LSE has been actively involved with Asia since its inception. Beatrice and Sidney Webb, two of the founders of LSE, were deeply interested in Asia. They travelled through Asia during a tour of the world in 1898 and again in 1911-12 visiting China, Japan, Korea, Malaya, Burma and India.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950), another founder of the School, took such a great interest in China that he paid the country a visit in 1939, mingling with the Chinese elite including the Director of Academia Sinica Cai Yuanpei (1868-1940), the left-wing writer Lu Xun (1881-1936) and the social activist Dr Sun Yat-sun’s widow Song Qinling (1893-1981). He even flew over the Great Wall in an aeroplane.

Meanwhile, Richard Henry Tawney (1880-1962), Professor of Economic History at LSE and the co-founder of the Economic History Society and Economic History Review, travelled to China in 1932. He was among the first Western scholars who systematically studied China with new techniques and methodologies of Western social sciences. Professor Tawney's findings were later published in a pioneer work Life and Labour in China (New York: Octagon Books, 1964).

LSE has produced top academics from China. The best known figure has been Professor Fei Xiaotong (or Fei Hsiao-t'ung) 费孝通 (1910-2005) who was a pioneering Chinese anthropologist, sociologist, social activist and senior Chinese political leader. From 1936 to 1938, Professor Fei studied for his doctoral degree at LSE under the supervision of Professor Bronislaw Malinowski (1884-1942). Professor Fei pioneered rural grassroots field work in China studying the structure of Chinese society and the essence of Chinese culture. He survived brutal persecution for his honesty and academic integrity under the Maoist regime (1949-1976). Professor Fei was an Honorary Fellow and one of the school's most distinguished alumni.

From the 1920s to the 1940s, many Chinese intellectuals studied and undertook research at LSE where Professor Harold Laski's work was influential in their thinking. These included Luo Longji 罗隆基, Chu Anping 储安平, Fei Xiaotong 费孝通, Wang Zaoshi 王造时, Wu Enyu 吴恩裕, Xu Zhimo 徐志摩, Jin Yuelin 金岳霖, Zhang Junli 张君励, Zhang Xiruo 张奚若, Chen Yuan 陈源, Xiao Qian 萧乾, and Gong Xiangrui 龚祥瑞.

Wang Tieya 王铁崖 (1913-2003), an eminent Chinese jurist and former judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, was educated at Tsinghua University and LSE. Wang became one of the leading authorities on International Law in China.

The new generation of LSE alumni are playing active roles in China's economics, trade, foreign affairs and academia. In the areas of foreign affairs and foreign trade, famous LSE alumni include Zhou Wenzhong 周文重, Zhang Yesui 张业隧, Long Yongtu 龙永图, Wang Guangya 王光亚 and Yang Jiechi 杨洁篪. In July 2006, Mr Long Yongtu was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Science (Economics) by LSE.

LSE currently has a wide base and comprehensive range of research activities relating to China. This is the result of decades of individual academics engaging with colleagues at Chinese universities and Chinese policy makers.

George Bernard Shaw in Shanghai, 1933
Shanghai, 1933. From the left: Agnes Smedley, George Bernard Shaw, Song Qinling, Cai Yuanpei and Lu Xun
Professor Richard Henry Tawney
Richard Henry Tawney, Professor of Economic History, 1931-49
Professor Fei Xiaotong at LSE, 1986