Stanford University recognized for contributions to U.S.-China relations

Stanford University President John Hennessy (center) during the Committee of 100 gala in San Francisco
Stanford President John Hennessy, center, during the Committee of 100 gala in San Francisco in April. (Photo courtesy Committee of 100)

The Committee of 100, an international organization dedicated to making cultural connections between the United States and Asia, honored Stanford University with its Common Ground Award for the Advancement in U.S.-China Relation

During a recent gala in San Francisco, Stanford President JOHN HENNESSY accepted the award, which recognized Stanford’s contributions and commitment to fostering U.S.-China relations over time.

As President Hennessy noted, Stanford has engaged in scientific and academic exchanges with Chinese colleagues over many years. Recently, the Stanford Center at Peking University has played a role in forging these relations. Administered by the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI), the research and education center in Beijing has become the headquarters for Stanford students and faculty conducting research or organizing events in China.

The gala featured a video about the Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project, as an example of how Stanford research is bridging a historical divide in Chinese and American relations.

Led by two Stanford professors, more than 100 scholars in North America and Asia are searching for information – seeking out descendents and traversing archives and museums – about the thousands of Chinese migrants who labored on the Transcontinental Railroad. The rail line helped shape the American West and culminated with Leland Stanford driving the Golden Spike at its completion on May 10, 1869.

“Chinese workers were here on [Leland Stanford’s Palo Alto Stock] Farm and then the university as workers from the beginning,” says GORDON CHANG, the project’s co-director.

Recognition by an organization like the Committee of 100, Chang says, emphasizes the importance and timeliness of a project such as the Chinese Railroad Workers in North America. He believes the project “has hit a chord here and in China. Chinese workers labored to complete one of the iconic projects of America, yet we know so very little about them and they have never been given their due.”

The award also acknowledges that the United States and China have been intertwined for over 150 years, says English Professor SHELLEY FISHER FISHKIN, co-director on the project and director of the Program in American Studies. “Recognizing our shared past can be an important step in forging a positive future for U.S.-China relations.”

—VERONICA MARIAN, the Humanities at Stanford