Trans-Pacific Cultural Connections

The University of Illinois and China

in Journal of American-East Asian Relations
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The University of Illinois has one of the largest international student populations from China in the United States. An u.s.-based journalist recently headlined it as the “University of China at Illinois” and the sobriquet has caught fire in China. Actually, the university has a long history of connection and engagement with China that stretches back to 1908–1909, at a time when the United States was not yet a significant global power in the Pacific. This essay looks at the dreams, hopes, and problems in this long history in the changing context of u.s.-China relations, which involved using American education to shape the hearts and minds of young Chinese before the idea of “soft power” became popular.



Elizabeth Redden, “The University of China at Illinois,” Inside Higher Ed (7 January 2005), (accessed 13 March 2017).


 See Qian Ning, Chinese Students Encounter America, pp. ix–xv; Liel Leibovitz and Matthew Miller, Fortunate Sons (New York: W.W. Norton, 2011); Edward J.M. Rhoads, Stepping Forth into the World: The Chinese Educational Mission to the United States, 1872–81 (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2011).


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