China Hands’ annual feature “25 Under 25: Leaders in U.S.-China Relations” profiles 25 students and professionals under the age of 25 who have demonstrated exceptional promise in China studies and in furthering the future of the U.S.-China relationship. This year, the editorial board extends its gratitude to our judges, director of the Kissinger Institute on China and the United States Robert Daly, senior fellow at The China Center at Yale Law School Graham Webster, and award-winning journalist and 2014 Yale World Fellow George Chen. We hope you enjoy learning about this talented group of individuals as much as we have.
Congratulations to the honorees!
Alexandra Gray is from New Jersey, U.S. and currently attends Yenching Academy at Peking University. She graduated from Stanford University in 2016 with a B.A. in Political Science and minors in both Chinese and Creative Writing. She is particularly interested in how government or actors in civil society may address issues of social inequity. Her interest in China began in high school, when for the summers of 2010 and 2011 she studied there through the US State Department’s National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y). At Stanford, she served as a Campus Ambassador for Teach for China and advocated the importance of educational equity in soliciting partners and candidates for the program. In 2015, she interned for the Asia Team at Internews, an international development non-profit that harnesses the power of media and IT to enhance civil society. There, she helped develop projects to improve the quality of life of LGBTQ individuals and people with disabilities in China. After completing her M.A. program in China Studies, she hopes to pursue a career in which she can make positive social impact.
Emma Campbell-Mohn currently resides in Beijing as a Schwarzman Scholar at Tsinghua University. In the past, she served as a Defense Research Intern to Congressman J. Randy Forbes, Subcommittee Chair of the House Armed Services Committee, and as a Research Intern at the American Enterprise Institute. Emma graduated with distinction from Duke University, where she wrote her honors thesis on Chinese contributions to UN Peacekeeping Operations. While at Duke, Emma co-taught a House Course on “China in a 21st Century” and served as President of the Duke Alexander Hamilton Society and Co-chair of the Duke Council on American Grand Strategy.
Born and raised in China, Jue Hou is an avid reader of both Chinese and English literatures and believes that mutual knowledge achieved through studies in the Humanities can help transcend the boundary of human ignorance and prejudice. A student of Comparative Literature at Tsinghua University and a former visiting student at Oxford, he reads and writes extensively in both languages, seeking to renegotiate modern Chinese literature in a globalized context. For two consecutive summers, he worked in the University of Chicago’s Neubauer Collegium Project, “History, Philology, and the Nation,” and translated Chinese scholarship on modern writer Lu Xun to English, completing a total of over 80,000 words. With a wide range of interests, he also worked on a sociological project examining the transformation of private-owned businesses in China, and single-handedly spearheaded a linguistic project that looked into Chinese-speaking aphasics’ reproduction of abstract words. Jue intends to continue contributing to academic exchange and translation that will promote transcultural understanding between China and the United States.
Amanda Johnson is a senior at Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, Michigan majoring in Economics and minoring in Political Science and Chinese. During the academic year of 2015-2016 Amanda spent the year studying in Beijing and Harbin, China as a David L. Boren Scholar. While in China, Amanda focused her studies on language and the Chinese economy. She conducted multiple research projects on China’s influence on the market value of Bitcoin, trends in Chinese monetary policy, and income inequality developments in China. While in Beijing she interned with the Beijing International Society, a non-profit organization dedicated to expanding the foreign communities understanding of Chinese politics, economics and culture. She worked alongside diplomats from all over the world to put on events and to write articles to contribute to advancing the goals of the group. In the long term, Amanda hopes to pursue a career in international economic policy with a specific focus on US-China economic relations.
Roman Chen is a senior pursuing a major in gender politics at New York University in Shanghai. Growing up in a migrant family from the Tibetan Plateau, he has always been attuned to marginalized communities. He worked in New York for a summer to produce a musical that addresses mental issues among college students. He helped coordinate LGBT community building events for NYU’s Ally Week and Shanghai’s LGBT Pride Festival. He travelled to Hungary in 2015 to research Budapest’s post-communist queer activism in the context of the European Union. Roman has interned at Machik, a non-profit organization that works to develop opportunities for education and innovation in Tibet. He participated in Machik’s Summer Enrichment Program as a teaching fellow, and now he continues his liaison with the organization through fundraising endeavors. Roman is currently working on his senior thesis, which compares the formation of community among sexual-minority college students in Shanghai and Taipei. He hopes to pursue graduate study in social justice from the perspective of public policy.
Max Song grew up in Beijing, Shanghai and Chicago. He is passionate about how technology can facilitate new models of cross-cultural education. At Brown University, he was a Student Coordinator for Brown’s Year of China, a campus-wide celebration of Chinese culture and history. After studying machine learning and diplomacy, he worked in Silicon Valley, Paris, and New York, which gave him a global outlook on the interconnections between cities and cultures. He is passionate about leveraging technology and community building to bridge intercultural divides, especially between the U.S. and China. In 2014, he founded the One Salon—an intellectual, emotional and experiential gathering that spread from Stanford to twelve cities around the world (TEDx Video). In 2016, he founded Prometheus Education—an international summer program that teaches public speaking, robotics and entrepreneurship in Shenzhen. He is currently studying in Beijing as an inaugural Schwarzman Scholar at Tsinghua University.
David Stack currently serves as a James C. Gaither Junior Fellow with the Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where he conducts research on the Chinese economy. He has spent two summers in China studying Mandarin, most recently as a participant in the Critical Language Scholarship program at Shaanxi Normal University in Xi’an. As an undergraduate at Penn State, he studied economics, international politics, and Chinese. He was awarded the Edward C. Budd Award for his honors thesis investigating the effects of the hukou household registration system and regionally biased university admissions policies on labor mobility and human capital accumulation in China. On campus he served as vice president of the Penn State Journal of International Affairs, and he completed summer internships with the Brookings Institution and the U.S. Army War College. He hopes to contribute to positive U.S.-China relations through a career in public service, most likely as a diplomat.
Rona Ji is a junior at Yale University double majoring in Economics and Ethnicity, Race & Migration. Although Rona was born and raised in the United States, she has spent nearly four years in China on summer trips, which allowed her to pursue intercultural learning and become natively proficient in both Mandarin and English. Her bicultural upbringing has strengthened her resolve to create connections between the U.S. and China through educating others to become leaders in today’s changing international realm. In high school, Rona helped propose the Tsinghua-University of Washington Global Innovation Exchange R&D Center, which capitalizes on today’s changing STEM entrepreneurship. She has also worked towards mobilizing Asian Americans, both helping to organize the first White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islander conference at Yale, and by helping to found a Center for Advanced China and International Studies in Seattle to further avenues for high-level bilingual language acquisition.
Daniel Khalessi believes that the future of U.S.-China relations depends heavily on each country’s political leadership. As Founder and CEO of Fireside, Daniel and his team created a mobile application that reduces misinformation in American media and empowers people to communicate directly to political leaders. After graduating from Stanford, Daniel pursued an MA in Global Affairs at Yale and a second MA in China Studies at Peking University on a Yenching Scholarship. A Silk Road traveler, Daniel has analyzed China’s relations with the Persian Empire and its influence in Central Asia. Daniel served as an Adviser to Former U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry for a global nuclear disarmament project and conducted research for a collaborative report with China for the United Nations Secretary General’s Global Sustainability Panel. Daniel’s publications on Sino-Iranian relations, nuclear weapons, and Chinese philosophy have appeared in the Huffington Post, Routledge Taylor and Francis’s Nonproliferation Review, and the Yenching Review.
As a member of New York University Shanghai’s inaugural class, Roxanne Roman has worked to integrate the joint U.S.-China University into the city as a founding member of student government and as Student Body President. Roxanne organized the Student Government Summit bringing student leaders from eight local universities together. She also launched a charity week, where proceeds sponsored surgeries for migrant children. Roxanne studied abroad in Abu Dhabi and Washington, D.C. where she interned in the White House for the Office of First Lady Michelle Obama. While working at the White House, Roxanne assisted with the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit and met President Xi JinPing. She studies Social Science with a Political Science focus and a minor in Global China Studies. She is a first generation Filipino-American from a military family. Roxanne aspires to use her unique experiences and cultural identities to bridge opportunities between China, the United States, and the Philippines.
Jesse C. Caemmerer is a member of the inaugural class of Schwarzman Scholars based at Tsinghua University. He received his BA in Political Science and International Relations from Santa Clara University, graduating Honors and Phi Beta Kappa, and received his MSc in Strategic Studies from the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) as a Rotary Global Scholar. During his graduate studies, Jesse worked as a research assistant in the Military Studies Program at the Institute for Defense and Strategic Studies, Singapore. After completing his MSc, he spent a year as a Research Analyst at RSIS, where he coordinated the Singapore Committee of the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific and researched Asian security and trade policy. His principle interests include Asia-Pacific economic and security architectures, Sino-U.S. relations, and strategic studies. After completing the Schwarzman Scholars program, Jesse intends to pursue a career in research and public service focused on U.S. foreign and security policy in Asia.
Rosie Levine’s interest in China began at an early age: she spent five years living in Beijing as a child. This experience instilled in her from a young age a passion to improve global understanding about China. This led her to pursue degrees in History, Asian Languages & Cultures and Museum Studies at the University of Michigan with an emphasis on modern Chinese history, cultural heritage and public history. She graduated with High Honors and Highest Distinction in May of 2014. After graduation, Rosie returned to Beijing and has worked in various institutions in the culture sector including UNESCO’s Beijing office and the Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Center, a Chinese NGO working to preserve and protect the unique cultural heritage of Beijing. Her goal is to promote a more holistic view of China through increased understanding of Chinese history and culture. Rosie is currently studying at the Yenching Academy at Peking University in the History & Archeology concentration.
Brian Kim graduated Phi Beta Kappa and Summa Cum Laude from Princeton University with a degree in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public & International Affairs and is currently a Yenching Scholar at Peking University pursuing a Master’s in China Studies. Kim focused his undergraduate studies on devising a Korean reunification policy, conducting his thesis research in Germany on issues of transitional justice, regime transition, conflict resolution, and restoration of private property. In 2015, Kim worked for Choson Exchange in Singapore where he helped organize a 3-month MBA program for a delegation of North Korean bureaucrats. Previously he held an internship with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) for the former White House Director of Asian Affairs and a Virtual Foreign Service internship with the Office of Japanese Affairs at the US Department of State. In Beijing, Kim hopes to continue research on identifying statistically significant differences in policy priorities within the United States, China, and South Korea on North Korea.
Jakob Lengacher was first exposed to Chinese during his freshman year at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He instantly fell in love with the language, and after developing an interest in U.S.-China relations spent his junior year in Harbin, China as a Boren Scholar. Studying in Harbin and attending the 2015 FACES conference impressed upon Jakob the massive impact personal connections have in building cross-cultural understanding, and he believes they lay the foundation for greater diplomatic accomplishments. Currently a Fulbright Scholar at Heilongjiang University, Jakob seeks to strengthen this foundation by helping others better understand American and Chinese cultures, particularly both countries’ respective LGBTQ communities. His Fulbright research explores new directions for the 20-year-old Shanghai Cooperation Organization in hopes that it can play a part in helping the U.S. and China work towards the denuclearization of East Asia. In the future, he hopes to pursue a career in nuclear nonproliferation, paving the way for a safer world and the safe development of new energy technologies.
A student at Tsinghua University, Shuangchen Yu believes that the future of the world depends on friendly cooperation between the USA and China. At the age of 15, she won the top prize in the Martin Luther King Memorial Poetry competition. As an acknowledgement of her important role in helping Jinan and Sacramento to win the 2014 U.S.-China Sister Cities Award, her photo appeared in the China Daily as a representative of the youth of China who actively seek to better promote ties with the United States. Jinan Municipal government and Jinan TV Station made a short documentary about her. After attending Harvard Summer School in 2014 and Yale Summer School in 2016, she participated in a Youth Leadership Workshop in Berkeley and then worked as an intern in the offices of Senator Richard Pan in the State Capitol of California. Shuangchen’s message is clear: we can work together; we can learn from each other; we can friend each other!
Adopted from Jiangsu Province, China, at five months old and a native of Newton, MA, Charlotte Cotter co-founded the international organization “China’s Children International,” in 2011 to connect young adults adopted from China around the globe. Today, the organization serves as the pre-eminent support and networking organization for Chinese adoptees with 2000 members worldwide and programs around the world. Charlotte is dedicated to expanding China’s Children International, with a goal of organizing the first international Mainland Chinese adoptee conference. Fluent in Mandarin, Charlotte is a senior East Asian Studies major at Yale, where she has served as the president of Building Bridges, an organization that pools educational resources and capital to teach disadvantaged children in rural China, and the president of the Chinese Adopted Siblings Program for Youth, where she created a mentorship program. She is passionate about making the most of her unique position as a Chinese adoptee to create opportunities that increase mutual understanding between the people of America and China.
Jennifer Mayer is dedicated to studying domestic politics in China. With a Chinese and Political Science double major at Ohio State University, she researched Chinese hukou policy and urban development, attended the Beijing Language and Culture University, and worked for the federal government on China’s infrastructure development. After graduating summa cum laude, Jennifer spent a year in Taiwan on a Fulbright grant, broadening her knowledge of cross-Strait issues. Jennifer is now attending the Masters of Asian Studies program at Georgetown University, for which she wrote a thesis on Chinese labor politics during the economic slowdown. Jennifer has undertaken primary research on human rights at the Congressional-Executive Commission on China and multidimensional analysis of China’s rise for the China Power Project at CSIS. She also acts as Editor-in-Chief for the Georgetown Journal of Asian Affairs. Jennifer looks forward to a career advising U.S. policymakers on China’s domestic politics in order to strengthen U.S.-China relations.
Vincent Wang is currently the Center Coordinator for the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institution. Vincent co-founded and co-hosts the DC Asia Policy Happy Hour with the mission to connect people interested in Asia policy across think tanks, academic institutions, industries, nonprofits, and agencies. A graduate of UC Berkeley, he worked extensively with the Taiwanese American and Asian American communities while on campus. His commitment to engagement and dialogue stemmed from his work with Strait Talk Berkeley, an organization dedicated to cross-Strait conflict resolution. Having worked for a political action committee, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, and the U.S. House of Representatives, Vincent is also familiar with domestic politics at the local, state, and federal level. Vincent has presented his research at the North American Taiwan Studies Association and has written for The Jamestown Foundation’s China Brief and Taiwan’s United Daily News.
Florence Tesha is a Class of 2017 MasterCard Foundation Scholar from Tanzania majoring in Global Health and Chinese at Duke University. Florence participated in an intensive Mandarin study abroad program in Beijing during her freshman summer. In the fall of 2014, she studied at Duke Kunshan University (DKU), where she was elected as the Secretary of the Kunshan Student’s Ambassador’s Council (KSAC). In her time at KSAC, she led the formation of the constitution for the first DKU Student Government. While in China, Florence carried out research on the factors affecting smoking among the Chinese population, which was published in the North American Chinese-Learning Students’ Anthology. Upon her return to Duke, she was offered a part-time job at the Duke One Health Team, which aims to establish U.S.-China partnership in addressing zoonotic diseases. Currently, Florence is pursuing a senior thesis analyzing China’s global health aid to Tanzania.
David Solomon is Business Advisory Services Manager at the U.S.-China Business Council in Washington, DC, where he advises U.S. energy and healthcare companies navigating China’s regulatory environment. Collaborating with the United States and Chinese government and industry experts, he advocates cooperative commercial relations between the two countries on climate/clean energy and healthcare access issues. Solomon lived three years in China—studying Mandarin in the Inter-University Program for Chinese Language Studies at Tsinghua University, IES Beijing Language Intensive Program at Beijing Foreign Studies University, and US State Department Critical Language Scholarship Program at Suzhou University—while launching digital communications and loan disbursement platforms for a Beijing-based microfinance firm operating in economically-evolving Western China. Graduating magna cum laude from Skidmore College, he double-majored in Government/International Affairs and minored in Chinese. Solomon strives to establish his own platform, marrying Western industry expertise with Chinese development capabilities to achieve sustainable energy solutions for underserved populations.
J.R. Thornton graduated from Harvard in 2014 where he studied History, English and Chinese. As a teenager he spent a year living in China, training with the junior national tennis team in Beijing. His experiences with the Beijing team later served as inspiration for his first novel, Beautiful Country. A best seller on its release in China, Beautiful Country was published in the U.S. by Harper Collins in April, 2016. It has received critical acclaim from Mo Yan, the 2012 Nobel Laureate in Literature, and Niall Ferguson who termed it “the quintessential Chimerican novel for the Millennial generation.” A recipient of the LeBaron Russel Briggs Fiction Prize, and a writer in residence fellowship from Beijing Normal University, Thornton was also one of five U-35 young leaders invited by the Asia Society to participate in the inaugural Brussels-Asia Society Dialogue this past summer. He is currently pursuing a Master’s degree at Tsinghua University as a member of the inaugural class of Schwarzman Scholars.
Born and raised in a traditional Mongolian-Manchurian family in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of the PRC, Celine (Yan) Wang has dedicated her studies towards the history and culture of the ethnic groups in China. As a graduate student at Yale, her interests focused on Mongolian studies, minority education policy, and the issues with respect to social and economic development in rural ethnic China. Wang is also passionate about US-China issues in law and public policy, and has deepened her understanding of the American judicial and legislative systems through working as a legal intern at the Washington State Attorney General’s Office, at the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, and via the Volunteer Lawyer Network. Wang currently works as a Research Fellow at Oyu Tolgoi Watch in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, a human rights advocacy NGO, where she works on policy and advocacy strategy and analysis with respect to China-Mongolia energy markets, the Mongolian mining industry, and environmental justice for Mongolian herders.
Lorand Loskai is a researcher, journalist and former debate league director. Until recently, Lorand worked at Danwei, a research arm of the Financial Times in Beijing, where he provided international companies with research and market intelligence on topics like SOE reform, the corruption drive, and China’s approach to Internet governance. He recently co-authored a chapter on China’s Internet with Jeremy Goldkorn for China Story’s 2015 China Yearbook. Lorand is also a frequent journalist and keeps a close eye on Taiwan, where he originally studied Chinese in 2014. He frequently returns to the island to write stories, most recently to cover Taiwan’s 2016 presidential election. Before working at Danwei, Lorand helped spread American-style debate in China as League Director at the National High School Debate League of China (NHSLDC), which took him to nearly every province of China. He currently sits on the NHSDLC’s Academic Advisory board.
Ariel Hsing was named after the main character in the Disney movie “The Little Mermaid,” but instead of singing and dancing, she likes to study and play ping pong. In 2009, she was a part of the U.S. delegation that visited China to celebrate the 30th anniversary of U.S.-China diplomatic relations—which was started with, yes, a ping-pong ball! She represented the U.S. at the 2012 London Olympics in table tennis and lost to the eventual gold medalist Li Xiaoxia of China in the round of 32. Despite the loss, Ariel gave herself a 10 out of 10 for performance.In the summer of 2014, Ariel became the first U.S. player to participate in the China Table Tennis Super League. She took this opportunity to introduce American culture to her teammates and also by speaking at high schools. Ariel is now a student at Princeton University studying economics. Her junior independent work explored the global financial crisis and its effects on Chinese stock market anomalies. Ariel is also into music. You can find her “Ping Pong Concerto” China tour composed by Andy Akiho on YouTube.
Zixuan (Sharon) Deng grew up in Wuhan, China, and it was in Wuhan, aptly and poetically named the “furnace city” because of the scorching summer heat, that Sharon began her life-long endeavor to strengthen the U.S.-China relations by creating platforms that compels people to understand those who seem distant from them. As the director and producer ofParis, Ni Hao, a 40-minute documentary film, she probed the lives of eight first and second-generation Chinese immigrants who must reinvent their identities and lifestyles to thrive in their adoptive city. As president of GCC’s Princeton Chapter, she pioneered the U.S.-China Pen Pal Program, bridging students from two countries. She has also proposed and co-led a trip addressing the challenges that socioeconomically disadvantaged international students face in the pursuit of American higher education. She is currently studying architecture and urban planning at Princeton University, focusing how culture and immigration are transforming the urban landscape.