Joan Kaufman on foreign nonprofits and academia in China


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A seasoned operator in China’s non-governmental and academic sectors explores how China’s version of transparency and legality are presenting new challenges for international institutions in the country.

Joan Kaufman is a fascinating figure: Her long and storied career in China started in the early 1980s, when she was what she calls a “cappuccino-and-croissant socialist from Berkeley.” Today, she is the director for academics at the Schwarzman Scholars program at Tsinghua University and a lecturer in the department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Joan shares some stories about her time in China at organizations like the United Nations Population Fund and the Ford Foundation, including a visit to a condom factory in the 80s. She discusses the newest developments in the China educational and non-governmental organization (NGO) sectors after the adoption in 2016 of new laws regulating foreign NGOs, and the realities of working on the ground with NGOs in China. We also talk about current trends in China’s openness to U.S.-China academic partnerships, and questions of censorship at the China campuses of U.S. universities.


Jeremy: Kishore Mahbubani, former senior diplomat and dean at the Practice of Public Policy of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, usually has an interesting perspective on China’s relationship with the rest of the world, particularly on the U.S.-China relationship. Check out his article in the Huffington Post: “It’s a problem that America is still unable to admit it will become #2 to China.”

Joan: China File’s new China NGO Project, recently launched on June 7. The website has five sections, including the latest updates, laws, and regulations, and other resources to help NGOs understand the ins and outs of operating in China under the new NGO law.

Kaiser: The Hi-Phi Nation podcast produced by Vassar College philosophy professor Barry Lam uses investigative journalism techniques to look at real-world events through a philosophical lens, all while weaving in creative narrative storytelling and sound design.