Meet OPG Members: Rong Yuan

We would like to introduce you to the members of our School and
show the diversity of the themes that are studied within it. Every
month, the mini-interview gives you a glimpse into one research
project. This edition: PhD candidate Rong Yuan (Leiden University).

 What is your research project about?

My research is about China’s perceptions of the Soviet Union under Gorbachev’s reforms (1985-1991) and its relations with China’s own reforms during the same period. As we all know, the 1980s were incredibly eventful. Both China and the Soviet Union launched ambitious reforms under leaders with distinctive personalities during this period, even though their approaches and the results of their reforms differed. Therefore, the question is two-folded. The first layer is the impact of Gorbachev’s reforms on the debates on reforms in China, while the other is whether or not and how needs originated from China’s progress in reforms affected China’s perceptions of the Gorbachev administration.

Would you describe your project as political history? Why (not)?

I would describe my project as political history because a topic like “reform ”involves naturally highly intensive explorations into political ideas, debates in policy-making, and movements. Moreover, as the research is from a Chinese perspective, it is crucial to study the internal decision-making process and political culture of the Communist Party of China (CPC). 

What do you like most about your project?

I like my project because I have always been interested in Cold War history, and after all, it is important to know better about your unpredictable neighbor 🙂 More seriously, I majored in IR studies and diplomacy during my Bachelor’s and Master’s, whereas I found though helpful, theories and models couldn’t explain fully and clearly interactions between countries. For example, in my case, I believe historical memories also profoundly affected how Chinese leaders interpreted the Soviet Union and its reforms under Gorbachev and how China should interact with the Soviets and the broader outside world. I find this part of my research especially interesting.