Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
China Initiative

Housed at the Watson Institute, the China Initiative is an interdisciplinary hub for the study of modern China at Brown University. The initiative's goals are threefold: to produce cutting edge academic research on the Chinese developmental experience, to apply that research to the resolution of real world societal challenges and to connect China-focused research to new forms of pedagogy and experiential learning. The Initiative seeks both to better understand China itself and to use the Chinese experience to better understand broader global phenomena in a comparative context.

Programmatic Goals

To realize these aspirations, the China Initiative is undertaking the following programmatic measures:

  • We are establishing the largest U.S.-based postdoctoral studies program of its kind for China-focused researchers. Concentrating on the areas of industrial innovation, environmental sustainability, public health, and urban planning, this program will bring ultimately bring 5-8 postdocs per year to the Brown campus.
  • We are coupling our postdoc program with a program for visiting fellows from China and other global locales.
  • With the growth of a community of Chinese post-docs and visiting fellows, we are striving to encourage policy-focused research in collaboration with a wide variety of Chinese institutional partners.
  • With our burgeoning portfolio of research activities, we are initiating a series of training programs for Chinese public officials.

Guiding Principles for Future Growth

Across all of these evolving activities, we remain committed to three core principles.

First, we will always be committed to the idea of simultaneously learning about China, and learning from China. As we tackle problems of global scale, China must be part of the solutions we provide, and China must be part of the knowledge we generate.

Second, our efforts will remain inextricably linked with the core focus areas of the Watson Institute: governance, development, and security. We will surely evolve, but as we do so, we will remain, first and foremost, a research-driven program on China and global-scale issues of sustainability.

Third, we will stand by the idea that effective scholarship on sustainable development must be multi-disciplinary. The global challenges we all face by definition involve the interaction of technologies, natural systems, human institutions and markets, public policies, and societal preferences and values. Our research too must be equally boundary-crossing, integrative and multi-faceted. Thus, although we are the Watson China Initiative, our overarching aim is to make the Watson Institute a platform and launching point for a far-reaching research network, one that within the Brown community extends across the natural and physical sciences, engineering, public health, medicine and the humanities; and one that beyond Brown reaches out to colleagues and experts across Chinese society.