U of Sydney China Studies lectures

The University of Sydney China Studies Centre
Lecture Series for October and November, 2021


Chinese Asianism: Discussions on China-Centred International Regionalism in the 1920s

Date: Friday 15 October 2021
Time: 12:00PM–1:00PM AEDT
Location: Online

This seminar is free and open to the public!

REGISTRATION IS ESSENTIAL 

This event is co-presented with the Department of Chinese Studies, The Australian Society for Asian Humanities and the Faculty of Art, Design & Architecture at UNSW.

With the rise of China and the development of ambitious international projects, such as the Belt and Road Initiative and the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank, discussions of China-centred international regionalism have found new prominence, but many of these ideas have a long history in twentieth century China.

This talk will examine the rise of a discourse promoting China as the future leader of Asia in 1920s publications. After President Sun Yat-sen made a speech titled ‘Great Asianism’ in 1924, intellectual and political leaders created a number of organisations to forward the ideals of Asian unity in major Chinese cities. Journals with titles such as New Asia and the Asiatic Review provided avenues for publication, while international conferences brought Chinese intellectuals in touch with Asianists from other Asian countries. Although the Chinese intellectuals who established these organizations initially focused upon uniting with Indians and Koreans to further the fight against imperialism, Japanese members of their organizations soon brought them into contact with Japan-based Pan-Asianist organisations. Due to their cooperation with Japanese Asianists, the organizations and their members were highly criticized by the Chinese media. However, these events and the subsequent critical responses set the stage for wartime Chinese Asianism and the belief that China had a duty to lead the oppressed nations of the world in the struggle with imperialism.

About the speaker

Craig A. Smith is Senior Lecturer of Translation Studies at the University of Melbourne’s Asia Institute. He is the author of Chinese Asianism: 1894—1945 (Harvard University Asia Center, 2021) and co-editor of Translating the Occupation: The Japanese Invasion of China, 1931—45 (UBC Press, 2021).


China’s Good War: How Memory of World War II is Shaping a New Nationalism

Date: Friday 29 October 2021
Time: 6:30PM–7:30PM AEDT
Location: Online

This seminar is free and open to the public!

REGISTRATION IS ESSENTIAL 

Chinese leaders once tried to suppress memories of their nation’s brutal experience during World War II. Now they celebrate the “victory”—a key foundation of China’s rising nationalism.

For most of its history, the People’s Republic of China limited public discussion of the war against Japan. It was an experience of victimization—and one that saw Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai-shek fighting for the same goals. But now, as China grows more powerful, the meaning of the war is changing. Rana Mitter argues that China’s reassessment of the World War II years is central to its newfound confidence abroad and to mounting nationalism at home.

China’s Good War begins with the academics who shepherded the once-taboo subject into wider discourse. Encouraged by reforms under Deng Xiaoping, they researched the Guomindang war effort, collaboration with the Japanese, and China’s role in forming the post-1945 global order. But interest in the war would not stay confined to scholarly journals. Today public sites of memory—including museums, movies and television shows, street art, popular writing, and social media—define the war as a founding myth for an ascendant China. Wartime China emerges as victor rather than victim.

The shifting story has nurtured a number of new views. One rehabilitates Chiang Kai-shek’s war efforts, minimizing the bloody conflicts between him and Mao and aiming to heal the wounds of the Cultural Revolution. Another narrative positions Beijing as creator and protector of the international order that emerged from the war—an order, China argues, under threat today largely from the United States. China’s radical reassessment of its collective memory of the war has created a new foundation for a people destined to shape the world.

About the speaker

Rana Mitter is 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 China’s War with Japan: The Struggle for Survival, 1937-1945 (Penguin, 2013), [US title: Forgotten Ally] 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). His writing on contemporary China has appeared recently in Foreign Affairs, the Harvard Business Review, The Spectator, The Critic, and The Guardian.


China and the World: Pluralist International Relations from Critical IR Theory and Daoist Dialectics

Date: Wednesday 3 November 2021
Time: 7:00PM–8:00PM AEDT
Location: Online

This seminar is free and open to the public!

REGISTRATION IS ESSENTIAL 

This talk draws on Chinese and Western traditions of thought to propose a pluralist relational approach to the study of China, the world, and relations therein. The Western-centrism of our most common approaches to the study of China in the world is increasingly recognised as a problem, because its divisions and marginalisation of non-Western others devalues those others and their concerns. It is well established that this type of thinking, where an imagined we takes priority over an imagined them, has been complicit in both symbolic and physical violence, not least in the form of empire and colonialism. One Chinese response to this Western-centrism has been to suggest that China has a better set of ideas, concepts, and values for thinking about both China, the world, and relationships therein. Concepts derived from pre-modern Chinese thought are said to offer a ready-made and superior alternative to the violence of Western-centric theory. Just as Western-centric approaches dismiss or marginalise Chinese thought, so too do Sino-centric approaches dismiss Western thought. The dilemma is that we must live and act, and theorise, in a shared world. Even if we think of these diverse traditions as embodying multiple worlds, we need a language to bridge those worlds. In this talk, I outline a terminology that can help us rethink this bridging of Western and Chinese traditions. I suggest that we can approach the problem differently, if instead of beginning our thinking by positing two separate things that first exist and then meet (or indeed fail to meet), we start with relations. A key challenge and opportunity for such an approach is to resist the urge for homogeneity, and to maintain space for a plurality of open futures and trajectories.

About the speaker

Professor Astrid Nordin holds the Lau Chair of Chinese International Relations in the Lau China Institute, King’s College London. Astrid’s research develops critical conceptual tools that draw on Chinese and other global traditions of thought, and uses these to understand global challenges as they relate to China’s growing global role – from the Belt and Road Initiative, through sustainable cities, to practices of censorship and resistance. Her favourite thing about her job is learning new things from exciting people, and she welcomes suggestions for collaboration relating to her expertise.


Where do we find Chinese contemporary art in the Asian Modern?

Date: Wednesday 10 November 2021
Time: 12:00PM – 1:00PM AEDT
Location: Online

This seminar is free and open to the public!

REGISTRATION IS ESSENTIAL 

John Clark’s magisterial The Asian Modern reconstructs the notion of art and its historiography in Asia, including Australia. Writing the history of the Asian modern through the social life of artists, he generates a new paradigm for the narration of art. Both volumes meticulously chart his analysis of art in Asia from the 1850s to the present day, providing an invaluable resource for the scholar and layman alike.

Among major studies of around 25 major artists from all over Asia, including three from Australia, the book has sections devoted to Xu Beihong, Pan Yuliang, and Zhang Peili. This talk will focus on the work and biography of these artists as indexes for certain kinds of modernity in Chinese art.

About the speakers

Emeritus Professor John Clark

John Clark is Emeritus Professor in Art History at the University of Sydney, the author of six books and editor or co-editor of another five. His Asian Modernities: Chinese and Thai Art of the 1980s and 1990s (2010) won the Best Art Book Prize of the Art Association of Australia and New Zealand in 2011. He has also published two collections of earlier papers, Modernities of Chinese Art (2010), and Modernities of Japanese Art (2013).

Dr Yvonne Low (chair)

Yvonne Low specialises in the modern and contemporary arts of Singapore and Indonesia. Her research interests include colonial histories, cultural politics of art development, women artists and feminist art history, and digital art history. Yvonne has published over 40 books, peer-reviewed journals and exhibition catalogues, and is on the editorial committee of Southeast of Now: Directions in Contemporary and Modern Art in Asia. She holds degrees majoring in Art History from the University of Sydney and the University of Melbourne. She has taught at Nanyang Technological University, School of Art Design and Media, the University of New South Wales, Faculty of the Built Environment and is currently a Lecturer in Asian Art at the University’s Power Institute where she co-convened the inaugural Gender in Southeast Asian art histories symposium in 2017.


Travelling with Chinese Theatre Troupes in Southeast Asia: Mobility, Locality and Performativity of Chineseness

Date: Friday 19 November 2021
Time: 1:00PM – 2:00PM AEDT
Location: Online

This seminar is free and open to the public!

REGISTRATION IS ESSENTIAL 

This event is co-presented with The Department of Chinese Studies, The Sydney Southeast Asia Centre, The Australian Society for Asian Humanities and the Faculty of Art, Design & Architecture at UNSW.

Throughout the twentieth century, Chinese theatre troupes left impressive cultural legacies in the Chinese diaspora in Southeast Asia. The maritime and overland connections that had long been utilised by overseas Chinese merchants, immigrants, and diplomats laid a template for theatre troupes to draft travelling itineraries across the South China Seas. Specifically speaking, I focus on the Chaozhou theatre troupes, China’s Song and Dance Troupe, the salvation theatre troupe, the socialist troupes, and opera films as well as the Hong Kong Movie Star Arts Troupe that were set in different time-space constructions through which homeland-diaspora connections were evoked for a variety of purposes. Travelling with these different sets of theatre troupes, this talk will lead audiences to see how ideas and cultural discourses were circulated transnationally, how they heralded changes from China and mobilized overseas Chinese to make contributions to their mother country. Furthermore, the cultural discourses and ideologies they carried along with their performances had to be constantly modified and adjusted when encountering different diasporic Chinese communities and their surrounding socio-political environment. Local conditions, such as the colonial governance, local reception and the Cold War geopolitics, all greatly impacted the ways in which performances were circulated and staged. These varied experiences of travelling and touring enable me to unpack complex layers of performativity of Chineseness that were determined by changing time-space constructions. They have gone into the collective memory of diasporic Chinese about a past that haunts the present in-between status, of being neither here nor there, between the adopted homeland and the imagined ancestral motherland. Therefore, highlighting various “performative” linkages, this talk calls for new ways to understand changing patterns of homeland-diaspora interactions.

About the speaker

Beiyu Zhang is now affiliated with the School of International Studies/Academy of Overseas Chinese Studies at Jinan University, Guangzhou. She obtained her PhD degree in the History Department from the National University of Singapore. She worked as a Post-Doctoral Fellow funded by the Macau Talent Program in the University of Macau from 2018-2020. Her recent publications include “Travelling with Chinese Theatre-Troupes: A ‘Performative Turn’ in Sino-Southeast Asian Interactions”, Asian Theatre Journal (2021), and a monograph Chinese Theatre Troupes in Southeast Asia: Touring Diaspora, 1900s–1970s, Routledge, 2021. Her upcoming publications include “Cantonese Opera Troupes in Southeast Asia: Political Mobilizations, Diaspora Networks, and Operatic Circulation, 1850s-1930s” in Asian Ethnology (2022), “Multicultural Dance-Making in Singapore: Merdeka, Youth Solidarity and Cross-Ethnicity, 1955-1980s”, Inter-Asia Cultural Studies (2022). Her research interests include Chinese diaspora, Sino-Southeast Asian interactions, cultural Cold War, and ethnomusicology in Asia. She is currently working on a new project titled “Heritage Diplomacy in China’s Belt and Road Initiative in Asia”.

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