How do you solve a problem like North Korea? This question vexes policymakers around the world, and the situation seems to be growing more dangerous by the day. From September 29 to October 4, 2017, the second cohort of the U.S.-China Student Fellows program met at Georgetown University to take a hard look at this seemingly unsolvable problem with regional and global ramifications.
Sponsored by the Georgetown Initiative for U.S.-China Dialogue on Global Issues, the fellows program enables eight to 10 young leaders selected from top U.S. and Chinese colleges and universities to participate in dialogue through in-person meetings, a web-based platform, and networking opportunities.
The second cohort of 10 fellows was selected through a competitive essay and video competition in summer 2017. The fellows come from a range of disciplines, including international relations, environmental science, mathematics, and psychiatry. During the course of the 2017-2018 academic year, fellows will apply their diverse experiences as they engage in dialogue on the theme of “Risks and Opportunities in an Evolving International System.”
Nuclear Crisis Simulation
The fellows’ first meeting in Washington, D.C., encompassed a simulation on the North Korean nuclear crisis, policy briefings with U.S. and Chinese government officials and scholars, as well as exchanges with Georgetown faculty and students.
The simulation, led by Professor Dennis Wilder, managing director for the Georgetown Initiative for U.S.-China Dialogue, offered several possible scenarios of North Korea’s nuclear development that called for immediate action by the United States and China. The fellows were split into two teams and role-played the top leaders in each other’s countries during negotiations with their counterparts.
This exercise required fellows not only to think deeply about the history and politics of the North Korea issue, but also to embrace teamwork in order to develop strategies that suited the best interest of the country they represented.
“In this simulation, it was a lot of fun to take a different perspective to look at things. I was on the United States side in the third simulation, and it was really meaningful for me to take their perspective and understand their values in order to learn their way of doing things in the global atmosphere,” commented student fellow Yunxin Wang.
Meeting the D.C. Community
The student fellows also participated in visits and briefings at the White House, the Chinese Embassy, Department of State, and the Brookings Institution. Chinese Ambassador Cui Tiankai, National Security Council Director for East Asia Matthew Pottinger, Acting Deputy Director for the China Desk at the Department of State Christopher Klein, and Director of the Foreign Policy Program at the Brookings Institution Michael O’Hanlon shared their views on the current issues in U.S.-China relations.
“In discussing the motivations of China with the Chinese ambassador—which was an incredible experience—and talking to the State Department and National Security Council, it really impressed upon me that these issues and decisions are not that simple. In any situation, splitting it into an idealistic and pragmatist duality leaves out the possibility for considering other important perspectives,” said fellow Jessie Dalman, as she reflected on the meetings with policymakers and how their real-world considerations contrasted with theoretical frameworks she learned in courses.
Exploring Georgetown University
The student fellows also had the opportunity to interact with Georgetown faculty and students. Walsh School of Foreign Service Professor Dr. Joanna Lewis and School of Nursing and Health Studies Associate Professor Dr. Jennifer Huang Bouey addressed the group on relevant issues in climate change and global health, respectively.
Fellows also had plenty of free time to get to know each other and the wider Georgetown community. Among other activities, the fellows attended a Georgetown-Harvard football game, where they were joined by other Georgetown students with a deep interest in Asia and U.S.-Chinese relations.
Yamillet Payano of American University reflected fondly on the five-day meeting and the importance of student-to-student dialogue: “I think U.S. and Chinese students need to work together because, at the end of the day, we are the leading force of our two nations, and gaining an early understanding of each other culturally can give us a base to further our dialogue in the future. There is something about that personal interaction that changes your entire view and gives you an understanding about where others are coming from. An early exposure can not only help us understand but also adjust our framework when coming into a room to establish dialogues about future problems."
Over the coming months students will continue their discussions through blogs until they meet again in Beijing in June 2018.