Xiaojia Hou


Xiaojia Hou

Department of History


Mao’s China, Environmental History, The Yellow River, Taiwan Strait Crisis, New Cold War, Xi Administration, Xi Jinping Leadership 

Current Research Activities

I am currently in the process of developing two exciting research projects. The first project studies the intricate relationship between the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Yellow River. Despite its significance in ancient Chinese history, the Yellow River has been largely overlooked by historians studying modern China. How did the Yellow River impact China’s history in modern era? What was the relationship between local administrations and the river? In a broad way, what was Mao’s understanding of nature and how did he form the environmental policies? Did the CCP conquer the river? I will examine three cases to exemplify those questions. My other project analyzes Chinese Politics under Xi Jinping's Leadership using a Historic Lens. Three generations of Chinese leadership after Mao Zedong pursued the establishment of collective leadership and a balanced power structure between the party and the state. However, since Xi Jinping’s ascent to power in 2012, he has deviated from this trajectory. I like to examine the consequential shifts initiated by Xi in the decision-making processes, along with the elevation of his own authority within the party. Specifically, how did Xi Jinping assimilate lessons from the disintegration of the Soviet Union to redefine party leadership? How did he draw inspiration from Mao to enforce ideological rule? How did he implement Maoist-style campaigns to consolidate personal hegemony, restructure the roles of the party and the state, and exercise control over historical narratives to bolster his legitimacy? Align with my interests in current politics, I plan to apply the concept of "New Cold War" to explore its intricate implications for US-China-Taiwan relations 


Research Connections to Current Events

In response to dramatic changes in political dynamics between China and the US during the late 2010s, I embarked on a study of US-China relations. From 2020, the world witnessed rising tensions in the Taiwan Strait as China launched “gray-zone” warfare and sent warplanes across the median line. The US followed suit by dispatching Navy warships to pass through the Taiwan Strait. The media was flooded with concerns of another Taiwan Strait crisis. People wondered if the Xi Jinping administration would invade Taiwan, as well as how the US would respond as events unfolded. Since his inception as President of the People’s Republic of China in 2013, Xi Jinping has incorporated a good deal of Mao Zedong’s strategies into his own. The current circumstances have reminded us much of the Taiwan Strait crises of 1954-55 and 1958. I hope that studying of the past can shed light on our understanding of current Sino-US tensions over Taiwan and over Xi’s administration. 


Personal Connections to Research

I was born and raised in China, pursued my career and raised my family in the US. The current escalating US-China relationship profoundly unsettles me. As a historian major in modern China and minor in the Soviet Union, I am deeply concerned on what is happening in China and in Russia. I cannot see the direction that this world is heading to, and hope that history may provide some insights.


Other Languages

Chinese (Mandarin)