By Jonathan Peyster
On September 30th, our Simulated Think Tank was joined by Prof. Tang Xiaoyang. In addition to his leading role in the development and management of the Tsinghua-SAIS Dual Degree program, Prof. Tang is also a Resident Scholar at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy and an Associate Professor in Tsinghua’s Department of International Relations. While Prof. Tang’s talk covered many topics, it mainly centered on his life as a researcher in general and, more specifically, his particular research on Sino-African relations.
The talk began with an overview of academic journals and think tanks. Prof. Tang indicated that the main requirement of most university faculty is to publish in academic journals. These journal articles tend to be for a very targeted and knowledgeable readers which distinguishes them from content produced by journalists for lay audiences. Given this, it follows that content published in these journals tends to be held to a very high standard and it often goes through a peer-review process that can take as long as a couple of years between submission and publication.
Just as the publication process for a journal is a long and deliberate process, so too is the research process itself, a fact that can be seen in Prof. Tang’s own work. Sino-African relations is his main area of expertise but within this area he tends to focus on the theory of modernization and the ethics of globalization which can be further broken down into three subspecialties: tri-lateral cooperation on aid, corporate social responsibility, and special economic zones.
Prof. Tang spent the bulk of his time introducing us to his work on trilateral cooperation on aid. While most foreign aid is organized in a bilateral manner (i.e. the US sending development funds to Haiti), there is a somewhat new model being experimented with whereby aid-providing nations work together to assist a third nation in need. One such experiment was a project involving “sister city” organizations in China and the US partnering up to provide aid to cities in Kenya, Malawi, and Nigeria. Prof. Tang was a consultant on this project so he was able to give us a great deal of insight on the motivations behind this project as well as the challenges and successes it encountered.
In the aid project Prof. Tang worked on, the US-based Sister Cities International worked with the (CPAFFC). The scale of the project was very small (only $2 million in total aid), and it was even smaller if measured by direct aid spending in the target countries in Africa (about $300k) as the bulk of the funds were used to cover the costs of visits to the US and Chinese sister cities by the African leadership of the three collaborative development projects. That said, Prof. Tang made it clear that the value of this initial foray into tri-lateral cooperation on aid cannot be measured simply by dollar amount of aid that changed hands or even the lasting impact of the aid projects. Instead, this kind of trilateral aid ought to be understood in the context of cultural diplomacy. Quite simply, working together to deliver aid to countries in need could improve trust and cooperation between the US and China, to say nothing of the potential good the combined efforts and resources of these superpowers could do for the developing world. The fact that USAID and the Chinese Ministry of Commerce committed to further tri-lateral aid projects after the Sister Cities program concluded is a clear indication that this is just the beginning of this kind of collaborative effort between the US and China. At the conclusion of Prof. Tang’s discussion of this topic, he also mentioned that China has sought to work with other developed countries (particularly in Europe) on trilateral aid projects but these efforts haven’t yielded any results as of yet.
The last topic that was covered during Prof. Tang’s talk was corporate social responsibility (CSR). As Chinese corporations have become increasingly involved in every corner of the world, there has been more and more of a focus on ensuring that they act in an ethical and socially responsible way. Chinese CSR principles include ensuring that projects are environmentally sustainable, limiting corruption in the dealmaking process, ensuring worker safety, and providing opportunities for local staff to get promoted to management. Operating with these principles in mind is key to China being able to sustain the momentum it has built in the developing world over the last 15 years and the government has made CSR a priority, particularly for SOEs operating abroad. All that said, few Chinese companies have extensive experience operating abroad so following through on these CSR initiatives will likely be an ongoing process.
(Post by Jonathan Peyster)
唐晓阳老师参与的援助项目是总部设在美国的国际姐妹城市联盟（Sister Cities International）与中国人民对外友好协会合作的结果。项目的规模相对较小（共计200万美元），并且由于需要负担非洲当地官员往返考察中美姐妹城市的费用，实际能够用到对口城市直接援助的金额仅30万美元。因此，唐老师强调说，我们评价这些项目的价值不能仅仅看援助的金额或成果，而更应该着眼于这些项目对“民间外交”的促进作用。在这样的援助项目中，中美双方不仅可以增进互信、深化合作，更可以整合双方的优质资源为欠发达国家提供援助。美国国际开发署（USAID）与中国商务部新近签订的关于深化三方援助的协议就清楚地表明了这些项目的先导示范作用。在这一领域，未来中美之间将有更多类似的合作机会。在总结这一话题时，唐老师还提到中国曾试图与其他发达国家（尤其是欧洲国家）进行类似的项目但并没有取得很好地效果。