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With China’s population shifting rapidly from rural to urban, a significant gift from one of its largest philanthropies will enable study of the country’s unprecedented prosperity—and its urgent societal challenges.

In January, Rutgers University’s engagement with China entered a meaningful new era when one of that country’s largest privately funded charitable organizations, the Huamin Charity Foundation, announced it would support a new center within Rutgers’ School of Social Work to facilitate research on China’s social welfare issues.

The Huamin Research Center will draw on the school’s expertise in nonprofit management and governance to focus on the role of China’s private sector—from nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), to charity foundations, to China’s newly wealthy individuals—in aiding the poor, supporting the elderly, and promoting education, among other areas.

The center will also support academic exchanges and provide scholarships to American and Chinese students to study at Rutgers, which dovetails precisely with the goals of the Rutgers in China initiative, a program launched in May 2011 to expand international opportunities for Rutgers students and increase research collaboration between Rutgers faculty and their Chinese counterparts.

Chien-Chung Huang, a Taiwan-born associate professor at the School of Social Work and the Huamin Research Center’s new director, notes that his students are eager to learn more about China. “There is a growing awareness of social welfare issues in China. We are delighted that the strength of our school has been recognized in China, and we will work closely with our new partners to support research on social welfare and the development of nonprofit organizations there.”

Social policy research is relatively new to China, as are many of the institutions designed to implement it. In helping to develop an effective NGO sector, Rutgers will emphasize fundamental management principles such as establishing volunteer boards of trustees, governing policies that will support and regulate an institution’s work, and transparency, said Richard L. Edwards, Rutgers’ interim executive vice president for academic affairs (until July 1), former dean of the School of Social Work, and an expert on social welfare education.

Adds Dr. Dezhi Lu, cofounder and chair of the Beijing-based Huamin Charity Foundation, “I hope we can learn from the charity experience in the United States and use that knowledge to promote the development of modern philanthropy with Chinese characteristics in China.”

Originally published in Rutgers alumni magazine.

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