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The Ford Foundation and the National Committee on United States-China Relations: How They Assisted Chinese Economic Reforms during the 1980sJuly 8, 2022
This research report summarizes my research experience at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) in July 2017. I went to RAC to collect records related to the activities organized by the National Committee on United States-China Relations (NCUSCR) and the Ford Foundation to support the People's Republic of China's (PRC) post-1978 economic reforms. I incorporated a significant amount of materials from these records into my PhD dissertation, which analyzes how different American institutions, including non-governmental organizations (NGOs), assisted and encouraged China's economic transition during the 1980s.The documents I found were extremely helpful in my effort to reconstruct and analyze the activities and the exchanges the NCUSCR and the Ford Foundation undertook with China during the 1980s. Furthermore, the records also clarified the motivations behind this assistance, revealing not only a genuine desire on the part of the two organizations to learn more about the PRC's economic outlook but also driven by an interest to disseminate ideas that these NGOs believed were necessary to strengthen a world in which liberalism and democracy would dominate.
From Propitious Birth, through Troubled Adolescence, to Prosperous Maturity: The Journey of the National Committee on United States- China Relations, 1966-1972September 24, 2019
One of the primary goals of the founders of the National Committee on United States-China Relations was to encourage discussion of China policy. In 1966, when they formed the group, there was little debate on the topic, and much public ignorance concerning current and recent events on the Chinese mainland. While the NCUSCR as an organization took no political positions, its leaders all supported ending the U.S. isolation of the Chinese Communists and pursuing a new policy of outreach and rapprochement. This occasioned some opposition from conservatives who supported existing policies, and who saw the Committee as a de facto lobby, despite its leaders' protestations of non-partisanship and its tax-exempt status as a non-political organization. Within less than five years, the Committee appeared to become a victim of its own success. Discussion of the issue was uncontroversial, and President Nixon had begun the process of outreach to China. The organization gave serious consideration to closing up shop. Yet rapprochement, while threatening one primary mission, increased opportunities to pursue the other: public education, particularly in the form of cultural exchanges. This gave the group new relevance and renewed public prominence, allowing it to maintain its presence and persevere.
January 1, 2019 marked the 40th anniversary of normalization of diplomatic relations between the United States and China. Scholars and policymakers are deeply divided over the virtue of U.S. engagement with China in the past 40 years, with some criticizing it as failure and others defending it as success. Both camps would probably agree, however, that the complexity of U.S.-Chinese relations rules out a simple answer. The dense, thick web of economic, cultural, and educational ties, most of which did not exist in the 1950s and 1960s due to Cold War tension, constitute the contemporary Sino-American relationship.
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