The China Foundation for the Promotion of Education and Culture (henceforth referred to as “the Foundation”) was established in 1924 to have custody and control of the second remission of Boxers Rebellion reparations paid to the United States by China, and to apply these funds for the promotion of Chinese education and culture. In the beginning, the Foundation’s emphasis was on the development and dissemination of scientific education and knowledge in China. Gradually, the Foundation also expanded its work to include cultivating the humanities and social sciences.
The Foundation traces its root to the indemnities paid by the Ching Dynasty to eight foreign powers, including the Unites States. The indemnities were in compensation for the Boxers’ killing of many foreign embassy staff members and missionaries in 1900. In capitulation, the Ching Government agreed to pay an enormous sum of indemnity to the eight nations involved. The United States received a 7% share of the total compensation. However, American diplomats, educators and missionaries in China lobbied the U.S. government to remit a portion of indemnities back to China to promote education there. The effort bore fruit in 1908, when President Theodore Roosevelt signed into law the first remission of the indemnities to fund a school to send Chinese children to the Unites States for advanced study. The National Tsing Hua University was established with the financial support of this fund, which is still known as the Tsing Hua University Fund. The American friends who lobbied for this fund were happy with the result and urged the U. S. government to make a second remission to China for the promotion of science and culture. The major promoters included Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Professor Paul Monroe of Columbia University, and Miss M. E. Wood, a missionary in China. As a result of their efforts, President Calvin Coolidge signed into law in 1924 the grant of just over US$12.5 million funded by the remittances over the period of 1917 to 1940. This represented a large sum at the time. The reparation was made by a joint resolution of the 68th Congress, approved on May 21st, l924. With this, the Chinese government appointed 10 Chinese and 5 Americans to form a board of trustees, with a constitution stipulating that the board is self-perpetuating. This guaranteed its future independence from government interference, a prescient stipulation. Thus, for more than ninety years, the China Foundation has been a symbol of the friendship of the American government and its people to the Chinese. Throughout that period and continuing today, the Foundation has carried out its mission by fostering the development of Chinese education and culture.
The Foundation is governed by the Board of Trustees, that consist of eleven Chinese and four Americans. The board meetings are held semi-annually, in May and in October or November. To save expenses, the May meeting is only attended by Chinese trustees, while the fall meeting is attended by all trustees. The fall meeting is considered more important, as major decisions such as election of new trustees are usually decided at that time.
Besides China Foundation Fund, the following supplementary funds are entrusted to the Foundation for custody and management: (1) Tsing Hua University Endowment Fund. Entrusted to the Foundation in 1929, the income of this fund is paid to the National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan, from which the Foundation receives a management fee. (2) The Fan Memorial Institute of Biology Endowment Fund. This fund produces a small amount of income which is used as a grant to the the Institute of Microbial Biology, Academia Sinica. (3) The Chinese Social and Political Science Association Library Endowment Fund. Its income is used as a subsidy to the Institute of International Relations, National Chengchi University. The grant to the Institute proves to be very effective in improving the Cross-Strait relations between Taiwan and the Mainland China over the years. The institute has held a number of Cross-Strait and international conferences emphasizing East Asia foreign relations. The Institute also invites Mainland Chinese scholars to visit Taiwan to deepen their understanding of the local political and social aspects. Conversely, the Institute also sends their staff to Mainland China for study. As a result, the Institute contributes mightily to the improvement of the relationship across the Taiwan Strait.
The Foundation is unique in the educational history of China and Taiwan. Its uniqueness comes from the confluence of one of the most turbulent periods in modern Chinese history and a genuine gesture of friendship from the American people. Its trustees have been some of the most distinguished intellectuals and diplomats in either country. Among its founding trustees were John Dewey, a household name in the world of the American intellectuals, and Roger S. Greene, Vice Chairman of the Rockefeller Foundation. Its Chinese trustees have also been top scholars and diplomats of their time. For example, Dr. Hu Shih, father of the modernism movement in China, was for many years the Director and the driving force of the Foundation. Even though the Foundation’s resources are limited, its significance is enormous. It acts as a beacon for the advancement of science and culture in China, with a determination to fulfil the Foundation’s mission to contribute to culture and education to this day.