Analyzing a Nation’s Transformation: The Center on Contemporary China

November 18th, 2015 / Development Com...

Changing China

China—home to the largest population and second largest economy in the world—is the only superpower that is still in the process of being defined both domestically and internationally. The scope and speed of its transformation from an isolated, largely agrarian nation to one of great economic and political power is unprecedented in human history.

To seize this pivotal moment in China’s history, Princeton has established the Center on Contemporary China, which brings together faculty, postdoctoral researchers, and visitors from an array of fields, including sociology, economics, political science, anthropology, history, and psychology, to study and share insights about this evolving nation.


Director of the Center on Contemporary China Yu Xie, the Bert G. Kerstetter ’66 University Professor of Sociology and the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies.

The Things That Matter

The center is situated within the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies, which promotes research, learning, and dialogue on issues of global importance. It is led by Yu Xie, the Bert G. Kerstetter ’66 University Professor of Sociology and the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies, who grew up in China during the Cultural Revolution and experienced its profound impact firsthand. Now one of the world’s leading demographers and an authority on the social transformations taking place in China, he believes that social scientists should study the empirical world—social institutions, families, education, birth and death, and migration: “The things we actually care about. The things that matter,” he has said.

While other universities in the United States have established centers to study China, Princeton will distinguish itself by emphasizing a quantitative approach to social science research—one that gathers and analyzes data from sources such as social surveys, administrative records, and Internet traffic—to empirically explore different aspects of contemporary China.

As the center grows, strengthened by the support of alumni, parents, and friends, it will:

  • Develop collaborative relationships with leading Chinese scholars and institutions in China.
  • Train the next generation of social scientists specializing in Chinese society by supporting graduate student research and postdoctoral fellows, and inviting outstanding young Chinese scholars and graduate students to visit Princeton.
  • Expand undergraduate course offerings in contemporary China and establish a certificate within the Department of East Asian Studies.
  • Offer a Global Seminar at Peking University each summer in which six Princeton students, led by a faculty member, will spend six weeks learning about China alongside Chinese students.
  • Disseminate discoveries and promote dialogue on China through a research seminar series, conferences, and co-sponsorship of the Chinese Journal of Sociology.

China’s influence extends far beyond its borders. By advancing our knowledge of this rising superpower, Princeton will forge a deeper understanding of a nation in transformation, one that is altering the lives of its citizens and having an impact on societies and economies around the world.


For information about supporting the Center for Contemporary China, contact Kerstin Larsen ’83 *88, assistant vice president for development/strategic priorities, at klarsen@princeton.edu or 609-258.8972.