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Report on the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation's Support for the Asia-Pacific Region

By Gungwu Wang

The Foundation began to support the study of Chinese culture in the Asia-Pacific Region in 1991. It began modestly with three projects in Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines. Since then, its contributions to the region have been extended to Vietnam, Singapore, Japan, Thailand, Korea, Malaysia and Israel.

The two major areas of support have been in institutional enhancement and in grants for worthwhile research. In the former, the encouragement to universities to expand their teaching of Chinese language and culture has been most successful. It has also led more institutions, especially in Australia, to develop the field of Taiwan studies, an area often neglected in the past. Another new area of note is the Foundation's support of Chinese diaspora teaching and research.

Where grants are concerned, the range has been particularly impressive. Clearly, the Foundation has encouraged the region to stretch its research interests into some new an exceptional fields. For example, a comparative study of early modernities in China, India and Japan has led to considerable international interest. The stimulus given to maritime archaeology for the study of Chinese maritime trade has been valuable. Also, several groups of scholars have been enabled to work on the many aspects of Chinese business and economic development, including the role of Taiwan, a subject that continues to grow in importance in East Asia. Other subjects may not be topical, but they add depth to our understanding of China. Among them, the study of China's relations with Southeast Asia has been given attention, also the Chinese southern dialects and social organizations, and the ethnic and religious minorities within the Chinese world. A number of historical studies, including ritual theatre, Taoist lives, diplomatic papers, Manichaeism, have certainly underlined the variety and richness of Chinese society and identity.

In addition, the support given to conferences, seminars and publications deserve mention. For example, the place of Chinese culture in countries like Vietnam and the Philippines, and how Chinese outside China dealt with varieties of legal ????? systems brought together scholars who would not have normally met and thus enabled these fields to receive the attention they deserved.

During the seven years of support for China studies in the Asia-Pacific Region, the Foundation ha not only identified areas of research strength and weakness, but also discovered new enterprising efforts to explore fields that have not been studied with care in the past. Perhaps the most encouraging has been the steady growth in Chinese language and cultural studies at various centres of higher learning and the rising standard of competence in their teaching at many levels.