HomeRethinking the study abroad movement and its impact on modern China (1850-1950s)

HomeRethinking the study abroad movement and its impact on modern China (1850-1950s)

*  *  *

Published on Monday, August 28, 2023


This international workshop aims to revisit the foundational intellectual migration that drove thousands of Chinese to study abroad from the mid-19th to the mid-20th century, from a long-term and comparative perspective. The participants will reassess its impact on modern China and their host countries in the light of new sources ad methodologies. 



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 know-how. 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.


Thursday 12 October 2023

9 am - 6 pm


  • James Z. Lee, 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)
  • Peter E. Hamilton, Lingnan University, “Efficiency is More Important than Force”: Chinese Management Interns in the United States during World War II


  • Cécile Armand, 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
  • Ruobing Fang, University of Göttingen, Lives and Choices of Western-Educated Chinese Returnees: Exploring Inner Emigration through the Case of Wu Mi


  • Salle des Colloques 1, Pôle Multimedia - 29 avenue Robert Schuman
    Aix-en-Provence, France (13)

Event attendance modalities

Full on-site event


  • Thursday, October 12, 2023

Attached files


  • intellectual migration, modern China, education, return migration, modernization, gender


  • Cécile Armand
    courriel : cecile [dot] armand [at] gmail [dot] com

Reference Urls

Information source

  • Cécile Armand
    courriel : cecile [dot] armand [at] gmail [dot] com


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Rethinking the study abroad movement and its impact on modern China (1850-1950s) », Conference, symposium, Calenda, Published on Monday, August 28, 2023, https://doi.org/10.58079/1bpi

Archive this announcement

  • Google Agenda
  • iCal
Search OpenEdition Search

You will be redirected to OpenEdition Search