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Who Are Our Friends? 
Maoist Cultural Diplomacy and the Origins of the People’s Republic of China’s Global Turn

At the thirtieth Politburo Central Committee Collective Study Session on 31 May 2021, Chinese Communist Party (CCP) General Secretary and paramount leader of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Xi Jinping, delivered a speech to Party officials. In the face of international condemnation of the Party’s human rights abuses in Xinjiang and its suppression of […]

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Builders from China: From Third-World Solidarity to Globalised State Capitalism

When thinking about China’s integration with the global economy, the usual landmarks referred to are the ‘Going Global’ (走出去) strategy launched in the late 1990s and China’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001. China’s overseas economic activities before these events tend to be overlooked, as though they did not exist. But as […]

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From Mao’s Third Front to Xi’s Belt and Road Initiative
: A Conversation with Covell Meyskens

In the early 1960s, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) began investing large sums of capital in the interior of the country with the stated goal of building up military and civilian infrastructure to safeguard China from a potential American or Soviet military threat. Often neglected in histories of contemporary China, this so-called Third Front campaign […]

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From Neoliberalism to Geoeconomics


The Greater Mekong Subregion and the Archaeology of the Belt and Road Initiative in Mainland Southeast Asia

In mainland Southeast Asia, China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) builds on plans and routes that the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) program laid down over the last few decades. While the BRI is likely to continue alongside various other national and regional development plans, schemes, and programs in the GMS for years to come, this essay argues that the establishment of the BRI marks the transition between the era of liberal economics and that of geoeconomics.

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Learning by Heart
: Training for Self-Reliance on the TAZARA Railway, 1968–1976

Giving the instructions carefully over and over again,
Teaching hand-in-hand.

Old Qiao took up a pile of mud
And molded it into a few machine parts as examples.

— ‘Snapshots of Workplace Lessons’, 
友谊的彩虹 [The Rainbow of Friendship], Renmin Wenxue Chubanshe, Shanghai (1976) In the summer of 2010, I stayed for several weeks in the Tanzanian town of Mang’ula, […]

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Growing Up and Going Global: 
Chinese Universities in the Belt and Road Initiative

In the spring of 2019, while working in administration for a Czech university, I attended a conference titled ‘First Belt and Road Physical Education Forum’ in Croatia. Organised jointly by local and Chinese universities, its objective was to explore opportunities in sport science alongside the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), including between China and Central […]

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The Past in the Present of Chinese International Development Cooperation

Tracing the origins of the core principles of China’s foreign aid—political non-interference and aid for independent development—to the early days of the People’s Republic of China, this essay shows how historical memory continues to play a significant role in China’s interactions with developing countries today. It also argues that China’s foreign aid from the past to the present has to be understood as an externalisation of China’s quest for development, modernisation, and independence.

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Maoism, Anti-Imperialism, and the Third World


The Case of China and the Black Panthers

At the height of the Cultural Revolution, Maoist China became a symbol for anti-imperialist movements throughout an imagined ‘Third World’. While scholarly attention has been paid to Third-World Maoism in countries of the Global South, fewer scholars have considered how Maoism was received by organisations within the ‘First World’ that considered themselves part of the global Third-World struggle against oppression. This essay helps to address this gap by examining how the Black Panther Party in the United States was inspired by Mao Zedong’s writings and formed connections with the Chinese Communist Party.

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A Brief History of Pakistan–China Legal Relations

Much scholarly attention to China’s positions toward international law in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) suggests a ‘big bang’ approach, given the amount of activity generated by Chinese legal organs in relation to the BRI. While this attention is warranted, it may elide some of the deeper histories between China and the Global South. In such a context, this essay takes the legal relations between Pakistan and China as a window into exploring the question of how small states hedge different yet overlapping international legal orders.

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The Chronopolitics of the Belt and Road Initiative and Its Reinvented Histories

Since the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2013, Chinese official discourse has emphasised the Initiative’s continuity with the past. The reinvention of Eurasian history and heritage have become key aspects of both the promotion of the BRI and China’s chronopolitics. This essay examines China’s political use of history and heritage in the context of the BRI, along with the related risks and geopolitical implications

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