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Making Sense of a Fast-Changing China

Seminar Center for Global Humanities Lecture/Seminar Series

Jeffrey Wasserstrom

Jeffrey Wasserstrom

Chancellor’s Professor of History, University of California at Irvine

This seminar will explore the challenges of getting a clear-eyed view of China at a time when it is going through rapid transformations, which have been leading to both admiring Sinomania and fearful Sinophobic reactions in the West. Is there anything "Communist" about the Chinese Communist Party these days? What are the biggest challenges facing the new leadership group, which took power at the end of 2012? Why is it misleading to think that Chinese intellectuals can be divided up neatly into just two groups—brave dissidents who risk imprisonment or exile, on the one hand, and those who loyally support the status quo on the other? How has the Internet changed and failed to change basic features of Chinese cultural and political life? These are the sorts of questions that will be explored, by an academic trained in Chinese history who often writes about the present, and frequently contributes to general interest publications, ranging from newspapers and magazines to blogs and online journals of opinion.


Jeffrey Wasserstrom is Chancellor’s Professor of History at the University of California, Irvine, where he also serves as the Editor of the Journal of Asian Studies and holds a courtesy position in the Law School. He is the author of four books, including China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford University Press, 2010, revised and updated edition 2013), and the editor or co-editor of several others, including Chinese Characters: Profiles of Fast-Changing Lives in a Fast-Changing Land, which was published by the University of California Press in 2012. In addition to contributing to a range of scholarly periodicals, he has written commentaries and reviews for newspapers such as the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Wall Street Journal, as well as for the online or print editions of a wide variety of magazines, including Foreign Policy, the Atlantic, the Nation, Outlook India, and both Time and Newsweek. He blogs regularly for the Huffington Post, co-founded the “China Beat” blog (a major source of information and opinion on China from 2008 through mid-2012), is co-editor of the Asia section of the Los Angeles Review of Books, and is an Associate Fellow of the Asia Society. He has given talks on China on four continents and has been a guest on radio programs such as NPR’s “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered” and American Public Media’s “Marketplace.” He was educated at UC Santa Cruz (B.A.), Harvard (M.A.), and Berkeley (PhD), as well as the University of London and Shanghai’s Fudan University (no degrees). Before returning to his native California seven years ago, he taught at the University of Kentucky (his first job) and at Indiana University, where he spent a decade-and-a-half as a member of the History Department and served for a time as the director of the East Asian Studies Center. He is a regular guest presenter at the Shanghai International Literary Festival and served as a consulted to two prize-winning documentary films on China produced by the Long Bow Group.

Assigned Reading

Jeffrey Wasserstrom, China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford University Press, 2010; updated edition, 2013)


A reception will be held at 5:00 pm at the UNE Art Gallery


Center for Global Humanities


(207) 221-4335

Jeffrey Wasserstrom event poster
6:00 PM
WCHP Lecture Hall

Portland Campus

Free and open to the public