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Georgia Southern professor selected as Wilson China Fellow 2022-23

Georgia Southern University Associate Professor of History Mao Lin, Ph.D., has been selected as a recipient of the Wilson China Fellowship for 2022-23. This is a yearlong, non-residential fellowship aimed at producing new research that builds bridges between traditional academia and the policy world in relation to China and its impact. Lin’s project is “Bringing China Back Into the World: The Historical Origin of America’s Engagement Policy and Its Implications for Contemporary US-China Relations”.

Through his project, Lin looks at the historical origin of America’s engagement policy with China and how it impacts contemporary Sino-American relations. Seen as a failure by many observers, Lin looks to a period known as the “long 1970s” to see how Sino-American interactions were framed and how American helped bring about the modernization of China.

“It is important to understand the historical origin of the engagement policy because contemporary critics of the policy too often tend to read history selectively,” Lin explained in his project outline. “Many critics argue that the successive American administrations’ obsession with strategic issues was to blame for the failure of engagement, as Washington, reluctant to destabilize U.S.-China strategic cooperation, turned a blind eye to issues that have become explosive in recent years.”

Another key objective is that the two governments only focus their efforts when presented with a common enemy, such as the threat from the Soviet Union, arms control and other big-ticket issues. This dims the true range of American engagement with China, explained Lin.

“It has led to the argument that engagement was only a diplomatic expediency through which Beijing and Washington forged a tactical alliance against Moscow,” Lin said. “In the absence of a common enemy and in the face of a rising China, engagement shall be declared a failure and abandoned.”

Lin argues that the understanding of dynamics needs to be more balanced in order to truly implement change between the countries. Focusing solely on the “high politics” will damage the relationship further. By researching the period of the “long 1970s” Lin believes an effective means of engagement can be found.

The Wilson fellowship began in August 2022 and runs through August 2023. Lin’s non-partisan project aims to help policymakers form better China policies.

The Wilson Center was chartered by Congress as the nation’s living memorial to President Woodrow Wilson. Through the work of its staff and fellows, it connects deep scholarship to urgent policy questions.


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