Cornell Contemporary China Initiative Lecture Series

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To create a forum for scholars, researchers and students with interests in any aspect of contemporary China, the East Asia Program launched the Cornell Contemporary China Initiative in Fall 2014. In response to widely expressed needs and interests related to contemporary China across and beyond Cornell campus, CCCI invites excellent speakers to the university to give talks on an array of interdisciplinary issues about contemporary Chinese economy, politics and society. CCCI expands EAP’s intellectual engagement with a wide range of Cornell faculty, graduate students and undergraduate students, including those in the professional schools and STEM fields, in an active endeavor to reach across colleges and disciplinary boundaries and interact with a broader constituency at the university.



Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 10 of 77
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    The Fabric of Care: Women’s Work and the Politics of Livelihood in Socialist China
    Yige Dong (East Asia Program, Cornell University, 2023-05-08)
    Based on the speaker’s book-in-progress, this lecture examines how the way of doing care—performing paid and unpaid reproductive labor that maintains our daily life and attends to people who are in need—has changed among Chinese workers during the rise and fall of industrial socialism. Drawing on archival data, oral histories, and participatory observation in a textile mill town in central China, this research compares three generations of manufacturing workers’ experience of doing care, with a focus on the realm of childcare and domestic labor, and explains why care work had changed from unpaid “women’s work” in the household to a core constituent of labor welfare during socialist industrialization, and then has been removed from welfare provisions in recent decades. Shifting the analytical focus from the sphere of production to that of social reproduction, this study offers a reinterpretation of Chinese socialism and highlights the indispensable role of gender in understanding political economy. Prof. Dong’s primary research interest lies at the intersection of political economy, social inequality, and social change. Currently, she is working on a book project, The Fabric of Care: Women’s Work and the Politics of Livelihood in Industrial China, which examines the changing politics of care in China’s industrial sector in the past century. Prof. Dong has been awarded the Luce/ACLS Early Career Fellowship in China Studies (2021-2022).
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    The Qing Conquest as "Just War": Manchu Arguments and European Reception
    Di Cosmo, Nicola (East Asia Program, Cornell University, 2023-11-15)
    Nicola Di Cosmo, East Asian Studies, Institute for Advanced Study Among the many facets of the Manchu conquest of China, a relatively unexplored one is that of Manchu ideology and propaganda. This talk examines the early justification of the anti-Ming war articulated by the Manchu ruler Nurhaci (Qing Taizu, 1559-1626) and its reception in Europe, in particular in the work of Martino Martini, De Bello Tartarico. While there have been a few studies on Nurhaci's manifesto, known as the “Seven Great Grievances,” this talk draws special attention to his reasons to justify the war against the Ming, and to explicitly stake his claim to rule All Under Heaven in light of the “just war theory”. Nurhaci's unprecedented pronouncement, moreover, not only underpinned the Manchu war effort for the following decades but also influenced the reception of the Qing conquest in Europe and the arguments made by Jesuits in favor of transferring their loyalty to the new dynasty.
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    Her Voice: Recounting Japanese Military Sexual Slavery in Chinese Literature and Film
    Wang, Xian (East Asia Program, Cornell University, 2023-03-06)
    This talk examines the voices of “comfort women” as a motif in Chinese wartime literature in the 1930s and 1940s, as well as recent documentary films Thirty-Two (2013) and Twenty Two (2015), which focus on the daily lives of the dwindling number of “comfort women” survivors in China. This talk explores how personal testimonials of “comfort women” can be included in collective memory and how women’s wartime sufferings can be remembered within and without a nationalist framework.
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    Transgender in Late Imperial China
    Sommer, Matthew (East Asia Program, Cornell University, 2023-04-20)
    Matthew Sommer (History, Stanford University) This talk presents three case studies from the Qing dynasty of people assigned male at birth who lived as women, while carefully concealing their assigned sex from others. One presented themself as a widow and had a successful career as a midwife for thirty years. Two others practiced faith-healing, and enjoyed relationships with male partners whom they served as wives. All three were eventually exposed and prosecuted for the crime of “masquerading in women’s attire.” What were the circumstances of these individuals’ lives, and how did Qing officials interpret their violation of normative gender boundaries? Sommer is a social and legal historian of China in the Qing dynasty (1644-1912). His research focuses on gender, sexuality, and family, and the main source for his work is original legal case records from local and central archives in China.
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    Guiding the People: Chinese Statecraft from Confucian Literati to Communist Cadres
    Cheek, Timothy (East Asia Program, Cornell University, 2023-09-25)
    Timothy Cheek, History, University of British Columbia kicks off this semester's CCCI lecture series with the theme of "China, the Central State and All Under Heaven." How is China governed? It is a question on our minds today as the rule of Xi Jinping in China challenges American hopes and stokes our fears. Is it Communist? Capitalist? Confucian? Making sense of Chinese statecraft, or of how any state is governed, requires not only political analysis but also some sense of the context, inherited problems, sense of self, that is, of its history. This is a fundamental historiographical challenge: how and in what ways can knowledge of past practice inform our understanding of later or current practice? How can specific knowledge of history inform, deepen, challenge, and open up new questions about what we think we know of our present rather than simply reinforcing our current assumptions and prejudices? This lecture explores that challenge to the practice of history through the example of one sort of governance—state-sponsored, village-based local public education in civic virtues. This state attempt to create ideal subjects began with the Confucians of the early 11th century, continued in rural education programs in Republican China in the 1930s, re-emerged in Communist ideological remolding campaigns under Mao, and appeared once again in political study sessions in Xi Jinping’s China today.
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    CCCI: Men, Masculinity, and Childbirth in early Twentieth-Century China
    Ma, Ling (East Asia Program, Cornell University, 2023-02-13)
    Professor Ma, Professor of History, SUNY Geneseo - China's reproductive system and masculinity
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    China's 'Leftover' Women and the End of the One-Child Policy
    Fincher, Leta Hong (East Asia Program, Cornell University, 2016-03-07)
    Professor Leta Hong Fincher, Mellon Visiting Assistant Professor, East Asia Languages and Culture, Columbia University. Author of Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China. Leta Hong Fincher critiques the vulgar state media representations of highly educated, urban single women in China and its effects on gender roles and discrimination.
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    Access to Elite Education, Wage Premium and Social Mobility: The Truth and Illusion of China's College Entrance Exam
    Jia, Ruixue (East Asia Program, Cornell University, 2016-10-31)
    Professor Ruixue Jia, Assistant Professor of Economics, School of Global Policy & Strategy, UC San Diego. This talk examines the returns to elite education and their implications on elite formation and social mobility, exploiting an open elite education recruitment system -- China's College Entrance Exam. We conduct annual national surveys of around 40,000 college graduates during 2010-2015 to collect their performance at the entrance exam, job outcomes, and other individual characteristics. Exploiting a discontinuity in the probability of attending elite universities around the cutoff scores, we find a sizable wage premium of elite education. However, access to elite education does not promise one's entry into the elite class (measured by occupation, industry and other non-wage benefits) but parents' elite status does. Access to elite education also does not alter the intergenerational link between parents' status and children's status. The wage premium appears more consistent with the signaling mechanism of elite education than the role of human capital or social networks.
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    TV Tears Made of Fear: Anatomy of the Spectacle of Power on Display in China's Forced Confessions
    Fiskesjö, Magnus (East Asia Program, Cornell University, 2016-11-14)
    Professor Magnus Fiskesjö, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Cornell University. After years of building a new system of courts of law, and after many solemn declarations to prohibit police torture and forced confessions (which both have been longstanding, publicly acknowledged problems in China), the Chinese authorities have recently reverted to extrajudicial show "trials" reminiscent of Maoist times. Select victims are detained and in due course forced to go on state TV and perform statements of self-incrimination which clearly have been rehearsed under duress. These choreographed spectacles of public confession are widely regarded as fake -- not least because several new witness accounts from former detainees emerged during 2016, which have revealed the current techniques used in some detail, and which unavoidably evoke Kafka's masterful allegory in The Trial on how self-incrimination is induced from the innocent, by the powerful. However, the question remains what is the purpose of this, and how we should interpret the case of contemporary China. This presentation will address the tragedy of historical antecedents as one part of the explanation, but also focus on sketching what power structures are built through these spectacles of forced confessions.
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    Environmental Challenges and Policy Options in China
    Li, Shanjun (East Asia Program, Cornell University, 2016-11-21)
    Professor Shanjun Li, Associate Professor, Dyson School of Applied Economics & Management, Cornell University. The talk will first broadly discuss the important environmental and energy challenges in China. Then the presentation will illustrate how important economic principles combined with big data can be powerful tools to address some of these challenges in the context of traffic congestion in Beijing. Major urban areas in China are experiencing world’s worst traffic congestion due to the dramatic increase in vehicle ownership and travel demand in the past decade. Central and local governments have been employing various policies to address this challenge yet with little or no visible impacts because these policies fundamentally failed to get the price right for road usage. This paper provides the first empirical estimate of the marginal cost of traffic congestion and the optimal congestion pricing in China by estimating the relationship between average vehicle speed and traffic density using rich vehicle traffic density and speed data from over 1500 monitoring stations throughout Beijing. To identify the causal effect of traffic density on speed, we use the driving restriction policy that restricts vehicle driving based on the last digit of the license plate to generate exogenous variation. Our analysis shows that the average marginal cost of congestion is about 0.5 Yuan (or $0.08) per km, nearly three times as much as what OLS regressions would imply and larger than estimates from transportation engineering models. Based on the marginal cost estimates for different road segments and time of the day, we estimate the optimal congestion pricing, the resulting congestion level, and social welfare under various designs of the pricing strategy.