I work on the history of modern China and international history of the Cold War, with particular interest in the politics of science and science in politics. My previous research has examined the roles played by scientists and scientific organisations in the early foreign relations of the People’s Republic of China. These scientists were singularly effective intercultural intermediaries who, being embedded in overlapping transnational epistemic and activist networks, won sympathy and support for the People’s Republic of China among foreign intellectuals. This study complicates longstanding narratives of China’s ‘closure’ and ‘isolation’ from international science during the 1950s and 1960s. It also shows that new and developing states like the PRC were as keen as the Cold War superpowers to utilise international organisations and events as tools for cultural diplomacy and propaganda.
Tied to my interest in the history of Sino-British scientific relations, in 2015 I was a British Inter-University China Centre Early Career Researcher at the University of Bristol, working on a Cultural Engagement Partnership project with the Needham Research Institute, Cambridge. This project focused on digitising photographs and diaries relating to Dr. Joseph Needham’s British Council-sponsored activities as head of the Sino-British Science Cooperation Office, 1943-1946. This material is now available via the Cambridge University Digital Library. I also created a ‘pop-up’ exhibition entitled ‘Chinese Wartime Science through the Lens of Joseph Needham’, which showcases material from this collection and has been shown in Cambridge, Bristol, and London.