Last year, administrators at the California Institute of Technology received a pleasant surprise: a letter from a Hong Kong foundation asking if they would be interested in having the foundation support Asian graduate students at Caltech, particularly students from the People's Republic of China.

The letter came from the Shaw Foundation, a private charitable enterprise established in 1973 by Sir Run Run Shaw, an 82-year-old native of Shanghai. Sir Run Run heads the Shaw Brothers Organisation, which owns and operates movie theaters in Southeast Asia and North America, film and television studios in Hong Kong, and real estate interests in Southeast Asia, North America, and Great Britain.

Although "there had been some previous contact" between Caltech administrators and the foundation, says Meredith Roche, director of foundation relations at Caltech, "we did not contact them and ask if there was a program" to support Caltech students. Rather, she says, "they invited...

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