Precursors to government involvement
In contemporary American society, one of the most important functions of the federal government is to provide direction and support for education. Before the twentieth century, the non-Western regions of the world and their spoken languages were not a concern of the American academic field. The need to develop Chinese studies in general and Chinese language studies specifically was recognized early on by three major foundations - the Rockefeller Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation, and the Ford Foundation. The Carnegie Corporation and the Rockefeller Foundation were forerunners in promoting foreign language and area studies in American academia. The Ford Foundation, created in 1936 by the second president of the Ford Motor Company, Edsel Ford, sponsored public projects in the area around Detroit in its early years. In 1952, the Ford Foundation joined the Rockefeller Foundation and Carnegie Corporation in promoting language and area studies in higher education, but initially its strategy differed from the two earlier foundations.