’The invention of the Han race’

Key information

5:00 pm to 6:30 pm
Virtual Event

About this event

Bill Hayton (Chatham House)


It is a commonplace to talk about the ‘Han race’ as if it is self-evident fact. In this talk Bill Hayton will argue that the idea of a Han Race was constructed at the beginning of the twentieth century as a political strategy to support the arguments of revolutionary Chinese nationalism. He will show how the 'Han Race’ idea was created as a rival to ‘Yellow Race’ ideas common among political reformers. He will then trace the origins of this racial thinking to translations of Social Darwinist ideas from Britain by, in particular, the writer Yan Fu. Arguments about the exact definition of the Han race in the 1900s reveal how it was constructed for political expediency.

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The invention of the Han race

About the speaker

Bill Hayton is the author of ’The Invention of China’ to be published in October by Yale University Press. He is an Associate Fellow with the Asia-Pacific Programme at Chatham House, a journalist with BBC News in London, and a regular writer on Asian issues. He previously authored ’The South China Sea: the struggle for power in Asia’ (Yale, 2014) and ‘Vietnam: rising dragon’ (Yale, 2010, second edition 2020). In 2006/7 he was the BBC’s reporter in Vietnam and in 2013/14 he was seconded to the Myanmar state broadcaster to work on media reform.


This webinar will take place online via Zoom. After registering, a separate Zoom registration link will be emailed to you closer to the date of the webinar. Online Registration

* The webinar will also be live-streamed on our Facebook page for those that are unable to participate via Zoom.

Chair: Professor Steve Tsang (Director, SOAS China Institute)

Organiser: SOAS China Institute

Contact email: sci@soas.ac.uk