Since 1979, the China Center has worked to build the bridge of understanding, friendship, exchange, and cooperation between the U.S. and Greater China (mainland China, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan). To fulfill this mission, the China Center draws on the strengths of the University of Minnesota and partners with public and private organizations in Minnesota and the U.S. to promote relations with the Greater China by:

  • facilitating educational exchange, collaborative research, and teaching and training activities;
  • fostering an understanding of history, cultures, and values;
  • serving as a catalyst and resource for the promotion of economic, governmental, and civic pursuits; and
  • increasing mutual interest and understanding.


The University of Minnesota was one of the first U.S. universities to resume exchanges with China following the normalization of U.S.-China relations. By the late 1970s, the University resumed exchanges that had been interrupted for nearly 30 years. These exchanges were made possible through committed partnerships with universities in the Greater China area, strong academic exchange programs, and cutting-edge research collaborations. In 1979, the University established the “China Desk” (precursor to the China Center) to manage the University of Minnesota's exchanges with Greater China. 

The China Center launched its Mingda Institute for Leadership Training in 2001 to conduct training programs for Chinese professionals.  The Institute implements the mission of building U.S.-China bridges through training Chinese talent and developing partnerships with Chinese organizations and the Minnesota community.

In 2008, the University of Minnesota opened an office in Beijing, China, under the leadership of the China Center. The mission of the China Office is to provide support for prospective and current students, facilitate educational collaboration, and engage alumni living in China.

China Center Past Directors

  • 1980 - 1984: Mei-Ling Hsu 
  • 1985 - 1994: Patricia Needle 
  • 1994 - 1998: David Pui 
  • 2000 - 2007: Hong Yang
  • 2007 - 2009: Yongwei Zhang