U.S.-China Institute at Bryant University

China Experience Blog: Summer Internship 2011

Jason Fortin

May 30 - June 5

Recap of My First Week

This past week was my first of ten weeks at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Global Policy Center. Honestly, I was not sure what to expect. I have a few months experience at one think tank and wondered if my role was going to be the same. Although there are a few similarities I could draw upon -- which are perhaps simply ubiquitous to the think tank (perhaps even non-profit) world -- I will focus most of my time describing how this center is exceptionally different from others. This positive difference has positioned this center on a flourishing and impactful path. Although only an intern for five days, the immense amount of work that was accomplished by such a small institution and new staff is incredibly impressive.

Day one was marked with a visit by Deana Arsenian, Vice President of International Programs Coordination of the Carnegie Corporation of New York. She visited the center to meet the staff and learn more about the accomplishments of its first year and plans for following years. Ms. Arsenian was direct and engaging as she provided honest feedback and established a sound dialogue on US-Chinese Relations and the role of the center in such a dialogue. The staff is a collection of lovely individuals, whom during the meeting with Ms. Arsenian noted the familial atmosphere of the center. I could not agree more with their assessment. Since the center’s inception, its list of accomplishments is impressive. Despite the hectic work environment (largely due to the long list of work to be done) the individuals at the center, especially Director Haenle and Associate Saalman make this center a great place.

On Thursday and Friday the Center hosted one of the best events that I have ever attended. The event was entitled “China and India: Nuclear Doctrine and Dynamics.” This event brought together Major Generals, a former Ambassador, an Admiral, top scholars, emerging academic leaders, and a host of other individuals from India and the PRC. These individuals candidly shared philosophical and historical perspectives as well as policy paths on topics ranging from Nuclear Strategy and Modernization; Missile Defense; Safety, Security and Future of Nuclear Energy; and Bilateral and Multilateral Cooperative options on topics ranging from the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) and Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT); to name a few. All participants in attendance noted the importance of such discussions to ensure mutual trust, regional security, and development of Southeast Asia. They noted that such dialogues on nuclear topics between India and China have been historically slim and consequently applauded the center and Carnegie Associate Lora Saalman for organizing the event.

Outside of my internship I have come to love Beijing street food and constantly rely on it for my nourishment. For example, as I write this blog post I am feasting on a carton full of noodles complete with an egg, lettuce, various greens and other spices and a paan like item. These two items cost me 11.5 RMB—roughly $1.78. As tempting as it is to live off the cheap street food, for health reasons I would not advise anyone to follow such a path. However, fresh fruit is extremely affordable off the streets and is very delicious. There is a nice shopping market near my apartment with reasonable prices. I am slowly stocking up on chicken, salad materials, vegetables and juice. One necessary item, at least for me, that is more expensive here than in the states is coffee. I recently purchased a medium size jar of NESCAFE instant coffee for over $9.11! I understand china is famous for its tea, but I still need coffee on a daily basis.

Staff dinner at Carnegie-Tsinghua

In other news I have acquired an apartment! This apartment is affordable and has a great location—only a 15-20 minute walk from Tsinghua University and the center. I have my own room, but share a living room, a kitchen and a bathroom with three other individuals. I live with an Australian boy, a French girl and a girl from Hong Kong. The housing market is quite different in China than the states. Everything is negotiable, and real estate agents are highly disrespected by the locals. Henceforth, I had an extremely difficult time finding a place because the price was constantly changing—on the higher side once they found out I was American. For example, a colleague at work found me an apartment online for about 2700 RMB per month, but when we visited, the price was jacked up to 3300 RMB.

Another time I had located a great place, negotiated an appropriate price and agent fee, retrieved money from an ATM, but when I went to sign a contract was told by the agent that there was no contract. The apartment was being informally sub-let by his friend who had rented the place, but could not move in for another few months!  It was refreshing to run into a group of people who had a contract for the rent and were straightforward about the price, which is why I am living with westerners. They are all Chinese language students at Beijing Language and Cultural University.

Monday, June 6th is the Dragon Boat Festival and I have the day off! I plan to spend this day catching up on some work for the center. As the only full time native English speaking intern, it is my responsibility to take notes at our events and write a summary for Carnegie’s website. Until our website is fully functioning, these event summaries will be uploaded at the following address: http://carnegieendowment.org/events/ . The posting of events is seriously behind because so many of our resources are currently dedicated elsewhere, but they will be updated and posted shortly!

In addition to working, I hope to get out of the center of the city and visit the Summer Palace and the Drum Tower among other things. Also, I will continue working my way through a Council on Foreign Relations book titled “U.S.-China Relations: An Affirmative Agenda, A Responsible Course.” Once completing this book, I hope to dive into Kissinger’s new book “On China” which has received excellent reviews. The challenge is locating an English bookstore! Additionally, I am looking into a night class in Mandarin at BLCU, but most classes run during the day. If I can manage the funds, I will try to secure a teacher so I can work on my Chinese at night after work. It has been fun learning Chinese on the go, but it would certainly be a lot easier if I had a larger vocabulary at my disposal. On that note I will close this post. I did take pictures on my phone, which I hope to upload shortly. 再见!

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