Young China Watchers Beijing, in partnership with the Carnegie Tsinghua Center for Global Policy (CTC), launched the mentorship program for its fifth year. Each mentee is linked to their own mentor based on their career interests. The mentors are drawn from the Beijing network, and are experienced professionals from various industries, spanning across finance, policy, business, journalism, technology, and research. The mentees hail from all over the world, are BA/MA students at top universities, and have an interest in China/International Relations. The program aims to provide opportunities for the next generation of China thought-leaders to share their insights from navigating the China-related job market, and build meaningful relationships with their peers in the early stages of their careers.
The fifth run of the YCW-CTC Mentorship Program was conducted from October 2019 to June 2020. I was privileged to be one of the seven mentees selected from the 2019–2020 Young Ambassadors at CTC. Other than attaining a clearer picture of the dynamics and ramifications of China’s international engagements in different sectors, this program has imparted me with three invaluable life lessons.
1. Embrace Diverse Perspectives
Aside from the variety of professional fields represented by the mentors, half of the group comprised Chinese students and practitioners. As an overseas Chinese, it was an intriguing experience listening to and communicating with them. Through our monthly meetings, my coursework at Tsinghua University was complemented by related discussions to sharpen my grasp of the concepts, identify gaps in the existing discourse, and apply theories to the real world. More importantly, their insights have presented me with an alternative lens to reexamine the broader questions confronting international relations today.
2. Embrace the Unexpected
Due to the ongoing pestilence, our in-person mentorship meetups subsequently assumed the form of interactive Zoom meetings. Unfazed by the physical barriers and time zone differences, we kept in close contact, and met up every month to discuss a wide array of topics ranging from reflections on the new normal of webinars and telecommuting, to the rise of Chinese telecom giants, etc.
Throughout the program, I learnt to reconcile my habitual, structured outlook with the unpredictable reality of conducting online meetings. It dawned upon me that this is particularly prevalent in real life, especially for resource-scarce situations and/or unfamiliar environments. As cliché as it sounds, change is a constant, and we are compelled to embrace these evolving circumstances by adapting accordingly.
3. Embrace My Roots
Growing up in a Chinese-majority nation, my personal encounters and travels left an indelible mark on me, which profoundly shaped my views of China. During the program, my interactions with ‘native’ and ‘overseas’ China-watchers enabled me to develop a more sophisticated understanding of China. In a way, I have come full circle, revisiting many presumptions that I harbored since my adolescence, but in a more pragmatic manner.
I am deeply indebted to my mentor, Michelle Ma, for her guidance and assistance. I am also immensely grateful to my cohort mates for their ideas and contributions toward this enriching journey, as well as the camaraderie we shared. Last but not least, this program would not have been possible without the unwavering support from Anna Brachtendorf in delivering a fulfilling experience to all participants.
Suzie Zhang is a Singaporean enrolled in the Tsinghua-Johns Hopkins SAIS Dual Masters Degree Program, majoring in Economics and International Development.