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Matthew David Johnson

Member, Peace and Conflict Studies Committee
Associate Professor

I am a scholar of communications as a political and social force, with expertise in the fields of modern history, contemporary history, comparative politics, war and society, and China/East Asia. My research and teaching focus on four interrelated issues: the impact of war in East Asia; the historical origins and geography of China's contemporary "propaganda state"; U.S.-China international and transnational relations; how contemporary narratives concerning China are produced, circulated, and consumed.

I hold the position of Assistant Professor of East Asian History at Grinnell College, and am currently an academic visitor at the University of Oxford China Centre. I am a former Jacob K. Javits and U.S. Fulbright fellow. From 2008 to 2010 at the University of Oxford I was departmental lecturer in the History and Politics of Modern China, and an affiliated researcher with the Leverhulme Trust-funded China's War with Japan Programme directed by Professor Rana Mitter. I have served as faculty chair of the Grinnell College Peace and Conflict Studies (PACS) Program, and as faculty advisor for study abroad in the Republic of Korea.

I have professional experience in the areas of international education, research, and scholarly communication. In 2011 I became a member of the National Committee on United States-China Relations. My applied interests also include higher education policy and international capacity-building in the public and private sectors.


My priority at Grinnell College is undergraduate teaching, mentoring, and directed research.  I am available to work with students on a Mentored Advanced Project (MAP) on any of the following topics:

  • transnational relations of the Communist Party of China
  • U.S. foreign policy in East Asia
  • propaganda, communications, and wartime mobilization
  • Grinnell and Grinnellians in Asia, including biographies of Katayama Sen (co-founder of the Communist Party of Japan) and Wu Guozhen (former mayor of Chongqing and Shanghai, and an influential Republic of China politician)

Topics of past mentored projects include: online politics in the People's Republic of China; North Korean history and strategic thought prior to the Korean War; the geography of economic in-migration in Southwest China; intra-regional migration and globalization in the Asia-Pacific.

I welcome new advisees.


How to Read in College

How to Read for History

Guide to Using Declassified Documents

An Introduction to GTD (Gettings Things Done)


I am currently engaged in collaborative research and editing projects related to:

  • grassroots society and politics in China between 1949 and 1976
  • the history of visual culture in modern China
  • "iGeneration" cinema, independent filmmaking, and documenting government reform in the contemporary PRC

In addition, I am working on a dissertation-based manuscript titled The Most Important Art: Motion Pictures as Political Communication in China, 1897-1993


Campus Phone: 

(641) 269-4477


(641) 269-4733

faculty info column 1

On-Campus Address: 

Mears Cottage 318
1213 6th Avenue
Grinnell, IA 50112
United States

Curriculum Vitae/Resume: 

On-Campus Address: 

318 Mears Cottage
Grinnell, IA
United States