In November 1986, Manchester based artist Amy Lai organised the Chinese View '86 festival. The aims of the festival, the first of its kind in the UK, was to reconnect the local Chinese community with traditional arts and crafts as well as raise awareness of Chinese culture in the wider population. A second festival was also held in 1988.
Due to the success of the festivals, the Chinese View Arts Association (CVAA) was formed in 1987 as a charitable company. The mission of the organisation was to "advance the education of the public in all forms of Chinese Culture" through cultural events and acting as a contact point between the Chinese community and other cultural organisations.
Due to demand for their services, the CVAA secured funding to open a new art and community centre in 1989. The Chinese Arts Centre, based on the first floor of 36 Charlotte Street in Manchester's China Town, would help the CVAA achieve its mission by providing a venue which would reconnect the younger generation of Chinese people in Manchester with traditional Chinese arts and crafts and well as advance the education of the general public, though exhibitions, workshops and other events. The Centre also aimed to act as an agency for Chinese culture and act as a venue for visiting Chinese groups.
Throughout the early 1990s, the Centre was affected by financial and staffing issues, and the Board of the CVAA continually reviewed the operations of the Centre. The focus of the Centre began to shift towards Chinese contemporary art and the promotion of British-based artists of Chinese heritage. By 1994, the Centre's venue was used more as a base of operations, rather than its sole venue.
In 1997 the Centre moved to new premises Edge Street in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. From this point, the operations of the Centre transformed as it worked towards becoming a national agency for Chinese arts and crafts and began to show work by artist from East Asia as well as British based artists. From the summer of 1998, the Edge Street venue was closed for refurbishment after a fire, and the Centre developed its first major touring exhibition, Representing the People, featuring artists from China who had never shown work in the UK previously. After the venue reopened in early 1999, and the Centre began its 'New Commission' scheme, which commissioned new work from young British based artists of Chinese heritage. In 2000, the operating companies name was changed from CVAA to the Chinese Arts Centre.
In 2001, the Centre secured £2.2 million from Arts Council, England, Lottery Fund to outfit a new building and support operational and marketing development of the organisation. On 27th November 2003, the Centre opened its new purposely equipped premises on Thomas Street. The RIBA award winning building featured a large gallery space, a resident artist studio, an education suite and a shop with a tea shop. The new space gave the Centre the room to expand their activities acting as an agency for Chinese arts in Britain and inviting collaborations with other organisations. The Centre’s commitment to helping the career development of British-based artist of East Asian descent was also shown in schemes such as ‘PAD’ (Professional Artist Development) and ‘EAST’ ( East Asian Strategic Training).
From 2007 the Centre celebrated its 21st anniversary and began to position itself as an international agency for Chinese Contemporary Art. Between 2009-2011, the Centre went through a period of reorganisation to improve the resilience of the organisation.
In November 2013, the Centre was rebranded the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (CFCCA). In 2014 CFCCA became a major partner in the third Asia Triennial Manchester, curating Harmonious Society, which brought 30 artists to 6 venues in Manchester.
In 2016, the Centre commemorated its 30th anniversary with a programme of events and exhibitions featuring artists, curators and academics who had previously worked with the organisation.