Fairbank Center's Murphy to boost US study of China

By Paul Welitzkin in New York | China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-05-09 11:14

More than 100,000 Chinese students learn English and study in the US, but the number of Americans who study Mandarin and go to China is not even close to that figure.

Dan Murphy, the new executive director of the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard University and the Harvard China Fund, believes his own personal experience can help to change that.

"We need to engage students on topics that interest them. Some will be attracted by history, others by international relations, economics or the arts. Whatever area it is we need to nurture that interest," Murphy said in an interview.

"I grew up in upstate New York and had very little contact with Chinese people or information about China," he said. To fulfill a second language requirement in college, Murphy selected Mandarin.

"That was over 20 years ago and I am still learning about China. In college I studied in Harbin (capital and largest city of Heilongjiang province) and that set the course for my entire career," he added.

Fairbank Center's Murphy to boost US study of China

Murphy said the center - which was founded in 1955 by China scholar John King Fairbank - has professors, scholars and students engaged in the study and research of a complex and dynamic China that is now the world's second-largest economy.

"Our mission is to advance and expand the study of China and we do this in part by partnering with colleges and scholars in China. We also host visiting scholars from China," he said.

Murphy said the Fairbank Center is actively engaged in learning more about China's second- and third-tier cities along with its rural areas.

"Last year we formed a partnership with Sichuan University and started a research center for the study of western China," he said. Initially, the center will focus on four research areas: the archaeology and art history of western China; Tibetan and Buddhist studies; pre-modern, modern, and contemporary history and society in western China; and research on the minority cultures of western China.

Before assuming his role at Fairbank and the Harvard China Fund last month, Murphy was the program director at the Yale Center Beijing. He has also worked at the National Committee on US-China Relations in New York. His major responsibility was the Public Intellectuals Program (PIP), a project that connects America's next generation of leading China scholars with policymakers and the media.


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