Historical Legacy

The SAIS China Research Center is the culmination of a storied legacy of China studies at SAIS Johns Hopkins. We are committed to continuing this important tradition.

A. Doak Barnett

The China Studies Program was founded in 1982 by Doak Barnett, who was named the George and Sadie Hyman Professor of Chinese Studies that same year.

Doak was born in Shanghai where his parents worked at the Chinese National YMCA. He graduated summa cum laude from Yale University in 1942, with a degree in international relations. Following his service as a Marine in the Second World War, he earned an M.A. degree in international relations at Yale and a certificate from the Yale Institute of Far Eastern Languages in 1947. He spent the next few years working as a journalist, traveling all over the country, even witnessing the People’s Liberation Army entering Beijing (then Beiping) in 1949.

In 1950-51, Doak served as a public affairs officer in the American Consulate in Hong Kong, and beginning in 1952, he spent four years as an associate of the American Universities Field Staff in Hong Kong. Doak eventually became program director for the Ford Foundation in Hong Kong in the late 1950s and channeled substantial funds to research projects on China at a time when many foundations did not support them because of the hostile politics of the McCarthy era.

He joined the faculty at Columbia University in 1961, where he trained future China scholars Kenneth Lieberthal and Michel Oksenberg, among others. In 1965, as a principal witness for an extensive Congressional review of China policy conducted by Senator J. William Fulbright, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and subsequently lobbied Congress and American presidents to end China’s isolation. In 1969, Barnett moved to the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at the Johns Hopkins University, where he remained until he retired in 1989.

Doak seamlessly married policy analysis with scholarship with a bibliography remarkable in bot breadth and depth. His magisterial Cadres, Bureaucracy, and Political Power in Communist China (New York, Columbia University Press, 1967), with an introduction by Ezra Vogel launched the subfield of Chinese bureaucratic politics in China that continues to be the dominant strand of intellectual DNA in the SAIS China Studies Program and the SAIS China Global Research Center.


Doak’s immediate successor was Alice Lyman Miller. Born Harold Lyman Miller, she was raised in upstate New York. After attending Princeton University, she continued to pursue her PhD from George Washington University in 1974 with a doctoral thesis on Qing dynasty politics. Alice worked at the Central Intelligence Agency as a Chinese translator from 1966 to 1968, between her undergraduate and graduate studies, and then later served as a CIA analyst from 1974 to 1990. During that time, she taught at Johns Hopkins SAIS in Washington, D.C., first as a lecturer and then as associate professor of China studies and the second director of the China Studies Program. During this time, she published her monograph, H. Lyman Miller. Science and Dissent in Post-Mao China: The Politics of Knowledge (University of Washington Press, 1996).

In 1999, she accepted a position as professor of National Security Affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School from until 2014. She concurrently was a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and a lecturer in East Asian Studies at Stanford University since 1999. From 2001 to 2018, Alice was also the general editor of China Leadership Monitor, a quarterly journal providing open-source analysis of the internal workings of the Chinese Communist Party. She remains one of the most talented Pekingologists and one of the top scholars of China’s elite politics and informal institutions.

In 2002, she began a series of treatments for gender transition and began using the name Alice Lyman Miller. She has made extensive public comments about this transition, including at TEDxStanford in 2015.


“Mike” by all who know him, he was the second holder of the George and Sadie Hyman Professorship and the third Director of the SAIS China Studies Program from 1999 to 2018. Prior to this, Mike had been an associate professor at the Ohio State University after receiving his Bachelors and PhD from Stanford (Mike is a native of California) during wh8ch time he was an enlisted and commissioned officer of the U.S. Army Reserve, while also serving as a fireman at Stanford University. While at OSU, he also served as the founding director of the China Policy Program at the American Enterprise Institute. From 1988 to 1997, Mike was president of the National Committee on United States-China Relations. From May 1998 to May 2006 he also was affiliated with The Nixon Center (now the Center for the National Interest) as the founding director of its Chinese Studies Program.

Mike specializes in Chinese domestic politics, leadership, U.S.-China relations, and Chinese foreign policy, and is the author of numerous books on elite politics and the policy process. His early work was on the politics of healthcare in China and he is one of the foundational scholars who developed Doak’s articulation of bureaucratic politics (along with Doak’s students, now professors, Lieberthal and Oksenberg). His edited volume, Policy Implementation in Post-Mao China is a classic in the field and is the first serious attempt to analyze China’s policy enforcement and not just its formulation. His 1992 volume, Bureaucracy, Politics and Decision-Making in Post-Mao China, co-edited with Kenneth Lieberthal, has also achieved canonical status.

Reflecting his shift from bureaucratic politics to elite politics, Mike’s subsequent publications, including Following the Leader: Ruling China, from Deng Xiaoping to Xi Jinping, The Three Faces of Chinese Power: Might, Money, and Minds, and Same Bed, Different Dreams: Managing U.S.-China Relations, 1989-2000 recall Doak’s ability to fuse scholarship with the demands of the policy world. In January 2015 Mike was named the most influential China watcher by the Institute of International Relations at the China Foreign Affairs University in Beijing. Researchers chose him after assessing the credentials of 158 China experts.


Andrew Mertha is the successor to Mike Lampton as the George and Sadie Hyman Professorship and the third Director of the SAIS China Studies Program. He carries on the tradition of putting bureaucracy and institutions at the center of our understanding of Chinese politics.

Originally from New York City, Prof. Mertha got his undergraduate and doctoral degrees from the University of Michigan. His focus has been on the relationship between differing state and Chinese Communist Party agencies as well as these agencies’ relationships with Chinese society through the lens of bureaucratic politics. Whether writing about intellectual property rights (The Politics of Piracy, Cornell 2005), the politics of hydropower (China’s Water Warriors, Cornell 2008), or China’s foreign aid to other communist countries (Brothers in Arms, Cornell 2014), the single thread that runs through his research is that we can best understand past- and anticipate future outcomes by focusing on the institutions and processes governing the policy implementation process.

Prof. Mertha spent seven years living in China from 1988 to the present, mostly in the Southwest and in the Yangtze and Pearl River deltas. His first appointment was as assistant professor of political science at Washington University in St. Louis. He moved on to becoming associate- and full professor of government at Cornell University. Following the 2019 organizational restructuring at SAIS, Mertha recast the China Studies Program, founded by Doak Barnett as the SAIS China Global Research Center, which was inaugurated in June 2021.

In 2020 and 2021, Mertha served as the Vice Dean for Faculty Affairs and International Research Cooperation at SAIS.