China and the Global South: Conceptual Geographies in History, Literature, and Urban Studies
1: Rethinking the Historiography of Cold War China through the Lens of Decolonization
Sunday, March 27, 2022
10:45am – 12:15pm EST
Location: Conv. Center, Room 306A
Covell F. Meyskens
Naval Postgraduate School, United States
This paper will examine Anglophone historiography of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) during Mao’s tenure in power, focusing on historical writings from the 1950s to 1970s. Its central objective is to understand how historians factored the Cold War process of decolonization into their narratives. Its analysis will center around two interrelated issues. First, it will investigate what influence historians accorded to Chinese ideas about the making of a postcolonial world and the activities that the PRC undertook to realize them. Second, it will attend to what influence historians attributed to PRC relations with the Soviet Union and United States in how the CCP worked both domestically and internationally to advance a post-imperial international order. Through studying these two issues, this paper will provide a fuller understanding of the narrative frameworks that Anglophone historians employed from the 1950s to 1970s to explain the relationship between Cold War China and decolonization. By analyzing these historical narratives, this paper will deepen comprehension of how the geopolitical concerns of the Cold War became imprinted in American scholarly explanations of the PRC’s origins in the age of empire and subsequent development in the postcolonial age. It will pay particular attention to the various ways that American historians conceived of China’s socialist revolution as a postcolonial project that sought during the Cold War not only to domestically overcome China’s recent subjugation by imperial powers but also to help create a post-colonial international order.