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The largest country in East Asia will soon have its own place on Penn’s campus.

On Wednesday, the University announced the launch of a new Center for the Study of Contemporary China, which will officially open in the fall.

The center “is designed to advance Penn’s research and educational efforts in the study of contemporary China,” Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences Rebecca Bushnell wrote in an email. “Understanding China will be essential for all of us in the coming years.”

While the center will not offer any new majors or function as an academic department, Bushnell expects students to benefit greatly from its programming, which will include “public functions and undergraduate research opportunities.”

College of Arts and Sciences Dean Dennis DeTurck added that the center will function as “a clear access point for the substantial intellectual resources we have invested in the study of modern China.”

According to Political Science professor Avery Goldstein, the center — which will be housed in Fisher-Bennett Hall and is currently in its final design stages — will function to strengthen the University’s ties to modern-day China.

“We plan to have a distinguished, high-profile speaker once a year and to additionally hold panels on particular, timely topics to do with contemporary China,” said Goldstein, who will serve as the center’s faculty director.

While Goldstein declined to say how much the new center will cost, he said all funding has been provided by the University.

The idea for the center was first brought up after Penn President Amy Gutmann returned from a trip to China in March 2010.

Gutmann’s trip emphasized China’s growing importance in today’s world, Goldstein said, and showed that Penn should look into establishing an “institutional home” for the country on campus.

Though Frank Chance, associate director at the Center for East Asian Studies, acknowledged that the new center may overlap with his program, he emphasized that there will be distinct differences between the two.

CEAS “is broad-based and focuses on everything to do with East Asia, whereas the Center for the Study of Contemporary China draws a frame around China,” Chance said.

“Undergraduate education is CEAS’s primary goal. [However] we are not completely separate and expect to overlap with them,” he added.

Students involved in Chinese studies and cultural groups expressed excitement over the new center.

“It is a great new installment at Penn, reflecting America’s burgeoning relations with China and China’s importance in international affairs,” College junior Anthony Tran, president of Penn’s Chinese Students’ Association, wrote in an email.

Tran and the members of the CSA are “excited [for] its plans to create meaningful and lasting research on modern China through its variety of initiatives” as well as “the prospect of possible collaborations,” he added.

Gutmann said she is also looking forward to the new center, which she hopes will serve as part of the University’s larger global initiatives. “The Center for the Study of Contemporary China helps position Penn as a world leader in the study of China,” she said in a statement. “In addition to the collaboration across disciplines that it will foster for faculty, it will be an enormous asset for our students, allowing them to research and discern the myriad forces shaping modern China.”

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