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Trans-Pacific Cultural Connections

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The University of Illinois and China

image of Journal of American-East Asian Relations

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

Affiliations: 1: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign,


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