 2020. His work has been translated into Japanese, French, Korean, Spanish, German and Italian.

Simeng Wang is a sociologist, permanent research fellow at The French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and faculty member at the CERMES3 (Research Centre, Medicine, Science, Health, Mental Health and Society). Her research interests are in international migration studies, social sciences of health and mental health and sociology of the Chinese world (China and its diasporas). Since 2009, she has been working on Chinese immigration in France. Her scientific publications include Illusions et souffrances. Les migrants chinois à Paris (Éditions rue d’Ulm, 2017; English version forthcoming, Brill, 2021), Mental Health and Mental Suffering. An Object for the Social Sciences(CNRS Éditions, 2018) and Chinese Immigrants in Europe: Image, Identity and Social Participation (De Gruyter, 2020). Since January 2020, she has been conducting a new empirical survey on Chinese migrations in France facing Covid-19 and leading the MigraChiCovid Project (2020‒2022). She has also been the coordinator of the research network on East and South-East Asian Migrations in France.

Gregory Lee is Founding Professor of Chinese Studies at the University of St Andrews.  He was previously Professor of Chinese and Transcultural Studies at Lyon University in France. In addition to modern Chinese cultural studies, he has written widely on the representation of Chineseness, the Chinese diaspora, the transcultural, and intellectual decolonization. His most recent book is China Imagined: From European Fantasy to Spectacular Power (Hurst, 2018).

Gracia Liu-Farrer (PhD Sociology, University of Chicago), is Professor at the Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies, and Director of the Institute of Asian Migration at Waseda University, Japan. Her research examines immigrants’ economic, social and political practices in Japan, and the global mobility of students and professional migrants. She is the author of Labor Migration from China to Japan: International Students, Transnational Migrants (Routledge, 2011), Handbook of Asian Migrations (co-edited with Brenda Yeoh, Routledge, 2018), and Immigrant Japan: Mobility and Belonging in an Ethno-nationalist Society (Cornell University Press, 2020). She has also published over 50 book chapters and journal articles in leading migration and area studies journals.

FRIDAY 21 MAY, 3pm

International Relations of China Seminar

‘Mixed Signalling in Chinese Foreign Policy’

Professor Xiaoyu Pu, University of Nevada, Reno

China sometimes seems to send contradictory and confusing signals in foreign policy. While China is often eager to promote its soft power, why do some Chinese officials spread messages that hurt rather than promote China’s international image? Why would the Chinese diplomatic narrative become more assertive in recent years? This talk will analyse China’s diplomatic signals in multiple domains. The empirical examples include China’s regional diplomacy as well as its ‘Twitter diplomacy’. This talk will identify patterns of China’s diplomatic signalling and will also provide preliminary explanations. China has incentives to project different images. Chinese international efforts to project a strong image are predominantly aimed at the domestic audience. Domestic politics and competing expectations will continue constraining the effectiveness of China’s diplomatic signalling.

Xiaoyu Pu is Associate Professor of political science at the University of Nevada, Reno. He is a Public Intellectuals Program Fellow with the National Committee on United States-China Relations (NCUSCR). Previously he was a non-resident senior fellow at the Inter-American Dialogue, a Stanton fellow at Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV) in Brazil, and a postdoctoral fellow in the Princeton-Harvard China and the World Program. Pu is the author of Rebranding China: Contested Status Signaling in the Changing Global Order (The Studies in Asian Security Series, Stanford University Press, 2019). His research has appeared in International Security, International Affairs, The China Quarterly and The Chinese Journal of International Politics. He is an editor of The Chinese Journal of International Politics and an editorial board member of Foreign Affairs Review (Beijing). Dr Pu received his PhD from Ohio State University.


International History of East Asia Seminar

‘W.A.P. Martin, Naturalism and the Translation of International Law (26 May) in Late Qing China’

Jingjian Wu, Yale Law School


Mandarin Forum

To register, please contact

‘A Reflection on the Thought Change Process of Chinese Intellectuals in the Early PRC Period’

Professor Lili Nie, Tokyo Woman’s Christian University

In the early days of the PRC, about 1.5 million Chinese intellectuals collectively completed the task of ‘transforming old ideas to revolutionary ones’ by going through the Political Theory Learning Movement and the Land Reform Movement. In this talk, Professor Nie will explore the thoughts and conduct of the representative senior intellectuals in the two movements. How did the intellectuals face the new regime and the huge forces of the revolution? How did the political movements coerce them to change themselves? After accepting the revolutionary ideas, what changes took place in their opinions on national politics, history, society, class and individuals, as well as in their research methodology compared with that of the Republic of China?

Professor Nie is currently teaching at Tokyo Woman’s Christian University.  Nie studied at Renmin University of China and Peking University, and received her PhD from The University of Tokyo.  This talk is based on her book The Transformation of Intellectuals’ Thoughts: Pan Guangdan, Fei Xiaotong and their Surroundings in the Early Years of New China (Tokyo: Fengxiangshe 2015; Xinzhu: National Tsing Hua University Press, 2018).

 Mandarin presentation; English PPT;  bilingual Q&A   

 Convenor: Dr Annie Hongping Nie


International History of East Asia Seminar

‘Evolution of a Hybrid Typology: Christian Churches Built in Huế, Vietnam in the 20th Century’

Phi Nguyen, École Polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne

THURSDAY 3 June, 3pm

‘China’s Public Diplomacy Operations’

To attend this event (via Zoom), please register here

As part of the strategy to ‘tell China’s story well’, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has significantly expanded its public diplomacy efforts. The PRC makes use of both state-controlled media outlets and over 270 diplomatic accounts on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to amplify the PRC’s perspective on global affairs and current events. In this event, researchers based at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, present a global audit of social media activity by PRC diplomats and ten of the largest state-controlled media outlets between June 2020 and February 2021, they find that diplomats and state media are very active, gain high numbers of engagement, and profit from inauthentic amplification. Furthermore, they disclose a coordinated inauthentic network amplifying UK-based PRC diplomats, consisting of 62 accounts dedicated to promoting the content by PRC diplomats stationed in London. Between June 2020 and January 2021, the network amplified tweets by diplomats more than 25,000 times, accounting for nearly half of all retweets of the PRC ambassador to the UK.

Marcel Schliebs is a Researcher at the University of Oxford and social data scientist at the Programme on Democracy and Technology. His research is located at the intersection of political science, statistics and computer science, and focuses on the effects of disinformation and microtargeting on political attitudes and behaviour. He has developed quantitative approaches for examining state-backed information operations, and studies the role of artificial intelligence for twenty-first century great power competition. Marcel holds a BA in Political Science from Zeppelin University and a MSc in Social Data Science from the University of Oxford. In the past, he has worked as a Junior US Correspondent for a German Public TV/Radio Broadcaster, at the French National Election Study, and served in the German Foreign Office and NATO’s Arms Control and Weapons of Mass Destruction Non-Proliferation Centre.

Hannah Bailey is a Researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute’s Programme on Democracy and Technology, with a focus on social data science. Her research examines the PRC’s use of state-sponsored digital disinformation. In particular, she focusses on the effect of the PRC’s digital disinformation campaigns on international audiences by assessing how they interact with this disinformation. She holds a BSc in Politics and Philosophy from the London School of Economics, as well as two MScs, in Contemporary Chinese Studies, and in the Social Science of the Internet, both from the University of Oxford. She has also studied Mandarin at Fudan University (Shanghai). She has previously testified in front of the European Parliament’s Special Committee on Foreign Interference in all Democratic Processes in the European Union, including Disinformation.


International Relations of China Seminar

To attend this talk (via Microsoft Teams), please register here

‘Killing Chickens, Scaring Monkeys: The Demonstration Effects of China’s Economic Coercion and their Limits’

Professor Chong Ja Ian, National University of Singapore

Study by Ja Ian Chong & Angela Poh

A common assertion is that Beijing undertakes deliberate, costly, and publicly visible efforts to punish actors that challenge or undermine its interests and policies with the intent of discouraging others from doing the same, to ‘kill chickens to scare monkeys’. Much of the scholarly and policy attention relating to this phenomenon focuses on the nature of PRC coercion. Less consideration is given to when, why and how much governments give in to PRC concerns preemptively when they see other states bearing costs imposed by Beijing for alleged infractions. This study (by Dr Chong and Dr Poh) seeks to develop an explanation for when and to what degree states engage in anticipatory accommodation — voluntary compliance with the expected preferences of a more powerful sanctioning state —when they observe the punishment of a third-party. We argue that states with recent experience of direct punishment from the sanctioning state learn to become more resistant to anticipatory accommodation, domestic lobbying for compliance notwithstanding.

Our study draws from and builds on existing literature on economic statecraft and sanctions to consider variation among two sets of paired comparisons — the United Kingdom and France after the PRC’s sanctioning of Norway for Liu Xiaobo’s Nobel Peace Prize and Taiwan and Malaysia following Beijing’s alleged rare earth ‘export freeze’ to Japan. Like Norway, the United Kingdom and France periodically cross swords with the PRC over human rights. Similar to Japan, Taiwan and Malaysia have ongoing territorial disputes with Beijing. Parallel differences enable us to isolate, compare and examine the effects of third-party punishment on policies toward the PRC. Even though we focus on state behaviour, the dynamics we identify may apply to non-state actors, such as corporations that observe peers being punished for ‘hurting China’s feelings’. Insights from our study may also apply to cases when actors observe the coercion of third parties by states other than the PRC.

Ja Ian Chong is Associate Professor of political science at the National University of Singapore. Dr Chong’s work crosses international relations and comparative politics, focusing on security issues and contentious politics relating to China and East Asia. His work appears in the China Quarterly, The European Journal of International Relations, International Security, and Security Studies. Dr Chong is author of External Intervention and the Politics of State Formation: China, Thailand, Indonesia – 1893-1952 (Cambridge, 2012), which received the 2013/4 Best Book Award from the International Security Studies Section of the International Studies Association.

Angela Poh is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. Her research interests include Chinese foreign policy, economic statecraft and East Asian security. She is the author of Sanctions with Chinese Characteristics: Rhetoric and Restraint in China’s Diplomacy (Amsterdam, 2021), and her articles have appeared in Asian SecurityThe Washington Quarterly and Asia Policy


International History of East Asia Seminar

‘Reinscribing Diplomatic Protocol: The Case of Chile During Korean Détente, 1970‒1973’

Eilin Rafael Perez, University of Chicago


Mandarin Forum

To register, please contact:

‘Consolation and Security in the Republic of China (1937–1945)’

Professor Yingchun JIANG, Wuhan Textile University

During the Resistance War against Japan, the KMT army suffered great casualties. In order to rescue the survivors and the disabled soldiers, the government amended the law and increased the pension. However, due to the large number of casualties and rapid inflation, many soldiers could not get proper protection. In this study, Profession Jiang explores how the nationalist government invented alternative methods to improve its wartime pension system.

Professor Yingchun JIANG, former Academic Visitor at the University of Oxford China Centre, teaches at Wuhan Textile University.  He received his PhD in Modern Chinese History from Wuhan University. He was also a visiting scholar at The Chinese University of Hong Kong; the Institute of Modern History, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences; and the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, Harvard University.  Professor Jiang’s research focuses on the history of social security and social history in modern China.

Mandarin presentation; English PPT; bilingual Q&A

Convenor: Dr Annie Hongping Nie


To attend this talk (via Microsoft Teams), please register here

Book Talk: How China Escaped Shock Therapy: The Market Reform Debate

Professor Isabella Weber, University of Massachusetts Amherst

China has become deeply integrated into the world economy. Yet, gradual marketization has facilitated the country’s rise without leading to its wholesale assimilation to global neoliberalism. This book uncovers the fierce contest about economic reforms that shaped China’s path. In the first post-Mao decade, China’s reformers were sharply divided. They agreed that China had to reform its economic system and move toward more marketization — but struggled over how to go about it. Should China destroy the core of the socialist system through shock therapy, or should it use the institutions of the planned economy as market creators? With hindsight, the historical record proves the high stakes behind the question: China embarked on an economic expansion commonly described as unprecedented in scope and pace, whereas Russia’s economy collapsed under shock therapy. Based on extensive research, including interviews with key Chinese and international participants and World Bank officials as well as insights gleaned from unpublished documents, the book charts the debate that ultimately enabled China to follow a path to gradual reindustrialization. Beyond shedding light on the crossroads of the 1980s, it reveals the intellectual foundations of state-market relations in reform-era China through a longue durée lens. Overall, the book delivers an original perspective on China’s economic model and its continuing contestations from within and from without.

Isabella M. Weber is an Assistant Professor of Economics and the Research Leader for China of the Asian Political Economy Program at the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Her first book, How China Escaped Shock Therapy: The Market Reform Debate (Routledge 2021), has been awarded the International Convention of Asia Scholars’ Ground-breaking Subject Matter Accolade. For her work on the rise of economics in China’s recent history, she has won the Warren Samuels Prize for Interdisciplinary Research in History of Economic Thought and Methodology. Previously she was a Lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London, and has been the principal investigator of the ESRC-funded Rebuilding Macroeconomics project What drives Specialization? A Century of Global Export Patterns. Dr Weber holds a PhD in Development Studies from the University of Cambridge and a PhD in Economics from the New School of Social Research, New York, and has studied at the Free University of Berlin, Peking University and Tsinghua University.


International History of East Asia Seminar

Click here to register

‘Debating Chinese Cruelty: Legal Orientalism, Summary Execution, and Extraterritoriality’

Yuan Tian, University of Chicago


International Relations of China Seminar

To attend this talk (via Microsoft Teams), please register here

‘International Law as Driver of Confrontation: UNCLOS and China’s Policy in the South China Sea’

Dr Andrew Chubb, Lancaster University

Theoretical debates over international legal regimes, such as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), have tended to revolve around the constraints international law may or may not place on confrontational state behaviour, leaving its constitutive aspects underexplored. This talk offers a counterintuitive explanation for why tensions in the South China Sea have risen, not declined, in the UNCLOS era. The new international regime reconstituted China and its neighbours’ interests in jurisdiction at sea to produce harder, yet also more ambiguous claim. Tracing four representative cases of China’s new and assertive patterns of behaviour in the South China Sea in 2007-2008, it shows that, intertwined with rising material capabilities and resource insecurity, the new challenges and opportunities presented by the implementation of the legal regime were crucial drivers of Beijing’s policy shift on its maritime periphery. Using PRC maritime law enforcement agency materials, internal government advisory papers, State Department cables, official statements and research interviews, the paper identifies three causal pathways linking the UNCLOS to China’s altered behaviour. International law not only constrains confrontational state actions, but can also authorise, enable, and catalyse them.

Andrew Chubb is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Politics, Philosophy and Religion at Lancaster University. His research examines the relationships between China’s domestic politics and international relations in East Asia.

Hilary Term 2021

The China Centre  events for the Hilary Term (Sunday 17 January-Saturday 13 March) will take place online. Details on how to join each event will be added to the website throughout the term.


‘Children in Skipped Generation Families in Rural China’ 

Rachel Murphy, University of Oxford

This seminar draws on a section of Rachel Murphy’s book, The Children of China’s Great Migration, Cambridge University Press (2020). It explores children’s navigation of their relationship with significant adults in skipped generation families, which is families where both parents worked away in the cities while the children stayed in the countryside in the care of (paternal) grandparents. The analysis adapts Ester Goh’s (2011) concept of ‘intergenerational parenting coalitions’ in seeing the migrant parents and the grandparent caregivers as forming ‘multi-local intergenerational parenting coalitions’. The talk explores heterogeneity in children’s experiences of growing up in these skipped generation families. Children in cohesive intergenerational families usually received much material and emotional support. But if the middle generation and the elder generation were in conflict or the migrant parents remitted little the children could lack nurturing. Children’s closeness to their grandparents vis-à-vis their migrant parents also varied, influenced by who they had spent most time with. Nevertheless, all children in skipped generation families enjoyed closer relationships with their migrant parents if the two sides interacted regularly. Visits to the city during the school holidays also offered many of these children opportunities to interact  with their migrant parents. But their experiences of these visits was influenced by the urban lot of their migrant parents.

Rachel Murphy is Professor of Chinese Development and Society and a Fellow of St Antony’s College, University of Oxford. Professor Murphy’s research sits at the intersection of area and development studies, sociology, anthropological demography, and social policy. She examines social changes occurring in China because of industrialization, urbanization, demographic transition, migration, marketization, education and state policies. Professor Murphy served as Head of the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies (OSGA) for nearly four years from 2015-18 and as Director of the Asian Studies Centre at St Antony’s College, 2009-12. She has served two terms on the executive committee of the China Quarterly editorial board, and is President of the British Association for Chinese Studies.


International History of East Asia Seminar

‘Atlas in Motion: Visualising Manchuria in Moving Images’

Yufei Li, University of Cambridge


Mandarin Forum

‘China’s Tungsten Sand Trade and the Victory of World War II’

CHEN Qianping, Nanjing University

Tungsten, an important raw material in the production of alloy steel, became the most important alloy material for arms manufacture after World War I. During China’s Resistance War against Japan, countries such as Germany, the Soviet Union and the United States, who supported China’s resistance effort, demanded China to use tungsten sand as the main item for debt repayment. As the war became full-scale, China suspended its tungsten sand export to Germany while continuing its export to the Soviet Union and the United States.  This study explores how China’s tungsten sand trade supported its fourteen-year war against Japanese militaristic aggression. It argues that tungsten sand trade played an important role in the Allies’ victory over the Axis powers and China’s victory over Japan.

CHEN Qianping, Former Dean of the School of History, Nanjing University, is currently a Honorary Professor at the School of History, Nanjing University, where he also serves as Chairman of the Academic Committee of the Research Center for the History of the Republic of China. Professor Chen received his PhD in History from Nanjing University and has published many books and articles in the field of the history of the Republic of China. 

Mandarin presentation; English PPT; bilingual Q&A


‘Poverty Alleviation in China: The Rise of State-sponsored Corporate Paternalism’

Camille Boullenois, Australian National University

Since taking office, president Xi Jinping’s government has granted massive funding to what has become China’s strongest poverty-reduction campaign ever. Based on the study of detailed budgets in eight rural counties, as well as ethnographic and interview data in a ninth county, Camille Boullenois explores how poverty alleviation programmes shape the distribution of power and resources in rural China. The data shows that poverty alleviation in rural China predominately focuses on infrastructure investment and support to the local economy, rather than on social insurance, education, and household subsidies. In addition, support to local companies entails co-opting established enterprises, rather than supporting new entrepreneurship among poor households. Overall, the Chinese approach to rural poverty alleviation highlights the emergence of a state-sponsored corporate paternalism that strengthens local hierarchies of wealth and power.

Camille Boullenois is a sociologist and China expert trained at Sciences Po, Oxford, and the Australian National University. She now works as a consultant at Sinolytics in Berlin.


Digital Tools for Sinology and Beyond

The TEXTCOURT project is launching a Talk Series on Digital Tools for Sinology and Beyond. The goal of this virtual talk series is to bring together various Sinologists and other digital researchers to consider how computational methods can be used to generate new research questions. This series is also meant to provide a platform for scholars across various fields to share their own experience, evaluate the effectiveness and limitations of digitally inflected work, as well as to brainstorm how digital tools may support future research.

We are pleased to have Yuan-Heng Mao, a PhD candidate at Harvard University, to be our first speaker to give a presentation entitled ‘Exploring Social Relations in History: A Case of Yuan Literati’.

You will receive a confirmation email containing the Microsoft Teams link to the talk after registration. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to email us at


International History of East Asia Seminar

‘Global Trade and Translingual Contact in Sinophone Asia: The English and Portuguese Languages in Chinese Everyday Life, 1800-1840’

Carl Kubler, University of Chicago


International Relations of China Seminar

‘Few Strings Attached: Why Countries Join the Belt and Road Initiative’
M. Taylor Fravel, MIT
Although the motives for China’s development of the Belt and Road Initiative have been well studied, scholars have yet to examine why states seek to join in the first place. This talk seeks to fill this gap by focusing on the memorandums of understanding (MOUs) that states sign with China to formally join BRI.  Based on our analysis of these MOUs, we argue that, overall, the costs for joining the BRI are low but the potential benefits are high.  Thus, most states should join the BRI unless they view the costs as higher or the benefits as lower. Specifically, we suggest that democracies and states with close security ties to the United States should be less likely to join because they view joining a Chinese-led initiative as more costly. Our statistical analysis using a new data set of BRI MOUs provides empirical support for this argument. 
M. Taylor Fravel is the Arthur and Ruth Sloan Professor of Political Science and Director of the Security Studies Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Taylor studies international relations, with a focus on international security, China, and East Asia. His books include, Strong Borders, Secure Nation: Cooperation and Conflict in China’s Territorial Disputes, (Princeton University Press, 2008) and Active Defense: China’s Military Strategy Since 1949 (Princeton University Press, 2019). His other publications have appeared in International SecurityForeign AffairsSecurity StudiesInternational Studies ReviewThe China QuarterlyThe Washington QuarterlyJournal of Strategic StudiesArmed Forces & SocietyCurrent HistoryAsian SurveyAsian SecurityChina Leadership Monitor, and Contemporary Southeast Asia. Taylor is a graduate of Middlebury College and Stanford University, where he received his PhD. He also has graduate degrees from the London School of Economics and Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. In 2016, he was named an Andrew Carnegie Fellow by the Carnegie Corporation. Taylor is a member of the board of directors of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations and serves as the Principal Investigator for the Maritime Awareness Project.


International History of East Asia Seminar

‘Legitimated Rule through Minority Liberation: China’s Incorporation of Muslim Minorities as Presented at Bandung’

Arianne Ekinci, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill


Mandarin Forum

‘Bureaucracy and Political Mobilisation in China’s State Governance’

Professor XU Xianglin, Peking University

This lecture explores the bureaucratic system and political mobilisation in China’s modern state governance. Focusing on the structure of state governance, this study analyses the operation of bureaucracy and political mobilisation at the level of local governments. It further discusses the important role the Party’s political movements play in the structure of the state power and the possible dilemma it may cause.

Professor XU Xianglin studied at Peking University and received his PhD from the University of California at Irvine. He is currently Boya Professor, Director of the Centre for Chinese Government and Governance, and Chair of the Academic Committee, the School of Government, Peking University. His research interests include comparative politics, Chinese government and politics, and public policy.

Mandarin presentation; English PPT; bilingual Q&A   



Book talk: China 1949: Year of Revolution

Graham Hutchings, University of Oxford

1949 was a critical year in the history of China, the growth of international communism and the evolution of the Cold War. It also split the Chinese nation, creating ‘two Chinas’ – and leaving a legacy with which Chinese leaders and people on both sides of the Taiwan Straits, as well as those in the US, Japan and other parts of Asia must contend with today.  But China’s year of revolution was about more than a shift in national and geopolitics. It affected millions of lives of Chinese people, whether they were ‘winners’ or ‘losers’, influential political or military leaders on either side or merely ordinary citizens. It was above all a human story, one of tragedy for some, of triumph for others. 

Graham Hutchings is an Associate at Oxford University’s China Centre and an Honorary Professor at the University of Nottingham’s School of Politics and International Relations. He was Managing Editor at Oxford Analytica and, prior to that, China Correspondent of London’s Daily Telegraph, based first in Beijing and then Hong Kong. He is the author of Modern China: A Companion to a Rising Power (Penguin 2000). In this talk, Graham Hutchings will explore something of the human drama at the heart of the 1949 story and show how the communist conquest of mainland China in that year provides a key to understanding the behaviour of the Chinese state under Xi Jinping, more than 70 years later. 


International History of East Asia Seminar

‘Treaty-making and Colonization in East Asia: Korea and Vietnam in the 19th Century’

Jeeye Song, University of Florida


International Relations of China Seminar

‘Leveraging Money and Politics: the Rise of China’s Sovereign “Leveraged” Funds and China’s Financial Statecraft’

Zongyuan Zoe Liu, Texas A&M University, The Bush School of Government and Public Service, Washington, DC

Both China and Japan are the world’s two largest foreign exchange reserves holders, but why has China used its foreign exchange reserves to establish not only one but several sovereign wealth funds, whereas Japan has refused to do so? Moreover, the world’s leading sovereign wealth funds are mostly established in commodity-exporting countries for stabilization or savings purposes, what does China, a major commodity importer, establish and use its sovereign wealth funds for? With the global expansion of China’s sovereign funds since the Global Financial Crisis, what are the implications for the role of the Chinese state in the global financial system? By systematically analysing the evolution of China’s sovereign funds complex, this talk answers these questions and illustrates how the Chinese state has leveraged both political and financial resources to establish a global network of Chinese sovereign ‘leveraged’ funds and advanced state-prioritized agenda at home and abroad. It discusses the economic and financial rational for China’s use of foreign exchange reserves to capitalize several state-owned investment funds owned by different government agencies. It also adopts ‘following the money’ approach and analyses the politics of these funds as Alexander Gerschenkron’s capital mobilizers in the international markets and agents of financial statecraft.

Dr Zongyuan Zoe Liu is an Instructional Assistant Professor at Texas A&M’s Bush School of Government and Public Service in Washington, DC. She received her PhD from the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Johns Hopkins University. Dr Liu also holds research positions at the Center for International Environment and Resource Policy at the Fletcher School Tufts University, SovereigNet at the Institute for Business in the Global Context at the Fletcher School, and the Edwin O. Reischauer Center for East Asian Studies. Her research interests include International Political Economy, Comparative Politics, and International Finance, with area expertise in East Asia.


International History of East Asia Seminar

‘The World of Science and the Chinese Reader: Negotiating Nation and Universe in Popular Science Publications, 1933-1945’

Noa Nahmias, York University


‘Jesuits, Women and the Domestic Christianity in Early Modern China’

Nadine Amsler, Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin

This talk will discuss the connections between Jesuits, women and domestic worship in seventeenth-century China. Women have long played a marginal role in narratives of the Jesuit China mission. Following Jesuit narratives, historians have focused their attention mainly on activities based in the semi-public spaces of Jesuit residencies and churches when investigating early modern Chinese Christianity. However, in order to gain insights into Christian women’s devotional lives in China, it is necessary to shift the attention to the spaces that Chinese Confucian thinking associated with the female gender: the household. The talk will start with a review of the Jesuits’ view of Chinese women. It will show how the missionaries’ accommodation strategy had important – and probably unintended – side-effects for their masculinity, and how this prompted them to adjust their behaviour towards women. It will then turn to the household as a devotional space and argue that it was an important site of female religiosity and worship. Finally, the talk will examine Christian women’s domestic religiosity. It will focus on one particular case, namely the home of the eminent Xu family of Shanghai, to show how genteel Christian women in Jiangnan organized their religious life in seventeenth-century China.

Nadine Amsler is currently a Fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. She is the author of Jesuits and Matriarchs: Domestic Worship in Early Modern China (University of Washington Press, 2018). Her research interests include gender history, court history and the history of Sino-western cultural relations in the early modern period.

(Image: Detail of an embroidered silk chasuble, showing the Madonna with child. Made in China in the mid-eighteenth century for a Dutch commissioner. © Museum Catharijneconvent, Utrecht.)


Mandarin Forum

‘The Trilogy of the Academic History of Islamic Studies in China’

Alimu Tuoheti, Tohoku University

The field of academic history of the study of Islam and Muslims in China consists of Anglo-American, that is, English literature; Japanese literature, European literature, mostly French, Russian, and German; and Chinese literature, divided by geographical and linguistic boundaries, in which Professor Alimu Tuoheti has published his works in English, Chinese and Japanese.  In this talk, Tuoheti explores the development of academic history of Chinese Islamic studies, which has gone through a bumpy and tortuous historical process. Each stage has its own unique characteristics in terms of social ideological background, ways of representation and research findings. This talk sheds light on the understanding of the development process of academic research and the characteristics of various periods of the field of academic history of the study of Islam and Muslims in China. It also provides some reference for the history of the development of Sino-foreign relations, the history of cultural exchanges, and other related topics.

Alimu Tuoheti, a Uygur scholar, is a Visiting Academic at the University of Oxford.  He received his PhD jointly from Tohoku University and Peking University. He was a postdoctoral Fellow at Tohoku University, Peking University, and the Japan Academic Revitalization Association (JSPS). He is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Human Social Studies/Asia-Africa Research eOffice of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Sciences, Tohoku University. His research interests include Chinese philosophy, Japanese ideological history, Islamic religious philosophy, religion, regional studies, and comparative culture.

Mandarin presentation; English PPT; bilingual Q&A  


International History of East Asia Seminar

‘The Legal Life of Women in Shanghai’s Concessions (1845-1943)’

Lu Yu, Zhejiang University


‘The Politics of Transnational Aesthetics: Contemporary Chinese Art and Design in Global Contexts’

Jenny Lin, University of Southern California

This talk presents research from Jenny Lin’s recently published book, Above Sea: Contemporary Art, Urban Culture, and the Fashioning of Global Shanghai, which explores contemporary art, architecture, fashion and film created in and about Shanghai, long known as mainland China’s most cosmopolitan metropolis. Lin examines key projects, such as installations by artists Cai Guo-Qiang and Liu Jianhua, which engage, construct and/or critique Shanghai’s mythical ‘East-meets-West’ status and re-emerging position as an international financial and cultural capital. Lin’s analyses, informed by years of in-situ research, move beyond the hype surrounding contemporary Chinese art’s global turn to reveal historically rooted, site-specific creative pressures and international conflicts haunting Shanghai’s shifting cultural landscapes. Drawing from Lin’s curatorial projects ‘Picturing Global China’ and ‘Another Beautiful Country’ and current research on contemporary Chinese-American-Western European art and fashion exchanges, the talk further traces the widespread problems, promises and geopolitical stakes of transnational aesthetics.

Jenny Lin is Associate Professor of Critical Studies in University of Southern California’s Roski School of Art and Design. Her research explores modern and contemporary art and design vis-à-vis urbanization, globalization and decolonization. Lin is author of Above Sea: Contemporary Art, Urban Culture, and the Fashioning of Global Shanghai (Manchester University Press, 2019). Her articles and essays have appeared in journals and magazines including Art Margins, Shanghai Culture, Frieze, Flash Art, ArtReview Asia, and anthologies such as Fandom as Methodology, Participatory Urbanisms, Cities of Light, Companion to Urban Imaginaries and Aesthetics of Gentrification. She is curator of ‘Picturing Global China’ and author of the exhibition’s award-winning catalogue. Lin is currently working on a new book and exhibition entitled ‘Another Beautiful Country: Moving Images by Chinese American Artists’.

(Image: Liu Jianhua, The Virtual Scene, 2005)


International Relations of China Seminar

Jessica Chen Weiss, Cornell University

‘A World Safe for Autocracy? The Domestic Politics of China’s Foreign Policy’

How does China’s domestic governance shape its foreign policy? What role do nationalism and ideology play in Beijing’s regional and global ambitions? The Chinese leadership has been at once a revisionist, defender, reformer, and free-rider in the international system — insisting rigidly on issues that are central to its domestic survival, while showing flexibility on issues that are more peripheral. To illuminate this variation and prospects for conflict and cooperation, Weiss will discuss her new book project, which theorizes and illustrates the domestic-international linkages in Beijing’s approach to issues ranging from sovereignty and homeland disputes to climate change and COVID-19.

Jessica Chen Weiss is an associate professor of Government at Cornell University, a political science editor at the Washington Post Monkey Cage blog, and a nonresident Senior Associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Weiss is the author of Powerful Patriots: Nationalist Protest in China’s Foreign Relations (Oxford University Press, 2014). Her research appears in International OrganizationChina Quarterly, International Studies Quarterly, Journal of Conflict ResolutionSecurity StudiesJournal of Contemporary China, and Review of International Political Economy, as well as in the New York Times, Foreign Affairs, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Quarterly.


‘How China Loses: The Pushback against Chinese Global Ambitions’

Luke Patey, Danish Institute for International Studies and University of Oxford

In How China Loses: The Pushback against Chinese Global Ambitions (Oxford University Press, 2021), Luke Patey argues that China’s predatory economic agenda, headstrong diplomacy, and military expansion undermine its ambitions to dominate the global economy and world affairs. He shows that countries around the world —rich and poor, big and small—are pushing back and recognizing that engaging China produces new strategic vulnerabilities to their independence and competitiveness.

How China Loses reframes the conversation by avoiding a fixation on US versus Chinese competition and by challenging the idea that the world is headed toward a West versus Asia divide. Instead, Patey takes readers to Africa, Latin America, East Asia and Europe and documents his encounters with activists, business managers, diplomats and thinkers to reveal the global challenges threatening to ground China’s rising power. Politicians and environmentalists are upending plans for roads and railways in Southeast Asia and Latin America; conflicts in Africa and South Asia threaten Chinese investments; European democracies are fighting back against political interference; and Japan, India and other Asian neighbours are resisting China’s hegemonic aims. As Patey shows, China faces significant hurdles to reaching its global aspirations and nations big and small will help shape the twenty-first century in pushing back against China’s overreach and domineering behaviour.

Luke Patey is a senior researcher at the Danish Institute for International Studies and Lead Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, University of Oxford. His articles have appeared in The New York Times, Financial Times, The GuardianThe HinduForeign Affairs and Foreign Policy. His last book was The New Kings of Crude: China, India, and the Global Struggle for Oil in Sudan and South Sudan.

WEDNESDAY 3 March, 1pm

International History of East Asia Seminar

‘Visible “Races”: Constructing Boundaries in Chinese Press Photographs (1907-1913)’

Giulia Pra Floriani, Heidelberg University


Digital Tools for Sinology and Beyond talk series

‘A Text-Mining Approach of Authorship Attribution through DocuSky Corpus Grams Tool’

Dr Chijui Hu 胡其瑞, National Changhua University of Education in Taiwan

For the second instalment of the Digital Tools for Sinology and Beyond talk series, the TEXTCOURT project is pleased to have Dr Chijui Hu share with us the application of the Corpus Grams Tool developed by DocuSky. In this talk, Dr Hu will introduce how humanities researchers use the Corpus Grams Tool to analyse and mine the texts. Using the N-Gram function in the DocuSky Collaboration Platform developed by the Research Center for Digital Humanities of National Taiwan University, one can determine the author (authorship attribution) and identify the crucial concepts of a given text. Through the demo of the Corpus Grams Tool developed by Dr Hsiehchang Tu, this talk will demonstrate how one can easily apply digital tools in their research without any prior knowledge of information science.

Dr Chijui Hu 胡其瑞 is Assistant Professor at the Graduate Institute of History, the National Changhua University of Education in Taiwan. He is also Adjunct Research Fellow at the Research Center for Digital Humanities, the National Taiwan University. In the last few years, Dr Hu has been the PM of DocuSky Collaboration Platform. He has participated in numerous workshops in multiple universities overseas promoting the application of DocuSky.

You will receive a confirmation email containing the MS Teams link to the talk after registration. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to email us at   


‘Matrix Barcodes, Swapped Faces and Thousand-mile Eyes: Machine Vision in Chinese Everyday Life’

Gabriele de Seta, University of Bergen

China’s pursuit of global leadership in the research and development of artificial intelligence (AI) has been extensively documented. AI is widely discussed in Chinese media, addressed by national policy documents, and implemented in growing numbers of digital platforms and consumer products. Driven by advancements in both optical devices and deep learning, machine vision is one of the main applications of AI, and a key component through which users interact with automated systems. In China, these systems include digital payments, epidemic control, interactive entertainment, industrial manufacturing and police surveillance. As a broad domain of computation bridging AI and optical media, machine vision is increasingly central in determining how states, platforms and users see each other across scales. Understanding how machine vision is used in everyday life ‒ from the few bits of information encoded in a barcode to large technological systems like biometric surveillance ‒ allows researchers to probe into new articulations of mediated agency and optical power. Drawing on preparatory research for an ethnographic study of these technologies, this talk will discuss the role of machine vision in Chinese everyday life through three cases studies: the success of QR codes and other data encoding patterns as infrastructural gateways; the popularization and regulation of deepfakes; and the controversies around the deployment of increasingly pervasive biometric identification systems.

Gabriele de Seta is a media anthropologist. He is currently a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Bergen, where he is part of the ERC-funded project ‘Machine Vision in Everyday Life: Playful Interactions with Visual Technologies in Digital Art, Games, Narratives and Social Media’. His research work, grounded on ethnographic engagement across multiple sites, focuses on digital media practices and vernacular creativity in China. He is also interested in experimental music, new media art, and collaborative intersections between anthropology and art practice. More information is available on his website:


Mandarin Forum

‘The Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence ‒ based on Chinese Practices’

Rui GUO, Renmin University of China

This talk addresses ethical issues of artificial intelligence (AI) in the context of regulatory and policy approaches, given the subject matter cannot be covered by any single discipline above.  Professor Guo argues that AI, compared to previous technologies, is unique in its deep involvement in human decision-making, either because of the nature of the technological application itself, or the special role that society assigns to it as it is applied. The talk surveys a set of ethical problems in seven case studies in China. It thus makes an original contribution to the field and offers fresh insights regarding how society should respond to the challenges posed by the new technological revolution.

Professor Rui GUO (S.J.D., Harvard Law School) is an Associate Professor at the Law School of Renmin University of China and the Director of the Center for Social Responsibility and Governance at the Institute of Law and Technology of Renmin University of China. He is the Lead Expert for the Research Group on Ethics of Artificial Intelligence of the Artificial Intelligence Working Group, Standardization Administration of the People’s Republic of China (SAC) and serves on the Sub-Committee of Artificial Intelligence and Sub-Committee of User Interface, China National Standardization Committee of Information Technology. Professor Guo participated in the drafting of China’s first AI Standardization White Paper (2018) and led the drafting of the AI Ethical Risk Research Report published by the Artificial Intelligence Working Group, SAC (2019). Professor Guo is also a Fellow of the Harvard Law School Disability Project.

Mandarin presentation; English PPT; bilingual Q&A   


‘America in Retreat: The Decline of US Leadership from WW2 to Covid-19’

Michael Pembroke

In the heady days after 1945, the authority of the United States was unrivalled and, with the founding of the UN, a new era of international co-operation seemed to have begun. But seventy-five years later, its influence has already diminished. The world has now entered a post-American era, argues Michael Pembroke (in America in Retreat: The Decline of US Leadership from WW2 to Covid-19, Oneworld, 2021), defined by a flourishing Asia and the ascendancy of China, as much as by the decline of the United States.

Michael Pembroke will discuss his book, which is a short history of that decline; how high standards and treasured principles were ignored; how idealism was replaced by hubris and moral compromise; and how adherence to the rule of law became selective. It is also a look into the future – a future dominated by greater Asia and China in particular. We are in the midst of the third great power shift in modern history – from Europe to America to Asia.

Covering wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, interventions in Iran, Guatemala and Chile, and a retreat from international engagement with the UN, WHO and, increasingly, trade agreements, Pembroke sketches the history of America’s retreat from universal principles to provide a clear-eyed analysis of the dangers of American exceptionalism.

Michael Pembroke was educated at the Universities of Sydney and Cambridge and was a Director’s Visitor in 2017 at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ. A former New South Wales Supreme Court judge (2010-20), he is the author of Korea: Where the American Century Began (2018).

WEDNESDAY 10 March, 1pm

Please register here for this talk (via Zoom)

International History of East Asia Seminar

‘A Journey to the other Pacific Shore: A Study on the Chinese-Ecuadorian “Mestizaje” Phenomenon, 1900-1930’

Luis-Felipe Borja, Maria Jose Borja, Christian David Mejia, MIT Sloan School of Management, Renmin University, Northwestern Polytechnical University


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‘Miracles and the Supernormal in Medieval China: A Discussion on Religious Objects in the Works of Daoxuan道宣596–667’

Nelson Landry, University of Oxford

The early spread of Buddhist teachings was promoted not only by the dissemination of its creed but also by the manifestation of miracles. These ‘miracles’ were the dazzling wonders produced by religious objects as well as highly attained Buddhist practitioners. In China, many embraced the wonder-working abilities of both Chinese monks and foreign missionaries. This was, in part, because the marvels associated to Buddhist practitioners and objects fell in line with indigenous understandings of the miraculous as attested to in the medical, philosophical, historiographical, and divinatory traditions of China. Miraculous occurrences and supernormal powers were, for missionaries on the ground as well as for individuals recording these events, used to prove the efficacy of the new Buddhist creed in China. These miracles were often recorded in collections of biographies, apologia, and miracle tales.

Daoxuan 道宣 (596–667 CE) was an influential religious and political figure in early Tang dynasty (618–907) Buddhism. He is best known for his exegetical work relating to the monastic codes. Daoxuan was, moreover, one of the great Buddhist historiographers of the sacred in China as he collected many tales relating to the miraculous. This lecture delves into Daoxuan’s collections of apologia and miracle tales with the intent of tracing an outline of the miraculous in the Chinese Buddhist context. Nelson Landry will be paying particular attention to Daoxuan’s mention of miraculous religious objects (i.e. relics, images, pagodas) in the Ji shenzhou sanbao gantong lu 集神州三寶感通錄.

Nelson Landry is a third-year DPhil candidate in Oriental Studies at the University of Oxford. His research interests include Chinese Buddhist literature and social history. Most of his work revolves around the Sui-Tang dynasty Monk, Daoxuan 道宣 (596–667), paying particular attention to his views relating to miraculous and supernormal phenomena as recorded in his own words in the Ji Shenzhou sanbao gantong lu 集神州三寶感通錄 (Collected Record of Miracles Relating to the Three Jewels in China).

(Image: Kang Senghui Dunhuang 323 from Mogaoshiku p. 68)

FRIDAY 12 March, 2pm

International Relations of China Seminar

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‘Protecting China’s Interests Overseas: Securitization and Foreign Policy’

Andrea Ghiselli, Fudan University

The securitization of non-traditional security issues is a scarcely discussed and, yet, extremely powerful force that shapes the evolution of Chinese foreign and security policy. The lecture will show how this tortuous process deeply shaped China’s approach to the protection of the life and assets of Chinese nationals overseas, an aspect of Chinese foreign policy that is already, and will become increasingly important over time. This became evident as, especially after the evacuation of 36000 Chinese nationals from Libya in 2011, Chinese institutions evolved and issued new regulations that are also aimed at supporting the possible use of the military overseas.

Andrea Ghiselli is an Assistant Professor in the School of International Relations and Public Affairs, Fudan University. He is also the Head of Research of the ChinaMed Project, a research project on China’s role in the wider Mediterranean region sponsored by the University of Torino’s TOChina Hub. Dr Ghiselli’s research interests include Chinese foreign policy, China-Middle East relations, and foreign policy analysis. Besides his book, Protecting China’s Interests Overseas: Securitization and Foreign Policy, published by Oxford University Press, his research on Chinese foreign policy has been published in peer-reviewed journals like the China Quarterly, the Journal of Strategic Studies, the Journal of Contemporary China, and Armed Forces & Society.

Michaelmas Term 2020

The China Centre  events for the Michaelmas Term (Sunday 11 October-Saturday 5 December) will take place online. Details on how to join each event will be added to the website throughout the term.


International History of East Asia (IHEA) seminars this term will take place via Zoom. Please consult IHEA on Twitter or Facebook for the links and for the times of the seminars, which may vary.

To attend this presentation, please register to receive the Zoom link by emailing

‘Voting with Your Hooves: Waves of Flight of Herdsmen from Hulun

Buir to the Mongolian People’s Republic, 1962-1964’

Anran Wang, Cornell University


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Joint Book Launch: Professor Rosemary Foot, China, the UN, and Human Protection: Beliefs, Power, Image and Professor Rana Mitter, China’s Good War: How World War II is Shaping a New Nationalism

China, the UN, and Human Protection: Over a relatively short period of time, Beijing moved from dismissing the UN to embracing it. How are we to make sense of the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) embrace of the UN, and what does its engagement mean in larger terms? This study traces questions such as these focusing directly on Beijing’s involvement in one of the most contentious areas of UN activity – human protection – contentious because the norm of human protection tips the balance away from the UN’s Westphalian state-based profile, towards the provision of greater protection for the security of individuals and their individual liberties. As an ever-more crucial actor within the United Nations, and one that is associated strongly with a state-based interpretation of sovereignty and security, Beijing’s rhetoric and some of its practices are playing an increasingly important role in determining how this norm of human protection is articulated, interpreted, and in some cases implemented. At stake in the questions this book tackles is both how we understand the PRC as a participant in shaping global order, and the future of some of the core norms that constitute global order.

Rosemary Foot FBA is an Emeritus Fellow of St Antony’s College. She is also a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Oxford’s Department of Politics and International Relations and a Research Associate at the Oxford China Centre. Previously Professor of International Relations and the Sir John Swire Senior Research Fellow in the International Relations of East Asia at St Antony’s College, she has been a Fellow of the College since 1990. During that time, she held the posts of Director of the Asian Studies Centre (1994-1997), Senior Tutor (2003-2005), and Acting Warden (January–October 2012). Rosemary Foot has also held several visiting appointments over the course of her academic career in Australia, China, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore and the United States.

China’s Good War: This year, on the 75th anniversary of World War II, China is celebrating that victory – a key foundation of China’s rising nationalism. For most of its history, the People’s Republic of China limited public discussion of the war against Japan. It was an experience of victimization – and one that saw Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai-shek fighting for the same goals. But now, as China grows more powerful, the meaning of the war is changing. One narrative positions Beijing as creator and protector of the international order that emerged from the war – an order, China argues, under threat today largely from the United States. Rana Mitter argues that China’s reassessment of the World War II years is central to its newfound confidence abroad and to mounting nationalism at home.

Rana Mitter OBE FBA is Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China at the University of Oxford. His book, China’s War with Japan, 1937-45: The Struggle for Survival (Penguin, 2013) was a Book of the Year for the Economist and Financial Times. His newest book is China’s Good War: How World War II is Shaping a New Nationalism.


International History of East Asia (IHEA) seminars this term will take place via Zoom. Please consult IHEA on Twitter or Facebook for the links and for the times of the seminars, which may vary.

To attend this presentation, please register to receive the Zoom link by emailing

‘Chinese Propaganda Policy and Wartime Publicity in Australia, 1937-1946’

Bolin Hu, University of Auckland


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 ‘Preferential Education Policies in Multi-ethnic China: National Rhetoric, Local Realities’

Questions of opportunity, autonomy, and fairness haunt majority-minority relations in China. The national system of minority college preparatory classes, along with point provisions, makes it possible for students with examination scores lower than the regular entrance requirements to gain admittance to university. These preferential education policy measures, which are meant to manage ethnic-based contradictions, evoke controversy on all sides: some see the measures as ‘reverse discrimination,’ while others see the measures as insufficient to problems of educational disparities between ethnic groups. Preferential Education Policies in Multi-ethnic China: National Rhetoric, Local Realities provides an ethnographic account of the cultural logic of and workings-out of policy in Qinghai province, one of China’s most ethnically diverse and impoverished regions — home to Chinese Muslims, Tibetans, Han, and Mongolians.

Naomi Yamada is an Assistant Professor in the Center for Education of Global Communication, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Tsukuba, Japan. She received her PhD in Anthropology from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. She has lived and worked in Xining (Qinghai province, PRC).


International History of East Asia (IHEA) seminars this term will take place via Zoom. Please consult IHEA on Twitter or Facebook for the links and for the times of the seminars, which may vary.

To attend this presentation, please register to receive the Zoom link by emailing

‘Hokkaido as “Eastern America”: Towards a Critique of Tanscolonialism’

Michael Roellinghoff, University of Tokyo


Book talk: Yan Lan, The House of Yan: A Family at the Heart of a Century of Chinese History

Author LAN YAN in conversation

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The history of the Yan family is inseparable from the history of China over the last century. One of the most influential businesswomen of China today, Lan Yan grew up in the company of the country’s powerful elite, including Zhou Enlai, Deng Xiaoping, and other top leaders. Her grandfather, Yan Baohang, originally a nationalist and close to Chiang Kai-shek and his wife, Soong May-ling, later joined the communists and worked as a secret agent for Zhou Enlai during World War II. Lan’s parents were diplomats, and her father, Yan Mingfu, was Mao’s personal Russian translator.

In spite of their elevated status, the Yan’s family life was turned upside down by the Cultural Revolution. One night in 1967, in front of a terrified ten-year-old Lan, Red Guards burst into the family home and arrested her grandfather. Days later, her father was arrested, accused of spying for the Soviet Union. Her mother, Wu Keliang, was branded a counter-revolutionary and forced to go with her daughter to a re-education camp for more than seven years, where Lan came of age as a high school student.

In recounting her family history, Lan Yan brings to life a century of Chinese history from the last emperor to present day, including the Cultural Revolution which tore her childhood apart. The little girl who was crushed by the Cultural Revolution has become one of the most active businesswomen in her country. In telling her and her family’s story, she serves up an intimate account of the history of contemporary China.

Copies of the book can be purchased from booksellers.


‘The Invisible City: A Global Microhistory of Europeans and their Social Networks in Eighteenth Century Beijing’

Professor Eugenio Menegon, Boston University

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The study of the Catholic mission in Beijing is an ideal arena to uncover the deep structures of Chinese-Western socio-cultural and economic relations in early modern times. This presentation focuses on the Qing imperial court, where missionaries worked as scientists and artisans, seen as an urban microcosm, a node in a vast planetary network, and the site of informal social networks. The missionaries nested within these networks to pursue their interests (primary for them, evangelization), and stubbornly resisted bureaucratic control and autocratic hegemony, using their professional skills and gift-giving to obtain patronage. The historical experience of these individuals behind the public façade of power humanizes and nuances the claims of grand political and economic narratives, from the ‘Great Divergence’ between China and the West, to Qing state building. Through this group, we can expand the analysis to a larger network of individuals and institutions (also using digital scholarship approaches), extending from the Qing court to the entire world.

Eugenio Menegon teaches Chinese and global history at Boston University (USA). His 2009 book Ancestors, Virgins, and Friars: Christianity as a Local Religion in Late Imperial China centred on the life of Catholic communities in Fujian province between 1630 and the present. His current project is an examination of the daily life and political networking of European residents at the Qing court in Beijing during the 17th-18th centuries.


International History of East Asia (IHEA) seminars this term will take place via Zoom. Please consult IHEA on Twitter or Facebook for the links and for the times of the seminars, which may vary.

To attend this presentation, please register to receive the Zoom link by emailing

‘Gender-Sound in Wonderland: Zhao Yuanren’s Nonsensical Pronouns, Literary Translation, and the Limits of the National Language Movement’

Coraline Jortay, University of Oxford


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 ‘Governing the Urban in China and India’

Professor Xuefei Ren, Michigan State University

Urbanization is rapidly overtaking China and India, the two most populous countries in the world. One-sixth of humanity now lives in either a Chinese or Indian city. This transformation has unleashed enormous pressures on land use, housing, and the environment. Despite the stakes, the workings of urban governance in China and India remain obscure and poorly understood.
In this talk, Xuefei Ren will present her new book Governing the Urban in China and India: Land Grabs, Slum Clearance, and the War on Air Pollution. The book explores how China and India govern their cities and how their different styles of governance produce inequality and exclusion.

Xuefei Ren is a comparative urbanist whose work focuses on urban development, governance, architecture, and the built environment in global perspective. She is the author of Building Globalization: Transnational Architecture Production in Urban China (University of Chicago Press, 2011), Urban China (Polity Press, 2013), and Governing the Urban in China and India: Land Grabs, Slum Clearance, and the War on Air Pollution (Princeton University Press, 2020). She is working on a number of comparative projects, on urban redevelopment (China, India, Brazil, and U.S), mega-events (Beijing, Tokyo, and Rio Olympics), and culture-led revitalization in post-industrial cities (Detroit, Harbin, and Turin). She is a recipient of a number of distinguished fellowships and grants, including from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Andrew Mellon Foundation, and American Council of Learned Societies. She received her PhD in sociology from University of Chicago. She is currently associate professor of sociology and global urban studies at Michigan State University.


International History of East Asia (IHEA) seminars this term will take place via Zoom. Please consult IHEA on Twitter or Facebook for the links and for the times of the seminars, which may vary.

To attend this presentation, please register to receive the Zoom link by emailing

‘Phantom Borneo: The Rise and Demise of the Kalimantan Utara Movement in Late-Colonial Sabah’

David R. Saunders, University of Hong Kong


‘The Invention of China’

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In his new book, Bill Hayton tells the story of the ‘hybrid construction’ of modern China in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He argues that many of contemporary China’s most pressing issues ‒ the situations in Tibet, Xinjiang and Hong Kong, and the possibility of conflict over Taiwan and the South China Sea ‒ can be traced back to the adoption and adaptation of Western ideas of race, nation, territory and language (among others) by Chinese reformers and revolutionaries living in exile. He shows how the choices made by a small group of activists in the heat of political struggle over a century ago still overshadow the politics of east Asia today.

Bill Hayton is the author of The Invention of China (Yale University Press). He is an Associate Fellow with the Asia-Pacific Programme at Chatham House, a journalist with BBC News in London, and a regular writer on Asian issues. He previously authored The South China Sea: The Struggle for Power in Asia (Yale, 2014) and Vietnam: Rising Dragon (Yale, 2010, second edition 2020). In 2006/7 he was the BBC’s reporter in Vietnam and in 2013/14 he was seconded to the Myanmar state broadcaster to work on media reform.


Time and History across China’s Northeastern Borders’

Dr Ed Pulford, University of Manchester

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Living on the seams of several distinct state socialist projects and their fragmented aftermaths, residents of northeast China have come to understand the idea of ‘progress’ in a variety of Chinese-, Soviet-, and Korean-inflected ways over recent decades. This borderland region therefore presents a compelling location from which to study how senses of linear temporal advancement may feed into local and national identities, and relationships among cross-border neighbours. Drawing on research for his current book project, as well as an earlier book Mirrorlands about life along the China-Russia border, Ed Pulford will explore in this seminar the diverse ways in which senses of time and history figure in relations among Chinese, Russian and Korean people here. While unfolding in a distinctive borderland locale, encounters among these groups, he suggests, invite us to look in new ways at how people’s historical and temporal orientations may also play a role in cross-cultural and international relationships more broadly.

Ed Pulford is an anthropologist with research interests in the past and present of socialism, transnational and cross-border connections across Asia, and northeast Asian indigenous peoples. He completed his PhD in Anthropology at the University of Cambridge in 2017, and before joining the University of Manchester in 2020 held postdoctoral research positions at Hokkaido University in Japan and the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. His first book Mirrorlands (Hurst, 2019) is an anthropological and historical account of life in the borderlands between China and Russia, narrated via a travelogue through the region. He is currently working on a book about how socialist projects in China, the Soviet Union and North Korea have shaped local people’s understandings of time and ‘progress’. He is also a regular host on the podcast New Books in East Asian Studies.


Mandarin Forum

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The Rise of Macao in the Ming Dynasty and the Global Silver Road

In the sixteenth century, economic globalization began at sea. Macao’s history has become an important part of economic globalization. The monetisation of silver in the Ming Dynasty and the germination of market economy made Macao the driving force and axis of the remarkable global economic system. Trade became the pivotal point of Macao’s rise. As Chinese goods such as silk and porcelain spread to the world, China actively participated in the initial construction of the global economic system.

Professor Ming Wan is Director of the Ming-Qing History Department, Institute of History, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.  She graduated from Beijing University and her research focuses on economic history and foreign relations in the Ming Dynasty. She has published many books and articles in this field.

Mandarin Presentation   English PPT   Bilingual Q&A

Convenor: Dr Annie Hongping Nie


International History of East Asia (IHEA) seminars this term will take place via Zoom. Please consult IHEA on Twitter or Facebook for the links and for the times of the seminars, which may vary.

To attend this presentation, please register to receive the Zoom link by emailing

‘Marriage of Convenience: Constructing a Japanese Model of Empire through Intermarriage, 1919-1937’

Genevieve Tan, University of Pennsylvania


‘Anxious China: Inner Revolution and Politics of Psychotherapy’

Li Zhang, University of California, Davis

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The breathless pace of China’s economic reform has brought about deep ruptures in socioeconomic structures and people’s inner landscape. Faced with increasing market-driven competition and profound social changes, more and more middle-class urbanites are turning to Western-style psychological counselling to grapple with their mental distress. This talk is an overview and open discussion of Zhang’s newly published book – an in-depth ethnographic account of how an unfolding ‘inner revolution’ is reconfiguring selfhood, psyche, family dynamics, sociality, and the mode of governing in post-socialist times. Zhang shows that anxiety – broadly construed in both medical and social terms – has become a powerful indicator for the general pulse of contemporary Chinese society. It is in this particular context that Zhang traces how a new psychotherapeutic culture takes root, thrives, and transforms itself across a wide-range of personal, social, and political domains.

Li Zhang (PhD Cornell 1998) is Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Davis. She is the author of two award-winning books: Strangers in the City (Stanford 2001) and In Search of Paradise (Cornell 2010), and a new book Anxious China: Inner Revolution and Politics of Psychotherapy (UC 2020). She is also a co-editor of Privatizing China, Socialism from Afar (Cornell 2008) and Can Science and Technology Save China? (Cornell 2020). Broadly speaking, her research concerns social, political, spatial and psychological repercussions of the market reform and socialist transformations in contemporary China. She was a 2008 John Simon Guggenheim Fellow and the President of the Society of East Asian Anthropology (2013-15). She also served as Interim Dean of the Division of Social Sciences (2015-17) and Chair of Anthropology Department (2011-15) at UC Davis.


International Relations of China Seminar Series

‘Riskier than you think: Crisis instability between the US and China in maritime Asia’

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The mainstream position is that a combination of technology and strategy is pushing us to a world where crises in maritime Asia will be more stable, taking the form of a defensive standoff.  We believe that view is overly optimistic, for it overlooks how operational culture, bureaucratic incentives, and the temptation to strike first are creating the circumstances for a perfect storm. In our talk, we will outline what the dangers are and why we need to pay more attention to them.

Jonathan D. Caverley is Professor of Strategy in the Strategic & Operational Research Department of the Naval War College’s Center for Naval Warfare Studies and a Research Scientist in Political Science and Security Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Dr. Peter Dombrowski is the William D. Ruger Chair of National Security Economics Strategic and Operational Research Department at the Naval War College.


International History of East Asia (IHEA) seminars this term will take place via Zoom. Please consult IHEA on Twitter or Facebook for the links and for the times of the seminars, which may vary.

To attend this presentation, please register to receive the Zoom link by emailing

‘Touring China’s Underground “Great Wall”: From the 1969 Sino-Soviet Border Clashes to Shelter Diplomacy’

Katrin Heilmann, King’s College London


Where Next For UK‒China Relations?

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After the Golden Age: Resetting UK‒China Engagement

This major report After the Golden Age calls for a fundamental reset in the UK’s relations with China, and sets out a conceptual framework for the British Government to develop a UK‒China Engagement Strategy.

Co-authored by Sophia Gaston, Director of the British Foreign Policy Centre, and Rana Mitter, Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China at Oxford University, the report explores the ways in which the UK state, businesses, education institutions and citizens will need to strengthen their resilience to China’s influence and potential incursions, while also setting out the productive forms of engagement that could continue to flourish between Britain and China in the future.

The report can be downloaded free here:

In this special event, the authors Sophia Gaston and Rana Mitter will be in conversation with Professor Todd Hall, Director of the University of Oxford China Centre.


Book talk: Professor Kishore Mahbubani, Has China Won? The Chinese Challenge to America’s Primacy

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The major geopolitical contest that will shake the world over the next few decades will be the US‒China contest. The lecture will discuss the deep structural forces driving this contest, the mistakes made by both sides and potential solutions. It will also discuss the implications and options for other regions and countries, including ASEAN and Singapore.

A veteran diplomat, student of philosophy, and author of eight books, Kishore Mahbubani is currently a Distinguished Fellow at the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore. Mahbubani is also a former President of the UN Security Council (Jan 2001, May 2002) and the Founding Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (2004‒2017).  Mahbubani writes and speaks prolifically on the rise of Asia, geopolitics and global governance. His eight books and articles in the New York Times, Washington Post, Financial Times and Foreign Affairs have earned him global recognition as ‘the muse of the Asian century’. He was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in October 2019. His latest book, Has China Won?, was released on 31 March 2020. More information can be found on


Tchang’s Secret Signature: Paranoia, Realism, and The Adventures of Tintin

Professor Andrew Jones, University of California, Berkeley

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This talk traces the artistic collaboration of Hergé, the Belgian comic book artist and author of The Adventures of Tintin, with the prominent Chinese painter and sculptor Zhang Chongren 張充仁. Tchang (as he was known in French) is not only the central character in two of Hergé’s best loved albums, Le Lotus Bleu and Tintin au Tibet, but also the catalyst for Hergé’s own unlikely transformation from his origins as far-right Belgian Catholic royalist, colonial apologist, and crude caricaturist, to the avatar of a new realism in the realm of the comics, characterized by meticulous research, and the precise mimetic rendering of the many exotic locales in which the adventures of Tintin and his trusty terrier Milou unfold. Despite this transformation, Hergé was dogged in the postwar period by his collaboration with the Nazi occupiers during the war. Tchang, for his part, returned to China from his studies in Belgium in the 1930s, and went on to become a prominent practitioner of socialist realist art, only to be persecuted during the Cultural Revolution for his European sojourn and Catholic faith. The talk traces the dimensions of their enduring friendship and disparate historical fates through close readings of their work, arguing that ‘paranoia’ emerges as an underlying and common mode for perceiving and narrating history and the world in both Hergé’s graphic art, and Tchang’s socialist realist idiom.

Andrew F. Jones teaches modern Chinese literature and media culture at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of a trio of books on modern Chinese music: Like a Knife: Ideology and Genre in Contemporary Chinese Popular Music (Cornell East Asia Series, 1992), Yellow Music: Media Culture and Colonial Modernity in the Chinese Jazz Age (Duke University Press, 2001), and most recently, Circuit Listening: Chinese Popular Music in the Global 1960s (University of Minnesota Press, 2020). He has translated work by Yu Hua, Eileen Chang, and other Chinese writers. He is also the author of Developmental Fairy Tales: Evolutionary Thinking and Modern Chinese Culture (Harvard University Press, 2011).


Mandarin Forum

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‘Send the Troops but Not to Fight: China’s Unrealized Military Plan during the Korean War’

While making the decision to send troops to Korea during the Korean War, Chinese top leaders established a military plan that was close to ‘sending troops but avoiding combats.’ The main content of the military plan was to station Chinese troops in the northern part of North Korea without engaging the enemies and only fighting the South Korean Army if necessary. The purpose was to create a situation beneficial to China’s national defence and to enable the survival of the North Korean regime. It failed to be implemented because the war situation on the Korean Peninsula developed so rapidly that Chinese troops had to fight the UN forces as soon as they crossed Yalu River. However, this strategic thinking profoundly influenced China’s key decisions throughout the war and was reflected in China’s understanding and definition of its strategic interest on the Korean peninsula at that time.

Professor NIU Jun, Associate Dean, Department of Diplomacy and Foreign Affairs Management, School of International Relations, Peking University, is also Secretary General of the Research Association for the History of China‒US Relations and Special Research Fellow at the Beijing Pacific Institute of International Strategy. He is currently teaching at the History Department, East China Normal University.

Mandarin presentation; English PPT; bilingual Q&A   

Convenor: Dr Annie Hongping Nie


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‘Forgotten Leader of a Forgotten Alliance: Abdūrresid Ibrahim and his Vision of Japan as the Leader of the Muslims’

Muhammed Cihad Kubat, Bilkent University and İnönü University


In conversation: Eyck Freymann and Rana Mitter on the Imperial Echoes of One Belt One Road

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In 1964, Mao Zedong wrote that history education should ‘make the past serve the present’ and ‘make the foreign serve China.’ Today, under President Xi Jinping, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is radically reassessing several important periods of Chinese history, the better to serve the country’s new ambitions on the world stage. Eyck Freymann’s new book, One Belt One Road: Chinese Power Meets the World (Harvard University Press 2020) investigates how CCP propaganda and history education curricula use historical analogies to explain Xi Jinping’s central foreign policy concept and legitimize his personal rule. In particular, they cast Xi as a second incarnation of the great emperor Han Wudi and his One Belt One Road scheme as a modern version of the imperial tributary system.  In this conversation event, Eyck speaks with historian Rana Mitter.

Eyck Freymann is a DPhil candidate in Area Studies at the University of Oxford and is the author of One Belt One Road: Chinese Power Meets the World (Harvard University Press 2020).

Rana Mitter  is Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China at the University of Oxford.


‘The Changing Face of Devotion: Images of Filial Piety Stories in Early Imperial China’

Professor Keith Knapp, The Citadel (Charleston, South Carolina)

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The past twenty years have witnessed the excavation, reinterpretation, or reemergence of many Northern Dynasties stone coffins and beds. Since these artifacts are often lavishly decorated and unique to the North, they reveal much about upper-class culture in Northern Dynasties (386‒589) China.  Filial piety stories are a common motif on the surfaces of these artifacts.  I contend that funerary equipment adorned with these tales are worthy of our attention for several reasons. 1) They indicate the importance of Confucianism to the Northern Wei’s Sino-steppe elite families, particularly after the capital’s transfer to Luoyang. 2) The accounts selected for inclusion shed much light on the aspects of filial piety that members of the Northern Dynasties elite found most appealing. 3) The stories chosen to adorn Northern Dynasties artifacts markedly differ from those that appear in the interiors of Eastern Han (25‒220) tombs. The Northern Dynasties illustrations emphasize filial piety’s supernatural power, the willingness to sacrifice oneself, and the importance of both parents, not just the father. In stark contrast, Eastern Han illustrations stressed tenderly and obediently caring for parents, especially the father. Thus, although Northern Dynasties burial furniture might be mute, it still has much to say.

Keith N. Knapp is a Professor of History at The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina.  His specialty is the history and culture of Early Medieval China (100‒750). He is the author of Selfless Offspring: Filial Children and Social Order in Medieval China (2005) and co-editor of The Cambridge History of China: Volume 2, The Six Dynasties, 220‒589 (2019).


International Relations of China Seminar Series

‘Calculating Bully – Explaining Chinese Coercion’

Since 1990, China has used coercion for territorial disputes, foreign arms sales to Taiwan, and foreign leaders’ meetings with the Dalai Lama, despite adverse implications for its international image. China is also curiously selective in the timing, target, and tools of coercion: most cases of Chinese coercion are not military coercion, nor does China coerce all states that pose the same threats to its national security. Prof. Zhang’s book manuscript, Calculating Bully – Explaining Chinese Coercion, examines when, why, and how China coerces states when faced with threats to its national security. It asks two central questions: when and why does China coerce, and – if coercion is chosen – what tools does China use? Contrary to conventional wisdom and in contrast with historical rising powers, Prof. Zhang’s book manuscript demonstrates that China is a cautious bully, does not coerce frequently, and uses military coercion less as it has become stronger, resorting mostly to non-militarized tools such as gray-zone coercion. Prof. Zhang identifies the centrality of the reputation for resolve and economic cost in driving whether states coerce or not. States coerce one target to deter others – ‘killing the chicken to scare the monkey,’ treating coercion as a signalling tool. At the same time, states are constrained by the imperative of developing the domestic economy and the potential of losing the target state’s markets and supply.

Ketian Vivian Zhang is an Assistant Professor of International Security in the Schar School of Policy and Government, George Mason University. Prof. Zhang studies rising powers, coercion, economic statecraft, and maritime disputes in international relations and social movements in comparative politics, with a regional focus on China and East Asia. Prof. Zhang bridges the study of international relations and comparative politics and has a broader theoretical interest in linking international security and international political economy. Prof. Zhang received her PhD in Political Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2018