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Prof. Dr. Valeria Zanier


Valeria Zanier is Senior Academic Staff in Contemporary Chinese Studies (Sinologie Research Unit) at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium. She focuses on the role of business actors in processes of modernisation and political change. Her publications include: From the Great Experiment to the Harmonious Society: Thirty Years of Economic Reforms to Build a New China [in Italian], Franco Angeli (2011); the Special Issue ‘Circumventing the Cold War: the parallel diplomacy of economic and cultural exchanges between Western Europe and Socialist China in the 1950s and 1960s’ (co-edited with A. Romano) and ‘Western European Industrialists and China’s Dream of Self-reliance: the Case of ENI (1956-1965)’, Modern Asian Studies 51, no. 1 (2017). She also contributed in: China, Hong Kong, and the Long 1970s in Global Perspective, edited by A. Westad and P. Roberts, Palgrave (forthcoming).


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Dr Zanier has a background in Chinese language, culture and history. At Masters’ level she has studied international economics and business. In the years of the Doctorate (Ca’ Foscari University, Venice, Italy, 2008) she has mostly researched China’s media system in transition (1990s – 2000).

1997-2003 Dr Zanier worked as a consultant for European companies with interest in China, mainly for the China-Italy Chamber of Commerce, based in Beijing.

2003-2012 She carried out research and teaching at Ca’ Foscari University addressing the transformation of Chinese business alongside two main lines:

Research on Chinese Consumer to detect essential elements to build brand identity and symbolic experience; Research on internationalisation strategies by Chinese firms in Europe studying Chinese clusters in Europe and the evolution global industry/trade networks.

2013-2017 In 2013, Dr Zanier was awarded a Marie Curie (IEF) Fellowship for her project exploring the networks between European businesspeople and China before Deng Xiaoping’s opening-up. The project was sponsored by the London School of Economics and Political Science. At the LSE she joined a research group on global and transnational relations during the Cold War led by professor Westad who is now at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

The findings shed light on a complex and multifaceted reality. There was a mutual interest between West European businesses and Chinese officials. During Mao times China was more connected with the world than it has been previously shown. Through trade and informal networks Chinese officials developed contacts with Western Europe. The project is now concluded.

October 2017 à She has been appointed Senior Academic Staff in Contemporary Chinese Studies (Sinologie Research Unit) at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium. In this new capacity Dr Zanier intend to further expand her research and launch a large project on European contributions to China’s modernization in recent years. She is particularly interested in the study of European – Chinese networks for the diffusion of managerial models and technology from the 1980s to early XXth century.


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