The British Association for Chinese Studies (BACS) is an umbrella organization composed of more than two hundred individuals and organizations from the worlds of academia, industry, government, and the media. The group was founded after the end of China’s Cultural Revolution in 1976, reflecting China’s opening to the Western world.

The British Association for Chinese Studies (BACS), known in Chinese as Yingguo Hanxue Xiehui, was founded in 1976 to promote the study in Britain of China and of Chinese culture abroad and to inform its members of current events and research in Chinese studies. Its founding coincided with the end of the Cultural Revolution, reflecting the growing accessibility of China to British scholars and students at that time. It was founded by members of a delegation of young sinologists on the staffs of universities throughout the U.K. who were invited to China by the Chinese government in April 1976. The idea of setting up a national association was developed on a plane on the flight back from China. The group included both humanities and social science scholars, setting the tone for the association as an organization catering to all aspects of Chinese studies.

BACS is a nonpolitical organization with a membership of more than two hundred individuals and organizations whose interests relate to greater China, primarily from the academic community, but also from industry, the media, and government. BACS grew in the subsequent period of greater openness of China to the outside world.

Promoting, Liaising, and Consulting

BACS has developed numerous mechanisms for promoting Chinese studies. Its school liaison officer seeks to encourage and facilitate the study of China in schools and colleges in Britain below the university level. An affiliated organization, the British Chinese Language Teachers Society, represents the interests of teachers of Chinese at the university level. BACS also encompasses the China Postgraduate Network (CPN), which provides an organizational framework for postgraduates whose research concerns China, and aims principally to disseminate information, offer advice, maintain a database of postgraduates in Britain, and pursue links with similar organizations in other countries. The CPN produces an annual newsletter, which complements the yearly bulletin published by BACS, and holds workshops and conferences for postgraduates. In 2008 the Association for Speakers of Chinese as a Second Language was launched as part of BACS. This group represents the interests and addresses the information and networking needs of those who have spent considerable time and investment learning Mandarin Chinese as a second language. BACS also runs its own website and an e-mail list to facilitate the sharing of information and views in Chinese studies.

BACS plays a role in liaising and consulting with other area studies organizations, with funding bodies, with China-related representative offices, and with government departments. It has promoted the interests and priorities of area studies in respect of British government initiatives, such as the Research Assessment Exercise, the Teaching Quality Assessment, and the HEFCE China Studies Review. It is affiliated with United Kingdom Council for Area Studies Associations and thereby contributes to the promotion of area studies within British higher education and research.

From the beginning the main event of the association has been the annual conference at which academic papers are presented by scholars from the U.K. and other countries. It has always welcomed participation by both members and nonmembers. Each year the conference is held at a venue where Chinese studies are active and arranged around a theme of academic and public interest. Since 1995, BACS has cooperated with the British Association for Japanese Studies and the British Association for Korean Studies in organizing a joint East Asian studies conference, which takes place every three years.

BACS operates in a context where alternative organizations may engage the interests, time, and energies of its members and potential members. As is the case with other area studies associations, BACS competes for potential members with other associations that represent a dominant interest in particular academic disciplines. Thus, for example, political scientists or economists with a special interest in China may find themselves torn between involvement with BACS and engagement with associations for practitioners of their disciplines. In addition, as a nonpolitical organization, BACS may not be seen as the ideal forum for potential members whose interest in China lies primarily in the direction of political engagement, whether that may be, for example, in the promotion of or opposition to communism or socialism (with or without Chinese characteristics), in the promotion of human rights or of environmental protection.

BACS Administration

BACS is a registered charity and is funded primarily by subscriptions from individual and corporate members. It also receives grants for specific purposes from the Universities’ China Committee in London, the British Academy, and the British Council, among others. BACS also administers scholarships for U.K. students to study in Taiwan.

BACS is administered by an elected committee whose members come from academia and from governmental and nongovernmental bodies involved in China. The president is usually a leading academic from within the broad range of Chinese studies. The president whose term began in 2008 is Tim Wright, Professor of Chinese Studies at Sheffield University. Recent presidents have been Don Rimmington (University of Leeds), Don Starr (University of Durham), Tao Tao Liu (University of Oxford), Delia Davin (University of Leeds), Bonnie S. McDougall (University of Edinburgh), Frank Dikötter (School of Oriental and African Studies), Stephan Feuchtwang (London School of Economics), and Harriet Evans (University of Westminster). Presidents have been drawn from a wide range of disciplines, including linguistics, literary studies, history, economics, politics, anthropology, sociology, and cultural studies.

Further Reading

The British Association for Chinese Studies. (2008). Retrieved September 9, 2008, from

Great Britain-China Centre. (2009). Welcome to the Great Britain-China Centre. Retrieved February 3, 2009, from

Source: Stockman, Norman. (2009). British Association for Chinese Studies. In Linsun Cheng, et al. (Eds.), Berkshire Encyclopedia of China, pp. 210–211. Great Barrington, MA: Berkshire Publishing.

British Association for Chinese Studies (Y?ngguó de Zh?ngguó Yánji? Xiéhuì ?????????)|Y?ngguó de Zh?ngguó Yánji? Xiéhuì ????????? (British Association for Chinese Studies)

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