Community health nursing in China is an emerging specialty. A multi-component collaborative endeavor between the Schools of Nursing of Tianjin Medical University, China, and the University of Ottawa, Canada is described. This project, funded by the Canadian International Development Agency, commenced in 1989. It has laid the groundwork for an expanded role for community health nurses in Tianjin, a municipality of 11 million people located in Northeast China. The historical context for the evolution of community health nursing in China and the emergence of community health nursing as a priority area within the project are described. Major project activities are highlighted, illustrating several underlying principles for strengthening the educational preparation of baccalaureate nurses who can apply community health skills. These include creating a critical mass of faculty who can teach community health nursing, modelling classroom and clinical teaching of community health nursing, bridging the gap between nursing in the community and nursing in the hospital, and developing a prototype for baccalaureate community health nursing experience. Lessons learned from this initiative are summarized.