Jackson Venjohn in Taipei

In 2018, I spent 8 weeks in Beijing at Capital Normal University studying Mandarin in a language-intensive environment as part of the Chinese Flagship Program. I thoroughly enjoyed first experiencing East Asia in Beijing because it is the cultural and political center of China. Last summer in Beijing was particularly impactful because I arrived at the beginning of trade frictions between the United States and China. I had the opportunity to hear very interesting perspectives on an international situation that looking back at history has never happened to this scale.

This summer, thanks to the generosity of the China Center, I was able to return to East Asia for 9 weeks in Taipei, Taiwan. I had the opportunity to continue working on my Mandarin fluency at National Taiwan University’s ICLP program, study Taiwan’s rich culture, eat great food, learn how to surf, and enjoy the many fun outdoor activities in Taiwan. In addition, I was able to compare and contrast the perspectives of cross-strait relations in Taiwan with my valuable experiences last summer in Beijing. I feel greatly fortunate to have been able to gain such unique exposure between the two East Asian counterparts.

Before arriving in Taiwan, I spent a week in Hong Kong and Macau, coincidentally during the first week of protesting in Hong Kong. It is hard to truly understand the differences in culture, language, and economic and political perspectives of the special administrative region in the greater Cantonese unless you actually go there.

Lastly, during the mid-summer break, I spent 3 days in Shanghai meeting with different people in business, particularly in the financial sphere. It has been interesting to see how views on the Sino-U.S. trade frictions have shifted between the time I was in Beijing last year and this summer of 2019. Few students my age get to learn such interesting perspectives on Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China coming from a western perspective and background as myself. These aspects of my trip this summer have been most influential and will likely leave the greatest impact on me going forward.

As our world becomes more and more globalized and the East Asian economy continues to expand and grow, one area that has particularly interested me is cross-border mergers and acquisition advising. For example, when a Chinese company wants to acquire a U.S. company (or a foreign company for that matter), there are serious implications that a domestic merger or acquisition wouldn’t have. Different law systems, cross-border language and cultural differences, and difficulty understanding and valuing how companies might synergize and work together are among the most interesting challenges this area faces. For these purposes, I believe my growing Chinese proficiency and advanced cross-cultural understanding developed with the Chinese Flagship Program could be of great use. International acquisitions continue to be a catalyst for growth and act as the “tendons and ligaments” of cross-border relations both economically and politically. This summer while in Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, I was able to continue to develop and build relationships with individuals that work in this area, solidifying my strong interest to work and live in Greater China.