Experts in this Topic

Alyssa Ayres
Alyssa Ayres

Adjunct Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia

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    Denis F. Simon, senior adviser to the president for China affairs and professor of the practice at Duke University, leads a conversation on the role of joint venture universities in China.   FASKIANOS: Thank you and welcome to CFR’s Higher Education Webinar. I am Irina Faskianos, vice president of the National Program and Outreach at CFR. Today’s discussion is on the record and the video and transcript will be available on our website, CFR.org/Academic, if you would like to share it with your colleagues. As always, CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy. We are delighted to have Denis Simon with us to talk about the role of joint venture universities in China. Dr. Simon is senior advisor to the president for China affairs and professor of the practice at Duke University. From 2015 to 2020, he served as executive vice chancellor at Duke Kunshan University in China. He has more than four decades of experience studying business, competition, innovation, and technology strategy in China, and is fluent in Mandarin Chinese. He served as senior advisor on China and global affairs at Arizona State University, vice provost for international affairs at the University of Oregon, and professor of international affairs at Penn State University. He has extensive leadership experience in management consulting and is the author of several books. Dr. Simon, thanks very much for being with us today. I thought we could begin by having you give us an overview of joint venture universities in China. What has the last two years in U.S.-Sino relations and COVID-19 meant for joint venture universities and their long-term goals? SIMON: Great. Well, thank you, Irina. I really am happy your team was able to arrange this. And I can’t think of a more important subject right now. The president of Duke University, Vincent Price, has called our joint venture a beacon of light in the midst of the turbulence in U.S.-China relations. And so, this is a rather appropriate time for us to take stock at where this venture is and where it may be going. So let me just give an overview, talk a little bit about what joint ventures are, how they operate, and some of the challenges of operating them, and some of the effects of the last, as you said, two years, with the tensions growing in U.S.-China relations. Well, I think the first thing to recognize is that while there are over two thousand joint venture projects and initiatives involving foreign schools and universities, there are really only ten joint venture universities. These are campuses authorized to give two degrees—a Chinese degree and a foreign degree. The last one that was approved is Julliard, from the United States. So there are four U.S. joint ventures, two from the U.K., one from Russia, one from Israel involving the Technion, and the rest from Hong Kong. And so they’re not growing by leaps and bounds. Everyone is taking stock of how they are working. The one from Duke is a liberal arts or a research-oriented university, and I think the same can be said for NYU Shanghai also in the same category. Joint venture universities are legal Chinese entities. This is very important. So, for example, our campus at Duke is not a branch campus. It is a legal Chinese entity. The chancellor must be a Chinese citizen, because they represent the legal authority of the university within the Chinese law, and also the Chinese education system. We are liberal arts oriented. The one involving Russia and Israel are polytechnic. They’re more for engineering. Kean University, which is the State University of New York, has a very big business-oriented program. The U.K. programs also have very big programs. So some are liberal arts, like Duke, but others are also polytechnic. So they span the gamut. And finally, these are in many cases engines for economic development. In the cities in which they occur, these universities are sort of like Stanford in Silicon Valley. They’re designed to act as a magnet to attract talent, and also to train young people, some of whom hopefully will stay in the region and act as a kind of entrepreneurial vanguard in the future as they go forward.   Now, the reality is that they’ve been driven by a number of factors common to both the Chinese side and the foreign side. One is just the whole process of campus internationalization. U.S. universities, for example, over the last five to ten years have wanted to expand their global footprint. And setting up a campus in X country, whether it’s been in the Middle East or been in China in this case, has been an important part of the statement about how they build out a global university. A second driver has been government regulation. So in China in 2003, the government set in place a series of regulations that allowed joint venture universities to be established. And I think we need to give kudos to the Ministry of Education in China because they had the vision to allow these kinds of universities to be set up. And I think the impact so far has been very positive. And then finally, they’re a vehicle for building out what I would call transnational collaborative research. And that is that they’re a vehicle for helping to promote collaboration between, let’s say, the United States and China in areas involving science and technology, and their very, very important role in that. That’s why I said we’re not just a liberal arts university, but we are a research-oriented liberal arts university. And I think that NYU Shanghai, Nigbo and Nottingham, et cetera, they all would claim the same space in that regard. Now, why would a city like Kunshan want to have a joint venture university? After all, Kunshan is rather unique. It’s one of the wealthiest cities in China, the largest site of Taiwan foreign investment, but it never has had its own university. So somebody in the leadership did, in fact, read the book about Silicon Valley and Stanford. And they decided, I think it was a McKinsey study that helped them make that decision, that they needed to have a university. And the opportunity to work with Duke was there. And it’s a little bit a long, complicated story, but we’ve ended up where we are today with a university which now will embark on the second phase of having a new campus. But this clearly, for Kunshan, has been a magnet for talent, and an effort to help Kunshan transition from a factory to the world economy to a new knowledge economy, consistent where—with where Xi Jinping and the Chinese leadership wants to take China during the current period, and into the future. It also provides a great bridge for connectivity between the high-tech knowledge communities in North Carolina, and particularly around Research Triangle, and the companies in the Kunshan area. And that bridge at some times or others can be very vibrant, and there are people and activity moving across it. And it’s also a place where internationalization of Kunshan gets promoted through the visibility of Duke. Every year during my five years, we had 2,000-plus visitors come to our university, both from abroad and from within China, to understand: What do these universities mean and what’s going to happen to them? Now, for Duke, a lot of people think it’s about the money. They think that these joint venture campuses make a lot of money. And I can tell you, nothing could be further from the truth. This is not about money. This is about, as I mentioned before, internationalization. But it’s also about the opportunity for pedagogical innovation. You can imagine that in existing universities there’s a lot of baggage, lots of legacy systems. You don’t get virgin territory to do curricular reform and to introduce a lot of edgy ideas. Too many vested interests. But within an opportunity like DKU or NYU Shanghai, you get a white piece of paper and you can develop a very innovative, cutting-edge kind of curriculum. And that’s exactly what has been done. And so you get a kind of two-way technology transfer, obviously from Duke to DKU, but also interestingly from DKU back to Duke. And the same thing again happens with these other universities as well. And I think that’s important. So there’s a great deal of benefit that can accrue to Duke simply by having this campus and watching it go through this kind of evolving development of a new curriculum. Now, we must not forget, these ten joint ventures, and particularly in the context of Sino-U.S. relations, are not all that’s there. Starting with Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and its relationship with Nanjing University, the United States has had projects like this going on in China. There are joint colleges. So, for example, the University of Pittsburgh and Sichuan University have one in engineering. And similarly, Michigan and Jiao Tong University also have similar kinds of ventures. And these all seem to be working very nicely. And then there’s a whole array of two-plus-two programs, three-plus-two programs. All of these are part of a broad landscape of educational engagement that exists between the two countries. It is much more extensive than anyone could have imagined in the late 1970s, when the two countries signed the bilateral agreement. Now, what are some of the things that happen when you manage these joint venture universities? First, let me mention the operational issues that come across. So you probably, you know, ask: How do you find your partner? Well, in a joint venture university, you must have an educational partner. So for Duke, it’s Wuhan University. For NYU Shanghai, it’s East China Normal University. And for Kean University it’s Wenzhou University. And you go through these—finding these partners, and the partners hopefully form a collaborative relationship. But I can tell you one of the problems, just like in all joint ventures in China, is the sleeping in the same bed but with two different dreams phenomenon. Duke came to China to bring a liberal arts education and to serve as a platform for knowledge transfer across the Chinese higher education landscape. Kunshan wanted a Stanford that can provide commercializable knowledge that can turn into new products, new services, and hopefully new businesses. And so they kind of exist in parallel with one another, with the hope that somewhere along the future they will—they will come together. Another issue area is the issue of student recruitment. Student recruitment is very complex in China because of the reliance on the gaokao system. And the gaokao system introduces an element of rigidity. And the idea of crafting a class, which is very common in liberal arts colleges, is almost impossible to do because of the rather rigid and almost inflexible approach one must take to evaluating students, scoring them, and dealing with a whole array of provincial quotas that make X numbers of students available to attend your university versus other universities. And don’t forget, these joint venture universities exist in the context of over 2,000 Chinese universities, all of whom are trying to recruit the students. So you get intense involvement not only from the officials in the province level, but also Chinese parents. And the idea of Chinese parents make helicopter parents in the U.S. look like amateur hour. They are very, very involved and very, very active. A third area are home campus issues that we have to think about. And that is that a lot of people have always said to me: Wow, you know, the Chinese side must give you a big headache. And with all due respect to all my dear colleagues and friends, I can say also sometimes I got a headache from the Duke side as well. And I think anyone who sits in these kind of leadership positions must figure out how to balance the interests and the perspectives of the home country campus and the host country campus, and their ability to work together. And there are a lot of issues that come up along the way that make it very, very complex. And in particular, the idea of attracting faculty. Seventy-five percent of our faculty are hired locally. That is, they are in tenure or tenure-track jobs by Duke-Kunshan University. Twenty-five percent must be supplied by Duke. The reason is very simple: The Chinese authorities want to make sure that the quality of the education is no different than what’s offered at Duke. And because we have to give two degrees, a Chinese degree and a Duke degree, that Duke degree is not a Duke-B degree, or a Duke-lite degree. It is the same degree that you get at Duke University, signed by the head of the board of trustees, the president, the provost, et cetera, et cetera. So this is a real Duke degree. It’s not Duke-lite. The fourth thing I want to mention, which I mentioned before slightly, which is money. These are not inexpensive ventures. And they also are a kind of elite education. And the degree to which they can be replicated over and over again in China is something that remains to be—remains to be seen. We’ve had a lot of people coming from Congress who have looked at these joint venture universities and said, ah, you’re selling out American values and academic freedom or religious freedom, in return for a big payday. And as I said, that’s simply just not the case. These joint venture universities are very difficult to run. You must pay faculty according to the global faculty prices. And plus, there are lots of expat benefits that you have to pay to them. The tuition rates that you can charge to Chinese students are set by the provincial authorities. And therefore, in our case, they’re about 50 percent less than what international students have to pay. And so already you’re in a deficit, technically speaking, because Chinese students are getting a, you know, preferential price. Also, the idea of building up a research capability is not inexpensive, particularly if you’re looking at developing a capability in science and engineering. These are, again, very expensive propositions. Now, I don’t want to make it seem like it’s all hardship. There are lots of rewarding moments. I think, as I said, the pedagogical side is one of those. And also the opportunity to really build true cross-cultural understanding among young people has been very important. Now, let me just make a couple of comments about where we are in terms of the last two years in particular. No one—you know, when our joint venture was formed, and similarly for the other ones which were formed before ours—could have envisioned what was going to happen, particularly in terms of the U.S.-China trade war, the onset of the protests in Hong Kong, and the issues—human rights issues that have to do with Xinjiang, Tibet, et cetera. And also, as everyone knows, COVID also presented some amazing challenges to the campus. We had to, by late January/early February 2020, we evacuated the whole campus when COVID came. And for the last two years, all of the international students have been studying either in their home country or if they’ve been able to come to the United States, they’ve been able to study at Duke during this period. And the big question is, when are these international students going to be able to go back? Which of course, that raises the big question about what is the campus like without international students? Our campus has somewhere between 35 to 40 percent international students. NYU Shanghai has 50 percent international students. Those make for very interesting pedagogical challenges, particularly given the fact that the high school experiences of these young people from China versus all countries—you know, we have forty-one different countries represented at DKU—make for a very challenging learning environment and teaching environment. Now, a couple of the issues that really have been exacerbated over the last two years, first of all are visa issues. Delays in being able to get visas or sometimes denial of visas. Another one are the uncertainties about the campus. Many people think that as Sino-U.S. tensions have risen, OK, the Chinese side is going to shut the campus. No, no, no, the U.S. side is going to shut the campus. And there’s been the lack of clarity. And this also not only hurts student recruitment sometimes, but it also can hurt faculty recruitment as well—who are also wondering, you know, what’s going to happen in the future and what kind of security of their jobs. Most recently we’ve also had—particularly because some of the policies adopted during the Trump administration—national security issues. So we want to build a research capability. Let’s say the city of Kunshan says: We’ll support the building of a semiconductor research capability. Duke University has to say no. That technology now is a more tightly controlled technology and it’s not clear what we can and can’t do. And so some of these kind of initiatives get interrupted, can’t go forward. And everyone is very vigilant to make sure that nobody crosses the line in terms of U.S. law. And, of course, watching out for Chinese law as well. So where is this all going? I think these difficulties are going to continue. The most obvious one that everyone talks about is academic freedom, the ability to deal with these complex, controversial issues. I can say very proudly that up until this point, and at least until when I left in June of 2020, we had not had any kind of explicit intervention that stopped us from doing something, per se. We’ve had the national committee for U.S.-China relations, China town halls for several years. They didn’t have one this past year, but we’ve had it for several years. We have courses on China politics. We have courses on U.S.-China relations, et cetera. So we haven’t had that. But we’ve had to be flexible. Instead of having an open forum about Hong Kong, we created a minicourse to talk about Hong Kong. So those issues are out there. Academic freedom is a real issue that is one of those redline issues. And everyone is a little bit nervous all the time about getting into that. The other thing, of course, is the fluidity in the Chinese environment itself. We know that China continues to witness political changes, further economic reforms. And a lot of the commitments that were made, you know, five years ago, ten years ago, the ability to see them through. DKU is covered by a CEA, a cooperative educational accord, that promises academic freedom in the engagement of the university’s work on campus. Now, if you go out and throw a brick through the mayor’s window, well, all bets are off. But while you’re on campus, you should be able to have, you know, academic freedom. And this is not a political issue. This is an accreditation issue. If the pedagogy and the learning environment were to become distinctly different, the Southern States Accreditation, which accredits the Duke degrees, could not accredit the degree that’s coming out of DKU. And so there must not be any kind of significant gap or significant differentiation in order to preserve that issue of academic integrity. Now, finally, I would say—you know, looking now retrospectively, looking back at all of this, I think there’s no more important kind of initiative than these universities. Getting young people from all around the world to sit in the same classroom, engage with one another, even become uncomfortable. It’s great if they can do that when they’re eighteen to twenty-four so hopefully when they’re forty-five to fifty, they sit down and deal with these real issues, they can have some degree of understanding and some perspective of why the other side is thinking the way it does. This doesn’t happen automatically on these campuses. There’s a lot of orchestration and a lot of fostering of activity. But I would just say that he ability and the opportunity to do this makes this, and makes all of these joint ventures, really exciting opportunities that have larger impact than just the campus on which they sit. And let me stop here. Thank you. FASKIANOS: Thank you very much. That was really a terrific overview. And you really brought your experience to the table. Thank you. So let’s go to all of you now for your questions, comments. You can either raise your hand by clicking on the “raise hand” icon, or you can type your question in the Q&A box. Please include your affiliation so I can read it. And when I call on you, please unmute yourself and also say who you are and your academic affiliation, so to put it in context. I’m going to go first, raised hand, to James Cousins. There we go. Q: Hi. Yeah, this is Morton Holbrook at Kentucky Wesleyan College, along with James Cousins. FASKIANOS: Great. (Laughs.) Q: And thanks very much, Dr. Simon. A great explanation. Happy to hear about academic freedom. Could I hear a little bit more about, for example, textbook choice? Do you have to submit—do professors have to submit textbook choices to the party secretary, for example? I assume there’s a party secretary there. Is there self-censorship by professors who would want to skip over Tiananmen massacre or the Taiwan issue or the South China Sea issue? Thank you. SIMON: OK. Great question. So I’m happy to say that each professor creates their own syllabus, as they would in the United States. We have three big required courses, one of which is China in the world. And it is to look at the impact of the West on China, and China’s impact on the West. And in that course, which every student has to take, we discuss very, very sensitive issues, including the Taiwan issue, including Chinese security policy, including South China Sea, et cetera, et cetera. There are some limitations on books that can be imported through the Chinese customs, because those will be controlled at the customs port. But because we have unlimited access through the internet right directly into the Duke library, any book that any instructor would like to have on their syllabus, that book is available to the students. So we do not have to report any of these teaching intentions to the party secretary. In the case of DKU, the party secretary is the chancellor. That just happened when we got a new chancellor a couple years ago. And we also have a deputy party secretary. But for the most part, they do not intervene at all in the academic affairs of the university. And the main reason for this is that the university must remain accredited for giving out both the Duke degree and the Chinese degree. FASKIANOS: Great. I’m going to go next to a written question from Michael Raisinghani, who is an associate professor at Texas Women’s University. And two parts. What are some things you would have done differently going forward based on your experience over the last five years? And this is also—camps onto what the prior question was—does China censor the minicourse on Hong Kong? SIMON: So let me take the second one first. The minicourse on Hong Kong was a sort of an in-place innovation. We got a directive from the government indicating that we were to have no public forum to discuss the events in Hong Kong. And we had had two students who were in Hong Kong during the summer, witness to the events that were going on. And they came back to the campus after the summer wanting to basically expose everything that went on in Hong Kong. Now, obviously we wanted this to be a learning opportunity. And so we didn’t mind, you know, talking about the media, the press, you know, who’s vantage point, et cetera. So we felt that that could be best done within a minicourse. And so we literally, in real time, created an eight-hour minicourse. We had four of our faculty put together teaching about the society and the issues in contemporary Hong Kong. And each of those classes, you know, they discussed, you know, ongoing issues. I can tell you that there were lots of PRC students attending at the beginning of the session. There were fewer by the end. And we can, you know, extrapolate why they may have pulled out. But nobody pulled out because somehow someone was holding a gun to their head and said: You ought not to be here. So, you know, there’s a lot of peer pressure about academic freedom issues. And there also is some issues about self-censorship that exist. And we try to deal with them. We try to make the academic environment extremely comfortable for everybody. But I can tell you, look, there’s parental pressure. We don’t know who the parents are of some of these kids. They may be even party officials. And so we basically, you know, let the kids determine. But we let the kids say: Look, in the classroom, all—everything goes. And I instituted a policy which I would not have changed, and that is that no cellphones in the classroom. No cellphones at major events, without explicit permission of the participants. And that means that in the class you cannot record by video or by audio what’s going on in the classroom without special permission of the—of the instructor when that’s happening. During my five years, you know, that worked very well. It raised the level of engagement by all students. And I would say people felt much more comfortable. A hundred percent comfortable? No. That wasn’t the case. There is still some uneasiness. What would I have done differently? That’s kind of a very interesting question. It kind of comes up because I’m writing a book about my experiences. I think maybe, you know, I would have tried to build more bridges with Duke earlier on. I think that Duke’s involvement in this was really what the Chinese side bought. And I think that we needed to get more Duke involvement in terms of trying to sell the DKU opportunity to the faculty. I would have become a little bit more proactive in getting them to understand the benefits of spending a semester or two semesters at DKU. I think we—that would have helped to build more political support for the DKU project back on the DKU—back on the Duke campus in the United States. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to go next to raised hand, to Maryalice Mazzara. Q: Hi. Hello to both of you. And, Dr. Simon, great to see you. I’m here at SUNY Office of Global Affairs at SUNY Global Center. And I must say, disclaimer, I had Dr. Simon as a boss, my first boss at SUNY. And he was wonderful. So and I’ve worked a lot with China, as you know, Denis, from when we started, and continuing on. What would you say you would recommend going forward? So you just had a question about, you know, what would you have done differently in the last five years. For those of us, and all of us on the call, who are interested—very interested in U.S.-China positive relations, what would you recommend that we can do at the academic level? SIMON: So one of the things I think we need to realize is that China’s Ministry of Education is extremely committed to not only these joint venture projects, but to international engagement as a whole. During my five years, I had an extensive opportunity to interact with a number of officials from the ministry, not only at the central government level but also at the provincial government level. And despite some of the noise that we hear about China regarding self-reliance and closing the door, I think that understanding that China is open for business. It wants to see more international students come into the country. There are now about close to 500,000 international students. China wants to grow that number. You know, there are about 700,000-plus Chinese students studying abroad, 370,000 of them, or so, in the United States. The ministry is very interested. And I think that we need to basically build bridges that continue to be sustainable over time, so that we continue to engage in the educational sphere with China. And that means that perhaps it’s time for the two countries to sit down and revise, update, and reconfigure the education cooperation agreement that was signed back when Deng Xiaoping visited the United States in ’78, and then formalized in ’79. I think that we need to think about altering the rules of the road going forward so it takes into account that China is no longer a backward, or a higher-education laggard. China how has world-class universities, offering world-class curriculum. Collaboration and research between faculty in the U.S. and faculty in China is extensive. We need to make sure that initiatives, like the China initiative through the Justice Department, doesn’t take hold and basically lead to the demise or the decoupling of the two countries. Basically, the bottom line is: Keep going forward. Keep being honest with your Chinese partners and your Chinese colleagues. Let them know some of the challenges that you face. And make them feel committed to playing by the rules of the game. And we have to do the same on our side. And if we can do that, I think that the basis for collaboration is not only there, but the basis for expanded collaboration is very real and can help, hopefully, over the long term overcome some of the difficulties and the tensions that we face because of lack of understanding and lack of trust that currently plagues the relationship. FASKIANOS: Great. The next question is from Emily Weinstein, who is a research fellow at Georgetown University. Curious about issues associated with intellectual property. Since JV universities are Chinese legal entities, in the case of DKU does Duke maintain the IP or is it the independent DKU entity? SIMON: Well, right now let’s assume that the faculty member is a permanent member of the DKU faculty. Then that faculty member, in conjunction with the Chinese regulatory environment, would own a piece of that IP. The university doesn’t have a technology transfer office, like you would see at Duke in the United States, or Stanford, or NYU, et cetera. And I think that probably no one really can see that there would be, you know, just a lot of new IP coming out of this. But I think that now, given the momentum that’s been built up in some of these areas, I think that that is an issue. And I think that that’s something that will get decided. But right now, it’s a local issue. The only way that would be different is if a faculty member from Duke came over, participated in a research project, and then laid claim. China has a—(inaudible)—kind of law in place. And of course, we know the United States does. That would tend to be the basis for a sharing of the IP. And I think that was the basic notion going forward, that as a joint venture whatever came out of these collaborative research engagements, they would be on a shared IP basis. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next question from Wenchi Yu, who has raised a raised hand. Q: Hi. Thank you. Hi, Denis, good to see you again. A question about—first of all, just a small comment about China still welcoming collaboration internationally at higher ed. I think that’s been the case for a couple years. The question now is not so much about their will, but more how, right? So in order to collaborate in a way that neither side compromises our own values and principles, I think that’s more of the key question. So I think moving forward if you can just maybe go deeper on this point. How can we really collaborate without, you know, feeling that we’re making too much of a compromise? And the second related is, I think what we’re seeing in terms of the change of attitude is not just at higher ed level. You and I have talked about K-12 as well. It’s also been extremely difficult for international schools as well as online education to even, you know, try to connect students with anything international, whether it’s curriculum or, you know, international foreign tutors, educators. So, I mean, do you think, you know, this will impact higher ed? You know, and what is your interpretation of Ministry of Education’s attitude? And, you know, how much is what local officials can actually be flexible when it comes to implementation of those bigger policies? SIMON: So I think one of the—one of the challenges I didn’t get to mention, but I’ll talk about it now, is this issue of homogenization. I think that the Ministry of Education, because of its general approach to curriculum and things of that sort, would like all universities basically to operate very similarly and that there’s not a whole bunch of outliers in the system. The special provisions for these joint venture universities are indeed just that, they’re very special, they’re very unique. And in fact, just like lots of regulation in China, they couldn’t cover the entire waterfront of all the operating, all the administrative, and even all the political issues that might come across. And so many of these, the CEA agreement, or the equivalent of that, was signed, you know, are very unique to those nine or ten joint venture universities. And they—as you know, in China just because you sided with Duke doesn’t mean that if you’re up next you’re going to get the same terms and conditions. And I think that right now because of the tensions in the relationship, it would be difficult to actually replicate exactly what Duke, and NYU, and some of the other universities had, particularly because of the very pronounced way academic freedom issues had been—had been dealt with. But I think that each of our universities is very clear about the red lines that exist regarding issues as sensitive, like academic freedom. In other words, there are very few issues that would invite the kind of deliberation about potential withdrawal, but academic freedom is one of those. Religious freedom, in terms of what goes on on the campus is another issue. Again, the campus is sort of like a protected territory in the way an embassy would be, in many ways. And it’s not exactly the same. It doesn’t have that legal status. But what I’m suggesting here in terms of the operating environment is sort of like that. So up till now, we’ve been very fortunate that we haven’t felt the full brunt, you know, of some of the political tightening that some Chinese universities have experienced. And so we’ve been pretty—the situation has been pretty good for all of us. But I think that part of the problem is that we were dealing with China in a very asymmetrical, hierarchical kind of manner in the past. And that is that the gap between the two countries was very large in capability, particularly in education and higher education. And therefore, it was from the haves—Europe, the United States, et cetera—to the have-no country. That’s no longer the case. And so therefore, that’s why I think that in order to get more accommodation from the Chinese side, we have to bring China much more to the table as a co-equal. And as China sits at that table, then we have to secure commitments to say: Look, we commit to doing this when we’re in China. You have to commit to doing this, whether it’s regarding IP theft, whether it’s regarding the censorship of Chinese students in the United States, whether it’s all other kinds of things that we know are problems. And at the same time, as many U.S. university leaders have done, we promised to protect our Chinese students, that they don’t become the object of attack because we have a kind of anti-China, you know, fervor going through the country, and somehow these students are going to be, you know, experiencing some problems. This is a very difficult period. But I don’t see how we can continue to go forward based on a document, or set of documents, that were signed forty-plus years ago. I think we need to begin to consider, both in education and in science and technology, to sign a new agreement that looks at new rules of the game, reflecting the different status of the countries now versus what it was forty years ago. FASKIANOS: I’m going to ask the next question from Qiang Zha from York University in Toronto, Canada. Two questions: A rise in nationalism and patriotism can be observed among Chinese young generations. How is it going to impact the JVs in China? And whether and now the JVs in China impact the country’s innovation capacity and performance. SIMON: So it seems that there’s two questions there. Let me respond. Professor Cheng Li, who’s at Brookings Institution, has just written a very interesting article about this growing patriotism and even anti-Americanism among young Chinese, that I would recommend. And it’s a very important article, because I think we had assumed in the past that young Chinese are very global, they’re cosmopolitan, they dress the dress, they walk the talk, they listen to the same music. But I think that what’s going on in the country especially over the last ten years is an effort to say, look, you know, stop worshiping Western things and start attaching greater value to things Chinese. And I think that that’s sort of had an impact. And I think when you go and look at a classroom discussion at a place like DKU, where you have students from forty different countries talking about a common issue, Chinese students tend to band together and be very protective of China. I think that’s just a common reaction that they have. Now, in a—as a semester goes on, a few of them will break away a bit from those kind of—you know, that rigidity, and open their minds to alternative ways to thinking about problems and issues, and particularly in terms of Chinese behavior. And I know that I’ve advised a number of students on projects, papers, et cetera. And I’m almost in awe of the fact of the degree to which they in fact have broken away from the old molds and old stereotypes that they had when they entered the program back in 2018. So this is part of a process that occurs over time. And I think it’s something that we have to have some patience about. But I am worried. And I’ll just give you an example. You know, a young Chinese student comes to the United States, has their visa. They get to immigration in the United States, and they’re turned back all of a sudden and they’re forced to go home. No apparent reason, but somebody thinks they’re up to no good, or they don’t—they weren’t from the right, you know, high school, or whatever is the case. We’ve got to really be careful that we don’t start to alienate not only young Chinese—which I think that’s a big problem—but also Chinese American faculty and staff who are at our universities, who now feel that they’re not trusted or they’re under suspicion for doing something wrong. And I know in conversations that I have had with numerous of these people who have talked about should I go back, should I go to a third country? If I’m not in the U.S., should I be in—you know, in Europe? What’s a good place for me to go, because I don’t feel good—nor does my family feel good—now in the United States. We have created a big problem that’s going to have a very negative effect on our talent needs in the 21st century. And that includes young Chinese who would come to the United States for advanced education and hopefully stay here when they get their doctorates, or whatever degree they came for, and Chinese Americans who are here who have been loyal, who have been hardworking, who now feel that somehow they are not trusted any longer. And we’re in a big dilemma right now at this point in time. And I think that my experience at this JV university says, look, as I said, it doesn’t happen naturally that there’s a kumbaya moment that everyone gets together and hugs and is on the same wavelength. There’s a lot of intense discussion among these young people that we must recognize. But hopefully, through the process of being put together and making friends and building trust, they can begin to open their minds for different perspectives and different ideas. And I think that if DKU, or NYU Shanghai, or these other campuses are going to be successful, they must continue to push in that direction. Not to close the door, pull the shades down, and simply hide. But they must be open. And one of the things at DKU, all of our events, open—are open. Our China town halls, we invited officials from Suzhou and Kunshan to come and listen to whether it was Henry Kissinger or somebody else who was—Ray Dalio, who was on, or Fareed Zakaria. They’re all the same thing, we invited people to come to listen and to have an open mind to these kind of events. So I think that we are a beacon of light in the midst of a turbulence. I think President Price’s comment is very apropos to what this represents. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take two written questions. The first is from Peggy Blumenthal, who is senior counselor to the president at the Institute of International Education. Do you see a difference in the kinds of Chinese students who enroll in Duke-Kushan versus those who applied to study in Duke in North Carolina? Are they less from elite political families and less wealthy families? And do you have any students from Taiwan or Hong Kong? And then a second question from GianMario Besana, who’s at DePaul University, the associate provost for global engagement. How is faculty governance handled? Are faculty teaching at the JV tenured as Duke faculty? SIMON: OK. So, yes, we have students from Taiwan. And we don’t always get students from Hong Kong, but we’re open to having students from Hong Kong. So there is no limit. The only thing is, and I’ll mention this, that all Chinese students, PRC students, must have a quote/unquote “political” course. And that course has been revised sharply by our partner at Wuhan University to make it much more of a Chinese history and culture course. The students from Taiwan must take that course. Now, they don’t want to take it and they reject the idea of taking it, but that’s a requirement. And so they do take it. But I can assure you, the one that we have is much softer than some of the things that go on at other Chinese Universities. In terms of the caliber of the students, one thing is very clear. As the reputation of places like DKU and NYU Shanghai, et cetera, have grown, the differentiation between who applies to the U.S. campus and who applies to the DKU campus, that differentiation is getting smaller and smaller. And the reason is very simple: we cannot have a two-track system if we’re giving a Duke degree to the students graduating at DKU, and the same thing for NYU Shanghai. We must have near equivalency. And we have a very strong requirement in terms of English language capability. We don’t trust, frankly, TOEFL. And we don’t trust, you know, some of the other mechanism. We now deploy specialized versions of language testing so we can ensure that the quality of the language is strong enough so at the beginning of the engagement on campus, when they matriculate, they are able to hit the ground running. And that helps a great deal. In terms of faculty governance, the faculty in place, you know, at DKU, as far as I know, are able to—in effect, they meet as a faculty. There’s an academic affairs committee. We have a vice chancellor for academic affairs who oversees the faculty engagement, in effect. And the faculty do have a fairly loud voice when there are certain things that they don’t like. There’s a Chinese tax policy is changing. That’s going to have a big impact on their compensation. They’ve made their concerns well known to the leadership. If they don’t like a curriculum that is being, you know, put in place and they want to change it, they will advocate, you know, to redo some of the curriculum that has been done, and also alter the requirements. So their voice is heard loudly and strongly. But it’s through the vice chancellor for academic affairs to the executive vice chancellor of the campus. It doesn’t necessarily go through the chancellor. And I don’t mean to suggest that there’s full compartmentation of the Chinese side. But there are certain things in which we closely operate together and joint decision making. And then there are things in which basically, at least up to my time, the engagement was a little lighter on the academic side and more intense on the operational side. And I think that that was the model that we had hoped to sustain from the beginning. FASKIANOS: Great. I’m going to take the next question from David Moore from Broward College in Florida. Do you know of any issues the Chinese have with required courses at Duke in U.S. history or U.S. government/political science? And just to give context, he writes, Florida has recently imposed a new required test in civic literacy, which has questions related to the U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights, and major Supreme Court cases. Next year students in China will need to take this test in order to graduate. Are you aware of any such requirements imposed by other states? SIMON: So I’m not aware right now that North Carolina, for example, has this kind of requirement. But I can tell you that we do teach courses about American government, American society, American culture. In other words, American studies gets a full, you know, treatment, if that’s what your major is or that’s something that you choose to study. Now, like many places, even on a U.S. campus, except from what you’ve just told me, I mean, you could go through an entire university education without doing American studies whatsoever. But I think from what I’m hearing from you, that’s not going to be the case in Florida now. (Laughs.) We don’t—we haven’t had that problem. The only requirement, as I said, is on the Chinese side, that Chinese students must have this one course on Chinese history and culture, and they also must have military service. They do this short-term summer military training that they must go through. And I’ve gone to the graduation. It’s a—it’s kind of fascinating to watch it. But, you know, it’s something that’s for bonding purposes. And, you know, that makes China different. Remember, this is not an island existing, you know, in the middle of in the entire China. In some ways, the campus and the fact that we’re in China become part of the same reality. It is not the case—you know, we can’t be an island unto ourselves. That’s when I think real problems would occur. I think the more that we can integrate and understand what’s going on in the larger societal context, it’s important for our students, particularly the international students who come. And the international students are such a critical element because they represent an alternative perspective on the world that they bring into the classroom, as does our international faculty bring new ideas into the classroom. And those are what basically can open up the minds of our Chinese students. We’re not here to make Chinese students think like Americans. We’re here to raise global awareness. That’s all we want to do. We want to give them alternatives and options and different perspectives on the world, and then let them make up their mind. Let them decide what’s the right, or wrong, or comfortable way to think about an issue, and then feel that on this campus and then, you know, further on in their lives, they have the power and they have the capacity to think for themselves. And that’s why—just one point I want to make—critical thinking is such an important part of our pedagogy. How to think critically and independently about issues and express yourself in a lucid fashion are part of what we call seven animating features that we want with each of our graduates. And another one is something called rooted globalism. And that is the ability to understand your own roots, but also the ability to understand the roots of others, and bring that to bear as you begin to look at a problem like: Why do these two countries have different views on climate change? Or why do they think different—so differently about handling pandemics, or handling even things like facial recognition and video surveillance? We have one professor who studies this, and he and I have had many numerous conversations about how to involve Chinese students in these discussions, so they don’t feel intimidated, but get exposed to these kinds of debates that are going on. Now issues like what’s the future of AI, in which we’re looking at moral, ethical issues that face societies—all societies, not just American or Chinese society—and how do these get worked out? These are what the opportunities are that we can accomplish in these kind of joint venture environments. FASKIANOS: A next question from Lauren Sinclair. I’m administrator and faculty at NYU Shanghai. I’m very interested in the notion of pedagogical reciprocity and cross-cultural exchange. Do you see any evidence that this is occurring? Do you have qualitative or quantitative measures through institutional or student-level surveys? SIMON: So this occurs—this kind of what I call knowledge transfer occurs because we do have, as I mentioned, 25 percent of the faculty on the campus at any time are Duke or Duke-affiliated faculty. So when we are doing things on the campus at DKU, there are Duke faculty who are exposed to these experiences, they get to hear the students’ presentations, et cetera, et cetera. They’re part of the discussions about the curriculum. And I can tell you that the Duke curriculum and the DKU curriculum are different in many respects, ours being much more highly interdisciplinary, for example. And we have a project called Signature Work. When our students do this, they get a chance to spend—under normal situation, not COVID—but a semester at Duke. And during that semester at Duke, that also serves as a vehicle for the students to bring with them the things that they’ve learned, and the way that they’ve learned them. And we also have vehicles for our faculty in certain cases to spend time at Duke as well. And one best example I have to give you is the COVID experience. DKU was online by March of 2020. With the help of Duke’s educational technology people we started delivering curriculum to our students in March, April, May, so that they could finish their semester. Quickly, by time June rolled around, Duke, as well as all sorts of U.S. universities, were faced with the dilemma of how to go online. The experience of DKU in handling the online delivery to students who were located all over the world, and the Duke need to be prepared to do that, had great benefit to Duke when it tried to implement its own online programs. That experience was very positive. The synergies captured from that were very positive. And I think that this serves as a reminder that knowledge and information can go in both directions. You mentioned cross-cultural. And again, I think the more faculty we can get to come and have an experience in China, and that they bring back with them the learning that’s occurred, we’ve seen that now get transported back to Duke, and delivered in Duke classrooms based on the experience that they’ve had in China. FASKIANOS: Well, this has been a fantastic hour. Thank you very much. We are at the end of our time. It came, alas, too quickly, and I could not get to all the questions. So my apologies. But we will send around the link to this webinar, the transcript, and other resources that Dr. Simon has mentioned. So, Denis, thank you very much for doing this. We really appreciate it. SIMON: My pleasure. And thank you for having me. FASKIANOS: And we will be having our next Higher Education webinar in January 2022. So this is the last one for this year. And we will send an invitation under separate cover. As always, I encourage you to follow @CFR_Academic on Twitter and visit CFR.org, ForeignAffairs.com, and ThinkGlobalHealth.org for more resources. I’m wishing you all luck with your finals, grading, all of that, wonderful things that you have to do as faulty and as academics. And hope you enjoy the holidays. And of course, stay well and stay safe. And we look forward to reconvening in the new year. (END)
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  • Education
    Academic Webinar: African Politics and Security Issues
    Play
    Michelle Gavin, CFR’s Ralph Bunche senior fellow for Africa policy studies, leads a conversation on African politics and security issues.     FASKIANOS: Welcome to today’s session of the CFR fall of 2021 Academic Webinar Series. I’m Irina Faskianos, vice president of the National Program and Outreach at CFR. Today’s discussion is on the record and the video and transcript will be available on our website, cfr.org/academic. As always, CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy. We’re delighted to have Michelle Gavin with us today to talk about African politics and security issues. Ambassador Gavin is CFR’s Ralph Bunche senior fellow for Africa policy studies. Previously, she was managing director of the Africa Center, a multidisciplinary institution dedicated to increasing understanding of contemporary Africa. From 2011 to 2014, she served as the U.S. ambassador to Botswana and as the U.S. representative to the Southern African Development Community, and prior to that, she was a special assistant to President Obama and the senior director for Africa at the National Security Council. And before going into the Obama administration, she was an international affairs fellow and adjunct fellow for Africa at CFR. So we are so delighted to have her back in our fold. So, Michelle, thank you very much for being with us. We have just seen that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken went on a trip to Africa. Maybe you could begin by talking about the strategic framework that he laid out on that trip, and then we have in just recent days—with a new variant of Omicron—seen the travel ban imposed on several African countries and what that means for the strategic vision that he laid out. GAVIN: Sure. Thank you. Well, thank you so much for inviting me to join you today. And I looked at the roster. There’s so much amazing expertise and knowledge on this Zoom. I really look forward to the exchange and the questions. I know I’ll be learning from all of you. But maybe just to start out to talk a little bit about Secretary Blinken’s trip because I think that, in many ways, his efforts to sort of reframe U.S. engagement on the continent, trying to move away from this sort of binary major power rivalry lens that the Trump administration had been using is useful, but also exposes, really, a lot of the challenges that policymakers focused on Africa are dealing with right now. So he tried to reset the relationship in the context of a partnership, of purely acknowledging African priorities and African agency in determining what kind of development partners Africa is interested in, what kind of security partners. I think that’s a very useful exercise. Then he kind of ticked through, as every official has to do in making these big framing statements as sort of broad areas of engagement and cooperation, and he talked about increasing trade, which, of course, is interesting right now with AGOA sunsetting soon, working together to combat pandemic diseases, particularly COVID, working together on climate change, where, of course, Africa has borne more consequences than many other regions of the world while contributing far less to the problem, working together on the democratic backsliding and authoritarian sort of surge that we’ve seen around the world and, finally, working together on peace and security. So this huge agenda, and I think what’s interesting and what in many ways his trip made clear is that it’s very hard to get to the first four points when the last one, the peace and security element, is in chaos. And, look, obviously, Africa’s a big continent. All of us who ever engage in these conversations about Africa are always—are forever trying to provide the disclaimer, right, that there’s never one African story. There’s never one thing happening in this incredibly diverse continent. But it is the case that the peace and security outlook on the continent is really in bad shape, right. And so the secretary traveled to Kenya, Nigeria, and Senegal. The headlines from his trip, really, were dominated by the disorder in the Horn of Africa that we’re seeing right now. So you have the civil conflict in Ethiopia, which has been incredibly costly to that country in terms of lives, in terms of their economic outlook, has been characterized by atrocities of war crimes. And, I think right now, most observers are very concerned about the integrity of the Ethiopian state, its capacity to persist. Regardless of today, tomorrow, or next week’s military developments, it’s very hard to see a lasting and sustainable military solution to this conflict and the parties do not appear, really, amenable to a serious political negotiation. But it’s not just Ethiopia, of course. It’s Sudan, where we saw the tenuous military-civilian transitional government kind of fully hijacked by the military side of that equation in a coup that has been, really, rejected by so many Sudanese citizens who are still on the streets even today trying to push back against the notion of military dominance in their transition and beyond, and they are being met with violence and intimidation. And the outlook there is quite worrying. You’ve got border clashes between Ethiopia and Sudan. You have electoral crisis in Somalia. So the Horn, you know, is looking like a very, very tough neighborhood. And, of course, everyone is concerned about the impact on Kenya and East Africa itself, given the insurgency in Mozambique, which has more than once affected neighboring Tanzania, these bombings in Uganda and the sense of instability there. The picture is one of multiple crises, none of which come with easy fixes or purely military solutions. And then you have this kind of metastasizing instability throughout the Sahel, right, and the concern that more and more states will fall victim to extremely worrisome instability and the very costly violence. So there’s a huge security agenda and we’re just—we’re all aware of the basic facts that it’s very hard to make progress on partnerships to support democratic governance in the midst of conflict. It’s very hard to come together on climate change or to fight a pandemic in the midst of these kinds of circumstances. So I think it’s a really challenging picture. And just to pull a couple of these threads, on this issue of democratic backsliding the Biden administration’s desire to build more solidarity among kind of like-minded countries whose democracies may take different forms but who buy into a basic set of democratic values, it’s undeniable that the trend lines in Africa have been worrisome for some time and we do see a lot of these kind of democratic authoritarian states, these states where you get some of the form, some of the theater, of democracy, particularly in the form of elections, but no real capacity for citizens to hold government accountable. It’s not really a kind of a demand-driven democratic process, that the fix is often in on these elections, and there is polling, right, that suggests that this is turning people off of democratic governance in general, right. If what you understand democratic governance to be is a sham election, you know, at regular intervals while you continue to be governed by a set of individuals who are not really beholden to the electorate, right, and are protecting a very small set of interests, then it’s not surprising to see some waning enthusiasm. It’s not that other forms of government are necessarily looking great to African populations, but I think it is notable in some of that Afrobarometer polling in places where you wouldn’t expect it, right, like South Africa, where people sacrificed so much for democracy, and you really do see a real decline in enthusiasm for that form of governance. So there’s a lot of work to be done there. The last thing, just because you brought it up, on the latest news about this new variant, the Omicron variant—I may be saying that wrong. It may be Omicron. Perhaps someone will correct me. And the kind of quick policy choice to institute a travel ban on a number of southern African countries. So I do think that in the context of this pandemic, right, which has been economically devastating to the continent—where the global economic downturn that occurred for Africans, too, but you had governments with very little fiscal space in which to try to offset the pain for their populations. In addition, you have had the issues of vaccine inequity, right, where it’s just taken far too long to get access to vaccines for many African populations—it’s still not adequate in many places—and a sort of sense that the deal initially proposed in the form of COVAX wasn’t really what happened—you know, a feeling of a bait and switch—that looks like—what it looks like is disregard for African lives. And while I am really sympathetic—I used to work in government and it’s crystal clear when you do that your first responsibility is the safety of the American people—these travel bans sort of fit into a narrative, right, about scapegoating, about disregard for African life that, I think, is going to make it awfully hard for this new reframing of respect and partnership, right, to really resonate. And I would just note, as a former U.S. ambassador in Botswana, that the scientists in the lab in Gaborone and the scientists in South Africa who did the sequencing and helped to alert the world to this new variant, right, were doing us all a tremendous favor. It’s not at all clear that this variant started in southern Africa, right. We know that it exists on every continent right now except Antarctica. We know that samples taken in Europe before these discoveries were made in southern Africa—just tested later—showed that the variant was already there. And so it is a bit hard to explain why specifically southern Africans are banned from travel. You know, I think it’s unfortunate. There are other policies that could be pursued around testing, around quarantine requirements. So I’ll leave that there. I’m not a public health expert. But I think it’s—I’m glad you brought it up because I think these things do really resonate and they inform how the United States is understood on the continent. They inform how Africans understand global institutions and kind of global governance to reflect or not reflect their concerns and interests. And if what the Biden administration wants is partners in this notion of democratic solidarity and partners in trying to reconstruct kind of international institutions a sense of global order, a norms-based rules-based approach to multilateral challenges, it’s going to be hard to get the African buy-in that is absolutely necessary to achieve those goals when these kinds of issues continue to give the impression that Africa is an afterthought. FASKIANOS: Thank you very much, Michelle. That was really a great overview for us. So now we want to go to all of you. You can raise your hand—click on the raised hand icon to ask a question—and when I recognize you please unmute yourself and state your affiliation. Otherwise, you can submit a written question in the Q&A box, and if you do write a question please say what institution you’re with so that I can read it and identify you properly and—great. Our first hand raised is from Dr. Sherice Janaye Nelson. And let me just say, the “Zoom user,” can you please rename yourself so we know who you are? So, Dr. Nelson, over to you. Q: Good afternoon, everyone. Dr. Sherice Janaye Nelson from Southern University. I’m a political science professor in the department. And the question, I guess, I have is that we know that the African people have a history of nondemocratic governance, right? And when we look at a place like Tunisia, we know that one of the reasons in the Arab Spring that they were so successful—although often considered an Arab country, they are successful because there had been tenets of democracy that were already broiled in the society. The question I have is that to these places that do not have that institutional understanding or have even—maybe don’t even have the values to align with democracy, are we foolhardy to continue to try to support democratic governance as the full-throated support versus trying to look at more of a hybrid of a sovereign situation that allows for, in many ways, a kingdom, a dictator, and et cetera, with then a democratic arm? Thank you so much. GAVIN: Thanks, Dr. Nelson. It’s an interesting question, and I agree with you insofar as I think that it’s really interesting to think about the kind of governance antecedents in a bunch of African countries, particularly in the pre-colonial era, right, and try to figure out how they find expression afterwards. There’s no question that, you know, colonialism doesn’t set the table well for democracy. There’s no doubt about that. But I would say that, you know, despite the loss of faith in democratic governance that we’ve seen in some of the polling, you know, very consistently for a long time what you’ve seen is that African populations do seem to want democratic governance. They want to be able to hold their leaders accountable. They want everyone to have to abide by the law. They want basic protections for their rights. So, you know, I’m not sure that there’s any society that’s particularly ill-suited to that. But I do think that democracy comes in many forms and it’s always particularly powerful when there is, you know, some historical resonance there. I also—you know, if we take a case like one of the world’s last absolute monarchies in eSwatini right now what you see is a pretty persistent civic movement demanding more accountability and less power for the monarch, more protection for individual rights. And so, you know, I’m not—I think that people are feeling disillusioned and frustrated in many cases and you see this, too, in the enthusiasm with which several of the recent coups in West Africa have been met—you know, people pouring out into the streets to celebrate because they’re frustrated with the status quo. They’re interested in change. But very rarely do you see then persistent support for, say, military dictatorships or military-dominated government. So I’m not sure that the frustration means enthusiasm for some of these other governing models. People want democracy to work a lot better. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next question from Lucy Dunderdale Cate. Q: Hi. Yes. I’m Lucy Dunderdale Cate. I’m with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I wanted to just ask you about kind of the African Union’s role in this, you know, particularly and with the Biden administration, and thinking about, you know, the Horn of Africa security issues that you mentioned. Kind of where do you see that we’re going and what do you see kind of for the future there? Thank you. GAVIN: Sure. Thanks for that question. I think the AU, for all of its flaws—and, you know, find me a multilateral organization that isn’t flawed—is actually incredibly important. You know, for the Biden administration, which has kind of staked out this position that international institutions matter and multilateral institutions matter, they’ve got to work better, we can’t address the threats we all face without these functioning and they may need to be modernized or updated but we need them, then the AU is a really important piece of that puzzle. And I think, you know, right now, for example, in Ethiopia that the—it’s the AU’s negotiator, former Nigerian President Obasanjo, who really is in the lead in trying to find some glimmer of space for a political solution, and this was a little bit late in the day in terms of AU activism on this issue and I think it’s been a particularly difficult crisis for the AU to address in part because of being headquartered in Addis and sort of operating within a media and information environment in Ethiopia that is one that does not create a lot of space for divergence from the federal government’s position. So I think that, in the end, right, the prospect of the collapse of a 110-million-strong country, a place that used to be an exporter of security, a major diplomatic player in the region, right, spurred AU action. But it’s been a little bit—more than a little bit slow. But you have seen some pretty forward-leaning stance at the AU as well. Their response to the military coup in Sudan this fall was pretty robust and clear. Now this sort of new transitional arrangement that appears to be more palatable to much of the international community than to many Sudanese citizens is a—we’re wading into murkier waters there. But I think the AU, you know, it’s the only game in town. It’s essential, and particularly in the Horn where the subregional organization EGAD is so incredibly weak that the AU, as a vehicle for an African expression of rules-based norms-based order, is—you know, actually its success is incredibly important to the success of this major U.S. foreign policy plank. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next written question from Rami Jackson. How much of the democratic backsliding is supported by outside powers? For example, there was a chance for a democratic movement in Chad but the French threw their weight behind Déby’s son after he was shot. GAVIN: That’s a great question. I think that it’s, certainly, not the case that external partners or actors are always positive forces, right, for democratic governance on the continent. There’s no doubt about that, and it can be France and Chad. It can be, you know, Russian machinations in Central African Republic. There’s a lot. It can be some of the Gulf states in Sudan, right, who—or Egypt, who seem very comfortable with the idea of military dominance and maybe some civilian window dressing for this transition. So you’re right that external actors are kind of an important piece of the puzzle. You know, I don’t think that there are many situations where there is a single external actor who is capable of entirely influencing the direction of government. But there are, certainly, situations where one external actor is tremendously powerful. Chad is a great example, again. And it is something that, I think, you know, again, an administration that has staked so much of its credibility on the notion that this is something very important to them, you know, is going to have to deal with. And it’s thorny, right. Foreign policy always is where you have competing priorities. You need to get important work done sometimes with actors who do not share your norms and values, and it’s the messiness of trying to articulate and integrate values in a foreign policy portfolio that runs the gamut, right, from counterterrorism concerns to economic interests. But I think that those are tensions that the administration will continue to have to deal with probably a little more publicly than an administration who didn’t spend much time talking about the importance of democratic governance. FASKIANOS: Great. And I just want to mention that Rami is a graduate student at Syracuse University. So I’m going to go next to a raised hand from Mojúbàolú Olufúnké Okome. I know you wrote your question, too. Q: Good afternoon. Thank you very much. Yes. FASKIANOS: Yes. Q: I wrote my question because I couldn’t figure out how to name myself on the phone. You know, thank you for your presentation. When I look at democracy in Africa—I mean, this is not the first go-round—and the response by people, by citizens, to the backsliding by governments is not—it looks familiar to me because, you know, in the 1960s—from the 1960s, there were similar responses. People were dissatisfied. They welcomed authoritarian governments again and again because the government they voted for rigged elections, were also authoritarian, and they were kleptocratic. So what’s different now and where’s the continuity and what has changed, really, with democracy? The other thing is about this COVID—the management of the COVID situation. I also kind of see the—I think I agree with you. The way Africa is being treated looks very familiar—you know, with disdain, with disrespect, as if the lives of the people there don’t matter as much. And what is it going to take, really, to change the—because, you know, if a pandemic that cannot be stopped by walls and borders is not instigating change what is it going to take to change the way in which world politics is—world politics and its governance is done? GAVIN: Fantastic questions and ones that, I think we could talk about for, you know, a week-long conference. But so I’ll start from the beginning and just take a stab. I think you’re absolutely right. There have been these interesting cycles when it comes to governance on the continent and I think—when I think about sort of what’s different from what we were seeing in, say, toward the end of the ’60s, I think it’s a couple things. One is geopolitical context, right. So my hope is that what we’re not doing is kind of doing a reprise of this bipolar world where we’re subbing in China’s authoritarian development model for a Soviet Communist model and sitting here on the other side and, you know, trying to manipulate other countries into one camp or another. I don’t think we’re quite there yet and I think the Biden administration is trying very hard not to wade into those waters. So I do think the geopolitical context is a bit different. I also think, you know, that where so many African states are is at—in terms of kind of the scope of their existence as independent entities is an important difference, right. So I think that in the immediate kind of post-colonial era, for an awful lot of governments the fundamental basis for their legitimacy was having—is not being a colonial administrator, not being a puppet of some external power and so the, you know, legitimacy came from liberation, from independence. In places that had terrible conflict sometimes legitimacy came from, you know, delivering some degree of security from a long-standing insecure situation. So, you know, you look at—I think that’s where sort of President Museveni derived a lot of legitimacy in the late ’80s and through the ’90s. And I think that, you know, now, as you have these very significant young populations whose lived experience is not one of ever knowing a time pre-independence, you know, they’re looking for service delivery, right. They’re looking for opportunity. They’re looking for job creation, and I think legitimacy is increasingly going to be derived from the ability to deliver on these priorities. And so I do think that that makes kind of the governance landscape a little bit different, too, sort of different ideas about where governing legitimacy comes from. And, you know, I think that can be manifest in really different ways. But if I had to try and, you know, grab onto that interesting idea about what’s different, that’s what comes to mind. In this, you know, incredibly important question about what’s it going to take to recognize African states as equal players and African lives as—every bit as urgently valuable as any other, you know, I do think that as the world continues to grapple with this pandemic and with other issues that can only be resolved globally, like climate change, it will, over time, kind of force a reckoning and a rethink about what are the important states and what are not. You know, it’s interesting to me, it’s absolutely true that by not moving out robustly to ensure that the whole world has access to vaccines the richest countries have created opportunities for new mutations to emerge. I hesitate to say that, in some ways, in this context because it sounds like I’m positive that these emerged from Africa, and I’m not. But we do know, you know, as a basic matter of science, right, that we’re not safe until everyone’s safe. And so I do think that as these kinds of issues that military might and economic power cannot address alone, where it really does take global solidarity and an awful lot of multilateral cooperation, which is messy and cumbersome, right, and necessary, my hope is that that will start to change perceptions in framing. FASKIANOS: Thank you. So I’m going to go next to a written question from Abbey Reynolds, who’s an undergraduate student at the University of Central Florida. What steps do you think that international and regional organizations can take to preempt future attempts to derail democratic governance in the region—coups, circumvention of constitutional term letter—limits, rigged elections, et cetera? GAVIN: OK. I’m sorry. What steps should who take? I’m sorry. FASKIANOS: Multilateral—international and regional organizations. GAVIN: OK. You know, I think that in a number of cases subregional organizations have been taking steps, right—ECOWAS, certainly, in rejecting coups and suspending memberships, et cetera. I think, you know, if you look at the sort of articulated and documented principles of a lot of these organizations they’re pretty good. It’s really about the gulf sometimes between stated principles and practice. So, you know, I think the Southern African Development Community is sometimes guilty of this where there are—you know, there’s a clear commitment in static kind of principle documents and protocols around democratic governance but you also have an absolute monarchy that’s a member state of SADC. You’ve had, you know, significant repression in a number of states—Zimbabwe leaps to mind—that SADC doesn’t have, really, anything to say about. So you can have organizations that have kind of principles and procedures. At the end of the day, organizations are made up of member states, right, who have a set of interests, and I think that, you know, how governments understand their interest in standing up for certain norms, it’s—I think it’s specific in many ways to those governments in those states how they derive their own legitimacy, the degree to which they feel they may be living in a glass house, and, you know, frankly, relative power dynamics. So I’m not sure. Certainly, it’s always—you know, I’m a believer in multilateralism. I think from an African point of—you know, if you imagine African states trying to assert themselves on the international stage, multilateralism is really important, right, to get if it’s possible, where interests align, to have as many African states speaking with one voice. It’s a much more powerful message than just a couple individual states. But there are always going to be intrinsic limits. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next question from Gary Prevost with the College of St. Benedict. And if you can unmute yourself. Q: Speaking today, actually, as honorary professor and research associate from Mandela University in South Africa. I’ve had several students in recent years—doctoral and master’s students—study U.S. and allied counterterrorism strategies both in the Middle East and in Africa, and they’ve come away with a general perspective that those strategies going back several administrations have been almost solely focused on military action and that it has led them in their recommendations sections of their theses to argue that other steps must be taken if these efforts in places like Nigeria or Somalia or Mozambique or even in the Middle East, Syria, and Iraq, are to be successful they must have a changed mindset about counter terror. What’s your perspective on that? GAVIN: Well, thanks for that. I wholeheartedly agree, right, and I think, you know, you’ll even get plenty of military officers, right, who will say there’s no way we can address some—these problems, these, you know, kind of radical violent organizations aligned to global terrorist groups with a purely military approach. It’s frustrating. I’m sure it’s frustrating for your students, too, because it feels like everyone keeps coming to this conclusion, and, certainly, there have been efforts to, you know, counter violent extremism, provide opportunity for young people. But we’re not very good at it, right. We haven’t been very good at it yet. There’s still a mismatch in terms of the resources we pour into these kind of relative—these different streams of effort, right. But I think also while it’s very clear in a situation like Mozambique that if you want to weaken the insurgency you need to be providing more opportunity and building more trust in a community that’s been disenfranchised and alienated from the center for a very, very long time. But the how to do that, how to do that effectively and how to do it in a climate of insecurity I actually think is an incredibly difficult challenge, and there are, you know, brilliant people working on this all the time. You know, some of the best work that I’ve seen suggests that some of this can be done but it’s an incredibly long-term undertaking and that, you know, is sometimes, I think, a difficult thing to sustain support for, particularly in a system like the United States where, you know, our appropriations cycles tend to be very short term. So people are looking for, you know, quick impact, things you can put on a bar graph quickly and say that you’ve done. And I think that, you know, a lot of the kind of peace building research suggests that that’s—that, you know, building community trust, which is a huge part of what needs to happen, operates on a very different kind of timeline. So it’s a really thorny, thorny problem and how to get—you know, how to sustain political and budgetary support for those kinds of efforts. I don’t know the answer yet. I’m sure somebody really smart on—maybe on the Zoom does. FASKIANOS: I’m going to go next to Pearl Robinson at Tufts University. Q: Hello, Ambassador Gavin. First of all, I’d like to congratulate you in your new position as Ralph Bunche Senior Fellow for Africa, and that’s actually—as I’ve been sitting here listening to this, my thought was I’d like to know if you have thought about ways in which you can use your position at the Council to help actualize forms of partnerships about policy dialogues related to Africa. You began by articulating the U.S.’s new strategic vision for Africa. That was an American statement. I haven’t really heard an African statement that would be engaging with that policy dialogue. These one-on-one trips of the secretary of state and other people going to individual African countries, based on our agenda, and having one-on-one dialogue discussions, in a way, does not get towards that real notion of African agency in policy and partnership. So I’m actually wondering whether you might envision the Council playing a role and creating some kinds of policy dialogue fora that would have American(s) and Africans participating in ways that would be visible to American publics as well as African publics. So I’m suggesting that you might, you know, be uniquely well suited to have the Council play a role in actually making visible and operationalizing this concept. I just thought about this sitting here listening because what I realized was everybody talking is talking from the American side and I’m wondering if—well, my dear colleague, Olufúnké, actually was an African voice. But I think what needs to happen is there needs to be a way for this taking place maybe with African institutions, academics, civil society actors. So I just throw that out for you to think about and I’d like to hear your first response to that idea. GAVIN: So I think it’s exciting and I’d love, actually, to follow up with you. I’m delighted that you’re here. I heard some wonderful things about your work. I think there’s always the hard part of, right, who speaks for Africa, right, because there are so many diverse African perspectives. But I don’t think you’re suggesting there’s necessarily a unitary voice. You’re talking about sort of different actors, and I would agree with you that it’s always incredibly rich to have conversations. You know, I recently did a panel with Professor Ed Vitz, who is working on some—working on a paper, I think, that will eventually be a book about sort of U.S.-Africa policy and particularly interested in the kind of frame of major power rivalry. But it was such a refreshing conversation to examine that and compare notes on what we thought the flaws of that frame might be to hear his perspective on where he thought there might be advantages to be seized from it. It was wonderful, and I agree with you that the more dialogue and the more opportunity not just to sort of talk amongst ourselves in a U.S. community that cares about Africa and about U.S. policy the better. You know, I will be honest with you, I often, in a situation like the one right now, I try hard to stick to—to at least keep circling back to U.S. policy because that’s where my background is and I, you know, have no desire to posit myself as speaking on behalf of Africans. That’s nuts and, you know, not my role. But I do—I have spent a lot of time thinking about how the U.S. engages with the continent. And so I think it’s a really interesting notion. I’d love to follow up with you. FASKIANOS: Great. I’m going to take the next written question from Krista Johnston, who’s a professor at Howard University. The African Continental Free Trade Area will create the largest consumer market. What are the barriers U.S. businesses investing in Africa and positioning themselves to take advantage of this new trade area and what can the Biden administration do to incentivize this kind of engagement with China? And perhaps I can tack on another question to that because we have a lot of questions—(laughs)—both raised hands—is just to talk a little bit about China’s footprint in Africa as well. GAVIN: Sure. Well, so I absolutely agree that the African Continental Free Trade Area is a really incredibly promising step forward for African economic integration and that is, you know, compelling in any number of ways. I think, for example, about the very hot topic of pharmaceutical production, right. And between the Free Trade Area, the standing up of the African Medicines Agency, right, which should help to harmonize regulatory standards for pharmaceuticals and medical equipment throughout the continent, investments seem a lot more attractive, right, when you’re looking at much bigger markets than any one country, even than a giant like Nigeria, can provide. So I think that there’s tremendous potential here. I will go back to what I said earlier, which is that even with these positive steps, right, it’s going to be really important that the peace and security parts start trending in the right direction because it’s very—you know, I would say this. U.S. investors are already quite bad at assessing risk in Africa and a backdrop of instability is not going to help that situation, right, and it is, in many cases, going to make a given investment opportunity or partnership opportunity too risky for many. So, you know, there’s just no way to jettison those concerns. But wholeheartedly agree it’s an exciting development. If the world hadn’t gotten sort of hijacked by COVID, I think we’d be talking about it a lot more. On China, you know, the Chinese engagement on the continent is a fact of life that’s existed for a very long time and is not going anywhere. It is economic, it is political, it is, increasingly, cultural, and I think, you know, for a state like China that aspires to be a major global power it’s entirely predictable and understandable. Do I think that there are some ways in which Chinese investment and engagement are not always beneficial to African states? I do. I have concerns, certainly, about the way China sometimes uses its influence to secure African support for Chinese positions that appear antithetical to stated values in AU documents and other(s) and I have concerns about the transparency of some of the arrangements. I have concerns as well about some of the tech standards and just sort of play for technical dominance that maybe does not have the cybersecurity interests of Africans as its top priority. All that said, I think it’s really important for the United States to, you know, understand that there’s no—there’s nothing to be gained by constantly vilifying China’s engagement, some of which has been incredibly helpful for African states hungry, particularly, for financing on major infrastructure projects, and, you know, it’s a fact of life we all have to learn to deal with. I do think, you know, there’s some natural tension between the Biden administration’s democracy focus, right, and the very explicit and intentional efforts of China to present a different model, and I don’t think that the U.S. needs to shy away from that or pretend that those differences don’t exist. But I do think it’s incredibly unhelpful to frame up all of U.S. policy as if it’s intended to counter China as opposed to intended to find those areas in the Venn diagram of, you know, those overlaps of African interests and U.S. interests and work together on them. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to go next to Anna Ndumbi, who is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Southern Mississippi. Please unmute yourself. Q: Thank you very much. I really appreciate the presentation. I have a quick question in regards to the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is center of Africa. About three years ago, there was a new president that stepped in by the name of Félix Tshisekedi, and he decided to pass a law saying that all the secondary education should be free because, obviously, in Africa schools aren’t free. And I, personally, think that maybe it wasn’t really—it was something they should have probably considered before passing the law. The result of that is that you have classrooms where there were maybe twenty students and now there’s, like, there could be over a hundred students in one classroom, right. So we spoke about the pandemic. When COVID hit a lot of schools were shut down. They were shut down for a long period of time, and when you look at a lot of schools in Africa they don’t have the ability of giving out maybe laptops or anything like that to assist students to continue school at home. So in result of that, you see a lot of children who are really below what they should be, below the average when it comes to education, and my question with that is where do we see the future going as far as maybe having international organization(s) or United States intervene because the future is not bright when we look at education with the children or the youth. How can United Nation(s) or maybe other international organization(s) assist, especially with what happened during COVID, going forward? What does the future look like for Africa? And I’m speaking more for the Democratic Republic of Congo. How can nonprofit organization(s) or United States intervene and assist in this matter? GAVIN: Well, thank you for that, and I have followed this a little bit because it was an interesting and kind of splashy promise and initiative on the part of President Tshisekedi and it’s been disappointing, I think, to see that some of the, you know, government’s budget that was intended to be allocated for that appears to have found its way into a handful of individuals’ accounts. But I think that, you know, the fundamental point you’re making, which is that in DRC but also throughout the African continent, right, there are these vast populations of young people. It is the youngest region of the world. And if you look at it historically at how other parts of the world have dealt with youth bulges, right, investing in that human capital so that they can be drivers of innovation and economic growth has been a really powerful kind of transformational tool—for example, in Asia. And so I definitely think that you’re onto something really important right now about prioritizing investing in young people and their capacity, and you’re absolutely right that the disruptions of the pandemic have, in many cases, fallen most heavily on children. You know, how to tackle that, I think, is sort of—you know, I can’t design a program in this moment, I’ll be honest with you. But I think that you’re absolutely right, it’s an incredibly important and too often easily overlooked priority. You know, there have been some interesting education innovations on the continent but they’re too often kind of small, not scalable, and the need is so incredibly vast. But here, again, I will be a broken record. We do have to go back to this issue that peace and security matters, right. It’s very, very hard for kids to get a sustained education that’s going to provide them with opportunity in a context of insecurity, which, for a lot of children in eastern Congo, is still the case. FASKIANOS: OK. We have three minutes left. I am going to—and so many questions, and I apologize that we’re not going to be able to get to all of you. So I’m going to give the final question to Caleb Sannar. Q: Hi. Yes. Thank you for joining us today, Ambassador Gavin. As they said, my name is Caleb Sanner. I’m a student from the University of Wisconsin in Whitewater. My question is with the Abraham Accords the Trump administration signed the agreement with Morocco to recognize Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara. Following that, there was some discrepancies in the southern territory controlled by the U.N., MINURSO, and the Polisario Front, the external Saharawi government, ended up declaring war again on Morocco, resuming the war from nineteen years previously. My question is what is the Biden administration’s policy on that? GAVIN: Great question. Reporters have been asking that question, too, and with great message discipline the administration continues to say is that they’re supporting U.N. efforts. And so whenever they ask, are you are you going to reconsider this decision regarding recognition of Moroccan sovereignty in Western Sahara, they respond not by answering that question but by saying they’re supporting U.N. efforts. So that’s the most I can report to you in—regarding that. FASKIANOS: Thank you. Well, we are at the end of our time. So, Ambassador Gavin, thank you very much for being with us and, again, to all of you for your fantastic questions, and I apologize for not being able to get to all of you. But we will have to continue doing webinars on this important topic and on digging in a little bit deeper. So we will be announcing the winter-spring academic lineup next month through our academic bulletin. This is the final webinar of this semester. Good luck with your finals—(laughs)—and grading and taking the exams and all of that. I know it’s a very busy and stressful time with the pandemic layered on top of all of it. If you haven’t already subscribed for the bulletin, please, you can do so by emailing us at [email protected] You can follow us on Twitter at @CFR_Academic. And of course, please go to CFR.org, ForeignAffairs.com, and ThinkGlobalHealth.org for new research and analysis on global issues. You can see on CFR.org Michelle’s latest post on Africa—blog posts, so you should follow her there as well. So, again, thank you. Thanks to all of you, and happy holidays, and we look forward to reconvening in 2022.