Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Center for Chinese Studies celebrates 50 years at U-M

The Center for Chinese Studies is celebrating its 50th anniversary at U-M — a school that has long played a key role in U.S. relations with China.

Many of America's top China scholars have been trained at the center, which sponsors lectures, research, conferences, film series and numerous other events and activities.


Click here to watch a video about the Center for Chinese Studies' 50th anniversary celebration.

The center also has been home to professors who have helped shape U.S. policy with the rising Asian nation that now has the world's second-biggest economy.

One of those policy-making professors, Kenneth Lieberthal, will help mark the center's 50th anniversary with a public lecture, "Prospects for U.S.-China Relations," at 7 p.m. next Thursday at Blau Auditorium in the Stephen M. Ross School of Business.

Lieberthal, a professor emeritus at U-M, served as a special assistant to President Bill Clinton for national security affairs and was on the National Security Council from 1998-2000. It was a time when U.S.-China relations entered a new stage, with both sides pledging to create a "constructive strategic partnership."

Other events marking the Center for Chinese Studies' anniversary include performances Oct. 21 and Oct. 22 by the internationally acclaimed Cloud Gate dance troupe from Taiwan. The event, co-sponsored by the University Musical Society, will be at the Power Center.

In another artistic tribute, an exhibition of works from 30 leading printmakers from China will be on display until Oct. 23 at the U-M Museum of Art.

The center was founded in 1961 with a generous grant from the Ford Foundation and subsequent support from the Mellon Foundation and the U.S. government, says Mary Gallagher, the center's director.

"One of our duties on campus is to provide programming and outreach on China so that people will know about it and enjoy learning about it," said Gallagher, an associate professor of political science.

The center is part of the International Institute, which has 18 centers and programs. It was the second area study center to be founded at U-M, following the creation of the Center for Japanese Studies in 1947.

"The Center for Chinese Studies is one of the crown jewels of the International Institute and of this university," says Ken Kollman, the institute's director. "It is so typically Michigan. It is interdisciplinary. It has very deep strengths across multiple disciplines."

U-M's close relationship with China has been strengthened by figures like James Angell, who took temporary leave from his post as the university's president to serve the U.S. government as Minister to China in 1880-81.

Another milestone in U-M's relationship with China was when the university hosted the Chinese table tennis team in 1972 during the famous round of "Ping Pong Diplomacy" that helped ease two decades of hostility between the U.S. and China.

When the U.S. and China re-established diplomatic relations in 1979, U-M political science professor Michel Oksenberg was deeply involved in the historic event. Oksenberg, a former center director, served as the special assistant to President Jimmy Carter and senior staff for East Asia and China at the National Security Council.

"We have a great deal to celebrate with the Center for Chinese Studies in its 50 years," Kollman says. "It has been excellent for so long, and it has such an outstanding reputation around the country."