Our History & Founders
The 1990 Institute is known for its contributions to China’s modernization and for helping foster stronger U.S.-China relations.
Its mission today is to broaden understanding and build trust between the people of the United States and China through education, philanthropy, and collaboration.
In April 1990, the 1990 Institute was founded by C.B. Sung and Hang-Sheng Cheng, along with co-founding board members William Lee and Roz Koo and and a group of prominent American business, academia, and community leaders. They were all deeply interested helping the people of China modernize and address its social & economic challenges through productive dialogue — but wanted to avoid getting in the politics of either China or the United States.
Founding Chairman C.B. Sung, the founder and Chairman of Unison Group, was renowned for brokering nearly 40 Sino-foreign joint ventures in China. Our co-founder and first President, Dr. Hang-Sheng Cheng, served as the Director of the Center for Pacific Basin Studies at the Federal Reserve Bank in San Francisco. Roz Koo is the founding President of Self-Help for the Elderly, and Billy Lee was a prominent architect who developed numerous cultural exchange programs.
C.B. Sung and Hang-Sheng Cheng had the foresight to establish the Institute in its first decade as an economic and social research think tank aimed at assisting China in its period of modernization. We hosted numerous U.S.-China scholar conferences and joint research projects with the Federal Reserve Bank, among other groups. Our US-China collaborative research report called China Economic Reform, was presented to President Jiang Zemin and was well-received. It later became a textbook in Stanford’s economics courses.
These four incredible founders built up and led the Institute to where it is today. Collectively, they transformed the lives of over a million people and galvanized the support of university presidents across the U.S., including Donald Kennedy of Stanford, Stephen Muller of Johns Hopkins, Harold Shapiro of Princeton, and Chang-lin Tien of UC Berkeley.
During these early years, the Institute worked with prominent U.S-China figures, including:
- Robert Scalpino, the National Committee of U.S.-China Relations’ first chairman;
- Philip C. Habib, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (under President Reagan)
- Tung-Yen Lin, the renowned bridge builder
- Robert Parry, President & CEO Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco
- Linda Tsao Yang, former U.S. Ambassador, Asian Development Bank
In our second decade, the 2000s, we launched direct assistance projects in China to address the “consequences of reform,” including award-winning Microfinance program to tackle rural poverty, the Spring Bud Girls’ Education project which funded a 1000-girl cohort from elementary school through university, and a series of children’s art and environmentally-focused exchange projects.
And now, with China’s rapid rise as a global power, our focus is to inspire and empower more Americans to learn about contemporary China through our flagship CHINA NOW speaker series, youth exchange programs, our CHINA NOW | For Teachers and its Teachers Workshop, and Youth Voices on China video & digital learning initiatives. We invite you to get involved with our education programs, which aim to bridge the knowledge gap between our two cultures, promote constructive dialogue, and strengthen our global community.