China Studies in Beijing Program: Students Travel to Shandong Province

As Stanford’s fall quarter draws to a close, the first cohort of students who are participating in Freeman Spogli Institute’s (FSI) inaugural overseas program in Beijing embarked on their final field excursion. The 8 students and 4 Stanford faculty traveled first to Jinan city (济南) (capital of Shandong province), then to Zouping county (邹平), both located in China’s eastern region of Shandong (山东).

Stanford China Studies in Beijing students and faculty being greeted by their hosts in Jinan, Shandong

Three Stanford Master’s in International Policy students and 5 undergraduate students are participating in this pilot program in Beijing at the Stanford Center at Peking University (SCPKU). The pilot program is being offered by FSl in cooperation with Peking University. Details regarding student activities, reflections and earlier travels can be found here.

This third and final trip was significant not only for the wide-ranging sites that the students saw, but also because Zouping County has a storied connection to the wider community of China scholars in the U.S. and to Stanford. Zouping county was the first rural site in China where foreign scholars were given official access to conduct field research in the 1980’s after Deng Xiaoping’s Opening and Reform in 1978. The late Professor Michel Oksenberg (1938-2001), senior fellow at Shorenstein APARC and FSl, who also served as a key member of the U.S. National Security Council under President Jimmy Carter, spearheaded this effort, which brought over eighty U.S. academics to the area between 1984 and 1991 (For more details re. that history, please see here).

The students’ field trip included visits with those at the top of the official pyramid to the village grassroots, including meetings with the Mayor and Vice Mayor of Jinan (pop: 6.8 million) and City Planning officials there; plus local city officials in Zouping County. Students and faculty viewed urban plans for the Jinan International Medical and Science Center and toured the corporate conglomerate, Shandong Weiqiao Pioneer Group (山东魏橋创业集团有限公司) that owns the largest textile factory in the world; and Xiwang Group, Ltd. (西王集团有限公司) whose main lines of business are corn oil production and structural steel. In some ways, the site visits reminded one of China’s economic rise as the manufacturing hub of the world; and its beckoning future as a science and technology giant.

China Studies in Beijing students and faculty viewing plans for the Jinan International Medical and Science Center

(From left to right): Students -- Drew Hasson (MIP second year student); Lucas Hornsby (sophomore); Isaac Kipust (junior); Jenn Hu (sophomore); and Cathy Dao (sophomore) – and Stanford faculty meeting with Mayor and Vice Mayor of Jinan city

(From front, left to back, right): Profs. Jean Oi, Andrew Walder, Scott Rozelle, Tom Fingar stop by at the company store inside Xiwang Group

A highlight of the trip also included the village of Wangjing, Linchi Township, also in Zouping County. Surrounded by village children, mixing with residents and exchanging high-fives with “the kids [and] the grandmothers, ” Stanford students got a chance to enter ordinary homes and see what village life is like in one (albeit affluent and well-developed) township of Linchi.

Professor Scott Rozelle, joined by Isaac Kipust, Lucas Hornsy and Prof. Tom Fingar, engage with village residents of Wangjing

Drew Hasson exchanging high-fives with the residents of Wangjing village

Students and faculty crowded into a village's home

Isaac Kipust playing with the villager's son

Three boys from Wangjing village with Isaac Kipust and Prof. Scott Rozelle

By the village square, Professor Scott Rozelle even took the opportunity to challenge two village boys to strive for not only a college degree, but a graduate degree; and not just an M.A. but a Ph.D. – and not just at any university, but at Stanford University! One day, perhaps – who knows? – Stanford may find itself conferring a doctoral degree to a student who calls Wangjing village his home.

What’s an M.A.? Not higher than a Ph.D.! Prof. Scott Rozelle in conversation with two village boys in the town square at Wangjing

And the laughing continues . . .

Scott Rozelle in conversation with the boys as Profs. Jean Oi and Andrew Walder look on

All the students, faculty and residents of Wangjing village, Zouping county, gather for the final photo

Students have gone on three field trips during the course of this overseas program – an excursion to the Great Wall at Jinshanling and to Chengde, a “mountain resort” of the Qing Dynasty court; China’s Northeast region, including to the cities of Dalian, Dandong and Jinzhou (see report here); and, now, Shandong province to China’s east. In addition to these field trips, students have also had unparalleled access to speakers from China’s National Development and Reform Commission, which operates directly under China’s State Council; prominent venture capitalistsand start-up entrepreneurs; and executives from large Chinese multinationals. Students have also enjoyed visits to China’s Foreign Ministry for discussions with experts on U.S.-China relations; as well as to the U.S. Embassy, engaging in discussions with its staff on U.S.-China trade tensions and geopolitical relations.  Students have not only accessed the halls of power in China, however, but have also visited peri-urban migrant communities and schools for children of migrant workers.

The China Studies in Beijing Program lasts the length of an academic quarterat Stanford – i.e., a mere eleven weeks – and yet it provided diverse opportunities for students to explore multiple facets of this complex and kaleidoscopic nation – from officialdom to ordinary villages; Beijing’s high-tech entrepreneurs to migrant children; international relations experts to corporate executives at China’s MNCs. Even while taking intensive courses taught by leading Stanford scholars on China’s economy, society, international relations and politics, students also enjoyed weekly brown-bag seminars led by guest speakers who spoke on the current state of U.S.-China relations; China-North Korea trade; U.S.-China military competition; China’s growing middle class; and the country’s severe urban-rural divide.

Pending final university approval, the application page for China Studies in Beijing’s Fall 2019 program will open soon. Please stay tuned for more information here or email Patrick Laboon, FSI’s Academic Program Manager, at for updates. We anticipate the due date for candidate statement of interest and application to be set for the end of January.