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The Xinhua News Agency and Chinese Foreign Policy in the Cold War

Wednesday 11 March 2020
China Seminar
Van Wijkplaats 4
2311 BX Leiden
Wasuregataki saigetsu: Kishatachi no mita Chūnichi ryōkoku kankei (Unforgettable times: The Sino-Japanese relationship as seen by journalists)(Beijing: Wuzhou Chuanbo Chubanshe/ TBS kyōryoku, 2007), p. 31.

Often overlooked in the history of the PRC’s supposed “opening” in the 1970s are the unique trajectories of Beijing’s relations with capitalist nations other than the United States. Focusing on the rapprochement processes with Japan and West Germany, this talk will aim to bring to the fore some striking similarities in how the establishment of diplomatic relations with these two countries was realised. A challenge for Beijing was that, due to the absence of official relations, there were no channels for communication about a possible rapprochement, which forced the government to make use of nominally non-governmental actors to establish a network of contacts and provide them with accurate information on the countries in question. A major boost for this process was the agreement that the Xinhua News Agency could place permanent foreign correspondents in Tokyo and Bonn in 1964. In this talk we will seek to trace the activities of this small number of Chinese journalists, and how they were tasked with building a network that had to include influential figures in Japan and West Germany that were not natural sympathizers of the PRC. Specific focus will be on two Xinhua journalists, placed in Japan and West Germany, and how their work contributed to the successful establishment of official diplomatic relations between the PRC and these two countries in 1972.

Casper Wits is University Lecturer East Asia at Leiden University and teaches in the BA International Studies. Before coming to Leiden he was a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Cambridge, and a Lecturer at the University of Tübingen. He received his PhD from Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan, in 2016, and before this completed his MA and undergraduate degree at Leiden University. His research focuses on postwar diplomatic and international history in East Asia, with a special interest in the development of Chinese and Japanese foreign policy and Sino-Japanese relations in this period.

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