Existential questions aside, I realize some of you, my beloved readers, might not know what exactly it is I’m doing in China. So I’m here on a Fulbright Scholarship. What is Fulbright? He was a senator in the 1940’s, and after WWII, he decided one of the best ways to prevent WWIII was to increase international exchange. The program started in 1946, and to date has sent over 360,000 researchers and academics overseas to around 160 countries to study, teach, and represent American culture, while at the same time bringing students and researchers from those countries to the states.
I’m here on a research grant, which is mainly targeted at recent college graduates (which is me), but there are all sorts of people who do them. I’m first back in Harbin, the city I studied abroad in, for a CLEA (critical language enhancement award) which I applied for to brush up on my technical Mandarin (I’ve forgotten a lot of vocab I learned my last time on my program, and have never done research in Chinese before). That ends in mid-December, at which point I’ll be moving to Heilongjiang University (also in Harbin) for 10 months of independent research on the topic I proposed.
Or not. I wrote my proposal about studying renewable energy development in Central Asia through the lens of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
However, that was over a year ago that I applied for this grant, and my interests and the world have changed. I’m considering tweaking that to look at helping with North Korea through the lens of the SCO.
Now I’m sure you’re asking, “what the hell is the SCO?” Well, beloved readers, I’m about to tell you. In brief, it was the topic of my senior thesis. It’s an international organization formed essentially by China in 1996 when the recently independent soviet satellites on China’s borders were making everyone very nervous. Tensions were high, tropps were all along the borders, and it just wasn’t good for business. So China basically said to these countries (Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan), “Hey guys, let’s chill out, pull the troops back, and relax.” It worked, and has now become a huge vehicle for cooperation in the region of Central Asia. Uzbekistan joined in 2001, and India and Pakistan are on track to join as well.
Given my new dream of working for the IAEA, and a general interest in nuclear nonproliferation, I’d rather see if the organization can be leveraged in any way to help make North Korea less of a nuclear threat (as it is an unstable nation on China’s borders). Admittedly, the other member states, Russia aside, have less investment in this issue, but these four months will allow me to set up and figure out what exactly it is I’m going to do.
Hope that answered some questions.