- Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center Newsletter

From the Director

| Spring 2013

The strategic partnership between Harvard and China is unique among universities of the world.This relationship is reflected in decades of scholarship in Cambridge, tens of thousands of Chinese graduates of Harvard degree and executive programs, and the policies of both governments that have brought us to this point. Consider seven dimensions of this multi-faceted partnership.

First, before the U.S. was a nation, trading ships from Massachusetts sold American furs and ginseng and Spanish bullion in the cantons of China. Soon enough, Harvard students were employed by China’s Imperial Maritime Customs Service; in 1879, a Chinese teacher was invited with his family to teach Chinese.

Second, the dean of modern Western studies of China was noted Harvard scholar John Fairbank. Fairbank joined the faculty in 1936 as Harvard’s first full-time specialist on Chinese history. After working for the OSS in China during World War II, Fairbank returned to the United States, wrote the seminal United States and China, and founded Harvard’s Center for East Asian Research.

Harvard-China ties reach back to America’s colonial days

Third, the architect of the rapprochement between the U.S. and China was Harvard’s own Henry Kissinger. When first preparing to meet with the Chinese government, Kissinger remarked that he knew “nothing” about China. He thus returned to Harvard to consult with John Fairbank and Owen Lattimore for a crash course in Sinology.

Fourth, Harvard has a long tradition of leadership in research on China, reflected in the work of scholars like Ezra Vogel, DwightPerkins, Roderick MacFarquar, and Alastair Iain Johnston. It is no accident that Vogel is the major biographer of Deng Xiaoping, the Chinese leader who initiated China’s march to  modernization through adoption of a market economy.

Expertise from Fairbank and Kissinger to Vogel and Saich

Fifth, Harvard has long had a connection with the quintessential Asian “tiger” state, Singapore, beginning with Lee Kuan Yew. While Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew was one of Harvard’s Institute of Politics’ first visiting fellows. I am pleased to have co-authored a new book on Lee Kuan Yew with former Belfer Center colleague Bob Blackwill, which allowed us to spend many hours interviewing the 89-yearold Sage of Singapore, who is indeed as TIME put it, “the man who saw the future.”

Sixth, graduates from Harvard Kennedy School programs are playing leading roles in China: Li Yuanchao just began a five-year term as vice president of China, and Liu He, a senior economic advisor to President Xi Jinping, has been called “China’s Larry Summers.” DonaldTsang, Hong Kong’s chief executive from 2005 to 2012, and a majority of the Hong Kong cabinet are HKS graduates.

HKS is training next generation of Chinese leaders

Seventh, thanks to the leadership of Professor Tony Saich, today Harvard Kennedy School is the principal training ground for next-generation leaders of China. For more than a decade, Saich has brought top politicians and public servants to training programs in Cambridge, among them Commerce Minister Chen Deming and Shaanxi Province Governor Zhao Zhenyong.

Drawing on this history, it is no surprise that the Belfer Center community is focusing ever more closely on the geostrategic challenge of the era: a challenge of Thucydidean proportions as a rising power and a ruling power seek to define a new, productive great power relationship.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Allison, Graham. From the Director.” Belfer Center Newsletter (Spring 2013).