Michael Szonyi is Frank Wen-hsiung Wu Professor of Chinese History at Harvard University.  He is a social historian of late imperial and modern China who studies local society in southeast China using a combination of traditional textual sources and ethnographic-style fieldwork.  From 2016 to 2022 he served as the Faculty Director of the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies

His works include The Art of Being Governed: Everyday Politics in Late Imperial China (2017; Chinese edition 2019); A Companion to Chinese History (2017), Cold War Island: Quemoy on the Front Line (2008; Chinese edition 2016) and Practicing Kinship (2002).  He is the co-editor, with Jennifer Rudolph, of The China Questions: Critical Insights on a Rising Power (2018; Chinese edition 2020) and, with Adele Carrai and Jennifer Rudolph, of The China Questions 2: Critical Insights into US-China Relations (2022).  Other recent publications include The Chinese Empire in Local Society (2020), co-edited with ZHAO Shiyu, a collection of essays showcasing the work of young historians from the PRC, and Making Meritocracy: Lessons from China and India from Antiquity to the Present (2022), co-edited with Tarun Khanna.

A frequent commentator on Chinese affairs, Szonyi is a Fellow of the Public Intellectuals Program of the National Committee on US-China relations.  He has served as a member of the China and Inner Asia Council of the Association for Asian Studies, and for more than a decade was the English-language editor of the journal Lishi renleixue (Historical Anthropology).

Szonyi received his BA from the University of Toronto and his D.Phil from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. He has also studied at National Taiwan University and Xiamen University. Prior to coming to Harvard in 2005, Prof. Szonyi taught at McGill University and University of Toronto.

Curriculum Vitae (English)/ 中文简历 (Chinese)

Author's page on


Recent media appearances/public interviews

Phoenix TV (in Chinese)

Book launch for The China Questions 2 at the National Committee for US-China Affairs

A conversation about Making Meritocracy, from the Mittal South Asia Institute

Rhodes Trust interview

Georgetown Journal of International Affairs

中美印象, Carter Center (in Chinese)

VOA 美国之音 (in Chinese)

An interview in Chinese on The Art of Being Governed on the program 晓说 is here and here. The simplified Chinese edition was published by Gingko (后浪) Press in 2019 and the complex Chinese edition by Linking/聯經 in 2022.