China’s Underground Historians: A Conversation with Ian Johnson

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In this episode of the ChinaPower Podcast, we are joined by Ian Johnson to discuss his new book Sparks: China’s Underground Historians and Their Battle for the Future, which sheds light on China’s dissident journals and historians. Ian explains that Xi Jinping has made shaping narratives of history one of his signature priorities. He further explains how underground historians are still fighting to control the understanding of Chinese history and, with time, could shape the future trajectory of their country. Johnson urges Western intellectuals to engage with these Chinese historians and to understand the diversity of views within China.

Ian Johnson is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and is an expert on Chinese politics, society, and religion. He has lived more than twenty years in China as a student, journalist, and teacher. His work appears regularly in The New York Review of Books, The New York Times, and other publications, and for five years he was on the editorial board of The Journal of Asian Studies.  

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Bonny Lin
Director, China Power Project and Senior Fellow, Asian Security