Rare Film from UC San Diego’s First Visit to China to be Screened Nov. 1


Chancellor William McElroy (left) during UC San Diego’s inaugural trip to China in 1979.

In the fall of 1979, just a few months after the establishment of formal diplomatic relations between the People’s Republic of China and the United States, the Chinese Ministry of Education invited the UC San Diego leadership for an official visit to hash out an agreement to enable the exchange of scholars and students between UC San Diego and Chinese universities.
The UC San Diego delegation, led by then Chancellor William McElroy, included a number of internationally prominent scientists, as well as Paul Pickowicz, an assistant professor of History and director of the university’s fledgling Chinese Studies Program. By all accounts, the visit was a clear success, laying the groundwork for many years of successive partnerships and exchanges between UC San Diego and Chinese universities and cultural institutions.
Earlier this year, and some 37 years later, Pickowicz—now a professor of History in the Division of Arts & Humanities and one of the nation’s preeminent authorities on modern Chinese history—discovered a rare and all but forgotten 23-minute, 16 mm film documenting that inaugural visit, hidden away in his research archives. The choppy but fascinating film, was salvaged and restored—with color and sound—and transferred to a user-friendly DVD format by UC San Diego Library staff. The film was made by the Huazhong Institute of Technology in Wuhan, China, and was given to the university delegation as a gift.
On Tuesday, Nov. 1, from 5 to 7:30 p.m., the UC San Diego Library and the School of Global Policy and Strategy’s 21st Century China Center, will sponsor a public event featuring Pickowicz and the historic film screening. In addition, a panel discussion will be held with several faculty members who attended the 1979 China trip, including: Gay Lin, Lily Lin, Manuel Rotenberg, and David Wong. The 1979 film screening will be followed by a short film touching on the highlights of UC San Diego’s many collaborations with Chinese universities and cultural institutions over the last few decades.
“The film brings us back to a time when China was just opening up to the west,” said Pickowicz, “after the devastating effects of the Cultural Revolution the footage reveals an underdeveloped country, eager to enter the global community.”
Since then, the number of partnerships and collaborations between UC San Diego and Chinese educational and cultural institutions has increased dramatically. In 2016—nearly 40 years later—the university boasts multiple academic exchanges with China in nearly every discipline, with especially robust collaborations in medicine, engineering, humanities and social sciences.


UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla and Fudan University President Xu Ningsheng renewed a Memorandum of Understanding between their universities in spring 2016.

UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla and a delegation of campus leaders most recently visited China in April 2016, where they met with alumni and parents of current students. Khosla’s delegation included School of Global Policy and Strategy Dean Peter Cowhey and Professor Susan Shirk, chair of the graduate school’s 21st Century China Center.
While in China, Khosla strengthened an important partnership between UC San Diego and Fudan University in Shanghai. Fudan University’s President Xu Ningsheng and Khosla renewed a Memorandum of Understanding, reaffirming the close relationship and looking toward future collaborations between the two universities. Earlier this month, another Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the UC San Diego Library and Fudan University Library, marking the beginning of a multi-level collaboration between the two libraries.
At the Nov. 1 event, Shirk—a top expert on U.S.-China relations and China policy—will join the 1979 delegation to highlight UC San Diego’s many collaborations with Chinese universities and cultural institutions over the last few decades, including the April 2016 visit. Sociologist Richard Madsen, a well-known scholar of Chinese society and the director of the Fudan-UC Center on Contemporary China, also located at the School of Global Policy and Strategy, will also speak.
The program, which will be held in the Seuss Room in Geisel Library, will be followed by a reception in the Seuss Room foyer. Reservations can be made at: ucsdchina.eventbrite.com.