Stanford Report: The First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, spoke at SCPKU today and said study abroad allows students to realize that countries all have a stake in each other's success. Following her remarks, she held a conversation with students on the Stanford campu via SCPKU's Highly Immersive Classroom. Read more.
Kanwal Rekhi is regarded as a pioneer of the Indian diaspora in Silicon Valley. After studying at IIT Bombay, Rekhi completed his graduate studies at Michigan Tech and moved to San Jose in 1982, where he co-founded Excelan. The company went public on Nasdaq in 1987. It was the first time that immigrants from India had created a company and succeeded in listing it on a U.S. stock exchange.
Since having found success as an entrepreneur, Rekhi has sought to give back to the diaspora community and his home country. In 1992, he co-founded The IndUS Entrepreneurs (TiE), a non-profit that supports Indian entrepreneurs seeking to create startups. Rekhi explained to me that “there were many young Indians who wanted to start businesses, but they lacked the know-how and the networks.” TiE was intended to fill that gap. Rekhi also made a sizable donation to his alma mater, and he has advised the Indian government on policy issues. Moreover, he has supported the work of various universities in the United States, including Stanford.
The Story of India’s Diaspora
Rekhi belonged to the first generation of Indian immigrants to establish a foothold in Silicon Valley. Countless others, including Google CEO Sundar Pichai, have since followed in his footsteps. Upon graduating from the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), these individuals pursued further studies in the United States, where they successfully created startups or climbed the ladder to become C-level executives at major companies. They also maintain and cultivate close ties with their home country. Indian immigrants have been integral to Silicon Valley’s explosive growth, and they are now also contributing to India’s rise as a major economic power. India has now overtaken the United Kingdom, its former colonial ruler, with the fifth-largest GDP in the world.
The Indian diaspora has made its presence felt beyond the economic sector. Numerous graduates of the All India Institutes of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) practice medicine in the United States, and renowned scholars of Indian heritage serve on the faculty of elite American universities. For instance, Stanford selected Dr. Arun Majumdar to serve as the inaugural dean of the Doerr School of Sustainability, which opened its doors in the fall of 2022. Majumdar completed his undergraduate studies at IIT Bombay and obtained his PhD from UC Berkeley in 1989. His career has spanned the public and private sectors, and he now spearheads Stanford’s first new school in 70 years—an ambitious effort to “tackle urgent climate and sustainability challenges facing people and ecosystems worldwide.” It would not be an exaggeration to say that the Indian diaspora now has greater influence and impact in Silicon Valley than the Chinese diaspora.
Moreover, India plays a central role in Washington’s Indo-Pacific Strategy, which has become the focal point of American foreign policy. New Delhi was the leader of the non-aligned movement during the Cold War, but it is now building closer ties with liberal democracies around the world. Unlike China, India is not locked in a strategic competition with the West. High English proficiency among Indians also facilitates relations and exchanges at all levels. It is also worth noting that there are now influential politicians of Indian heritage in major countries, including Kamala Harris in the United States and Rishi Sunak in the United Kingdom. India prides itself on being the most populous democracy in the world, and its stature in the international community is only likely to grow in the coming decades.
Despite these developments, Korean public sentiment toward India is largely negative. There is broad awareness of the legacy of historical figures like Mahatma Gandhi and cultural achievements such as the Taj Mahal. However, many Koreans still perceive India as a poor and chaotic country with rigid and obsolete customs, including the caste system. There are substantial cultural, social, and historical differences between Korea and India, but it is time for Korea to cast aside any prejudices and take a clear-eyed view of India. It is encouraging to see the Yoon Suk-Yeol administration stress in its recently announced Indo-Pacific Strategy that Korea “will advance [its] special strategic partnership with India, a leading regional partner with shared values.” The document also rightly notes the importance of “enhanced economic cooperation” between the two countries.
In this context, it is especially vital for Korea to pay attention to the rise of the Indian diaspora in the United States and beyond. They are a force to be reckoned with in the global market. Unlike the state-driven development models of East Asia, India has pursued a market-driven policy since liberalizing its economy in 1991. The country’s overseas diaspora also plays a unique role in catalyzing economic growth. Korea should learn from the successes of India’s diaspora and build closer ties with such networks.
The Rise of Japan, China, and India
Japan was the undisputed leader of the Asia-Pacific in the 1980s, and China has taken on this mantle since the dawn of the 21st century. As China closes its doors amidst its intensifying strategic competition with the United States, India is emerging as the new regional leader. A close examination of the rise of these three countries reveals crucial differences. The contributions of the overseas diaspora to economic development, as noted above, are a distinguishing factor.
Let us begin with Japan. Relying on a well-educated workforce and meticulous training within companies, Japan built upon proprietary technology from the West to achieve incremental innovation. Sony’s worldwide success in consumer electronics, for example, can be attributed to sophisticated engineering and attention to detail in product design, not to significant advancements in the underlying technologies. Furthermore, Japan took great advantage of short-term overseas training programs to learn and utilize advanced technologies to further its own economy. This strategy enabled Japan to increase its economic heft without suffering a “brain drain,” to the point of challenging U.S. dominance over the global economy in the 1980s. There were, however, disputes with the United States over intellectual property rights (IPR).
Throughout this process, Japan’s diaspora did not play a visible role. Many Japanese abroad had already assimilated into their countries of residence, and the few that contributed only provided low-skilled labor. Japanese Americans, for example, have largely assimilated into American society despite the traumatic experience of forced internment during World War II. Contact with their home country was fairly limited. Some Japanese immigrants who settled in South America later returned to Japan, but most of these returnees were low-skilled laborers. After experiencing hardships and discrimination, however, they went back to South America once again after the 2008 global financial crisis.
China took a different path. The Chinese diaspora has a long history centered on Southeast Asia, and its role in enabling China’s reform and opening by providing much-needed capital is well known. In the 1980s, China adopted an “open door” policy and enabled large numbers of students to study abroad. It also proactively pursued a policy of “brain circulation” by inviting these students to return to China and contribute their talents to the country’s development. No country has sent more students abroad than China. With rapid economic growth in the 2000s, over 80% of these students returned. These individuals are called haigui (sea turtles) in China. In Beijing’s Zhongguancun, China’s Silicon Valley, there are a plethora of programs and facilities tailored to haigui. They have not only spearheaded China’s technological innovation, but also made important contributions to the economy, scientific research, and higher education.
China’s pursuit of “brain circulation” has seen some success, but it also created friction with the United States. After studying and gaining work experience in the United States, Chinese talent returned home and directed their know-how toward accelerating China’s rise. However, U.S. authorities began to suspect that China’s talent policy was being misused for industrial espionage, especially in advanced technologies. For example, the Pentagon stated in 2018 that China’s Thousand Talents Program was a “toolkit for foreign technology acquisition.” U.S. intelligence officials added that the program was “a key part of multi-pronged efforts to transfer, replicate and eventually overtake U.S. military and commercial technology.”
India has taken yet another path, although it resembles China’s experience in some respects. Like China, India experienced an enormous brain drain. It is second only to China in the number of overseas students. In terms of highly skilled emigration, it has seen the largest outflow of any country. Unlike Chinese talent, Indian immigrants tended to settle down in host countries, where they have built successful careers. During the 1980s, over a third (37.5%) of IIT Bombay graduates went abroad, and 82% of these individuals stayed abroad. Between 2004 and 2016, 30% of grantees in Optional Practical Training (OPT), a temporary employment visa for F-1 students in the United States, were students from India. Many of these students arrived in America after receiving a rigorous education in STEM or medicine in India. Their native fluency in English is also an important asset. Since India itself is extremely diverse in terms of religion, ethnicity, and culture, prior experience with diverse settings also gives Indian students an advantage for studying and living in America.
Even if Indian talent mostly stays abroad, they create “brain linkages” through extensive interaction with their home country. They bring young talent from India to overseas universities and companies, support start-up entrepreneurs in India, and connect global companies to India’s low-cost, high-quality workforce.
Immigrants from India make up the bulk of H-1B visa recipients in the United States. In fiscal year 2021, 74% consisted of Indian nationals. Unicorn companies formed with diaspora support are appearing left and right in Bangalore, the hub for India’s high-tech industry. The total investment in Bangalore’s tech sector has jumped from $550 million in 2010 to $2 billion in 2017, spread across 6,000 start-ups. This amount is projected to reach $30 billion by 2025. Furthermore, unlike China, India is not currently engaged in disputes with the United States or other major economies over talent policy or IPR in advanced technologies.
Modi’s Visit to Silicon Valley
In 2015, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to a crowd of 20,000 at the Shark Tank in San Jose. Many in the diaspora community gathered for the occasion. Modi asserted that “what looks like brain drain is actually a brain deposit.” He also met with leaders of the Indian diaspora during his visit, including Sundar Pichai (Google) and Satya Nadella (Microsoft), and secured support for the government’s “Digital India” initiative. Naren Gupta, a member of India’s diaspora and the co-founder of Nexus Venture Partners, played an instrumental role in planning the visit. Modi’s tour of Silicon Valley encapsulated the power and influence of the Indian diaspora in America. It also revealed the strength of the brain linkages that the community had built with its home country.
The Indian diaspora is a force to be reckoned with in Silicon Valley. Of all engineering and tech start-ups formed in America by immigrants between 2006 and 2012, 33.2% were created by individuals of Indian origin.This exceeds the total number of companies created by entrepreneurs from China, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Israel, Russia, and Korea combined. Indian immigrants are also filling executive-level positions in major American IT companies. Those of Indian origin make up “just about 1% of the U.S. population and 6% of Silicon Valley’s workforce.” However, they have an outsized impact. Immigrants from India to the United States tend to be highly educated, with over 70% possessing at least a bachelor’s degree. This is markedly higher than the corresponding proportion for the U.S. population, which reached 37.9% in 2021. Various factors help explain the Indian diaspora’s success in the United States: high levels of technical competence, a robust professional network, and strong communication skills based on native English fluency and familiarity with Western culture.
Moreover, Indian immigrants are very much willing to acquire citizenship in their host countries. In recent years, the number of Indian nationals who acquired U.S. citizenship through naturalization has been almost twice the number of Chinese nationals who were naturalized. Indians reportedly do not have qualms about renouncing their Indian citizenship. Modi’s 2015 speech in San Jose, referenced above, clearly reflects how those in India view the overseas diaspora. Regardless of one’s citizenship or place of residence, there is a prevailing mentality of “once an Indian, always an Indian.” Leaders in India’s modern history, including Nehru and Gandhi, were also members of the diaspora. The tightly knit diaspora community gives rise to robust and mutually supportive professional networks, which helps elevate the presence of Indian immigrants in host countries. This is certainly the case in the United States.
Unlike China, India does not have a government-led policy to attract talent. Nevertheless, members of the overseas diaspora can temporarily return to India and engage in various activities with relative ease. There are also institutions that facilitate such endeavors. One is the legal status of “non-resident Indians” that is given to Indians who reside overseas for over 183 days in a given year. This status accords short-term diaspora visitors with legal and economic rights similar to that of resident citizens.
Since 2003, the Indian government has also officially recognized Non-Resident Indian Day (Pravasi Bharatiya Divas) on January 9, which commemorates the day of Gandhi’s return from South Africa to Mumbai in 1915. To mark the occasion, the Indian government presents an award to individuals in the diaspora community who have made significant achievements in their respective fields. Past recipients include Satya Nadella and Kalpana Chawla, an Indian American astronaut who posthumously received the award as the first person of Indian origin to go to space. By taking such steps, the Indian government promotes and strengthens solidarity between India and its diaspora, no matter where its members reside.
The New Argonauts
Members of the Indian diaspora are actively building ties to their home country. In 2021, they sent $87 billion in remittances to India. China’s diaspora came second with $53 billion. This includes money earned by Indian immigrants in the United States, China, and other countries. Overseas Indians in the business sector not only invest in start-ups and real estate in India, but also give policy recommendations to their home government and provide support for higher education. They also organized charity fundraisers to assist COVID-19 response and recovery efforts, responding to the devastation that the pandemic wreaked across the country. According to my own analysis, 42% of 97 major Indian diaspora organizations in the United States maintain close ties with India. As a whole, they are even more active than Chinese diaspora organizations.
The IndUS Entrepreneurs (TiE), founded in Silicon Valley, is one of the best examples. It was established in 1992 with the goal of facilitating networking between entrepreneurs from South Asia, providing mentoring for the next generation, and incubating and investing in start-ups. As of 2020, TiE had 61 branches across 14 countries, with 20 offices in the United States and 23 in India, and boasted a membership of 15,000. To date, it has supported around 10,000 start-ups founded by entrepreneurs of Indian origin. The total valuation of these start-ups is approximately $200 billion. With offices in Mumbai, Bangalore, and Chennai, TiE has acted as a conduit for successful Indian businesspeople in Silicon Valley to interact with their home country. These individuals emphasized the importance of entrepreneurship to youth in India. They acted as role models, mentors, and investors at a time when there was little support to be found elsewhere. TiE continues to serve as a vital link between Silicon Valley and India.
The American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), founded in 1982, plays an essential role in creating brain linkages in the field of medicine. AAPI has 80,000 doctors and 40,000 students, residents, and fellows as members. It fosters closer ties between its members and pursues opportunities for cooperation with Indian medical schools. Since 2007, it has hosted an annual global healthcare summit in India. AAPI also operates 19 clinics across India and established a charitable foundation to provide medical relief. During the height of COVID-19, AAPI sent medical supplies and held various activities to help India overcome the pandemic. It is said that those in the diaspora community view such actions as a responsibility, not just as a charitable activity.
Furthermore, the Indian diaspora is heavily engaged in supporting higher education back home. Consider IIT Kharagpur, which opened its doors in 1951. Vinod Gupta graduated from this school, found success in the United States, and helped launch the Vinod Gupta School of Management at his alma mater in 1993. Arjun Malhotra, another IIT Kharagpur graduate, was involved in the creation of the G. S. Sanyal School of Telecommunications and the M. N. Faruqui Innovation Centre. In another example, leaders from the diaspora community joined forces in 2014 to establish Ashoka University, a private school modeled after American liberal arts colleges, a rarity in a higher education landscape dominated by public universities. Ashok Trivedi, one of the school’s founders, earned his bachelor’s and master’s at the University of Delhi before pursuing an MBA at Ohio University and subsequently co-founding IGATE, an IT services company. As these cases illustrate, leaders in the Indian diaspora community donate to their alma maters and even create new schools altogether. They also facilitate academic exchanges between prominent U.S. and Indian universities, including student exchange programs.
AnnaLee Saxenian, a professor at UC Berkeley’s School of Information, has referred to these immigrant entrepreneurs who maintain ties with their home country after building successful careers overseas as the “new argonauts.” Just like the Argonauts of Greek mythology who set sail across the Mediterranean in search of the Golden Fleece, these individuals have crossed oceans aboard their own Argo to seek success in the 21st century. Kanwal Rekhi emphasized to me that “the diaspora led India’s independence movement in the past, but now it is playing an important role for India’s economy.”
Will India Surpass China?
In a previous essay in this series, I argued that “China will not surpass the United States in our time.” We could ask, in a similar fashion, whether India could overtake China in the future. While there are significant challenges on the road ahead, India could become a formidable competitor for China if current trends continue. At present, India lags far behind China in terms of overall national power. India has a much younger population, however, and its rate of economic growth will likely exceed China’s for the foreseeable future. India is the only country where the supply of highly skilled labor in the technology sector exceeds domestic demand. In addition to IITs and AIIMS, there are excellent engineering and medical schools across all regions of India. These institutions are an important source of talent for the global economy.
China is gradually closing its doors as the Sino-U.S. competition intensifies. In terms of its economy and trade relations, it is at risk of falling into a quagmire similar to Japan’s “Two Lost Decades.” Beijing must also contend with strong anti-China sentiment, especially among developed countries, and it must overcome the challenges that come with diplomatic isolation. India does not face the same geopolitical risks. As one of the four corners of the Quad, New Delhi is pursuing a foreign policy that includes various forms of cooperation with countries across the Indo-Pacific region in both economic and security issues. At the same time, the power and influence of the Indian diaspora only continues to grow. In an October 2022 op-ed on the subject, Tyler Cowen notes that Rishi Sunak is only one example of a much wider phenomenon. “It is now impossible to deny what has been evident for some while,” he says. “Indian talent is revolutionizing the Western world far more than had been expected 10 or 15 years ago.”
To be sure, India faces a complex set of challenges at home. Poverty remains widespread, along with ethnic and religious conflicts. The Modi government has taken an authoritarian turn in its pursuit of Hindu nationalism, and there are serious governance challenges associated with corruption in both government and the private sector. Ajantha Subramanian, a professor of anthropology at Harvard, has pointed out that successful members of the Indian diaspora in Silicon Valley largely come from the upper castes. Some criticize these individuals for amplifying caste-based inequality overseas through their exclusive professional networks in ways that are no longer as prevalent in India. While accounting for such criticism and taking an honest look at India’s domestic issues, it would also be unwise for Korea to discount the importance of India and its diaspora in the coming decades.
To Become Asia’s Small Giant
A few years ago, I gave a lecture on Korea’s development at a leading university in New Delhi. I was deeply impressed by the passion and enthusiasm of the students who came to listen. There is growing interest in India about the story of Korea’s remarkable economic development, as well as K-pop and Korean dramas. Unfortunately, this has not always been reciprocated. In 2017, a bar in Itaewon, an area of Seoul famous for its multicultural atmosphere, drew controversy when it denied entry to a student from India. In 2009, in another incident, an Indian research professor and a female Korean companion were harassed by a fellow bus passenger. Such inexcusable acts of discrimination are ultimately rooted in prejudices and negative stereotypes about India in Korea.
I once had the opportunity to speak to Indian engineers who work in Korea. They told me that while they enjoyed working for Korean companies such as Samsung or SK, prejudice among Koreans toward India often made life difficult. Building closer ties with India is a foreign policy imperative under the Yoon administration’s Indo-Pacific Strategy, but high-level policies alone will not be enough. It is vital for civil society to enhance mutual understanding between Korea and India by expanding cultural exchanges and strengthening people-to-people ties. The private sector also has an important role to play, as they can augment efforts by government-run Korean cultural centers and public entities such as the Korea Foundation.
Indian talent could play an important role in Korea’s economic future. Korea will soon face significant labor shortages due to “a crisis on three fronts: a plummeting birth rate, an aging population, and a serious brain drain.”On the other hand, India has a relatively young population and a large, highly skilled workforce. According to one estimate, “India is projected to have a skilled-labour surplus of around 245.3 million workers by 2030.” There is also a natural synergy between the two economies. India excels in software, whereas Korea’s strength lies in hardware. If China provided opportunities for Korean manufacturers to export intermediate goods, India could provide the talent that Korea’s economy will increasingly rely on in the coming years.
Cowen argues that “India is by far the world’s most significant source of undiscovered and undervalued talent.” Anyone who is concerned about “the future of their own nation” in today’s world, he adds, “really should be focusing on India.” Korea would do well to heed his advice.
While seeking ways to strengthen cooperation with India, Korea should also strive to build closer ties with the Indian diaspora and its networks. East Asian countries, including Korea, adopted a state-centered model of economic development. India took a different path, and its overseas diaspora has played a unique role in driving India’s economic growth. The ever-increasing influence of India’s new argonauts extends beyond Silicon Valley. Australia and Germany have sought to attract Indian talents and draw on their professional networks. The same goes for countries in the Middle East, including the United Arab Emirates. Korea could form closer partnerships with the extensive global networks of India’s diaspora community as it seeks to attract Indian talent and pursue new economic opportunities.
During the Cold War, Korea looked east toward the United States and Japan. As the Iron Curtain fell in the 1980s, Korea pursued Nordpolitik by normalizing ties with Moscow and Beijing. It is now time for Korea to look south. Even as Southeast Asia grows in importance, Korea must keep its eyes fixed on India. If Korea aims to become Asia’s small giant in this turbulent era, it would be wise for Seoul to use prevailing geopolitical currents to its favor.
This essay draws on ongoing research by the author, which will be published in an upcoming book tentatively titled Talent Giants in the Asia-Pacific Century: A Comparative Analysis of Japan, Australia, China, and India.
 Amy Adams and Anneke Cole, “Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability, University’s First New School in 70 Years, Will Accelerate Solutions to Global Climate Crisis,” Stanford University, May 4, 2022, https://news.stanford.edu/2022/05/04/stanford-doerr-school-sustainability-universitys-first-new-school-70-years-will-accelerate-solutions-global-climate-crisis/.
 Republic of Korea Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Strategy for a Free, Peaceful, and Prosperous Indo-Pacific Region, December 28, 2022, 17, https://www.mofa.go.kr/eng/brd/m_5676/view.do?seq=322133.
 The terms “sea turtle” (海龟) and “return from overseas” (海归) are homophones for each other.
 Anthony Capaccio, “U.S. Faces ‘Unprecedented Threat’ from China on Tech Takeover,” Bloomberg, June 22, 2018, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-06-22/china-s-thousand-talents-called-key-in-seizing-u-s-expertise.
 S. P. Sukhatme and I. Mahadevan, Pilot Study on Magnitude and Nature of the Brain-Drain of Graduates of the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (Bombay: Indian Institute of Technology, 1987).
 Neil G. Ruiz and Abby Budiman, “Number of Foreign College Students Staying and Working in U.S. After Graduation Surges,” Pew Research Center, May 10, 2018, https://www.pewresearch.org/global/2018/05/10/number-of-foreign-college-students-staying-and-working-in-u-s-after-graduation-surges/.
 Lubna Kably, “Indians Bagged 3.01 Lakh H-1B Visas During Fiscal 2021–74% of the Total,” Times of India, April 14, 2022, https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/indians-bagged-3-01-lakh-h-1b-visas-during-fiscal-2021-74-of-the-total/articleshow/90845244.cms.
 Indian Tech Start-Up Ecosystem: Approaching Escape Velocity (Noida: NASSCOM-Zinnov, 2018), 6; Manish Singh, “Indian Tech Startups Raised a Record$14.5B in 2019,” TechCrunch, December 30, 2019, https://techcrunch.com/2019/12/29/indian-tech-startups-funding-amount-2019/.
 “HNIs to Invest $30 Billion in Indian Tech Startups By 2025: Report,” Economic Times, June 17, 2021, https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/tech/startups/hnis-to-invest-30-billion-in-indian-tech-startups-by-2025-report/articleshow/83607846.cms.
 Chidanand Rajghatta, “Silicon Valley Stars Sign on to PM Modi’s ‘Digital India’ Vision,” Times of India, September 27, 2015, https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/tech-news/silicon-valley-stars-sign-on-to-pm-modis-digital-india-vision/articleshow/49129060.cms.
 Vivek Wadhwa, AnnaLee Saxenian, and F. Daniel Siciliano, Then and Now: America’s New Immigrant Entrepreneurs, Part VII (Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, 2012), 3, https://www.kauffman.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Then_and_now_americas_new_immigrant_entrepreneurs.pdf.
 Nikhil Inamdar and Aparna Alluri, “Parag Agrawal: Why Indian-born CEOs dominate Silicon Valley,” BBC News, December 4, 2021, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-59457015.
 Jens Manuel Krogstad and Jynnah Radford, “Education Levels of U.S. Immigrants Are on the Rise,” Pew Research Center, September 14, 2018, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/09/14/education-levels-of-u-s-immigrants-are-on-the-rise/.
 United States Census Bureau, “Census Bureau Releases New Education Attainment Data,” February 24, 2022, https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2022/educational-attainment.html.
 U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2020 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Immigration Statistics, 2022), 53–54, https://www.dhs.gov/immigration-statistics/yearbook/2020.
 “With $87 Billion, India Top Remittance Recipient in 2021: UN Report,” Economic Times, July 20, 2022, https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/nri/invest/with-87-billion-india-top-remittance-recipient-in-2021-un-report/articleshow/93012012.cms.
 Gi-Wook Shin, “Walking a Tightrope,” Shorenstein APARC, November 16, 2022, https://aparc.fsi.stanford.edu/korea/news/walking-tightrope.
 Tyler Cowen, “Rishi Sunak Shows the Growing Influence of Indian Talent in the West,” Bloomberg, October 28, 2022, https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2022-10-28/rishi-sunak-shows-growing-influence-of-indian-talent-in-west.
 Ock Hyun-ju, “Itaewon Bar Accused of Discriminating Against Indian,” Korean Herald, June 7, 2017, https://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20170607000796.
 Park Si-soo, “Indian Accuses Korean of Racial Discrimination,” Korea Times, August 3, 2009, http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2009/08/117_49537.html; Paul Kerry and Matthew Lamers, “Setting a Precedent on Racism,” Korea Herald, March 30, 2010, https://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20091106000044.
 Gi-Wook Shin and Joon Nak Choi, Global Talent: Skilled Labor as Social Capital in Korea (Stanford University Press, 2015).
 For more information about the Korea Foundation, see the organization’s “About Us” page at https://www.kf.or.kr/kfEng/cm/cntnts/cntntsView2.do?mi=2126.
 Gi-Wook Shin, “Demographic Headwinds,” Shorenstein APARC, December 15, 2022, https://aparc.fsi.stanford.edu/news/demographic-headwinds.
 “India to Have Talent Surplus of 245 Million Workers by 2030: Study,” Economic Times, May 7, 2018, https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/indicators/india-to-have-talent-surplus-of-245-million-workers-by-2030-study/articleshow/64064096.cms.
 Cowen, “Rishi Sunak Shows the Growing Influence of Indian Talent in the West.”
Opportunities for Korea-India Relations
The Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) will be accepting applications from eligible juniors from any university department who are interested in writing their senior thesis on a subject touching upon democracy, economic development, and rule of law (DDRL).
On Wednesday, January 18 at 12:00 pm PT, join CDDRL faculty and current honors students to discuss the program and answer questions.
The application period opens on January 9, 2023, and runs through February 10, 2023.
For more information on the Fisher Family CDDRL Honors Program, please click here.
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Stephen Stedman is a Freeman Spogli senior fellow at the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law and FSI, an affiliated faculty member at CISAC, and professor of political science (by courtesy) at Stanford University.
In 2011-12 Professor Stedman served as the Director for the Global Commission on Elections, Democracy, and Security, a body of eminent persons tasked with developing recommendations on promoting and protecting the integrity of elections and international electoral assistance. The Commission is a joint project of the Kofi Annan Foundation and International IDEA, an intergovernmental organization that works on international democracy and electoral assistance. In 2003-04 Professor Stedman was Research Director of the United Nations High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change and was a principal drafter of the Panel’s report, A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility. In 2005 he served as Assistant Secretary-General and Special Advisor to the Secretary- General of the United Nations, with responsibility for working with governments to adopt the Panel’s recommendations for strengthening collective security and for implementing changes within the United Nations Secretariat, including the creation of a Peacebuilding Support Office, a Counter Terrorism Task Force, and a Policy Committee to act as a cabinet to the Secretary-General. His most recent book, with Bruce Jones and Carlos Pascual, is Power and Responsibility: Creating International Order in an Era of Transnational Threats (Washington DC: Brookings Institution, 2009).
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Didi Kuo is the Associate Director for Research and Senior Research Scholar at the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law at Stanford University. She is a scholar of comparative politics, with a focus on democratization, corruption and clientelism, political parties and institutions, and political reform. Her recent work examines changes to party organization, and the impact these changes have on the ability of governments to address challenges posed by global capitalism. She is the author of Clientelism, Capitalism, and Democracy: the rise of programmatic politics in the United States and Britain (Cambridge University Press, 2018), which examines the role of business against clientelism and the development of modern political parties in the nineteenth-century.
The start of the academic year always comes with an exciting rush of new classes, new school supplies, and new faces. At the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI), one of the highlights of Fall Quarter is welcoming a new cohort of students into the Ford Dorsey Master’s of International Policy (MIP) into our research community.
The MIP Class of 2024 is 28 students strong and comes to FSI from 15 different countries around the world, including Brazil, Cambodia, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Germany, India, Indonesia, Libya, Mexico, Norway, Singapore, Thailand, Uganda, United Kingdom, and the United States.
From working to eliminate food insecurity to dissecting the challenges of privacy for blockchains, this year’s cohort brings an incredible variety of unique experiences to their studies in MIP. To talk more about their journeys to Stanford, seven members of the new MIP class shared their stories of how they came to be interested in policy, and what impacts they are hoping to make on the world.
I was born and grew up in Uganda. I have also been lucky to travel and live in other African countries — Kenya and Botswana — as well as European countries, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. These adventures have helped me understand first-hand the diversities that exist between the Global North and the Global South. They have also taught me that in the journey to advance the socio-economic transformation of the Global South, international development partnerships play a vital role in complementing local development efforts.
Although the economic impediments that developing countries face are many, they are not impossible to address. Tackling them requires that we implement every viable intervention, national or international, big or small, private or public, that creates a positive change on people, systems and institutions. I have always been impact-driven and I would like to continue influencing the positive changes towards sustainable development from the international development perspective. This, in addition to my background career in the international development space, was a driving factor in wanting to join the Stanford community and pursue further studies in International policy.
Like many development economists, I am interested in a series of thematic areas but mostly, technology economics, energy, climate change, development finance, and the political economy aspects of developing countries. For example, I am interested in how we can use safe and secure digital solutions to promote financial inclusion, access to high quality education and health services, reduce inequalities, and create job opportunities in the Global South. This will be possible by bridging the gap between policies and practices, and by learning from the success stories already making an impact.
I am looking forward to both courses on technology policy and being able to observe the innovation ecosystem of Silicon Valley. I hope to learn how ideas in Silicon Valley might apply to developing the African digital economy, especially in supporting the African homemade digital solutions in a practical way.
To understand where I am now and why I’m so passionate about what I’m doing, it’s important to have some context about where I came from. I grew up in a really rough background. I was in foster care for most of my young life, and I only formally completed sixth grade before dropping out. I went to part of ninth grade, but when I was sixteen I became homeless with my young son.
Eventually, I did get my GED and tried going to community college for a while. But the processes for getting financial aid and registration were so difficult and frustrating to navigate that I became disillusioned with the entire system and dropped out. The systems weren’t just unhelpful; they were actively hurting. I got my resources together and got a van, and we went back on the road.
One day, I stopped in a Walmart parking lot to rest, and I saw some people passing out flyers and gathering signatures for a petition. I was so curious; I had never seen anything like that before! They invited me to their meetings to learn more. That lit a fire in me that changed everything. It was so much more than having an income for the first time in my life. It was about representation and having a voice. It was about voting to change things. It was about people having power.
My goals now are focused on food security and creating policies that prioritize basic needs. After my experience with working in canvassing, I went back to community college. Once there, I started to find students who were hungry and struggling with food. After doing some investigating, I learned that almost 60% of the student body had experienced some level of food insecurity in the last 30 days. That realization turned into a campaign to provide $20,000 in emergency food aid and serve hot meals on campus twice a week. The work we started was eventually adopted and transformed into the state-wide Hunger Free Campus initiative in Minnesota.
So many problems facing our societies have their roots in poverty, want, and broken systems that fail to serve people. There’s a real divide between people who need help from systems and the policymakers and people in power who are making the systems and moving things forward. I’ve lived the reality of one side of that equation. Everything I’ve done since at Yale and Cambridge, and what I’m doing now at MIP, is to try and build bridges and bring a different kind of context and perspective to the other side. I’m excited to work and learn from faculty like Marshall Burke and Roz Naylor at the Center for Food, Security, and the Environment, and to keep learning how to make policies and that work for people.
My interest in cyber started where it does for a lot of kids: with video games in high school. I found a coding modification for one of the games I liked playing that allowed me to get unlimited money. It was great for my success in the game, but it also made me really interested in how the software and programming worked. That got me into coding, which gave me the background I needed to eventually co-found Firo, which is a privacy-focused cryptocurrency.
That emphasis on privacy is important. Blockchain technology is very secure, but it still has some privacy issues that we need to think about more. We don’t want to be in a situation where in twenty years, cryptocurrencies and blockchains have the same kind of privacy concerns we’re currently seeing in our social media data.
Most people have probably heard about blockchain in the context of cryptocurrency, but it has the potential for many more other applications. One of the big issues in the world right now is finding ways to make it easier for more people to participate securely in democracy without interference from regimes or with questions over election integrity or voting security. Secure and private blockchains could be used in those situations.
The Stanford MIP program was actually the only program I applied to after I made the decision to come back to school, because of its unique focus on both cyber policy and cybersecurity, which are equally important, but not the same thing. I have technical experience in cyber security from my time in the military and my study at Johns Hopkins. The piece I’m missing is the cyber policy and thinking about how cyber interacts with society and government. MIP felt like the best place to learn about those kinds of issues and decision-making processes.
I’ve been cultivating a focus on West Africa and development in that region for a while now. Before coming back to school, I was working with Chemonics International, USAID’s largest implementing partner, on programs aimed at improving Haiti’s judicial sector, countering violent extremism in Mauritania, and facilitating agribusiness investments in the DRC.
Before Chemonics, I was in Benin as a Princeton-in-Africa Fellow, where I worked for the African School of Economics’ Institute for Empirical Research on impact evaluation of donor-funded programs. Being involved with the end results of a project made me more curious about the earlier phases of program development. How do donors choose where and how to intervene? Can programs truly align with both U.S. policy and host countries’ goals and priorities?
As a U.S Pickering Fellow, I am on my way to becoming a Foreign Service Officer (FSO), and I am excited to apply the knowledge I gain from Stanford professors with expertise on policy development and African affairs to obtain answers. I plan to study and work within West Africa’s economic sphere, hopefully collaborating with entrepreneurs, governments, and the private sector to improve the business-enabling environments in various countries, bolster the sustainability of private supply chains, and amplify the voices of women experts working within this realm.
There’s a freshness and flexibility at MIP that really appealed to me, as I wanted to tap into a network of people who have diverse interests and can provide a holistic perspective on these issues. Groups like the Stanford African Entrepreneurship Network have connected me to other like-minded individuals who are working towards Africa’s growth and sustainable development.
I’ll be working as an FSO for at least five years after my graduation, and I know I want to keep focusing on West Africa and Haiti. As a Nigerian-American, I am excited to approach my studies at Stanford through a lens that not only reflects African Studies with humility and interconnection, but also amplifies the voices of young continental Africans pushing these questions forward.
I had the opportunity to work for about four years at the Embassy of Mexico in the United States. It was while I was in Washington D.C. that I really started to think about and realize what a big topic cyberspace is. It’s so common in our lives, but we still don’t really understand a lot of the specifics about it. If you were to lose your phone, for example, you’d also be losing your bank account information, your email, and your contacts. Everything is so connected, the world is deeply embedded in the cyber domain, and because of this, we need more insight into how intersections between social phenomena and new technologies work.
Cyberspace and technologies come with this duality. On the one side, they are tools for growth and for progress, but on the other side, they can be very dangerous. For example, parallel to the breakout of the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw digital platforms become key avenues for political engagement as electoral campaigning went completely online. But all of this misinformation and lies about elections, and the pandemic itself, came out of that space. There’s a gap and a disconnect, sometimes, between what’s happening in the private sector in the companies that are building and running this tech and what’s happening in the public sector with understanding and responding to and regulating. These things evolve so fast that it can be hard for the legislation to keep up.
I’m particularly interested in understanding how online misinformation relates to political participation and influences vaccine hesitancy among minorities, especially Hispanics, Mexican Americans, and Mexicans living in the United States. Because Mexico is a very interconnected country in terms of access to social media, I seek to understand how communication technologies influence public issues in my country. There is already data showing that traditional policy issues like migration, gender violence, healthcare hesitancy, and civic participation are migrating from the physical world and changing and morphing in digital spaces. It is urgent that we understand that a lot better than we do.
There are a few places in the world that do what the Cyber Policy Center here at FSI does. We have these toolkits for traditional policymaking and solution finding, but we’re going to have to develop new toolkits for these new challenges, and places like the Cyber Center are actively trying to do that. To paraphrase Dr. Erin Meyer’s work, in a world that’s ever more connected, you cannot do things just the Mexican way, or the U.S. way; you have to figure out how to lead in a global way. We’re not going to opt out of interconnectedness, so let’s figure out how to work better together in these spaces.
I started my undergraduate career later than most, and because of that, I had an outlook to be very purposeful in how I spent my time. I wanted to work on something that was challenging and that I would find endlessly interesting. I chose political science and the Middle East, which led to an internship in Jordan. That turned into six years of work experience with a technology company that was using data and analytics to understand and quantify what was going on in digital spaces.
Through that work, I really started to appreciate the full implications that AI and other emerging technologies have in foreign policy. These technologies aren’t just something we need to contend with as threats and opportunities out there in the world. We need to understand how they’re changing the way we perceive others and ourselves.
Six hundred years ago, the Gutenberg printing press completely transformed societies. The internet is doing the same thing today, we just don’t have a very clear understanding of what that process is creating. But based on what we’ve seen politically and geopolitically the last few years, it’s obvious we need to get our hands on the reins more and get better answers to these questions.
I’m particularly interested in how technology is shaping the ways we’re learning to think about China and other emerging geopolitical powers. The international system is changing. It’s becoming less hegemonic and moving toward something much more multi-polar. How actors perceive one another is increasingly consequential. Technology is shaping those perceptions at multiple levels.
Part of the appeal of coming to MIP was that the leadership and faculty here seem to align a lot with having a cross-disciplinary understanding of the full geopolitical system. And like others have said, being in Silicon Valley and having that proximity was a big draw for me as well. It’s another window into how the bleeding edge of technology is having an impact on policy and other aspects of the world, so coming here seemed like the natural choice.
I’m coming to the Ford Dorsey Master's in International Policy program from the Department of Personnel and Training, Government of India. Even though I’ve been out of university for about ten years, my process of learning has never stopped. I bring a lot of experience through interaction with people in public leadership, using negotiation and leadership skills, but I want to better understand the process of making data-driven policy. The flexibility of the MIP program and the manner it encourages students to learn across disciplines is, therefore, very appealing to me, as it allows to frame my own learning goals.
I’ve always had a great amount of respect for the environment and an interest in natural resources. Energy touches all of our lives in some way. In my culture, we consider the environment and its resources to be divine. These are gifts given by generations after generations to human beings, and as such we need to conserve them and find ways to ensure a more equitable distribution of energy, so that everybody has access to this necessity.
These are global issues that are going to need global participation to address. When I see places like the island nations, they contribute so much less to the greenhouse gasses, but they are most affected by climate change issues. I want to put myself in a position where I can help visualize policies that mitigate these regional disparities and create more equity.
These are big challenges, but it is possible for people to make a difference. There are so many inspiring stories from all over the world of ordinary people taking the initiative to help conserve and preserve their local resources and educate their communities. When we’re thinking about our policies and how to make them, we have to remember that the data and number crunching are only part of it — it’s people that give them life. Many people are already doing the work. It's our responsibility to learn from them and value their experience.
The 2024 class of the Ford Dorsey Master’s in International Policy has arrived at Stanford eager to learn from our scholars and tackle policy challenges ranging from food security to cryptocurrency privacy.
It is still the age of America. The Cold War ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union, and Japan failed to overtake the United States in the 1980s. China is now chasing the United States at a blistering pace, but it is still falling short. What are the sources of America’s power?
The first is technological innovation, epitomized by the world-leading companies of Silicon Valley. Intel, Apple, Google, Facebook, Uber, Tesla, Twitter, and many other U.S. businesses have built global platforms in their respective sectors.
The second is military power. As of this year, the U.S. defense budget exceeds $750 billion. This is over three times as large as that of China ($237 billion), which has the second largest national defense budget. Moreover, the United States has the most military allies of any country, and its troops are deployed in every corner of the globe. Although Beijing and Washington are now economic competitors, China has a long way to go in the military domain.
The third is America’s universities. There are approximately 4,000 universities in the United States, including around half of the top 100 universities in the world. America’s universities are incubators for global talent. They host over a million foreign students. This is roughly twice that of the United Kingdom and Canada, which rank second and third in terms of foreign student populations.
Although these three interconnected factors underpin America’s global influence, universities lie at the core of American power. It is widely known that tech giants such as HP, Google, Facebook, and Yahoo have their roots in universities. Silicon Valley would not exist without Stanford or UC Berkeley. These two institutions are successful case studies in how academia can partner with industry. Stanford alumni have created countless companies, and Berkeley is the largest source of scientists and engineers for Silicon Valley.
The Pentagon annually dedicates roughly $1 billion toward funding basic research at universities. Technologies that are initially developed for military purposes are sometimes commercialized. A well-known example is the Global Positioning System (GPS), which was developed by the Department of Defense in 1973. After Korean Air Lines flight 007 was shot down by a Soviet fighter plane in 1983, President Reagan approved the use of GPS for commercial purposes.
There is fluid cooperation between the U.S. government, industry, and academia. Universities are at the heart of this trilateral partnership. Moreover, universities are becoming Americanized not only in Asia, but also in Europe, where many schools boast a long and proud history. More and more lectures are taught in English, and there is an emphasis on collaborating with the private sector.
What, then, explains the power and influence of America’s universities? In this essay, I seek to answer this question based on my experiences during the 30 years I have spent as a professor in the United States. I also consider how this might inform the future of Korea’s universities, which are losing their vitality. Demographic changes have already begun to reduce student enrollment in Korea, and many schools face an increasingly bleak financial situation. Moreover, the regional imbalance between schools in and outside the Seoul metropolitan area continues to deepen. Whether Korea’s universities can overcome these pressing challenges will have critical implications for the country’s future. The Yoon Suk-yeol administration has vowed to pursue reforms in three areas: labor policy, pensions, and education. It is thus timely and important to examine how the educational policies of other countries could inform Korea’s own policies.
Promoting Coexistence and Cooperation
Whether it is in politics, economics, society, or culture, the health and effectiveness of any institution depends on the nature of the ecosystem that surrounds it. An institution cannot persist unless it promotes coexistence and facilitates fluid cooperation between its constituent members.
Let us begin by surveying the overall landscape of America’s higher education ecosystem. According to statistics from 2019, there are roughly 4,000 universities in the United States. About half are private institutions, and the other half consist of public universities that are associated with states or cities. Some schools have four-year programs, while others offer two-year degrees. Large research universities focus on research and training PhD students, whereas liberal arts schools tend to be smaller and dedicate resources to undergraduates. There are also community colleges that are open to anyone with a high school diploma. Although a minority, there are also for-profit colleges and universities, as well as those that only offer online classes.
To ground the discussion, let us focus on the state of California, where I currently live. Its population of 40 million is slightly smaller than that of Korea, but its economy is about 1.7 times larger. There are large private universities such as Stanford and USC, as well as renowned liberal arts schools, such as Pomona College. California arguably maintains the most robust system of public universities in the United States.
California’s public schools consist of the University of California (UC), California State University (CSU), and community colleges. The UC system consists of 10 campuses, including those in Berkeley, Los Angeles, and San Diego, with a total enrollment of around 300,000. For California residents, the annual tuition fee is roughly $14,000 (as of 2022). This is much more affordable than private universities, which commonly charge upwards of $60,000. UC schools not only have highly regarded undergraduate programs, but also run reputable graduate programs and generate substantial research output.
The CSU system consists of 500,000 students across 23 campuses. There are many minority students, including Hispanic and Latino Americans. Admission is less competitive than at UC schools, with an admission rate of around 80%. Tuition fees are also cheaper, at $6,000 per year. There are many part-time students and faculty, and it typically takes six to eight years to graduate. CSU schools offer highly specialized programs. For example, over half of California’s certified schoolteachers are CSU graduates.
Lastly, California has 116 community colleges that offer two-year degrees. Tuition fees are only $2,000 a year. Classes are open to anyone with a high school diploma (or equivalent), and there are a total of 2.1 million students. Most importantly, the UC system, CSU schools, and community colleges maintain close relationships with each other. By doing so, they uphold a robust system of public schools in California.
Transfer Students: Providing a Second Chance
UC schools are popular among prospective students and have low admission rates. However, only two-thirds of admitted students are high school graduates. The remaining third are transfer students, most of whom are community college graduates. According to data published by UCLA for 2021, 6,585 incoming students came directly from high school. There were 3,436 transfer students, and 93% of them had graduated from community colleges.
Furthermore, 44% of UCLA’s transfer students in 2021 were the first in their families to attend college. 36% were from ethnic minorities, and 72% received financial aid. The admission rate for transfer students was 19%, which was higher than the 11% admission rate for high school seniors. This is typical of schools in the UC system. If transferring to a UC school is difficult, students opt to transfer into a CSU school instead. For students who cannot immediately attend a four-year college after high school due to financial considerations or other personal circumstances, transfer applications offer a valuable second chance.
In this way, UC schools, CSU schools, and community colleges complement each other to sustain a stable ecosystem of public universities in California. This stands in stark contrast to Korea, where schools in the Seoul metropolitan area engage in a zero-sum competition with schools in other regions. Moreover, it is common for students in Korea to retake the College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT) multiple times in the hopes of obtaining a better score to attend a highly ranked university. After graduating high school, these students dedicate at least a year studying for the CSAT. The college one attends has an outsized impact on future job prospects and social standing in Korea, and there are no other pathways available.
How might we revitalize Korea’s universities? One way is to implement structural reforms among public universities such that a quarter of Seoul National University’s (SNU) admissions quota is allocated to transfer students from public schools in other regions. In turn, public universities outside of Seoul could allocate a quarter of their admission quotas to students from professional schools that offer two- or three-year degrees. Creating these pathways could allow SNU, regional public universities, and professional schools to form a more fluid, cooperative ecosystem of higher education. Some may respond that the differences in academic standards and expectations between SNU and regional public universities are too large to make this feasible. However, it is not uncommon to see transfer students from community colleges excel at schools with rigorous academics, such as UC Berkeley or UCLA. In fact, the graduation rate is higher among transfer students (88%) than those who entered as freshmen (84%).
By creating such pathways between different elements of the higher education ecosystem, it will be possible to ease the pressure on students. They will have alternatives to retaking the CSAT. Enabling the opportunity to transfer into different schools will also ease social inequalities. If they are willing, students at professional schools will be able to pursue further studies at regional public universities. In turn, students at these public universities will have the chance to study at SNU. This will help loosen the rigid vertical hierarchy among Korea’s universities and enhance diversity in higher education.
Why a Perfect SAT Score is Not Enough
Even carefully crafted institutions cannot fully realize their intended effects without the right people. Colleges and universities in the United States apply a variety of standards to select the faculty and students who make up the academic community.
At comprehensive research universities like Stanford or UCLA, faculty are evaluated primarily by their research output. The expression “publish or perish” reflects this reality. On the other hand, liberal arts colleges value teaching and mentoring as much as research. For faculty at community colleges, there is an emphasis on training and preparing students to successfully transfer into four-year colleges.
In the United States, the tenure system is the cornerstone of academia. Unless they are implicated in criminal activities, tenured professors can teach for as long as they want. (In Korea, tenured professors must retire by the age of 65.) Although the tenure system ensures job security, its primary purpose is to protect academic freedom. It enables professors to freely explore and debate ideas regardless of external circumstances, including the political atmosphere. This privilege is granted only after a rigorous evaluation. The most important factor in this process, which usually takes a year to complete, is the candidate’s academic caliber. The assessment is relatively objective, as it involves 12 or more outside experts.
Those who are denied tenure are given one year to find a position at a different school. If their research output is held in high regard, it is possible to transfer to a more prestigious institution. There is a fierce competition between schools to attract talented professors. Even if professors are denied tenure and move to a lower-ranked university, they can work to enhance their research portfolio to transfer to another university later on. In other words, the academic job market is much more flexible than that of Korea. I began my academic career at the University of Iowa, where I taught for three years. I then taught at UCLA for seven years before moving to Stanford in 2001. It is very rare for professors to move between three schools in Korea.
The selection of students is just as important as the hiring of faculty. Prestigious schools in the United States, including Stanford, do not admit students solely on the basis of academic excellence. Admissions offices use grades and SAT scores to assess an applicant’s academic ability, but these numbers alone do not guarantee admission. It is certainly not unheard of for straight-A students with multiple AP exams and a perfect SAT score under their belts to be denied admission. In recent years, colleges and universities have begun to phase out standardized test scores from the admissions process. UC schools have announced that they will be dropping the requirement altogether.
More than Just Academics
Colleges and universities in the United States vary considerably in their size, character, and founding mission. Schools thus apply a variety of criteria in the admissions process. In general, more reputable universities tend to admit students with a view to nurturing individuals who will make important contributions to American society and the world. Along these lines, the two decisive factors in evaluating applicants are leadership and commitment.
Leadership requires a sense of responsibility toward one’s community. It begins from a willingness to serve others and prioritize their needs above one’s own. The notion of commitment cannot be easily translated into Korean, but it refers to a persistent dedication to an area that one is passionate about, whether it is an academic subject, athletics, music, or community service.
In Korea, students spend an enormous amount of time and resources to build up their resume. This is colloquially referred to as “building up one’s spec,” which is short for specification. Students with extensive qualifications and experiences may appear brilliant on the surface, but it is hard to tell whether they have a sincere passion for any subject or activity at all. Just like the students and parents portrayed in the popular drama “SKY Castle,” an impressive resume may be nothing more than an exquisite mirage. Colleges in the United States tend to seek out students who have shown a steadfast commitment to an activity or issue, more so than students with the most impressive academic credentials.
American universities also emphasize diversity when admitting students. At Stanford, students from ethnic minorities make up over half the student body. The gender distribution is also balanced, with 49% male students and 51% female students. As I mentioned in my previous column about diversity, schools in the United States place a high value on diversity when selecting students and faculty, even though they do not apply affirmative action policies. Accordingly, applicants must be able to demonstrate how they can make a unique contribution to the academic community, instead of striving to meet a uniform standard based only on grades and test scores.
For students, life on campus is not confined to the classroom. It is not necessary to select only those students with the highest grades. Universities should be a place for cultivating leaders who not only possess a sense of responsibility toward their community, but also fulfill necessary roles in society. When students from varied backgrounds and diverse interests come together, they will spark each other’s curiosity. It is not a coincidence that the founders of companies like Google or Yahoo formulated innovative ideas while they were students at Stanford. In this way, admissions policies can directly influence a school’s atmosphere.
Korea should also give serious thought to how it can prepare and nurture students for the 21st century, so that they can contribute to Korea and the global community. The Yoon administration’s education policies must incorporate measures to achieve this goal.
Meeting Social and Economic Demands
Universities do not exist in a vacuum. They should not be an ivory tower, detached from the rest of society. Rather, they must play a proactive role in tackling important social and economic problems.
Frederick Terman, who served as a professor of engineering and provost at Stanford, was a pioneer of academia-industry collaboration. He is widely known in Korea for his role in establishing the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), which is one of the country’s most prestigious science and engineering schools. Terman also played a central role in the 1951 creation of Stanford Industrial Park, which hosted high-tech firms. He was a visionary who encouraged students to create companies. Since then, Stanford graduates have established 40,000 companies. Terman is widely regarded as the “father of Silicon Valley.” Such momentous developments were possible because Terman, as an academic administrator, positioned Stanford to directly contribute to emerging social and economic trends. Stanford has played a leading role in major technological developments for many decades, from semiconductors to the IT boom and now artificial intelligence.
This year, Stanford launched the Doerr College of Sustainability. It was the first time in 70 years that Stanford established a new school. This is an intriguing development, since schools within universities typically focus on professional fields—engineering, medicine, or business—instead of addressing specific issues that may not be well known to the general public. By creating this new school, Stanford seeks to play a leading role in researching and devising solutions to two critical challenges that humanity will face in the coming decades: climate change and the energy crisis. In addition to drawing on existing faculty from other departments, Stanford plans to hire 60 new faculty members, with the goal of connecting scientific research to policy issues.
A $1.1 billion donation from Ann and John Doerr, one of Silicon Valley’s most successful venture capitalists, was crucial to the school’s establishment. Gifts from other donors brought the total to $1.69 billion. As in this case, outside donations often enable America’s universities to prepare for the future. Private institutions such as Harvard ($53.2 billion) and Stanford ($37.8 billion) have sizable endowments. Public schools are no exception. The University of Texas system has an endowment of $42.1 billion dollars, and the UC system has $12.1 billion. Universities rely on these resources for their long-term development.
In Korea, these donations are commonly misunderstood as payments to secure admissions. It is true that private universities have legacy admissions to account for familial ties or recognize those who have contributed to the school’s development. However, it is difficult to imagine students being accepted only because of donations. In fact, there have been several cases in recent years where parents who engaged in these practices were found criminally responsible. The students also had their admissions revoked.
As is the case with the Doerrs, colleges and universities in the United States use outside donations to address future challenges and support pioneering research. Furthermore, donations allow schools to hire talented professors and provide financial assistance to students from low-income households. At Stanford, families with an annual income below $75,000 do not have to pay tuition, room or board. At UCLA, around 45% of all students are exempt from paying tuition. Schools in the U.S. offer merit-based scholarships as well, but need-based scholarships are far more common. There are policies to help ease the financial burden for those who seek to pursue a college degree. In the bigger picture, donations to universities are a form of redistribution. To incentivize such donations, individuals are allowed to claim tax deductions for donations to non-profit educational institutions.
Korea’s universities face a difficult financial situation. Both tuition fees and professors’ salaries have been frozen for a decade. Donations from individuals and companies are negligible. Stanford and SNU have roughly the same number of faculty, but Stanford’s annual operating budget ($8.2 billion) is many times larger than that of SNU ($1.1 billion). Korea’s Ministry of Education allocates 12 trillion won ($8.3 billion) in its budget toward universities. This is only one-sixth of the ministry’s budget for preschool and elementary school, and is the lowest among OECD countries.
Universities cannot play a proactive role in addressing economic and social challenges unless they are financially stable. The Korean government must provide greater resources to universities, while also giving them more latitude. There should be incentives for individuals and companies to donate to universities with an eye to the future. At the same time, universities must maintain a sense of social responsibility and be faithful to their role in leading the way toward the future.
The Perils of Short-term Governance
The last issue is internal governance. Compared to Korea, administrative leaders at American universities stay in office for a much longer duration. This yields greater continuity. Charles Young, who served as chancellor when I was at UCLA, led the university for 29 years. John Hennessy, who was Stanford’s president when I arrived in 2001, served in that position for 16 years. Deans also typically serve for many years. In my case, I have been the director of the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center (APARC) at Stanford since 2005.
The governance of U.S. colleges is decentralized to a significant degree, compared with Korean universities. There are specific matters that require the dean’s approval, such as hiring decisions for faculty. Some issues require the assistance of legal counsel. By contrast, in Korea, most issues must be reviewed by the university’s administrative headquarters, which reports to the president. For example, suppose that Shorenstein APARC pursues a partnership with a research center at a Korean university. Issues that I can directly approve as APARC’s director often require the approval of administrative headquarters on the Korean side.
Although the governance of American universities is decentralized, faculty members must work within strictly prescribed boundaries. At Stanford, professors have to submit two documents to the university every May. (There are similar procedures at other schools.) Faculty members have to declare whether there were any conflicts of commitment over the past year, as well as any conflicts of interest.
Several years ago, a Korean university approached me to offer a position as an adjunct professor. It seemed like a promising opportunity. I asked the Stanford administration whether this arrangement would be possible, but I was told that there would be a conflict of commitment. I had no choice but to respectfully decline the offer. Stanford allows its faculty to spend 52 days a year on external activities, including consulting. However, any activities that seriously impede the ability to fulfill one’s basic duties as a Stanford professor are strictly regulated, as they are considered to create a conflict of commitment.
The same is true for conflicts of interest. Professors who wish to participate in external projects must adhere to detailed regulations to avoid conflicts of interest. There are also measures to protect the school’s reputation. For example, Stanford’s logo or name cannot be used in external consulting projects. Moreover, Stanford faculty cannot take on positions with decision-making authority, such as director or manager, while taking part in these projects.
Korea’s universities could also consider institutionalizing strict rules for professors’ activities, allowing for freedom within these boundaries. In Korea, there are frequent controversies about so-called “polifessors,” or professors who engage in political activities. Questions often arise about the appropriate scope of external activities for professors. It may be helpful to examine these issues from the perspective of conflict of commitment and conflict of interest.
As is the case with Korea’s politics, university presidents only serve for a short period of time. This undermines continuity in leadership. Most university presidents in Korea serve one four-year term, with no possibility of a second term, regardless of their performance. Deans and other administrative positions also only last between two and four years. It is thus difficult to create and implement long-term, future-oriented plans. Instead, there is a narrow focus on achieving short-term goals. When a new president takes the helm, he or she tends to break from the predecessor’s policies.
These structural issues are inextricably tied to the direct election of university presidents. In many Korean universities, faculty members vote for the university president. This would be unimaginable in the United States, where schools usually form a search committee consisting of professors, members of the board of trustees, and alumni. After thoroughly evaluating and considering candidates for at least several months, this committee selects the next president. Given the rigorous nature of this process, presidents typically serve for many years as long as there are no serious concerns about their performance. The direct election of university presidents was a natural and legitimate outgrowth of Korea’s democratization, but it has created serious side effects, including the politicization of the academy. It is time to reform the governance structures of Korea’s universities.
The Driving Force of a Global Superpower
There continue to be debates about the decline of American power, but the United States still remains a global hegemon. Its ability to lead and influence the world arises in no small part from its universities, which are the source of America’s technological innovation and its military and economic heft. Korea’s dramatic transformation over the past 70 years was also driven by an intense focus on education, giving rise to a highly skilled and educated population.
Today, Korea’s universities face a serious crisis. There are severe regional imbalances between schools in the Seoul metropolitan area and other parts of the country. Universities lack the financial resources to create and implement long-term plans. Furthermore, the governance of Korea’s universities has become excessively politicized. For Korea to leap into the future, its universities need to be revitalized. As it pursues educational reforms, the Yoon administration must remember that the country’s future depends on its universities.
 The Seoul metropolitan area is often considered to include Incheon and Gyeonggi Province, as well as Seoul proper. These areas are connected to Seoul by rapid transit.
 National Center for Education Statistics, table 317.10, “Degree-granting Postsecondary Institutions, by Control and Level of Institution: Selected Years, 1949-50 through 2019-20,” https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d20/tables/dt20_317.10.asp?current=yes.
 The CSAT, commonly known as su-neung, is a nationwide exam that is administered once a year. The test is taken by high school seniors, as well as high school graduates seeking to obtain a better score. One’s CSAT score has a decisive impact on prospects for college admissions. For a brief overview of su-neung, see “Suneung: The day silence falls over South Korea,” BBC News, November 26, 2018, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-46181240.
 Seoul National University is widely regarded as the most prestigious university in Korea.
 These professional schools are also referred to as junior colleges. For a more detailed explanation, see “Higher Education in Korea,” Study in Korea, https://www.studyinkorea.go.kr/en/overseas_info/allnew_higherEducation.do.
 This drama, which aired from 2018 to 2019, portrays the cutthroat competition between parents in upper-class households to send their children to Seoul National University. The title is a play on a widely used acronym for the three most prestigious universities in Korea: Seoul National University, Korea University, and Yonsei University, which are collectively referred to as the “SKY” universities.
 Gi-Wook Shin, “Beyond Representation: How Diversity Can Unleash Korea’s Innovation,” June 30, 2022, https://aparc.fsi.stanford.edu/news/beyond-representation-how-diversity-can-unleash-korea%E2%80%99s-innovation.
Lessons from the United States
In this talk, Hyunjoon Park will give a brief overview of how Korean families have changed over the last three decades in various family behaviors. Although the trends of falling marriage rates and rising divorce rates, along with the increase in the population living alone, are well known, less known is divergence in those family behaviors between the more and less educated. Tracing family changes differently for those at higher and lower ends of the educational hierarchy highlights growing educational differentials in family life. Compared to their college-educated counterparts, it is increasingly difficult for those without a college degree to form and maintain a family in Korea, making the Korean family a 'luxury good.'
Via Zoom. Register at https://bit.ly/3y5ZbfS
The Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI) at Stanford University is pleased to announce that Stephen Kotkin has been appointed to the position of FSI Senior Fellow, effective September 1, 2022.
Kotkin is based at FSI’s Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center (APARC), and is affiliated with FSI’s Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law, as well. He holds a joint appointment with the Hoover Institution as the Kleinheinz Senior Fellow.
"Stephen is a remarkable academic and public intellectual whose work has transformed our understanding of Russian history and the historical processes that have shaped today’s global geopolitics,” said APARC Director Gi-Wook Shin. “We are proud to have him as our colleague at APARC and are excited to work together to expand the center’s scholarship on the role and impact of the Eurasian powers in the era of great-power competition."
Prior to joining FSI, Kotkin was the Birkelund Professor of History and International Affairs in what was formerly known as the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University, where he taught for 33 years. He now holds that title as emeritus. In addition to founding and running Princeton’s Global History Initiative, Kotkin directed the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies and served as the founding co-director of the Program in History and the Practice of Diplomacy. He chaired the editorial board of Princeton University Press.
“Joining the ranks of the phenomenal scholars at FSI is a dream come true,” Kotkin stated.
Kotkin’s scholarly contributions span the fields of Russian-Soviet, Northeast Asian, and global history. His publications include Stalin: Waiting for Hitler, 1929-1941, and Stalin, Vol. I: Paradoxes of Power, 1878-1928, part of a three-volume history of Russian power in the world and of Stalin’s power in Russia.
"I am thrilled to welcome Stephen to FSI this fall,” said FSI Director Michael McFaul. “He is an excellent addition to the cutting-edge research and teaching team at APARC, and I look forward to seeing the important impact he makes in his new role."
Kotkin writes reviews and essays for The Times Literary Supplement, Foreign Affairs, and The Wall Street Journal, among other publications. He was the business book reviewer for the New York Times Sunday Business Section for a number of years. He earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Rochester in 1981 and received a Ph.D. at UC Berkeley in 1988, and during that time took a graduate seminar at Stanford.
Kotkin’s research interests include authoritarianism, geopolitics, global political economy, and modernism in the arts and politics.
Effect of Eyeglasses on Student Academic Performance: What Matters? Evidence from a Randomized Controlled Trial in China
Although eyeglasses have been considered a cost-effective way to combat myopia, the empirical evidence of its impacts on improving learning outcomes is inconsistent. This paper provides empirical evidence examining the effect of providing eyeglasses on academic performance between provinces with a different economic level in western China. Overall, we find a significant impact in Intention-to-Treat analysis and a large and significant local average treatment effect of providing free eyeglasses to students in the poor province but not in the other. The difference in impact between the two provinces is not a matter of experimental design, implementation, or partial compliance. Instead, we find that the lack of impact in the wealthier provinces is mainly due to less blackboard usage in class and wealthier households. Our study found that providing free eyeglasses to disadvantaged groups boosted their academic performance more than to their counterparts.
Spring 2023 Applications Now Open: Stanford Online Courses for High School Students on China, Korea, and Japan
Applications opened today for the China Scholars Program (CSP), Sejong Korea Scholars Program (SKSP), and Reischauer Scholars Program (RSP) on Japan—three intensive online courses offered to high school students across the United States by SPICE, Stanford University. All three applications can now be viewed at https://spicestanford.smapply.io/. Interested students must submit their completed application (including an essay and letter of recommendation) by the October 31, 2022 deadline.
All three online courses are currently accepting applications for the Spring 2023 term, which will begin in February and run through June. Designed as college-level introductions to East Asia, these academically rigorous courses offer high school students the unique opportunity to engage in a guided study of China, Korea, or Japan directly with leading scholars, former diplomats, and other experts from Stanford and beyond.
Rising high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors in the United States are eligible to apply to any of the three online courses. Students who are interested in more than one program can apply to two or three and rank their preferences on their applications; those who are accepted into multiple programs will be invited to enroll in their highest-preference course. High school students with a strong interest in East Asia and/or international relations are especially encouraged to apply.
“Some students who enroll in our online courses already have a solid foundation in East Asia, but many do not,” says Dr. Tanya Lee, instructor of the China Scholars Program. “What’s important is that they come with a curious mind and a willingness to work hard. We’re fortunate to be able to connect high school students with all kinds of scholars with expertise in China, Korea, and Japan, and we want our students to make the most of this opportunity.”
For more information on a specific online course, please refer to its individual webpage at chinascholars.org, sejongscholars.org, or reischauerscholars.org. The CSP, SKSP, and RSP are part of SPICE’s online student programs.
Subtitle: Students with a strong interest in East Asia or international relations are encouraged to apply. Applications are due October 31.
The Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI) at Stanford University is pleased to announce that Jennifer Pan has been appointed to the position of FSI Senior Fellow, effective September 1. The appointment is concurrent with her promotion to professor at Stanford’s Department of Communication.
At FSI, Pan will work primarily within the Center on China’s Economy and Institutions (SCCEI) and will also be affiliated with the Cyber Policy Center. Her research focuses on political communication and authoritarian politics. She uses experimental and computational methods with large-scale datasets on political activity in China and other authoritarian regimes to answer questions about how autocrats perpetuate their rule; how political censorship, propaganda, and information manipulation work in the digital age; and how peoples’ preferences and behaviors are shaped as a result.
“Jennifer is not only a leading scholar on political communication and authoritarian politics, she’s a terrific teacher as well,” said FSI Director Michael McFaul. “I’m excited to see how her innovative approach will intersect and impact research throughout the institute, as well as our students in the classroom.”
Scott Rozelle, co-director of SCCEI, added: "Jennifer is at the forefront of research in her field, conducting groundbreaking empirical research that uses the unique lens of communication to build understanding of China’s economy and its impact on the world. In the past year alone, Jennifer gave several lectures to our SCCEI community, all of which drew large audiences and sparked lively discussion. We are thrilled to have her officially join our team and I can’t wait to see where her research takes her next."
Pan’s book, “Welfare for Autocrats: How Social Assistance in China Cares for its Rulers,” shows how China’s pursuit of political order transformed the country’s main social assistance program, Dibao, for repressive purposes. Her work has appeared in peer-reviewed publications such as the American Political Science Review, American Journal of Political Science, Comparative Political Studies, Journal of Politics, and Science.
“Jennifer Pan is one of the most exciting, creative and innovative scholars in the field of social media and network analysis,” said Nathaniel Persily, co-director of the Cyber Policy Center. “She has written foundational works relating to the internet in China and has very important research underway concerning the effect of social media on politics in the United States.”
Pan graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University in 2004 and obtained a Ph.D. from Harvard University in 2015. Prior to Stanford, Pan was a consultant at McKinsey & Company. She was also a fellow at Stanford’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences from 2019 to 2020.
Pan’s research focuses on political and authoritarian politics, including how preferences and behaviors are shaped by political censorship, propaganda, and information manipulation.