William Figueroa


Ph.D. StudentGraduate Student Researcher, Middle East Center

215 898 6335

My area of expertise is the relationship between China and Iran, with a background in modern Iranian history, modern Chinese history, and the Cold War. More broadly I am interested in the relationship between leftist politics and political Islam, the spread of ideas across regions, and connections between Asia and the Middle East. Recent scholarship on Sino-Iranian relations tends to focus primarily on national security issues and relations post-1979, and is less focused on historical contact and the impact of ideology. My dissertation is a historical survey of Sino-Iranian relations from the early 1900s to the foundation of the Islamic Republic, with a focus on the impact of Maoist politics on the Iranian left. My research shows that both Iranian and Chinese intellectuals were aware of and inspired by one another's political movements, which culminated in a series of robust, unofficial connections between Iranian Communist organizations and the Chinese Communist Party. Through this exchange, Maoism for a brief moment became the dominant ideological position of leftist Iranian student activists in Europe and the United States, and left an unmistakable mark on the rhetoric, ideology, and tactics of opposition groups of all stripes, both inside Iran and abroad. 

Dissertation Committee Members: 

Firoozeh Kashani-Sabet (Advisor), Arthur Waldron, Ali Gheissari (University of San Diego)


M.A, East Asian Languages and Culture University of Pennsylvania (2013)

B.A, Anthropology, and B.A, Asian Studies, Rice University (2010)

Research Interests

Sino-Iranian Relations, Modern Chinese History, Modern Iranian History, Cold War History, Identity and International Relations, Propaganda and Identity, History of the International Left, Islamism and Islamic Politics, Global Maoism

Courses Taught

HIST160 – Policy, Strategy, and War (TA)

HIST431 – A World At War (TA)

HIST135 – Cold War: Global History (TA)

HIST097 – History of Modern China (TA)

Selected Publications

"China and the Iranian Left: A Case Study of Iranian Maoism” Special Issue: China and Iran's Political and Cultural Relations, Leiden University Press. Forthcoming (submitted and accepted), April 2020