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China and Colonialism

Colonialism is a term attributed to China more often when discussing international affairs. Historically, China suffered from western colonialism for a lengthy period that left significant marks on the country economically, socially and culturally. Currently, as the geopolitical power balance has made a shift from the west towards the east, China has become an important actor globally. The country’s policies, such as the Belt and Road Initiative including its investments in key positions of infrastructure worldwide and especially in the global south raise a new set of questions: has China built a web of political dependencies through its economic investments? Could and should China’s policies be described as colonialism, and are they any different compared to western colonial activities? How should we relate and respond to China’s expansionist efforts?

The seminar is organized by Historians Without Borders (HWB) and the Finnish Institute of International Affairs (FIIA).


9:30 Introducing Historians without Borders and the Event's Theme

Dr Erkki Tuomioja

9:45 Deconstructing “Chinese neocolonialism”: attitudes and actualities

Professor Li Xing, Aalborg University

10:15 China’s neo-colonial presence in Europe? Reflecting from Europe’s Eastern Periphery

Dr Dušica Ristivojević, Visiting Scholar at the University of Helsinki and Research Fellow at Central European Institute of Asian Studies

10:45 Introduction to the panel discussion 

Professor Julie Yu-wen Chen, University of Helsinki

11:00 Panel discussion

  • Professor Li Xing
  • Dr Dušica Ristivojević
  • Professor Julie Yu-wen Chen

Chair: Dr Jyrki Kallio, Senior Research Fellow at the FIIA

The seminar is held in English. Tea and coffee will be served at 9:00 am onwards. 

To register to the event, please contact Historians without Borders (contact information below).


Erkki Tuomioja, Docent of Contemporary History and the longest serving Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland, is behind the initiative to establish Historians without Borders. He has acted as Chairman of the Board of Historians without Borders in Finland since the founding meeting in the summer of 2015. Tuomioja is the author of more than 20 books on history and current affairs.

Li Xing has a PhD in Development and International relations. Currently he is Professor of international relations at Aalborg University, Denmark. His other current academic responsibilities include the positions of Director, Research Centre on Development and International Relations (DIR), Aalborg University and the Editor in Chief, Journal of China and International Relations. His research interests include international political economy, international relations, emerging powers and world order. In recent years, apart from publishing numerous international and Chinese journal articles, he has edited a number of book series on the theme of the rise of China/emerging powers and the existing world order. Professor Li Xing is Honorary Professor appointed by a number of Chinese universities, and he is visiting and lecturing in China on a regular basis.

Dušica Ristivojević is senior researcher affiliated with the Central European Institute of Asian Studies, Bratislava and with the China Studies team at the University of Helsinki.  She specializes in a longue durée dynamics of China’s global interactions, print and digital media, and social organizing in and out of China. She is finalizing her book manuscript on transnational links of China’s political movements and is observing China’s presence at Europe’s Eastern peripheries in the fields of dirty industry and digital technology.

Julie Yu-wen Chen is Professor of Chinese Studies at the University of Helsinki. She has held academic positions at Palacky University (Czech Republic), Nazarbayev University (Kazakhstan), University College Cork (Ireland) and Academia Sinica (Taiwan) and been a visiting scholar at La Trobe University and Universities of Virginia, Tokyo, Tübingen, Nottingham, Macau, and St. Petersburg. Part of her academic work concerns China’s political and economic initiatives in post-Soviet societies (e.g., Central Asia, Central and Eastern Europe), and Southeast Asia. Since 2023, she has been involved in the EU twinning project “The EU in the Volatile Indo-Pacific Region”, leading the preparatory research and providing supervision and counselling to junior researchers.

Jyrki Kallio is Senior Research Fellow at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, and holds the Title of Docent (venia docendi) in International Relations and Chinese Studies at the University of Lapland. His research foci include Chinese political culture and foreign policy, and regional issues in East Asia. He has a special interest in the instrumentalization of traditional schools of thought in East Asian politics, and in addition to his research, has translated classical Chinese philosophy and prose. Previously, he served the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland as diplomat. He holds degrees of MSocSc (International Relations) and PhD (Chinese Society Studies).

Additional information:

Heta Hedman
Secretary General
Historians without Borders in Finland
tel. +358406608979

Finnish Institute of International Affairs (FIIA)

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