Chinese "People’s Diplomacy" Before and After the Bomb: The Impact of Chinese Nuclearization on State-Sponsored Engagement with Transnational Epistemic Networks

In October 1964, the People’s Republic of China became the world’s fifth nuclear-weapons state. For more than a decade beforehand, the PRC had encouraged extensive engagement with the international peace and anti-proliferation movements among not only mass organizations but also elite-level scientists as part of a wider engagement strategy known as "People’s Diplomacy" or "People-to-People Diplomacy." By the late 1950s, Chinese scientists were members of transnational epistemic communities concerned with the spread of nuclear weapons, sustaining not only the party-state’s interest in political outreach but also wider scientific exchange, even as the PRC’s own secret crash weapons programme came ever closer to fruition. This seminar examines the ways in which China’s development of nuclear weapons transformed this notable strand of its non-state diplomacy.

Gordon Barrett is Departmental Lecturer in Modern Chinese History and Politics at the University of Oxford. Before joining Oxford in 2017, he was a British Inter-University China Centre Early Career Researcher and completed a doctorate at the University of Bristol in 2015. His research centres on the politics of science and scientists in politics, with particular interest in the roles of scientists and scientific organizations in China’s foreign relations. He has contributed articles in this area to forthcoming issues of the Journal of Cold War Studies and Modern Asian Studies.

 

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