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The University of Southampton
HistoryPart of Humanities

Research project: Peaceful China – Discourses about War and Peace in the Long 20th Century

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“Peaceful China” explores the question of how China has participated in the global conversation on war and peace in the long 20th century.

Propaganda poster
Fig. 2 - “Resist America, Aid Korea” (1952)

China is an exciting case study because its changing political actors have maintained that China is an exceptionally peaceful nation. This claim of Chinese peaceful exceptionalism needs to be contextualised in two ways: While claiming peacefulness, China also engaged in military actions (e.g. its participation in the Korean War, 1950-53). In spite of its assertion of peaceful exceptionalism, the specific notions of peace negotiated in China were closely intertwined with changing global discourses on war and peace.

In this project I discuss how the multiple Chinese notions of war and peace related to ideas of “just war” and “unjust war”, liberation, revolution and national unification, patriotism and treason, socialism and its containment, the legitimacy or illegitimacy of governments and China’s claim to be creating a uniquely peaceful world order. I draw on a broad range of archival and published sources, including official reports about mass campaigns, peace congresses or foreign visitors, correspondences between embassies and ministries, visual and textual propaganda materials, newspapers and journals, screen plays, local plays and museums.


old stamps
Fig. 3 - Stamps depicting the peace dove from the 1950s

My goal is not only to understand China’s peacefulness claim, and to rethink the practical implications of philosophical debates about peace, “just” and “unjust war”. I also hope to gain better insights into the ways in which China engages with globally shared, important ideals, such as the creation of world peace.

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