Engelsberg Annual Lecture in Applied History 2020 with Rana Mitter
War and order – How China is using history to reshape global order and a new nationalism at home
For years, China was excluded from the global international order. Now, it takes pride in claiming a place as a founding member of the post-1945 order, and is seeking to claim a leading role in the United Nations and beyond. The key to this major change is the fast-changing reassessment of China’s role as an Allied wartime power in World War II. That history is shaping China’s presentation of its case in diplomatic negotiations to territorial disputes, in tandem with a popular culture that draws on memory of the war in films, museums and social media communities. To understand where China is going in the next decade of reshaping international order, it is vital to understand the impact of its wartime past.
The discussant for this event will be Julian Gewirtz (Columbia University).
Rana Mitter OBE FBA is the Director of the University China Centre, Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China, and a Fellow of St Cross College at the University of Oxford. He is the author of several books, including Forgotten Ally: China’s World War II, 1937-1945 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013; UK title, China’s War with Japan), 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. His latest book is China’s Good War: How World War II is Shaping a New Nationalism (Harvard, 2020). He has commented regularly on China in media and forums around the world, including at the World Economic Forum at Davos. His recent documentary on contemporary Chinese politics “Meanwhile in Beijing” is available on BBC Sounds. He is co-author, with Sophia Gaston, of the report “Conceptualizing a UK-China Engagement Strategy” (British Foreign Policy Group, 2020).
Julian Baird Gewirtz is Senior Fellow for China Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is also a fellow of the Columbia-Harvard China and the World Program and a lecturer in history at Columbia University. He is the author of Unlikely Partners: Chinese Reformers, Western Economists, and the Making of Global China (Harvard University Press, 2017), which The Economist called “a gripping read, highlighting what was little short of a revolution in China’s economic thought,” and a new book on the tumult, legacies, and historical manipulation of the 1980s in China (Harvard University Press, forthcoming 2021). He completed his doctorate in history in 2018 at the University of Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. His research is published in the Journal of Asian Studies, Past & Present, The American Scholar, the China Leadership Monitor, and Foreign Affairs. Fluent in Mandarin Chinese, he has also written on Asia for publications including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, The Guardian, the Financial Times, Harper’s, Caijing, Caixin, and Foreign Policy.
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