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In my new book, I trace the global history of the frontier in the twentieth century, with an emphasis on China. Through a century of political turmoil and war, China nevertheless is the only nation to successfully navigate the twentieth century with its imperial territorial expanse largely intact. I weave a narrative that moves through time and space, the lives of individuals, and empires' rise and fall and rebirth, to show how the subsequent reshaping of Chinese geopolitical ambitions in the twentieth century, and the global transformation of frontiers into colonial laboratories, continues to reorder global power dynamics in East Asia and the wider world to this day.

I did a podcast interview with Miranda Melcher from the New Books Network.

September 2023

"This book is brilliantly conceptualized, tracing the circulation and translation of geographical and agricultural sciences among the United States, Germany, Japan, and particularly China. It is a marvel of scholarly ambition and erudition, and a model study in global and comparative history."—Fa-ti Fan, Binghamton University


"By recounting the roles of academic disciplines and individual intellectuals in forming a spatial awareness of agricultural development and natural resource exploitation occurring in places distant from the corridors of power, Shellen Xiao Wu presents the pursuit of geopolitical power by economic and political elites through the construction of new forms of empire."—R. Bin Wong, University of California, Los Angeles


"Shellen Wu has written an eye-opening study that centers China in the history of expansion into the great inland spaces by the world powers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Readers will see the age of empire anew."—Charles S. Maier, Harvard University

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