APA Hosts Delegation from the Chinese Psychological Society
By Dana Townsend
In October 2011, a delegation of four psychologists from the Chinese Psychological Society (CPS) visited APA headquarters in Washington, D.C. to explore the logistics of APA’ s organizational management and activities. During the two-day meeting, CPS President Dr. Yufang Yang, Past President Dr. Kan Zhang, Secretary General Dr. Xiaolan Fu, and Deputy Secretary General Dr. Buxin Han met with APA’s Executive Management Group to cover topics such as association membership, governance, finance, publications, and policy guidelines.
On day two of the meeting, APA CEO Norman Anderson and CPS President Yufang Yang signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the American Psychological Association and the Chinese Psychological Society. This MOU articulates the mutual goals of APA and CPS, and agrees to identify future projects and collaborative opportunities as the associations continue to grow and develop. Preliminary discussions included topics such as continuing education, disaster response, and public education.
CPS currently has 9000 members. Although founded in 1921, the organization faces new conditions as the Chinese economy continues to grow and psychology expands rapidly as a discipline. During the visit, staff from APA’s Office of International Affairs spoke to the delegation about psychology in China and what CPS hoped to take away from their meeting with APA. “China is in a transforming period,” said Dr. Yang. “I hope we can use APA as a model when making positive developments to our society.” In particular, the group said that APA’s business model is something they hope to replicate. “APA is structured so it can earn its own money to pay for projects and create new initiatives,” explained Dr. Fu, “while [CPS] still relies on outside sources for its funding.” Although psychology is growing in China and there is greater need for the work and pursuits of CPS, the society’s staff continues to shrink because of difficulty attaining enough funding from grants, sponsor organizations, and other outside resources. “A new business model would give CPS the freedom to expand and do much more to serve society and the people of China. The possibility makes the future seem very bright,” said Dr. Fu.
In addition to developing a new business model, CPS hopes to improve their public outreach. Dr. Zhang commented: “APA has a close relation with the U.S. society. They are engaged in public interest, while psychology in China is still developing as a science and hasn’t yet taken as strong of a societal role.” While psychology may offer a new perspective on society, it is not yet accepted as a “hard” science in China (referred to in the U.S. as a STEM discipline — Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). According to Dr. Han, the marketing of psychology in China is still a big challenge. “Getting society to accept psychology as a discipline and trust in it continues as a barrier. There must be more task forces to make psychology consistent and sustainable as a respected discipline,” he said.
In spite of these challenges, the group was surprised to hear about APA’s struggles in gaining recognition for psychology as a STEM discipline, as well as its push to improve the amount of government funding reserved for psychology programs and internships. Dr. Yang said that while much of society has not yet accepted psychology, China’s government believes strongly in the discipline and really tries to approach issues using psychological expertise. “There are a lot of problems [in China] because the country is in social transition, and psychology can be helpful to address issues such as the income gap and education imbalance,” she said. “The government recognizes psychology’s importance and wants to help develop psychology, but doesn’t quite know how to provide support.” She said that the government could be doing more, but the fact that they are focusing on psychology shows that things are moving in a positive direction.
This meeting was the result of a long process of communication between CPS and APA, begun years ago by APA’s former CEO Raymond Fowler. “For 30 years, CPS has wanted to visit APA, and this is the first dedication to the partnership between the two organizations,” said Dr. Zhang. “We have really been able to feel the excitement and hospitality of the people at APA.” To view photos from the delegation’s visit, please see our album on Flickr.