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Ten Years in Review: The Impact of Chiang Ching-kuo Grants on Chinese Studies in the United States and Canada

By David Dean

The Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation is celebrating its Tenth Anniversary this year in ceremonies and academic seminars in Taipei, Prague, and Washington D.C. Originally the concept of leading Chinese-American professors, the Foundation ahs become a major source of funding for Chinese studies in the humanities and social sciences in Europe, Asia, and North America. Its overall objective is to encourage the integration of the best of Chinese culture within an emerging global culture. As part of this process the Foundation has extended more than 50 million dollars in academic grants worldwide during the past decade.

This article will concentrate on the impact of the Foundation's grants on Chinese studies in the North American region. From its inception in 1989, the Foundation's North American Committee has been composed of a rotating number of well-known scholars in the fields of Chinese archaeology, history, literature and language, philosophy, religion and sociology, political science, legal studies and economics, all teaching at American and Canadian universities. These scholars have given freely of their time to encourage the expansion of Chinese studies. They have applied rigorous intellectual standards in judging the academic merit of each application for a grant. These professors have, through their unselfish efforts and expertise, contributed greatly to the success of the Foundation. Their focus has been on higher education and the long term impact of the Foundation's grants. The importance of each proposed project in its field has also been a major consideration as has originality and feasibility, especially in research applications.

Most observers of the emerging global culture have commented on the increasing dominance of Western cultural forms and economic models. The Foundation is committed to supporting a more pluralistic future of cultural exchange. The CCK Foundation supports the dialogue between scholars of Chinese studies across the world. By enabling research and expanding teaching about Chinese culture, the Foundation hopes to provide the tools of understanding that will lead to genuine cultural interaction. Chinese cultural resources have an essential role to play in the evolving global culture.

The world economy has in fact already shifted many familiar terms of reference. Many technological and managerial innovations are arising in Asia, rather than in Europe or North America. Asian intellectuals, artists, religious and civic leaders are responding to the pressures of globalization with creativity and insight. Chinese area studies no longer can be restricted to the model of a provider of empirical evidence for Western theoretical elaboration. On the contrary, many of the most important new theoretical responses to globalization are arising in Asia, where these questions are often most acute. These developments call for new forms of comparative cultural theory, rather than simplistic conceptions of the inevitability of a 'clash of civilizations'.

The past decade has seen an extraordinary expansion of research in Chinese studies in Asia. The amount of new publications in Chinese in every field of the humanities and social sciences grows very rapidly every year. New and important archaeological discoveries are reshaping our understandings of early Chinese culture. Innovative research in history, literature, social science, and ethnography have greatly enriched these fields. A large number of new Chinese periodicals carry the latest research findings in Chinese studies. There is an urgent need for Chinese studies in North America and around the world to recognize and respond to these new materials and new viewpoints. By supporting fundamental research on Chinese studies, the CCK Foundation seeks to further this academic and critical dialogue. By expanding the institutional base of Chinese studies in North America, the Foundation hopes to provide more teaching positions that will provide more and more people with the means to enter into a truly global dialogue.

One dimension of this new theoretical interaction can be seen in recent collaborative research between Chinese and Western scholars. The Foundation has supported many such collaborative projects. Another concrete sign of support for dialogue has been the sponsoring of academic conferences and workshops, which will be discussed in more detail below.

Beyond the recognition that Chinese and Asian thinkers are now active interlocutors in a global cultural exchange, the Foundation supports the view that critical Chinese studies and Asian studies in general can present a credible and stimulating challenge to complacent assumptions of the Western humanities. Taking Chinese studies seriously means confronting the historicity of Western critical models. While not promoting any kind of culturalism or nationalism, we can nonetheless use the confrontation between cultures as starting points in the explorations of underlying assumptions and the limits of foundational texts. Cultures are porous, and interaction leads to hybridity. The emerging global culture is strongly marked by volatile mixtures and mutability. These developments in turn challenge our traditional understandings of cultural systems.

The Foundation has been assisted by its North American Advisory Committee composed of distinguished scholars at leading American universities. Members of the Advisory Committee, assessing the impact of the Foundation's grants, have concluded that grants for new teaching positions are among the most valuable and long-lasting grants provided by the Foundation. In North America funds for sixty-eight new teaching positions have been given to sixty-four colleges and universities over the past ten years. In each case the Foundation has provided funds covering salary and fringe benefits for a new assistant, associate, or full professor for three years. By prior agreement, the college or university concerned has committed itself to raise future funding for this new, tenure track position. A recent survey indicates that recipients of these grants have lived up to these commitments.

Initially, for the first three years, the North American Committee emphasized new teaching positions for Chinese language instruction. For the second three year period emphasis was given to new teaching positions in the humanities and social sciences. The North American committee wanted to concentrate on encouraging long-term scholarship in Chinese studies and was concerned that many undergraduates, after a year's language study, would not continue in the field. A second view is that a general course in Chinese history and civilization given to pre-engineering, pre-medical and other pre-professional students would introduce them to a different but important society in the rapidly changing global culture. This knowledge would be useful to them in almost every profession. Subsequently, the number of these new teaching grants has been gradually reduced although the demand for these grants remains high. Fortunately, other foundations have become interested in this type of grant. The Luce Foundation, for example, is seriously considering similar grants to provide start-up funds for new teaching positions in the humanities at liberal arts colleges. In addition East Asian alumni support for Chinese studies in American universities is growing. This support is particularly welcome because U.S. government funding of Chinese studies is falling sharply.

Institutional enhancement grants for new teaching positions have been awarded to both small colleges and large universities in the United States and Canada. The Foundation ha also deliberately spread its grants over a wide geographic pattern from the east coast to the west and in the midwest, southwest and south. In a special effort to help create a center for Chinese studies in the south, the Foundation provided funding for four new teaching positions at Duke University, and one each at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University. These three universities are in close proximity to each other and have cooperative programs. Duke University, aided by support from alumni and other sources and using its own funds, has increased its faculty tenure track positions in Chinese studies from twelve to twenty-four over the past ten years.

I think it is fair to say that without the Foundation's supporting grants many of these new positions would not be in existence today. Judging from the large number of institutional enhancement applications received by the North American Committee each year, there is an increasing interest in Chinese studies at many colleges and universities in the United States and Canada. The new tenure track positions at these schools will provide insights into Chinese history and culture, philosophy, religion, economics, art and many other fields of study to thousands of students in the years ahead. These grants will provide more information to individual students about the contributions of Chinese culture to the west and about western influence on Chinese society.

A list of the universities and colleges in the North American area which have received grants for new teaching positions is included at the end of this article.
The second most long lasting type of grant provided by the Foundation is its subsidies for publication. These grants are given to university presses and museums to help support the publication of academic books on some aspects of Chinese studies. Normally only several hundred copies of such books are printed. The university press can recover part of its cost by selling the book to libraries and to a few specialists. The Foundation provide grants which allow university presses to publish these academic books without suffering a loss. The books will be available for many years at many libraries and they form an invaluable source for scholars and researchers. Over the past ten years, the North American Committee has helped university presses publish fifty-two books on Chinese subjects. The titles range from translation of modern Taiwan fiction, to issues in Chinese dialect description and classification, to Confucianism and human rights. In "Confucianism and Human Rights" edited by W. Theodore de Bary and published by Columbia University Press, for example, eighteen Western and Chinese scholars use Confucianism as a lens to evaluate the strengths and limitations of the principles of human rights. They seek to answer questions like: What is the place of human rights in a society shaped by Confucian principles; and, can Confucianism offer useful perspectives on the Western conception of human rights? Another example of a book to which the Foundation contributed is He Li's "Chinese Ceramics, a New Comprehensive Survey." The book is based on the collection of Chinese ceramics in the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. He Li, in his acknowledgements, quotes his mentor in Japan, Professor Mikomi Tsujio, who advised him "To be a bridge between the West and the East in the quest for cultural understanding among peoples of the world." For a relatively small investment the Foundation is helping to provide future generations of scholars with the benefit of the ideas, concepts, and research of today's writers. The long term effect of this program is to encourage the publication of books which might not otherwise be printed and to provide future scholars with important research. The North American Committee's subcommittees, which are responsible for the review of the subsidies for publication applications, pay careful attention to the readers' comments which accompany each university press application. The sub-committees select the most interesting and scholarly and valuable books in their fields of specialization.

It is difficult to judge the overall effect of the Foundation's grants on Chinese studies in North America. Certainly, without the Foundation's support, many scholars would not have the funding to pursue their research projects. Many students would not have the benefit of new teachers and new courses, many graduate students would not have the backing to complete their dissertations, and a number of distinguished senior scholars would not have the necessary support to pursue their research and writing. The Foundation's awards to colleges and universities have helped to crate new jobs for promising assistant professors. More books on Chinese subjects have been published. Separate articles in this publication discuss the developments in specific fields, such as history and the social sciences, which the Foundation has encouraged. But the Foundation has not had an agenda. We have not tried to channel research in any particular direction. Our panel of scholars is interested in supporting academic excellence and not political causes. Members of the North American Committee have visited universities in the U.S., Europe, and Asia to lecture and to join workshops and conferences on specific aspects of Chinese studies. The Foundation has tried to influence other foundations in North America and Taiwan to help support more Chinese studies. American corporations like General Electric and Citibank have also contributed to this effort.

Americans have been interested in China even before the American Revolution. Clipper ships from Salem and other ports in Massachusetts traveled to Macao and Canon carrying trade goods and silver. They returned months later with cargoes of silk, porcelain, tea, and Chinese flowering plants and flowers, like peonies and chrysanthemums. American missionaries flocked to China in the 19th and early 20th century and sent back fascinating accounts which were eagerly studied by church congregations. Chinese art and culture, Confucianism and its teaching all aroused great interest in the West. This interest in China and its history and civilization has captured the imagination of Americans for the past two centuries. Today Americans have a genuine interest in Chinese traditions and culture. Every year hundreds of U.S. and Canadian students go to Taiwan and Mainland China to study and travel. And every year thousands of Chinese come from Taiwan, Hong Kong and China to study at university in North America. Two way trade, although affected recently by the Asian economic crisis, has flourished, providing an additional reason for Western interest in Chinese societies.

Under these circumstances it is not surprising that Chinese studies in North America are attracting more students, some of whom are sons and daughters of Chinese immigrants who are searching for their cultural roots. The Foundation hopes to encourage more study and understanding of Chinese society. We believe that a better understanding will lead to the use of more reason and less contention and emotion in helping to solve international issues.

To help achieve better understanding, the Foundation emphasizes scholarly research on all aspects of Chinese society and supports conferences and workshops in Chinese studies in the humanities and social sciences. On April 16 and 17, 1999, for example, at the Foundation's commemoration of its Tenth Anniversary in Washington, D.C., an academic conference jointly sponsored by the Library of Congress will include a panel on new developments in Chinese art and archaeology. Separate panels will discuss the susceptibility of Chinese culture to absorb influences from the West; Chinese influence on the global civilization; and emerging trends in Chinese religion. The conference will also feature their panels formed by the American Association for Chinese Studies which will hold its annual meeting concurrently with the Tenth Anniversary celebration.

The Foundation has concentrated on higher education with grants to colleges, universities, professors and graduate students. However, many of the grants for new assistant professors are intended for teaching undergraduate classes. If the Foundation had greater resources a strong argument could be made to sponsor courses in Chinese language, history and culture at the high school level as the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation has done by marking grants to high schools for Chinese language teachers. Many graduates from these classes continue their Chinese studies in college. However, there are many colleges in North America which do not have a specialized faculty in Chinese studies. To help fill this need the Foundation is helping to support a far ranging program initiated by the University of Pittsburgh, which is developing an innovative interdisciplinary course, in an electronic format, to introduce undergraduate students to contemporary Chinese cultures and societies. The course is designed to encourage undergraduates not only to learn about Chinese society and culture but also to make use of interactive media to create an active learning situation as opposed to the more traditional classroom in which students listen passively to faculty lectures. This curriculum program will allow instructors who are not China specialists to select themes and supporting materials suited to their interests. As Pittsburgh's interactive curriculum nears completion, the Foundation plans to explore ways it can help make this new program available to colleges and even to interested high schools.

Support for research in the humanities and social sciences has been the major focus of the Foundation's North American Committee. It is rare for any foundation to persist, over a long period of time, with support for research in the humanities. The humanities are frequently overlooked while the hard sciences receive substantial funding. But the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation's Board of Directors decided from the very beginning to emphasize research in Chinese studies in the humanities and social sciences. For the past ten years the North American Committee's panels of scholars have considered applications for research grants from assistant, associate and full professors with care and attention. The scholars, all experts in their own field of Chinese studies, have recommended the most thoughtful and promising applications to the Board of Directors each year. As part of the foundation's tenth Anniversary celebration, a separate publication includes descriptions by eighty-two researchers of their projects. This volume gives the reader some insight into the wide ranging intellectual achievements stemming from these research grants. In the future, the Foundation intends to continue its emphasis in supporting research in Chinese studies in the humanities and social sciences.

Connected with this emphasis on research are three other types of grants which the Foundation makes annually. These are pre and post doctoral grants and grants to senior scholars. For several years the pre and post doctoral grant program was administered for the Foundation by the American Council of Learned Societies. The North American Committee now reviews these applications together with other applications received. The pre-doctoral grants are important for graduate students who have completed all their requirements for a doctoral degree except for their dissertations. The Foundation's grants give these graduate students the opportunity to devote their full time to writing their dissertations. It is distressing that a large number of graduate students, after completing all other requirements, do not finish their dissertations because of other pressures, including lack of funds.

Postdoctoral applications are usually submitted by assistant or associate professors who can apply to their colleges or universities for a semester off to conduct research. This research usually leads to the publication of valuable books or monographs and adds to the pool of knowledge concerning Chinese society in all its aspects. Similarly, senior scholar grants allow professors on sabbaticals to pursue research and writing. In Canada, the Canadian Asian Studies Association (CASA) administers a pre- and post doctoral grant program for the Foundation for graduate students and assistant professors at Canadian universities and colleges. All of the research, pre and post doctoral, and senior scholar grants are designed to advance scholarly research in Chinese studies. This effort described in other articles in this book, has given a much needed boost to research on Chinese society and culture. The Foundation has supported valuable advances in the understanding of many different disciplines. It has also encouraged multidisciplinary studies of Chinese history and culture. In fact, there are a growing number of multidisciplinary applications for research which, for example, combine religious, political, social and economic trends into one study. In the past some area specialists narrowed their research to only one aspect of Chinese society. Now these specialists run the risk of not taking into account the totality of the Chinese experience. In our view a multidisciplinary area studies approach remains the more productive course and we welcome research applications that cross the conventional borders of specific disciplines.

The North American Committee has supported seventy-three conferences, seminars and work shops in the pat decade ranging from Harvard University's conference on Culture, Media, and Society in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and China, to the University of Washington's conference "Taiwan on the Eve of the 21st Century: Aspects of Identity and Political Economy". Other conferences have discussed subjects as diverse as Chinese art, linguistics, book culture, telecommunications, historical change, and hermeneutic traditions. Certain conferences have focused on globalization and its impacts in Asia, gender studies and women's roles in Asia, international relations, and transnational, inter-Asian forms of popular culture and technological exchange. These conferences and seminars have drawn together specialists in particular fields and have promoted a face to face exchange of ideas and theories. Workshops combined with some conferences have benefited both undergraduate and graduate students. Travel grants have enabled a wide group of scholars from North America to attend these conferences. Many of these conferences bring scholars based in Asia together with North American scholars.

Many forces work against cultural exchange. These include pressures toward cultural homogenization associated with the spread of Westernization, isolationist tendencies in the United States, and all forms of nationalist, racist, or culturalist discourse. The CCK Foundation is committed to working for open forms of cultural exchange, and has struggled to convince other funding agencies, foundations, and corporations to support this vision. Through our various programs, we have sought to strengthen the institutional base for teaching and research in Chinese studies in North America. Our support of fundamental research in the humanities and social sciences has enabled new advances in understanding in many areas of inquiry and encouraged the publication and dissemination of rich and divergent new viewpoints. We have also promoted cultural exchange between individual scholars from around the world. The essence of cultural exchange is personal interaction, whether between scholars, teachers and students, or artists and critics. We welcome comments and suggestions on our work. We also welcome your support in further opening a genuine global dialogue in which Chinese cultural resources can make a contribution to the future.