Chinese Businessmen and the Economic Roots of American Cold War Power, 1938‒1955
From 1940 to 1945, the United States relied heavily on a steady stream of Chinese tungsten ore, hog bristles and tung oil in order to power American wartime industry. The flow of Chinese products to the United States was only possible with the efforts of a small handful of Chinese businessmen who served as the linchpins in a vast wartime production network that channelled raw materials from China’s rural hinterland to American factories. The wartime efforts of these businessmen helped lay the foundation for a postwar, Cold War order that was shored up through the exchange of resources for dollars with allied countries throughout Latin America and the Pacific. This talk will focus on one of these businessmen, a man named Li Guoqin or K.C. Li, who was later known as China’s ‘Tungsten King’, to reveal the powerful role that these businessmen played in shaping the dimensions of American power in East Asia, Latin America, and the wider Cold War world.

Judd Kinzley, Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is interested in the ways that natural resources define and often limit state power in Chinese border regions. His book, Natural Resources and the New Frontier: Constructing Modern China’s Borderlands (University of Chicago Press, 2018), offers a new material-centered perspective on the development of institutions of state power and authority in China’s far western province of Xinjiang. The book focuses on the efforts of a motley assortment of state and non-state, Chinese and non-Chinese actors to find, exploit, process and transport various natural resources in 20th century Xinjiang, including gold, petroleum, wool and rare minerals, among others. Professor Judd’s work offers a unique perspective on the development of Xinjiang’s connections to the modern Chinese state, the roots of ethnic tensions and unrest in the region, and provides a framework for thinking about the integration border regions more generally.
Date: 27 May 2024, 17:00 (Monday, 6th week, Trinity 2024)
Venue: Dickson Poon Building, Canterbury Road OX2 6LU
Venue Details: Kin-ku Cheng Lecture Theatre (lower ground floor)
Speaker: Professor Judd Kinzley (University of Wisconsin-Maddison)
Organising department: Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies
Organisers: Dr Bo-jiun Jing (University of Oxford), Dr Evelyn Chan (University of Oxford), Dr Xiaojing Miao (University of Oxford), Professor Margaret Hillenbrand (University of Oxford), Professor Denise van der Kamp (University of Oxford), Professor Henrietta Harrison (University of Oxford), Dr Chigusa Yamaura (University of Oxford)
Organiser contact email address:
Host: Dr Evelyn Chan (University of Oxford)
Part of: China Studies Seminar series
Booking required?: Not required
Cost: Free
Audience: Public
Editor: Clare Orchard