By Emily Conrad
As the spring semester is already up and running, many of the NexGen fellows are thinking ahead to the adventures on which we will embark next academic year as we begin our studies at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). On March 9th, we met two recent Chinese alumnae of SAIS, who shared with us their study and career experiences in international relations over an informal meal.
Yiyi Fan, who focused her research and studies on Myanmar while at SAIS, is now an assistant research fellow at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation. This organization is run by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFCOM). While at this organization, she has researched Chinese foreign aid to Myanmar, particularly in response to last year’s flood resulting from Cyclone Komen. During this flood, twelve of Myanmar’s fourteen states were affected, with the poorest, agricultural areas experiencing the worst of the United Nations’ estimated $192 million in damages.
According to Yiyi’s research, which utilized statistics from Myanmar’s government, China is the country which has pledged and given the most in humanitarian assistance, amounting to some $7 million. The four Chinese government institutions which provided assistance were the Chinese Embassy in Yangon, MOFCOM, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, and the Yunnan provincial government. This aid was supplemented by cash donations and in-kind cooperation by Myanmar-based Chinese companies, such as the financial group, CITIC, which donated $300,000.
Yiyi also noted that official Chinese humanitarian assistance from 2010 to 2012 was upwards of 1.5 billion RMB to 30 recipient countries. The principles of aid are based in: 1.) non-interference, meaning that the Chinese government will not try to change the government; 2.) demand-orientation, meaning that the Chinese government only provides money for projects which the recipient country has asked for; and 3.) equal treatment, whether diplomatic relations established or not. She noted that several challenges exist in the Chinese aid system, such as China’s lack of international cooperation in aid. Also, the speed with which the Chinese government acts might mean that the humanitarian assistance does not meet the recipient country’s long-term needs.
Hanning Bi, who focused her research and studies on Japan and China while at SAIS, is now a risk management analyst at the China- Africa Development Fund. This organization, which used to be directly associated with the Chinese Development Bank, is now its own separate private equity firm. Hanning developed her interest in Africa while at SAIS, working with China-Africa expert Deborah Brautigam andinterning in South Africa.
Hanning’s job in the risk management department involves looking at potential projects from many different angles to determine their viability, as well as development of financial structures to make viable projects. Mostly, the China-Africa Development Fund invests in infrastructure, mining, and manufacturing, as well as some agricultural projects. Currently, there are more than forty projects underway in 35 different countries in Africa. The Fund always acts as a limited partner, joining with a Chinese partner and never investing more than 5% in any project. Thus far, there has only been one successful exit from a project: a glass factory in Ethiopia. Most of the projects have a maturity of five to ten years, with the infrastructure projects often lasting even longer due to the length of construction. Falling commodity prices have made it more difficult for the China-Africa Development Fund to successfully exit projects.
The NexGen fellows were enthusiastic to meet with these alumnae to not only learn about their career goals, but also to gain practical tips and suggestions for studying at SAIS. One thing that the fellows continued to note were the diversity of countries and subjects which both Yiyi and Hanning studied while graduate students. Through their experiences, we were encouraged to view the world from a broad perspective, developing our knowledge of many areas of the world.