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Professor Michael Dillon

Affiliate of the Lau China Institute

  • Professor of History


Michael Dillon is a historian and biographer with extensive experience of teaching the history, politics and society of China and the Chinese language. He graduated from Leeds University with a BA (1972) and PhD (1976) in Chinese Studies and took an intensive Japanese language course at Sheffield University (1973). He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and the Royal Asiatic Society and a member of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) and the Mongolia Society. He was founding Director of the Centre for Contemporary Chinese Studies at the University of Durham where he taught courses on Chinese history, Chinese language, Japanese history, and the international relations of East Asia. He was a Visiting Professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing in 2009.

His research expertise includes modern Chinese history, politics and society; historical and contemporary Xinjiang; Hui Muslims; ethnic minorities in China; China’s relations with Central Asia and Chinese border issues. He has carried out fieldwork in Xinjiang, Gansu and Ningxia (the major Muslim regions of north-western China) and neighbouring territories including Kazakhstan and Mongolia and has travelled extensively in China and other parts of Asia.

He is a peer reviewer for academic publishers, and journals, including China Quarterly, Ethnic and Racial Studies, Central Asian Survey and Inner Asia, and was guest editor for a special issue of Ethnic and Racial Studies focussing on China. He has commented on Chinese and Asian affairs for the BBC World Service, Radio France International and other international broadcasters, has contributed to the Times Literary Supplement and was a consultant for China, a four-part television documentary for BBC2, Granada and PBS (USA).


Recent publications include:

  • Zhou Enlai: the enigma behind Chairman Mao, I. B. Tauris/Bloomsbury, 2020
  • Mongolia: A Political History of the Land and its People, I. B. Tauris/Bloomsbury, 2020
  • Xinjiang in the Twenty-first Century: Islam, Ethnicity and Resistance Routledge, 2018
  • Lesser Dragons: China’s Ethnic Minorities, Reaktion Books, 2018
  • Encyclopaedia of Chinese History (editor) Routledge, 2016
  • Deng Xiaoping: the man who made modern China I.B. Tauris, 2014
  • ‘Religion, repression and traditional Uyghur culture in southern Xinjiang: Kashgar and Khotan’ Central Asian Affairs 2 (2015) 246-263
  • Xinjiang and the Expansion of Chinese Communist Power: Kashgar in the Twentieth Century Routledge, 2014

Forthcoming in 2021:

  • China: A Modern History (revised and updated) I.B. Tauris/Bloomsbury
  • China in the Age of Xi Jinping Routledge

Current Projects:

  • Chiang Kai-shek: China’s Last Warlord? Biography for I. B. Tauris/Bloomsbury
  • Religion in Xinjiang: Mosques, Mazars and Resistance (working title) Routledge
  • Shanghai Lives: Biography of a Turbulent City (working title) I. B. Tauris/Bloomsbury