China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
China and United States have never been more interconnected than they are today. Current US-China affairs are marked by financial discussions, about China's blistering economic growth or the ongoing “trade war”. But it is important to remember that such quantitative linkages are built upon human foundations. Historically, there has been little shortage of American feeling about China, even when there was no official dialogue between the two sides. Individuals who built transnational lives or simply found the other country fascinating have shaped the course of the US-China relationship.
Emotion and sentiment were critical to these understandings, and this panel will offer insight into these human linkages by considering how Americans perceived and understood China’s past and present during the Cold War. In some cases, such as Meredith Oyen's diaspora from wartime Shanghai or Pete Millwood's Chinese-born American exiles, these understandings were heavily shaped by past personal experience. In others, such as Joyce Mao's case of US perceptions of the Great Leap Forward, China was perceived through the prism of ideological concepts such as modernization theory. In all of these examples, feelings ran high: of nostalgia and affection, disdain and fear.
This panel will posit that how Americans felt about China during the Cold War was historically significant. Apprehension at the revolutionary potential of Chinese modernization impacted Washington's Cold War strategy, while popular (re)imaginings of China supported innovations in Beijing’s diplomatic relationship with the US. Together, these papers will reconsider what most fundamentally connects these two contemporary superpowers.