Shelley Rigger ’s interest in East Asia goes back as long as she can remember. “When I went to college, I just decided to take Chinese,” the Brown Professor of East Asian Politics says. “I’m sort of a contrarian.”
With an A.B. from Princeton and a Ph.D. in political science from Harvard, she came to Davidson in 1993. She has been key to the development of Far East Studies at the college.
This fall, Rigger was elected to the Board of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations. “The NCUSCR, or National Committee, has played a big role in modern U.S.-China relations from the very beginning,” Rigger said. “In the early 1970s, it organized the Ping-Pong matches that were the first opening of modern U.S.-China communication. It has always been very important in keeping U.S.-China relations on track, especially at times when governmentto- government relations were strained.”
Rigger has worked on projects with the National Committee for a decade, focusing on her area of expertise, Taiwan. In the past three summers, she has participated in National Committee seminars on Chinese affairs for military leaders in the U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force. Both retired Colonel Albert Willner and Bernard “Bud” Cole from the National War College have called Rigger “the number-one specialist” in her field.
Frequently quoted in national media outlets such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, NPR, and Reuters, Rigger is working on a book for general readers, Why Taiwan Matters. “The importance of Taiwan has not diminished in the time I have studied its history, culture, and relations with both the U.S.might be increasing,” she said.
“Today the U.S. and China have a robust diplomatic, governmental, and economic relationship,” Rigger said. “The National Committee still exists because it has longstanding credibility as a well-intentioned party to promote communication and understanding— with no other agenda. It is a privilege to serve.
“At Davidson, faculty who engage in public service are encouraged and rewarded— public service is considered a value. I treasure this.”
Photo credit:: Bill Giduz