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.
Minding the Gap: Zhou Peiyuan, Dorothy Hodgkin, and the Durability of Sino-Pugwash Networks
Science, (Anti-)Communism and Diplomacy: The Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs in the Early Cold War
Mao-era Chinese foreign policymakers were never fully sold on the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs. Theoretical physicist Zhou Peiyuan had their blessing to attend four conferences between 1957 and 1960, but for the following twenty-five years policymakers in Beijing articulated official positions on Pugwash ranging from ambivalence to outright hostility. Nevertheless, Pugwash networks proved remarkably durable in across those two-and-a-half decades. This chapter explores the role and nature of transnational scientific networks as channels of informal cross-bloc communication during this period in which Chinese scientists had no formal involvement in the Conferences in Science and World Affairs. In particular, it highlights the singular significance of two scientists, Zhou Peiyuan and Dorothy Hodgkin, whose networks, international activities, and political connections placed them at the centre of Pugwashites’ efforts to pursue dialogue with China as well as in the PRC’s formal reengagement with the Pugwash Conferences in 1985.
Between Sovereignty and Legitimacy: China and UNESCO, 1946-1953
Modern Asian Studies
China's “People's Diplomacy” and the Pugwash Conferences, 1957–1964