Wednesday, May 31, 2017

HNC Alumni Profile: Andrew Anderson-Sprecher

Andrew Anderson-Sprecher, HNC Certificate 2006 and SAIS MA 2007, reflects back on his time at the HNC and his experience working for the American Institute in Taiwan. 

Tell us about your current role.
I am currently serving as the Acting Agricultural Section Chief at the American Institute in Taiwan.

How did your experience at the HNC prepare you for this work?
My experience at HNC prepared me for my work by giving me an in-depth understanding of China's economy and politics and rock solid Chinese language skills.   This was invaluable in helping me get job offers and making me successful in the jobs I took. 

What was your most memorable moment when you were at the HNC?
My most memorable experience was getting to see a Chinese court room as part of my judicial systems class.  It was a remarkable education on how China's legal system works.

What advice would you give for current or future students at the HNC?

Focus on building expertise rather than on the specific job you want.  There are great opportunities to work on (and in) China in the government, private sector, NGOs, and academia.  Learn the language well, but don't rely on that by itself to get a job.  You need subject matter expertise and strong language skills. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Day in the Life of an HNC Student: Tarela Osuobeni

Student life at the HNC is filled with many different events that are dependent on specific interests and community involvement! Here’s a snippet of my typical weekday at the HNC. Enjoy!

9:00am: I wake up and head to find breakfast on 金银街. It’s a street right outside of HNC’s East entrance and it usually has different vendors selling 煎饼 or 包子 for breakfast in the morning. This morning I grab some steamed buns filled with veggies and an egg soaked in spiced tea with soybean milk. Yum!

10:00am: After eating breakfast and getting ready for the day, I go outside into the HNC courtyard to study for my Chinese History Since 1949 class. I start a chapter of 《暴风雨的记忆》 an account on Qin Xiao’s experience during the 1960s Cultural Revolution.

11:40am: I head to the cafeteria for lunch. Usually the cafeteria opens from 11:15 to 12:30 so often times people head straight over after their morning class! After lunch, I go back outside into the courtyard to relax, talk and continue reading for my afternoon classes.

1:00pm: Strategic Studies class in Chinese starts in the West building where classes are! Today, we talked about the U.S. approach to grand strategy and operational strategy by considering war history and different characteristics of American culture.

2:30pm: Class finishes and I head downstairs to wait for an event at 3pm. I surf the internet for more information on a non-profit in order to prepare for a job opportunity I’d like to apply. My attention shifts when one of my friends comes and sits down next to me waiting for the event. We briefly catch up as we wait.

3:00pm: I attend an event on China-US Relations after Xi-Trump Meeting, a talk by Dr. Shen Dingli from Fudan University. He gives his observations about the outcome of the Mar-a-lago meeting between the two presidents through an animated informative speech. Through analysis and critique, he concludes that despite the issues that the two countries face in upholding the One China Policy, regulating the border tax and avoiding war at China’s doorstep, the relationship is destined for greatness with a few bumps.

4:30pm: Chinese History Since 1949 class in Chinese begins! Professor Liu first continues the lecture on Cultural Revolution from last class. Two students act out the scene where Mao meets Nixon before we talk about the U.S.-China rapprochement.

6:00pm: Class ends and I head out to dinner with a Chinese classmate and an American classmate from class. Our friend Yang Lu takes us to a dumpling restaurant on Nanjing’s campus that’s discreetly placed but soooo yummy!!

7:15pm: We get back to the HNC and I briefly join a meeting about the Nanjing Wall Walk event on Saturday! Co-director Davies talks to us about what to expect on during the walk on and around the old Nanjing City Wall.

8:00pm: I attend dance/cheerleading practice with friends for the Dragon Boat race. Even though I’m not dancing, I go to support and have fun!

9:00pm: I Skype a friend from home, then start to prepare for bed and class, which starts at 9:50am the next day.

12:15am: I lay my head down and catch up with my roommate about her day before I slip into a deep sleep. The next day waits!

Written by Tarela Osuobeni, Certificate '17

Friday, May 19, 2017

2017 HNC Nanjing Wall Walk

Last weekend, I joined a group of HNC students and faculty on an epic and memorable walk around the Nanjing city wall. The wall traces the traditional city limits of Nanjing, originally built at the beginning of the Ming dynasty, but also continuously rebuilt during different time periods. If you follow the original structure of the wall as it encircles the city, the total distance is about 26 miles. Today, though still a defining characteristic of the city, the wall exists in segments, with some parts having been intermittently destroyed during the Sino-Japanese war, and again during the founding of the People’s Republic. More recently, parts of the wall have been restored as a cultural heritage site and popular attraction for visitors.

We began our trek early in the morning on Saturday, departing from the HNC at 6 am. Although the early departure time was easier for some than others, it also offered a chance to see the city in a new light. Besides our troupe, most other early risers on the streets were retirees doing morning exercises, or walking to the market while pushing strollers with their grandchildren inside. It was invigorating to see how alive the city already was even before 7 am.

Most students picked up breakfast while walking through one of the bustling morning markets. With the enticing smells of steamed buns and deep fried breads wafting out from vendor’s stalls, neighborhood markets are one of my favorite reasons to wake up early in Nanjing. We continued walking through the morning until arriving at an enormous and sprawling flea market packed with all kinds of odd treasures. We took a break to explore the flea market, and then continued onwards along the Qinghai River, a tributary of the Yangtze, which follows alongside the wall.

Photo Credit: Ning Xinyuan 

At midday, the temperature quickly turned from pleasant to sweltering. It was around this time that the benevolent co-Director Davies treated everyone to ice cream, which raised group morale and fortified our desires to keep pushing onwards. Although it was also the hottest and sweatiest part of the hike, the section of the wall that we traversed in the early afternoon was also the most rewarding. Walking along the elevated walk-way atop a newly restored section of the wall, we had a bird’s-eye view of different districts of the city in starkly different stages of development. Just like the wall itself, the city of Nanjing is also being continuously torn down and rebuilt according to the changing lifestyles of its inhabitants and the evolving demands of the city.

Photo Credit:  Li Liyang

The last leg of the trek was the most trying. Our numbers had shrunk and those who remained were blistered and tired. For the last few miles, some took advantage of Nanjing’s new public-use bike system, and biked alongside walkers. I almost gave up when we came across a conveniently located bus stop, but thanks to the support of classmates and faculty I found the will to go on. For the last mile along Xuanwu Lake, the bikes were left behind and we made our way to the original starting point together on foot.

Since finishing the wall walk, I’ve had a new sense of appreciation for the city of Nanjing, a place with countless places to explore. For example, now that I’ve allowed some time for my blisters heal, I am planning a—comparatively less long—walk around picturesque Xuanwu Lake. While being a full-time student, it is important to remember that life at the HNC is not limited to time spent within the HNC. Some of the most memorable experiences I’ve had here have taken place while exploring the historic and constantly changing city of Nanjing.

Written by Amanda Bogan, MAIS '18

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Resolving International Business Disputes in Vienna

The HNC commercial arbitration team recently got back from Vienna—the “city of music,” known for its baroque palaces and gardens—where we competed in the Willem C. Vis International Moot. The “Vis Moot” is often referred to as the Olympics of commercial arbitration; it attracts nearly 400 of the world’s best law schools annually. This was the first time HNC sent and funded its own team, which was composed of both Chinese and American students. 

 In our eyes, the Vis Moot was one of the best learning and professional development experiences of our school year. Not only did we improve our public speaking, debate, research, and legal skills, but we also networked with leading international lawyers and arbitrators. Most importantly, we made good friends with other students from around the world pursuing careers in international trade and international law.

Moot competitions are basically an intellectual battlefield. Each opposing team comes armed with a bevy of legal arguments, counterarguments, facts, cases, and interpretations of laws—in order to attack the other team’s positions, as well as to defend their own clients’ positions. While there are many different types of moot competitions—such as Jessup’s international law moot and the Red Cross’s international humanitarian law moot—the Vis Moot focuses solely on international commercial arbitration law. 

Commercial arbitration is a way to resolve business disputes between two or more companies from different countries. Because every nation-state has different commercial laws, it can often be tricky to do business across borders. To address these issues, the United Nations (specifically UNCITRAL) created uniform treaty frameworks—such as the CISG, the New York Convention, and the Model Law—for commercial agents to abide to. If the companies’ host countries had ratified such treaties, the companies could use the treaties’ mechanisms to initiate arbitration (a process of dispute resolution to figure out who gets how much money). During this process, each company’s advocates (or arbitration lawyers) present their arguments to arbitrators (basically judges), who then decide on final awards.

The Vis Moot itself was a seven day ordeal, starting with the welcoming party, which turned into a dance party, organized by the Moot Alumni Association. There, we made friends with a variety of people that we would see throughout the week—memorably four girls from Belgium who did great impressions of Americans; two U.S. army veterans now studying law in Kentucky; a Russian guy who hid the fact that he spoke perfect Mandarin until seven days later; and a couple of jokesters from India who ended up winning second place overall. The next day was the official opening ceremony, held at a historic concert hall, followed by a wine reception. And finally, the third day was when competitions began.

HNC competed in four events that week, with schools from Turkey, Ireland, Georgia (the country), and Australia. These competitions took place in famous international law firms, such as Baker McKenzie and DORDA, as well as in the University of Vienna’s law school. Our competitions were judged by top international arbitrators and lawyers, including those from White & Case, The Hague’s Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). 

Every day was a time crunch, but also very rewarding. Our mornings (which started at 6AM, thanks to jetlag) were spent digging through legal research in the city’s gorgeous cafes (the same cafes frequented by Sigmund Freud and Leon Trotsky). Around lunchtime we would rehearse oral arguments in our hotel lounge with HNC’s professor of commercial law Feng Chuan (who also participated in Vis Moot in Vienna as a student in the early 2000s). In the afternoon, we would compete at formal events around the city. Following that, we would squeeze in some time to visit museums or historical sites along the banks of the Danube River; and finally, in the evening, we would unwind at social gatherings with fellow Mooters.

It was clear that the dynamic at Vis Moot was “work hard, play hard.” While all the Mooters there were naturally studious (it can often be difficult to pry these types away from the library), the Vis Moot and alumni organizers incorporated a lot of social events into the agenda—from historic tours of Vindobona, to dinners featuring local cuisine (if you go, try the palatschinken), and to presentations at the United Nations. The organizers’ goals were not only to teach students about trade law by having them write legal memorandums and present oral arguments in front of arbitrators, but also to encourage students to meet people from different legal cultures and backgrounds.

To confess, most of us on the team knew very little about international law (let alone commercial arbitration) before arriving at the HNC. But all of us took relevant classes here with Professor Thomas Simon (who is also our coach), Professor Roda Mushkat, and Professor Feng Chuan. Our journey actually started eight months ago, back in September 2016, when we first met and took a leap of faith to commit to this activity and to each other. Back then, we were not fully aware of how many hours we would pour into this endeavor. We spent a lot of time searching through legal databases in the library, studying international treaties late at night, engaging in legal debates on trains and airplanes, and rehearsing our presentations with different professors and lawyers across Nanjing. All these experiences challenged us and helped us grow in a variety of ways. (For example, most of us struggled with public speaking at the beginning of the year, and now we do it with ease.)

Our first foray into organized competition was actually at the CIETAC pre-moot in Beijing, during which we faced off against top law schools in China. This experience really helped settle our nerves—it was the first time any of us fielded sharp and pointed inquisitions by professional arbitrators—and it gave us the confidence that we could compete at the highest levels. While the competitions and debates could get pretty heated, the spirit was always of one of collaboration, dispute resolution, and mutual growth. In Vienna, five months after CIETAC, we ran into some of our fiercest competitors from Beijing, and we ended up becoming close friends.

There’s something to be said about spending so much blood, sweat, and time on a single legal problem. The roughly 400 teams at this year’s Vis Moot contained many thousand participants—enough to pack a Viennese concert hall. But we all had something deeply in common, which was our understanding of the nuances of this year’s intellectual exercise—so it was easy to make friends and establish lasting bonds. Perhaps it’s this shared experience that gives the Vis Moot its great reputation and that draws people back to it year after year—first as students, then as coaches, and finally as experienced lawyers and arbitrators (who, instead of making hundreds of dollars per billable hour, volunteer their time to judge a student competition).

There was not much of a “closing note” during the final ceremony—no sad coda, or anything like that. Plus, we didn’t take home the gold or score the highest this year. Rather, the final ceremony was more like the start of another movement. International trade law is a small community, and we had faith we would see each other again in our professional lives. Perhaps our biggest takeaway is that hard, faithful, and passionate work may not always yield shiny medals, but it will always produce stuff of greater meaning and deeper fulfillment. Indeed, that’s an argument we’d make any day of the week.

By George Gao, Rick Hogoboom, Benjamén DoVale, Arthur Xiaoyu Jin

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Spring Events at the Center: Director David Davies’ Chinese Film Series

Most of my week nights at the HNC are spent studying in the library or occasionally preparing for exams or group projects together with classmates. This spring semester, Center students Chelsea Toczauer and Sasha Chopenko have worked together with American Co-Director David Davies to create a welcome new opportunity for Chinese and American classmates to get together, enjoy a movie, and discuss opinions over snacks and drinks. Every Monday night, there is a screening of a classic Chinese film, which is first introduced by the Director Davies who provides a few guiding comments and historical background to get the conversation going. Half-way through each film, we break for discussion and refreshments, which generally continues after the end of the film as well. .

Some of the films featured this semester: The Love Eterne (1963), Fists of Fury (1972), and the Red Detachment of Women (1961)

The other day I had the chance to sit down and talk one-on-one with Director Davies about his reasons for starting the film series, and the importance of film in conveying cultural and historical understanding. The following are a few excerpts from our conversation.

What prompted you to start this semester’s film series? What were you hoping to accomplish?

Director Davies: One of the things that I’ve heard from students at the Center is that they want more opportunities to discuss things together, with both Chinese and American students. There are only a few ways we can do that, either by creative pedagogies in the classroom or through extracurricular events and activities. One thing that everybody likes is watching movies and discussing movies because everyone is given something to think about and will have some kind of reaction or opinion. I’ve also taught a few film classes in the US and have wanted to teach here at the HNC but haven’t yet found the time to lead a formal a class. So this seemed like a natural opportunity to interact with students,  have a discussion, and learn something over the course of the film series. Also Mondays and Movies both start with the same letter, so that works well!

One thing I’ve been thinking about as I’ve been watching these movies is how film can serve as a more comprehensive or more intimate way of conveying cultural understanding to a wider audience. What is your take on this?

Director Davies: Remarkably, a lot of students are increasingly busy with extensive coursework and don’t have time for broader engagement with the social sciences, humanities, and art and literature; movies can provide an easy opportunity for that kind of exposure. Films are cultural productions and say something about the people who produced them and the people who viewed them. One of my favorite sayings is “the past is foreign country”, and that is true for Chinese people and Chinese history as well. By watching old films you can gain some insight into why these stories were told and who the people were who created them, as well as the context in which they were received by viewers. Movies are also very accessible, as a form of popular culture and as an extracurricular activity that students can participate in without needing to do any additional preparation work on top of their coursework.

Do you have any ideas for future film series at the Center?

Director Davies: For next fall, I’ve thought about doing an American film series, maybe using classic science fiction films. And then we could switch back and forth, every spring having a Chinese film series and every fall having an American film series. It might also be fun to do one semester on classic American westerns followed by a semester on Chinese 武侠 martial art movies.

Thank you again to Director Davies for talking with me. And thank you also to Sasha Chopenko and Chelsea Toczauer, for the time and planning that they have put into the film series, especially during their thesis writing period!

Written by Amanda Bogan, HNC MAIS 2018

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Spring Break Trip to Yunnan: Exploring China's Borders

During spring break, I accompanied a group of Chinese classmates on a field research trip for the course China on the Border: Provincial Relations on the Periphery taught by Professor Christofferson. While another group traveled to Heilongjiang province in northern China, we traveled to Yunnan, a southwest province boasting of rich cultural and regional diversity. The purpose of the trip was to visit Ruili, a city along China’s border with Myanmar in order to learn about China-Myanmar relations through the lens of various topics. These included non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Yunnan, Myanmar refugees in Ruili and the economic relationship between Myanmar and China. Going to Ruili was not meant to give us a comprehensive outlook on the relationship, but rather give us a firsthand account of people to people relations and grassroots projects along the border.

Our team in front of Yunnan University!

On early Saturday morning, we took the fast train from Nanjing to Yunnan’s capital, Kunming. It was 7 hours filled with talking, eating, sleep and gazing out the window at the changing Chinese southern landscape. We spent a couple days exploring Kunming through the Yunnan museum, the Ethnic minority museum, and an Ethnic minority village. We conducted interviews in Chinese with Green Watershed and The Nature Conservancy, two environmental NGOs that shared about the current successes and challenges of NGOs in China. At the Institute for Indian and Ocean Economics, we interviewed two professors about the economic relationship between China and its southeast neighbors as well as the impact of the One Belt One Road project on diplomatic and economic relations.

Interviewing at the Institute for Indian and Ocean Economics

Kunming proved a beneficial trip for understanding border relations. However, Ruili captured my heart. It is a city that sits in the corner of western Yunnan, wedged between the China-Myanmar borders. Southeast Asian influence is prevalent there, and the Dai ethnic minority culture is also interwoven with the culture of the city. Its subtropical climate was evident from palm trees that lined the streets and consistent rain for hours on end even though the sun still shined. We visited trade ports where gateways and fences separated China and Myanmar. Watching people with blue and maroon border passes hustling and bustling around the port, made me realize that borders are porous. Often times, people cross borders when they’re running away from or toward something. A young Myanmar woman told us earlier that most Burmese residents come into China for work, others have families in China, while some were moving away from more violent situations in Myanmar. We caught glimpses of Myanmar from our side of the fence as these thoughts ran through my mind.

If you look closely, you can see Myanmar!

Later, we visited a Dai ethnic minority village that was sectioned off and preserved on the outskirts of city. The architecture of their temples and the clothing styles the women wore resembled that of the Myanmar women and men we saw earlier throughout the day. They wore long pieces of material tied around their wastes like colorful maxi-skirts to dress for the hot tropical area. The Dai’s cultural symbol is the peacock which was displayed everywhere in different parts of the village. Through observing and researching on the character for Dai (傣), we found that they were descendants of Thai peoples from many years ago who used to control the area through their own kingdom. Now, they were integrated into Chinese society making up one of the 55 ethnic minorities of China.

Entrance of the Dai village

On the last day of our exploration, we visited the Ruili Women and Children Development Center, an NGO that was specifically designed to offer health and life services to Chinese, Dai and Myanmar women and children. They shared about their health and orphanage programs, volunteer opportunities and the work of their office in Mynamar. This organization exemplified the value of NGOs in border city areas; they blindly helped those in need regardless of cultural background and with respect to cultural heritage. Interviewing this organization really opened my eyes to different parts of Chinese society and helped put faces to societal situations that are often discussed at HNC. It was truly a time well spent for Spring Break.

After the interview with the Ruili Women and Children Development Center
Written by Tarela Osuobeni, HNC Certificate ‘17   

The HNC Spring Break field research trips were jointly funded by the HNC Chinese and American administrations as part of an initiative to develop innovative teaching and learning opportunities at the HNC which bring together Chinese and international students to address course topics. The American funding was thanks to a generous donation by Jill McGovern.