Wednesday, January 7, 2015

HNC Students at the APEC Youth Conference in Beijing

HNC Certificate/SAIS MA student Dennis Hong was one of two HNC students selected to represent their countries in November's APEC Youth Week in Beijing, China.  Representing the Republic of Korea, Dennis shares his experiences below.  Are you applying for the HNC Certificate/SAIS MA program?  Don't forget that the application deadline is today, January 7!

On the occasion of China's hosting of the 2014 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders' Meeting, I had the honor of participating in its 7-day Youth Week Program as a youth representative of the Republic of Korea. Sponsored by All-China Youth Federation, China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Education, and Commerce of China, the 2014 APEC Youth Program Organizing Committee has gathered young leaders from all 21 APEC economies to the Chinese capital for the first time. As an international student studying at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center in China, being selected to represent my own country at this international forum was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The program has not only provided me with a meaningful venue to meet and forge relationships with some of the greatest young minds from the region, but more importantly, it has left an indelible mark on my personal values and worldviews.

The 2014 APEC Youth Week kicked off at Tsinghua University in Beijing on November 4, 2014 with an opening ceremony and a series of dialogues with CEOs from Asia-Pacific, where APEC officials, entrepreneurs, and business leaders delivered keynote addresses on business strategies and new drivers of economic growth in the region. It was particularly exciting for me to hear directly from these experienced business stakeholders and young successful start-ups who have been at the forefront of innovation and entrepreneurship. As a student of international relations and economics, I was also able to reflect on my potential career paths and immense possibilities associated with business opportunities in China. I dream of working in one of the fastest growing Chinese cities in the future, be it Beijing, Shanghai or Hong Kong, to help connect South Korean people and firms with local Chinese to launch a new business and ultimately working for the South Korean government to strengthen its bilateral relations with China. Insights and wisdom from these business leaders made it clear that my future will be inextricably linked with Asia.
Another major highlight of the 2014 APEC Youth Week was the Youth Summit, where I had a chance to discuss two very important topics of this year's APEC - Internet Economy and People-to-People Connectivity - with 70 other youth representatives from the 21 APEC economies. Simulating the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting, this policy discussion session provided me with an opportunity to study some of the most critical global issues, learn to analyze them from multiple perspectives, and contribute my voice to the policy-making process of APEC. I also had an honor of leading a discussion on cross-border education as a key initiative of strengthening people-to-people ties in Asia-Pacific, which was later drafted as part of the 2014 Youth Declaration submitted to APEC Senior Officials. Interacting and debating these issues with the outstanding young minds from other parts of the region have helped me to picture myself as an aspiring South Korean young diplomat working to advance the country's interests around the world.
Furthermore, a field trip to Microsoft China Center in Beijing and a forum with Mr. Bob Hawke, the former Prime Minister of Australia have added much value and insights into my understanding on entrepreneurship and business in China, supplementing my interests in the Asia-Pacific affairs. The state-of-the-art Microsoft R&D Center boasted some of the most cutting-edge technology in China, and it was very exciting to experience how the technical training and support the center provides have benefited many star-ups in the region through its Microsoft Ventures Accelerator program. Besides, hearing directly from Mr. Bob Hawke, also known as "the founding father of APEC", on the current status of APEC and its future provided me with an opportunity to reflect on some of the major progresses that have been made in APEC over the past few years. As he has pointed out, this multinational economic forum is poised to make a further progress in the years to come with increasing activities and exchanges among the youth, and I was honored to be part of the process in China as this year marked the 25th anniversary of APEC.
Perhaps the best part about participating in the 2014 APEC Youth Week was an invitation to the APEC CEO Summit, the premier business event in the Asia-Pacific region where business leaders engage in discussions with APEC Economic Leaders, policy makers, academics and other CEOs on issues facing the region. During this two-day summit, I was not only able to learn more about such key themes as economic reforms, global finance and inequality, innovation, and public-private sector partnerships, but also had a chance to hear directly from the heads of state, including Presidents Xi Jinping of China, Barack Obama of the United States, and Vladimir Putin of Russia. Seeing these world leaders in person on stage was a big honor of my lifetime. Many of these leaders pointed out during their respective remarks that public-private sector dialogue and cooperation are essential to resolving some of the most complex global issues today. As an individual with interests in both public and private sectors, alternative perspectives delivered by these leaders gave me a good sense of the inner workings of both worlds as a new comers into the society.

In retrospect, the 2014 APEC Youth Week was an invaluable educational experience as it provided me with an opportunity to network with 70 outstanding youth delegates from the 21 APEC economies and understand various aspects of a multilateral diplomacy. Recognized as one of the six "Best Youth Delegates" during the program's closing ceremony, I have learned to identify my strengths and skills necessary to succeed in the world of international affairs. As I dream of becoming a South Korean Ambassador to the People's Republic of China in my lifetime, being able to experience APEC in the year of China's hosting of the forum had a special meaning for me. Asia-Pacific is the region of the world where I see my future lies. From my own observation, it has become my country's indispensable future stage in both economic and political terms, and the importance that it holds in South Korea's future outlook is indeed enormous. Based on my experiences from the 2014 APEC Youth Week, I look forward to continuing my studies in China to equip me with a competitive edge in the increasingly dynamic world of Sino-global relations.