Campus & Community

Harvard China Fund launched

6 min read

Will support research, teaching throughout University

Harvard University has launched the Harvard China Fund, a new University-wide initiative under the direction of William C. Kirby, Edith and Benjamin Geisinger Professor of History and director of the Fairbank Center for East Asian Research.

The fund will serve as an internal foundation to support research and teaching about and in China. According to Kirby, the center will have three primary aims: supporting Harvard activities in China and, potentially, establishing a physical presence there; supporting University efforts to ensure that Harvard remains a pre-eminent center for the study of China; and supporting activities across Harvard’s departments, programs, and Schools, and, where appropriate, promoting the coordination of efforts likely to have the largest impact in the study of China. As the director of the University-wide fund, Kirby, who is also an honorary visiting professor at both Beijing University and Nanjing University, will report directly to the provost.

“As a global university Harvard must have substantial research and educational efforts focused on China,” said Provost Steven E. Hyman. “This initiative should build on our existing programs to markedly enhance Harvard’s engagement with China. I am delighted that William Kirby and a very talented steering committee will oversee this marked expansion of Harvard’s commitment.”

“Bill Kirby is a path-breaking historian of China, a superb teacher, and a collegial leader of the History Department and the Fairbank and Asia centers,” said Jorge I. Domínguez, vice provost for international affairs. “As dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, he showed vision and commitment in urging and fostering research and teaching that focused well beyond the boundaries of the United States. His scholarly talent, care for our students, and capacity for collaboration and leadership are ideally suited for this new major Harvard endeavor.”

The objective of the Harvard China Fund is not to run its own set of new, competing programs, but to serve as an academic venture fund to enhance existing efforts, and to seed future initiatives across the broad spectrum of the humanities, the social sciences, the sciences, and the professions. As such, the Harvard China Fund will function as part of the Harvard University Asia Center’s family of programs and will work in close administrative and academic coordination with the Asia Center. The Asia Center is under the direction of Anthony Saich, the Victor and William Fung Director. He is also the Daewoo Professor of International Affairs at the John F. Kennedy School of Government (KSG) as well as chair of the Asia Programs and faculty chair of the China Public Policy Program at the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government, KSG. “The work of the Harvard China Fund is complementary to what we’re doing in China at all levels. The new fund will strengthen efforts to research in, and work with colleagues from, China,” said Saich.

The fund will also help advance the mission of the Fairbank Center, the University’s interdisciplinary research center devoted to the study of China. The Fairbank Center promotes student, faculty, and postdoctoral research through a wealth of seminars, research projects, conferences, and postdoctoral fellowships, and by hosting visiting scholars in Chinese studies from all over the world. “China is perhaps the most dynamically changing place on Earth,” said Kirby. “China’s future is inextricably connected to our own. As a leading American university, Harvard has a special responsibility – and indeed a unique opportunity – to prepare our students for a lifetime of engagement with China and to support the research that advances our collective understanding. This is not a narrow or specialized undertaking, for we must promote the study of China in all its dimensions: the literature, art, and history of a great civilization, as well as the society, politics, and popular culture of a new and rising country; China’s private wealth and its public health; its economy and its environment; and its distinctive contributions to the world that we will cohabit in the 21st century. I am very pleased that the University is making a signal commitment to this effort.”

Beginning this year, the fund will initiate a major program of grants, soliciting and reviewing proposals from Harvard’s Schools and programs. In addition, an early priority of the fund is to investigate the establishment of a Harvard presence in China that would further the work of Harvard faculty and students, in cooperation with academic colleagues in China.

The fund will be advised by a steering committee of leading China faculty across the University. The steering committee will be closely involved in defining the fund’s academic focus, developing a long-term funding plan, allocating the fund’s resources to various initiatives, and reviewing the fund’s performance in light of its mission. The steering committee will include:

William Alford, Henry L. Stimson Professor of Law; vice dean for the Graduate Program and International Legal Studies; director of East Asian Legal Studies;

Barry R. Bloom, Joan L. and Julius H. Jacobson Professor of Public Health in the Faculty of Public Health; dean of the Harvard School of Public Health;

Peter Bol, Charles H. Carswell Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations; director of the Center for Geographic Analysis in the Institute for Quantitative Social Science; chair, China Historical Geographic Information System Project;

Arthur Kleinman, Esther and Sidney Rabb Professor of Anthropology; chair, Department of Anthropology; professor of medical anthropology, Faculty of Medicine; professor of medical anthropology, Department of Social Medicine; professor of psychiatry; curator of medical anthropology, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology;

Elizabeth Perry, Henry Rosovsky Professor of Government and incoming president of the Association of Asian Studies;

Peter Rowe, Raymond Garbe Professor of Architecture and Urban Design, the Graduate School of Design;

Anthony Saich, Victor and William Fung Director of the Harvard University Asia Center; the Daewoo Professor of International Affairs at the KSG; chair of the Asia Programs and faculty chair of the China Public Policy Program at the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government, KSG;

David Der-wei Wang, Edward C. Henderson Professor of Chinese Literature in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations; director of CCK Foundation, Inter-University Center for Sinological Studies.

The fund will also seek guidance from an external advisory board, consisting of Harvard alumni in the United States and of both alumni and friends in China.