Rockefeller Archive Center

Rockefeller Archive Center Research Reports are created by recipients of research travel stipends and by many others who have conducted research at the RAC. The reports demonstrate the breadth of the RAC's archival holdings, particularly in the study of philanthropy and its effects. Read more about the history of philanthropy at resource.rockarch.org. Also, see the RAC Bibliography of Scholarship, a comprehensive online database of publications citing RAC archival collections.
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People-to-People Contacts between China and the United States in the 1970s: Report on Materials at the Rockefeller Archive Center

February 12, 2021

The primary collection I travelled to the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) to use was the newly available archival collection from the US non-governmental organisation, the National Committee on United States-China Relations (NCUSCR, or simply the National Committee). That group was set up in the 1960s and soon established itself, first, as the leading organisation for lobbying for an end to US containment of the People's Republic of China (PRC) and, then, the foremost group for managing transnational visits between the United States and the People's Republic of China. The group was co-host for the visit of Chinese table tennis team to the United States in 1972, the return leg of the famous ping-pong diplomacy that kickstarted Sino-American rapprochement in April 1971.

Envisioning the Future of the Rockefeller Foundation in Wartime and Post-War China, 1943-1946

August 18, 2020

In April 1946, Walter W. Stewart, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Rockefeller Foundation (RF), appointed a three-man commission to investigate the social and political situations of China in the immediate aftermath of the SinoJapanese War (1937-1945). The commission was asked to make recommendations for RF's policy (and for the policy of the China Medical Board) regarding post-war China. After a three-month visit to major cities along the Chinese coast and in interior China, the Rockefeller commission drew a conclusion that the support of the RF should be restricted to a single project of reestablishing the Peking Union Medical College. This marked a deviation from the Rockefeller Foundation's pre-war China policy. This research report asks about the factors that caused this dramatic change. It traces back to the unhappy wartime experience of RF-sponsored projects both in and out of China, and the increasingly active role of the Chinese state in relief efforts. Contrasting with the rapidly expanding historical literature of humanitarianism, post-war China has received limited scholarly attention. Much of the current research has still focused on the Chinese Civil War (1946-1950) and on China's foreign relations. This research report, consisting of part of my PhD research on post-war relief and rehabilitation in China from 1943-1948, underscores the process through which the Sino-Japanese War and its immediate aftermath transformed the landscape of non-state agencies in China.

The Daily Life of Hygiene and Public Health in Republican China

May 7, 2020

The Peking Union Medical College was the leading medical education institution in China for decades, producing doctors and nurses whose qualifications were on par with those from American universities. But alongside the running of this medical college and attached hospital, the China Medical Board was also involved in the conception, establishment, staffing, and funding of a range of smaller-scale, localised initiatives that prioritised public health and hygiene education at the grassroots level. From the Rockefeller Archive Center, I gathered reports, accounts, and correspondence about such projects as the Peking First Health Station, the Shanghai Kao-Chiao Health Demonstration Area, and the Mass Education Movement at Ting Hsien, to demonstrate how hygiene was taught and health services were provided to Chinese laypeople in the early twentieth century. The China Medical Board worked with local governments, sponsors, and reformists to adapt global ideals of hygienic reform and localise them for norms and culture. In time, they would create distinctly Chinese models of communal hygiene that could be emulated throughout Republican China. My dissertation examines the experiences of these reformists and highlights how the proliferation of their projects features in the everyday lives of the Chinese people in the early twentieth century. Moreover, it demonstrates that public health initiatives thrived on the municipal, provincial, and county levels, even when the centralised national government was in flux.

Communication of Librarianship between China and the United States in the R.O.C. Period: A Preliminary Report

April 17, 2020

As a part of my Ph.D. dissertation, "From Professional Activity to Cultural Diplomacy: Communication of Librarianship between China and the United States in the R.O.C Period" (a period also known as 民国,from 1912 to 1949), I sought to understand the position philanthropic foundations played in library communication during this period. This paper is only a preliminary report of my findings related to my visit to the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) in 2016.  While there, my work focused on evaluating the Rockefeller Foundation's role and impact on the course of Sino-American library and book exchanges.  From my experience, I recognize the extensive value of the RAC archives on this topic.

A Progressivist Program in China: Planning and Building Peking Union Medical College

February 24, 2020

At the Rockefeller Archive Center, I conducted archival research on the architectural history of Peking Union Medical College, a major enterprise of the Rockefeller Foundation (RF) and the China Medical Board (CMB), which was funded by the RF. The buildings of PUMC are still standing and are widely recognized as the precursor of attempts to adapt the best of Chinese architectural elements to modern Western science. This adaptation was first described and analyzed by Professor Jeff Cody who also visited the RAC in the early 1990s. It had been vehemently criticized by the first generation of Chinese architects in the 1930s and 1940s for overwhelming emphasis on the roof with little systematic research at the time, and was further dismissed as the bastion of American imperialism under Maoism. But undeniably, the buildings of PUMC have a distinct place in modern Chinese architectural history, and need to be well-analyzed based on exhaustive collection and careful reading of related archives.

The Initiation and Development of Public Health Nursing in China: Transnational Flow of Nurses, Knowledge, and Culture

November 19, 2019

The initiation of public health nursing in China in 1920s was a result of the transnational flow of people, knowledge and culture. Transnational educational institutions and non-governmental organizations, represented by Peking Union Medical College (PUMC) and the Rockefeller Foundation, as well as by individuals, played a dominant role in shaping the initiation and development of public health in China in the 1920s to 1930s. PUMC was the hub to disseminate its founder's vision and model in public health in China through integration of education with empirical initiatives in public health. Nursing education programs of the School of Nursing at PUMC provided expertise, human resources, and leadership in public health in China from the 1920s until the beginning of the 1950s. Throughout this time, as a profession predominated by women, public health nursing served as a good example to demonstrate women's role in the transnational flow of people, knowledge, and culture.

International Foundations’ Engagement in the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women and in the Chinese Feminist Movement

November 6, 2019

The United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women (FWCW), organized by the United Nations in Beijing in 1995, launched a new era of internationalization for the Chinese feminist movement. The conference facilitated the legitimation of non-state-led organizations and activism that advocated for women's rights, as well as gender and sexual equality. During this time, interactions between domestic feminists and international foundations increased dramatically. After the conference, Chinese feminist advocacy and mobilization expanded beyond the party-state system and gained momentum in the decade following 1995. My research at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) investigated the engagements of the Ford Foundation (FF) in safeguarding women's rights and advocating for gender equality in China, and the Rockefeller Foundation (RF) during the FWCW. This essay draws upon the preliminary findings from my archival research, focusing on the FF's activities in China relating to women and gender issues from the late 1970s to late 2000s, for which the FF archival collection at the RAC is available. The RF's sponsorship during the 1995 Conference is also included. I start with a brief introduction of my research project and materials I found helpful, then elaborate on the two foundations' activities in three sections in a diachronic order, highlighting files available at the RAC and their contribution to my dissertation research. This essay provides only a sketch of the FF and RF's engagements in China, as further investigation of the files I collected at the RAC has not yet finished.

From Propitious Birth, through Troubled Adolescence, to Prosperous Maturity: The Journey of the National Committee on United States- China Relations, 1966-1972

September 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.

A Medical Educator in Nationalist China: Dr. Chung-Un Lee

September 1, 2019

One of the great narratives of the last century is the rise of China on the world stage.  This achievement would not have been possible, if it weren't for the vastly improved health of China's people.  The key players in this process are the first-generation Chinese medical educators. They brought back Western medicine to their homeland in the early 1900s, soon began investigating the diseases that affect the health of Chinese people, and ultimately started educating young Chinese medical doctors. Before World War II started, many of these medical educators worked at the Peking Union Medical College (PUMC), which was founded by the Rockefeller Foundation in 1917.  PUMC remains the best medical school in China to this day.  These dedicated professionals, including Dr. Chung-Un Lee, PUMC's first Chinese president, laid a solid foundation upon which China's current health care system and medical research are based.  Without their extraordinary efforts, the development of Western medicine in China would not have survived the mid-century periods of war, the tumultuous establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949, or the political movements that defined the following years.  

Heavenly Harvests: Rockefeller Philanthropy, Agricultural Missions, and the Religious Roots of Development

August 6, 2019

This report examines the relationship between Rockefeller-related organizations and American missionaries who engaged in international agricultural development work during the twentieth century. From the early 1900s forward, Christian missionaries increasingly incorporated agricultural education and improvement projects into their foreign missions programs. Their participation in transnational exchanges—of scientific and agricultural knowledge, farm equipment and livestock, and raw materials, like seeds and fertilizers—prefigured the international development programs that governments and private agencies would begin to undertake, starting in the mid-twentieth century. Materials in the collections of the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) reveal the close relationships that agricultural missionaries cultivated with philanthropies and non-profit organizations that prioritized rural development. Missionaries relied on funding from these organizations to carry out their work, and yet they also served as sources of local knowledge and expertise for those very organizations when they entered the development field themselves. Based on research conducted during the spring of 2018, this report details findings about the nature of the relationship between development-oriented philanthropies and agricultural missionaries. It draws from several RAC collections—especially those of the International Education Board (IEB), the Rockefeller Foundation (RF), the American International Association for Economic and Social Development (AIA), and the Agricultural Development Council (ADC).

Preliminary Research on the North China Council for Rural Reconstruction

July 16, 2019

In the early twentieth century, approximately eighty-five percent of the Chinese population relied on agriculture for its livelihood. Aiming to improve the well-being of China's vast rural population, the Rockefeller Foundation (RF) streamed philanthropic efforts and resources to rural China. The North China Council for Rural Reconstruction (NCCRR), an RF-funded rural philanthropic program composed of six Chinese institutions, was established in Peiping (Beijing) on April 2, 1936. As a nontraditional and experimental program, the NCCRR brought together the leading professors from various disciplines at different universities into intimate contact with philanthropic and educational activities in rural China. Although the program perhaps pointed to the modest ways in which institutions conducted rural philanthropy, the task of reviving China's countryside was ultimately too heavy for the RF as a foreign private foundation. Due to complicated geopolitical circumstances far beyond its control, the RF had to terminate its rural reconstruction work in China in 1944.

The History of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, 1966-1989

June 18, 2019

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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