Department of International Relations Academic Lecture: Shanghai and Suzhou as Cosmopolitan Cities



Shanghai and Suzhou as Cosmopolitan Cities, 1850-2010

This lecture will look at how the two Chinese urban centers of Shanghai and Suzhou have played different roles in different periods, both in practical terms and as places that have sometimes occupied important places in the Chinese and/or Western imaginations. Its starting point will be the period before the 1830s, when Suzhou as well as Hangzhou were considered much more important cultural and commercial centers than nearby Shanghai, then just a modest market town with an attractive port. Its ending point will be the present, when Shanghai’s prominence as a major city is so well established that it is hard to remember that “Little Suzhou” was once among its nicknames. This comparison of Shanghai and Suzhou will serve as a jumping off point for some comments on other pairs of interrelated Chinese cities, such as Beijing and Nanjing, which at points in history took turns serving as China's capital.


Professor Jeffrey Wasserstrom

Jeffrey Wasserstrom is Chancellor’s Professor of History at the University of California, Irvine, where he also holds courtesy appointments in Law and in Literary Journalism. He is the author of two books that focus on Shanghai: Student Protests in Twentieth-Century China: The View from Shanghai (Stanford, 1991) and Global Shanghai, 1850-2010 (Routledge, 2009). He has also written several volumes aimed at general readers, such as Eight Juxtapositions: China through Imperfect Analogies from Mark Twain to Manchukuo (Penguin, 2016) and China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know, the third edition of which, co-authored with Maura Cunningham, was published earlier this year.

Prof. Wasserstrom has contributed to many academic periodicals and serves as the Editor of the Journal of Asian Studies from July 2008 to June 2018. He has also written commentaries and reviews for general interest magazines (e.g., the TLS and Internazionale), newspapers (e.g., the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, and the New York Times), and many online publications (from the Huffington Post to He is an adviser to the Hong Kong International Literary Festival, has often spoken at the Shanghai International Literary Festival, was a co-founder of the China Beat blog (2008-2012), and is an advising editor for the Los Angeles Review of Books and one of the founders of that publication’s China Channel.