William C. Kirby

William C. Kirby

Spangler Family Professor of Business Administration
T. M. Chang Professor of China Studies
Chairman, Harvard China Fund
William C. Kirby

Office Hours:  By appointment (contact Alice Foster McCallum at amccallum@hbs.edu)

William C. Kirby is Spangler Family Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and T. M. Chang Professor of China Studies at Harvard University.  He is a University Distinguished Service Professor.  Professor Kirby serves as Chairman of the Harvard China Fund, the University's academic venture fund for China, and Faculty Chair of the Harvard Center Shanghai, Harvard's first University-wide center located outside the United States.

A historian by training, Professor Kirby examines contemporary China's business, economic, and political development in an international context.  He writes and teaches on the growth of modern companies in China (Chinese and foreign; state-owned and private); Chinese corporate law and company structure; business relations across Greater China (PRC, Taiwan, Hong Kong); and China's relations with the United States and Europe.  He has authored or co-authored more than forty HBS cases on business in China, ranging from start-ups to SOEs; agribusiness and middle-class consumption; banking and microfinance; healthcare and education; corporate governance and corporate social responsibility; and the global strategies of Chinese firms.  His current projects include case studies of trend-setting Chinese businesses and a comparative study of higher education in China, Europe, and the United States. His most recent book is Can China Lead? (Harvard Business Review Press).

Before coming to Harvard in 1992, he was Professor of History, Director of Asian Studies, and Dean of University College at Washington University in St. Louis.  At Harvard, Professor Kirby has served as Chair of the History Department, Director of the Harvard University Asia Center, Director of the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

As Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, he led Harvard's largest school, with 10,000 students, 1,000 faculty members, 2,500 staff, and an annual budget of $1 billion. He initiated major reforms in undergraduate education in Harvard College; enhanced Harvard's international studies at home and abroad; increased substantially financial aid in the College and in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences; supported the growth of the Division (now School) of Engineering and Applied Sciences; and oversaw the construction of major new buildings in the Life Sciences, Engineering, and the Arts.  During his tenure, the Faculty expanded at its most rapid rate since the 1960s.

Professor Kirby's research and consulting have focused on strategies for business and education in China.  He serves on the Board of Directors of Cabot Corporation; The China Fund, Inc.; The Taiwan Fund, Inc.; the American Council of Learned Societies; and Harvard University Press. He chairs the Academic Advisory Council for Schwarzman Scholars at Tsinghua University and serves as Senior Advisor on China to Duke University.

Professor Kirby holds degrees from Dartmouth College, Harvard University, and (Dr. Phil. Honoris Causa) from the Freie Universität Berlin and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.  He has been named Honorary Professor at Tsinghua University, Peking University, Nanjing University, Fudan University, Zhejiang University, Chongqing University, East China Normal University, the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, and National Chengchi University.  He has held appointments also as Visiting Professor at University of Heidelberg and the Freie Universität Berlin.  He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Selected Publications

  • Can China Lead? Reaching the Limits of Power and Growth (2014)
  • The People's Republic of China at 60--An International Assessment (2011)
  • Prospects for the Professions in China co-editor (2010)
  • China and the World: Internationalization, Internalization, Externalization (Zhongguo yu shije: guojihua, neihua yu waihua) co-editor (2007)
  • The Normalization of U.S.-China Relations: An International History co-editor (2006)
  • Global Conjectures: China in Transnational Perspective
    co-editor (2006)
  • Realms of Freedom in the Modern Chinese World editor (2004)
  • State and Economy in Republican China: A Handbook for Scholars (2001)



Contact Information

Fairbank Center
Center for Government and International Studies-South Building
Room S128
1730 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
p: 617-495-5119

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