History of the China Center

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. Until 2021, the Institute implemented 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 100 Celebration

China 100 logo

In 2014, the University of Minnesota celebrated "China 100," a yearlong celebration honoring the first students from China and the wealth of connections that have come since. This celebration honored the past and took a look forward at the engagement between the University of Minnesota and China. Several events were planned to honor Chinese alumni, feature University research and connections with China, and share the stories of Chinese students and U.S. students who traveled to China.

The celebration kicked-off in the summer of 2013 when University President Eric Kaler traveled to China, hosting receptions for more than 550 alumni and prospective students in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, and Taipei.

Back on campus, more than 100 Chinese visiting scholars and their advisers joined in the celebration along with more than 250 people from the general campus community for a series of lectures and receptions.

Beginning in January 2014, the popular China 100 History Exhibit traveled around Minnesota and China, sharing with visitors the rich history between the University and China. The exhibit focused on topics such as faculty exchanges, strategic partnerships, study abroad, arts and culture, and sports. An estimated 4,000 people viewed the exhibit during its run.

The China Center proudly hosted the "China 100 Symposium: U, Minnesota, and China looking forward to the next century" on April 22, 2014, at the McNamara Alumni Center. 250 people helped to make the event a success and Minnesota state Governor Mark Dayton honored the event with the "Minnesota China Education Exchange Day" proclamation. The audience had the special opportunity to hear from Lawrence Pan, the grandson of the first Chinese student Wen Ping Pan to attend the University, and view a short video documentary of the first University delegation to China in 1979, led by Regent Wenda Moore.

In October and December 2014, the University’s China Center hosted closing receptions for the celebration. Distinguished Chinese Alumni were honored in Minneapolis, Beijing, and Taipei, honoring those who had been nominated and selected as part the China 100 celebration. 

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