Student group puts focus on China

China Focus student group and blog brings together diverse perspectives on China and its global relations

Jan. 30, 2020 | By Jade Griffin | GPS News

What does a trade war simulation, a China-focused blog, a talk by a leading China expert and a ping pong tournament have in common? They are all organized and managed by China Focus, the UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy’s (GPS’s) student group dedicated to organizing and promoting China-related activities.

news_china-focus-ping-pong1.jpgThe student-led group works hard to provide a dynamic, active forum for students to participate in intellectual, academic, professional and social activities related to China and the nation’s relations with the rest of the world.

“I think of China Focus as an outlet for Chinese culture at GPS,” said Constantine Stasinopoulos, a 2020 Master of International Affairs (MIA) candidate and president of the group. “It also serves as a place to talk about more serious issues like politics.”

The group recently hosted a talk by Jessica Chen Weiss, who earned her doctorate from UC San Diego in 2008. Chen Weiss now works as an associate professor of government at Cornell University and as the China/Asia political science editor at the Washington Post Monkey Cage blog. As part of the China Focus event, she met with students to discuss careers related to China and U.S.-China relations. Chen Weiss was on campus for GPS’s recent UC San Diego Forum on U.S.-China Relations, which brought together some of the world’s top minds on the relationship between the U.S. and China.

In addition to the recent talk with Chen Weiss, China Focus has also increased the frequency of its “language tables” on campus, which allow students who are learning Mandarin Chinese to come practice their conversational skills with fellow students who speak the language fluently. The group also hosts quarterly social activities—such as last year’s ping pong tournament—to allow students to network and unwind.

“Studying at GPS can be intense, especially in the first year,” said Stasinopoulos. “I see these events as an opportunity to provide a forum for students to come interact with each other stress-free.”

news_china-focus-new-year-2019.jpgAccording to Anju Kobayashi, the group’s vice president of external affairs, another key role of the group is to bring students from various backgrounds and regions together. “Some students are from Hong Kong, others from Shanghai,” said Kobayashi, a 2020 MIA candidate who lived in China for several years. “China Focus gives us the opportunity to learn about each other’s real stories.”

In addition to events and activities, the group also manages the China Focus blog, which delves into politics, social issues and more related to China. Regularly posted content includes relevant news and events, authored blog posts, podcasts and more. The mission of the blog is to provide original content that informs and gives context to meaningful discussions on China and its global impact.

“There are so many students at GPS from diverse backgrounds that have varying perspectives on China,” said China Focus blog editor Mark Witzke, a 2020 MIA candidate. “The blog is a great opportunity for them to share their thoughts with the UC San Diego community, as well as the broader China-watching community.” 

According to Witzke, the blog also offers an important outlet for GPS students to share their research beyond their tight academic circles. It also gives students practice in translating academic research into articles that are more accessible to the public.

“Students here do a lot of exciting research on a variety of China-related topics, but they often don't have an outlet to share it,” said Witzke, who works with writers to shape their blog posts for more general audiences. “The blog gives them an opportunity to hone their writing skills and share their research beyond just submitting it for a grade to their professors.”

The editorial team also hosts an annual China Focus essay contest, which is open to students at universities in the U.S. and China. This year’s two winners, who wrote on the topic “China in the World,” were announced recently. Bailey Marsheck of Yenching Academy of Peking University wrote his essay on “Trans-Pacific Antagonism, Trans-Atlantic Apprehension: Western Europe’s 5G Dilemma” and Michael Joseph Ostique from the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics won for his essay on “U.S.-China Rivalry and the Quasi-war in ASEAN.” China Focus partnered with the Fudan-UC Center on Contemporary China to offer each winner $1,000.

Visit the China Focus blog to learn more.

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