Deng Xiaoping Greets “The Duke”: The Evolution of American Studies in China

By Nancy Lynch Street and Marilyn J. Matelski.

Published by Journal of the World Universities Forum

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In the period of reform and “opening up” beginning in 1978, the Chinese government hastened to direct its research to various dimensions of American life and thought, especially in the social sciences. Initially, and taking a systemic approach, studies included the historical development of America, as well as comprehensive studies of American politics and policies, society, ideology, geography, culture, the military, economics, religions and diplomacy. 

Formally entering the global system in 2001 (e.g., the world of the WTO, the IMF and the World Bank) and deluged with foreigners descending upon China to conduct business, China further expanded her investigations of American culture to the judiciary, the development of requisite law and legal institutions. Internet and banking programs were also added to the mix, as well as an explosion of (primarily) American MBA, EMBA and IMBA programs. 

In short, the Chinese tended to see the American system (in addition to seeing it as hegemonic) as the measure of all things, carefully appraising its rise and fall over time. The devastating systemic global market failure beginning in 2007 and continuing at this writing in 2009 has caused not only China, but countries around the world to question the “free market,” as well as the free-wheeling banking system and other financial models adopted by the West and in particular, by the United States. Doubtless, China (in 2009), is reassessing its perception of and perspective on the American system and modifying its perspective on its American Studies programs accordingly. The range of studies may remain the same, but the perspective taken on the topics will, in light of the efficacy of “theory and practice,” change.

Keywords: American Studies, China, Curriculum, Higher Education, Globalization

Journal of the World Universities Forum, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp.131-142. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 656.948KB).

Dr. Nancy Lynch Street

Professor, Communication Studies Department, Bridgewater State University, South Easton, MA, USA

Dr. Nancy Lynch Street is a full professor of Communication Studies at Bridgewater State University (BSU), Bridgewater, MA. Over the past thirty years, Street has served twice as the Exchange Professor from BSU to Shanxi Teacher’s University in Linfen, in addition to numerous other China-related projects in the United States and in China. She has received two Fulbright Study Group awards (to Taiwan, South Korea and the PRC) and one Fulbright Senior Specialist grant to consult with Beijing Jiaotong University. In addition to developing curriculum, with emphasis on theory, Intercultural Communication and Globalization, Street has served as Graduate Coordinator, Department Chairperson and Coordinator of the Center for Research and Learning (CART). She has also traveled throughout Greece, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, Russia, Scandinavia, Mexico and Cuba. Using participant observation, interviewing and ethnography she has co-authored multiple books on China, war and film and social change. Her first book, In Search of Red Buddha: Higher Education in China After Mao Zedong, 1985-1990 was reissued in 2004. Currently, Dr. Street’s latest book (co-authored with Dr. Marilyn Matelski of Boston College, entitled Web of Confucius was issued in 2009.

Dr. Marilyn J. Matelski

Professor, Communication Department, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA, USA

Dr. Marilyn J. Matelski is a tenured full professor at Boston College, having received her B.A. from Michigan State University, as well as M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Colorado at Boulder. She has taught in the Communication Department at BC since 1978, where she served as Chairperson from 1995 to 1998. Her scholarly interests include areas of intercultural communication, cultural diversity and media studies. She has authored and/or co-authored fourteen books, more than a dozen journal articles and numerous convention papers on topics ranging from soap operas to Vatican Radio. Most recently, she has concentrated her research efforts on social change in China, Cuba and parts of Eastern Europe, emphasizing the impact of media and education in reformulating a nation’s cultural landscape.

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