In the study of China’s foreign affairs, historians like to suggest that the past is always present. A ‘century of humiliation’ in the nineteenth century or fighting the Japanese in the 1930s and 1940s are often referenced. Yet another historic development, namely China’s development of nuclear weapons in the 1950s and 1960s, is often absent from this assessment.

In contrast to many other nuclear weapons states, China has largely been quiet about its nuclear past. Only in the last years of former leader Hu Jintao (2003-2012) and now the current leader, Xi Jinping (2013-) has China started to commemorate its nuclear weapons development more seriously.

This paper sets out to understand both the nature and timing of this commemoration within China but also the wider implications of nuclear commemoration for regional and international security. Ultimately, under Xi Jinping, China’s nuclear past is finally becoming present.

Watch the recording here. 

Dr Nicola Leveringhaus is Lecturer in East Asian Security and International Relations at the Department of War Studies, King’s College London. Dr Leveringhaus specialises in nuclear weapons issues in Northeast Asia, especially related to China. She has lectured at Sheffield University (2015-16) and was a British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellow (2012-15) at the University of Oxford. She has been a Senior Visiting Scholar at Tsinghua University; and a Pre-Doctoral Fellow at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. She holds an MPhil in Modern Chinese Studies and DPhil in International Relations from St. Antony's College, Oxford. 

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Thu, 5 Aug 2021, 6 - 7:30pm

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