A Conversation with Prof. Joseph Fewsmith and Prof. Alice Lyman Miller


Thursday, October 14, 2021


3:30 PM


5:00 PM
Play Video


s our access to Chinese data sources becomes increasingly constrained, and the political atmosphere narrows opportunities for informal collaboration, many China scholars physically outside China have been scrambling to find new and innovative ways to mitigate these trends. 

One promising – but rarely mentioned – avenue is to dust off the tools Sinologists utilized from the 1960s through the 1970s, when it was impossible to contemplate the kind of access that many of us have been able to take for granted, but which allowed these scholars to get so many things about China right. 

What are these skills – the analytical tools and the strategies to deploy them – and how might we be able to adapt them to the current research climate (and the foreseeable future)? 

We will be tackling a number of issues that we as a community of scholars face today.  These include, but are not limited to:

Methods used and strategies employed to secure useful data, and the circumstances that privileged some methods/strategies over others.

The relationship between data scarcity/availability and choice of research questions or topics.

Filling in the gaps in the data and constructing interpretations of it that satisfy the analytical rigor of the field.

The degree to which these skills, developed in the 1960s and 1970s, travel into the present day.

Larger questions about the current constraints in studying of China and the disciplinary mandates we face.

Implications in how we work with the policy world.

The format will consist of a 25-minute presentation per speaker, a 20-minute moderated discussion, and a final 20 minutes for Q and A from the audience (audience members may submit questions in advance to the SAIS China Global Research Center).  

All events in this series – unless otherwise noted – will be open to the SAIS/Johns Hopkins community and to the broader public.  Registration is required.

Event Guests

Joseph Fewsmith

Professor of International Relations and Political Science - Boston University

Joseph Fewsmith is Professor of International Relations and Political Science at the Boston University Pardee School. He is the author of seven books, including, most recently, Forging Leninism in China: Mao and the Remaking of the Chinese Communist Party, 1927-1934. Other works include Rethinking Chinese Politics (June 2021), The Logic and Limits of Political Reform in China (January 2013), and China since Tiananmen (2nd edition, 2008). Other books include Elite Politics in Contemporary China (2001), The Dilemmas of Reform in China: Political Conflict and Economic Debate (1994), and Party, State, and Local Elites in Republican China: Merchant Organizations and Politics in Shanghai, 1890-1930 (1985). He was one of the seven regular contributors to the China Leadership Monitor, a quarterly web publication analyzing current developments in China from 2002 to 2014.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Fewsmith traveled to China regularly and was active in the Association for Asian Studies. His articles have appeared in such journals as Asian SurveyComparative Studies in Society and HistoryThe China JournalThe China QuarterlyCurrent HistoryThe Journal of Contemporary ChinaProblems of Communism, and Modern China. He is a Center Associate of the John King Fairbank Center for China Studies at Harvard University and an associate of the Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future at Boston University. Professor Fewsmith’s areas of expertise include comparative politics as well as Chinese domestic politics and foreign policy.

Alice Lyman Miller

Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution and Lecturer in East Asian Studies - Stanford University

Alice Lyman Miller is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and lecturer in East Asian studies at Stanford. Miller first joined the Hoover Institution in 1999 as a visiting fellow. She also served as a senior lecturer in the Department of National Security Affairs at the US Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, 1999-2014. Before coming to Stanford, Miller taught at the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins University in Washington, DC. From 1980 to 1990, she was a professorial lecturer in Chinese history and politics at SAIS. From 1990 to 2000, she was an associate professor of China studies and, for most of that period, director of the China Studies Program at SAIS. She also held a joint appointment as adjunct associate professor in the Department of Political Science at Johns Hopkins from 1996 to 1999 and as adjunct lecturer in the Department of Government, Georgetown University, from 1996 to 1998. From 1974 to 1990, Miller worked in the Central Intelligence Agency as a senior analyst in Chinese foreign policy and domestic politics and as a branch and division chief, supervising analysis on China, North Korea, Indochina, and Soviet policy in East Asia. Miller has lived and worked in Taiwan, Japan, and the People’s Republic of China; she speaks Mandarin Chinese.

Miller’s research focuses on Chinese foreign policy and domestic politics and on the international relations of Asia. Miller has published extensively on policy issues dealing with China. Miller graduated from Princeton University in 1966, receiving a BA in Oriental studies. She earned an MA and a PhD in history from George Washington University in 1969 and 1974. Formerly H. Lyman Miller, she transitioned in 2006