Koji Hirata

Photo of Koji  Hirata

BA (Tokyo), MPhil (Brist),PhD (Stanford)

Originally from central Japan, I studied law and political science at the University of Tokyo as an undergraduate. I first came to the UK to do my M.Phil in history (on a Rotary scholarship) at the University of Bristol, where I began to study modern Chinese history. I then spent several years in Taiwan, China, and Russia, studying the Chinese and Russian languages, before moving to California to start my Ph.D. in history at Stanford University. My research is in modern China, Japan, and Russia with broader research interests in the global history of capitalism and socialism. I finished my Ph.D. in September 2018.

My current book project draws on archival documents and interviews in Chinese, Japanese, Russian, and English to chronicle the rise and fall of one gigantic steel-making company, Angang, located in the city of Anshan in Manchuria (Northeast China). During the early years of the People’s Republic of China (PRC, 1949-), Angang produced half of the nation’s steel, and epitomized the Chinese Communists’ efforts to remodel China by transplanting Soviet economic planning and industrial technology. This story of socialist fraternity, however, is complicated by the origins of Angang in the Japanese colonial project in Manchuria before 1945. My work attempts to make sense of this fraught and sometimes contradictory history by tracing the evolution of Angang under the Japanese empire (1916-1945), Soviet occupation forces (1945-1946), China’s Nationalist government (1946-1948), and the Chinese Communist Party (1948-). Through this history we see how a global flow of ideas, technology, and know-how encompassed not only state-socialist regimes such as the PRC and the Soviet Union, but also capitalist regimes such as imperial Japan, Nationalist China, and even the United States. Moreover, my approach also explores how people actually experienced socialism in their daily work and lives.

In my free time, I enjoy walking, swimming, and watching movies (my book title was taken from Fritz Lang’s 1927 sci-fi film). Thanks to my Shanghai-born, kindergarten-age son who refuses to learn Japanese or English, I know more Chinese names of Marvel superheroes than any of my fellow Sinologists.