Learning about Chinese-led development by Emily Ng

by tuftsigl
Jul 18

In the developed world where news is often North American- or European-centric, learning about Chinese-led development has been a wonderful context change. “China has never been a heavy recipient of foreign aid,” the director of the office Yinuo Li told me and the other interns. It’s a country that has sustainably developed mostly on its own — and I’ve been thinking about the role it can take in supporting other countries’ development.

This is a vision that has been infused in all of my work at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Office this summer. The wealth of resources China can offer is completely overlooked. It has amazing resources in medicine and technology, as well as the growing economy to invest in research and development of innovative technologies. This made me realize all the untapped sources of power in regards to the developing world/Global South. It is easy to create caricatures out of developing nations, plastering on pitying extremes to describe many middle or low income countries and their obstacles. However, I’ve been learning how to keep the texture of each marginalized nation I encounter in my work here this summer. Each of them is vivid with their own strengths and contributions.

I’ve been working on projects for the Communications, Policy and Advocacy teams here. In the former, I’ve been writing a blog series on the organization’s WeChat, a Chinese equal of Facebook and messaging. In this series, I’ve been researching and writing about the imminent G20 and how it can be linked to alleviating the burden of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). China is an amazing example in this regard - it eliminated elephantiasis in 2007 through dispersing drugs through table salt.

For the latter department, I’ve been creating memos and researching the recent Every Woman Every Child initiative by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. The overarching goal of this initiative is to improve the lives of millions of women, adolescents, and children. More specifically, my role in the project is looking at ways China can be a supportive and effective stakeholder in this initiative. This has sparked new areas of learning for me, as I am also investigating the large data gap in remote communities. This has reminded me of a piece of advice one colleague has passed on to me - to think about tomorrow’s problems as well. The picture of technology and isolation is an image that isn’t foreign in development anymore. For me, looking for ways to merge the two to benefit those isolated is a grounding and humbling thought to keep in mind.

Therefore, the first half of my internship at the Gates Foundation has left an unsatisfying taste. The weeks so far have only left me with more questions, with more possibilities to entertain and conversations to have. I’m looking forward to the new lessons I’ll learn in the rest of my internship, as well as how I perceive my role in the world of global development.

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