About Us

Our Mission

The Fairbank Center’s mission is to advance scholarship in all fields of China Studies at Harvard. We achieve this mission in four ways:

1. Serving as Harvard’s main platform for the promotion and dissemination of research in China studies, especially interdisciplinary scholarship.

We have an active events calendar, hold conferences, and host post-doctoral fellows, visiting scholars, graduate student associates, and a range of other affiliates. We support new academic scholarship on China through the Asia Center Publications Program.


2. Awarding grants to support faculty and student research.

We provide grants for faculty to conduct research, for students to travel to China, and to support student groups here on campus.


3. Sharing authoritative information about Greater China with the media, policymakers, and the public.

We engage with policymakers and the media, as well as maintaining a robust social media presence, blog, and podcast.


4. Providing the resources of the Fairbank Center Collection at the Fung Library to scholars and practitioners.

Our best-in-class library specializes in difficult to find resources and provides individualized research assistance to scholars from Harvard and beyond.

Director's Word 主任寄语

Michael A. Szonyi

In my last “Director’s Word” I wrote about the recent celebration of the Fairbank Center’s 60th anniversary. The occasion prompted a series of conversations about the Center’s future direction. The anniversary drew our attention to the enormous diversity of China-related activities across Harvard.

No longer is the Fairbank Center the only place at Harvard where talented scholars and students work on and with China. We have been working hard since the 60th-anniversary celebrations to build the Fairbank Center into a hub for the various China-related activities across Harvard, building connections among schools, departments, and disciplines.

Building New Communities of China Scholars 培养哈佛的中国学者群

We have also tried to expand the Center’s long tradition of contributing to public discourse on China. Whether by inviting scholars from beyond the Faculty of Arts and Sciences to join in our activities and co-hosting events with other China and Asia-related centers, or by our extensive outreach and social media efforts, the Center is helping to build new communities of China scholars at Harvard and to bring their expertise to a public audience.

Our most visible accomplishment this year is directly tied to our 60th anniversary celebration. The China Questions: Critical Insights into a Rising Power, a collection of 36 essays by leading scholars associated with the Center and co-edited by myself and our former Executive Director Jennifer Rudolph, was published by Harvard University Press earlier this year. Each contributor was asked to come up with a question that they thought Americans should be asking about China, and then to sum up their lifetimes of research, reflections, and scholarship in a short, accessible essay in an attempt to provide an answer to the question.

The China Questions exemplifies what we do best at the Fairbank Center. It draws together a range of experts, each of them working in their own disciplines, to advance new and useful knowledge about this rising power.

The China Questions exemplifies what we do best at the Fairbank Center. It draws together a range of experts, each of them working in their own disciplines to advance new and useful knowledge about this rising power.

Another way in which we advance scholarship on China is through exhibitions of art, film, photography, and other visual media. A highlight of the year was our exhibition of dazibao—or “big character posters”—from the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). We believe this was the first-ever exhibition of big-character posters in the United States, and it is certainly the first time that these posters have been displayed outside of China. A standing-room-only panel discussion, featuring faculty, alumni, and associates marked the opening event of the exhibition. I was particularly struck by the many visitors who came to the exhibition; some of them were familiar faces, but many were involved for the first time in the activities of the Fairbank Center.

We receive many impressive visitors to the Fairbank Center each year, including scholars, practitioners, and public figures from Greater China, East Asia, and North America. These visitors represent a wide range of well-informed views and experiences. For example, during the last year we welcomed a prominent film studies scholar who has faced significant political pressure for holding a commemoration of the events of June 4th 1989 as well as a scholar from a college of Marxism and other China Studies scholars from across the globe. It is precisely the range of views and experiences represented here that makes the Fairbank Center a world-leading place to study China.

A World-Leading Place to Study China 世界一流的中国研究中心

As always, our events calendar continues to be full. We hosted or co-sponsored a total of 180 events during the past academic year, working with more than thirty other centers and departments across the Harvard campus and beyond. Our nine faculty-led lecture series continue to draw leading scholars to present their work to a Harvard audience and our conferences and panel discussions filled our lecture halls. Some of the highlights of this year’s events included a public forum featuring the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to the United States, Cui Tiankai; an “instant analysis” panel on the 19th Party Congress; and special events featuring Harvard Kennedy School colleagues Nicholas Burns and Graham Allison.

Pursuing world-class, objective, and important research on all aspects of China - past, present, and future.

Although 2017-2018 was a banner year for the Fairbank Center and for China Studies at Harvard, the same cannot be said for U.S.-China relations. Mistrust and misunderstanding seem to be growing on both sides of our shared Pacific Ocean, and there are already many in the U.S. who wonder about the possibilities for continued constructive engagement. Meanwhile, developments within China are also raising concerns among many scholars. Issues of academic and intellectual freedom do not exhaust the list of such concerns, but as scholars we are obviously especially concerned that these freedoms, and the relative openness that have served China so well during the last forty years, be maintained.

At the Fairbank Center, we will continue to pursue world-class, objective, and important research on all aspects of China—past, present, and future. We will continue to inform the public and elevate the national conversation about China. Where appropriate, we will also attempt to share our expertise to support the work of policy makers. While in general terms our course is clear, I welcome your thoughts about how the Fairbank Center should adjust to our changing environment.


Michael A. Szonyi
Director, Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies
Frank Wen-Hsiung Wu Memorial Professor of Chinese History, Harvard University

History of the Fairbank Center

The Fairbank Center was founded in 1955 by Professor John King Fairbank, a leading scholar in modern and contemporary China studies. The Center was originally called the Center for East Asian Research. Under Professor Fairbank’s leadership, the Center took an active role in promoting the study of modern and contemporary China from a social science perspective. At the time, this focus marked a sharp departure from the field of Sinology, which had emphasized the study of texts from a humanistic perspective. The Center for East Asian Research was renamed as the John K. Fairbank Center for East Asian Research following Professor Fairbank’s retirement, in honor of his signal contributions to China studies through his teaching and publications. In 2007, after institutes for Japan studies and Korea studies had been established at Harvard, the Fairbank Center was renamed to show its strength in Chinese Studies.

More at Harvard University

The Fairbank Center is a unit of Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences. The Center works closely with other Asia-focused institutions within the University including the Asia Center, the Harvard China Fund, the Harvard China Project, the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, the Korea Institute, the South Asia Institute, the Harvard-Yenching Institute and the Harvard-Yenching Library. For more information about Harvard’s global involvement please visit Harvard Worldwide.

Harvard Tercentenary Stele

This slender marble slab, or stele, was presented to Harvard in 1936 as a gift from Chinese alumni on the occasion of the University’s tercentenary. The inscription commemorates the founding of Harvard College in 1636 and celebrates the importance of culture and learning both in the United States and in China. The full Chinese text, 370 words long, is presented on the accompanying panel, together with an English translation; the original calligraphy, in kaishu style, is that of the famous scholar-diplomat Hu Shi (1891-1962), who took part in the ceremonies as the representative of Peking University and received an honorary degree.

Read the Stele's Chinese inscription, and English translation. 

60th Anniversary

This year, the Fairbank Center celebrates 60 years at the forefront of research on China and East Asia at Harvard.

Learn More

Facts & Figures 2016-17

Harvard Faculty working on China


Students Funded

Public Lectures

Fairbank Center Faculty

Collaborating Organizations across Harvard


Delegation Visits

Strategic Priorities

Social Media Followers

Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies