Wednesday May 27, 2020


China Institute, NY
May 5, 2012

On Saturday, May 5, 2012, the Renwen Society of the China Institute in America hosted a special lecture and book signing by Dr. Chi Wang about his book, A Compelling Journey from Peking to Washington: Building a New Life in America. Dr. Hsin-Mei Agnes Hsu, Director of Arts and Culture at the China Institute, made introductory remarks before Dr. Wang’s talk.

Please click here to view video footage of the lecture, provided by China Institute. Since 2003, the Renwen Society at the China Institute has hosted regular talks by prominent Chinese intellectuals, artists and other distinguished individuals as part of their Saturday Lecture Series. The Renwen Society is currently co-chaired by Dr. Ho Yong and Dr. Ben Wang.

Nearly 70 distinguished guests attended the talk, including relatives of the late Chinese poet Xu Zhimo. During the talk, Dr. Wang recounted his childhood growing up in pre-revolutionary China as the son of a prominent Chinese government official and general. Wang lived through one of the most turbulent periods in Chinese history, including the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong and mainland China and the Chinese civil war.

In 1949, Wang left China to study in the United States, traveling though mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong during the final days of the Chinese civil war. After graduation from college, however, his life took a very different turn. He could not return to China as planned due to the outbreak of the Korean War. Over twenty years would pass before he would again see his siblings and the rest of his family.

In the United States, he started working on an archives project for the Library of Congress, which would lead to an unexpected career that spanned nearly half a century of helping the Library build up its Chinese collections. During Wang’s tenure as head of the Chinese section, the Chinese Collection grew from 300,000 to over a million volumes. As one of the largest centers for China studies outside Asia, it helped meet growing demand for information and materials on China from Americans.

In 1969, Wang became a professor of history and U.S.-China relations at Georgetown University, where he still teaches today. During this time, he became part of a growing movement to help reestablish ties between China and America. In 1972, Wang was invited by the Chinese government to help arrange cultural exchanges between China and America. He became one of the first Americans allowed to visit China after Nixon’s historic trip to mainland China ended twenty-five years of isolation. On his trip to China, Wang successfully negotiated an exchange agreement between the Library of Congress and the National Library of Peking and subsequent agreements with major Chinese academic libraries. In 1995, he founded the U.S.-China Policy Foundation, and today is still working there on what has been a lifelong goal to bring China and America closer together.