Call for papers

CFP: International workshop on “The People's Republic of China’s Seven Decades of Foreign Economic Relations” 

Thursday 5 to Friday 6 March 2020
University of Helsinki, Finland

The current standing of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as a giant of the global economy and trade is undeniable. The PRC has the second largest economy in the world after the USA and is the dominant trading partner of numerous countries. The PRC has also become a major player in strategic investments in Africa and other parts of the world, including Europe. The leading role of the PRC has also been challenged, as demonstrated for instance by recent restrictions on the use of Chinese communications technology in the West and the ongoing trade war between the PRC and the USA.

The PRC’s role in the world economy has changed dramatically during the seven decades it has existed. In its early years, the PRC cannot be characterized as a trade superpower but its rise to such a standing began in earnest only after Deng Xiaoping’s reforms in 1978. The PRC nevertheless established trade relations with several countries soon after its establishment. Finland was the first capitalist country to conclude a bilateral trade agreement with the PRC in 1953. In the 1950s, however, the trade between western countries and the PRC was limited by the US-led CHINCOM embargo, which restricted strategic exports to the PRC.

While the PRC’s role in the global economy of today has attracted a great deal of scholarly attention, the history of China’s foreign economic relations has not been exhaustively studied. This workshop aims to add to our knowledge of the PRC’s foreign economic and trade relations prior to the reform and opening-up from 1978 onwards. Therefore, the workshop will focus on the decades from the PRC’s establishment in 1949 until the 1978 reform. We will also welcome papers that analyze continuity and change that extend to pre-1949 or post-1978 era. Papers should look at the PRC’s economic and trade relations with different countries and/or areas. Proposals addressing economic relations between the PRC and small/medium powers are particularly encouraged, since they often tend to get overshadowed by those with major powers.

The purpose of the workshop is to bring together scholars from China, Europe and the world and from various disciplines (e.g. economic and business history; history of technology; cultural history; social history) to communicate and discuss their research.

Possible topics include (but are not limited to):

  • Establishment and consolidation of trade relations between the PRC and other countries
  • Interplay between Cold War geopolitics and trade
  • Trade embargoes and ways to circumvent them
  • Circulation and adoption of technologies
  • Challenges in conducting the trade in practice
  • People and/or firms doing business in or with the PRC


If interested, please submit your abstract (between 200 and 400 words) by 31 October 2019. Please include a short biographical note in the same document, stating your field of research and affiliation.

Acceptance will be communicated by 15 November 2019. In case of acceptance, complete papers have to be submitted by 5 February 2020.

The language of the workshop will be English.

Registration will be free of charge and lunch and coffee will be provided for registered participants. However, participants will need to cover their own travel and accommodation expenses.

Participants affiliated to non-Chinese institutions are kindly invited to submit proposals to University Lecturer Maiju Wuokko, University of Helsinki:

Participants affiliated to Chinese institutions are kindly invited to submit proposals to Professor Zhang Xiuli, Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences – Institute of History: