Rethinking Study Abroad in Modern China: Final Program (12 October)

The final program of the international workshop “Rethinking the study abroad movement and its impact on modern China” is now available!


From the mid-19th to the mid-20th century, over 200,000 young Chinese went to study abroad and subsequently returned to China to apply the knowledge they had acquired overseas in the service of their country. This vast migration of minds, which occurred during a pivotal juncture in China’s history and wielded a momentous influence on the country’s transformative trajectory, has elicited conflicting interpretations. Since its inception, the returned students have been alternatively celebrated as heroes of modernization or denigrated as agents of foreign imperialism. Furthermore, as the movement was shaped by contemporary political events, it underwent notable evolutions across the century. In the aftermath of the Opium wars (1839-42) and the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95, the initial waves were directed towards Europe and Japan, primarily to study military sciences and industrial expertise. However, following the conclusion of the First World War and amidst escalating tensions with Japan, the United States of America assumed prominence as the preeminent destination, leading to a considerable diversification of academic disciplines pursued. This momentous transpacific intellectual migration laid the bedrock for enduring and intricate exchanges between the two nations that persist to the present day.

This workshop aims to revisit this foundational brain migration from a long-term, comparative perspective. In the light of novel sources and methodologies, the eight participants from Europe, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the United States, will reexamine its impact on modern China as well as the host countries.

Original presentation in English.
Original presentation in French.


The detailed program including the paper abstracts and the participants’ short biographies can be downloaded here.


James Z. Lee, David Y. Zuo, Chen Liang, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Local and International Education of Chinese Elite Scientific Researchers, 1920-2020

Thorben Pelzer, Leipzig University
Anglophone Cosmopolitanism and the Administration of the British Boxer Indemnity Fund, 1925–1950

Christian Henriot, Aix-Marseille University
Japan’s Educational Legacy: A Study of China’s Japan-Educated Officials in the Nationalist Central Administration (1937-1944)

Zuo You, Nanjing University
Analysis of the Cost of Studying Abroad in Modern China (1900-1937)


Cécile Armand, ENS-Lyon/Aix-Marseille University
Reshaping the Chinese Ladder of Success in the Era of Globalization: A Study Based on the Who’s Who of American Returned Students (1917)

Lin-chun Wu, National Taiwan Normal University
American Returned Economists, the American Foundation, and the Specialization of Chinese Social and Economic Investigations in the 1930s

Chengji (Sally) Xing, Columbia University
The American-trained in the China Foundation

Peter E. Hamilton, Lingnan University
“Efficiency is More Important than Force’” Chinese Management Interns in the United States during World War II

Ruobing Fang, University of Göttingen
Members of the Collective or Individuals? Chinese Students in the USSR, 1949-1966

Practical information

  • Date: Thursday 12 October (9 am – 6 pm)
  • Location: Aix-Marseille University, Aix-en-Provence, Schuman campus, salle des colloques 1
  • Free entrance (registration recommended)

Contact: Cécile Armand (

Acknowledgments. This event has received the support of the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange (CCKF), the Faculté des Arts, Lettres et Sciences Humaines (ALLSH), the Institute of Asian Studies (Irasia), and the “Elites, Networks, and Power in modern China” (ENP-China) project at Aix-Marseille University.

OpenEdition suggests that you cite this post as follows:
Cécile Armand (September 28, 2023). Rethinking Study Abroad in Modern China: Final Program (12 October). Elites, Networks and Power in modern China. Retrieved July 21, 2024 from

Cécile Armand

Ancienne élève de l'Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon (2006), agrégée d'histoire (2009), docteure en histoire (2017), mes travaux portent sur la publicité, l'histoire urbaine, les migrations intellectuelles entre la Chine et les Etats-Unis et les méthodes computationnelles appliquées à la recherche historique. Mes recherches ont reçu le soutien des fondations Chiang Ching-kuo, Coca-Cola, Andrew Mellon (Program DHAsia, Stanford), de l'Agence Nationale de la Recherche (Access ERC, ENS-Lyon) et du Conseil Européen de la Recherche (projet ENP-China, Aix-Marseille).

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