Opening a window on rural China
Updated: 2016-03-11 08:08
By Zhao Xu and Zhao Ruixue(China Daily Europe)
Zouping hosted important foreign academic exchanges in the 1980s and '90s, fostering connections with the world
For many years, Shi Changxiang, a chain-smoking county official from Shandong province in East China, was unaware that his tobacco addiction was regarded as a potential threat to the future of a hard-won research project between China and the United States.
The concerns were raised by Michel Oksenberg, an academic and senior member of the US National Security Council, who was deeply involved in the normalization of US-China relations during the Carter administration.
One of his initiatives was a cherished research project that allowed 87 American academics to visit Zouping county in Shandong between 1987 and 1991; sometimes the academics stayed for months to research issues ranging from local finance to the status of women, history to animal husbandry.
The smoking story was related by Guy Alitto, a professor of history at the University of Chicago and an active participant in the project: "It can be traced back to 1979, when late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping visited the US. During that visit, the two sides reached an agreement whereby the US National Academy of Sciences and Chinese institutions could exchange scholars for research programs every year. Then, in 1984, Oksenberg, on behalf of the Committee for Scholarly Exchange with the People's Republic of China, wrote to Deng requesting that China provide a rural site for academic research."