Dr Ronald C. Po

Dr Ronald C. Po

Assistant Professor

Department of International History

+44 (0)20 7107 5378
Room No
Office Hours
Thursday, 4.15pm to 6.15pm
Cantonese, English, German, Japanese, Mandarin
Key Expertise
History of China, Maritime Studies, Global History

About me

While the main focus of my teaching and research has been the history of late imperial China, I am drawn to the realm of maritime and global studies. I agree with John F. Kennedy, “we are tied to the ocean; and when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch – we are going back from whence we came.” I’ve always had a keen interest in a broad range of maritime topics, ranging from the history of coastal governance and the dynamics of port cities, to the cartographic history of sea charts and the cultural history of naval uniforms. I am also fascinated by the social history of commodities and trans-regional exchanges of ideas since the early modern period. In the medium term I am working on a monograph-length project tentatively entitled The North China Sea: A History.

I am the author of The Blue Frontier: Maritime Vision and Power in the Qing Empire (Cambridge University Press, 2018). Additionally, I have published articles in peer-reviewed journals such as Modern Asian Studies, Late Imperial China, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, and the American Journal of Chinese Studies.

Prior to my academic appointment at the LSE, I was Postdoctoral Fellow at McGill University (2013-16) and Visiting Lecturer at the University of Chicago (2013). I was also previously an Erasmus Scholar at Cambridge (2011-12) and a Baden-Württemberg Fellow at Kyoto University (2012).

I was educated at Universität Heidelberg, receiving my D.Phil. in History, and at Hong Kong Baptist University, earning my M.Phil. and BA degrees. I was elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society in 2019. 

Other titles: LSE–Peking University Double MSc in International Affairs Programme Director

Expertise Details

History of China; Maritime Studies; History of Cartography; Frontier Studies; Global History

Teaching & supervision

Dr Ronald C. Po usually teaches the following courses in the Department:

At undergraduate level:

HY330: From Tea to Opium: China and the Global Market in the Long Eighteenth Century

At Masters level:

HY472: China and the External World. 1711-1839



The Blue Frontier: Maritime Vision and Power in the Qing Empire (Cambridge University Press,  2018) - longlisted by the International Convention of Asia Scholars for the 2019 Humanities English Edition book prize and recipient of the Interntional Convention of Asia Scholars 2019 Specialist Publication Accolade in the Humanities.

Articles & chapters


• “China and the Sea in Literature and (Mis)Perception, 1644-1839,” in Paul D'Arcy (ed.), The Cambridge History of the Pacific Ocean (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).

• “The Camphor War of 1868: Anglo-Chinese Relations and Imperial Realignments within East Asia,” English Historical Review (accepted to be published in August 2020).


• “Hero or Villain? The Evolving Legacy of Shi Lang in China and Taiwan,” Modern Asian Studies, vol. 53 issue 4 (September, 2019), pp. 1486-1515.


• “The Pearl by the Bohai Sea: Qinhuangdao in the Early Modern Period,” in Clara Ho, Ricardo Mak, and Y.H. Tam (eds.), Voyages, Migration, and the Maritime World: On China’s Global Historical Role (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2018), pp. 143-164.

• "China and the Global South: A Geostrategic Perspective," Radical History Review, vol. 2018 issue 131 (May, 2018), pp. 135-138.

• “Tea, Silk, and Porcelain: Chinese Exports to the West in the Early Modern Period” in David Ludden (ed.), Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Asian History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018).


• “A Port City in Northeast China: Dengzhou in the Long Eighteenth Century,” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, vol. 28 issue 1 (January, 2018), pp. 161-187.

• “Camphor-harvesting and Warship Construction in Early Qing China (康雍年間的戰船修造與樟木採辦)" (in Chinese), in Ricardo Mak (ed.) History of Coastal Defense in Modern China: A Revisionist Approach (近代中國海防史新論) (Hong Kong, Joint Publishing Co. Ltd., 2017), pp. 252-277.


• “Mapping Maritime Power and Control: A Study of the Late Eighteenth Century Qisheng yanhai tu (A Coastal Map of the Seven Provinces),” Late Imperial China, vol. 37 no. 2 (December 2016), pp. 93-136.


• “Writing the Waves: Chinese Maritime Writers in the Long Eighteenth Century,” American Journal of Chinese Studies, vol. 22, no. 2 (October, 2015), pp. 343-362.


• “Maritime Countries in the Far West: Western Europe in Xie Qinggao’s Records of the Sea,” European Review of History, vol. 21, no. 6 (December, 2014), pp. 857-871.


• “Merchants, Artisans, Grangers and Intellectuals: Xue Fucheng’s Re-conceptualization of the Social Stratification in Late Imperial China,” Chinese Culture Quarterly, vol. 31 (April, 2013), pp. 81-101.


• “(Re) Conceptualizing the World in Eighteenth Century China,” World History Connected, vol. 9, no. 1 (February 2012).


• “Zuozhu weizhi: Ding Richang 1843 nian zhi 1864 nian de zaimu shengya 佐主為治: 丁日昌1843年至1864年的在幕生涯 (Assisting the Patron: Ding Richang as a muliao, 1843-1864),” in Modern History Research Center (ed.) Ding Richang yu jindai Zhongguo 丁日昌與近代中國 (Ding Richang and Modern China) (Hong Kong: Zhonghua shuju, 2011), pp. 17-36.


• “‘Zeng Zuo Li’ yi jiancheng de youlai yu neirong hanyi zhi yanbian 曾左李一簡稱的由來與內容涵義之演變 (The Triumvirate in Late Imperial China: A Discussion on the Abbreviation Zeng-Zuo-Li),” Si yu yan 思與言 (Thought and Words: Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences Quarterly), vol. 48 no. 3 (September, 2010), pp. 1-36.

• “When the Sea Dragon Roars: Hydrological Disasters and the High Qing Emperors,” The School of Historical Studies, Newcastle University: Postgraduate Forum E-Journal, edition seven (2010), pp. 1-9.


• “Qingji HuaYang muliao de hezuo yu hudong: Yi Mashi(H.B. Morse), Ma Xiangbo yu Ma Jianzhong zai Li Hongzhang mufu de guanxi weili 清季華洋幕僚的合作與互動: 以馬士 (H.B. Morse), 馬相伯與馬建忠在李鴻章幕府的關係為例 (Cooperation between Chinese and Foreign Muliao in Li Hongzhang’s Think Tank: With References to Ma Xiangbo, Ma Jianjong and H.B. Morse).” Chungguksa Yongu 中國史研究 (The Journal of Chinese Historical Researches), no. 63 (December 2009), pp. 121-135.

• “Qingji yangyuan zai Tai zhi renzhi: Yi Ma Shi (H.B. Morse) zai Danshuiguan de jiaose yu yingxiang weili 清季洋員在臺之任職: 以馬士 (H.B. Morse) 在淡水關的角色與影響為例 (Western Advisers in Late Qing: H.B. Morse in Taiwan, 1892-1895),” Xinbeida shixue 新北大史學, vol. 7 (October, 2009), pp. 59-82.

• “Xianggang chuban Zhongguo jindaishi yanjiu zhushu: Zhongwen shumu xinian (1930-2009) 香港出版中國近代史研究著述: 中文書目繫年(1930-2009) A Selected Bibliography on Modern Chinese History Published in Hong Kong,” Contemporary Historical Review, vol. 10, no.2 (June, 2009), pp. 60-72.


• “Qingji xifang guwen zai Hua de siying: Yi Mashi zhi zaimu shengya zuoli 清季西方顧問在華的肆應: 以馬士之在幕生涯作例 (Western muliao in Late Qing: Hosea Ballou Morse Encountered with Li Hongzhang's mufu),” Zhongzheng lishi xuekan 中正歷史學刊, vol. 11 (December, 2008), pp. 23-48.

Book reviews & review articles


• “Another Frontier: Review Article on the Taiwan shushi boshi lishi xueshu wenku [funü / xingbie] (The collection of master and doctoral theses in Taiwan [women / gender]) edited by Hou Jie,” Nan Nü: Men, Women and Gender in China.


• "Book Review on Boundaries and Beyond: China’s Maritime Southeast in Late Imperial Times by Ng Chin-keong", Journal of World History, vol. 30 no. 3 (September, 2019), pp. 464-467.

• "Book Review on Silk, Slaves and Stupas: Material Culture of the Silk Road by Susan Whitfield", The Journal of Asian Studies, vol. 78 no. 1 (March, 2019), pp. 184-186.


Book Review on Sea Rovers, Silver, and Samurai: Maritime East Asia in Global History, 1550–1700 ed. by Tonio Andrade and Xing Hang,” Journal of World History, vol. 29 no. 1 (March, 2018), pp. 118-120.


• “Book Review on Gang Zhao’s The Qing Opening to the Ocean,” Business History, vol. 59, no. 2 (2017), pp. 312-313.


• “Haiyangshi shijiao xia de Zhongwai guanxishi 海洋史視角下的中外關係史 (The history of Sino-foreign relations from a maritime historical perspective),” Hanxue yanjiu 漢學研究 (Chinese Studies), vol. 30 no. 1 (March, 2012), pp. 351-357.

• “Book Review: Old Worlds, New Worlds: European Cultural Encounters, c. 1000-1750edited by Lisa Bailey, Lindsay Diggelmann, and Kim M. Phillips,” Journal of the Oxford University History Society, Issue 8 (Hilary, 2012).


• “Shijie shi shiye xia de Zhongguo tiyushi - Xu Guoqi de Olympic Dreams: China and Sports, 1895-2008 世界史視野下的中國體育史 - 徐國琦的 Olympic Dreams: China and Sports, 1895-2008 (Global History and the History of Sport: Review on Xu's Olympic),” Hanxue yanjiu tongxun 漢學研究通訊 (Newsletter for Research in Chinese Studies), vol. 30, no. 2 (May, 2011), pp. 59-60.


• “Keji, yiliao de renwen guanhuai: Keji, yiliao yu shehui xueshu yantaohui lunwenji 科技, 醫療的人文關懷: 科技, 醫療與社會學術研討會論文集(Book Review: Keji, yiliao yu shehui xueshu yantaohui lunwenji),” Hong Kong Journal of Social Sciences, no. 38 (Spring/Summer, 2010), pp. 147-152.

• “Book Review: Leprosy in China: A History,” Twenty-First Century, vol. 119 (June, 2010), pp. 152-155.


• Co-author with Hoi-ling LUI, “Book reviews of Zhonghua wenhua de chuancheng yu chuangxin: Jinian Mou Fuli jiaoshou lunwenji (中華文化的傳承與創新: 紀念牟復禮教授論文集) and The Scholars Mind: Essays in Honor of Frederick W. Mote,” History Education Forum, vol. 5 (May, 2009), pp. 126-131.

Conference reports


• “Report on International Symposium: Globalization, Identity, and Regional Integration in East Asia, 1861-2011,” Asian Studies Newsletter (The Association for Asian Studies), vol. 56 no. 2 (May, 2011), p. 24.


• “Report on Annual Conference of the Cluster of Excellence: Asia and Europe in a Global Context, Heidelberg University,” Asian Studies Newsletter (The Association for Asian Studies), vol. 55 no. 4 (December, 2010), pp. 12-14.

Other contributions


• “The Great Qing and the Third Frontier in the Eighteenth Century,” Asian Studies Newsletter (The Association for Asian Studies), vol. 56, no. 3 (October, 2011), p. 22.


• “The East Asian Mediterranean?: The ‘Braudelian Framework’ and Maritime History in East Asia,” Asian Studies Newsletter (The Association for Asian Studies), vol. 56, no. 2 (May, 2011), p. 20.



The Blue FrontierMaritime Vision and Power in the Qing Empire (2018) - longlisted by the International Convention of Asia Scholars for the 2019 Humanities English Edition book prize and recipient of the Interntional Convention of Asia Scholars 2019 Specialist Publication Accolade in the Humanities.

News & media


STICERD research grant

Dr Po has been awarded a STICERD grant for his book project entitled “The North China Sea: A History”. The project will be the first comprehensive study to weave together the long-forgotten North China Sea into a more productive and enduring dialogue with Chinese, Asian, and global history. Dr Po aims to reconnect this sea space to the broader historical spectrum, and to bring it out of almost a century of solitude.
Read more about STICERD Research grants for LSE Staff.


Associate Professor

Following the most recent round of the School's review and promotion process, Dr Po passed major review and was promoted to Associate Professor. His position will become effective on 1 August.


Dr Ronald C. Po at Warwick & Oxford Conference on China and Global History

On 16 September, he presented a paper entitled “Clothes Make the Modern Sailor: Naval Uniforms and Westernisation in Nineteenth Century China”. Dr Po argued that not only does the evolution of these naval dresses provide insight into what the Qing state valued as it modernized and grew stronger, but the way fashion, as represented by these naval uniforms, shaped modernity within the confines of regulated clothing was also important. Dr Po spoke on the first day of the 2-day conference at Warwick in a panel titled “The Chinese Empire in Global Context”.


The Blue Frontier longlisted for book prize and recipient of Accolade

The Blue Frontier: Maritime Vision and Power in the Qing Empire, was longlisted by the International Convention of Asia Scholars for the 2019 Humanities English Edition book prize. The prize aims to create an international focus for academic publications on Asia, thus increasing their worldwide visibility. Subsequently, the book was awarded the 2019 Specialist Publication Accolade in Humanities also by the International Convention of Asia Scholars (ICAS).


Article on Shi Lang

Dr Po released a new article in Modern Asian Studies (53:4) in May 2019. “Hero or Villain? The Evolving Legacy of Shi Lang in China and Taiwan”discusses Shi Lang, the commander-in-chief who led the Qing navy to annex Taiwan in 1683, and how he is essential to our understanding of the cross-strait tension and the murky outlook for its future. By analysing most of the previous appraisals and examinations of Shi Lang, Dr Po reveals the historical narratives of this admiral as being continually under construction in a shifting and mutually reinforcing process from the Qing dynasty to the present day.


Keynote lecture at Oxford

Dr Ronald C. Po gave his first keynote lecture entitled “China and the Sea: Three Fallacies” on 23 April at the Third Annual China Humanities Graduate Conference, Resistance and Acceptance: Getting China Moving (University of Oxford). His talk offered three specific avenues of exploration to reinforce the proposition that the Qing was integrated into the sea through its naval development and customs institutionalisation throughout the long eighteenth century. He also argued that it is time to move beyond our understanding of maritime China from a “Southeast China centrism”.


Book review

A review has been written in the journal China Quarterly (vol. 237, March 2019) about Dr Ron C Po’s recently released book The Blue Frontier: Maritime Vision and Power in the Qing Empire (Cambridge University Press, 2018). Richard Horowitz commented: “Po makes a convincing case that Qing government maritime policy deserves greater attention and respect” and that his “introduction skillfully connects his work on China to scholarship on maritime history in other parts of the world.”


International Conference on Ocean and China Studies

On 31 March, Dr Po gave a talk entitled “Charting the Coast of the Qing Empire before the First Opium War” at an international conference on Chinese Maritime Studies jointly organised by Xiamen University and Sun Yat-sen University in China. Read more (in Chinese).


Dr Ronald C. Po at AAS Conference

Dr Po organised a panel at this year’s Association of Asian Studies (AAS) conference in Denver, Colorado from 21-24 March. The panel, entitled “The New Qing History: A Maritime Approach”, proposed to study the Qing dynasty in the long eighteenth century from a maritime angle in an approach framed as the new Qing maritime history (haishang xin Qingshi). Together with five senior and junior scholars from Stanford University, Northwestern University, Brandeis University, University of Akron and the University of Birmingham, Dr Po contended that the Qing administration was attentive and deliberate in developing maritime policy. 



Dr Po served as the Academic Chair for the 2019 LSE Forum organised by the Hong Kong Public Affairs and Social Service Society on 17 February. The LSE Forum is an annual debate competition hosted by the LSESU HKPASS, where students from universities across the UK gather to discuss and debate on some of the most contentious challenges faced by Hong Kong.


New chapter in edited volume on China's global historical role

Dr Ronald C. Po released a chapter in an edited volume entitled Voyages, Migration, and the Maritime World: On China’s Global Historical Role (De Gruyter, 2018) edited by Clara Ho, Ricardo Mak, and YH Tam. In his chapter, “The Pearl by the Bohai Sea: Qinhuangdao in the Early Modern Period”, Dr Po argues that it is a necessary and salutary corrective to existing literature that the northeastern coastline could hardly be discounted when comprehending the oceanic history of late imperial China. In explicating the connection between China and the sea throughout the long eighteenth century, maritime historians have long focused on port cities along the coastal reach south of Shanghi. However, focusing on the history and function of a port city called Qinhuangdao, Dr Po seeks to answer the following questions: Did the northeastern coast of China lay motionless during the expanding, extensive trans-regional sea trade of the early modern period? Had the northeast never participated in the process of proto-globalisation in Asia? Despite disparity between sea trade in the southeast and northeast, would it be feasibly possible to obtain a variegated picture of maritime China while disregarding the latter?


New book by Dr Ronald C. Po

Dr Po’s new book with Cambridge University Press was released in August 2018. The Blue Frontier: Maritime Vision and Power in the Qing Empire provides a revisionist history of the eighteenth-century Qing Empire from a maritime perspective. It explores how the Qing Empire deliberately engaged with the ocean politically, militarily and even conceptually in the long eighteenth century. Contrary to orthodox perception, Dr Po offers a much broader picture of the Qing as an Asian giant responding flexibly to challenges and extensive interaction on all frontiers, both land and sea.


New article on China and the Global South

Dr Po published a new article, “China and the Global South: A Geostrategic Perspective” in the latest issue of Radical History Review (issue 131). Reluctant to side with those analysts who regard the China Dream as being equivalent to its aspiration of rising as a Pacific power, Dr Po argues that in facilitating the China Dream, over the next few decades, the Chinese government is and will be more interested in engaging with the Global South than with any other regions of the world, particularly in its military engagement in Africa and the Indian Ocean. Even though the Pacific Ocean is no less geopolitically salient, he suggests that the Pacific has not been prioritized as the foremost strategic theatre by the Chinese Communist Party since last century.


University of California Berkeley event

Dr Ronald C. Po was at Berkeley on 15 May, presenting a paper entitled “Fortifying Frontier and Defining Sovereignty: Diagram of Coastal Defense (yingxuntu) in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century China”. The paper was part of a panel discussion on “Maritime Asia: Securitization of the China Seas”, organised by the Institute of East Asian Studies at the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Cambridge.


Guest Panelist on Nationalism Symposium at LSE

Dr Po will was a guest panelist in a symposium organised by the LSE Student Union Hong Kong Public Affairs and Social Service Society. The symposium, entitled Nationalism: On Catalonia, HK and USA, was held on 22 November. Other panelists included Dr Jonathan Hopkin (LSE Government), Dr Toni Rodon (LSE European Institute) and Dr John Hutchinson (LSE Government).


New article on 18th C. Northeast Chinese port city Dengzhou

Dr Po’s newest article, entitled “A Port City in Northeast China: Dengzhou in the Long Eighteenth Century”, was released online in September 2017 by the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. In his article, Dr Po investigates the importance of Northeast China's port cities by focusing particular attention on the less familiar coastal seaport of Dengzhou. By detailing and examining the political and economic importance of this port city in the early modern period, Dr Po shows that Qing China's northeastern coast was no less important than the southeast. Even if China's northern port cities might not have been as economically vibrant as those in the south (e.g. Shanghai, Canton, Xiamen, and Macau), one should not overlook their functions and histories. Indeed, they also attained unique patterns of political and economic development throughout the long eighteenth century. LSE users, can access the article freely in the publisher's website.


Dr Ronald C. Po in Hong Kong for public lecture

Dr Po was in Hong Kong on 14 September to give a public lecture at the Hong Kong Baptist University. His lecture was on “What is Maritime History? Some Observations and Reflections”.


LSE Santander Travel Research Fund

Dr Ronald C. Po was awarded a LSE Santander Travel Research Fund in December 2016 to visit universities in Hong Kong and South Korea, from late June to July 2017, where he will give talks and seminars. He will also conduct archival research to develop his new project, entitled “A Global History of Camphor: From an Oleoresin to a Commodity", and attend two international conferences, namely the AAS-in-Asia Conference (in Seoul) and the International Convention of Asia Scholars (ICAS) in Chingmai. Both highly regarded in the field of Asian studies.


Heidelberg University interview

Read an interview conducted by the Heidelberg University in 2013.


Fellow of the Royal Historical Society