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CHINA BOUND: A Guide to Academic Life and Work in the PRC
in one or two visits can expect to pay more than researchers conducting long-term projects where the ties of guanxi and friendship have had time to develop. The best way to come up with a realistic budget is to begin with a good sense of legitimate costs and ask for a precise breakdown of costs by category, presenting your own financial situation honestly, negotiating—and compromising —on the basis of all these factors.
PLACEMENT IN THE FIELD
Scientific fieldworkers are often based in established field stations. However, social scientists often prefer to work in locales (such as villages) that are outside the xitong with which they are affiliated. Technically, most host organizations do not have the authority to place a social scientist in the field. Field placement still depends on guanxi and necessitates that representatives from the sponsoring organization persuade local-level officials and organizations to accept your project. If your Chinese collaborator has close ties to the area, as in the case mentioned earlier where the Chinese partner was returning to the village where she had lived during the Cultural Revolution, that process may be quick and smooth. Often, however, a process of courtship is required—including hosting banquets and offering gifts—to convince local officials that hosting a foreign researcher is to their advantage.
For anthropological research, this process may have to be repeated in several places before local officials are willing to sign on. Unless you have already developed personal friendships with local officials, they will expect compensation for making your research possible, for seeing that you are properly housed and fed, and for ensuring that local people will be cooperative.
THE RESEARCH TEAM
If you rely on a host organization to get to the field, a complicated cast of characters is likely to be involved—administrators from the host organization, Chinese collaborators, research assistants and interpreters, local officials, drivers, and local residents. They will have individual interests that may differ from each other's and from your own. Your research will be smoother and more successful if you understand why everyone is there and can forge the various participants into a working team.
Academic administrators, often from the foreign affairs office of the sponsoring unit, are important to the success of your project. The best will be supportive of your work and active in bringing it to fruition. Many foreign affairs officials receive high marks from U.S. researchers, and it would be unfair not to recognize the great assistance so many have given. But some have been viewed as impediments to research. Many may have little interest in the substance of your work; many are busy with other things.