The Johns Hopkins Gazette: February 7, 2000
February 7, 2000
VOL. 29, NO. 21


Nanjing Gets Research Institute

Hopkins and Nanjing University are partners in new endeavor

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

The Johns Hopkins University and Nanjing University share a commitment to academic research and scholarship excellence--and soon they will share a research institute.

The university and its Chinese partner recently agreed to establish the Hopkins-Nanjing Institute for International Research in an effort to promote cooperative research between Chinese and American scholars and to enhance the academic reputation of the existing Hopkins-Nanjing Center for Chinese and American Studies.

Research at the institute will address a wide range of academic fields, including subjects represented in the center's curriculum and other topics related to political, economic, social, cultural, environmental and health issues. The work will be carried out by senior scholars and junior fellows who will reside at the center for periods of one month to a year.

Paula Burger, vice provost for academic affairs and international programs, said the new institute will appoint well-regarded scholars from the United States, China and elsewhere, as well as those beginning their research careers.

"We plan to attract scholars of real distinction who will make a significant contribution to the understanding of Chinese and American affairs," said Burger, who was a leading force in the creation of the institute. "This agreement brings the Nanjing Center in closer alignment with the research interests of this university, and it raises the level of intellectual activity at the center."

An estimated five to six scholars and fellows will earn residence status within each calendar year. Burger said the institute hopes to see its first group of scholars and fellows in residence in the fall of 2001.

Governance of the organization will be the shared responsibility of the Hopkins and Nanjing universities, with each school designating a senior academic officer to oversee the institute on its behalf. Burger will represent Johns Hopkins during the initial phase of the agreement period. The institute falls under the administrative aegis of the Nitze School of Advanced International Studies; the Hopkins-Nanjing Program Office, in Washington, D.C., will assist in the promotion, planning and development of the institute.

Examples of potential research topics to be explored are trade issues, United States-China relations, impact of economic and legal reforms, the Third Sector, labor-force mobility and population dynamics, especially how they relate to contemporary China. Whenever possible, American and Chinese researchers will develop collaborative projects.

Daniel B. Wright, executive director of the Hopkins-Nanjing Program, said the next year will be spent fund raising and laying the groundwork for the institute. This addition, he said, will only enrich what is already an elite learning facility.

"The Hopkins-Nanjing Center is truly a microcosm of United States-China relations, with the best and brightest of these two nations working things out and studying side by side," Wright said. "And now to add a research component to that collaboration enhances the image of the center. I'm excited about the prospect of what this means to the intellectual environment of the community itself."

A newsletter, published both electronically and in print, will summarize current institute research and highlight key findings. Scholars also will be free to publish their research findings in appropriate academic journals.

A research council will be established this spring to provide intellectual leadership for the institute. The 8-to-10-person council will have an equal number of Chinese and American representatives chosen from a range of academic and research institutions. The duties of the council will be to provide academic direction for the institute, develop a broad research agenda, establish criteria for selection of scholars and fellows, help recruit scholars, review research proposals and recommend the appointment of scholars and fellows.

International scholars from all disciplines will be eligible to apply for appointment as fellows. Applicants will be appointed to the institute after undergoing a two-stage peer-review process.

The institute will be funded through the combined efforts of Johns Hopkins and Nanjing universities and will commence operations once sufficient funding has been secured, Burger said.

The Hopkins-Nanjing Institute for International Research will be housed initially in the Hopkins-Nanjing Center's main building. However, Burger said that as part of the center's facility planning agenda, a more permanent and adequate home for the institute is envisioned.

The Hopkins-Nanjing Center for Chinese and American Studies--the only American educational institution with a permanent physical presence in China--is located on the campus of Nanjing University, one of China's foremost academic institutions. Nanjing, a city of 5 million people, is the capital of the Jiangsu Province, situated just south of the Yangzi River.

The center was established in 1986 and is jointly administered by Nanjing University and SAIS; it offers a one-year graduate-level program in Chinese and American studies, covering topics in international studies, economics, history and related social science issues. Each year up to 100 Chinese and international graduate students, researchers and young professionals are chosen from an international pool of applicants.

David M. Lampton, professor and director of China studies at SAIS, who will serve on the research council, said although foreigners are more familiar with cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, Nanjing is more representative of the rest of China and as such provides an ideal location for local-level research that will "give an indication of where China is moving as a whole."

"We would like this to be a world-class center where people who want to do local research in China have an opportunity to do so," said Lampton, who has studied China for 30 years. "We also think that it's important in any good teaching environment to also have cutting-edge research going on."

Another goal for the institute is to enrich the academic experience of the graduate students enrolled at the center. Resident scholars and fellows will be encouraged to interact with the center community and provide at least one lecture and/or seminar during their time there.

"We hope that some of the researchers will even involve some of [the students] in their research," Lampton said.

Lampton said that researchers should be drawn to the institute in part because of the many resources located there. The library at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center offers an unprecedented concentration of reference and research materials, including an extensive collection of English and Chinese books and periodicals. The city of Nanjing also is home to what is called the Second Archives, the most thorough documentation that exists anywhere in the world on China's Republican period, according to Lampton. Essentially the years from 1912 to 1949, this period was the time of Chiang Kai-shek, the Anti-Japanese War and the Chinese Civil War.

Lampton said the establishment of the institute is noteworthy in respect to China's increasing willingness to expose itself to the rest of the world and interact substantively with the external scholarly world.

"Many people in the United States have this image--in particular, right now with the arrest of people doing breathing exercises and some of the closure of newspapers--that China is closing down or tightening up," Lampton said in reference to China's crackdown on followers of the spiritual movement Falun Gong. "But the broad picture in China is that it is opening up. And I think this agreement and China's willingness to allow a deeper form of penetration into its society are significant--significant because I think they have enough confidence in Hopkins in the first case, but also because the Chinese themselves recognize that moving into the world economy and globalization means they will be have to be more transparent and understandable to the rest of the world."

The agreement, signed on Dec. 13, 1999, will remain in force for a period of five years, at which time it will be reviewed by both parties for possible renewal for further five-year periods. Lampton said that Hopkins has managed to put together the "most durable, fruitful academic joint venture with China of any American university."

"I think it's notable that while many other institutions have come and gone, we have had a steady development of our relationship with Nanjing," Lampton said. "It has gotten bigger and more successful over time, and this is just the next step in an open-ended development process."