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Suggested Citation:"4. Research." National Academy of Sciences. 1994. China Bound, Revised: A Guide to Academic Life and Work in the PRC. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2111.
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4. Research

This chapter focuses on opportunities for research in China, both for advanced graduate students and more senior scholars. It is based on numerous reports from scholars who have conducted research in China, interviews with many of them, visits with a few in China, and published accounts—especially from China Exchange News. Reports from scholars in the field provide detailed accounts of individual experiences—problems faced and obstacles surmounted, the joy of new academic discoveries and the need to adapt to changing opportunities, and daily life in China. It is impossible here to do justice to those accounts. Rather, this chapter will try to outline the range of research being conducted in China today, offer advice about how to go about conducting research, and describe how some have managed the complexities of the research process. A distinction is made between archival research (where the scholar's time is devoted largely to gathering documentary materials in libraries or archives), laboratory research, and field research. The concept of field research is broad—from the social scientist who lives in the city and conducts interviews with respondents outside his own work unit, to the rural fieldworker who spends weeks or months in a county seat or village, to scientists conducting research on animal behavior or geology in remote parts of the country. Several general rules apply.

THE RESEARCH CLIMATE

The trend toward economic self-sufficiency in universities and research institutes affects the foreign scholar in several ways. In many respects, the climate for foreign researchers is improving. Greater academic au-

Suggested Citation:"4. Research." National Academy of Sciences. 1994. China Bound, Revised: A Guide to Academic Life and Work in the PRC. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2111.
×

tonomy means more flexibility, and universities or research institutes that want to help foreign researchers have greater maneuverability now.

''China is a pretty flexible place," points out one researcher. More Chinese scholars are doing research on topics of interest to Americans, and Americans are being invited to more conferences, where Chinese and foreign scholars can interact and find out what colleagues in their field are doing. Collaborative research projects are increasing, and social scientists are beginning research on topics that would have been difficult in previous years. Nonetheless, research in the social sciences and humanities remains much more sensitive than that in the physical sciences.

Work units that remain skeptical of foreign researchers are still tough to crack. A few major collaborative projects have begun in archaeology. In general, however, archaeological collections, to quote one researcher, "are under the control of the excavator and his danwei," and access for foreigners remains difficult—in his case, impossible. The new demands on Chinese faculty to raise money often means that they are busier now and have less time to spend with foreign colleagues. As one researcher pointed out in early 1992, "It is obvious that even compared to my 1991 visit, scholars are much busier, spending less time discussing topics and more time providing consulting and other services to earn additional income." In some universities, personnel in the foreign affairs offices (waiban) who were attentive to the needs of long-term, serious, financially constrained researchers have turned their attention to short-term moneymaking "China experience" packages for U.S. undergraduates. Some foreign students and researchers are discovering that personnel in the waiban assigned to assist them are away working with newly formed enterprises.

Finally, as in many other countries, research fees are becoming a standard requirement for doing research in China. The trend is a departure from the early years of exchanges and has taken many foreign scholars by surprise, particularly those with previous research experience in China. Some are concerned that the profit motive is excessive. As one researcher argued, "Money is the only thing that matters to most people now and they do not seem to care a bit about whether foreign researchers come to China in the future so long as they can squeeze maximum profits from them now. Closely related to this development is the fact that guanxi has become absolutely critical for getting anything done."

This trend is likely to continue, despite protestations of American and other foreign researchers. Knowing when to negotiate and when to accept the reality of higher costs will be essential to any researcher's psychological equilibrium.

Successful research in China usually operates at three levels—a for-

Suggested Citation:"4. Research." National Academy of Sciences. 1994. China Bound, Revised: A Guide to Academic Life and Work in the PRC. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2111.
×

mal institutional affiliation, the more informal collegial and personal ties of guanxi, and the concept of mutual benefit. Banquets still include toasts to friendship between the Chinese and the American people. The most successful projects are those where a measure of friendship does develop and where researchers return—as friends and colleagues—again and again.

The concept of "mutual benefit" suggests that the benefit to U.S. scholars of gathering research data should be balanced by benefits to the Chinese scholars. These benefits could take the form of opportunities to study in the United States, practical contributions to the process of development, gifts of equipment, or research fees.

LAYING THE GROUNDWORK FOR RESEARCH

Before attempting to undertake a project, and to ensure a successful research experience, it is important to meet with Chinese colleagues at international conferences, within your own university, or through short-term academic visits.

Research is likely to proceed more smoothly if a preparatory visit to China is made to lay the groundwork. For instance, short-term study (for a student) or lectures at Chinese academic institutions (for a teacher) could be combined with meetings to make research arrangements. As one scientist observes, "In the final analysis, there is no substitute for advance personal contact between participating scientists to optimize conditions for joint investigations. The expense involved is well justified."

IMPLEMENTING YOUR PLAN

THE IMPORTANCE OF YOUR HOST UNIT

Almost everyone needs a host unit in China, and finding an appropriate host is vital to the success of any research project. Planning for a research project requires selecting and securing the cooperation of a host unit, and arrangements to do research can be made only when formal affiliation has been assured. Because the question of appropriate affiliation remains vexing for many researchers, this section discusses the search for an appropriate host.

Conversations with colleagues who have done research in China can be especially useful. Researchers have had diverse experiences, and their insights and advice will be invaluable. Most are happy to share with others what they wish they had known before going. For example, both Chinese and American colleagues can provide advice on the most appropriate host units for your work. Opportunities and pitfalls are so diverse that you will want to weigh a variety of possibilities.

Suggested Citation:"4. Research." National Academy of Sciences. 1994. China Bound, Revised: A Guide to Academic Life and Work in the PRC. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2111.
×

Check into various possible affiliations before deciding which are best. There is no need to jump at the first opportunity, because local research academies have now been given considerable autonomy. In the early years of exchanges, only national academies, universities, and ministries had the right to issue official invitations, so affiliation at the national level was almost a prerequisite to research. Today, however, authority has been decentralized, and it may be more useful to affiliate with an institution in the locale where your research will be conducted, thereby removing several layers of time-consuming bureaucratic communications and working directly with the unit that will make your research arrangements.

When considering potential affiliations, obtain answers to two questions. Most important is: can the proposed host unit make all the arrangements necessary for your project? Some foreign scholars have identified Chinese colleagues with whom they wanted to collaborate only to find upon arrival that the foreign affairs office at the university or institute was unable or unwilling to make arrangements necessary to carry out the research.

Second: is the cooperation of a single unit sufficient for your needs? If it appears that the cooperation of more than one unit will be necessary for your research, you need to consider the relationships between or among those units. The Chinese bureaucratic structure is quite different from that within the United States. Understanding that structure can help you work within it. Chinese institutions are highly compartmentalized. Each danwei is part of a larger system, or xitong, and cooperation across xitong can be awkward. Knowing to which xitong your proposed danwei belongs is important.

The university system under the direction of the State Education Commission (SEDC) is one xitong with which many American scholars affiliate. The SEDC determines important educational policy and administers all national-level universities, exercising control over their budgets, curricula, and the allocation and promotion of faculty. It also issues regulations governing research by foreign scholars hosted by universities under their jurisdiction. Several recent social science field researchers-both advanced graduate students and university professors-have noted an SEDC regulation stipulating that scholars affiliated with universities under its jurisdiction are permitted only two weeks of fieldwork each semester. The rule has rarely been applied, and many people have found informal ways of circumventing it. But at least one researcher recently decided to switch her affiliation to a local social science academy that permitted her to spend several months in the field.

Similarly, the SEDC currently has a rule that Chinese social scientists under its jurisdiction must first get national-level permission to conduct

Suggested Citation:"4. Research." National Academy of Sciences. 1994. China Bound, Revised: A Guide to Academic Life and Work in the PRC. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2111.
×

collaborative research with foreigners. And a 1989 decision to impound survey data gathered under a collaborative project sponsored by Peking University was made not by university officials but by officials at the SEDC, who then ordered the university not to release the data (the data have since been released).

Some universities and scholars are willing to bend SEDC rules, and the SEDC is likely to become more flexible in the future, but scholars hoping to conduct field research through a host unit under SEDC jurisdiction will want to assure themselves early that their proposed research and collaboration are possible. If a local social science academy is an equally attractive affiliation, arrangements there may be easier.

Universities under the jurisdiction of local governments are not directly administered by the SEDC, although most comply with the spirit of SEDC directives. But local-level universities are often more flexible than centrally administered ones, and their position in the educational hierarchy allows them a degree of local autonomy.

Research on localities is often easier at a locally administered university. Even in a province distant from Beijing, a centrally administered university is less likely to have ties with the locality. For instance, a graduate student studying local administration in one southern city found that his affiliation with a university administered by the SEDC in Beijing was not particularly useful in gaining him entree to local officials. By establishing a less formal affiliation with a locally administered university, he was able to get introductions to many officials in the local government. Conversely, a researcher hosted by a municipal foreign affairs office found that city officials could not make contact for her with the centrally administered university there.

Even at the national level, there are differences among xitong. The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) is administered by the State Council and is not part of the SEDC xitong. Cooperation between CASS and universities under the SEDC can be difficult. Moreover, in contrast with the SEDC, the national-level CASS has no vertical line of command to provincial and local level academies. Although relations between CASS and local-level academies may be close and cooperative, local academies have the autonomy, for instance, to decide for themselves whether to accept foreign researchers. And local-level academies are able to sponsor foreign researchers who might be refused by the national-level academy.

The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) is also administered by the State Council. It is a different xitong from both the SEDC and CASS and is subject to different regulations. What may be possible for a foreign researcher within one CAS institute may not be possible under SEDC or CASS. Thus, although CASS instituted a moratorium on rural fieldwork by foreigners in the early 1980s, U.S. scientists under the auspices

Suggested Citation:"4. Research." National Academy of Sciences. 1994. China Bound, Revised: A Guide to Academic Life and Work in the PRC. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2111.
×

of CAS continued to conduct research in rural areas. And, unlike CASS, CAS does have administrative authority over its branches.

Similarly, each ministry under the State Council constitutes a separate xitong, and some ministries also operate their own universities and research institutes. Some Americans, particularly scientists, choose to carry out research under ministry auspices.

In addition to institutions falling under clearly defined xitong are numerous local government and party organizations that sponsor research of importance to them, some of which have established their own, relatively independent, research institutions outside national jurisdiction. These institutions tend to be relatively flexible and adaptable, and a few foreign researchers who have established guanxi with them have also been able to conduct research under their auspices. This type of affiliation, however, is apparently open only to more established scholars. Advanced graduate students seem to be required to affiliate with either universities or research academies. Moreover, working with these organizations requires such good guanxi that only people with long-term, close relations with Chinese colleagues are likely to be able to make the arrangements.

Horizontal communication among xitong is difficult, although cooperation across xitong is somewhat easier in the sciences than in the social sciences and humanities. Since the mid-1980s, in an effort to bring scientific research in China up to international standards, China has instituted several dozen "open labs." These promote horizontal mobility between research institutes under the CAS, scientists at universities under the SEDC, and ministries, and at least one foreign scientist sits on the governing board of each of the open labs. A fuller discussion of laboratory research appears later in this chapter.

The social sciences and humanities have yet to reach this level of cooperation. A researcher affiliated with CASS's Institute of History, for instance, has access to the library at his institute but may face difficulties obtaining permission to use the library at Peking University, which is under the administration of the SEDC. One graduate student doing research on the revival of temples in southern China discovered that different temples were administered by different xitong—the Office of Religion, the Tourist Bureau, the People's Political Consultative Conference, and the Cultural Bureau. Relations between these organizations were often strained, and communications between them were difficult. Access to one of the organizations made it difficult to work with the others. Similarly, a researcher in archaeology discovered that relations between the research institute with which he was formally affiliated had terrible guanxi with a museum whose cooperation he needed.

The complexity and compartmentalization of China's institutional structure serves to highlight the importance of talking with as many

Suggested Citation:"4. Research." National Academy of Sciences. 1994. China Bound, Revised: A Guide to Academic Life and Work in the PRC. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2111.
×

colleagues as possible—both American and Chinese—before deciding which affiliation best serves your research needs. Only with time and experience do the complexities of institutional relationships become clear.

The compartmentalization of institutional relations in China is one reason why guanxi is so important. While formal horizontal communications among xitong are often difficult, informal ones are not—if you, or more likely your Chinese associates, have a friend or relative in the xitong with which you want to communicate. One scholar recently had great success conducting field research with a younger Chinese faculty member who had been sent to the countryside during the Cultural Revolution. They returned together to the village where the Chinese professor had lived for several years and where her ties of guanxi were still strong.

Cultivating guanxi is much like networking in the United States. Informal ties can often open doors that formal affiliations cannot.

THE RESEARCH PROPOSAL

After finding an appropriate host, you will usually be expected to submit a detailed research proposal outlining the purpose of your research, specifying how the research will be conducted, and stating what you expect to accomplish, who will be involved, and what types of collaboration, cooperation, and training can be expected. Virtually every field researcher working through formal channels has stressed the importance of the proposal, because after the Chinese agree to it, the proposal will become, in effect, a contract from which deviation will require further negotiation. If you are a scientist and your research requires camping, make certain that everyone on your team (including the driver) is prepared to camp, too. Americans whose research proposals have not specified the importance of camping report having to leave their research site and drive two hours to sleep in less than commodious hostels. Similarly, research requiring work outside normal hours (generally 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. with a two-hour rest period around noon) should also be spelled out. Researchers for whom early morning photography is important have been stymied because their proposal did not specify the necessity of early morning visits to their field site. Fieldworkers observing animal behavior have been frustrated because prior agreement had not been reached for the team to go to the field at sunrise or during the noon rest break, when the animals were active. Without specifying your research needs in precise detail, key members of your Chinese team could balk, legitimately claiming that they had not understood the terms of the agreement—or even that your demands are a violation of the contract.

In working out the details of the project's work schedule, remember that the ordinary Chinese work day is eight hours long and five-and-a-

Suggested Citation:"4. Research." National Academy of Sciences. 1994. China Bound, Revised: A Guide to Academic Life and Work in the PRC. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2111.
×

half days a week. The Chinese weekend usually begins at noon on Saturday. Respecting your colleagues' work schedule is important and will allow them time for family responsibilities and rest.

The question of intellectual property rights should also be spelled out clearly in the proposal. Jointly authored papers are commonplace in academic exchanges with China. U.S. researchers, however, still report instances when articles based on their collaboration were published under exclusively Chinese authorship without mention of U.S. collaboration or funding. Conversely, Chinese have published articles claiming joint U.S. authorship when the U.S. author had not been actively involved or consulted.

Similarly, the need to bring specimens, questionnaires, or other raw data out of China should also be spelled out in the proposal. Some researchers expecting to take raw data with them have been stymied by restrictions on data export. Agreement in the proposal should start with delineation of responsibility for investigating export restrictions and for getting necessary documentation. The proposal should include agreements on data collection. For example, it should clearly state what data the Chinese are supposed to produce, sampling techniques, and data processing methodologies. Be wary of the spoken or written phrase, "according to Chinese conditions." It can cover different interpretations about objectives or methodologies. It is important to understand potential differences early on and make sure comfortable resolution can be found for them. Finally, the proposal should address how data will be collected across institutes and xitong.

Researchers also advise that you bring to China your proposal and all correspondence related to your project. If modifications must be made, you will need to refer to your written understandings.

Finally, the agreement on cooperative research between the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the United States and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the State Education Commission, and the Chinese National Science Foundation stipulates that the receiving side pays all in-country fees of the scholars in their program (that is, the Chinese pay per diem expenses of U.S. scientists in China and the United States pays the costs of Chinese in the United States). However, researchers should be flexible in interpreting this agreement. The agreement works well when scientists are working in laboratories without extraordinary additional costs. Field research, however, is more expensive in terms of the number of personnel involved, equipment, and cost of cars and trucks transporting researchers and equipment to the site. Chinese research institutions ordinarily cannot afford to pay the additional costs of field research. These costs thus should be worked into the budget of the funding proposal to the NSF or any other institution operating under a similar agreement.

Suggested Citation:"4. Research." National Academy of Sciences. 1994. China Bound, Revised: A Guide to Academic Life and Work in the PRC. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2111.
×
FEES

Researchers should expect to pay research-related fees in China. It is important, when negotiating a proposal, to ask for clarification of what those costs will be. Specific types of fees will be discussed in the sections on archival research, laboratory research, and fieldwork. The most common are affiliation fees for more advanced scholars and either affiliation fees or tuition for dissertation-level graduate students. Most people also pay a variety of service fees, and additional costs are incurred when host units arrange outside visits that last overnight or longer. Many scholars, having been housed in more expensive guest houses when equally comfortable, cheaper accommodations are available nearby, suggest trying to negotiate to stay in dormitory rooms or cheaper accommodations. In fieldwork, additional fees may be charged for the salary and costs of staff who accompany you to the field.

Fees now vary widely from institution to institution and, within institutions, even from person to person, often depending on the researcher's status (for example, advanced graduate student or senior scholar), ability to pay, and guanxi with the host organization. Some researchers with longstanding relations with their work unit pay no affiliation fee; some have paid $300 a month, others $100. One senior scholar paid a $1,000 affiliation fee for a research stay of three weeks, which included conducting interviews, sending and receiving faxes, and photocopying some materials. This amount should be considered too high in almost every case. In general, short-term researchers pay more than long-term ones, and senior-level researchers pay more than junior-level ones.

Graduate students engaged in research are generally required to pay either affiliation fees to a research institute or tuition to a university, even if they do not attend classes. The cost to students varies, but it seems generally to run between $1,000 and $3,000 a year. In negotiating this fee, it is important to clarify what types of assistance you will be offered in return; for example, guidelines from an adviser, use of the library, assistance in making outside contacts and arranging for interviews, or help in negotiating fees for interviews. Costs for preparing questionnaires, photocopying, computer time, and transportation are usually extra.

FINALIZING A PLAN

After reaching agreement on the proposal and fees, you will usually be issued a formal invitation, signed by an official of the institution with which you will be affiliated (usually a dean of a university or a vice president of a research institute).

Scholars who have worked in Chinese institutions have discovered that no arrangement is predictable, permanent, or self-executing. The experience of the CSCC is telling. Research proposals of students and scholars selected by the Committee on Advanced Study in China are

Suggested Citation:"4. Research." National Academy of Sciences. 1994. China Bound, Revised: A Guide to Academic Life and Work in the PRC. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2111.
×

approved by the appropriate Chinese organization prior to the grantee's departure for China, and placements are negotiated with host institutions. Yet most researchers discover that the implementation of these carefully laid plans requires continuous negotiation with their host units. Some scholars adjust their project to fit available materials and resources. Proposals must be flexible enough to accommodate different opportunities.

The last edition of China Bound noted, "The most serene reports come from individuals who manage to combine a Taoist philosophy that everything will eventually work itself out with low-key but persistent negotiations with Chinese hosts."

Reports from more recent years suggest that that approach is still best. One researcher writes:

Working successfully in China seems to require the development of a kind of Zen-like mental balance that allows you to take in new and often challenging information without having it obscure your original vision. . . . If I ever encounter a similar situation, I hope I will be able to arrive more quickly to a state of resignation and not waste so much mental energy being mad.

ARCHIVAL RESEARCH

Historians and other scholars in the humanities have benefited greatly from the opportunity to do research in China's vast archival and library collections. As Beatrice Bartlett, a leading expert on China's Ming-Qing archives, writes:

China's dazzling wealth of archives and plethora of archival organizations, preserving 30 million fascicles (juan) of materials at both the national and local levels, have attracted many foreign researchers. In addition to the three enormous chronologically-demarcated institutions for central-government holdings—the Number One in Beijing for Ming and Qing documents, the Number Two in Nanjing covering the Republic, and the central archives in Beijing for the post-1949 era —there are more than 2,000 local depositories. In theory, every county (xian) or district in China has its own archive; this should also be true for most townships (xiang) as well. Faced with this information, foreign scholars may be led to devise extensive research plans worthy of this latest manifestation of the fabled riches of the East. Nevertheless, researchers are well advised to proceed with caution. Direct inspection of a local archive is likely to yield considerable deviation from expectations.4

4  

Beatrice Bartlett, "The Number Three Archives of China: The Liaoning Provincial Archives." China Exchange News, Fall-Winter 1991, pp. 2-6.

Suggested Citation:"4. Research." National Academy of Sciences. 1994. China Bound, Revised: A Guide to Academic Life and Work in the PRC. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2111.
×

China has more than 200,000 libraries, including the national library in Beijing; 1,732 public libraries; 700 college and university libraries; 100,000 middle school and elementary school libraries; 1,000 scientific and specialized libraries; and 110,000 trade union libraries. Detailed descriptions in Chinese and English of Chinese and foreign holdings along with addresses of important libraries can be found in the Directory of Chinese Libraries.

Foreign scholars have used only a fraction of China's holdings, but each year a few researchers begin work in previously unexplored collections. Scholars who have done research in Chinese archives urge others planning to use archives to read the articles by Bartlett in the National Palace Museum Bulletin, as well as her book, Monarchs and Ministers: The Grand Council in Mid-Ch'ing China, 1723-1820, and the Fall/Winter issue of China Exchange News, which is devoted to reports on archival research. Bartlett's admonition to users of the Qing archives holds true for library collections around China. The archives, she writes, "were saved for the Chinese, to be developed by the administrative vision and genius of Chinese curators. Foreigners are welcome, but as readers, not owners of the documents."5

Scholars planning archival research will also find useful Archives in the People's Republic of China: A Brief Introduction for American Scholars and Archivists, by William Moss, director of the Smithsonian Institution Archives. The publication includes description of several central, municipal, and provincial archives and includes translation of archives laws including the July 1992 law on archival work by foreigners (provided in Appendix N). The report is available free of charge from

Alan Bain

Smithsonian Archives

Arts and Industries Bldg.

Room 2135, Mail Stop MRC 414

Washington, D.C. 20560

The following section is devoted not to a description of the collections in archives and libraries but rather to the practical experiences of those who have used them.

RESEARCH AFFILIATION

Access to archival or library holdings requires a research affiliation, so it is advisable to seek affiliation with the organization most likely to be helpful in arranging for the access needed. For most library or archive users, that affiliation will be either a university or a research institute.

5  

Times Literary Supplement, July 4, 1986, p. 734.

Suggested Citation:"4. Research." National Academy of Sciences. 1994. China Bound, Revised: A Guide to Academic Life and Work in the PRC. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2111.
×

In considering affiliation with a university, it is important to know that humanistic research in Chinese universities is often focused on events and personalities of local importance. For example, scholars at Shandong University have conducted research on the Boxers while those at Wuhan often study the 1911 revolution. Scholars at Nankai write about the economic history of the Tianjin region. And in Nanjing University, the focus is on the Jiangnan region. Faculty at these universities often can introduce the foreign scholar to colleagues in museums, libraries, publishing houses, and other universities who are working on similar topics.

Some university departments may be oriented toward a particular historical era rather than toward local interests. Peking University has aided scholars working in Shang and Qin-Han history because its departments are strong in those areas; it is also strong on May Fourth literature.

For access to holdings outside the library at the institute or university with which you are affiliated, a letter of introduction from a scholar at your host organization, together with a description of your research project and the types of materials you need to use, are usually required. Sometimes several weeks pass before the request is granted. In other cases, permission is immediate. Some libraries, such as those at CASS's Institute of History and at Peking University, are open only to people who are directly affiliated with the institution. Scholars affiliated with research institutes often have difficulty obtaining permission to use university libraries and vice versa. On the other hand, an introduction from someone who already has access is often sufficient for permission to work there temporarily. Some archives with years of experience with foreigners, such as the Ming-Qing holdings, have institutionalized procedures, making these archives relatively predictable and easy to use. Access to other holdings must often be explored on a case-by-case basis. Occasionally, students have obtained access to municipal libraries with only student identification, but some libraries are still closed to foreigners. Additional pressure from an adviser or colleague is often necessary before requests to work in other libraries are accommodated. In library research, as in other aspects of Chinese life, good relations with colleagues are important to achieving your goals.

USE OF COLLECTIONS

Researchers report that card catalogs for some collections are difficult to use. Chinese categories for arranging knowledge are different from those in the West, and many card catalogs are incomplete, making it difficult to be certain about holdings or their contents. Fortunately, there is a growing literature on the kinds of materials available and reference guides for further information, all of which can be very useful when preparing to work in China. It is wise to

Suggested Citation:"4. Research." National Academy of Sciences. 1994. China Bound, Revised: A Guide to Academic Life and Work in the PRC. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2111.
×

read all the secondary literature and consult catalogs (that is, of Chinese holdings now increasingly available outside China) before your arrival so you can be prepared to ask for particular holdings. Most collections have one or two staff members who are knowledgeable about their holdings, and their cooperation has been invaluable to foreign researchers.

Access to particular materials can be limited even after receiving permission to use an archive or library. Rare books are carefully protected and generally may be read only in certain areas of a library and often under supervision. While one scholar using twentieth century sources at the National Library of China describes it as ''unbelievably modern and user-friendly," scholars working with its rare books collection complain of a rule, issued in 1991, that a letter of introduction allows a scholar to look at only four (one scholar says five) rare books. Some scholars have circumvented the regulation by obtaining several letters of introduction, and one such scholar was able to see well over 80 books by bringing in new letters. Others who have used similar tactics have been told that the rule is four books per research project. "This drastic restriction on the single most important collection for the study of premodern Chinese history is a serious blow to scholarship," writes one disappointed researcher.

Occasionally, researchers find that materials are out of circulation for microfilming or that some portion of a collection is not open to foreign researchers. One researcher found he was not allowed to copy everything he wanted because the person in charge did not want him to obtain "systematic" records. But many people, after spending some time working with collections, find one or two people who are sympathetic to their research needs and knowledgeable about the collection who become very helpful in gathering and copying materials. "What is needed," writes one researcher "is much persistence, a judicious amount of insistence tempered with courtesy, and good luck."

FEES

Costs for using China's libraries and archives may include fees for access to collections, user's fees to examine materials, preservation fees, and reproduction costs. Usually your host organization will not charge additional fees for use of its own library, although some do. But places where you have no formal affiliation may charge an entrance fee even before you use the holdings. Students can usually negotiate smaller fees than senior scholars. One graduate student, for instance, was able to negotiate a fee of Y100 to use a rare books reading room for a year, while a senior scholar who came at the same time paid $US200 to use the same holdings for two-and-a-half months. Other scholars have reported paying nothing or as little as Y2 a day for library use.

On June 16, 1992, reports one researcher, the Chinese government

Suggested Citation:"4. Research." National Academy of Sciences. 1994. China Bound, Revised: A Guide to Academic Life and Work in the PRC. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2111.
×

announced a decision to define archival work as a "third industry." Archives, like universities and research institutes, were made responsible for raising money for their operating costs. The result has been higher fees both for using collections and for reproducing materials, although as of this writing, the guidelines have not been uniformly enforced. One researcher was able to copy a portion of the new guidelines for increased charges on library use. The portion he was given detailed the costs to Chinese users. Foreign users, the researcher was told, are to be charged five times the Chinese price, although sometimes this cost can be lowered considerably by judicious negotiation. The prices listed below are for the Chinese:

Storage fees

  1. User's fee (the cost of examining a document or microfilm reel) for "ordinary" historical documents: Y2/juan

  2. User's fee for "special" historical documents: Y10/juan

Preservation fees

  1. User's fee for Qing dynasty documents: Y2/juan

  2. User's fee for revolutionary history documents: Y1/juan

  3. Republican material: Y0.8/juan

  4. Material on the founding of the PRC: Y0.5/juan

  5. All microfilm material, all periods: Y5/reel/day

Reproduction

  1. Large, 11x16 sheet: Y0.8; 11x8.5 sheet: Y0.5

  2. Microfilming, color: Y10/frame; black and white: Y2/frame. (Microfilming costs vary according to the size of the original document.)

People have found it possible to negotiate these prices. Some have continued to pay Chinese prices or a combination of Chinese prices for use and preservation and foreign prices for reproduction. For most scholars working in archives, duplicating costs are the most burdensome, and some have found it cheaper to hire an assistant to hand copy documents than to have them mechanically reproduced.

LIBRARY RULES

Rules regarding access and duplication of materials vary among libraries. Most stacks are not open and fetching materials generally takes more time than in libraries in the United States. Often, collections and reading rooms are separated, sometimes in different parts of a city. In some cases, books or periodicals must be ordered as much as a week in advance.

Photocopying facilities, while more common now than in the past, are usually limited. Photocopying and microfilming are ordinarily done by the staff and also require a wait—sometimes days or weeks. In some cases, however, researchers have been permitted to photocopy

Suggested Citation:"4. Research." National Academy of Sciences. 1994. China Bound, Revised: A Guide to Academic Life and Work in the PRC. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2111.
×

materials themselves. Some places limit duplication of materials to 500 sheets. Some archives and rare book collections require that notes be taken only on specially supplied paper, in pencil and in Chinese. At the Ming-Qing archives, all notes must be inspected and stamped when they are taken out. At the Peking University Library, only 30 sheets at one time can be photocopied, and the turnaround time is at least two days. String-bound books and most pre-1800 materials may not be photocopied, although in some libraries they may be microfilmed. Usually, microfilm readers must be reserved in advance. Research assistants to help with transcribing materials by hand may not be admitted to some facilities. Some libraries do not allow their old books to circulate during the hottest months of the summer. Learning the rules early and planning your time accordingly can increase efficiency.

LIBRARY HOURS

Library hours also vary. The National Library of China is open six days a week (closed on Saturday) and does not close for the noon lunch and rest hour. Many others, however, are open only five days a week and take two-hour breaks at lunchtime. Some allow foreign researchers to continue working in small sitting rooms during that period, but others require that the facility be shut down. Some researchers say that facilities open later than the posted hours and that staff members leave earlier than closing time. Most libraries are not open at night.

In conclusion, Beatrice Bartlett's general advice to scholars in China's libraries and archives is as sound today as it was in 1985:

The situation is constantly changing, however, and frequently one is gratified when a curator's generosity is employed to prevail over a narrow interpretation of the rules. In view of the fact that the materials in all Chinese archives are magnificent, offering much to the scholar willing to search, patient submission to the rules while at the same time quietly attempting to negotiate improved terms is a worthwhile posture, likely eventually to produce desired results. 6

FIELDWORK

Fieldwork by U.S. scientists and social scientists has been a vital part of academic exchange with China and can be especially rewarding, but the bureaucratic procedures required to conduct fieldwork continue to puzzle potential researchers. For the purposes of this book, fieldwork

6  

Beatrice Bartlett, "Archive Materials in China on United States History." Pp. 504-506 in Lewis Hanke, ed., Guide to the Study of United States History Outside the U.S., 1945-1980, vol. 1. White Plains, NY: Kraus International Publications, 1985.

Suggested Citation:"4. Research." National Academy of Sciences. 1994. China Bound, Revised: A Guide to Academic Life and Work in the PRC. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2111.
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is defined as almost any research that requires extensive contact outside the host unit, from interviewing workers or enterprise managers in the city, or carrying out systematic survey research, to conducting anthropological research in a rural village or doing on-site studies of animal behavior. Making arrangements to conduct fieldwork is more complicated than affiliating with a research institute, university, or scientific laboratory and requires time to plan. As Otto Schnepp observes:

Conducting fieldwork in China. . .is in many respects unlike carrying out field investigations in the US and other foreign countries. The reasons for this difference are many but for the most part may be attributed to the structure of the Chinese bureaucracy, the undeveloped nature of some rural areas where fieldwork takes place, China's own priorities in scientific development (which may not always match our own), and, to some extent, basic cultural differences between Chinese and foreigners involved in joint projects.7

This section provides an overview of opportunities for fieldwork in China, details the steps that must be taken in order to carry it out, and provides information and advice on how to ensure that fieldwork goes smoothly.

Scientists often find it easier to identify opportunities for field research in China than do social scientists. Many institutes within CAS operate field stations in various parts of the country, and many stations welcome cooperative projects with foreign scholars. Projects in earthquake geophysics, paleontology, mining, forestry, botany, epidemiology, and oceanography were among the early successes.

Social science fieldwork, especially survey research and anthropological studies of rural villages, is always more sensitive, and identifying appropriate opportunities is often difficult. Until very recently, CASS had been the principal sponsor of social science fieldwork. The National Science Foundation and the CSCC's National Program for Advanced Study and Research in China both fund American field research in China. The Luce and Ford Foundations also sponsor collaborative research projects, while a number of U.S. institutions and scholars have been able to make their own, less formal arrangements.

Several anthropologists were among the first group of scholars sent to China under the CSCC's Program for Advanced Study and Research in the late 1970s. However, it was not easy to get official authorization to do fieldwork then, especially in rural areas. In 1981, after the conduct of an American anthropologist had provoked controversy within both the U.S. and the Chinese academic communities, the Chinese government instituted an informal moratorium on social science fieldwork in rural areas. Nevertheless, scientific fieldwork continued and several

7  

Otto Schnepp, "Fieldwork in China." China Exchange News, March 1984, pp. 1-3.

Suggested Citation:"4. Research." National Academy of Sciences. 1994. China Bound, Revised: A Guide to Academic Life and Work in the PRC. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2111.
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social scientists were able to make their own arrangements through informal channels. In 1985, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and the Zouping County government in Shandong Province agreed to permit a team of CSCC-sponsored researchers, including anthropologists, political scientists, economists, historians, sociologists, and ecologists, to conduct long-term fieldwork in Zouping. At about the same time, institutional restrictions appeared to ease, anthropologists were again given permission to conduct village studies, and anthropological fieldwork was revived.

Proposals to do social science research continue to raise sensitive questions and official concerns remain, but the increased autonomy of universities, provincial social science academies, and local research institutes in recent years has made fieldwork easier to arrange than in the past. Today, social scientists are conducting field research on a wide array of topics, including China's "floating population," the development of the stock market, enterprise management, linguistics, and local administration.

The ingredients for successful research in China described in the previous section—formal institutional affiliation, guanxi, and mutual benefit—apply equally to fieldwork. Stanford University's joint research with Chinese earth scientists demonstrates the interrelationship of all three elements and thus stands as a model for successful scientific fieldwork. Cooperation in the geological sciences between Stanford and China dates from the turn of this century. When an international meeting in 1979 provided the opportunity for Stanford and Chinese geologists to meet after a hiatus of 30 years, the old ties of guanxi were immediately revived. The multifaceted, long-term research project that has resulted combines both theoretical and applied science. The implications of the research for the development of China's petroleum industry make the project of interest to the Chinese Ministry of Geology and Mineral Resources, the China National Petroleum Corporation, and U.S. oil companies interested in petroleum exploration in China. The NSF has provided funding for the project, and U.S. oil companies make yearly contributions. Several Chinese graduate students have received Ph.D. degrees at Stanford as a result of the joint collaboration. More than one hundred scholarly papers have been published. The practical benefits are unquestionably mutual.

The 10-year study of a rural village by Edward Friedman, Paul Pickowicz, Mark Selden, and Kay Johnson demonstrates how successful good guanxi can be. The authors were seen by authorities in Beijing as friends of China and in 1978 were allowed to begin research in a north China village, where they returned 18 times over the next decade. As the Chinese government's policy of opening to the West continued and the U.S. researchers won the respect and confidence of village lead-

Suggested Citation:"4. Research." National Academy of Sciences. 1994. China Bound, Revised: A Guide to Academic Life and Work in the PRC. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2111.
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ers, their access to the details of village life expanded. In contrast to scholars working with formal affiliations, they have never paid research fees. Their book, Chinese Village, Socialist State, is a detailed analysis of rural life in China.

Few American projects will approach this complexity or these ideals. Such projects require considerable experience and sophistication. But several important considerations will greatly increase your chances of success. Following is a brief discussion of what they are.

COSTS

Field research, because so many people are involved, is generally more expensive than archival research. Costs naturally vary depending on the subject to be researched, scope of the project, and number of people involved. Costs for field research are not institutionalized, nor are the names given to different fees consistent.

In addition to affiliation fees mentioned earlier, field researchers may be asked to pay additional administrative costs (guanlifei) as compensation for arrangements made on behalf of the project, work compensation fees (laowufei) to the work unit where interviews take place, fees for reproduction of questionnaires, equipment, transportation fees, gifts and banquets for people who have helped you, fees and living expenses for the people who accompany you to the field, as well as your own living expenses. For collaborative projects, some of these fees may be waived, especially costs related to Chinese personnel involved. The China Health and Nutrition Survey, a cooperative survey research project between sociologists and health economists from the University of North Carolina and nutritionists and biostatisticians from the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine in Beijing, is one example. Although major funding comes from several U.S. organizations (the Ford Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Science Foundation), the Chinese side contributes both its expertise and hundreds of hours of work. Data collection takes place in China, but much of the analysis is done in the United States, and many of the younger Chinese collaborators come here to work for extended periods, often obtaining graduate degrees in the process. The NSF provides funding for senior Chinese collaborators to stay in the United States for up to six months.

Chinese approval of fieldwork depends on a demonstration that the project will be beneficial to all concerned. For the American, the opportunity to conduct research constitutes a benefit. The benefit to the Chinese host varies. For Chinese scholars, the benefit may be the opportunity to work with (and sometimes publish together with) an American with similar research interests or to come to the United States. With the recent decision to encourage every Chinese work unit, including research institutes and universities, to generate their own income, Chi-

Suggested Citation:"4. Research." National Academy of Sciences. 1994. China Bound, Revised: A Guide to Academic Life and Work in the PRC. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2111.
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nese hosting organizations may also see foreign research projects as a way to make money. Many local officials regard it as an honor for their unit to be the subject of study, but they will also expect financial benefit from the research. So long as the current trend continues, foreign researchers can expect the cost of their research to rise.

You will want an accurate estimate of your research costs before you go to the field. This is difficult. Many Chinese collaborators will be reluctant to discuss finances with you. Some institutions prefer to delay discussions until you are actually in the field; some researchers agree, hoping first to develop ties of friendship that may serve to lower their costs. Other researchers caution that you should negotiate as many of your costs as possible before arriving in China. Whether before or after your arrival, honest, up-front discussions of budget limitations and funding sources may help to establish guidelines within which to work. Many local officials appear to believe that Americans are wealthy enough to afford whatever is asked—a belief that is confirmed by the few scholars who do pay whatever is asked.

You may be charged a lump sum without any itemization of costs. China hands suggest negotiating over costs and encourage their colleagues to ask for a breakdown of costs by category. Similarly, some researchers have found it effective to spread payments out over time rather than dispersing funds in a single lump sum, reserving a hefty portion of the total payment for the end.

Service fees (fuwufei) are another category you will want to scrutinize. Some researchers, for example, have been charged a daily fee to cover such services as making travel arrangements and being picked up at the airport. In a few cases, people report having been charged for services that were never rendered, and some prefer to save money by making arrangements themselves.

Expect to pay more than the cost of salary for your research assistants and interpreters. Some portion of what you are charged for them will be going toward institutional overhead.

Finally, with corruption now widespread in China, there is no easy way to distinguish between unreasonable research fees and outright corruption. Fieldworkers urge you to consult American colleagues who have already been to the field when attempting to decide what are reasonable costs for your research. Prices vary by region and by the status and wherewithal of the researcher.

Negotiations can be time-consuming, and the ill will that can result from bickering over money can hinder your research efforts, which is another reason for trying to negotiate your expenses before you leave for China. Researchers who can spend only short periods of time in the field may find it simpler to pay the requested sums with few questions asked. Indeed, short-term researchers whose projects can be completed

Suggested Citation:"4. Research." National Academy of Sciences. 1994. China Bound, Revised: A Guide to Academic Life and Work in the PRC. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2111.
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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.

Suggested Citation:"4. Research." National Academy of Sciences. 1994. China Bound, Revised: A Guide to Academic Life and Work in the PRC. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2111.
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However, the breadth of authority of the foreign affairs office is wider than that of the individual scholars with whom you work; therefore, the academic administrator assigned to work with you is vital to your project. He is often responsible for making the local connections necessary to put you in the field, and his endeavors may require considerable expenditure of time and effort. Your way will be smoother if he understands and supports your project. You will be at an advantage if you can persuade him that your project is worthwhile.

Most American field researchers work with Chinese collaborators, although some social scientists prefer to work independently. Collaboration with Chinese colleagues has been one of the most rewarding aspects of the exchange relationship. Most Americans could not work in China without that collaboration, even when they approach the project with different motivations and methodologies. "I found her presence on many of the interviews a godsend," writes one researcher about her collaborator. "Her connections were clearly of immeasurable help to me. . . . I feel that my research access. . .[was] greatly facilitated through her."

In addition to carrying out joint research, your Chinese collaborators will also have their own interests. The concept of mutual benefit recognizes the need to work for your collaborators' interests as well. In one successful research project, local officials were happy to host the American fieldworker and her Chinese faculty collaborator because the town was trying to develop connections with the Chinese university. The young faculty member was happy to make the connections because her graduate students were looking for a place to do their fieldwork. Everyone's interests were served.

Similarly, institutions hosting projects with funding from the United States have a better chance of receiving additional funding from Beijing, and a collaborator able to bring in additional funds will gain both increased prestige and a financial bonus. Chinese scholars may expect collaboration to lead to a research opportunity in the United States. American funders, including the NSF, promote reciprocity and assume that collaborative projects will include the opportunity for members of the Chinese team to conduct research in the United States.

If you are individually funded and your home institution is not able to offer your collaborators direct financial support, they still might welcome a formal invitation from your institution to join you as a visiting scholar. A formal invitation may allow the Chinese scholar to receive approved leave from his own work unit and enhances his chances of receiving a U.S. visa.

Research assistants will be invaluable in implementing your research project. Many look forward to working with Americans as a way of gaining experience in the use of Western methodologies. The

Suggested Citation:"4. Research." National Academy of Sciences. 1994. China Bound, Revised: A Guide to Academic Life and Work in the PRC. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2111.
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project they undertake with you may suggest new avenues of research as they pursue their graduate education. Many will also be looking forward to an opportunity to study in the United States. In some cases, research teams include research assistants from both the host and local institutions. The local assistant is likely to be much more familiar with the area and its people and can be an important source of information and help in becoming acquainted with the area. Research assistants from the host unit may be better trained academically but less conversant with local issues.

Interpreters are another vital part of the team. Researchers who have used Chinese interpreters report that an English-speaking scholar who is also part of the project, especially one who has studied in the West, is likely to be extremely effective. He will understand both the project and the specialized language, which "ordinary" interpreters might not.

You will, in any case, want to make certain your interpreter is able. You can facilitate the work of interpreters by providing outlines of questions ahead of time and perhaps making a glossary in Chinese to English for technical terms. Since he will also be interpreting during whatever negotiations you may have in the field, his position can be delicate. His English abilities will enable you to befriend him more quickly than non-English speaking members of the team, and his trust, friendship, insights, and information can be invaluable to your work.

While serving as your translator, the interpreter remains an employee of your host organization and is often junior to your Chinese collaborators. While you may become friends, his first responsibility is to his superiors in his own work unit. Your interpreter, too, may be looking for an opportunity to come to the United States and may want you to help.

Local officials who have been persuaded to accept you into their area are also vital to your research. Their continued cooperation is necessary for your success. Once you arrive, they are responsible not only for your food, housing, health, and safety, but also for assisting your research, which can be a heavy burden. Hospitality to foreigners is deeply ingrained in Chinese culture even as wariness toward them is pervasive. You will need good relations with your local hosts for the successful completion of your work, and it will be important to them to understand that your intentions are good. Representatives from your host institution may help you in the early stages of this relationship, serving, in effect, as middlemen in explaining who you are and what your project is about.

But if you spend lengthy periods in the field, you will want to develop good relations with your local hosts. Just as hospitality to foreigners is deeply ingrained in Chinese culture, so you will be expected

Suggested Citation:"4. Research." National Academy of Sciences. 1994. China Bound, Revised: A Guide to Academic Life and Work in the PRC. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2111.
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to give your hosts face by reciprocating that hospitality. A generous banquet, where you publicly thank the hosts who have made your research possible, is one way of showing your appreciation. If you give one early in your stay and use it as an opportunity for your hosts to get to know you and win their trust, the foundations for further cooperation will be strengthened. In some cases, gifts are appropriate. Your interpreters and collaborators can advise you about the most appropriate ways of compensating your local hosts and showing your thanks.

Nonetheless, even scholars who welcome the opportunity for friendship sometimes complain that social demands can be overwhelming. Field researchers whose work requires traveling from place to place are often treated like VIPs. The presence of foreigners is an opportunity for local officials to throw an expensive banquet, and face is gained through concrete and long-lasting evidence of the foreigner's visit in the form of numerous photographs. Local hosts may not understand the needs of a serious scientific researcher or a researcher's impatience over time-consuming banquets and photo opportunities. Your work schedule should allow for the exchange of hospitality, but you may need to remind your team members that time is limited, and obligations of hospitality and face ought not to overwhelm your work.

Your driver is the final member of your team, and he is especially important if your research requires travel to out-of-the-way places. Make sure that he is invited to banquets on the road (this is best done through a go-between) and carry cigarettes to present as occasional gifts. The article by John Olsen in Appendix O provides essential information on the types of vehicles you should use, the need for mechanical skills, and types of fuel available.

Because so few Chinese have private cars, drivers have a special status. Not only do many of them make far more money than their friends in factories, but the mobility afforded by a car gives them wide-ranging connections. They are likely to know their area well and to be a lively source of local lore.

But a number of researchers, particularly those who must travel long distances on crowded roads, have expressed concern about the speed and audacity of their drivers. While it is important to respect the driver's status and to make him part of the team, your safety—and the safety of others on the road—is paramount, and it is important to negotiate hard to ensure it. If you believe your driver is too reckless, a frank discussion with him and the Chinese members of your group may be necessary. The driver is responsible for your safety while you are in his vehicle, and it is a responsibility all drivers must take seriously.

THE RESEARCH SITE

If your field research is to be conducted in out-of-the-way places, basic urban amenities will be absent. Do not

Suggested Citation:"4. Research." National Academy of Sciences. 1994. China Bound, Revised: A Guide to Academic Life and Work in the PRC. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2111.
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expect to be able to do any banking in small towns, regardless of what you are told, and do not expect that your hosts will know what an American Express card or travelers' check is. You will not be able to use them outside large urban areas. (See Appendix K for a list of places where American Express services are available.) Bring enough money to conduct all your transactions in cash. If you will stay several weeks or months in one place and have large amounts of cash, you should consider opening a local bank account for the deposit of renminbi.

Advanced medical facilities will also be unavailable. Many researchers suggest bringing along Where There Is No Doctor, and fieldworkers should follow the medical advice offered in Chapter 2. In addition, rabies is common in small animals in some areas of China; you are advised not to pet dogs in rural areas. The American doctor in Beijing recommends a rabies series (the embassy stores the serum) for anyone bitten by a small animal there. The first injection, administered intramuscularly, must begin within ten days after being bitten. You would either have to return to Beijing for the shots or have the frozen serum delivered to you on site to be administered by a local doctor.

Your hosts will attempt to house you in the best hotels or guest houses available. Some research stations have guest quarters and cooks on site. Most accommodations, while simple, are clean and adequate, though some will not have running hot water or modern plumbing. On the other hand, some researchers have described their housing as squalid. Fieldworkers with experience in developing countries recognize that difficult living conditions often come with the territory. If cleanliness is important to you and you are planning to stay any length of time in out-of-the-way places, you might want to bring your own bed sheets and strong bleach, cleansing powder, and rubber gloves to clean your room yourself.

Local people in out-of-the-way places may have little or no experience with foreigners. You may be the first to have visited in decades and hence the only foreigner most people in your area will have seen. Most researchers report that the people in remote areas are curious, friendly, and generous beyond their means. These researchers have greatly enjoyed the opportunity for interaction despite an occasional thirst for privacy.

You can expect banquets to be given in your honor. Alcohol consumption at rural banquets is high. Not only do the toasts, each drunk ''bottoms up," escalate during the evening, but the liquor may be a rough-and-ready local brew. Some researchers believe that abstinence is ungracious and a barrier to potential friendships; some also report becoming very drunk and sick. Other researchers insist that scholarly decorum is best maintained by sticking to fruit juice and soda. Do what is most comfortable.

Suggested Citation:"4. Research." National Academy of Sciences. 1994. China Bound, Revised: A Guide to Academic Life and Work in the PRC. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2111.
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The quality of cooking on ordinary days varies widely in remote areas —from enormous quantities of tastily prepared fresh vegetables and meat to much less appetizing fare. Many researchers enjoy eating at the tiny independently run restaurants, while others note that sanitary conditions in such places may be inadequate and can cause digestive upset or worse. Of course, there will be no restaurants at all outside the towns and villages. If you have a favorite instant food that can be prepared by adding boiled water, or if you insist on morning coffee, bring some with you for times when you prefer a simple meal at home.

In recent years, many foreign scholars have conducted research in ethnic minority areas, and anthropological research may be easier to arrange there than in Han regions. Scholars contemplating research in ethnic minority areas should read the summer 1991 issue of China Exchange News, which is devoted to an examination of anthropology and ethnology in China. Many of the minority populations live in remote areas along China's borders that are more sensitive politically than the coastal areas with which most Westerners are familiar. Several researchers have had very successful visits to such areas (see, for example, Matthew Kapstein, "New Sources for Tibetan Buddhist History," CEN, Fall/Winter 1991), but others have had difficulty getting permission to conduct research in sensitive areas, even for such innocuous projects as data collection on minority languages. Relations between the dominant Han majority and China's national minorities have always been sensitive, most notably in Tibet and Xinjiang. With the breakup of the Soviet Union and growing ethnic nationalism everywhere, China's national minorities problem is even more delicate. U.S. field researchers are still conducting productive research in these areas, but conversations with colleagues who have preceded you may help to prepare you for the particular problems you might encounter.

EQUIPMENT AND SUPPLIES

The equipment and supplies you need depend very much on the nature of your research. You will want to consult extensively with both your American and Chinese colleagues for their recommendations.

A general rule of thumb for field researchers is to bring everything you will need. The following paragraphs are written by A.T. Steegman, a biological anthropologist at the University of Buffalo. The article by John Olsen, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Arizona and former director of the CSCC's Beijing office, in Appendix O, contains important recommendations, including how to purify water in the field, food and cooking equipment, and how to choose the best vehicle for your trip. The comments by Steegman and Olsen should be required reading for anyone conducting scientific fieldwork.

Suggested Citation:"4. Research." National Academy of Sciences. 1994. China Bound, Revised: A Guide to Academic Life and Work in the PRC. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2111.
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A.T. Steegman writes:

  1. If the Chinese have equipment to be used in the research, be sure it is of good quality, modern and possible to calibrate independently. If you cannot test it on a preliminary visit, try to get manufacturers' specifications. The Chinese may be sensitive about the quality of their equipment, and it is easy to walk into a disaster.

  2. Minor pieces of equipment are probably easiest to take through in personal luggage. Some people think you can take major and minor equipment through the "green line" at customs this way as part of your own gear. However, if customs stops it, there could be big problems.

  3. If you are taking major equipment, try to send it early and get a "customs waiver without bond." Consult an import/export broker who does business in China.

  4. Chinese customs is literally a law unto itself and is very powerful. It can ruin a research project by being slow and obstructive, especially if time is limited. The "bond" referred to above is a deposit worth one to two times the value of the equipment. It must be left with customs to get your containers unless it has been waived. Even then it can take days or weeks to clear, regardless of carrier.

  5. If you ship air cargo, reserve space well ahead of time. Not all major U.S. carriers have competent offices in China.

  6. Assume you will not be able to replace equipment. It is extremely hard to import equipment, nor are there facilities to repair high-tech equipment.

  7. Take cameras as part of your personal baggage. It is nearly impossible to get them past customs as equipment.

Supplies: Take everything you will need. Much is not available in China or is of very poor quality. Here is a partial list:

  1. Tools

  2. Solder/soldering gun

  3. Pencils/pens/sharpeners

  4. Paper (all kinds)

  5. Plastic tape/duct tape

  6. Glue/fasteners

  7. Lubrication (ex. WD-40)

  8. Calibration equipment

  9. Circuit testers

  10. Film

  11. Voltage transformers/surge protectors

  12. Reference books

  13. Tables/standards

  14. Computers/software

Suggested Citation:"4. Research." National Academy of Sciences. 1994. China Bound, Revised: A Guide to Academic Life and Work in the PRC. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2111.
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SURVEY RESEARCH

Several research teams have been able to undertake systematic survey research with Chinese collaborators—in areas such as work and social life, the process of mate selection, the health and living status of elderly populations, occupations of urban residents, housing and community resources, the concept of modernity, epidemiology, and health and nutrition. Social survey work remains sensitive, and the experiences of researchers vary. For most of the 1980s, several projects were housed in universities under the administration of the SEDC, but following the Tiananmen Square tragedy of 1989, the SEDC banned collaborative social science survey research in universities under its jurisdiction. Several ongoing projects were suspended. As of this writing, negotiations to renew this type of research are nearing conclusion. Several other projects outside SEDC jurisdiction have continued.

Anyone contemplating survey research in China should read the articles in the spring 1993 edition of China Exchange News. Many of the scholars whose research is described there are happy to share their insights with others contemplating similar research. Some general advice follows, distilled largely from Gail Henderson's article, "Survival Guide to Survey Research in China."

The choice of affiliation and potential collaborators, and the contract agreed to by the participating parties, is key when contemplating survey research, just as for other types of research.

Henderson advises:

Make sure that your collaborators can do what they promise and are interested in what you want to do. It sounds simple, but in the rush to get access to China, this step is often skipped. Talk to other people who have worked with your proposed collaborators. Look at work they have completed; don't let chance connections push you into a long-term relationship.8

In the case of survey research covering multiple locales, a national-level host institution is likely to be more effective in arranging access than a local one. Local-level institutions ordinarily do not have the connections necessary to arrange research in multiple settings. Some researchers, however, have been successful arranging to have multiple hosting institutions, carrying out, in effect, multiple projects under one large umbrella.

Researchers with experience in survey research in China also emphasize the complexities of designing questionnaires that will both measure what you are trying to learn and make sense to Chinese respon-

8  

Gail Henderson, "Survival Guide to Survey Research in China." China Exchange News, Spring 1993, pp. 23-25; 33.

Suggested Citation:"4. Research." National Academy of Sciences. 1994. China Bound, Revised: A Guide to Academic Life and Work in the PRC. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2111.
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dents. Plan to spend more time than you might think necessary to design the questionnaire and to pretest and revise it before the survey begins. An overly complex questionnaire, which might take several hours for respondents to answer, or one with unfamiliar concepts, is not likely to yield the desired data.

Training interviewers is also important. A few graduate students who have been persuaded to leave questionnaires with enterprise managers, for instance, have had mixed results at best. Few Chinese have had experience either administering or responding to questionnaires, and the result of insufficiently trained interviewers can be faulty data—even on so simple a matter as age, which the Chinese may calculate in terms of actual date of birth or xu and either the Western or the lunar calendar. Time spent in training is made up later in more accurately completed responses.

Researchers have also found that paying respondents after the interview is complete is more likely to produce better quality data than paying them before. Similarly, interviewers should be compensated for the quality of the data they collect rather than the speed with which they complete interviews.

LABORATORY RESEARCH

The advancement of science has been a major goal of China's modernization program, and U.S. scientists have been welcomed since the beginning of academic exchanges, especially in fields of high priority to the Chinese government.

Virtually all work conducted in the sciences is collaborative, and the NSF, which remains a primary funder of U.S. scientists in China, actively promotes cooperative research. Scientists who have done extensive work in Chinese laboratories describe facilities that range from "world class" to "tremendously inadequate." While generalizations are difficult, labs run by the CAS are often well-equipped, as are some in key universities. Those administered by provinces, cities, and localities, which have fewer funds, tend not to be as good, and some field stations are sorely lacking in basic equipment. Laboratories that have hosted foreign scholars—or have foreign scholars on their advisory boards—are often particularly well-equipped. Moreover, the experience of having hosted foreign scholars makes the integration of each succeeding foreign scholar easier.

Scientists are advised to visit several laboratories before deciding which to affiliate with. Sometimes basic equipment is not working for lack of a single part or necessary reagents are unavailable. If you can supply needed parts or reagents, your collaboration will be off to a good start. In any case, check again before returning for precise specifi-

Suggested Citation:"4. Research." National Academy of Sciences. 1994. China Bound, Revised: A Guide to Academic Life and Work in the PRC. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2111.
×

cations on what is available and working, and plan to bring to China materials your lab does not have.

Scientists have several suggestions for ensuring successful research. First, your Chinese collaborator will be key to the success of your project. Find a collaborator who is genuinely interested in working with you, with whom you have an easy rapport, and who is both conversant with the scientific bureaucracy and able to work effectively within it. Personal connections are also important in scientific research. China's current emphasis is on applied research, and proposals in the applied sciences, such as materials science, biotechnology, natural resources, information science, chemistry, physics, and mathematics, are particularly welcome. These fields have been targeted as major recipients of Chinese government funds where international collaboration is encouraged.

Second, spell out the details of collaboration in your research agreement. Because the agreement must be approved by several bureaucratic layers, it will assume the force of law, though details can always be renegotiated. In addition to conducting research, your Chinese hosts will undoubtedly want you to lecture, and they will want to be introduced to new techniques. Many scientists spend several months conducting research at one site followed by short visits to other labs for collaborative exchanges, lectures, and training workshops.

Offer to arrange for Chinese collaborators to come to the United States for research and provide opportunities for graduate students to study. Spell out the precise financial arrangements for Chinese collaborators in the United States. Chinese scientists are often on very tight budgets, and most will need to be picked up at the airport and will need assistance finding reasonably priced housing. Occasionally, Chinese research institutes will try to send less-qualified researchers. The terms of the agreement should detail what their research obligations will be and what qualifications researchers in your own laboratory are expected to have. If your institution is able to provide equipment to the Chinese laboratory where you are working, offer to donate it. By providing opportunities for Chinese scientists in the United States and giving what equipment you can, you are in a better position to negotiate the terms and cost of your research in China.

Third, your research is likely to be more successful if you return for several visits during the course of the project. Successful research results are very difficult to obtain in one or two visits.

Fourth, share all data with your Chinese hosts and offer to publish jointly with them. Most welcome the opportunity to publish their research in international journals. If you are publishing independently, let Chinese collaborators comment on drafts. Be certain to send copies of all publications to your colleagues and to any other scientists and laboratories you have visited. Encourage your collaborators to do the same.

Suggested Citation:"4. Research." National Academy of Sciences. 1994. China Bound, Revised: A Guide to Academic Life and Work in the PRC. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2111.
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Fifth, communications between research institutes are often faulty. When traveling alone from one research site to another, ask your host to arrange for people at the next site to meet you when you arrive. If not, be prepared to get from the airport or train station to your hotel on your own. If you are paying your own way, costs can be cut if you make your own living arrangements and travel reservations until your research work actually begins. Many scientists spend several days in Beijing before proceeding to their research site. If that stay is arranged by your host unit, you could be charged US$200 to $300 a day. If you make arrangements on your own and stay in a relatively inexpensive hotel, you will save money.

SHORT-TERM ACADEMIC VISITS

Many people contemplating a longer-term research project in China find that a short-term visit to meet Chinese colleagues, visit different research institutes and universities, and, usually, to lecture is a necessary and valuable means of meeting potential collaborators and beginning to formulate a research plan. Short visits usually require stamina and flexibility because the pace can be intense. Although the short-term visitor does not develop firsthand experience with the inner workings of professional and personal life in China, you can expect frank conversations with Chinese colleagues and explorations into the potential of collaborative work. Moreover, the logistics of your visit will rest almost entirely in Chinese hands.

Timing during short trips is usually not under your control. Despite the best intentions of your Chinese hosts, and elaborate planning and scheduling by the U.S. sponsor, these scholarly visits almost always are marked by last-minute changes, unexpected developments, and missed opportunities.

When to go is an important consideration in planning a short-term academic visit. Work tends to slow down in the hottest summer months and during the Chinese New Year in January or February.

During the summer months, major Chinese cities are often crowded with other foreigners, who strain the resources of Chinese hosting organizations. Chinese scholars often use the vacation months to travel abroad. One visitor, disappointed that many Chinese scholars he hoped to meet were out of town, put it this way:

The intellectual dimension of Deng's open door policy means that it has become much more difficult to meet Chinese in China. If no one travels, no one ever meets anyone from a different place. If everyone travels, however, no one also ever meets anyone from a different place except at conferences and in chance encounters at airports.

Suggested Citation:"4. Research." National Academy of Sciences. 1994. China Bound, Revised: A Guide to Academic Life and Work in the PRC. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2111.
×

Internal travel in the heavy tourist season (May through October) creates headaches for Chinese hosts and guests alike. Several scholars complained that they were not met at airports nor informed ahead of time about schedules, hotel accommodations, or local travel arrangements. As is true anywhere during high-tourist season, long delays in airports owing to weather, mechanical failures, or overbooking of flights are not uncommon.

PREPARATIONS

In general, the most successful short-term visits are the result of careful arrangements with the hosting organization combined with communications with individual Chinese scholars. Itineraries, requests for meetings with colleagues, lecture formats, and collaborative arrangements must be worked out well in advance. Goals for the project, as well as meeting and site visit requests, must be presented clearly. If you are going to be lecturing, it is a good idea to ask your host unit for advance information about topics, the probable size and composition of classes, what students or colleagues expect to learn from the lectures, and what kind of interpretation will be provided.

If special equipment, such as audiovisual equipment, is necessary, be sure to inform your hosts well in advance. Visits to other organizations in China are difficult to arrange once the hosting organization assumes responsibility, and they are often too complex to arrange informally in a short time. Returned scholars therefore urge you to write ahead to arrange to meet organizations and individual scholars not associated with the hosting unit. In the words of one recent grantee:

If I had it to do over again, I would invest a lot more time than I did before going to China in specifying exactly what I wanted on my schedule and, most importantly, corresponding directly with those institutions and individuals I wanted to visit, thus avoiding some of the lateral communications problems which existed despite the good intentions of my host.

This is particularly important if you are concerned that insufficient time may be devoted to substantive academic meetings. Be sure to give detailed guidance in advance about what meetings you desire.

Even with elaborate advance preparations, fine-tuning of the schedule will occur after your arrival, in consultation with colleagues from the host unit and the foreign affairs officer in charge of your visit. This is the time to point out any potential problems. If you will be lecturing, this is a good time to distribute abstracts or outlines, if this has not been done earlier, and to confer with interpreters.

If you have not worked closely with your hosts in planning your schedule, you may find that your travel schedule is lighter on academic time and heavier on touring. Many visitors are not aware of the time

Suggested Citation:"4. Research." National Academy of Sciences. 1994. China Bound, Revised: A Guide to Academic Life and Work in the PRC. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2111.
×

required and discomfort of travel in China. Some scholars have complained that during their visit they had little free time to meet people informally or simply to rest; others suffered from the lack of cultural stimulation. One scientist remarked:

I had little opportunity to develop any sense of the Chinese people or their daily lives. This was all the more frustrating because I was aware that an incredible number of interesting opportunities existed beyond the walls of the hotel, but since I did not speak Chinese, I was reluctant to strike out on my own without a guide or interpreter.

Another scholar who does speak Chinese remarked that his visit was so intense and so richly rewarding personally and professionally that he lost 15 pounds, in spite of too many banquets, and returned home exhausted and elated. Most travelers report that at some point they politely declined to see one more site and instead took a day off to rest, write up notes, or prepare a lecture.

ACADEMIC CONFERENCES

China hosts many international academic conferences each year, providing excellent opportunities for Western and Chinese scholars to make new contacts and become more familiar with ongoing research in their fields. Scholars considering attending a conference in China should be clear on the following questions:

  1. Who is paying for travel, lodging, and food? Find out if "conference fees" will be charged and how much they will be.

  2. Is the conference a genuine attempt to gather serious scholars or a money-making scheme?

  3. What is expected of participants? How long should one plan to allocate for a read paper? Will translation be provided? Will the entire text be translated? Do the translators need a written copy in advance?

  4. What are the exact dates of the conference? When do the sessions actually begin and end?

Suggested Citation:"4. Research." National Academy of Sciences. 1994. China Bound, Revised: A Guide to Academic Life and Work in the PRC. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2111.
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Being prepared in China, says one researcher, can mean "the difference between a headache and a productive day." Acclaimed by readers, this friendly and practical volume--now updated with important new information--offers all the details academic visitors need to make long-term stays in China productive, comfortable, and fun.

Academic opportunities have been revived in the years since the Tiananmen Square event, and the book opens with an overview of what we have learned from our academic exchanges with China, the opportunities now available, and resources for more information.

To help visitors prepare for daily life, the book covers everything from how to obtain the correct travel documents to what kinds of snack foods are available in China, from securing accommodations to having the proper gift for your Chinese dinner host.

Frank discussions on the research and academic environments in China will help students, investigators, and teachers from their initial assignment to a danwei, or work unit, to leaving the country with research materials intact. The book offers practical guidelines on working with Chinese academic institutions and research assistants, arranging work-related travel, managing working relationships, resolving language issues, and--perhaps most important--understanding Chinese attitudes and customs toward study, research, and work life.

New material in this edition includes an expanded section on science and social science field work, with a discussion of computers: which ones work best in China, how to arrange to bring your computer in, where to find parts and supplies, how to obtain repairs, and more. Living costs, health issues, and addresses and fax numbers for important services are updated. Guidance is offered on currency, transportation, communications, bringing children into China, and other issues.

Based on the first-hand reports of hundreds of academic visitors to China and original research by the authors, this book will be useful to anyone planning to live and work in China: students, researchers, and teachers and their visiting family members, as well as business professionals.

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