In Search of Admiration and Respect

Chinese Cultural Diplomacy in the United States, 1875–1974

Subjects: Asian Studies, China, Political Science, Political Behavior and Public Opinion, Cultural Studies, History, Chinese History, Art, Art History, Literary Studies, Asian Literature, Theater and Performance
Paperback : 9780472056804, 268 pages, 10 figures, 7 tables, 6 x 9, September 2024
Hardcover : 9780472076802, 268 pages, 10 figures, 7 tables, 6 x 9, September 2024
Open Access : 9780472904471, 268 pages, 10 figures, 7 tables, 6 x 9, September 2024

Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies (LRCCS) and the Weatherhead East Asian Institute
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Reframes cultural diplomacy as part of China's ongoing quest for modernity beyond wealth and power


In Search of Admiration and Respect examines the institutionalization of Chinese cultural diplomacy in the period between high imperialism and the international ascendance of the People’s Republic of China. During these years, Chinese intellectuals and officials tried to promote the idea of China’s cultural refinement in an effort to combat negative perceptions of the nation. Yanqiu Zheng argues that, unlike similar projects by more established powers, Chinese cultural diplomacy in this era was not carried out solely by a functional government agency; rather, limited resources forced an uneasy collaboration between the New York-based China Institute and the Chinese Nationalist government. 

In Search of Admiration and Respect uses the Chinese case to underscore what Zheng calls “infrastructure of persuasion,” in which American philanthropy, museums, exhibitions, and show business had disproportionate power in setting the agenda of unequal intercultural encounters. This volume also provides historical insights into China’s ongoing quest for international recognition. Drawing upon diverse archival sources, Zheng expands the contours of cultural diplomacy beyond established powers and sheds light on the limited agency of peripheral nations in their self-representation.

Yanqiu Zheng is a historian of China in the world and is the Associate Director of Asia and Pacific Programs at St. Lawrence University's Patti McGill Peterson Center for International and Intercultural Studies. He led the China and the Global South project, supported by the Ford Foundation, at the Social Science Research Council.

In Search of Admiration and Respect by Yanqiu Zheng is a superb study on the history of Chinese cultural diplomacy. Persuasively argued and extensively researched, the book highlights an overlooked but important channel of modern Chinese statecraft to write a much broader story of the Cold War. This history holds considerable relevance for our understanding of Chinese cultural diplomacy today, especially as the People’s Republic of China steps up ongoing efforts at improving its image abroad and cultivating its global soft power. Anyone interested in Chinese history, international history, or international relations should read this important book.”

- Philip Thai, Northeastern University

In Search of Admiration and Respect makes an important and original contribution to our understanding of Sino-US relations. Engaging with multiple fields of scholarship, Zheng moves skillfully back and forth between the China Institute and the Kuomintang (KMT) government to tell the story of how Chinese cultural diplomacy emerged and changed over half a century. This book will be of interest to historians of modern China in the world, the United States in the world, international history more broadly, and Asian America.”


- Chien-Wen Kung, National University of Singapore