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Martin Thorley

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

I am a Postdoctoral Research Fellow exploring international engagement with China. I am particularly interested in elite relations and have previously explored relations between the Sino-British elites in detail. My research investigates international relations in light of capitalisation and financialisation. My current project considers international engagement with China more widely.

I am an advocate of investigative research methods in the study of international relations. This includes open source research and the use of freedom of information requests. In the course of my PhD thesis into Sino-British relations, my research uncovered Chinese party-state activity in the UK and evidence of compromised actors within the British establishment. My research sometimes appears on media platforms and a selection of these pieces can be found under the “External engagement and impact” tab.

Members of the public are welcome to get in touch with general queries or suggestions for cases where further investigation is merited.

Research interests

My research focuses on international engagement with China, including forms of elite convergence. I am interested in engagement with China in the realms of politics, business, media and academia. My research employs elite theory, as well as specialist knowledge on China, such as Chinese party-State influence strategies abroad.

My PhD thesis examines the relationship between China and the UK, considering the ramifications of elite convergence in terms of political accountability, foreign policy, and development. More recently I have explored China's position within the existing international order, particularly in the relation to the US and other centres of power. 

External impact and engagement

Articles in Popular Publications:










ISPI (Italian Think Tank)

Through the Kaleidoscope: Sino British relations in 2021


UK Government

Parliamentary Evidence

“December   2020”

The Times (featured in article)

Britain is under attack from a meddling and bullying China


Asia Dialogue


The confused and uneven response to Chinese party-state influence: A symptom of corporate influence and capitalisation

Parts 1 and 2


Foreign Policy


Chinese firms can’t avoid being Party tools


Asia Dialogue


Huawei, the CSSA and beyond: “Latent networks” and Party influence within Chinese institutions


The Independent


Britain is ready to gamble on China's Huawei – it makes sense financially, but is a grave moral misjudgement


The Guardian (featured in article)

Is Huawei a friend or foe in the battle for 5G dominance?


The Conversation


Huawei founder’s protests mean nothing – independent Chinese companies simply don’t exist




We need to be careful about how we use the word ‘Chinese’


Asia Dialogue


Shadow play: Elite Chinese state influence strategies and the case of renminbi internationalisation

Parts 1 and 2


UK in a Changing EU


China, the EU and the UK in the year of the dog


Asia Dialogue


U.K.-China relations in 2018: A storm on the horizon


Asia Dialogue


David Cameron’s new China job: Is it time for a debate on the role of elites?



After completing an undergraduate degree in History at the University of Liverpool, I travelled to China in 2008 to represent the British Council. In 2011, I won a scholarship to study at Tianjin University and in the following year switched attention to work with a Chinese business partner, establishing a recruitment group in Beijing. The company assisted Chinese and China-based groups to recruit foreign experts. This position led to interaction with a range of Chinese officials and industry leaders.

I returned to the UK in 2015 to take a scholarship MA place at the University of Nottingham in the field of Contemporary Chinese Studies. Following my MA, I took a position as a PhD student, exploring in further detail elite relations between China and various other nations. In 2020, I was offered the role of Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Exeter.

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