Prof. Shai Aron

Emeritus in Department of History
חוג להסטוריה כללית אמריטוס
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Prof. Shai Aron
Another phone: 03-6409785
Fax: 077-5020646
Office: Gilman-humanities, 466


See also: Aron Shai Webpage

Departments of History and East Asian Studies, Tel Aviv University

 Pro-Rector of Tel Aviv University 2015-2020

 Rector (Provost) of Tel Aviv University 2010-2015

 Former incumbent of the Shoul N. Eisenberg Chair for East Asian Affairs.

 Main field of research: modern history with special emphasis on East Asian studies.

 Author of eleven books and an editor of many others.

 Between 1972 and 2024 published over 60 articles and chapters in scientific and academic journals and edited books.

 Courses on modern history, China's contemporary history and political economy and on various issues relating to Israel studies.

Served as a guest/Visiting Professor at St. Antony's College and Mansfield College, Oxford; University of Toronto; Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Science Sociales, Sciences Po and CERI, Paris; East-Asian Institute, Columbia University, New York; New York University, New York and the Hebrew University, Jerusalem. He is a frequent visitor at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

Served as the Chair of the History Curriculum Committee of the Ministry of Education, as member of the Council of Higher Education and as the Chair of the History and East Asian Studies Departments, Tel-Aviv University. Likewise, served as Director at two insurance companies, "The Israel Phoenix Assurance Company Ltd." and at "ICIC - The Israel Credit Insurance Company Ltd."

B.A. in History and Philosophy and an M.A. in History cum laude, the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, D. Phil., St. Antony's College, University of Oxford.


Papers presented at scientific meetings

Between 1972 and 2024 over 60 papers were presented at scientific meetings in more than 20 different countries. The topics of these papers were, for example:


 Sino-Israeli Relations - A Seventy Year Perspective  The Indirect Nationalization of Foreign Firms in China in the 1950s  The Second Sino-Japanese War and the Second World War: The Same War?  Captive Imperialism: Britain's Withdrawal from China, 1941-1954  Appeasement in East Asia, Triangle in International Relations: Japan, China and the Soviet Union  The 1956 War - The Last Imperial War or an Imperial Hangover?  Israel's Foreign Policy  Curriculum Planning Reforms and the Forging of Israeli Identity  The Fate of the Uninhabited Arab Villages in Israel Archeology and Politics in Israel Teaching Jewish and World History in Israel  Jerusalem - A personal historical perspective on the City's Jewish Sepharadi Community  Teaching Israeli History - Negotiating the Textbook Controversy



  1. Origins of the War in the East: Britain, China, Japan 1937-1939, (Croom Helm, London, 1976, and Routledge, New York, London, 2011).
  2. China in International Affairs 1840-1990. (Zmora, Bitan, Modan Publishers, in Hebrew, Tel Aviv, 1981,1987,1990).
  3. Britain and China 1941-1947: Imperial Momentum. (Macmillan, London with St. Antony's College, Oxford, and St. Martin's Press, New York, 1984).
  4. The Fate of British and French Firms in China 1949-54: Imperialism Imprisoned, (Macmillan, London with St. Antony's College, Oxford, 1996 and in Chinese, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing, China, 2004).
  5. Twentieth Century China, (Ministry of Defense, Israel, in Hebrew, Tel Aviv, 1998).
  6. Zhang Xueliang - The General who Never Fought (Zmora, Bitan Publishers, in Hebrew, Tel Aviv, 2008, Macmillan, London with St. Antony's College, in English, Oxford 2011, Wen Lun Publishing House, in Chinese, Beijing, 2011).
  7. Sino-Israel Relations: 1890- 2023 (Yediot Sefraim, in Hebrew, Tel Aviv, 2016; In English, Academic Studies Press, Boston, 2019; In Chinese, Taiwan 2023).

 Research papers/booklets

  1. Sino-Israeli Relations: Current Reality and Future Prospects (INSS, Tel Aviv, 2009).
  2. The Evolution of Israeli-Chinese Friendship (The S. Daniel Center and the Confucius Institute, Tel Aviv, 2014)

 Historical Novels

  1. Benhazar - Son to a Stranger, (Am Oved, in Hebrew, Tel-Aviv, 1990, Gefen Publishing House, in English, 2008).
  2. She used to Call him Mano, (Zmora, Bitan, Publishers, in Hebrew, Tel- Aviv, 1997).
  3. Buchbinder: A University Novel (In Hebrew, Carmel Publishing House, Jerusalem. 2021).

 Books (Abstract)

Origins of the War in the East: Britain, China, Japan 1937-1939. Croom Helm, London, 1976

This study describes the British Government's policy towards China during the first phases of the undeclared Sine-Japanese War, starting in July 1937 when the conflict in North China culminated in all-out hostilities; and ending in September 1939 when the outbreak of the war over Poland forced the British Government to turn almost all its attention to Europe. The dilemmas confronting British policy-makers in the Far East are analysed together with the implementation of their subsequent solutions. Attention is focused on the question of British interests in China and on the decisive factors and considerations which determined British policy and Britain's role in the Sino-Japanese War. Questions concerning the safety of the British subjects and the commercial community in China and their Influence on the decision-making process, the attitude towards Soviet influence in China, and prospects of Communist takeover are also discussed.

In the final analysis the book examines the widely debated subject of appeasement in its Asian context. It is argued that Britain pursued a policy of appeasement towards Japan which gained strength without producing a Far Eastern Munich.



China in International Affairs 1840-1990. Zmora, Bitan, Modan Publishers (in Hebrew), Tel-Aviv, 1981 (second printing, 1987; second edition, 1990).

שרשרת האירועים ההיסטוריים הקשורים במפגש בין סין ובין העולם הרחב מאז פרוץ מלחמות האופיום. בתקופה הנדונה נפרצה החומה הסינית, ומעצמות המערב, ועמן רוסיה ויפן, החלו גוזרות את הממלכה הגדולה בעולם לפלחים ואזורי השפעה. תמורות היסטוריות עמוקות עברו על סין, ומקיסרות בשלטון שושלת זרה היא נהפכה לדמוקרטיה עממית מיוחדת במינה. התהליך הדרמטי הזה לא הושלם בטרם התנסתה סין באנרכיה, במאבק אילי מלחמה ובתהפוכות הקשורות בכישלון השלטון הרפובליקאי בראשות המפלגה הלאומית. המשטר הקומוניסטי שקם עוד בטרם השתלט על רובה של הארץ ב 1949, מציג עד היום דגם מיוחד של סוציאליזם שהוא חלק אינטגרלי מעברה המורכב והעשיר של סין. עבר זה נפרש בספר באורח בהיר ותמציתי. למהדורה החדשה והמעודכנת נוסף פרק העוסק באירועים הדרמטיים בסין בשנה האחרונה.













Britain and China 1941-1947: Imperial Momentum.Macmillan, London with St. Antony's College, Oxford, 1984.

In Britain and China, 194I-47 Aron Shai has made a detailed study of the developments which affected Britain's traditional privileged position in China in the course of the Pacific War and the period which immediately followed it. The author argues that British attempts to return to China under the new and more acceptable cloak of a friend, utilising Britain's colonial heritage in Asia, are discernible. As a result of this unique heritage and of China being part of Britain's informal empire, Sino-British relations in the 1940s were not ordinary bilateral relations between two equal political entities. Rather, this was a case of what can be termed an 'imperial hangover'.

While the Second World War accelerated the process of British imperial decline and hastened the rate of change of the objective realities, obsolete perceptions persisted. This was evident in Britain's general attitude towards China and was made particularly clear in the case of the restoration of British authority in Hong Kong, where an adamant stand in the face of Chinese nationalism was taken.

No other recently published study has examined Sine-British relations in the 1940s in depth or analysed them within the broad imperial context. The author shows that Kuomintang China, prior to the final Communist victory, was in the process of becoming less a subject of imperial activity and more self-reliant and independent as an actor in the international arena. The two main political streams in China, drawing conclusions from the experience of foreign penetration of China, adopted decidedly nationalist principles. Leaders on both sides of the ideological divide became persuaded that imperialist exploitation must end forthwith. "True independence (though diversely defined) and freedom from colonial rule seemed the way forward for China. Under such circumstances it became clear not only that informal imperialism had to end, but also that the comforts of 'imperial hangover' could no longer be enjoyed.



The Fate of British and French Firms In China 1949-1954 - Imperialism Imprisoned, Macmillan, London with St. Antony's College, Oxford, 1996.

This book takes a somewhat different view of international or diplomatic history by concentrating on the more profound elements of Sine-foreign relations, namely the economic and the commercial, especially with regard to Britain and France. The immediate post-revolutionary period in China is viewed here in the wider context of Britain and France's post-imperial decline and expressions such as 'imperialism imprisoned' and 'captive capitalism' are some new and interchangeable terms employed in this context.

During the early 1950s, unofficial representatives of the former imperial powers such as local managers of major firms located in China, found themselves at g rave personal risk, with some experiencing imprisonment owing to the authorities policies regarding their companies. The hardships suffered by these individuals under the new regime serve as symbols of the unprecedented difficulties experienced by foreign companies active in China at the same time. Behind China's treatment of foreign concerns lay the desire to secure a considerable source of income and to gain control over the substantial assets built up by foreign companies over many years. In contrast to the traditional interpretation that Chinese policies regarding the old imperial powers involved nationalization of foreign companies through the expropriation of their property, this study shows that almost no such practice took place. Rather, instances of appropriation only occurred following an indirect, subtle and protracted process. It is precisely because of the uniqueness of the process and its relative long duration that the new regime in China succeeded in achieving its goals, perhaps even exceeding them. This study is based on hitherto inaccessible public, private and company archives in Britain, France and China.


China in the Twentieth Century (In Hebrew), 1998


Imperialism Imprisoned. The Fate of British and French Firms in China. 
Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing, 2003.




Zhang Xue-liang, The General Who Never Fought
Zmora Kinneret Publishers (in Hebrew) Tel-Aviv, 2008.
Palgrave Macmillan, England, 2012.
Kun Lun Publishers, China, 2012.


The book describes the peculiar story of the man known as “The Young Marshal”, a native Chinese Mandarin. In 1901, on his twenty-seventh birthday, he became the Governor of Manchuria, which spans an area the size of several European states combined. Despite being addicted to opium like many Chinese elite of the time, he successfully conquered his weakness after a painful struggle.

The hero of the story tried to find a suitable approach to proper government in China and in most original fashion discovered the mysteries of Italian fascism, which he tried to implement at home. However, after experiencing the Japanese occupation, which began in 1931, he declared all out war on this fascist-militarist enemy of the people. To do this he was willing to work with the Chinese communists for which he eventually paid a high personal price.

“The Young Marshal” coveted many women, but only admired, and was willing to obey one - his rival and commanding officer’s wife - a beautiful and charismatic woman. The relationship between the two, like the story of his life, is entwined with the history of twentieth-century China.


This is the story of a weak strong-man, a hero and anti-hero combined, who, because of his character and principles was imprisoned for decades in his own country, exiled in the tenth decade of his life to the New World, and when over a hundred, willingly and with an incredible passion converted to Christianity, and subsequently died and was buried on far off Hawaii in 2001, aged nearly 101.

Due to the tendency of historians to study and tell the stories of winners and survivors, few are familiar with the unique biography of the man who left an indelible mark on modern Chinese history. Unwrapping the secrets of the Young Marshal sheds an original light on contemporary China.

The book is based on a variety of previously unused primary and secondary sources, both Chinese and non-Chinese. It endeavors to create an original genre that combines meticulous historical research and what might be called a biographical novella.






Sino-Israeli Relations: Current Reality and Future Prospects.
Institute for National Security Studies, Tel Aviv, 2009.

When Israel’s prime minister arrived in the People’s Republic of China on a state visit in 2007, he and his entourage found an ancient country with a new outlook. Indeed, China is now in the midst of a distinct transformation, focused on the need to translate the astonishing results of its Open Door economic policy, adopted in the early 1980s, into global diplomatic influence. China intends to secure the political influence that will allow it to entrench itself in various corners of the world, and perhaps more significantly, in the global consciousness. Thus it seems that the global struggle over raw materials, waged until the outbreak of the economic crisis in late 2008, was a foreshadowing of the confrontation – economic and diplomatic – of the coming decades once the crisis is over. In view of the underlying confrontation between China and the United States over materials, geopolitical achievements, and – increasingly – political-diplomatic hegemony in various global cockpits, particularly in Asia and Africa, a critical question is how Israel can prepare itself to adopt a reassessed China policy for the near future, particularly in the post-crisis era.

Sino-Israeli Relations: Current Reality and Future Prospects considers the outlook for Israel if indeed China emerges as an even stronger major power in the global arena, and argues that Jerusalem’s future relations with Beijing should incorporate a fresh and perhaps less traditional assessment. Analyzing current bilateral relations in various domains and evaluating possible future developments affecting relations between the two countries, including with regard to the Middle East peace process and Iran’s and North Korea’s nuclear programs, the author considers how Israel should rethink its relations with China and then act on this reassessment.
to the full text





The Evolution of Israeli-Chinese Friendship.
(An updated version of the 2009 booklet)

The S. Daniel Abraham Center and Confucius Institute, Tel Aviv, 2014. to the full text


Sino-Israel Relations: 1890- 2016.
Yediot Sefraim (in Hebrew), Tel Aviv, 2016; Academic Studies Press, Boston, 2019; Taiwan, 2023




















 Non-Academic Books



בנהזר - רומן היסטורי, עם עובד, תל אביב 1990

 סיפורו של בן, שאביו איש חידה מאנשי הלח"י, נספה בשריפה מסתורית שפרצה בביתו, והוא מבקש עתה לחקור עד תום את פרשת חייו ומותו וכך 
למצוא את הקרבה אליו, קרבה שביקש כל ימיו. חיפושיו מביאים אותו למקומות רחוקים, כהונג-קונג למשל, ולמאורעות הקשורים בתולדות
המשפחה, כהתעללות הנאצים ביהודי יוון בעת השואה, ומוליכים גם את חייו שלו בדרך המיוחדת לו בשגרת, חיי הארץ רצופת המאבקים 
והמלחמות. סיפור מרתק, שעובדות היסטוריות, חלקן לא ידועות לרבים, ודמיון שזורים בו יחדיו.



Benhazar- A Historical Novel,(English).

From World War II to the establishment of the State of Israel, this historical novel follows the lives of two men – a father, Jochanan, and his son, Benhazar. When his father dies under suspicious circumstances in a fire that guts a Jerusalem apartment, Benhazar sets out to piece together the fragments of his father’s shadowy past. How involved was he in Lechi (the radical Jewish underground)? What was he doing in Hong Kong and Japan? Why were so many of his old acquaintances evasive when questioned about his activities? The journey, begun as a search for his father, becomes a process of self-clarification for the son, as he comes to understand himself in relation to his family, his people, and the larger Middle East conflict. Together with Benhazar, we are swept along on a journey across continents into the heart of Middle East politics, as the haunting metaphors of this compelling book cast a highly original light on age-old issues. Many of the events in this fascinating and suspenseful novel are based on actual historical events disclosed for the very first time.



מאנו היא קראה לו, הוצאת זמורה ביטן, תל אביב 1998, מהדורה שנייה 2017

מכתבים מסתוריים מאנגליה המתגלים באקראי פותחים רומן זה, שהוא סיפורו המדהים של עמנואל אדיג'ס, חייל לשעבר בצבאות מוסוליני, החי בישראל. בפני הקורא נפרש משולש יחסים מוזר בין עמנואל לבין רות, צעירה ירושלמית, ובין השניים לבין המספר, היסטוריון מהוסס, שהקריירה שלו דומה, לדבריו, "לגופו של עמנואל ערב מותו". האירועים המתרחשים בירושלים משנות השישים עד שנות התשעים נשזרים במקביל להתרחשויות באירופה של שנות המלחמה והתמורות בחיי עמנואל. "רציתי אותה", מתוודה המספר בדברו על רות, "...רציתי להיות הוא, זקן לבן עור, מדובלל שער, להיות לה לוחם פשיסטי שעבר זמנו, להיות מאנו שלה." סיפור מרתק שעובדות היסטוריות ודמיון נרקמו בו ליצירת פסיפס מתמלא והולך של תקופה מסעירה, ודמויות שהסוד בהן רב על הגלוי הדמיון בין הדמויות והאירועים המוזכרים בספר לבין המציאות אינו תמיד מקרי.




Buchbinder: A University Novel

Carmel Publishing House (In Hebrew), Jerusalem. 2021.



 Articles and Chapters in scientific/academic journals and edited Books

Between 1972 and 2024. 60 Articles and Chapters were published in scientific/academic journals and books; among them:

  1. "Was There a Far Eastern Munich?", Journal of Contemporary History (London), Vol. 9, no. 3, July 1974
  2. "The Sino-Japanese Conflict of 1937 and the League of Nations: Anatomy of a Failure", China Forum (Taiwan), (English and Chinese) Vol. III, no. I, January, 1976
  3. "Britain, China and the End of Empire", Journal of Contemporary History (London), Vol. 15, no. 2, April 1980
  4. "Imperialism Imprisoned: The Closure of British Firms in the People's Republic of China", English Historical Review, (Oxford), Vol. CIV, no. 410, 1989
  5. "China - Civil War and Cold War", Crossroads (New York), no. 30, 1989
  6. "Hostage Capitalism and the French Companies in China - A Hidden Element in Sino-French relations", Etudes Chinoises, (Paris), Vol.Xii, No 1, Printemps 1993
  7. "The Cold War in Asia Reconsidered" in The Soviet Foreign Policy in Retrospective, 1917-1991, (Moscow, 1993)
  8. "The Chinese Navy in the Second World War (Revisited)" Pelagic Meetings Hellenic Navy, Naval Academy, 2 (1999) (Piraeus, Greece) , 2000
  9. "The Israeli Communist Party's Policy towards the People's Republic of China, 1949-1992" in J. Goldstein (ed.), China and Israel 1948-1998: A Fifty year Retrospective (Connecticut, U.S.A.), 1999
  10. "The Termination of the War in East Asia, 1945", Militarie Spectator, (Holland), No. 169, August, 2000
  11. "Suez - The Last Imperial War or an Imperial Hangover?" in D. Tal (ed.) The 1956 War: Collusion and Rivalry in the Middle East, (London, 2001)
  12. "The Fate of the Uninhabited Arab Villages in Israel", Cathedra, (Jerusalem), Sept. 2002
  13. "The Indirect Nationalization of Foreign Forms in China in the 1950s", Annales Historiques de L'electricite (Paris), June, 2003
  14. "China and Israel - Strange Bedfellows 1948-2006" in Simon Shen (Ed.), China and Antiterrorism, (New York, 2007)
  15. "The Sino-Japanese War and the Second World War: The Same War?" (Tabur, Yearbook for European History, Society, Culture and Thought, (Jerusalem),The Hebrew University, Vol. 1, 2008)
  16. "Exile in His Own Land: The Case of Zhang Xueliang", in Raoul Findeisen et al. (eds.) At Home in Many Worlds, (Wiesbaden, 2009).
  17. "China and Israel: Relations and Future Prospects", ASPJ Africa and Francophonie, (Washington, 2014)
  18. "North Korea and Israel: A Missed Opportunity?" (Israel Journal of  Foreign Affairs, 2016)
  19. "Revealed: In 1939, China Planned to settle Persecuted European Jews in Remote Part of Country" (Haaretz, 2017, Zmanim No. 139, 2023)
  20. The Painter Shmuel Levi and Mom's Portrait (Haaretz, in Hebrew, 2020)
  21. "" (Zmanim, in Hebrew, 2023)​​


Selected lectures


השתתפות בפודקאסט "זמן סין" בו פרופ' אהרן שי מתאר את סין כמעצמה ימית ודן בהיסטוריה ובאקטואליה שלה. שי פורש את סיפורו האישי ומספר על לימודי סין בישראל והמורכבות לצד הסינרגיה עם הממשל בארץ (2022).

לקישור ראו: פרק 30: שיחה אקדמית עם פרופ’ אהרון שי, הסינולוג הותיק ביותר בישראל


פרופ' אהרן שי - סין כמעצמת על: מפגש פברואר של ידידי אוניברסיטת תל אביב  (2020)



"Doing Business in China" - June 17, 2013 - Tel Aviv University (in Hebrew)


"China and Israel: Relations" (Part1) - October 31, 2021 (In English)

"China and Israel: Relations" (Part2) - October 31, 2021 (In English)



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