- Fellowship year:2018-2019
- University: Northwestern University
- Dissertation Topic/Category: East Asia
- Dissertation Title: Defining China: Beijing, Taipei, and the United Nations' 'China Seat,' 1949-1992
"Defining China: Beijing, Taipei, and the United Nations' 'China Seat,' 1949-1992," examines how the Guomindang (GMD) and the Communist Party of China (CPC) competed to represent China and the international consequences of that competition. The CPC's victory in the Chinese Civil War (1946-1949) led to the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC) in Beijing in 1949, while the GMD reestablished the Republic of China (ROC) in Taipei, Taiwan. Consequently, two states claimed to represent the same nation-state: "China." The images of China both parties created influenced not only their domestic and foreign policies, but also the internaional system as more states entered the world stage in decolonization's wake. The CPC and GMD's struggle in the international arena reverberated most powerfully in the United Nations (UN), as the world body debated which state represented China. Thus, while there was a Chinese nation, "China" was a contested concept throughout the latter half of the twentieth century.
A central theme of "Defining China" is that both the PRC and the ROC developed distinct models of "China" to support their legitimacy, and the UN was a key venue for demonstrating international legitimacy. In this work, I investigate the CPC's and the GMD's vying interpretations of China from 1949 to 1992. I assay both parties' interpretations through local newspapers published in China and Taiwan, party-mouthpiece publications, periodicals meant for foreign audiences, and UN documents. The PRC defined China as revolutionary, a state made modern by casting off traditions, and had little reason to act within prescribed international norms. The ROC defined China as traditional, a state made modern by adhering to Sun Yat-Sen's principles and Confucianism, and defended the international system. In 1971, however, the PRC assumed China's seat in the world body. The CPC, then, had the UN's international legitimacy in support of their claim to represent China. Conversely, the GMD had to defend their right to represent China with neither a seat in the UN nor China's historical territory. The only way to understand how the change in UN representation affected each state is to examine the PRC's and the ROC's post-1971 claims to represent China. By going to the ROC's 1992 democratic reforms, I analyze both states with and without access to the world body to show how UN membership, or lack thereof, shaped both parties' constructions of China and how those constructions, in turn shaped their domestic and foreign policies. Going beyond 1971 also illustrates shifting Chinese attitudes towards the UN and theories of diplomacy in both states.