Jason M. Kelly is a historian of modern China with interests in Chinese foreign relations during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, commerce and diplomacy, U.S.-China relations, and East Asian international history. He is currently an assistant professor in the Strategy & Policy Department at the U.S. Naval War College and an associate in research at the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard University.
Dr. Kelly’s first book, Market Maoists: The Communist Origins of China’s Capitalist Ascent (Harvard University Press, 2021), reveals the overlooked commercial relationships that linked the Chinese Communist Party to international capitalism from the early days of the Pacific War to the waning years of the Cultural Revolution. By exploring these relationships, the book shows how everyday commerce between Mao’s China and the capitalist world served as a site for the exchange of ideas, habits, and beliefs and as a venue where individuals, institutions, and the logics that guided them underwent subtle but lasting changes that still shape China’s relationship to global markets today—long after the demise of Mao and his revolution. Dr. Kelly’s current book project is an international history of the diverse influences that shaped the emergence of China’s “opening up” strategy in the 1970s.
Before joining the Naval War College in 2018, Dr. Kelly was an Ernest May Fellow in History and Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School (2016-2018). Prior to becoming a historian, he was a foreign service officer and worked at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing from 2010 to 2012. Dr. Kelly has also worked as an analyst with Science Applications International Corporation and the RAND Corporation.
Dr. Kelly has lived, studied, taught, traveled, and worked in China intermittently since the fall of 2002, when he taught his first class—fifteen English-language students—in Wuhan. He is an advocate of interdisciplinary approaches to China studies, a reflection of his own multidisciplinary background. He holds a Ph.D. and an M.A. in history from Cornell, an M.A. in international relations from Yale, and a B.A. in economics from Dartmouth. He has also studied Chinese at Princeton in Beijing and the Inter-University Program for Chinese Language Studies at Tsinghua University.