Talks and lectures

Hilary Term 2022

The China Centre plans to host more events (online and in person) in the Hilary Term (Sunday 16 January to Saturday 12 March 2022). Please check this site closer to the start of the new term.


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’

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

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)

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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

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‘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


Please register here and you will receive details on how to join the event (via Microsoft Teams). Please direct your queries to:

‘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

To register for this event (via Microsoft Teams), please email

‘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

Please register here and you will receive details on how to join the event.

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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


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

‘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



Trinity Term 2020

Sunday 26 April – Saturday 20 June

Trinity Term: Sunday 26 April–Saturday 20 June 2020

Seminars this term will be conducted online (through Zoom). For more information on attending the IHEA seminars, please check Facebook and Twitter @OxIHEAS. For the China Centre Thursday seminars, please check back here for more details in due course.


To register for this event, please contact

Papers relating to this talk may be requested in advance by contacting

‘Visualizing China, Visualizing International Politics’

Visual images are everywhere in international politics. But how are we to understand them? In Sensible Politics, William A. Callahan uses his expertise in social theory, China studies, and filmmaking to explore not only what visuals mean, but also how visuals can viscerally move and connect us in ‘affective communities of sense’. While it is common to use ‘Western’ theory to analyse Asian case studies, the book challenges such Eurocentrism by employing Chinese concepts, practices, and experiences to understand international politics more generally. The seminar will give a general overview of Sensible Politics’s arguments, and give a more in-depth discussion of how Chapter 7, ‘Maps, Space, and Power’, analyses early-modern Chinese and Korean maps to explain the PRC’s current policy in the South China Sea.
William A. Callahan is professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science. His recent books include Sensible Politics: Visualizing International Relations (OUP, 2020), China Dreams: 20 Visions of the Future (OUP, 2015) and China: The Pessoptimist Nation (OUP: 2010). Callahan also makes documentary films: ‘Great Walls’ (28 min., 2020) asks why we hate Trump’s wall and love the Great Wall of China, and ‘You can see China from here’ (14 min., 2020) reconsiders how borders work in the age of coronavirus.

MONDAY 11 MAY, 1pm

International History of East Asia Seminar

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

‘Colonial Contradictions: Wartime Refugees in Neutral Hong Kong and Macau, 1937-1945

Helena F. S. Lopes, University of Bristol

THURSDAY 14 MAY, 5-6.30pm

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‘The Belt Road and Beyond’

From 1998 to 2018, China thrice experienced major economic crises, which compelled the leadership to announce ambitious and ambiguous strategies like the Western Development Program and the Belt and Road Initiative. Implementation of the strategies, however, has been decentralized, followed commercial motivations, and enhanced China’s globalization and rapid growth. Formulating the process and politics of state-mobilized globalization, Min Ye explains the sources, implementation and effects of China’s BRI and other nationalist strategies in the last two decades. Finally, she offers different scenarios of the BRI after the coronavirus in China and the world.

Min Ye is Associate Professor of International Relations at the Pardee School of Global Studies, Boston University. Her research situates in the nexus between domestic and global politics and the intersection of economics and security, with a focus on China, India, and the regional relations. Her publications include The Belt, Road and Beyond: State-Mobilized Globalization in China 1998-2018 (Cambridge University Press, 2020), Diasporas and Foreign Direct Investment in China and India (Cambridge University Press, 2014), and The Making of Northeast Asia (with Kent Calder, Stanford University Press, 2010). Min Ye has received grants and fellowship in the U.S and Asia, including a Smith Richardson Foundation grant (2016-2018), East Asia Peace, Prosperity, and Governance Fellowship (2013), Princeton-Harvard China and the World Program post-doctoral fellowship (2009-2010), and Millennium Education Scholarship in Japan (2006). In 2014-2016, the National Committee on the U.S.-China Relations selects Min Ye as a Public Intellectual Program fellow.

MONDAY 18 MAY, 1pm

International History of East Asia Seminar

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‘The Morals of Modernity: Travelling Yinshu (Obscene Books) between Shanghai and Colonial Singapore, 1920s‒1930s

Yushu Geng, University of Cambridge

MONDAY 25 MAY, 1pm

International History of East Asia Seminar

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 ‘In between the “Continents”: Japanese Tango Musicians in China, 1920s‒1940s’

Yuiko Asaba, Osaka University/University of Huddersfield


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‘The Wholeness of Early Chinese Texts, from Shangshu to Huainanzi’

What does it mean for a text to be a whole? How do texts achieve wholeness? How can one determine when they do so? Questions of wholeness have been at the heart of Chinese text studies since the former Han, when scholars attempted some of the earliest known reconstructions (and constructions) of pre-imperial texts. In the two millennia since, almost all studied early Chinese texts have been evaluated in terms of their wholeness. In much of this scholarship, wholeness refers to the extent of a text’s resemblance to an hypothesised earlier or ‘original’ form(s). However, in recent decades, scholars have explored new and alternative approaches to the early corpus, such as structural analysis. In doing so, they have laid the groundwork for new paradigms of text wholeness, uncoupled from the notion of the ‘original’ text.

Corina Smith’s recent doctoral thesis builds on this research by presenting a new understanding of how early Chinese texts can achieve wholeness. Referring to key ideas in hermeneutic philosophy, she suggests that ‘wholeness’ can refer not only to an intrinsic function of texts, but also to a function of (and in) the interpretive process. Through the open, kaleidoscopic experience of reading and analysis, texts are ‘made whole’; moreover, it is through this very process that standards of ‘wholeness’ are contingently defined. Corina Smith explores this idea through readings of three different early texts – Mu Shi, Huainanzi, and Wu Cheng – where she shows that these generate different kinds of wholes – narrative, structural, and geometric – using the same parts or ‘intertextual units’. She concludes with reflections on the extent to which this notion of wholeness aligns with, or is anticipated in, earlier scholarship, including that which seeks to reconstruct ‘original’ texts. This talk will form an introduction to the thesis.

Corina Smith has just completed a doctorate in Oriental Studies at the University of Oxford, where she was affiliated with Pembroke College. Her research puts into conversation early Chinese text studies and literary theory. She is interested in how texts work and how they can be read, as well as what early China and contemporary theory have to say to one another on the matter. She is currently working in the education sector.


International History of East Asia Seminar

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 ‘Imperium inter Imperia: The Catholic Church in Modern Chinese and Global History’

Steven Pieragastini, Loyola Marymount University

WEDNESDAY 3 JUNE, 10.30am-12pm

Legal Transplant and Undue Influence:
Lost in Translation or a Working Misunderstanding

Please contact Dr Mimi Zou for registration details at

The life of legal transplants is contingent on a wide range of variables triggered by the particular transplant; the result can occupy any point along the spectrum from faithful replication to outright rejection. Professor Chen-Wishart presents a case study of the transplant of the English doctrine of undue influence from a Judaeo-Christian society into Singapore, a multi-cultural society with a strong Confucian centre of gravity. She asks why the Singaporean courts have applied the doctrine in family guarantee cases to such divergent effect, when they profess to apply the same law. The answer owes less to grand theories than to a careful examination of the nature of the transplanted law and the relationship between the formal and informal legal orders of the originating and the recipient society raised by the particular transplant.

Prof. Mindy Chen-Wishart
Professor of the Law of Contract & Tutorial Fellow in Law, Merton College , Incoming Dean, Oxford Law Faculty
Oxford Law Faculty’s Chinese Law Discussion Group is generously supported by Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom

THURSDAY 4 JUNE, 5-6.30pm

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‘China’s Citizenship Challenge: Labour NGOs and the Struggle for Migrant Workers’ Rights’

In 21st-century China there are hundreds of millions of rural migrants who are living temporarily in the cities, suspended between urban and rural China. They are the unsung heroes of the country’s ‘economic miracle’, yet are regarded as second-class citizens in cultural, social, and legal senses. This presentation tells a story of how civic organisations set up by some of these rural migrants challenge this citizenship marginalisation. The presentation uses excerpts from a forthcoming book under the same title, based on ethnographic research conducted in three locations in China (Zhejiang, Guangdong, and Beijing) in the years 2011-2016. The book presents ethnographic detail of how the NGOs’ activism across three areas of engagement – civic organising, labour and space – reconstitutes migrant workers as ‘equal and rightful Chinese citizens’ by transforming their social and political participation, broadening workers’ access to labour and other rights, and changing their relationship to the city. While this citizenship transformation has been largely curtailed under Xi Jinping’s administration, who saw it as a political threat, the author presents evidence as to how the NGOs’ activism is not centred on contesting the political regime, but rather on addressing social injustice entrenched in the structural formulation of citizenship in China. As such, these NGOs are key actors stabilising social relations in urban China, which makes the state response appear misplaced and contradictory to the long-term goal of maintaining ‘social stability’. (Credit for photo above: AP Images.)

Małgorzata Jakimów is an assistant professor in East Asian Politics at the School of Government and International Affairs, Durham University. She joined the SGIA department in 2018 after holding a lecturer post at the University of Sheffield’s School of East Asian Studies. Her research focuses on the question of citizenship and civil society in China, critical citizenship theory, transnational civil society, political economy of labour in China, and the normative element of EU-China relations, with special interest in the role of  the Belt and Road Initiative in normative transformations in Europe. She has published several book chapters and articles in journals such as Citizenship Studies, Journal of Contemporary China, Europe Asia Journal, and Positions: asia critique. Her monograph, China’s Citizenship Challenge: Labour NGOs and the Struggle for Migrant Workers’ Rights, is forthcoming with Manchester University Press in 2021.


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‘Visuals and Vigils: The Tank Man Image and the Politics of Memory, 1989‒2019′

In the spring of 1989, events in China gripped the attention of the world in part because of a few powerful images, including one of crowds gathering in Tiananmen Square near a Goddess of Democracy statue built by protesters and one of a lone man standing in front of a tank. During the decades that followed, the image of the Goddess would largely fade in the West while that of the Tank Man took on an extraordinary role as a symbol of repression and courage. With dramatic developments in Beijing this May, which have profound implications for Hong Kong’s future, June 5, the 31st anniversary of the Tank Man photograph, provides a timely moment to ponder the power of photographs and the complex connections and contrasts between the protest surges of 1989 and 2019.

This event is designed to do that via a joint book launch for local literary and visual studies scholar Margaret Hillenbrand’s Negative Exposures: Knowing What Not to Know in Contemporary China and California-based historian and specialist in social movements Jeffrey Wasserstrom’s Vigil: Hong Kong on the Brink. Moderated by China Centre director Rana Mitter, it will begin with short presentations of the two books, focusing on issues of symbolism and imagery of protest and repression, and then move into a conversational mode.

In Negative Exposures: Knowing What Not to Know in Contemporary China, Margaret Hillenbrand investigates the erasure of key aspects of such momentous events as the Nanjing Massacre, the Cultural Revolution, and the Tiananmen Square protests from the Chinese historical consciousness, not due to amnesia or censorship but through the operations of public secrecy. Hillenbrand shows how secrecy works as a powerful structuring force in Chinese society and explores aesthetic artefacts that serve as modes of reckoning against those things that hide in plain sight.

In Vigil: Hong Kong on the Brink, Jeffrey Wasserstrom draws on his many visits to the city, and knowledge of the history of repression and resistance, to help us understand the deep roots and the broad significance of the events we see unfolding day by day in Hong Kong. The result is a riveting tale of tragedy but also heroism ‒ one of the great David-versus-Goliath battles of our time, pitting determined street protesters against the intransigence of Xi Jinping, the most ambitious leader of China since the days of Mao.

Margaret Hillenbrand is Associate Professor of Modern Chinese Literature and Culture,and Fellow of Wadham College, University of Oxford.

Jeffrey Wasserstrom is Chancellor’s Professor of History at the University of California, Irvine.


International History of East Asia Seminar

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‘“With a mill-stone about her neck”: China’s Participation in the 1924-1925 Geneva Opium Conferences and its Impacts’

Yun Huang, University of Strathclyde

THURSDAY 11 JUNE, 5-6.30pm

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‘Revolutionary Toponymy: Renaming Roads in Socialist Shanghai, 1949-1976’

By reconceptualising road renaming as ‘revolutionary toponymy’, this talk explores the broader relationship between ideology and urban administration in socialist China. The Maoist era witnessed successive rounds of road renaming as part of wider efforts to forge a ‘New Shanghai’, free of the ‘reactionary’ legacies of the city’s semi-colonial past. Crucially, however, the complexity of the urban environment posed real challenges to the new regime, and policy towards road renaming was characterised above all else by a desire to avoid disorder. This was complimented by a modernist desire to rationalise and impose order on the urban environment. Moreover, attitudes towards renaming were not consistent, but fluctuated according to broader political trends. Focusing on the limits of change under ‘revolutionary toponymy’ allows us to appreciate the many ways in which quotidian life in Shanghai in the Maoist era continued to be shaped by the legacies of the city’s past.

Jon Howlett has been a Lecturer in Modern Chinese History at the University of York since 2012. Before that, he studied for his PhD at Bristol University and graduated from Oxford in 2008 with an MA in Chinese Studies. His current research projects include: a monograph on decolonisation and the making of socialist Shanghai after the revolution of 1949; a reappraisal of the concept of New Democracy through the case study of the PRC’s first English-language daily newspaper The Shanghai News (1950-52); and the subject of today’s talk, a survey of the spatial dimension of revolution, undertaken through a study of the policies and processes that drove the renaming of roads in Maoist-era Shanghai (1949-1976).

FRIDAY 12 JUNE, 10.30am-12pm

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‘Re-thinking Sino-Japanese Alienation: History Problems and Historical Opportunities’

Bitterly contested memories of war, colonisation and empire between China and Japan increasingly threaten East Asian order and security. In their new book, Buzan and Goh develop two new approaches to deal with this history problem. First, they construct a more balanced and global view of Northeast Asia’s history since 1840, exposing the bigger shared history between Japan and China. Second, arguing that regional order ultimately depends on the China-Japan relationship, they explore recent and historical Sino-Japanese strategic bargains, and explore the parameters of a new contemporary great power bargain between them in four future scenarios. Goh and Buzan show how identity conflicts impede knowledge accumulation and policy imagination; and how scholarly analysis might help shape IR practice.


Barry Buzan, Emeritus Professor of International Relations, LSE

Evelyn Goh, Shedden Professor of Strategic Policy Studies, The Australian National University



International History of East Asia Seminar

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‘A “Bridge” from China to the Eastern Malay Archipelago: Sojourners and Smugglers in Early Twentieth-Century Sandakan, North Borneo

Michael Yeo, University of Oxford/Nanyang Technological University, Singapore


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‘Can the Sinophone be Chinese Nationalist? Celebrating Yellowness in the Gangtai (Hong Kong-Taiwan) Pop Music Scene’

The concept of the Sinophone as proposed by the comparative literature scholar Shu-mei Shih has been debated in the field of Chinese literary and cultural studies. Defined as ‘margins of China and Chineseness’, it has largely been adopted in academic discussions on a select range of literary and filmic classics from contemporary Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Malaysia. On the one hand, whether mainland China shall be included has been widely debated by many scholars, with some scholars cautioning that such a priori exclusions may develop into a new form of Sinophobia or Yellow Peril; on the other hand, much of the discussion is still confined to a somewhat elitist obsession with modernist texts and hardly extends to more popular realms of cultural production such as Chinese-language pop music.

In this talk, Flair Donglai Shi will discuss a range of celebrity cultural works from contemporary Hong Kong and Taiwan that display strong Chinese nationalism via the trope of the Yellow Race. Situated in his larger project on the yellow peril, he argues that just as the yellow peril discourse appears trans-historically, transnationally, and is yet always situated within their specific performative agendas and demands, so does the Sinophone, either as a mass noun denoting specific groups of people or as an adjective describing Sinitic-language cultural production in the broadest sense. Using Nicholas Tse (謝霆鋒) and Jeremy Chang (張洪量) as the most prominent examples, Flair Donglai Shi points out that since popular culture products rely on these celebrities’ non-mainland background for their marketability in mainland China and the wider Chinese-speaking world, they seem to belong to ‘Sinophone as history’ but totally lack ‘Sinophone value’ and thus further trouble Shu-mei Shih’s neat division between a hegemonic China/Chineseness and the resistant Sinophone. As it turns out, it has never been easy to separate Chineseness and the Sinophone in actual cultural production and circulation. Connecting this yellow nationalism to his previous work on the locust image in Hong Kong, Flair Donglai Shi proposes the term ‘Sinophone troubles’ to describe such works that trouble Shih’s paradigm by deliberately not troubling Chinese nationalism.

Flair Donglai Shi (施東來) is a final year PhD student at the University of Oxford and has been working at Warwick University as Associate Tutor in Translation and Cultures (2018-2020). Based in the English Faculty, his thesis at Oxford (2016-2020) is entitled ‘The Yellow Peril Discourse in Anglophone and Sinophone Literatures and Cultures, 1895 to the Present: Mutations, Reactions, and Reincarnations’, which investigates the racist concept of ‘the Yellow Peril’ as a travelling discourse in contexts as diverse as early 20th-century England, Apartheid South Africa, post-Mao China and post-handover Hong Kong. His articles on postcolonial feminism, Chinese literature, and world literature have been published in many academic journals, including Comparative Critical Studies, Women: A Cultural Review, Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, Reviews, and Comparative Literature & World Literature. He has recently finished working on an edited volume in Ibidem’s World Literature Series entitled World Literature in Motion: Institution, Recognition, Location, which is to be published and distributed by Ibidem in Europe and Columbia University Press in the US in 2020. Other research interests include Alice in Wonderland and China, theories of World Literature, modern Chinese and Taiwanese literature in translation, as well as China-Africa relations in the cultural domain.


International History of East Asia Seminar

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‘Nishihara Kamezō and the Origins of Developmentalist East Asia: State Socialism, WWI, and the East Asian Economic League

Ernest Leung, Chinese University of Hong Kong


Hilary Term 2020

THURSDAY 23 JANUARY, 5pm, Kin-ku Cheng Lecture Theatre

‘The Stuff of International Relations, and Why It Matters: Things, People, and the China Pavilion at the Leipzig Fairs’

Between 1951 and 1965, the People’s Republic of China regularly exhibited at the international trade fairs in the East German city of Leipzig. One of the major attractions of the fairs, China’s grand pavilion was second in size only to the pavilion of the Soviet Union. This talk examines the planning and execution of China’s exhibitions, illustrating how the young Communist regime displayed its goods and political system abroad and how citizens of other socialist and capitalist countries experienced China through objects, materials, images, and narratives. Because the People’s Republic of China was a new revolutionary state of enormous political and economic significance and yet also a state that other socialist regimes deemed too poorly developed to transit to socialism, these exhibitions were the site of constant negotiations and tension between Chinese and East German organizers and other local decision-makers and participants. Communist China’s engagement with the fairs thus sheds fresh light on China’s international activities after 1949 and on the local history of the Sino-Soviet split. It is, moreover, a reminder of just how significant materiality was to China’s connections with the wider world; from grand gifts and major export goods to more obscure quotidian objects and things that, albeit often overlooked, substantially shaped Sino-foreign interactions, collaborations, misunderstandings, and disagreements.

Jennifer Altehenger is Associate Professor of Chinese History at the University of Oxford and Jessica Rawson Fellow in Modern Asian History at Merton College. Her research focuses on the history of modern and contemporary China, in particular the history of materials and industrial design in Chinese politics and everyday life, the history of law, propaganda and information under Communist Party governance, and the history of political language and cultural production. She is interested in local and national perspectives, and tries to situate China within broader international and transnational contexts.

MONDAY 27 JANUARY, 5-6.30pm, Lucina Ho Seminar Room

International History of East Asia Seminar: ‘Politics in Motion: Transnational Dance in the Asia-Pacific’  

Alice Baldock, University of Oxford: ‘Moving Bodies: Post-War Dance, Women, and Protest in Japan’

Ellan Lincoln-Hyde, SOAS, University of London: ‘How the National Ballet of China’s 2017 Tour of Australia Forged an Interracial Far Right Alliance’

WEDNESDAY 29 JANUARY, 5pm, Ho Tim Seminar Room

Launch of AHRC-funded website ‘The Mao Era in Objects’

Everyone is warmly invited to join the launch of the AHRC-funded website ‘The Mao Era in Objects’!

About the website:

Designed by King’s Digital Lab and edited by Jennifer Altehenger (University of Oxford), the website features more than twenty interactive biographies of famous and more obscure objects of China’s Mao Era (1949–1976). Object biographies, each written by an expert on the subject, include essays that introduce and contextualize the object’s history, and show how it shaped politics, culture, economy, society and everyday day life during this tumultuous time. Essays are accompanied by several historical primary sources, including photos, propaganda posters, translated newspaper articles, brief memoirs, videos, and so on, many of which are available for download. The website also has additional features, such as an interactive timeline and map, an essay on the concept of ‘the object’ in Chinese history, a guide for using the website as a teaching resource, and a list of further readings. The website is aimed at educators, students, pupils, and anyone interested in modern and contemporary China’s history. It will become open access at the end of January, following the launch at the China Center, and will be accessible here:

THURSDAY 30 JANUARY, 5-6.30pm, Kin-ku Cheng Lecture Theatre

‘Securing China’s Northwest Frontier: Identity and Insecurity in Xinjiang’

China’s ‘Great Revival’ tells a story of the Chinese people uniting and rising to reverse ‘national humiliation’ by the West and return to their pre-modern, rightful place at the centre of world affairs. However, since outbreaks of ethnically targeted violence in Tibet and Xinjiang (2008-2009), the party-state has described the creation of a shared national identity based on Han culture and ‘ethnic unity’ as a ‘zero-sum political struggle of life or death’ and a prerequisite to China’s rise. Towards dreams of unity and revival, China has operated mass extra-judicial internment camps since 2017 as ‘Education and Transformation Centres’ in Xinjiang, interning approximately 10% of the adult Uyghur population. This talk analyses the social and political dynamics behind China’s ethnic minority policy shift towards ‘fusion’ that has culminated in both mass extra-judicial internment camps and the ‘One-Belt-One-Road’ foreign policy initiative. The talk draws from ethnographic fieldwork during the riots of 2009 and the latest official documents from the 19th Party Congress and Xinjiang Working Group meetings. It argues that the party-state exacerbates cycles of insecurity in the region by targeting Uyghur identity as a threat to China’s existence and provoking Uyghur resistance to official policy.

David Tobin is Hallsworth Research Fellow in the Political Economy of China at the University of Manchester. He is currently researching how postcolonial relations between China and the West shape foreign policymaking and ethnic politics in contemporary China. His forthcoming book with Cambridge University Press, Securing China’s Northwest Frontier: Identity and Insecurity in Xinjiang, analyses the relationship between identity and security in Chinese policy-making and ethnic relations between Han and Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

FRIDAY 31 JANUARY, 1-2pm, Lucina Ho Seminar Room

Mandarin Forum

‘Production and Consumption of Staple Food Crops in China, 1952–2010: A Comparison with Japan, the United States, and South Korea’

In China, agricultural labour productivity was low before the mid-1980s, a factor that contributed to rural poverty. Since the mid-1990s, however, the diet of the people of China has included a greater quantity of meat, eggs, and milk. At the same time, there has been a shortage of feed grain and the percentage of imported grain has begun to grow rapidly. If the proportion of imported grain continues to grow, the efficiency illusion that took place in Japan and South Korea will be repeated in China in the near future. Currently, China’s agriculture is faced with a series of imminent tasks that include promoting agricultural science and technology, accelerating the substitution of feed grains, and making sure that there will be no further loss of arable land.

Professor Guo, currently Visiting Academic at University of Oxford China Centre, is the Deputy Dean of the College of Social Development, Nanjing Normal University. He received his doctoral degree from Nanjing University and was a visiting scholar at Bristle University and University of Oxford in 2009 and 2013-2014 respectively. His research focuses on economic history in China and the West.

Mandarin presentation; English PPT; bilingual Q&A

MONDAY 3 FEBRUARY, 5-6.30pm, Kin-ku Cheng Lecture Theatre

Oxford University China Africa Network (OUCAN)

‘A Tale of Two Chinese Capitals and Two African Countries: Property Institutions, Politics, and Foreign Investments in Africa’

This event will explore what explains Chinese investment in Agriculture in African countries? The speaker uses Tanzania and Zambia as comparative case studies to investigate the determinants of (1) timing, (2) locations, and (3) forms of Chinese agricultural investments in these two countries. The majority of Chinese agricultural investments are conducted by private actors and are closely in line with their own commercial rationale. Secondly, African states have played an important role in defining Chinese investment patterns in their land. Chinese investors’ choices around the nature and locations of their agricultural investment projects are shaped by the national governing strategies of African countries, which vary both cross-nationally and across subnational political-economic contexts. The case studies are based on over 150 interviews that the researcher has collected during the eight months of fieldwork in Tanzania and Zambia.

Yuezhou Yang is a PhD candidate in the Department of International Development (ID) at the London School of Economics (LSE). She is specialized in comparative political science, the political economy of the sub-Saharan Africa, and land politics. Her PhD research project is entitled ‘Property Institutions, Politics, and Chinese Investment in Africa’. She holds an MS in Research from the Department of ID at the LSE, an MSc from University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in Bioenergy, and a BSc in Agronomy from China Agricultural University.

THURSDAY 6 FEBRUARY, 5-6.30pm, Kin-ku Cheng Lecture Theatre

‘Threatened by Peace: The PRC’s Peacefulness Rhetoric and the “China” Representation Question in the United Nations (1949–1971)’

In the 1950s/60s, the Republic of China on Taiwan (ROC) not only distrusted, but feared, the People’s Republic of China (PRC)’s assertion to be peace-loving. The reason was that the PRC used its peacefulness claim to negotiate whether the ROC or the PRC should represent ‘China’ in the United Nations, based on a specific definition of ‘peacefulness’ and on the socialist World Peace Movement as a platform of public diplomacy and international networking. This talk explains  the PRC’s peacefulness claim in the Cold War and rewrites the chronology of the PRC’s gradual entry into the United Nations.

Elisabeth Forster is a Lecturer in Modern China at the University of Southampton. She focuses on intellectual, diplomatic and social history, and especially the way they tie in with each other. Her current project explores concepts of peace in China from the 19th century to the present.

FRIDAY 7 FEBRUARY,  5-6.30pm, Kin-ku Cheng Lecture Theatre

‘Economic Shocks and Authoritarian Stability’

Economic Shocks and Authoritarian Stability is a new volume of edited essays that homes in on the economic challenges facing authoritarian regimes through a set of comparative case studies that include China and Taiwan. Through these comparative case studies, this volume provides readers with the analytical tools for assessing whether the current round of economic shocks will lead to political instability or even regime change among the world’s autocracies. This volume identifies the duration of economic shocks, the regime’s control over the financial system, and the strength of the ruling party as key variables to explain whether authoritarian regimes would maintain the status quo, adjust their support coalitions, or fall from power after economic shocks.

Victor C. Shih is Ho Miu Lam Chair Associate Professor in China and Pacific Relations at the University of California at San Diego, specializing in China.  He is the author of Factions and Finance in China: Elite Conflict and Inflation, published by Cambridge University Press. This is the first book to investigate the linkages between elite politics and banking policies in China.  His second book, Economic Shocks and Authoritarian Stability, will be published by the University of Michigan Press.  He has published numerous articles in academic and business journals, including The American Political Science Review, The China Quarterly, Comparative Political Studies, Journal of Politics, The Wall Street Journal and The China Business Review, and he often acts as an adviser to the financial community. Dr Shih holds a BA from George Washington University and a doctorate in Government from Harvard University.  He was formerly a principal at the Carlyle Group.

MONDAY 10 FEBRUARY, 5-6.30pm, Lucina Ho Seminar Room

International History of East Asia seminar: ‘Money from the Outside: Foreign Financial Resources in Modern China’

Ania Gricuk, LSE: ‘Across, Between and Beyond Nation States: Overseas Chinese Private Remittance Networks, 1850s-1930s’

Lin Ma, University of Oxford: ‘Another War: China’s Struggle for Financial Aid during WWII’

WEDNESDAY 12 FEBRUARY5-6.30pm, Kin-ku Cheng Lecture Theatre

‘Long Peace Street: A Walk Along China’s Most Important Street’

Across the centre of Beijing, Long Peace Street cuts an arrow-straight, 20 mile line. At its midpoint, the so-called ‘Number One Street of China’ divides the Forbidden City, home to generations of Chinese emperors, and Tiananmen Square, the vast granite square constructed to glorify a new China under Communist rule. It is a storied stretch of the Middle Kingdom, littered with physical and architectural reminders of the seemingly unrelenting drama of China’s recent past: national cemeteries, communist party boltholes and high-security military sites, as well as ministries, museums and leadership compounds. In 2016, Jonathan walked its length from west to east, a journey related in his travelogue, Long Peace Street. Using archival and modern photographs, Jonathan’s talk takes the audience with him on a journey through China’s capital – but also through the China’s twentieth century, from the fall of the Qing dynasty to the modern day, excavating some of the fascinating stories Long Peace Street has to tell.

Dr Jonathan Chatwin is a writer and journalist, and author of Long Peace Street: A walk in modern China, which fuses travel and history to tell the story of modern China. His essays and articles have been published by CNN, the South China Morning Post, the British Film Institute, the Los Angeles Review of Books and Time Out amongst other publications. Jonathan is also the author of Anywhere Out of the World, a study of the work of traveller and writer Bruce Chatwin; it was acclaimed in the TLS as offering ‘the best account yet of the origins of [Bruce] Chatwin’s restless mania.’  He has discussed his work at international literary festivals, the Royal Geographical Society and on radio and podcast. He lived in China for a number of years, and has travelled widely in the country. He now writes regularly on the country’s history and culture for a range of publications. He is currently writing a book on Deng Xiaoping’s Southern Tour of 1992, and spent the summer of 2019 retracing its route.

THURSDAY 13 FEBRUARY, 5-6.30pm, Kin-ku Cheng Lecture Theatre

‘China, Europe and the Future of the World Trade Organisation: Difficult Choices Ahead!’

The World Trade Organisation, which oversees the multilateral trade system and adjudicates disputes between its members, is facing an existential crisis. It has failed to deliver major change over the past two decades, the United States under President Trump has disengaged from its work, its dispute settlement system has been suspended and its future is in doubt. China and the European Union, the world’s largest international traders, each see themselves as champions of multilateralism determined to save and improve the rules-based international trading system under WTO. Despite this common interest, however, they approach WTO reform with different priorities and divergent views on some fundamentals of economic management. At the beginning of a new decade of economic uncertainty, John Farnell will explore the degree of convergence and divergence between the Chinese and European positions on WTO reform and assess whether their differences can be bridged. Hypothetically, a positive outcome based on comprise can be postulated on purely economic grounds. But each side faces strong political pressures, internal and external, not to compromise. For example, is the EU prepared to take a different position on the future of WTO from the United States, given their longstanding economic and strategic links? Will China accept international rulemaking on subsidies and state-owned enterprises that imply fundamental change for its economic model? And what position will the United Kingdom take,  as a newly independent member of WTO with strong economic ties to the EU and the United States that would also like to improve its relations with China?

John Farnell is an Associate at the Oxford University China Centre and a Senior Adviser at the EU-Asia Centre in Brussels. In 2016 he co-authored, with Paul Irwin Crookes of the China Centre, a book on The Politics of EU-China Economic Relations: an Uneasy Partnership (Palgrave Macmillan), which highlighted the political obstacles facing the European Union in developing a normal economic relationship with China. His current research interests are the EU-China  negotiations for a comprehensive investment treaty and the UK’s economic relations with China after Brexit. John was a senior official in the European Commission until 2013; his last job was Director for International Affairs in the Directorate-General for Enterprise and Industry.

Discussant: Mr Garcia Bercero is Director at the European Commission responsible for bilateral trade relations with South Asia, South East Asia, Mediterranean and Middle East countries, Russia and the Eastern Neighbourhood. Since January 2012 he has been responsible for transatlantic trade relations and chief negotiator for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Mr Garcia Bercero has published numerous articles on trade related matters in different academic publications. During his fellowship (at St Antony’s College) he intends to focus his research on how to reform the World Trade Organisation, including both its rule making and dispute settlement functions.

TUESDAY 18 FEBRUARY, 5-6.30pm, Kin-ku Cheng Lecture Theatre

Oxford University China Africa Network (OUCAN) seminar

Within the study of China-Africa relations, a great deal of ink has been spilled over what the rise of China as a rising power and development actor means for international development, both in African host countries and for traditional donors. However, much less attention has been devoted to what the growing Chinese presence means for institution building in African states, an area in which traditional donors has traditionally engaged in a substantial manner. This paper intends to explore this question by focusing on the roads sector in Uganda, a subsector of construction where China’s presence has grown exponentially not only in Uganda but across Africa in the past two decades. More specifically, it will take the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) – the main implementing agency in Uganda’s roads sector – as a case study to examine the impact of China and traditional partners. Hang Zhou’s findings suggest that, for Uganda’s roads sector as well as the reforming of state institution like UNRA, the material and ideational impact of traditional partners continue to outweigh that of China by far.

Hang Zhou is currently a PhD candidate in Department of Politics and International Studies at School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. Prior to enrolling at SOAS, he worked consecutively at Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (2012-2015) and Oxfam Hong Kong (2015). He has also worked as short-term consultant and research assistant for various projects with the African Leadership Centre of King’s College London, International Institute for Environment and Development, Wildlife Conservation Society, and European Council on Foreign Relations. He earned his master’s degrees in peace and conflict studies from Uppsala University, Sweden and étude comparative du développement from École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS-Paris).

WEDNESDAY 19 FEBRUARY, 5-6.30pm, Kin-ku Cheng Lecture Theatre

‘Eco-civilisation Meets Eco-authoritarianism:  the Political Realities of China’s Green Transformation’   

Xi Jinping has postulated eco-civilisation as China’s new economic and political direction. How deep does go, how is it being enacted and what is its relationship to China’s external activities?

Isabel Hilton is a London based writer and broadcaster. She is founder and editor of chinadialogue, an independent, non-profit organization based in London, Beijing and San Francisco. She has reported from China, South Asia, Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Europe and has written and presented several documentaries for BBC radio and television. Before founding chinadialogue she was a writer and/or editor for a number of newspapers, including the Sunday Times, the Independent and the Guardian. She has authored and co-authored several books and holds honorary doctorates from Bradford and Stirling Universities.

THURSDAY 20 FEBRUARY, 5-6.30pm, Kin-ku Cheng Lecture Theatre

‘The Qāḍī and the Yamen: Islam on the Ground in Late Imperial China’

Islam in China has often been analyzed in stark terms, with Muslims seen either as rebels against the state or as elite Confucian scholars; though Islam has been practiced in China for over a millennium, it is often still discussed as a foreign import. In this talk, which is based on his second book-length project, Tristan Brown argues that Muslims found ways to appeal to critical nodes of imperial power during the Ming and Qing dynasties. Mosques were routinely financially supported by officials across the empire. Muslims engaged in rainmaking rituals endorsed by the imperial state. The tombs of Sufi saints secured examination success for localities. Islamic butchery was incorporated into the imperial cult. This paper aims to revise our understanding of Islam’s relationship to imperial politics and society and to illuminate the place of Islam in China today.

Tristan Brown is currently a Junior Research Fellow at St John’s College, Cambridge. He received his PhD in History from Columbia University in 2017. From 2017-2018, he was the Chinese Studies Postdoctoral Fellow at Stanford University. He holds an MA in History from Columbia University and an AB in Near Eastern and East Asian Studies from Harvard College. He has previously been a visiting research associate at Sichuan University. Before moving to the UK from the US, he also lived in China, Japan, Mongolia, Syria, and Jordan. Tristan is a historian of late imperial China, with interests in the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. He is broadly interested in the social and cultural history of late imperial China, comparative legal and environmental history, and the history of minority peoples in China.

MONDAY 24 FEBRUARY, 5-6.30pm, Lucina Ho Seminar Room

International History of East Asia seminar: ‘Writing and Lighting in East Asia: The German Connection’

Mimi Cheng, University of Rochester: ‘A Chinese in the Dark: Infrastructure and Illumination in German Qingdao, 1898–1914’

Toshiki Kawashima, University of Pennsylvania: ‘Write Well, Work Well: Script Reform, Efficiency Movements, and Nation Identity in Japan and Germany, 1919–1945’

TUESDAY 25 FEBRUARY, 5-6.30pm, LSK Seminar Room, Wadham College


In her research, Astrid Møller-Olsen employs a framework of sensory literary studies to explore the connections between memory and materiality in contemporary Sinophone fiction from Taipei, Hong Kong and Shanghai.  Dr Møller-Olsen engages with themes of scented nostalgia, flavours in fiction, walking as method, literary cartography, the melody of language, gendered cityscapes, metafictional dreams and rhythmic senses of time to study how contemporary cities change the way we think about time, space and memory. In this talk, she will introduce her ideas for sensory literary scholarship and present a few textual examples of what such sensorially focused, thematical comparisons might bring to light. In particular, she will examine how memories taste and how various (un)healthy appetites regulate recollection as a technology of the self in Dorothy Tse and Hon Lai Chu’s novel A Dictionary of Two Cities (雙城辭典) from 2012, in Ding, Liying’s novel The Woman in the Clock (时钟里的女人) from 2001, and in Chu, Tien-hsin’s novella The Old Capital (古都) from 1996.

Astrid Møller-Olsen has a doctoral degree in contemporary Chinese literature and is currently working as a lecturer at the Centre for Languages and Literature, Lund University, Sweden. She has published on literary drinking cultures, allegorical cannibalism, fictional dictionaries and Daoist commensality in Chinese fiction. Current research focuses on theories of sensory literary studies and the spatiotemporal relation between cityscape and memory in contemporary urban Sinophone fiction

THURSDAY 27 FEBRUARY, 5-6.30pm, Kin-ku Cheng Lecture Theatre

‘The Past and Future of Chinese Historical Phonology: Philology, Reconstruction, and Network Theory’

The Chinese enjoy an independent tradition of historical linguistics, which only in the 20th century began to cross-pollinate with Western scholarship. As a result many features of Chinese historical linguistics remain opaque to non-Sinologists.

This presentation introduces the primary sources of the Chinese philological tradition and the methods employed in the reconstruction of Old Chinese. The complex details of particular reconstructed systems of Old Chinese are touched on only by way of illustration. The crux of the paper is a critical assessment of traditional methodologies and an effort to more abstractly conceptualize the current methodologies with a goal to taking into account a broader suite of available primary sources that the tradition tends to put in focus, and how to take advantage of recent computational techniques, especially from network theory.

Nathan W. Hill is Reader in Tibetan and Historical Linguistics at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. His books include The Historical Phonology of Tibetan, Burmese, and Chinese (2019), A Lexicon of Tibetan Verb Stems as Reported by the Grammatical Tradition (2010) and Old Tibetan Inscriptions (2009), co-authored with Kazushi Iwao.

FRIDAY 28 FEBRUARY, 1-2pm, Lucina Ho Seminar Room

Mandarin Forum

‘Whose Belt and Road? The Relationship between Chinese government and enterprises in the process of construction of BRI’

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has attracted much attention from the international community since it was proposed. The current discussions on the BRI tend to focus on its impact at macro level, although the BRI involves many different participants in different kinds of projects and at different levels in different regions. This study focuses on specific cases in the areas of facility connectivity and overseas investment, exploring basic positions and policy choices of different actors such as governments, businesses and social organizations.  It provides insights into the role played by the Chinese government and enterprises, their modes of functions, and the main challenges they face. It suggests that the relationship between governments and enterprises is crucial and directly affects the actual performance of the BRI projects.

Professor Bin MA, currently a Visiting Scholar at St Antony’s College, University of Oxford, is an Associate Professor at the Centre for Russian and Central Asian Studies, Institute of International Studies, Fudan University. He received his PhD from Fudan University and was a Visiting Scholar at the Harriman Institute, Columbia University (USA) from 2013 to 2014. His research focuses on Sino-Russian relations, Great Power Relations in Central Asia, and transition and development issues, especially the China Railway Express and infrastructure connectivity between China and Europe in recent years

Mandarin presentation; English PPT; bilingual Q&A; Convenor: Dr Annie Hongping Nie

MONDAY 2 MARCH, 5-6.30pm, Kin-ku Cheng Lecture Theatre

Oxford University China Africa Network (OUCAN)

‘Tracking Chinese Development Assistance for Health’

In recent years, China has increased its international engagement in health especially in Africa and Southeast Asia. Nonetheless, the lack of data on contributions have limited efforts to examine contributions from China. In this study, we generated estimates of development assistance for health (DAH) from China from 2007 through 2017. We estimated that DAH provided by China grew dramatically, from US$323.1 million in 2007 to $652.3 million in 2017, ranking in the top 10 when compared with traditional donors from the OECD Development Assistance Committee. During this period, 91.8% of DAH from China was disbursed through its bilateral agencies. Relative to its level of economic development, China provided substantially more DAH than would be expected. However, relative to population size and government spending, China’s contributions are modest. In the current context of plateauing in the growth rate of DAH contributions, China has the potential to contribute to future global health financing.

Yingxi Zhao is a DPhil student at the Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford, and his doctoral project focuses on examining the ability of early career medical staff to support high quality care in Kenya. His research interests also include development assistance for health, global health systems and health financing. Yingxi holds a Master of Public Health degree from the University of Washington (U.S.) and a Bachelor of Science degree from Peking University (China).

MONDAY 9 MARCH, 5-6.30pm, Lucina Ho Seminar Room

International History of East Asia seminar: ‘Yangtze Shipping and Beyond: War and Law in the Late Qing’

Thomas Larkin, University of Bristol: ‘Visions of Profit: American Commerce on the Yangtze River during the Taiping and American  Civil Wars’

Georges Moraitis, Queen’s Belfast: ‘The Cadiz Affair, Zhenjiang (1874–1878): Jurisdictional Competition and Foreign Influence in Late Qing China’