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)
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 1989
Harvard University: MA, East Asian Studies 1984
University of California, Santa Cruz: BA, History 1982
- American Historical Association
- Association for Asian Studies
Media Appearances (12)
Pensioners protest as China’s healthcare system struggles to recover from COVID spending
The China Project online
While civil demonstrations aren’t commonplace in China, they also aren’t as rare as is often portrayed in Western media. “Protests have been routine occurrences in China for decades, but the Chinese Communist Party’s leaders are not particularly worried about many of them,” Jeffrey Wasserstrom, [Chancellor’s] Professor of Chinese history at UC Irvine and author of Vigil: Hong Kong on the Brink, told The China Project. “The pattern since the Tiananmen protests and June 4 Massacre of 1989 has been to treat some [protests] as natural ways for people to express grievances and let off steam, while taking a very tough line on others.”
Xi’s authority dented by sudden Covid U-turn but iron grip on power is undimmed
The Guardian online
Inside China’s political elite, there has been concern with Xi’s direction since at least 2018, when Xi abolished term limits, says Jeff Wasserstrom, a China expert and UC Irvine history [Chancellor’s] Professor. “There are more and more reasons for people to be discontented with what Xi Jinping has been doing … It’s a small segment of population but it’s an influential one.” But, Wasserstrom notes, it’s also a segment Xi has long targeted. Those most likely to be unhappy with his direction were likely among those ousted at the Party Congress, or in previous purges.
Hong Kong activists in Canada, U.S. and U.K. announce plans to form exile parliament
The Globe and Mail online
Jeffrey Wasserstrom, a historian of modern China at the University of California, Irvine, said exile communities are “often torn by fissures,” but added if the parliamentary project was able to instill a spirit of cooperation rather than competition between different groups promote, there has the potential to “maintain or even deepen a sense of Hong Kong identity abroad and save those who have remained in Hong Kong from feeling forgotten.
China’s anniversary deal for Hong Kong: Conform and prosper
The Christian Science Monitor online
“Hong Kong has gone from being such a free city to such a tightly controlled system,” says Jeffrey Wasserstrom, author of “Vigil: Hong Kong on the Brink” and history professor at University of California, Irvine. “This is part of a larger story of forced assimilation, the energy that’s put particularly on the physical edges of the People’s Republic of China to sort of rein in forms of diversity.”
Xi defends vision of Hong Kong on 25th anniversary of return
His speech represented the culmination of what China scholar Jeff Wasserstrom has described as a push and pull between two competing visions of “one country, two systems.”
Mourning Tiananmen’s Victims, and the Hong Kong That Was
The New York Times online
“There’s this blending happening of the Hong Kong story and the Beijing story,” said Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom, a historian of modern China at the University of California Irvine and the author of “Vigil,” a study of the clampdown in Hong Kong.
The 100 Most Influential People of 2022 – Xi Jinping
Xi Jinping has had a profound impact domestically and globally since ascending to power as Communist Party General Secretary in 2012, soon after which he became President and since has developed the biggest Chinese personality cult since Mao’s.
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.
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.
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).
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.
Technology has become the double-edged sword of Asia's protests
BBC News online
Protests, even so-called failed ones, could lay the groundwork for future demonstrations. … "When you have musicians that have played together, the next time they gather they can play together more effectively," said Jeff Wasserstrom, a history [Chancellor’s] Professor with the University of California, Irvine. Most social movements "get small concessions at best" before they fizzle out, he noted. "But that doesn't mean there isn't anything left for people to build on... even a failed movement can have a legacy in terms of providing templates and scripts."
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 governmentIndex on Censorship
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 …
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-FourIndex on Censorship
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.
History, Myth, and the Tales of TiananmenPopular 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.
Did China Have a 1968?The American Historical Review
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.
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 wayIndex 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.