The Ford Foundation began supporting work related to China and its relationship with the United States and the world in the 1960s. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, we funded centers for Chinese studies in the US, Europe and Japan and supported American civic and academic organizations to deepen understanding about China. These investments created a network of individuals and institutions that helped the foundation better understand developments in China, allowing us to engage directly with the country in 1979, as diplomatic relations between China and the US were established. Our office in Beijing opened in 1988.
As China embarked on a policy of reform, the foundation’s focus on individuals, institutions and ideas was increasingly important. We worked with Chinese academic institutions to modernize the fields of economics, law and international relations through research and exchange. Ideas generated in this process contributed to policy changes that strengthened and diversified economic opportunity, political discourse, and an emergent legal system. Over 1,000 scholars benefited from Ford-funded programs in the 1980s and 1990s, and many went on to play central roles in China’s ongoing reform and growth.
By the middle of the 1990s the foundation increasingly supported diverse partners in China, including those in the nascent nonprofit sector, to create a more inclusive society. Our work on civil and criminal legal reform and support for public interest law spanned four decades, and our research on issues such as rural-to-urban migration, reproductive health, education reform and poverty alleviation led to important policy advances for marginalized communities.
Today, China is an important global actor with a presence in many of the regions where Ford operates. We now seek to work with Chinese academics, policymakers, and nonprofits to ensure that China’s impact in the world is equitable and sustainable. We also seek to strengthen the domestic ecosystem for philanthropy and impact investing to mobilize China’s growing wealth for social good.