Yan Ai Foundation Professorship in Social Science
Professor James Lee
Chair Professor, Division of Humanities and Division of Social Science

Few people understand China as well as Professor James Lee does, and fewer still conduct such insightful analysis of its social history. Focusing on important questions such as “Who gets what?” and “Who are we?”, Professor Lee paints a sweeping picture of Chinese social science and learning that breaks from traditional thought and provokes entirely new ways of discovering and understanding history.

To anyone who knows Professor Lee, this level of detail and dedication is hardly surprising. He has long pioneered the use of quantitative research methods to study social science and history. Professor Lee is a co-founder of the pioneering Lee-Campbell Research Group, which brings together faculty, postdocs and students to painstakingly construct, analyze and disseminate big social science data on historical and contemporary China. This “scholarship of discovery” has already transformed understanding of the Chinese state and society over the last three centuries. A book emerging from these findings, China’s Silent Revolution: The Social Origins of Peking University and Soochow University Undergraduates, 1949-2002, inspired over 100 articles, interviews, webcasts and broadcasts in 2012 and 2013, and continues to receive media attention today.

As an expert in both imperial and contemporary Chinese history and society, the sociology of populations and genealogical approaches to the study of social sciences, Professor Lee has won a slew of accolades and awards for his research. He has earned the rare distinction of being both a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow (2004) and a Peking University Changjiang Scholar (2006-2010), and has served on the editorial boards of prestigious publications such as Late Imperial China, Historical Methods and Economic History Review. His books and monographs have won a diverse array of prestigious prizes, ranging from the Social Science History Association’s Allan Sharlin Award for Best Book in Social Science History (1999) to an Outstanding Achievement in Philosophy and Social Science award from the Jiangsu Academy of Social Science (2014 and 2017).

Education is no less important to Professor Lee, who strives to advance teaching and learning through novel pedagogical approaches, such as blended and flipped classroom learning. In a Massive Open Online Course for HKUST entitled “Understanding China, 1700-2000,” for example, he uses large historical datasets to explore three centuries of Chinese history. The course’s innovative flipped classroom format has attracted thousands of students worldwide, from Brazil to Russia. As Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at HKUST, Professor Lee led efforts to build an entire curriculum of online courses taught by School faculty and introduce data analytics tools to assess students’ interest and progress. Professor Lee also enjoys working on new projects with his doctoral students, who have gone on to promising careers of their own.