Leading the way in contemporary China research

Leading the way in contemporary China research


Tianjin's growing skyline is a testament to China's significant economic development in recent decades, January 2012.
Photo credit: 
Flickr user Sarmu

In 2007, in recognition of the importance of developing a program devoted to the study of contemporary China, the Stanford China Program (SCP) was established within the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center (Shorenstein APARC), which for decades had already been the home for extensive research on China at Stanford University; within a few short years, SCP has become an integral part of the Center, establishing a reputation as one of the top research programs in the country focusing on contemporary China, especially political economy.

Conducting cutting-edge research and training the next generation of scholars

SCP faculty are doing cutting-edge research on a wide range of challenges facing China: fiscal shortfalls and local governance, property rights reform and corporate restructuring, social inequality and mobility, food security, markets, education and poverty alleviation, environmental pollution and public health, and political participation and popular protests. SCP research is a vital part of Shorenstein APARC’s publishing program, and has resulted in several acclaimed edited volumes. The program has also played an integral role in bringing top visiting scholars from China and the United States to Stanford for a valuable cross-pollination of research and knowledge on China.

While primarily a research entity, SCP recognizes the critical importance of training new generations of Stanford students for broader and deeper interactions with China. Bringing together both research and teaching, the SCP-pioneered China Social Science Workshop has become an in-house forum for faculty and their doctoral students, as well as invited outside scholars, to present work in progress. It has fostered critical analysis and feedback essential to turn research into high-quality publications.

Other ongoing SCP academic workshops and conferences promote intellectual exchange with leading scholars within the United States and from China; the program also provides opportunities to educate broader audiences through public lectures on timely topics, such as the recent “China Under New Management” series in the wake of China’s once-in-a-decade leadership change following the 18th Party Congress.

Apart from its regular quarterly seminar series, SCP has also played a vital role in the Oksenberg Lecture, held annually to honor the legacy of Professor Michel Oksenberg. A senior fellow at Shorenstein APARC and the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI), and a key member of the National Security Council when the United States normalized relations with China, Oksenberg consistently urged that the United States engage with Asia in a more considered manner. In tribute, the Oksenberg Lecture recognizes distinguished individuals who have helped to advance understanding between the United States and the nations of the Asia-Pacific. Recent Oksenberg Lectures have illuminated key issues, such as the modernization of China’s military, constraints on China’s foreign policy, and areas of friction in U.S.-China relations.

Establishing the Stanford Center at Peking University

Aside from making great strides in building China studies at Stanford, SCP has played a special role in the university’s globalization efforts. Shortly after SCP was founded, director Jean Oi, with the help of Andrew Walder and strong support from FSI director Chip Blacker and dean of research Ann Arvin, started to work on creating Stanford’s first university-wide center abroad—in Beijing.

In March 2012 the Stanford Center at Peking University (SCPKU) officially opened, housed in a historic courtyard compound in the middle of Peking University, on the former site of an imperial palace. Oi concurrently serves as the Lee Shau Kee Director of SCPKU. Stanford is the only university to have a standalone center in a top Chinese university, with SCPKU serving as a unique platform for all of its seven schools, one that enables all Stanford faculty—not just those affiliated with SCP—to do cutting-edge research on a wide range of topics. Shorenstein APARC is a core program at SCPKU, with a dedicated office, and with SCP has already held a number of conferences and meetings at SCPKU since its opening. Ever cognizant of its academic mission, SCP is proud to have played a role in creating a home away from home for Stanford students to have a hands-on understanding of what China is—the kind of training you cannot get from reading a book.