September 30, 2013 Vol. 15 No. 4
The Student Newspaper of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies
SAIS Alum Brings tortas to Nanjing Judith Ordaz Peña, an HNC alum, opens a Mexican restaurant in the city MARYAN ESCARFULLETT Associate Editor at sais Nanjing
Valentina’s, the newest restaurant popular at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center and the surrounding community, was opened this June by Judith Ordaz Peña, a 2013 MAIS graduate of the HNC. Serving traditional Mexican food, Peña’s restaurant hopes to carve a niche in the Nanjing dining scene. Peña started planning Valentina’s last year, while writing her thesis. “The idea for Valentina’s originally came from my classmates. They would complain about missing Mexican food, jokingly saying I should open a restaurant,” she said. “At first, I was kidding when I said sure, just give me a year. But after a
2 - Analysing Bo Xilai’s Trial 3 - GMOs; What Are We Talking About? 4-HNC’s American Co-Director to Retire 5 - SAISers Relive Gettysburg 6 - SAIS DC Student Profile 7-8 - Letters to the Editor; ‘Dear Boo’; Blog Extracts
Executive Chef Alfonso ‘Poncho’ is shown standing behind the counter at Valentina’s. david loan
while the idea really started to seem like a possibility.” The venture is a partnership between four different international shareholders, though the main shareholders are Peña and her partner, Zaidoon Almhairat. Valentina’s serves dishes
such as burritos, tortas and horchata, which are all traditional Mexican street foods. Peña said, “The idea was to do a traditional restaurant, but keep it simple. Our menu is simple, but the spices and chiles we use for all the salsas are from Mexico. The meat
At saisobserver.org Blogs: Germany’s Election: Waiting for Godot; NATO and Transatlantic Humors Video: Nelson Graves we sell is halal, things that are hard to find. Everything that we make is fresh, which I think is important. Our customers can taste the difference.” CONTINUED TO PAGE 7
New Chinese Co-Director at HNC MARYAN ESCARFULLETt Associate Editor at SAIS Nanjing
Joining the Hopkins-Nanjing Center as its new Chinese co-director is He Chengzhou. Dr. He comes with extensive experience from his prior post as the deputy dean of the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities and Social Sciences at Nanjing University.
With a Ph.D. from Oslo University, He’s studies of western drama and extensive work in global communities have shaped his vision for HNC’s future. His primary goal for his tenure, apart from strengthening the ties between the three campuses, is to increase the amount of HNC’s collaborative work with Nanjing University. “I really want to work together in more effective ways
with the SAIS community,” He said. “But first, I want to strengthen the interactions between HNC’s American faculty, Nanjing University and the Chinese faculty.” He hopes to achieve this by increasing the number of seminars, research workshops and interdisciplinary academic conferences held at HNC. He noted, “HNC has a good tradition of bringing different
cultures together, both Chinese and international students interact and communicate very well. This is our heritage.” He believes, “our three parties [Bologna, DC and Nanjing] can work together to hold more academic events so apart from the courses students take, they can also participate in seminars, workshops and mini-courses, offered in collaboration with CONTINUED TO PAGE 4
CONTINUING THE DISCUSSION
Analyzing Bo Xilai’s Trial Effect on Rule of Law in China Populism: The Missing Point SAGA McFARLAND Guest Contributor at SAIS NANJING On Sunday, September 22, Bo Xilai, the former party secretary of Chongqing municipality and a widely regarded shoein for one of the few coveted seats on the nation’s Politburo Standing Committee, was sentenced to life in prison for bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power. Many were surprised by the relative openness of the trial. Court transcripts and video, although edited and incomplete, were released within hours of court proceedings in the official media and on the Jinan Intermediate People’s Court’s official Weibo account. Bo’s ability to cross-examine witnesses and speak at length in his own defense was also seen by many as a signal that the Chinese government may be moving toward a rule of law system. “The Bo trial was more open than any other corruption trial of high-ranking officials in China,” legal scholar Tong Zhiwei, told The New York Times. Chinese state media similarly lauded the trial for its openness. A commentary in The Global Times said the trial “was a vivid demonstration of how the rule of law should be implemented.” The trial is reminiscent, at least in political significance and intrigue, to the trial of the “Gang of Four,” in 1981. The defendants, among them Chairman Mao’s widow, Jiang Qing, were charged with an array of anti-revolutionary crimes. While widely regarded as a show trial, China watchers were surprised by the relative openness of that trial as well.
The Time correspondent covering the trial, Jaime FlorCruz, said in a recent article that despite China’s tight control of the media, “the Chinese newspapers, radio and TV were saturated with ‘gavel to gavel’ reports.” FlorCruz, now the Beijing bureau chief for CNN is the rare foreign correspondent that has covered both trials. But does increased transparency imply rule of law? In the case of the “Gang of Four” trial, few debate the political motivations behind the trial and most see the extensive coverage of the trial by state media as an attempt to deprive the defendants of political influence. At a time when the government was facing a potential legitimacy crisis after the tumultuous Cultural Revolution, the trial communicated to the people that the government had punished those perceived as responsible. In both of these trials, equating openness with rule of law is misleading; it fails to acknowledge that the relative transparency came not from an inherent respect for the law but from a desire to maintain legitimacy. Rule of law is the guarantee of transparency and a fair trial for all according to the law. One high profile, politically charged trial does not a trend make. The better way to describe the situation is that China is moving toward a system where its legitimacy is more linked to appearing to be following the laws. Perhaps this can be the precursor to genuine respect for the law. Have a current issue in mind for the ‘Continuing the Discussion’ column? Write in to firstname.lastname@example.org
TONG ZHICHAO Guest Contributor at SAIS Nanjing There is no doubt that the Bo Xilai trial is the most significant public political event in China that has taken place during the past two decades. Yet despite the huge amount of publicity it generated, the trial itself was still largely manipulated by the government. Judging from face value, Bo was sentenced to life in prison due to fiscal corruption. However, anyone who pays attention to Chinese politics would realize the missing issue at stake: namely Bo’s populism in Chongqing. We should not forget what brought Bo down in the first place was an unexpected break in his populist campaign in Chongqing: the escape of Wang Lijun to the American Embassy. There have always been suspicions regarding Bo’s populist appeal inside Chinese liberal circles and with the betrayal of Wang, many dirty secrets behind Bo’s populist policies have surfaced. Bo’s tough stance on organized crime simply disregarded the rule of the law and procedural justice. His welfare programs created huge public debts and showed huge disrespect for property rights. (Properties of some private businessmen were confiscated under Bo’s rule in Chongqing.) The “red song campaign” he advocated left the impression that there would be a second cultural revolution if Bo acquired a powerful position in the central government. Bo’s charismatic style also reminded people that he could become a second Mao if he obtained the
necessary resources. Probably due to fears for political stability and legitimacy, the true issue at stake, the dark side of Bo’s populism, is completely missing from the trial. Thus, ordinary Chinese people just do not get the chance to see the real dangers of Bo’s populist ways. Today if you walk through Chongqing, you may find surprisingly that despite the huge crimes Bo has committed, a majority of the city’s population still support or at least sympathize with him. They probably just view him as a victim of power struggle in China. After all, they cherish some benefits ordinary citizens got under Bo’s rule. They never realize the cost they have paid for those benefits (i.e., the loss of freedom in exchange for security, welfare programs now that will bring huge burden of debts tomorrow, etc.) since none of this has been made public by the central government. What Bo’s case really proves is that populism, under present circumstances, should never be considered as a cure for social ills in China. In fact, a populist leader can only make the situation worse than the status quo. There may even be a return to the totalitarianism of Mao’s era under his or her rule. What China actually needs are democratic political reforms and more power handed to the people -- not an over-reliance on the strong will of a tough man. This, in my view, is what the downfall of Bo should teach every ordinary Chinese citizen. Sadly this valuable and meaningful lesson has been lost in the buzz of the rest of the Bo trial.
GMOs: What Are We Talking About?
Xiupei Liang guest contributor at sais washington As soon as I landed in the US, I realized this country welcomed me with an ubiquity of genetically modified food (GMO) -- a product met with great suspicion in my native China and in other countries. Genetic modification (GM) technology raises numerous thorny questions about science, ethics, law and economics. In this article, I want to address a few of these issues so students like me, who are confronted with GMOs for the first time, can think about what they’re eating and better understand it. According to the World Health Organization, “genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can be defined as organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally.” According to the publication Nature, existing commercial GMOs predominantly have two traits: herbicide tolerance and insect resistance. Concerning herbicide tolerance, GM technology enables crops to degrade the active ingredients in an herbicide, which is rendered harmless. The goal of improving the herbicide tolerance is to facilitate controlling weeds during the growing season and to offer more flexibility of spraying time. Besides herbicide tolerance, insect resistance is the other main trait of GMOs. To achieve insect resistance, genetic engineers insert into the plant organism the gene from a bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis, which produces a protein to kill Lepidoptera larvae, in particular, European corn borer -- a common predatory insect. The biggest concern is whether these proteins are also harmful to the human body.
People shop at the farmers’ market on Dupont Circle. While several items are more expensive in these markets, customers are willing to pay a premium for non-GMO, organic food.nimisha jaiswal
The answer is no. According to the University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, the protein used for insect resistance has been available as a commercial microbial insecticide since the 1960s. These products have an excellent safety record and have been used on a large number of crops. However, even though GMOs are safe for human consumption, this does not eliminate the worries of opponents who are not only concerned about the safety of current GMOs but of future GMOs as well. In other words, even if current GMOs are harmless to humans, how can we guarantee there will not be GM technology abuse in the future? These doubts are legitimate for two reasons. First, unlike traditional crossbreeding within the same species, GM technology transfers DNA across different species. Experimental combinations may bring up preferable traits but, as in any new experimentation, it may also cause unexpected negative effects on humans. Second, having monopoly
companies such as Monsanto, which control most of the business, could increase the chance of GM technology abuse. Moreover, the issue of GM technology abuse is also a legislative issue. Thus, addressing the problems requires relevant political action as well as scientific clarification. Another significant issue to address concerning GMOs is whether they harm the environment. According to the GMO Compass (sponsored by the European Union), GMOs are unlikely to be harmful to our ecosystem in terms of biodiversity because GMO are almost the same as conventional crops except for some traits. However, there is a looming ethical concern which neither science nor law may solve. According to Nature, there was a report from California in 2000 claiming that exogenous DNA fragments from a certain GMO was found in Mexican corn. In other words, the GMO may have crossbred with the local corns and passed the DNA to the future generations. This means that once a GMO is planted, sooner or later it may
pass its DNA to other species, which could increase the spread of GMOs in the naturally occurring ecosystem. Undoubtedly, the commercialization of GMOs is a oneway move. Even if people in one country are unwilling to support it and people in a second country do, people in the first country still must deal with the results. Moreover, GMO business, driven by monopolies, is booming. But the GM monopolies are spending millions in lobbying US state legislatures not to label GMOs because they fear people will avoid buying GMOs if they can identify them. In other words, not to label GMOs is a marketing decision, which harms consumers’ rights of knowing what they eat, and thus intensifies the distrust between people and the new innovation. As a recent consumer of GMOs, I am satisfied GM food is safe for the time being. But to eliminate the doubts of skeptics, measures should be approved by both and local international bodies that will guarantee longterm safety.
HNC’s American Co-Director to Retire MARYAN ESCARFULLETT Associate Editor at SAIS Nanjing
As the new Chinese Co-Director He Chengzhou becomes more fully integrated into the HNC, his American counterpart, Co-Director Jason Patent, is preparing to leave. Prior to HNC, Patent’s career included stints with Stanford University (as inaugural director of the Bing Overseas Studies Program at Peking University, Beijing) and various roles in the private sector. Patent, who earned his doctorate in linguistics from UCBerkeley, has been an integral part of the center’s growth over the past two years. As the American Co-Director, Patent works with his Chinese counterpart to ensure that communications and operations between Nanjing, Bologna and
DC are running smoothly. Patent also taught “Mapping Chinese and American Mindsets” during the spring semester of 2013. The course focused on linguistic, psychological and cultural differences between Chinese and American citizens. One of the issues Patent and his students focused on was the concept of “the other” and how our perception of “otherness” changes in different cultural environments. To him, being able to move past “otherness” is a critical component of SinoAmerican relations. Patent is also thoroughly involved in a range of projects involving the alumni community, which have shed light on some very important developments to the HNC. Patent has been excited about two curriculum developments: a summer term, and ERE. As of summer 2014 SAIS
Nanjing will offer a summer term, with courses taught by HNC and SAIS Washington faculty. It will be open to students from around the world. Furthermore, starting next fall the Energy, Resources, and Environment concentration will also become a part of the HNC curriculum. Patent was also proud of the exciting projects outside of the center that being co-director has allowed him to be a part of. Through a grant from the Ford Foundation, HNC has been working on Project Peng over the past year to create a pilot online social networking platform for HNC alumni. The project was formally launched on Thursday, September 26, in Shanghai. Almost 100 alumni and other members of the HNC and SAIS communities attended. Patent was on a panel
with former HNC American Co-Directors Elizabeth Knup (who now heads the Ford Foundation in China) and Robert Daly (who runs the Kissinger Institute in Washington, and joined remotely). Travis Tanner, Chief Operating Officer of the 100,000 Strong Foundation, also delivered remarks. The pilot program aims to build a robust community of China scholars, academics, leaders and professionals for the HNC and SAISers in China. Patent believes strengthening the networks between China scholars and SAISers, along with upcoming scholarship coming out of the HNC will be critical to the future of SinoAmerican relations. To him the center is proof that China and America “can avoid going to war and find meaningful ways to work together to solve the world’s biggest challenges.”
He Chenzhou is New HNC Co-Director CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 the faculty at DC and Bolo-
gna.” Director He also hopes to bring more of the Nanjing University community on board with HNC’s scholarship. “I would like to invite some SAIS professors to not only hold lectures at the center but also to hold lectures at NJU, making our presence more visible on-campus.” Creating more opportunities for collaboration between Nanjing University and SAIS is a part of Director’s He goal of strengthening the center’s reputation among top-tier schools in China. He said, “My belief is that unless we have a very visible and strong presence at Nanjing University, we can’t reach out to the rest of China.”
He continued, “In the near future, the center will face competition from similar programs in Shanghai, Beijing and other Chinese cities. But what we can do is turn this competition into growth opportunities. For example, the Shanghai-NYU initiative is now admitting undergraduates, if we do very well we can attract these graduates
HNC has always had two co-directors, one American and one Chinese, the former traditionally recruited through Johns Hopkins, whereas the latter is recruited from the Nanjing University faculty. The collaboration between the co-directors mirrors the relationships between the international and Chinese students in the program to our school.” Apart from attracting new students from internationally renown schools in China and America, He hopes the career choices Hopkins-Nanjing Center alumni make after postgraduation continue to expand. “I would hope that future HNC graduates will not only seek jobs in finance and edu-
cation. I hope that some of our alumni become leading diplomats in Chinese-American relations.” To strengthen the relationships between Chinese and American students, Director He will also work to increase the number of Chinese students that enroll in pre-term in DC and experience life from an American point of view. In continuing the founding presidents’ vision, Dr.He hopes the future American secretary of state and Chinese foreign minister can one day shake hands and bond over their shared experiences at the HNC. Until then the center will continue to go through a series of transformational changes to strengthen its curriculum and ties to the rest of the SAIS community.
SAIS Students Relive Gettysburg
Jameel Khan assistant editor at sais washington On September 21, while most of Washington slept, over sixty students descended upon the Nitze lobby with backpacks and sleeping bags in hand ready to commence this year’s Fall “Staff Ride” to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania -- marking the 150th anniversary of America’s Civil War battle. A SAIS tradition dating back to 1990, these student-run excursions take learning to the terrains of war -- in this case, the hallowed grounds of Gettysburg where strategy, leadership and military decision-making were intimately discussed at places such as Devil’s Den, The Peach Orchard and Little Round Top. A chartered bus and passenger van shuttled the group -- students, a half dozen faculty, university leaders and special guests -- throughout the carefully planned two-day trek. The South’s invasion of the North in 1863 was the trip’s focus. Staff rides like these accomplish several goals. “In the narrow sense, they teach students about the nature of military decision-making, about choices...how to make them better or make them worse,” said Eliot Cohen, the Robert E. Osgood Professor of Strategic Studies and founder of the Staff Ride Program. “The larger purpose is really to get students thinking in quite a broad way about leadership in non-military settings as well.” Presentations, which last five minutes but require hours of research, are integral. “From the very beginning, I have put a lot of emphasis on the student presentation...that people do it in the first person,” Cohen said. “They really just have to imagine themselves being General Lee, General
David Vaino orders Colonel Joshua Chamberlain to “hold the ground at all hazards.” Eric Lindsey
Meade, or President Lincoln, or whoever it is, so they can really imagine the world as seen by somebody else.” Andy Feitt, a second-year Middle East concentrator, played Lincoln. “I spent several hours reading both the recommended readings and others to really get a sense of why he took the actions he did at the beginning of 1863.” After each presentation, hands flew into the air, followed by questions about the presenter’s situation. “It really enables the students to put themselves in somebody else’s shoes, and to try to think through a very difficult leadership problem from somebody else’s point of view,” Cohen said. Will Quinn, a first-year Strategic Studies student from Boston, empathized with many characters. “I was surprised at how deeply the staff ride made me empathize with leaders on both sides of the conflict and understand their decisionmaking processes, even if I didn’t agree with their choices or many of their motivations,” Quinn shared. Crucial to these trips are the research and logistics teams. “We could not have done it without our staff,” Nate Ro-
zelle, a second-year student and one of two Quartermasters with Mike Youn, said. “They put in so much time. They really were the backbone of the trip.” Students agreed. “I knew nothing about my character before the trip and wasn’t sure how his story fit in with the battle,” explains Daniel Flesch, a first-year Strategic Studies concentrator. “But the researchers did an incredible job choosing characters, from generals to presidents to privates to civilians, that everyone’s character was integral to the trip.” For Anne Gillman, a secondyear Southeast Asia Studies concentrator, the trip was more than just learning. “A memorable part was visiting the monument for the 146th Regiment from the Army of the Potomac, in which my great, great, great grandfather fought.” Shamila Chaudhary, Special Advisor to Dean Vali Nasr, also attended. “I was so impressed with the effort and research interest that the students put in without it being a course credit. That takes a lot of dedication, and that says something about the SAIS student community.” Weather, group size and timing created extra challenges. “In these circumstances, I particularly applaud the perfor-
mance of the students in their presentations, their camaraderie, and in the positive attitudes displayed throughout,” Thomas Keaney, executive director of the Philip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies at SAIS, said. Both days started at 6 a.m. and involved hours of walking with over forty presentations. Despite rainy weather on Saturday, everyone warmed up at Artillery Ridge Campground around the campfires. Students sang songs under a rain-drenched tarp, mingled informally with faculty, encircled charcoal grills under umbrellas and carried on conversations late into the night. On Sunday retired Marine General John Allen joined the discussions, a highlight for many. “What an extraordinarily valuable opportunity for students,” Cohen said. A group dinner concluded the trip in which faculty offered leadership takeaways and the quartermasters recognized the best presentations. For those interested in future staff rides, second-year student Lorenzo Bruscagli offered this advice: “Go. You won’t regret it. These are the kinds of experiences that make it worth coming to SAIS.”
Letters to the Editor
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 8
was far from certain. After the Sellstrom report published the compass bearings of the rockets, The New York Times and Human Rights Watch independently traced the rockets’ origin to Mount Qasioun — headquarters of the Assad regime’s most elite troops, the 4th Armored Division and the Republican Guards. The Assad regime’s culpability does not make intervention a wiser choice, but it is important to avoid creating false equivalencies between the government and the rebels, especially when the facts point clearly to the Assad regime’s guilt. Sincerely, Jeffrey S. Wright SAIS BC 2014, SAIS 2015 Concerning the recent shootings in the US. Dear Editor, A young man with mental problems leaves his house with a gun. Minutes later, shots ring out. Thirteen people are hit and fall to the ground. One could be forgiven if you thought the previous sentences described the recent shooting at Washington’s Navy Yard that left 12 people dead. Unfortunately, I am referring to another shooting in my hometown of Chicago a few days after the Navy Yard shooting. You may not have heard of it because, miraculously, even though a three-year-old boy was one of the victims of a military-grade rifle shot, no one was killed. Perhaps the other reason is because the shooting happened on Chicago’s South Side where shootings and murders are so common it does not even qualify as news. Since 2001 there have been 6,106 homicides in Chicago. That is the rough equivalent of two 9/11s. That is also more than 2.5 times the number of Americans that have been
killed in Afghanistan. The Iraq War saw roughly as many US soldiers killed (4,489) as civilians killed in Chicago (4,267). Despite a murder rate of 18.7 murders for every 100,000 people, Chicago is not even in the FBI’s list of 25 most dangerous cities in America. Our very own Washington, DC is 21st on that list. Since violent crime tends to be heavily concentrated in the poor, African-American neighborhoods of our inner cities, it could be arguably safer to be a young, black man in uniform in Afghanistan than to live on Chicago’s South Side or in Southeast Washington. Here at SAIS, we study the problems of the world from wars in the Middle East to poverty in Africa to the debt crisis in Europe. But how many of our classes teach us about the problems we have at home in the United States? Do we know that 15% of our population, roughly 46 million people, lives in poverty, basically the same rate it was in 1983? Or that median income is the same now as it was in 1989? As IR students, we know more about the rest of the world than the country we might one day represent. I am certainly no better. After two and a half years in the Peace Corps, I know more about the nooks and crannies of El Salvador, no safe or prosperous place either, than my hometown of Chicago. It is not a stretch to say that most of us grew up in middle class or better-off families, many from the East Coast of the United States. But if we don’t learn about the problems of our own country in our classes nor from our fellow students how can we know America? We are taught by neo-cons and liberals alike that America must be the policeman of the world and that after 20 years of free trade the US is sitting at a
higher utility curve. However, many of our own citizens would like America to be the policeman of their neighborhood and would like to know how a quarter century of economic growth passed them up. Sincerely, Benjamin Locks In response to the cartoon “How SAIS sees SAIS” published in the SAIS Observer the week of September 23rd. Dear Editor, I certainly recognize the need for a community to be self-critical through humor, which can encourage an honest reflection on the stereotypes it holds by forcing public recognition of the existence of those stereotypes. On that level, the cartoon “How SAIS Sees SAIS” is not inappropriate despite the controversy it may have aroused. However, the problem I had with the cartoon is the assertion that those stereotypes exist in the first place. As a first-year M.A. student, I definitely had no idea they existed, nor did I think to consider what SAIS collectively thought of any particular national or ethnic group. For new DC students, these stereotypes now exist only because the cartoon declared it so. SAIS is a small community with an immense amount of turnover. Half of the student body leaves each spring and another half arrives at the DC campus each fall. By reproducing these stereotypes the cartoon only ensures they continue into the future. What may have been particular to a specific time and place persists for another cycle. If not for the cartoon, perhaps these stereotypes could have quietly, and quickly, faded away. Sincerely yours, Paul Leuck In response to “SAIS BC, Now SAIS Europe” published in the SAIS Observer the week of September 10th.
Dear Editor, I’d like to express my disappointment as well regarding the name change of the SAIS Bologna Center to SAIS Europe, following up on fellow classmate Brenna Allen’s piercing and accurate assessment. I echo her concerns regarding the purpose in renaming, especially given some of the glaring drawbacks of the rationale, such as: “footing with the DC campus,” “[Italy’s] post-war significance,” “serious[ness]” and “added value.” Call me crazy, but I am not sure how “branding” equates with any of the stated reasons. The students on the continent were and are excellent: they were doing well in Bologna and show no signs of lost momentum state-side. Italy offers plenty of post-war significance, if not in its current political status then certainly in its standing as one of the world’s great cultural references. As for added value, how does stamping out one measure of the university’s uniqueness, the name of a small European city, raise the overall value of SAIS? If anything, seeing Bologna Center underneath our school’s name makes SAIS more interesting. Maybe the narrative of our program’s history needs a buff and shine rather than this unfortunate revision. This past spring I heard something similar about branding and the larger university’s initiative to unite its many schools. Among them was a greater emphasis on the Hopkins name. For what it’s worth I’d like to share my take on how branding really works, using myself as the case in point. I first learned about SAIS some time ago when searching for housing in DC. During my search I met a student who was moving out of her house to attend “SAIS in Nanjing.” I had never heard of SAIS at that point but was convinced of its CONTINUED TO PAGE 7
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stature given her obvious intelligence, enthusiasm, the area of study and the location. When I first began considering graduate school, I attended a graduate school fair in Boston. Though I did not speak with a SAIS representative there, I picked up a brochure for the Bologna Center and thought wow, how special is it that this high-powered program also has a center in Italy. Even though it would be years more before I would gather the courage to apply, I did not base my decision to attend on the name. That doesn’t mean others have not, only that in my case I was attracted to the idea of the Bologna Center. Perhaps the re-branding is a vote of confidence for Bologna. In the city it’s not uncommon for people to refer to SAIS as la scuola americana, a frame that came in handy when asking for directions back to school when I was often lost amidst the city’s narrow streets during the early months of the first semester. Perhaps more of the many Erasmus students will consider SAIS courses, or SAIS’ European identity will bring it into greater partnership with one of Europe’s oldest institutions (Universitá di Bologna) just across the street. However, my sense is that many of SAIS’ ambitious projects on the continent, “if,” “when” and “as” they materialize, will be more the product of deliberate hard work and the reputation that flows from such momentum and good will and less the “if you build it [or in this case, rename it] they will come” model of change. If I’ve learned anything here in my first three semesters, it’s that SAIS is already ready for the former, reflecting a depth of purpose and commitment, and frowns on the latter, which may or may not. Sincerely, Andrew Miller
left to right: Judith Ordaz Peña, Zaidoon Almhairat and Alfonso “Poncho” Sotelo Domínguez stand together at the restaurant. maryan escarfullett
SAIS Alum Opens Mexican Restaurant in Nanjing CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1
The food is prepared by Alfonso “Poncho” Sotelo Dominguez, the executive chef. Dominguez was trained at the culinary program of the Universidad Tecnológica de Peñasco, in Peñasco, Mexico. To him, moving from Mexico to China as an executive chef has been an unprecedented opportunity. “The future of Valentina’s is tied to my future. I want to see the restaurant grow in the next couple of years and open in more locations,” he said. “The food we serve represents the unity between my person, my skills and the restaurant.” With a clear vision for future growth the staff at Valentina’s hopes to connect with the Nanjing community. Seventy percent of current customers at Valentina’s are part of the expatriate community. Peña said, “Of course, we have a lot of support from the Hopkins-Nanjing community.” However, more and more Chinese students are dining at Valentina’s. Nanjingers new to Mexican food favor the butter-
chicken quesadillas. They were even featured on a popular local television show “人气美食.” However, not everything at Valentina’s has been easy. Meeting customer demand has been a challenge. The staff has had to learn through trial and error which suppliers are the best for acquiring expensive foreign ingredients, such as avocados for the homemade guacamole. Finding reliable and permanent help has been hard too. Most locals are students that prioritize school over work. Peña also spoke about the bureaucratic challenges of doing business near Nanjing University. “Bureaucracy in China has been a challenge,” she said. “While it shouldn’t be so difficult to meet the requirements [to open a business] it’s been a challenge to understand the way people do their jobs and what they expect in return.” Challenges such as extensive licensing procedures that come with the territory of owning a small business have forced the team to grow. “There is no right answer
sometimes,” she said. “No one has written it down, no one is going to tell you what the answer is...Not everyone is as helpful as they could be sometimes, but we’ve found a way to work around those cultural issues. And little by little we’ve found a way to get all the things we need to be open.” Regardless, Peña’s experiences opening Valentina’s are a consistent part of getting a business off the ground. In her words, “In the end, I think we’ve got a good system going on, it’s steady, and business is steady.” Valentina’s is a testament to the opportunity for multicultural cooperation in the global community. Peña’s collaboration with local businesses, such as the bar above the restaurant, and local Nanjing partner, Shen Jinwei, demonstrates the potential for growth and integration into the local community. Without a doubt, with the desire to bring every customer, “a good experience in terms of quality, service and the environment,” Valentina’s could be one Nanjing’s rising stars.
Letters to the Editor In response to “What if the Rebels Did It?” published in the SAIS Observer the week of September 10th.
Dear Editor, In the September 9 issue of the Observer, Jared Metzker argued that Americans should be open to the idea that Syrian rebels, and not the Assad regime, were responsible for the August 21
chemical weapons attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, which killed nearly 1,400 people. This idea was misguided then, and the Sellstrom report released this week by the UN makes it plain that the Assad regime was behind the attacks. Even before the report’s release it was apparent the rebels lacked the coordination and technical skills necessary to
Tristram Thomas Nimisha Jaiswal
DC Associate Editor
DC assistant editor
Selim Koru Jameel Khan
SAIS Europe Associate Editor
IMAGE OF THE WEEK On September 25, renowned musician and Korean folk artist Master Kim Duk Soo (pictured below, 2nd from right) performed with his team at SAIS Washington DC.
Commenting on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s electoral victory this week, European Affairs blogger Kira Gartzou-Katsouyanni discusses how these successes will affect Merkel’s ability and willingness to take action on salient Eurozone negotiations. Despite both the political and public reticence to discuss Eurozone affairs of late, Kira suggests that Germany’s leaders do indeed still see their country’s fate as being inextricably tied to the health of the Eurozone. As such, Kira calls for the country to emerge as the needed and necessary leader of the Eurozone. Transatlantic Relations blogger Silvia Fuselli analyzes NATO’s continued role in shaping international relations in the light of Transatlantic Trends’s recent survey of European and US opinions on the alliance. Noting the important role that democratic values play in forming member’s views of the alliance, Silvia argues that NATO still serves an important harmonizing role in Western relations. Yet, owing to recent developments in the Middle East and Asia, Silvia notes a divergence in Western postures towards these regions.
successfully mount an unstable chemical agent on a rocket and there was no evidence to suggest they possessed sarin in the first place. Furthermore, one would need to explain why the largely Sunni rebels would want to launch chemical weapons into a Sunni suburb, given that any potential international response CONTINUED TO PAGE 6
THE SAIS OBSERVER
photos courtesy of JongHyub Kim
SAIS Europe Assistant Editor
Michael St. Germain Hyeladzirra Banu
Nanjing Associate Editor
is a biweekly advice column which seeks to advise all students on the travails they face in school, work, love and life during their time at SAIS. Have a question for Boo? Email her at email@example.com. Dear Boo, I recently learned one of my roommates is an exceptionally talented massage-giver. I also recently learned one of my other roommates is an exceptionally loud massage-taker. It’s a bit uncomfortable. How should
I deal with this? Squirmish in NW Dear Boo, Why have I never had a boyfriend? My roommates constantly make fun of this. Boooooo! Lonely & Afraid to go Home Dear Boo, I’m worried that my housemates might be spies from another country. What should I do? Looking Over My Shoulder To find the answers to this week’s questions, log onto saisobserver.org
The SAIS Observer is a newspaper written, edited and produced by the students of the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) of the Johns Hopkins University. SAIS students, faculty and members of the administration from all campuses are encouraged to submit articles, opinion pieces, photographs and other items to firstname.lastname@example.org. The SAIS Observer is also available online, with blogs, videos, photo essays and archives at www.saisobserver. org. The SAIS Observer is an approved SAIS student organization. Opinions expressed in the SAIS Observer are not necessarily the views of the Editors, SAIS or Johns Hopkins University.