Students laughing while doing homework

U.S.-China Student Challenge

U.S.-China relations have reached their lowest point in a half-century. For U.S.-China relations to move from precarious confrontation to managed competition, creative thinking will be needed. In September 2020, the Georgetown University Initiative for U.S.-China Dialogue on Global Issues organized a student challenge to identify creative ways to reset the U.S.-China relationship at a turbulent, historic juncture.

Resetting the World’s Most Important Relationship

U.S.-China relations have reached their lowest point in a half-century. From trade and finance to Hong Kong, human rights, and the South China Sea—the relationship between Washington, DC, and Beijing has been marked by increasingly harsh rhetoric and antagonistic actions.

For U.S.-China relations to move from precarious confrontation to managed competition, creative thinking will be needed. There is no doubt that strategic, economic, and ideological rivalry will characterize the relationship into the future. But both countries—and the global community—have a strong interest in peaceful interaction and (where possible) productive cooperation around issues ranging from trade and security to global health and climate change.

In September 2020, the Georgetown University Initiative for U.S.-China Dialogue on Global Issues organized a student challenge to identify creative ways to reset the U.S.-China relationship at a turbulent, historic juncture. Teams made up of four undergraduates (with two each enrolled at institutions in the United States and in the People’s Republic of China) were invited to develop concrete ideas for resetting the U.S.-China relationship.

The 2020-2021 U.S.-China Student Challenge received 26 high-quality submissions from teams involving over 100 undergraduate students from leading institutions in the United States and China. Eight teams advanced to the final round in October. With feedback from the selection committee made up of Georgetown faculty, the teams further develop their ideas into 1,000 to 1,500 word essays and three- to four-minute video presentations. Two winners will be selected and announced in February 2021.

Team Finalists

Global Health

Advancing the U.S.-China Relationship through Global Health

The team proposes that the United States and China strengthen their relationship through cooperation to head off the next pandemic by coordinating national strategies and strengthening international governance.

Team Members

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Portrait of Xiaoxiang Chen
Xiaoxiang Chen

Fudan University

Xiaoxiang Chen is a junior studying business management in the School of Management at Fudan University, China. Chen’s academic interests are investments, finance, and business, as well as international affairs and political interactions. He is a professional debater and enjoys cooperating with teammates from home and abroad to develop concrete ideas for resetting the U.S.-China relationship.

Portrait of Yiran Fang
Yiran Fang

University of California, San Diego

Yiran Fang is a freshman at the University of California, San Diego majoring in economics. Fang is from Shijiazhuang, China, and attended high school in Pittsburgh. She enjoys baking, boxing, and learning new languages like Spanish and Japanese.

Portrait of Yangtian Ye
Yangtian Ye

Renmin University of China

Yangtian Ye is a student in the School of Finance at Renmin University of China. Ye is from Jiangxi Province, China. She enjoys going to the gym, reading, and playing the piano, as well as challenging herself to try new things, including communicating and learning from different people.

Portrait of William MacMillan
William MacMillan

University of Virginia

William MacMillan is an undergraduate student at the University of Virginia, majoring in mathematics and Mandarin Chinese language. MacMillan is interested in using mathematics to conduct research in public policy, especially policy impacting U.S.-China relations. He is from Allentown, Pennsylvania, and his interests include hiking and traveling to learn different languages and cultural traditions.

Green Tech

Green Tech as a Nexus of Cooperation in U.S.-China Relations

The team proposes a range of economic and policy measures designed to quicken the adoption of green technology developments in both countries and maintain environmental collaboration in the context of strategic competition.

Team Members

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Portrait of John Bewley
John Bewley

University of Hong Kong

John Bewley was born and raised in Hong Kong, and he is currently double majoring in political science and European studies at the University of Hong Kong. Bewley’s academic interests include Sino-EU relations, hegemonic stability theory, and public administration in colonial Hong Kong. He enjoys listening to music, visiting art museums, solitary hiking, and binge-watching Netflix.

Portrait of Ta Chuan Chang
Ta Chuan Chang

University of Hong Kong

Ta Chuan Chang is a third-year student at the University of Hong Kong pursuing a bachelor of finance in asset management and private banking. Chang is from Taipei, Taiwan, and interested in political science, especially U.S.-China relations and electoral affairs in Taiwan. In his spare time, he enjoys playing table tennis, exploring the latest technology, and reading.

Portrait of Jonathon Marek
Jonathon Marek

Georgetown University

Jonathon Marek, originally from Chicago, is a senior in the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, majoring in international political economy with a Chinese minor and Asian studies certificate. Marek is a project assistant with the Trade Center at the National Bureau of Asian Research, where he studies U.S.-Asia trade, innovation, and economic strategy issues. As a Mortara Undergraduate Research Fellow, he has studied Chinese rural development policy and domestic politics. He is interested in trade policy, geo-economics, and innovation policy issues as they relate to the future of U.S. involvement in Asia and strategic competition with China.

Portrait of Nicole Huang
Nicole Huang

Smith College

Nicole Huang is a junior at Smith College double majoring in studio art and east Asian literature, with a concentration in translation studies. Huang is interested in how countries interact with each other through aspects of art, literature, and culture as a whole. She is currently running a clothing business, interns at museums, and enjoys making art and writing poetry.

Health and Environment

Rebuilding Trust through Collaboration on Public Health, the Environment, and Sustainability

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the global climate crisis, the team’s proposal focuses on the potential of innovative transnational research and cross-sectional infrastructure projects in areas of shared interest—public health, the environment, and sustainability—to catalyze cooperation and build trust to help reset the U.S.-China relationship.

Team Members

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Portrait of Angelina Chen
Angelina Chen

Colorado College

Angelina Chen, from Guangzhou, China, is a junior at Colorado College double majoring in anthropology and history-political science. Chen is currently working with the Title IX office on campus and a LGBTQIA+ youth organization in Colorado Springs. She enjoys watching documentaries, listening to music, and playing the game lan.

Portrait of Tristan Murdoch
Tristan Murdoch

New York University in Shanghai

Tristan Murdoch, originally from Dubois, Wyoming, studies at New York University in Shanghai. Murdoch is a junior majoring in global China studies, with a focus on Chinese language, history, politics, and how China interacts with other east Asian countries and the world. He enjoys reading novels, watching films and documentaries, and spending time outdoors on hikes and other adventures.

Portrait of Olia Zhang
Olia Zhang

New York University

Olia Zhang, from Xiamen, China, is a senior at New York University. Zhang developed an individualized curriculum in human experiences, community empowerment, and social transformation with a minor in global urban education. She loves food, poetry, plants, animals, films, and music.

Portrait of Frank Mattimoe
Frank Mattimoe

New York University in Shanghai

Frank Mattimoe, from Stony Brook, New York, is a junior at New York University in Shanghai, China. Mattimoe is a double major in international relations and global China studies with a minor in Chinese language. He enjoys traveling and experiencing new cultures, as well as reading books about history and contemporary politics. Currently, he is a legislative intern at the United States House of Representatives, where he is researching contemporary U.S.-China and Eurasian relations.


Collaboration on the Recycling of E-waste Across the Pacific

To improve the U.S.-China relationship, we collaborated on a project which would reduce the production of electronics and mitigate problems in recycling them, which would benefit both countries and prove to ourselves and others that our countries have common goals.

Team Members

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Portrait of Mikahla Conrad
Mikahla Conrad

University of Findlay

Mikahla Conrad is a senior at the University of Findlay studying environmental safety and occupational health and minoring in sustainability. Conrad is from Lakeside Marblehead, Ohio, and enjoys kayaking and running. She is passionate about protecting the environment for future generations and hopes to pursue a career in environmental policy.

Portrait of Shijia Wang
Shijia Wang

Hangzhou Normal University

Shijia Wang is a junior majoring in health service and management at Hangzhou Normal University. Wang is from Ningbo, Zhejiang province. She has an outgoing personality, enjoys volunteering, and hopes to do her part to make the world a better place.

Portrait of Mingqi Zhou
Mingqi Zhou

Hangzhou Normal University

Mingqi Zhou is a junior studying health service and management at Hangzhou Normal University. Zhou is from Jining, Shandong, the hometown of Confucius and Mencius, where the Grand Canal passes through the city. He enjoys outdoor activities like hiking and cycling, and he loves to visit museums.

Portrait of Jalin Marston
Jalin Marston

University of Findlay

Jalin Marston is a senior at the University of Findlay studying animal science with minors in biology and sustainability. Marston is from East Kingston, New Hampshire. She plays softball for the University of Findlay and also enjoys riding horses and hiking. She is an avid outdoorswoman and hopes to pursue a career that will allow her to work in nature.


Space as a Catalyst for U.S.-China Cooperation

Given the surge of global interest in a new phase of space exploration, this team is exploring how cooperation in the sector represents a promising opportunity for peaceful collaboration on scientific projects that can improve overall bilateral ties.

Team Members

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Portrait of Spencer Kaplan
Spencer Kaplan

Duke University

Spencer Kaplan, from Rye Brook, New York, is a senior at Duke University, double majoring in public policy and political science with a minor in earth and ocean sciences. Passionate about the convergence of space and security, Kaplan plans to pursue a career in space strategy and sustainability. At Duke, he researched space-based nuclear generators for NASA and the risks of the Mission to Mars. During summer 2020 he interned for the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Ultimately, Kaplan hopes to write the constitution for an international settlement on Mars.

Portrait of Joanne Kim
Joanne Kim

Duke University

Joanne Kim, from Joplin, Missouri, is a junior at Duke University studying public policy and pursuing a minor in psychology with an innovation and entrepreneurship certificate. Kim’s research and interests lie at the intersection of technology, ethics, and health with her previous work covering topics such as medical AI, data privacy/security, and the implications of stalkerware. She co-leads Ethical Tech, a non-partisan research initiative, and Devilthon, Duke's dance marathon and fundraising group for CMN and the Duke Children's Hospital. She is also a policy competitor and the new member training programmer as part of the Cyber Team.

Portrait of Hong Pham
Hong Pham

Duke Kunshan University

Hong Pham, from Mars Hill, North Carolina, is a junior at Duke Kunshan University studying global health with a track in public policy. Pham is passionate about innovation and entrepreneurship and the study of intercultural competence and engagement. Her research is currently in intercultural engagement and international education, mobile participatory health surveillance networks, and pandemic detection, as well as health research based in Sri Lanka. In the future, Pham hopes to further advance her education in humanitarian relief and crisis management and ultimately work as an international humanitarian worker.

Portrait of Lan Tang
Lan Tang

Duke Kunshan University

Lan Tang, from Shanghai, China, is a junior at Duke Kunshan University, majoring in environmental science and public policy. Since her visit to the 72nd United Nations General Assembly as a Chinese youth delegate, she has found a genuine passion for the intersection between business and sustainability. Tang was selected as an undergraduate research scholar last summer and has researched projects on ESG (environment, social, and governance) investing, biodiversity financing, and South China Sea conflicts. She is currently founding a provincial-awarded innovation project dedicated to improving literacy regarding privacy terms of Chinese mobile apps. She would like to pursue a career in sustainability consulting or green consumer-goods brands.


The “Sportsmanship” Approach to U.S.-China Relations

Like a player’s expectation of shared conditions, the team proposes the “Sportsmanship Approach” where the United States and China should agree-to-disagree on first principles. They argue that such a framework will enable both sides to solidify communication, cooperate on shared interests, and align expectations on areas where interests diverge.

Team Members

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Portrait of Valerie Ma
Valerie Ma

Georgetown University

Valerie Ma is a senior at Georgetown University, studying international politics as well as French and Asian studies. Originally from Hong Kong, Ma went to high school in the United States. She is mainly interested in the rise of China and its intersections with East Asian foreign policy and international trade and technology. Outside of school, she enjoys drawing, dancing, and exploring new places.

Portrait of Steven Vo
Steven Vo

Georgetown University

Steven Vo is a junior at Georgetown University studying political economy and Chinese. Hailing from Vietnam, he currently works for the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center and serves as editor-in-chief of the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs. A global editorial board member of Young China Watchers, Vo is interested in the history of U.S.-China relations, China’s rise, and its implications for ASEAN. He enjoys film photography, cooking, and exploring new coffee shops.

Portrait of Huiling Zhou
Huiling Zhou

Communication University of China

Huiling Zhou is a senior at the Communication University of China majoring in broadcast journalism with a specialization in international communication. Originally from Changsha, China, Zhou’s research interests lie in political communication, as well as China’s domestic and foreign policies. She serves as managing editor of the U.S.-China Better Relations Coalition and previously worked for the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center and the Associated Press.

Portrait of John Paul Rugaba
John Paul Rugaba

Zhengzhou University

John Paul Rugaba is an undergraduate student at Zhengzhou University, China, majoring in software engineering. Originally from Uganda, he is a blogger, tech enthusiast, and passionate follower of global affairs and the history of foreign policy.


Resetting U.S.-China Relations through Subnational Economic Cooperation

The team is exploring the potential of subnational actors, specifically Chinese provinces, U.S. states, and local and regional businesses, to strengthen their economic ties and foster a better overall bilateral relationship.

Team Members

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Portrait of Coco Chai
Coco Chai

Yale University

Coco Chai is a junior at Yale University from Beijing, China. Chai is majoring in global affairs and economics. She works to promote cross-cultural dialogue and intellectual exchange as a liaison in the Greenberg World Fellows Program and as part of Yale China In Focus, a student-run organization that facilitates conversation around Chinese socioeconomic and political affairs. She has conducted foreign policy research at the Yale Roosevelt Institute and contributed to the Yale Review of International Studies. Coco is a student-athlete and a core member of the Yale Women’s Golf Team.

Portrait of Susan Lin
Susan Lin

Duke Kunshan University

Susan Lin, from New York, is a freshman at Duke Kunshan University . Susan hopes to major in either environmental policy or data science. Lin attributes her interest in international affairs to the time she spent in Ecuador during her gap year, where she witnessed real political change through dedicated grassroots efforts. She hopes to channel her education into actionable knowledge to solve the most prevalent issues of her generation, including the complex relationship between agriculture and environment as well as artificial intelligence ethics. She enjoys playing her charango, practicing muay thai and volleyball, and reading and writing.

Portrait of Gavin Xu
Gavin Xu

Trinity College (Connecticut)

Gavin Xu is a senior at Trinity College (Connecticut) from Beijing, China, majoring in political science and urban studies. Xu is interested in comparative politics with a specific focus on authoritarian and democratic governance in East Asia. He has assisted Trinity’s Center on Urban and Global Studies with research projects on China. As a Tanaka Research-Study Grant recipient, he conducted research on the two main political parties in Taiwan in the summer of 2019. He has interned with various government agencies in Connecticut and volunteered in local political campaigns.

Charlie Colasurdo
Charlie Colasurdo

Duke Kunshan University

Charlie Colasurdo is a sophomore at Duke Kunshan University. Originally from Westport, Connecticut, he has traveled to Singapore, Vietnam, and Thailand, where he worked in a variety of fields including sustainable construction materials development, heritage conservation, and tourism. His academic interests include Mandarin Chinese and studying the intersections of sustainable development, education, the global economy, and Asia. Colasurdo is involved in student recruitment at Duke Kunshan University, student affairs, and serves as an editor for the Duke Chronicle.


Telemedicine Cooperation as a Path Forward for U.S.-China Relations

The team proposes to deepen U.S.-China cooperation in telemedicine, a critical area for the health and economic sectors in both countries with the potential to catalyze cooperation across other dimensions of the bilateral relationship.

Team Members

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Portrait of William Yuen Yee
William Yuen Yee

Columbia University

William Yuen Yee, from Los Angeles, California, is a junior at Columbia University studying political science and East Asian languages and cultures. Yee was previously awarded the U.S. Department of State’s CLS and NSLI-Y Scholarships to study in China and Taiwan. He conducts research on U.S.-China relations and international law for professor Thomas Christensen at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. He also serves as a research intern for the Freeman Chair in China Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and he previously worked for U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and U.S. Congressman Adriano Espaillat. His interests include Chinese foreign policy, law, and journalism.

Portrait of Lingli Tang
Lingli Tang

Duke Kunshan University

Lingli Tang is from Mianyang, Sichuan province, China. Tang is a junior majoring in global health and public policy at Duke Kunshan University. She has a strong passion for education, health, and social entrepreneurship. She is the founder of KEY club (Knowledge and Education for the Youth), and the initiator for the Blossom Program aimed at helping medical workers’ children during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Portrait of Patrick Beyrer
Patrick Beyrer

University of Pennsylvania

Patrick Beyrer, from Long Island, New York, is a senior at the University of Pennsylvania majoring in East Asian languages and civilizations, and he is also on the pre-med track. Beyrer has been involved in radiology research, served as a Chinese language hospital volunteer, and interned at a China-focused investigative research firm. He has studied abroad in China twice through the U.S. Department of State's NSLI-Y and CLS programs and is also a two-time Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellow. His professional interests lie in health care exchange between the United States and China.

Portrait of Daizhuo Wu
Daizhuo Wu

Renmin University of China

Daizhuo Wu, from Guizhou, China, is an environmental science major in the School of Environment and Natural Resources at Renmin University of China. Her academic interests include U.S.-China relations and understanding the differences in rural and urban China.


Over 100 undergraduate students from leading institutions in the United States and China participated in the U.S.-China Student Challenge.

Ariana Alvarez, New York University Shanghai
Alejandra Arevalo, New York University
Spencer Asch, New York University
John Bewley, University of Hong Kong
Patrick Beyrer, University of Pennsylvania
Christina Bowllan, New York University Shanghai
Jingwei Coco Chai, Yale University
Ta Chang, University of Hong Kong
Krit Chanwong, University of Virginia
Angelina Chen, Colorado College
Xiaoxiang Chen, Fudan University
Charlie Colasurdo, Duke Kunshan University
Joseph Collins, New York University Shanghai
Mikahla Conrad, University of Findlay
Cui Yuanrui, Renmin University of China
Valerie Aguilar Dellisanti, Brown University
Xiaotian Dong, Peking University
Ari Fahimi, University of California, Los Angeles
Yiran Fang, University of California, San Diego
Evan Finley, Duke University
Emily Sara Freedman, New York University
Xiangyi Phoebe Fu, George Washington University
Weng Zhen Joshua Gan, Duke Kunshan University
Charlie Graham, Duke University
Zhiqing Guo, New York University Shanghai
Kim Guo, Renmin University of China
Kalkidan Hailegiorgis, Duke Kunshan University
Jiayi Hao, Duke University
William Howard, New York University Shanghai
Annabel Howell, Duke University
Qitian Hu, University of Chicago
Nicole Huang, Smith College
Ethan Huang, New York University Shanghai
Yichu Huang, Georgetown University
Madison Hujber, Haverford College

Jessica Jiang, Cornell University
Spencer Kaplan, Duke University
Joanne Kim, Duke University
Nicholas Kovacich, Duke Kunshan University
Yujie Lan, New York University Shanghai
Heather Law, New York University
Susan Lin, Duke Kunshan University
Jason Ze Zheng Lin, Renmin University of China
Haowen Liu, Georgetown University
Beining Liu, Fudan University
Valerie Ma, Georgetown University
William MacMillan, University of Virginia
Samuel Adrian Mamaril, University of Virginia
Jonathon Marek, Georgetown University
Jalin Marston, University of Findlay
Munyinda Matakala, Zhengzhou University
Frank Mattimoe, New York University Shanghai
Ryan McNamara, Duke University
Maria Mixan, Duke Kunshan University
Raul Moreno, Indiana University Bloomington
Tristan Murdoch, New York University Shanghai
Alberto Najarro, Duke Kunshan University
Jingyao Ni, Peking University
Samuel Ong, New York University Shanghai
Enrico Harry David Gordon Paragas, New York University Shanghai
John Paul Rugaba, Zhengzhou University
Bevan Penn, Duke Kunshan University
Hong Pham, Duke Kunshan University
Rodrigo Reyes, New York University Shanghai
Britt Rogers, Indiana University Bloomington
Michael Sauer, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Sophia Schein, Washington University in St. Louis
Jackson Smith, George Washington University
Corinne Southern, Duke Kunshan University
Ayelet Spertus, Washington University in St. Louis

Henry Stevens, Duke Kunshan University
Lan Tang, Duke Kunshan University
Lingli Tang, Duke Kunshan University
Daniel Troy, Georgetown University
Steven Vo, Georgetown University
Ruihan Wan, Duke Kunshan University
Shijia Wang, Hangzhou Normal University
Yunhua Wang, China Foreign Affairs University
Jiyan Wang, New York University Shanghai
Jiayi Jessica Wang, Georgetown University
Jiawen Wang, Haverford College
Cindy Wang, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Dennis Wang, Duke University
Maatkara Wilson, University of Chicago
Ian Wong, University of California, Berkeley
Daizhuo Wu, Renmin University of China
Yinjie Gavin Xu, Trinity College
Jingzhi Sandy Xu, New York University Shanghai
Sabrina Shuman Yang, Huazhong University of Science and Technology
Sunny Ye, Renmin University of China
Drake Zihao Ye, Fudan University
William Yuen Yee, Columbia University
Wang Yinqi, New York University Shanghai
Yue You, Beijing Foreign Studies University
Elva Yu, Duke Kunshan University
Qiaoqian Olia Zhang, New York University
Stephanie Zhang, Emory University
Josh Zhao, Peking University
Ziqian Zheng, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Qingyi Zhi, Beijing Foreign Studies University
Huiling Zhou, Communication University of China
Mingqi Zhou, Hangzhou Normal University
Joey Hongyi Zhou, George Washington University
Huiyin Zhou, Duke University

Institutions Represented

Participants in the U.S.-China Student Challenge represent 12 Chinese institutions and 25 U.S. institutions.

Beijing Foreign Studies University
Brown University
China Foreign Affairs University
Colorado College
Columbia University
Communication University of China
Cornell University
Duke Kunshan University
Duke University
Emory University
Fudan University
George Washington University
Georgetown University

Hangzhou Normal University
Haverford College
Huazhong University of Science and Technology
Indiana University Bloomington
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
New York University
New York University Shanghai
Peking University
Renmin University of China
Smith College
Trinity College
University of California, Berkeley

University of California, Los Angeles
University of California, San Diego
University of Chicago
University of Findlay
University of Hong Kong
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
University of Pennsylvania
University of Virginia
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Washington University in St. Louis
Yale University
Zhengzhou University