Since 1978, China has been undergoing a social transformation of a scope, rapidity, and impact that is unprecedented in human history; all aspects of Chinese society are changing fundamentally and irreversibly. Major social changes are occurring at a very rapid pace, representing a historic opportunity for those in the social sciences to document the major social changes now taking place in China. Given China’s history and current place in the world, the study of contemporary China has never been more important.

The mission of the Paul and Marcia Wythes Center on Contemporary China is to advance the study of contemporary China at Princeton University and to provide substantive analysis from social science perspectives of the dramatic sociological shifts taking place in China today. Some of the most prominent aspects of this transformation of Chinese society are work organizations, the education system, the urban/rural divide, migration, social inequality, marriage and family, ethnicity and religion. Other examples include China’s rapid economic growth, its nascent democratization efforts, and technological advances. The emphasis is on understanding social phenomena in China within their historical, cultural, political, and economic contexts. Such study will not only help us understand China, but also other societies elsewhere, including developing and developed countries.

Recognizing the importance of China’s place in the world, the Center’s main goal is to help bring together and welcome those whose work focuses on issues that affect China today. The intent of the Center is to give an institutional home for such interdisciplinary collaboration and to bring together faculty and students whose research and work converge. 

Our activities include a lecture series, graduate student workshops, and an annual PIIRS Global Seminar held in China for the benefit of undergraduate students. Our faculty and students include members from Sociology, East Asian Studies, Economics, History, ORFE, Politics, Religion, and the Woodrow Wilson School. 

The Center has many research initiatives. It is proud to sponsor four postdoctoral research programs: its own postdoctoral program, the Peking-Princeton Joint Postdoctoral Program, Fudan-Princeton Postdoctoral Program, and the CUHK Shenzhen-Princeton Postdoctoral Program. The Center also has initiated the Program on China's Economy and Society that analyses big data from China, the Princeton Research Network on Contemporary China, and the Princeton Working Paper Series on Contemporary China. Additionally, it collaborates with Princeton University Press on a contemporary China book series. With Sage Publications and Shanghai University, the Center publishes the Chinese Journal of Sociology. In collaboration with the Council on International Teaching and Research at Princeton University, it hosts a Tung Global Scholar annually. The Center also hosts visiting scholars and students and other experts on contemporary China.