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Team of DKU, Duke students wins U.S.-China student policy competition

Undergraduate students at Duke Kunshan University in China are contributing written and multimedia content to The Chronicle, usually published every other Friday.

Two Duke Kunshan University and two Duke students formed one of two winning teams in this year’s U.S.-China Student Challenge, a policy competition sponsored by the Georgetown University Initiative for U.S.-China Dialogue on Global Issues

DKU juniors Hong Pham and Lan Tang, along with Duke junior Joanne Kim and Duke senior Spencer Kaplan’s team’s winning project was announced in early February, titled “Space as a Catalyst for U.S.-China Cooperation.” 

According to the competition’s website, the project proposed using “the surge of global interest in a new phase of space exploration” to improve ties between the two superpowers. Each member of the two winning teams was awarded $2,500.

“As a huge space nerd who studies public policy, the idea of leveraging the unique legacy of peaceful space cooperation to build a better relationship with China felt natural to me,” Kaplan wrote in an email.

At DKU, a U.S.-China joint-venture campus, foreign policy decisions materialize and have tangible impacts. “US-China relations have always been in discussion in classrooms and daily life,” Tang wrote in an email. 

With space as a shared medium for collaboration, the team’s proposal sought to underscore the importance of US-China relations in the global context. 

“The US-China relationship is without a doubt the most consequential relationship in the world,” Kaplan wrote. “The entire world benefits when the United States and China work together and suffers when tension rises.”

Building off of these interests, Kim wrote in an email that the team proposed a joint U.S.-China satellite program that could “generate common data sets on global issues, such as climate change and emerging diseases.” 

According to Kim, the final project included “a written proposal and a video that considered feasibility, technology and the mutual benefits of scientific cooperation.”

Meeting exclusively on Zoom, the collaborative project involved “some bizarre hours a few times” due to opposite time zones and difficulties with WhatsApp—a messaging app that is blocked in mainland China. 

“But the experience was really neat,” Kaplan wrote. “This is exactly the sort of collaboration that can be invaluable to students at both universities.”

He added that “few schools have campuses in both countries, so I'm glad we were able to leverage Duke's unique global presence to produce a great project.”

Charlie Colasurdo is Kunshan Report editor and a sophomore in the second-ever graduating class of the Duke Kunshan campus’s undergraduate program, located outside Shanghai, China.

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