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Shellen Wu

Wilson China Fellow


    September 1, 2023 — July 31, 2024

    Professional affiliation

    Associate Professor and the L.H. Gipson Chair in Transnational History at Lehigh University


    • Chinese history
    • The history of technology and innovation in China

    Wilson Center Projects

    Tensions of the Endless Frontier: Geostrategic Competition and the Lives of Scientists

    Full Biography

    Shellen Xiao Wu is associate professor and the L.H. Gipson Chair in Transnational History at Lehigh University. Her new book, Birth of the Geopolitical Age: Global Frontiers and the Making of Modern China (Stanford University Press, 2023) traces the global history of the frontier in the twentieth century, with an emphasis on China. The global history approach provides a new perspective on the continuities and evolution of the construction of Chinese territoriality from the late nineteenth century to the People’s Republic of China after 1949 and shows how the subsequent reshaping of Chinese geopolitical ambitions in the twentieth century continues to reorder global power dynamics in East Asia and the wider world to this day. 

    Her first book, Empires of Coal: Fueling China’s Entry into the Modern World Order, 1860-1920 (Stanford University Press, Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, 2015), argues that the changes specific to the late Qing were part of global trends in the nineteenth century, when the rise of science and industrialization destabilized global systems and caused widespread unrest and the toppling of ruling regimes around the world. 

    Wu has received fellowships from the Institute of Advanced Studies in Princeton, the National Humanities Center, the Luce/ACLS Program in China Studies, Fulbright, and the Mellon Foundation. She has published articles in Nature, The American Historical Review, International History Review, and other leading journals in history, history of science, and Asian Studies. She is the chair of the East and Inner Asia Council of the Association of Asian Studies (2022-2024) and president of the Historical Society for Twentieth Century China (2022-2024).