Workshop "Science, Foreign Policy, and the People’s Republic of China" (Deadline July 20, 2021)

Once described as an “elusive partnership” (Wagner, 2002), the relationship between science and foreign policy today occupies a central position in official discourses and practices of the People’s Republic of China. Development of science capacity in developing countries has been officially highlighted as a “core driving force” of Xi Jinping’s hallmark Belt and Road Initiative (Bai, 2018), while Chinese scientists are urged to contribute “Chinese wisdom” to tackle global problems such as climate change or the coronavirus pandemic (Xinhua, 2018). China is also leveraging its financial and engineering clout by embarking on massive scientific infrastructure projects, including the world’s largest radio telescope and new fleets of Earth observation satellites (Chen, 2021), and China’s science ministry has encouraged Chinese institutions to take the lead in international “big science” projects (State Council, 2018). Meanwhile, Chinese globalization has been accompanied by the establishment of new research agendas and modalities of international cooperation (Gui et al., 2019). Area studies programs, studying regions from Africa to the Arctic, have sprung up at Chinese universities (Li, 2020; Bertelsen & Su, 2018), while scholars develop concepts and theories to account for China’s rise in the international system (Zeng, 2020). Within China and abroad, new foreign policy terms and regional definitions (Reilly, 2021) have begun to be employed in fields ranging from agricultural science to maritime transportation.

Taken together, these developments warrant further critical investigation into the dynamics between science and foreign policy in the PRC and beyond: Are China’s science capacity and technical expertise being leveraged to achieve foreign policy goals? If so, in which ways? Do policies like BRI impact the conduct of international research? And how do research communities navigate the intersecting domains of science and foreign policy?

As part of our ongoing inquiry into the relationship between science and politics in contemporary China, the Lise Meitner Research Group “China in the Global System of Science,” will host a workshop to explore these and other related questions. Our goal is to meet in person to discuss complete papers which we intend to publish in a competitive journal or edited volume.

Aiming to collaborate across traditional disciplinary boundaries, we invite submissions from sociology, anthropology, geography, STS, political science, history, and other fields. Quantitative and comparative approaches are also welcome. Topics may include:

  • Foreign policy influences on academic practices within China;
  • BRI and the “science silk road” (Masood, 2019);
  • International dissemination of “Chinese” expertise;
  • Coinage and circulation of foreign policy concepts in academic research;
  • Transnational collaborations, including South-South exchanges;
  • Science diplomacy and/or nationalism; and,
  • Climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, and other “grand challenges”


May 2022 (the final dates of the workshop will be decided jointly with participants)

Application Deadline and Conditions

Please email an abstract of 250–300 words to, along with name and institutional affiliation of the author(s), by July 20, 2021. Decisions will be sent by September 15, along with instructions about the workshop format. Full papers will be due in mid-March 2022 (roughly six weeks before we meet).

What Is Funded

Workshop-related travel, accommodation, and meals, as well as publication-related expenses will be covered for participants. The Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (MPIWG) is located in Dahlem, a peaceful, green area in the southwest of Berlin.


Please email if you have any questions.