May 12, 2020
POSTPONED: Socialism and Scientific Internationalism in Sino-British Scientific Networks from World War to Cold War
This event is postponed until further notice due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
When it comes to China’s foreign scientific relations in the Cold War, the two superpowers have cast long shadows which have obscured a great deal. The People’s Republic of China may have initially "leaned to one side" toward the Soviet Union, but this did not mean all of its efforts at outreach and exchange were directed either exclusively toward the USSR or even just the wider socialist world. Similarly, while American scientists may have been barred from travel to mainland China after the Chinese Communist Party rose to power in 1949, this did not stop scientists from elsewhere in the capitalist world from doing so. This talk will explore the significance of a significant cluster of scientists based in the United Kingdom whose engagement with China stemmed from a mixture of socialism, scientific internationalism, and scholarly friendships.
Some, like Joseph Needham and J.D. Bernal, were "ideological notables" as well known for their left-wing politics as their academic achievements. They had high-level positions in international organisations, occupied prominent positions within networks of like-minded academics and activists and had public profiles extending far beyond the world of science. Others, such as Howard E. Hinton or Kurt Mendelssohn, might not have enjoyed the same fame but they were nevertheless well-established figures in their scientific fields. Their visits to China after 1949 therefore had not only scientific value, but also provided the Chinese Communist Party distinctive propaganda opportunities diffracted through the lens of scientific exchange. Yet there was also a third category that included scientists like Kathleen Lonsdale and Dorothy Hodgkin, whose interactions were not so overtly propagandistic but still benefitted both scientists and Chinese policymakers. In all, such scientists’ engagement lay along a spectrum of different modes, incorporating elements of propaganda and scientific exchange in varying measures. Their common features and individual attractions highlight Chinese foreign policymakers’ and scientists’ priorities and interests from the Second World War through to the early years of rapprochement and increasing international integration in the 1970s.
Contact and Registration
Open to all, no registration required. Please contact the organizers if you have any questions about the event.