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Jeffrey Wasserstrom

Chancellor's Professor | History

Irvine, CA, UNITED STATES, 300H Murray Krieger Hall

Jeffrey specializes in modern Chinese cultural history & world history, who has written on many contemporary as well as historical issues




Image for publication on China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs To Know®Image for publication on Vigil: Hong Kong on the Brink (Columbia Global Reports)Image for publication on Eight Juxtapositions: China Through Imperfect Analogies from Mark Twain to Manchukuo (Penguin Specials)Image for publication on Student Protests in Twentieth-Century China: The View from Shanghai





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Jeffrey Wasserstrom is Chancellor’s Professor of History at UC Irvine, where he also holds courtesy affiliations in Law and Literary Journalism. Holder of a B.A. from UC Santa Cruz, a master’s from Harvard, and a doctorate from Berkeley, he has written, coauthored, edited or coedited more than ten books. His most recent books are: Vigil: Hong Kong on the Brink (2020) and China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know, updated third edition coauthored with Maura Elizabeth Cunningham (Oxford, 2018). In addition to writing for academic journals, Wasserstrom has contributed to many general interest venues, e.g., the New York Times, the TLS, and the Wall Street Journal. He is an advising editor at the Los Angeles Review of Books and an academic editor of its associated China Channel. He served as a consultant for two prize-winning Long Bow Film Group documentary, was interviewed on camera for the film “Joshua; Teenager vs. Superpower,” is an adviser to the Hong Kong International Literary Festival, and is a former member of the Board of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations. In the spring of 2020, he was to be a Leverhulme Visiting Professor of Birkbeck College, University of London, but taking up that post has been delayed due to COVID-19

Areas of Expertise



Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar | professional

2014-2015 Academic Year

Visiting Research Fellow | professional

June-July 2014 Merton College, Oxford

W. Bruce Lincolm Memorial Lecturer (Northern Illinois) | professional



University of California, Berkeley

PhD, History


Harvard University

MA, East Asian Studies


University of California, Santa Cruz

BA, History



  • American Historical Association
  • Association for Asian Studies

Media Appearances

The Xi Era

Dissent Magazine  online


The seismic shifts in the global world order during Xi’s rule call for new tools for understanding China and the varied lives and views of its inhabitants.

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How Covid helped China tighten its hold on Hong Kong

Hong Kong Free Press  online


Jeffrey Wasserstrom, a history professor at the University of California, Irvine, says “there was once a chasm separating what takes place in Hong Kong from what takes place across the mainland border”. That chasm is getting smaller.

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‘They were fooled by Putin’: Chinese historians speak out against Russian invasion

The Guardian  online


There is a long history of Chinese intellectuals speaking out, individually or collectively, on major domestic and international issues, including in ways that challenge official policies, said Prof Jeff Wasserstrom, a historian of modern China at the University of California, Irvine. “Sometimes the risks involved are small but at other points it is truly daring to engage in this time-honoured practice.”

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Books for Biden: Reading Recommendations Linked to “Global China in an Anxious Age” (UC Irvine, February 25–26)

LA Review of Books  online


Jeffrey Wasserstrom is Chancellor’s Professor of History at the University of California, Irvine. His most recent book is Vigil: Hong Kong on the Brink (Columbia Global Reports, 2020).

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Suspicion and subjugation in Xinjiang

New Statesman  online


The historian Jeffrey Wasserstrom told me it reminded him of the dystopia in The Hunger Games, “in which powerful people in a glittering capital… use competitors from harshly repressed places for political [gain]”.

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Jeffrey Wasserstrom on Censorship and Translated Literature in China

Literary Hub  online


[...] we’re joined by Jeffrey Wasserstrom, Chancellor’s Professor of History at UC Irvine. He’s one of America’s leading China specialists and has written several important books, including Vigil: Hong Kong on the Brink, also published by Columbia Global Reports. There’s no better guest to help us wade into the intricate and nuanced realities of China, a country that the US has locked in its gaze.

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Don’t let them call the tune: A professor debates the moral questions about speaking at events sponsored by an organisation with links to the Chinese government

Index on Censorship

Jeffrey Wasserstrom


ABOUT A DECADE ago, a China specialist at a US university invited me to speak on his campus, but he left out one important detail. The sponsor of my talk would be the local Confucius Institute. Confucius Institutes are educational organisations, which are designed …

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Ghost writers: The author and China expert imagines a fictional futuristic lecture he’s going to give in 2049, the centenary of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four

Index on Censorship

Jeffrey Wasserstrom


HISTORY IS SOMETHING that academic Jeffrey Wasserstrom regularly reviews, the future less so. However, for his new short story for this magazine, California-based Wasserstrom takes an academic lecture of the future as his inspiration.

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History, Myth, and the Tales of Tiananmen

Popular Protest And Political Culture In Modern China

Jeffrey Ν. Wasserstrom


During the emotional days that followed June 4, 1989, it seemed as though there were only two ways to tell the story of the Chinese protests and the crackdown that ended them. One could follow the CCP authorities and denigrate the protests as "counterrevolutionary riots," deny that a massacre had taken place, and claim that soldiers were the only martyrs worthy of the name.

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Did China Have a 1968?

The American Historical Review

Jeffrey Wasserstrom


MY MAIN THESIS HERE ABOUT CHINA and “1968” is simple. It is best to conclude that one of three things happened: China did not have a “1968”; it had one, but one that jumped the gun chronologically by taking place in 1966; or it had one, but one that came very late and did not begin until just over two decades after the end of the eponymous year. I also have a secondary point to make, which I will focus on at the end in some comments that explain my choice of epigraphs, both of which, in one case obviously and in the other surprisingly, have direct ties to 1968.

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Airbrushing history: With China’s Communist Party still in power, the way 1917 is remembered must follow the party line. One man learnt the hard way

Index on Censorship

Jeffrey Wasserstrom, Yidi Wu


CHINESE INTELLECTUALS LI Dazhao and Cao Dafu could not have had more different takes on Soviet Russia and it was these differences that led to the demise of one and the celebration of another. Unlike the Russian centenary, it is not easy today, with Mao’s heirs still in power, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of a 1957 campaign that led to the purge of many intellectuals, including Cao.

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