NEWPORT, R.I. - Faculty and staff members of the U.S. Naval War College commemorated an unprecedented collection of Chinese research journals with a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the China Maritime Studies Institute new library facility, on Jan. 14.
The library, featuring a collection of about 80 journals and hundreds of books on topics from marine science to regional security to defense policy, is the first of its kind in the United States. The collection focuses on China's maritime development and has been praised by academics and senior policymakers as a much-needed resource.
The opening of the library marks both a milestone for CMSI and for naval research. The ceremony began with speeches from President, Naval War College Rear Adm. Phil Wisecup and CMSI director Lyle Goldstein.
"It is a very good thing to know there are people looking at these developments," Adm. Wisecup said, praising the Asia-Pacific expertise of the NWC faculty.
The collection of Chinese language policy and technical journals, already one of the largest in the U.S., is going to double over the next couple of months, and for Goldstein and others, the new library represents the lodestone of the institute, because CMSI research has made a name by carefully examining Chinese language sources on assorted vital subjects.
"We're going from a virtual institute to a real institute," Goldstein said. "It's been a real team effort."
"Given the importance of building a stable, productive relationship with China, this collection of materials really is critical," said Robert Rubel, the dean of the Center for Naval Warfare Studies (CNWS), recognizing how CMSI's growing collection of Chinese-produced journals, magazines, and books has progressed since CMSI's inception in 2006.
CMSI is part of the Strategic Research Department within CNWS, which is the research arm of NWC as a nexus for broadly based, advanced research on the naval contribution to national strategy. Rubel added the development of CMSI has been gratifying, and the institute's research could foster cooperation among countries. The academic nature of CMSI's research will provide further benefits to the Navy.
Professor Paul Smith, who teaches National Security Decision Making, said the collection itself is unprecedented, and so is the information it will provide.
"This is the way you find out what's really being said in a country," Smith said, adding that information isn't filtered through media or exaggerated.
NWC historian and Maritime History Department chairman John Hattendorf said the library is a significant accomplishment for the college and an important milestone.
"Bringing in this dimension of foreign language materials is a tremendous achievement," he said of the collection. While NWC has had research material available in European languages, the addition of Chinese resources is a great asset to the faculty.
During the ceremony, Goldstein read part of an April 14, 2008, speech by the Secretary of Defense to the Association of American Universities, urging the collection of open-source material from China, which is difficult to obtain.
"It is often inconvenient, if not impossible, for American researchers to get access to this material since it is often available only in China," Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said in 2008. "A real-or virtual-archive of documents acquired by researchers and others abroad would help us track Chinese military and technological developments."
At the time, Gates cited CMSI's initial efforts as an example to other American universities.
"Faculty members at the Naval War College have already instituted a smaller version of this idea focusing on the Chinese Navy," said Gates. "If other colleges and universities were to specialize in other areas, then a consortium - with a common ‘card catalogue’ and interlibrary loan – would allow scholars and schools to pool resources. Further, by holding conferences and sponsoring research, such a consortium would make a very real contribution to our understanding of the intentions of an important world power and military power- an understanding that would have real impact on public policy."
Smith said the bolstered research capabilities with the expanded library facility will benefit the entire Navy, in addition to civilian policymakers.
"It provides us the opportunity to do analysis that's so critical in this era," he said, adding that a strong relationship with China is increasingly necessary. "This is a gateway, or aperture, to get access to that relationship."
Goldstein said the library is the work of multiple faculty members and praised cooperation among the college's research and academic departments. The proud CMSI director explained that he and staff members had many challenges to overcome.
"We had to prove ourselves again and again," he said. "And the team has done that."
In addition to CMSI staff and other NWC faculty efforts, the creation of the library facility was made possible through the support of the Naval War College Foundation, which provided substantial assistance to the institute, allowing the collection to grow.
CMSI publishes a China Maritime Studies monograph series, produces research-based articles, sponsors a monthly lecture series, supports fleet decisionmakers, contributes to the NWC core curriculum and holds an annual conference at NWC. CMSI's recent trip to the Pacific region to talk with military commanders, such as Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Patrick Walsh, is only the beginning of the institute's potential to support the fleet.
Goldstein said military leaders are frequently interested in learning about academic approaches to understanding China. The collection and CMSI's related analyses will help Navy leaders see "past the headlines" and make decisions based on credible research.
In the future, Goldstein plans for CMSI to expand its outreach to the fleet and to NWC students. He said that while the full-length papers in the library's journals are in Chinese, and need considerable competency with the language to understand, many of the article abstracts are written in English, so students can quite easily access some of the data for their own academic research.
In March, CMSI plans to meet in Beijing with faculty from Peking University, one of China's most prestigious universities, to encourage cooperation and dialogue, and hopes to meet the chief of the Chinese Naval War College in Nanjing.
"Ambitions for this institute are high," he said.
by Tyler Will, NWC Public Affairs