China's "People's Diplomacy" and the Pugwash Conferences

Using newly available archival evidence, Gordon Barrett explores how the People's Republic of China made deliberate use of international initiatives to further its own Cold War status and foreign policy.  In an article for the Journal of Cold War Studies, Dr Barrett looks at the specific example of China's participation in the Pugwash Conferences, 1957 - 1964, which brought together scientists and public figures to work collaboratively on reducing the danger of armed conflict. 


Newly available archival sources in China illuminate how the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) used transnational initiatives to advance its aims. This article explores Chinese interaction with the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs from 1957 to 1964 and discusses how the People's Republic of China (PRC) made deliberate use of transnational initiatives to further its own Cold War strategy and foreign policy. High-ranking CCP officials were directly involved in selecting China's scientific participants, shaping their message, and determining their objectives at the conferences, including winning over potentially sympathetic foreign scientists, demonstrating Sino-Soviet solidarity and, in 1960, potentially establishing back-channel communications with the incoming Kennedy administration in the United States. Chinese scientists’ involvement in Pugwash shows that transnational relations mattered to the PRC during the Cold War and, more broadly, underscores the importance of governments in transnational relations.

Dr Gordon Barrett is Departmental Lecturer in Modern Chinese History & Politics