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Jeffrey Wasserstrom - UC Irvine. Irvine, CA, US

Jeffrey Wasserstrom Jeffrey Wasserstrom

Chancellor's Professor | UC Irvine


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




Jeffrey Wasserstrom Publication Jeffrey Wasserstrom Publication Jeffrey Wasserstrom Publication Jeffrey Wasserstrom Publication




The Many Faces of Xi Jinping with Jeffrey Wasserstrom Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom: China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know - September 11, 2013 Jeffrey Wasserstrom: Jeffrey Wasserstrom and MaryKay Magistad: Hong Kong on the Brink




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 (5)






Accomplishments (3)

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)


Education (3)

University of California, Berkeley: PhD, History 1989

Harvard University: MA, East Asian Studies 1984

University of California, Santa Cruz: BA, History 1982

Affiliations (2)

  • American Historical Association
  • Association for Asian Studies

Media Appearances (5)

HK’s spirit of resistance

Mekong Review  online


The most surprising aspect of the protest movement is simply how long it has lasted—how determined Hong Kong’s people have been to show that the Lion Rock spirit, as devotion to the city is sometimes described in honour of a beloved natural landmark in Kowloon, remains strong. Why continue to protest, when it seems so incredibly unlikely that the authorities would be willing to budge on the issues that have become most central to the struggle?

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Hong Kong on the Brink

Vigil  online


In this well-organized, strikingly relevant work, Wasserstrom (History/Univ. of California, Irvine; Chinese Characters: Profiles of Fast-Changing Lives in a Fast-Changing Land, 2012, etc.) argues that the designation of Hong Kong by China and Britain in the handover of 1997 as a Special Administrative Region enjoying “a high degree of autonomy” is being threatened.

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The Divides That Make Hong Kong and West Berlin

The Atlantic  online


Hong Kong and West Berlin stand about as far apart as two cities can be. Yet for most of the second half of the 20th century, they were doppelgängers in an important way: Each was a focal point of Cold War tensions, linked by the shared stresses of being a battleground for two diametrically opposed ideologies.

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Jeff Wasserstrom On The History Of Protests In Hong Kong

USC US-China Institute  online


In this illustrated presentation, Prof. Jeffrey Wasserstrom puts events since the 1997 Handover and particularly since the 2014 Umbrella Movement into comparative and historical perspective, drawing on his long term interest in anti-authoritarian protests and the global cities in Asia and his many recent visits to Hong Kong. In addition to introducing material from his new book Vigil: Hong Kong on the Brink, Wasserstrom brings in things that have happened since he completed work on the book in October, including the massive December 8 march that he observed first hand.

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City of Protest: On Hong Kong With Jeff Wasserstrom

The Nation  online


Twenty nineteen was the year Hong Kong exploded, and Jeff Wasserstrom’s Vigil: Hong Kong on the Brink, out on February 11, is a concise guide to a “city of protest” that until recently was better known as an apolitical capital of commerce.

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Articles (5)

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

2020 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

2019 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

2018 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

2018 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

2017 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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