About the Summer Institute

The CCKF-CHCI Summer Institute China in a Global WWII had two main objectives. The first was to foster a more dynamic understanding of the history of WWII in China; the second was to function as a spur to making the history of WWII truly global.

The Summer Institute took place 3 – 15 July 2017 at CRASSH, University of Cambridge, with presentations by invited guest speakers and early career scholars selected through an application process.  

Principle Investigator


Confirmed guest speakers


The Institute was made possible by a grant from the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes (CHCI) and the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange (CCKF); we are grateful for their support.





Aims of the Summer Institute

World War Two has become something like the axial moment of our times, an event that shaped not just the geopolitical contours of the world in which we now live, but also our moral bearings, our identities, and our sense of the past. If this is true for most Western countries, it has also become the case for China. Now that communism (and, to an extent, consumerism) has lost its grip on the public imagination in China, the country’s leaders have turned to China’s war with Japan to construct a new, more inclusive, narrative of the emergence of New China, one which has allowed the healing of wounds resulting from class war, but which China’s leaders are also exploiting to justify a dominant role for China in East Asia.

The Summer Institute has two main objectives. The first is to foster a more dynamic understanding of the history of WWII in China. Beginning in the late 1980s, much work has been done in China and in the UK and the USA to account more fully for China’s role in WWII. Much of that history remains traditional in its approach, recounting battles, tracing international relations, and narrating personal conflicts. By examining the writings of poets, dramatists, and authors, by analysing the work of painters, cartoonists, musicians, and film makers, and by studying the many works of history and other forms of scholarship written in the period, the Institute will recover the intellectual vitality and creativity of the period, and so provide a spur to less politicized and ideological readings of China’s wartime past as well as to a proper accounting of the role of the humanities in (and at) war.

China in WWII was not simply the USA’s and the UK’s junior partner. During her famous tour of the USA in 1943, Madame Chiang Kaishek became America’s favourite Asian other, an antidote to Japan, of course, but also a beacon of a new post-imperialist world, deliberately so fashioned by the Roosevelt Administration, in part to boost Chinese morale but also to contain Churchill’s imperialist instincts. Mao Zedong took to reading Clausewitz while trying to evolve a strategy for revolutionary success while sitting in his cave in the Yan’an Mountains. Indian Congress leader Jawaharlal Nehru discussed Asia’s future with Chiang Kaishek in a Chongqing bomb shelter hiding from Japanese bombing raids. The second aim, then, of the Institute is to move scholarship on from its tired focus on US – China relations to one much more fully aware of the diversities and richness of the international and Chinese domestic context of the war.  

A longer range aim of the Institute is to function as a spur to making the history of WWII truly global. Especially in military history, World War II remains told as the fight by the Allies against Germany in Europe and Japan in East Asia. Large areas of the world – the Middle East, continental East Asia, South-East Asia, and Africa – are largely overlooked. By approaching the topic in an interdisciplinary way and by bringing a broad range of humanities subjects to bear on it, we hope that a convincing case emerges for a more globally aware, a more cosmopolitan, and a less ideological approach to an event that does indeed continue to shape our time in profound time. 


Tel: +44 1223 766886
Email enquiries@crassh.cam.ac.uk