Book Manuscripts

People’s Wars in China, Malaya, and Vietnam

In People’s Wars in China, Malaya, and Vietnam, I argue that ultimate victory in civil wars rests on the size of the coalition of social groups established by each side during the conflict. I argue that when insurgents establish broad social coalitions (relative to the incumbent), their movement will persist even when military defeats lead to loss of control of territory because they enjoy the support of the civilian population and civilians will not defect to the incumbent. By contrast, when insurgents establish narrow coalitions, civilian compliance is solely a product of coercion. Where insurgents implement such governing strategies, battlefield defeats translate into political defeats and bring about a collapse of the insurgency because civilians defect to the incumbent.

People’s Wars supports this argument through the use of six case studies that examine some of the 20th century’s most consequential insurgencies. The core of the book consists of an analysis of four periods of the CCP insurgency based on an unprecedented amount of primary source evidence. Two additional case studies, also based on primary source materials, examine the Malayan Emergency (1948-1960) and the Vietnam War (1960-1975).

The Life of Lai Teck

Lai Teck was the leader of the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) from 1939 to 1947. He was arguably the MCP’s most important leader, transforming the Party from a small clandestine organization focused on labor agitation to a streamlined Marxist-Leninist Party. Under his direction, the MCP came to an agreement with the British to cooperate against the Japanese as the latter prepared to invade Malaya, and overseeing the creation of the MCP’s military, the Malayan People’s Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA), during the Second World War. But Lai Teck was not a run-of-the-mill communist leader. Of Vietnamese origin, Lai Teck began his political career in the Indochina Communist Party before becoming an agent for the French. When his cover was blown, he was adeptly inserted into the MCP by British intelligence in the mid-1930s. When the Japanese took control of Malaya in 1942, Lai Teck switched allegiance, helping them locate and eliminate crucial parts of the MCP organization. When the British returned to Malaya, Lai Teck once again resumed his role as a British spy. When other members of the Party became suspicious of him, Lai Teck fled, with British assistance, to Hong Kong and then to Bangkok, where his luck ran out and he was killed by Thai communists in late 1947.

This book examines the life of Lai Teck by utilizing extensive primary and secondary source material in Chinese, English, French Japanese, and Vietnamese. The materials run the gamut from government documents to academic studies to memoirs to internal MCP and CCP documents. The result is the most complete portrait of the Lai Teck ever written, including details on his early life, education, personal life, leadership abilities, interaction with members of the MCP and British intelligence, linguistic abilities, and ideological inclinations. The book represents an important advance in the history of the MCP, demonstrates the great benefits of interdisciplinary research, and shows how primary and secondary sources can be used to build profiles for both insurgent leaders and insurgent organizations.

This project serves as the basis for Ho Tzu Nyen’s “The Mysterious Lai Teck,” a performance art piece that makes use of animatronic puppetry, shadow play, projections, and music to tell the story of Lai Teck and to consider broader themes of history in Southeast Asia, the nature of espionage, and the tenuous nature of historical narrative. The piece premiered in Hamburg at the Kampnagel International Summer Festival 2018 (program brochure), appeared in Seoul at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (program brochure), is currently showing at Beijing’s Red Brick Art Museum as part of the “Rituals of Signs and Metamorphosis” (Yili, zhao yu yi 儀禮 · 兆與易) exhibit (English/中文) through April 7, 2019, and will later tour throughout 2019 at various venues in East Asia, Europe, and Southeast Asia.


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Fellow Travelers: Revolutionary Ideology in Southeast Asia, 1921-1989 (with Matt Galway, Hongxuan Lin 林宏軒, and Kankan Xie 謝侃侃)

This edited book examines revolutionary left-wing ideology in Southeast Asia during the 20th century. It brings together in one place works that analyze the ideology of left-wing revolutionary parties in Southeast Asia in both historical and comparative perspective. Though enormous strides in understanding the etiology, processes, and outcomes of conflicts in Southeast Asia during the Cold War, the focus of such analyses has heretofore been overwhelmingly on the material aspects of the conflict (force sizes, battlefield tactics, the international environment, etc.). While left wing ideologies are not themselves material, prevailing conceptions of them as readily-available blueprints for “organizational weapons” comes perilously close to rendering them as such. These ideologies are often variously described as (1) part of an international communist conspiracy, (2) as the rantings of madmen, and/or (3) not existing at all and acting as a post hoc justification for violence. This book breaks from previous depictions of ideology and presents them as integrated systems of political thought that provided revolutionary parties with a means by which they could understand the political environment, identify friends and foes, prescribe action, and lay out the final goals of the struggle.

At present, the book will include chapters on Cambodia, Indonesia, and Malaya (with more planned) in which area specialists utilize primary sources composed in the language of the countries in question to show how Southeast Asian communists understood and indigenized communist ideology. My chapter in that volume presents the first systematic analysis of the Malayan Communist Party’s ideology and examines it in both historical and comparative perspective.


Magong diyici dangnei fenlie de zhujue: Wu Chifu 馬共第一次黨內分裂的主角:鄔熾夫 [The Main Actor in the First Malayan Communist Party Split: Boo Chih Fu]. Forthcoming in Zuyin jianxun 足印簡訊 [Footprints Bulletin]. 2019. Vol. 13: 1-8.

Shengzhe weiwang, baizhe weikou: Xifang shijiaoxia de kang-Ying zhanzheng 勝者為王,敗者為寇:西方視角下的抗英戰爭 [The Victor a King, the Defeated a Bandit: Western Perspectives on the Malayan Emergency]. Zuyin jianxun: jinian kang-Ying zhanzheng baofa 70 zhounian teji 足印簡訊:紀念抗英戰爭爆發70周年特輯 [Footprints Bulletin: Special Issue Commemorating the Outbreak Seventieth Anniversary of the Malayan Emergency]. 2018. Vol. 12: 1-12.

Revolution Defeated: The Collapse of the Chinese Soviet Republic. 2018. Twentieth-Century China 43 (1): 45-66.

Gene Z. Hanrahan: Elusive Historian of the Malayan Emergency. 2017. Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society 90 (2): 71-95.

Framing in Context: How Interest Groups Employ Framing to Lobby the European Commission. 2015. Journal of European Public Policy Vol. 22, Issue 4. Pg. 481-498. (With Heike Klüver and Christine Mahoney)

Working Papers

“Creating ‘Masses” from “People’: Institutions, Identity, and Conflict in the Chinese Revolution, 1931-1935”

“Fighting the People, Fighting for the People: Insurgent Governance and Conflict Outcomes”

“The Logic of Insurgent Courts”

“A Party Divided: The Malayan Communist Party, 1945-1951”

“Black Box in the Fog: The History of the Malayan Communist Party” (with Jason Sze-Chieh Ng)

“The Pangu Mountain Uprising”

“Testing Prospect Theory in the Real World: Studying the Impact of Gain Versus Loss Frames on Lobbying Success Using Quantitative Text Analysis” (with Christine Mahoney and Heike Klüver)

“Just Not Feelin’ It: Emotive Appeals in European Union Policy Debates” (with Christine Mahoney)


Doris Kearns Goodwin. Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln [Chinese title: Linken yu jingdi muliao 林肯與勁敵幕僚]. 2010. Shanghai: Shanghai renmin chubanshe. (With You Yiding 尤以丁)


“Xuexi Zhongwen; Mei Wei Cheng Qihou?” 學習中文 美未成氣候?[Studying Chinese: Not Yet a Trend in the United States?] 2012. In Shijie ribao 世界日報 [World Journal]. February 12. Pg. B7.

“Landuo Meiguo; anyu xianzhuang?” 懶惰美國 安於現狀? [Lazy America: At Ease with the Status Quo?]. 2011. In Shijie ribao 世界日報 [World Journal]. October 9. Pg. B6.



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