Robert Scalapino was the founder and first Chairman of the National Committee on United States-China Relations and the founding director of the Institute of East Asian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, from 1978 to 1990. During his undergraduate studies at what is now the University of California, Santa Barbara, and while he earned his masters and PhD at Harvard University, Professor Scalapino studied politics, mostly focusing on US-European relations. During World War II, he served as a Naval officer and was trained in Japanese language, sparking his interest in East Asian studies. He began teaching at the University of California, Berkeley in 1949, ending his career there as the Robson Research Professor of Government, Emeritus.

Professor Scalapino authored thirty-nine books on East Asia, demonstrating his broad knowledge of the region and influence in the field. He gained notoriety in the 1960s for speaking out in support of President Johnson’s escalation of the Vietnam War. He also notably advocated for better relations with China in the 1960s and 1970s, as well as against human rights abuses in Taiwan.

Professor Scalapino served as an advisor to heads of state and key policy makers around the world, including three U.S. presidents. He was a frequent visitor to the People's Republic of China, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Taiwan, and the countries of Southeast Asia and Central Asia. He twice headed an American delegation to Korea, and he served as a visiting lecturer at Peking University in 1981, 1985 and 1999. After retiring from teaching in 1990, Professor Scalapino remained active in political and development issues in Asia. He passed away on November 1, 2011 at the age of 92.

Last Updated: April 3, 2014

My First Trip


The Opening Stage of China

Robert A. Scalapino
At the outset of the 1960s, the newly installed Kennedy administration attempted an opening to Beijing. In early 1961, with Secretary of State Dean Rusk in command, an offer was made to exchange journalists, as I had proposed. I had talked with Rusk...