STANFORD, CALIFORNIA: Forty extraordinary young leaders arrived from all corners of the globe on the Stanford University campus in early October for the Forum for American/Chinese Exchange at Stanford’s Annual Summit on U.S.-China Relations.
Founded in 2001, FACES is a student-led, international organization based at Stanford University, dedicated to strengthening the U.S.-China relationship through fostering intellectual, academic, and interpersonal exchange between young professionals and students on both sides of the Pacific.
As Chinese-American relations falter worldwide, FACES’s pioneering model of Track 3 diplomacy — providing a common ground where leaders from both nations can meet as people, and leave as friends — remains as important as ever. Gain a window into the diverse range of insights, experiences, and perspectives delegates bring to the FACES Summit by learning about some of this year’s delegates: representing four continents and a wide range of disciplines, dreams, and ambitions.
FACE I: Austin Price
With U.S.-China relations deteriorating in fields ranging from trade to geopolitical cooperation, Austin Price arrived to the FACES Annual Summit a tad discouraged. Having dedicated his rising career to informing U.S. policymakers on defense and security issues in Northeast Asia, watching mistrust and misunderstanding crest due to recent events was cause for consternation. Connecting with his diverse range of peers at FACES, however, led optimism to win the day.
“Engaging with delegates here at the Summit made me feel better despite the current pessimistic environment,” Price said.
As a Company Executive Officer in the United States Army currently stationed in Korea, Price has a front-row seat on the complex and changing nature of the current U.S.-China relationship. Knowing that understanding perspectives from all sides today is critical to make the right defense and security decisions tomorrow, Price feels that the experience of the FACES Summit, in particular learning from his Chinese peers, has proved transformative.
“The FACES Summit, honestly, was my first opportunity to interact with Chinese exchange students at an Ivy League university,” Price revealed. “I believe [the Summit] opened up doors to a lot of social circles I’ve never had access to before in my life.”
Price also had positive remarks for the Summit’s smooth and professional organization.
“I do a lot of event organizing in my current work, and the conference is definitely very well planned out,” Price affirmed.
FACE II: Aaditee Kudrimoti
Having grown up in suburban Tucson, Arizona in a close-knit Indian-American family, Aaditee Kudrimoti at first glance may appear a world apart from the arena of U.S.-China relations.
Such an impression would be misleading — not only because Aaditee attends the nearby University of California at Berkeley, but also due to her unbridled passion for kindling collaboration between the United States and China on issues of environmental protection and energy. Meeting delegates from across the world and from every discipline, Aaditee was floored by the intellectual vitality and energy of her peers.
“I’ve met all these amazing people here, and they’ve all done such astounding things,” Aaditee remarked. “They are my role models.”
Seeing the FACES Summit as a rare opportunity to comprehend differing views and beliefs from around the globe, Aaditee in particular sought to engage with perspectives that, in other contexts, would be hard to encounter.
“A lot of my experience on U.S.-China relations has been with Chinese Americans,” she said. “Getting input from Chinese nationals has been invaluable.”
A third-year undergraduate with a wide range of interests, Aaditee came to the Summit eager to learn more about the different fields of Sino-American relations her diverse delegate cohort brought to the table. At the same time, as an aspiring academic with a passion for the political economy of renewable resources, she was determined to share her own expertise on a topic with great bilateral and international importance.
“Here at the Summit, I’ve been finding so many people who were initially not interested in the niche part of U.S.-China relations I’m interested in,” Aaditee laughed. “And then I’ve been talking with them about it.”
FACE III: Qingjie (Bob) Zeng
Qingjie Zeng occupies a unique cross-cultural place in the complex U.S.-China relationship.
“I consider myself a 1.5 generation immigrant who was born and raised in China, but has spent considerable time of his formative stage in the United States,” he states.
Qingjie, who also goes by Bob, grew up in Foshan, a “mid-sized” Chinese city of ten million. Traveling across the Pacific for his secondary and tertiary education, he found himself at Southern California’s Pomona College, a close-knit, renowned liberal arts institution with a class size of 400 annually. Realizing the value of intimate person-to-person dialogue through his four years at Pomona, Bob arrived at the FACES Summit with high standards. He, however, was far from disappointed.
“My favorite part of the Summit so far has definitely been the moments I get to spend with fellow delegates one-on-one, and talk about very personal and deep topics,” Bob said. “I’ve been surprised by how open people are despite the fact that we just met.”
Having completed an interdisciplinary major as an undergraduate, Bob was pleased by the diversity of the speakers and delegates at the Summit.
“I’ve been incredibly lucky to have the chance here to talk to people from such a diverse background,” Bob remarked. “I love the diversity of the crowd, be it academic interests or cultural background. I think that’s really valuable.”
Given his unique perspective, Bob hopes to serve as a bridge between the United States and China in his career, fostering the type of personal and cultural understanding the FACES Summit has worked towards for nearly two decades. Bob flew in from Washington, D.C., where he has started work at the U.S.-China Strong Foundation and has had a front-row seat on the increasingly tense state of Chinese-American relations. His experience at FACES, however, has brought him hope.
“The atmosphere in D.C. has been really pessimistic,” Bob reflected. “Seeing FACES and young people like us talking about the issues and taking the time to hear each other has been refreshing, and tells me that there is room to be optimistic.”
Face IV: Emily Weinstein
Emily Weinstein has been a student of the U.S.-China relationship for quite a while. By her own admission, she made up her mind at the age of fourteen to pursue a career studying China. Despite her long-standing passion for understanding perspectives on both side of the Pacific, however, Emily found the FACES Summit transformative.
“I’ve been surprised by the assumptions I went in with about what people would think and say,” Emily said. “Over the last few days, most of those have been blown away in a good way.”
A recent graduate of the University of Michigan with a Bachelors of Arts in Asian Studies with a minor in International Studies, Emily is pursuing a Masters in Security Studies at Georgetown University. As an emerging thought leader on U.S.-China security, Emily has been quoted in the CNN World and the UK’s Sunday Times. Given the intensity she puts into her chosen field, it is no surprise that she has brought the same passion to interacting with her fellow delegates.
“I’ve really enjoyed relationships that I’ve made so far,” Emily said.
FACE V: Gawie Kanjemba
Gawie Kanjemba doesn’t take “no” for an answer. If he had, there would have been no way he could have risen from a modest childhood in the southwest African nation of Namibia to pursuing a master’s degree at the famed Sciences Po – Paris.
As he advanced through his studies and career, Gawie’s dreams also grew — from aspiring to teach at his local school to possessing the global influence, knowledge, and power needed to sail his country to greater heights. Given his goals, he quickly realized that a sophisticated knowledge of the U.S.-China relationship was critical to translating ambition into action.
“I recognized that the United States and China will likely remain the two most influential countries for the remainder of the 21st century, especially for emerging economies like my own,” Gawie stated. “The day to day decisions of these two superpowers can be felt as far as a small village in northern Namibia. It is thus crucial to observe and learn how to engage these two countries as individuals, and as partners to one another and to other states.”
Having traveled far to attend the FACES Summit, Gawie has felt amply rewarded. He has found a new sense of invigoration engaging with the diverse range of perspectives his peers bring to the Summit.
“I’ve found new views, contrasting views, of what’s been going on,” Gawie said. “And I love it.”
While he’s greatly enjoyed the speakers featured at the Summit, Gawie is clear on the chief reason why he’s here.
“The people, always the people,” Gawie responded when asked what he’s enjoyed most about the Summit so far. “The networks are invaluable, and getting to bond with everyone has been stunning.”
Face VI: Sibo Liu
Sibo Liu isn’t new to FACES. In fact, as Co-President of the FACES chapter at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China, she’s been engaging with tough issues in the world of U.S.-China relations for years. The experience of learning from the top academic, business, and diplomatic leaders FACES features at its Annual Summit, however, has proved powerful.
“I was incredibly impressed by some of the professors and their knowledge on China,” Sibo remarked. “I have really gained a lot of insights from these last few days.”
Equally impressive for her has been learning from the perspectives of her fellow delegates — building friendships she hopes will last for a lifetime.
“The cohort has been really nice,” Sibo said. “As everyone’s from different parts of the world, it’s been great to communicate with one another. I’m excited to have a long-term relationship with all of them.”
FACES VII: Marcin Mateusz Jerzewski
A true global citizen, Marcin Mateusz Jerzewski speaks seven languages and has attended school on three continents. This autumn, however, Marcin traveled nearly thirteen thousand miles to gain something new — the honest, one-on-one perspectives of his peers.
“It is so important to have these people-to-people level interactions, because we tend to rely too much on the elite aspect of international relations. We need to avoid the ivory tower of similar views,” Marcin expressed.
Marcin has conducted research at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, worked at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of his native Poland, and presented papers on topics ranging from China-Latin America relations, to Europe’s shifting position in a globalizing world, to Chinese film culture. Now at Taipei’s National Chengchi University, he is ready to take the next step onto true impact on the U.S.-China stage. Marcin believes that next step starts with FACES.
“It’s been an excellent blend of academic, professional, and personal perspectives,” he says.