Photo of Dr Tehyun Ma.

Dr Tehyun Ma

B.A. (Pennsylvania), Ph.D. (Bristol), Postdoc (Oxford)

Lecturer in International History

The history of state- and nation-building in twenieth-century China and Taiwan

+44 (0)114 22 22588 | Jessop West 1.10

Semester Two 2018/19 Office Hours: Mondays 14:00-15:00 and Thursdays 14:00-15:00



Tehyun grew up in the old steel city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, or the Sheffield of America as it is sometimes known. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with a BA in International Relations and History, she worked as a trade union organiser before undertaking a doctorate in history at the University of Bristol. Upon graduation in 2010, she became a postdoctoral fellow on the Leverhulme-funded 'China's War with Japan' project in the History Faculty at Oxford. Tehyun has taught at Birkbeck College, University of London, Bristol University, and the University of Exeter before joining the department.

Tehyun's main research interest is in the history of state- and nation-building in twenieth-century China and Taiwan, particularly under the Chinese Nationalist (Guomindang) government. She is also interested in the transnational exchange of social policy in wartime East Asia.

Membership of Professional Bodies

To follow.


Current Research

Tehyun's main research interest is in the history of state-building in China and Taiwan, with a particular focus on how state-building and propaganda fostered legitimacy at home and abroad. Currently Tehyun is working on two research projects.

Her first project explores the development of 'Free China' on Taiwan in the early Cold War, as well as the role of American sponsorship in regime consolidation. She focuses on how the challenge of mobilising a disaffected island population to meet an invasion by the People’s Liberation Army shaped the way Chinese Nationalist leaders tried to produce authority in the early Cold War period. 

Her second project focuses on the designs for rehabilitation and reconstruction in China before and after the Japanese surrender in 1945. Tehyun has looked here at the transnational influences on Chinese social policy, such as the American Social Security Act and the British Beveridge Report, and have argued that the adaptation of such ideas became a significant aspect of Republican China's foreign and domestic policy.

Both projects are interested in questions about the performance of statecraft. Tehyun looks at reformers working within authoritarian regimes who believed that political authority came out of the process and comportment of government, rather than the legitimation of majority rule.

In keeping with her interest in state formation, she has also written on the long history of imperial rule and colonial intervention in China between the eighteenth century and the Communist takeover in 1949.

Research Supervision

Tehyun is happy to supervise students working on the history of modern China and Taiwan, particularly those with an interest in the Republican era (1911-1949), World War II, and the early Cold War.

All current students by supervisor | PhD study in History





Book Chapters



Journal Articles

'"The Common Aim of the Allied Powers": Social Policy and International Legitimacy in Wartime China, 1940-47’, Journal of Global History 9:2 (2014).


'A Chinese "Beveridge Plan": The Discourse of Social Security and the Post-war Reconstruction of China', European Journal of East Asian Studies 11 (2012).






 Module Leader

HST2503: The Battle for China's Future, 1839-1949

This module explores a century in which nationalists and imperialists fought over China. We will begin by looking at how the Qing empire, having expanded China's frontiers, confronted the 'semi-colonialism' of foreign powers and bloody domestic rebellions. After covering the Qing's fall in the 1911 Revolution, we will examine different designs for national integration on the part of warlords, reformers, and radicals, and consider the civil wars that followed. China’s history in this period is sometimes told as a straightforward story of Eastern response to Western impact. But in introducing you to China before Communist rule, we will consider a more complex story of innovation, exchange, accommodation, and resistance, as the Middle Kingdom's dynastic rulers and their republican successors tried to meet foreign and domestic challenges, balance conservatism and modernization, and redraw their country's social, political, and geographic boundaries.


HST3150/3151: Mao and the Making of Twentieth-Century China

In 2015, citizens in Henan Province erected a 120-foot gold statue of Mao Zedong, which was swiftly torn down on government orders. Why does Mao still provoke such strong feelings? To some he is a monster: history's greatest mass murderer. But recently historians have painted a richer picture of Mao's China, trying to understand its social character, political culture, and role in Cold War rivalries. Focusing on the origins, character, and legacy of Maoist rule, and devoting most of our attention to the period between the declaration of the People's Republic in 1949 and Mao's death in 1976, we will use translated primary sources, a rich visual culture, and a burgeoning scholarly literature to explore Maoist thought and its critics; major upheavals like the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution; and everyday life under 'Communism with Chinese characteristics'.


HST6068: The Japanese Empire in East Asia, 1895-1945

Between 1895 and 1945 Japan joined the ranks of imperial powers in East Asia, acquiring Taiwan, Korea, and ever greater portions of China. This module examines how the Japanese empire was built, run, and resisted. We will ask whether approaches to colonialism honed by historians of Western imperialism work in the Japanese context, and will consider too how Japan's rapid modernisation, political development, and diplomatic and ideological engagement with rival great powers shaped its coonial policy. No prior knowledge of East Asian history is required to take the course.


Public Engagement

Public Engagement

Tehyun has talked about aspects of her work on Radio 4, Chinese TV, and has been interviewed for a forthcoming documentary on the Sino-Japanese War. Work on public engagement projects have taken her to the British Consulate in Chongqing, China, and, more locally, to Historical Association talks in the UK.

In The Media

To follow.

Administrative Duties

Current Administrative Duties

Widening participation schools coordinator.