Thursday, December 18, 2014

Announcing Sigur Center 2015 Summer Language and Research Grants

 The Sigur Center for Asian Studies is pleased to announce grants for language study and field research for Summer 2015. Students with an interest in furthering their Asian language skills or conducting field research in Asia are highly encouraged to apply. All GW students are eligible for Language Grants. Asian Field Research Grants are open to MA and PhD students. Students may apply regardless of nationality.
All grant applications are due by February 27, 2015. Please find links to application materials and details for each grant below: 

Grant for Asian Language Study in Korea, Japan or China

Grant for Chinese Language Study in Taiwan

Grant for Asian Field Research

Please direct all inquiries regarding Sigur Center Language and Research Grants 
to Mary Howard, Asian Studies Program Assistant at

Job Opportunity: Project Manager, National Bureau of Asian Research

Project Manager, Political and Security Affairs (PSA)
Washington, D.C.

Job Description: The National Bureau of Asian Research (NBR) seeks a Project Manager to contribute to our robust research agenda and help inform and influence U.S. policy and strategy toward the Asia-Pacific. The Project Manager will be responsible for administering several projects and programs within the PSA group, ensuring the quality and timeliness of NBR research, and overseeing the budgets and production processes related to these initiatives. This is a full-time, hourly, non-exempt, staff position reporting to the Senior Vice President of Political and Security Affairs.

Qualifications: A successful candidate will have excellent communication and project management skills, display strong analytical skills and intellectual creativity, and demonstrate an independent and entrepreneurial spirit. S/he will work effectively and collaboratively within an active and motivated team, and help contribute to NBR’s long traditions of professionalism and cordiality. Additionally, s/he should be familiar with a wide range of countries and policy issues in the Asia-Pacific, and possess substantive knowledge of the region, its geopolitical dynamics, and relevant U.S. strategies and policies.

B.A. in international relations or a related field required; M.A. in international relations or a related field strongly preferred, though may be supplemented with practical experience. A working knowledge of Asian language(s) also preferred. U.S. military veterans are encouraged to apply.

  • Project Management: managing the complete range of project activities on schedule, within budget, and according to expectations for timeliness and quality
  • Budget Management: maintaining budgets and budget reports, including tracking and coordinating payments, reimbursements, and other expenses
  • Project Development: working with NBR leadership to conceptualize, develop, and expand PSA’s research agenda
  • Team Building: Leading and motivating project teams to achieve specific objectives, and working within an active research team
  • Research: as opportunities arise, conducting research and writing for a wide variety of internal and external publications
  • Event Management: overseeing the design, logistics, and coordination of project meetings and related publications
  • Outreach: maintaining and updating content on relevant NBR websites; representing NBR before a wide range of audiences
  • Engagement: building and maintaining relationships with business leaders, scholars, government officials, and foreign interlocutors to facilitate research and new projects
  • Participating in and supporting other NBR activities as needed
Application Process:
The deadline for applications is January 2, 2015. To apply, submit the following to NBR:
·         Letter of interest
·         Resume
·         Three references with name, title, affiliation, relationship to you, phone number, and email address

Please email application materials to: Ms. Kailani Cordell, Director for Human Resources, Incomplete applications will not be considered.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS)

Interested in studying a language and living abroad?? Apply for our Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) grants for study abroad in Korea, China, or Japan!
The George Washington University has been awarded funds from the US Department of Education to provide Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) academic year and summer grants. All GW graduate students who are citizens or permanent residents of the United States and enrolled as full-time students are eligible for these grants (undergraduates are eligible for summer grants.)
FLAS academic year grants cover full tuition and a modest living stipend. Summer grants cover $5,000 in tuition. Summer grants may be used at GW or at an approved overseas institution.
Students must study a modern regional language (Chinese, Japanese, Korean) and take Asia-regional courses. The deadline for both Summer 2015 FLAS applicants and Academic Year 2015-2016 FLAS is January 15, 2015.
Application details can be found via the Office of Graduate Student Assistantships and Fellowships at

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Internship Opportunity: Machik Spring & Fall 2015

Machik Internship Opportunities: Spring 2015 & Fall 2015 machik

Machik is a nonprofit organization working to develop new opportunities for education, capacity-building, and innovation in Tibet. Founded on a core commitment to the ideals of service and engagement, Machik works to create alternative pathways toward a strong , healthy, and more sustainable future on the Tibetan plateau.
• Interns work with staff on a wide range of programs
• Internship hours are flexible and coordinated to fit your class schedule
·Applications reviewed on a rolling basis
• We are conveniently located at Dupont Circle


We seek interns who are committed to bringing positive change in the world. Join our team today and make a difference!

Applicants with graphic design,writing , and video editing experience will be given special


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

GWU FLAS (Foreign Language and Area Studies) Information Session

December 15th at 3:30pm
Marvin Center, Room 407

The Office of Graduate Student Assistantships and Fellowships (OGSAF), will hold a FLAS Information Session on the Academic Year and Summer FLAS Fellowships on Monday, December 15th at 3:30pm in the Marvin Center, Room 407.

The session is for graduate students (current or incoming) applying for the FLAS Academic Year and/or Summer and undergraduate students (current) applying for the FLAS Summer.

The information session will include a general overview of the FLAS Academic Year and Summer, as well as the application process.

The deadline for both FLAS fellowships is January 15th, 2015.

To register for the event, go to:

Please email if you have questions about the session.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Full-time Internship Opportunity Available at KEI

KEI is currently seeking graduate students with an interest in Asia-Pacific issues for its Spring/Winter 2015 intern class. KEI interns are on the cusp of current events, hearing the news before it is released, and organizing the very interviews that are shown on the evening news. They are directly active in the practice of U.S.-ROK diplomacy and provided maximum exposure to the issues and major players in the field of U.S.-Korea Relations via: report publication, attendance at events, and both peer-to-peer and VIP networking opportunities. At KEI, interns gain experience in the areas of professional writing development, policy-research, data collection, economic analysis, and event planning. 

Main Responsibilities
  • Attend and prepare short analytical reports on conferences, programs & hearings in teh Washington, D.C. Area of interest;
  • Assist with the event planning and conducting of various KEI-sponsored conferences and programs;
  • Provide work as a team with members of staff and other interns on major events and projects;
  • Graduate student with a background in political science, economics, international relations, or Asian studies;
  • An interest in Asia-Pacific issues, especially Korea, preferred;
  • Excellent attention to detail, good organizational abilities and writing skills, professional demeanor, general office skills and strong computer skills;
  • Excellent writing and analysis skills
Application Deadline for 2015 Winter/Spring Internship is November 28, 2014.

Internship Contact:
Clare Hubbard
Associate Director of Programs & Internship Coordinator

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Check out CRCC Asia's Scholarship Programs!

Are you interested in gaining international work experience and building your post-graduation job prospects? Consider doing an internship in China! During the month of November, CRCC Asia is running its annual Scholarship Program and we are giving away 6 scholarships, totaling more than $10,000 for students who wish to take part in our programs in 2015. The application is open until November 23rd 2014 and applicants will be judged on the strength of their application and phone interview, with a final decision made in the first week of December 2014.
CRCC Asia’s China Internship Program provides one, two, or three month internships in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen. Fluent English is the only language requirement and there is a program start date each month of the year.
We work with over 400 top companies in China to offer a wide range of placements across various industries including finance, law, marketing/PR, engineering, accounting, pharmaceuticals, NGO's and many others. All accommodation and visa processing is included in the program, as well as a variety of social and business events.
CRCC Asia currently has over 4000 alumni from more than 150 countries worldwide, who have all benefited from the CRCC Asia China Internship Program.
To read about our programs, please visit and to apply for one of our scholarships, please go to and click on the Application Form or click here.
Our Award-Winning China Internship Program
CRCC Asia is the leading provider of internship programs in China for students and graduates and we have arranged placements in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen for over 4000 participants since 2008. From 2015, CRCC Asia will also be running its programs in Hong Kong. The internships are across a variety of sectors including engineering, green technology, finance, business, law, marketing, pharmaceuticals, NGOs, journalism and several others. We have partnerships with a number of universities globally and in the US, and we are an official partner of the British Council's Generation UK program.

Chinese Tea Time cancelled this week (11/6)

Chinese Tea Time for this Thursday, November 6th, has been cancelled. We apologize for for any inconvenience.  But don't worryChinese Tea Time will resume next Thursday! Japanese Tea Time scheduled for tomorrow is unaffected. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Exciting Spring 2015 Internship Opportunity!

Congressional-Executive Commission on China
Deadline: November 1, 2014
The Congressional-Executive Commission on China ( is offering paid internships to qualified undergraduates, graduate students, or recent graduates this coming spring in Washington, D.C. Interns must be U.S. citizens. The application deadline is November 1, 2014 for the Spring 2015 internship that runs from January 15 to May 31, 2015. Spring internships are part-time; interns are expected to work from 15 to 20 hours per week. See application instructions below.
CECC internships provide significant educational and professional experience for undergraduates, graduate students, or recent graduates with a background in Chinese politics, law, and society, and strong Chinese language skills.
Interns work closely with the Commission and its staff on the full array of issues concerning human rights, the rule of law, and governance in China (including criminal justice, democratic governance institutions, environmental problems, religious freedom, freedom of expression, ethnic minority rights, women's rights, etc.).
Interns perform important research support tasks (often in Chinese), attend seminars, meet Members of Congress and experts from the United States and abroad, and draft Commission analyses. Click here for CECC analysis of recent developments in the rule of law and human rights in China. Interns may also be trained to work with the Commission's Political Prisoner Database, which has been accessible by the public since its launch in November 2004 (click here to begin a search).
The CECC staff is committed to interns’ professional development, and holds regular roundtables for interns on important China-related issues.
Spring 2015 interns will be paid $10/hour. Those unable to apply for Spring 2015 internships may apply for the Summer (June-August). Further details are available on the Commission's Web site at
  • Interns must be U.S. citizens.
  • Interns should have completed at least some China-related coursework. It is also desirable that they have some background in one or more of the specific human rights and rule of law issues in the CECC legislative mandate.
  • Interns should be able to read Chinese well enough to assist with research in newspapers, journals, and on Web sites. More advanced Chinese language capability would be a plus. The successful candidate for an internship often will have lived or studied in mainland China, Hong Kong, or Taiwan.
  • Although our interns are generally undergraduates, graduate students, or recent graduates, others are also welcome to apply.
Application Instructions for Spring 2015:
Interested applicants should send a cover letter, resume, and the names and contact information for two references, to the CECC via e-mail to Judy Wright, Director of Administration at by November 1, 2014. Applications must be received by our office no later than 11:59 P.M. Eastern Time on November 1. Please discuss in your cover letter how your professional goals, interests, and background relate to the Commission's legislative mandate regarding human rights and the rule of law in China. No phone calls please.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Sasakawa USA is hiring!

To recent graduates, grad students, and soon-to-graduate undergraduate students in Asian Studies, Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA (SPFUSA) has job opportunities available!

Sasakawa USA is a 501c3 non-profit located in Washington, DC involved in U.S.-Japan relations, providing conferences and seminars, think tank analysis, people-to-people exchanges and coordination of high-level dialogue between the two countries through their in-house and grant-giving programs.

The opportunities currently available are:

Media Relations Manager

Sasakawa USA seeks an experienced communications professional to raise both public and elite awareness of the US-Japan relationship through media reporting, and to raise and maintain the organization's visibility with both domestic and international media outlets. 

Outreach Coordinator

Sasakawa USA seeks an Outreach Coordinator to identify and develop relations with members and staff of the U.S. Congress and the executive branch to build greater understanding of U.S.-Japan relations. The position will also include responsibility for organizing outreach activities for Sasakawa USA's former program participants as well as groups of Americans with significant past experience in Japan on issues of importance to U.S.-Japan relations including those who have studied or taught in Japan as well as military personnel who were based in Japan. 

Fellow, U.S.-Japan Common Challenges Program

Sasakawa USA seeks an experienced Fellow to lead the U.S.-Japan Common Challenges Program. The Common Challenges Program identifies areas in which the United States and Japan can cooperate to further the interests of the two countries, East Asia and the world as a whole. Ongoing projects include U.S.-Japan cooperation in Myanmar, democracy development, and science and technology. Sasakawa USA intends to develop additional new, unique and important programs on other key issues that would benefit from such cooperation bilaterally, regionally and globally.

Associate Fellow, U.S.-Japan Common Challenges Program

Sasakawa USA seeks an experienced Associate Fellow to help provide substantive and programmatic direction for the U.S.-Japan Common Challenges Program. The Common Challenges Program identifies areas in which the United States and Japan can cooperate to further the interests of both countries, the East Asia region, and globally. Ongoing projects include US-Japan cooperation in Myanmar, democracy development, and science and technology. Sasakawa USA intends to develop additional new, unique and important programs on other key issues that would benefit from such cooperation bilaterally, regionally and globally. 

Associate Fellow, U.S.-Japan Security and Foreign Policy Program

Sasakawa USA seeks an experienced Associate Fellow to provide substantive, programmatic and administrative support for its Security and Foreign Policy Program. This program includes work on an ongoing project on the future of the U.S.-Japan alliance and other new, unique and important projects covering key bilateral and regional issues in U.S.-Japan security and diplomatic relations. 
For more information, all jobs can be found on their organizational page:

Happy job hunting!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

One Year Fellowship Opportunity in Asia: Applications are now open!

Interested in making a social impact abroad? How about in Asia? If so, take a look at the Dwight Clark Fellowship offered by Volunteers in Asia (VIA).

This service fellowship is a year-long program that allows its fellows to live in China, Indonesia, Myanmar, Vietnam, or Thailand to carry out community and social development programs, education, and anti-trafficking efforts. The fellowship begins each year in August and applications will be accepted through January 15th, 2015.

For information about this fellowship or VIA's other opportunities, visit their program homepage or follow their page on Facebook.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Change of Schedule: Korean Tea Time

To all of those who have been attending the Sigur Center's weekly Korean Tea Times or would like to give it a try and pratice your Korean with tea and cookies, please note that the timing has been changed.

Korean Tea Time will still be held every Tuesday, but now from 1:30-2:30 PM. The location is still the Chung-wen Shih Conference Room in Elliott School Suite 503.

This change was made due to input from current students, and further input is always welcome. The Sigur Center strives to make its resources as convenient and accessible as possible.

We hope to see you there!

Click here to check out the Sigur Center's updated events calendar.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Study Abroad Opportunity in Cambodia

Students in the International Studies Program interested in gaining meaningful, hands-on experience abroad can spend a semester in Cambodia learning about post-conflict recovery, Cambodian culture and history, international health, global poverty and Khmer Buddhism with Global Service Corps.

Global Service Corps’ Study Abroad Program in Cambodia provides students with an insider look into the world of international development in Southeast Asia. One of the most diverse regions of the world, Southeast Asia is composed of eleven countries that vary greatly in language, religion, history and culture. While the region as a whole has experienced economic growth, some countries still face a number of development challenges. Students studying abroad with GSC will become part of a movement to restore health, prosperity and growth to a society in recovery from brutal civil war and genocide.

Global Service Corps’ semester service-learning programs in Cambodia supplement classroom education with hands-on field work at local community development organizations. In partnership with the University at Albany, State University of New York (SUNY) and Paññasastra University of Cambodia, GSC offers 15-credit Semester Programs and a 9-credit Summer Program focused on social, cultural, and community development in Cambodia.

The 15-credit, 15-week Fall or Spring Semester Program includes:  
·        3 weeks of academic training on Khmer language, social development in post-conflict societies, service-learning theory, Buddhism and meditation,  Emotional Intelligence (EQ), and Cambodian culture and history
·        9 weeks of field work in the areas of public health, orphanage care, assistance of slum populations, HIV/AIDS prevention and/or English language instruction
·        3 weeks of Capstone projects, allowing students to synthesize their studies and field experience

The 9-credit, 9-week Summer Program includes:
·        1 week of academic training on Khmer language, social development in post-conflict societies, service-learning theory, Buddhism and meditation,  Emotional Intelligence (EQ), and Cambodian culture and history
·        8 weeks of varied service-learning field work in any of the following programs: English Language Instruction, HIV/AIDS Prevention & Public Health Education, Buddhist Immersion, Orphanage Care, International Health, or an Integrated Program

Students participating in GSC’s Semester and Summer Service-Learning Programs are provided with the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to gain a greater perspective on the issues surrounding Cambodian development, while making make a lasting global impact.

Applications are still being accepted for the upcoming 2015 Spring Semester!

To Apply: (Please Note: Students will need to apply through both GSC and SUNY)

Friday, August 29, 2014

Language Tea Time Schedule Now Available!

The schedule for Chinese, Japanese and Korean tea times is now available!

These are informal events designed to allow a time and place for students to practice their language skills, share study tips, learn about the Language Exit Exams, and get to know other language students. Tea and cookies will be provided! All tea times are from 4:00 - 5:00 PM in the Sigur Center's Chung-wen Shih conference room, Suite 503.

Chinese - Thursdays: 9/04, 9/11, 9/18, 9/25, 10/02, 10/09, 10/16, 10/23, 10/30, 11/13, 11/20, 12/04

Japanese -Wednesdays: 9/03, 9/10, 9/17, 9/24, 10/01, 10/08, 10/15, 10/22, 10/29, 11/05, 11/12, 11/19, 12/03

Korean -Tuesdays: 9/09, 9/16, 9/23, 9/30, 10/07, 10/14, 10/21, 10/28, 11/04, 11/18, 11/25, 12/02

This schedule is based on previous interest in the various languages offered. The schedule may change later in the semester based on input from participants, so please let us know!

Download the current Fall 2014 Tea Time Calendar

Please RSVP for a Tea Time at

Fall Internship Opportunit​ies at The National Bureau of Asian Research

The National Bureau of Asian Research (NBR) is seeking a paid, full-time (25+ hours per week) intern to be a member of the Political and Security Affairs (PSA) team for 3-6 months, extendable. The internship will include contributing to key projects and programs, such as the Strategic Asia Program, the China Security Studies Program, The Future of U.S. Alliances and Partnerships initiative, and other PSA projects. This position is supervised by PSA directors and managers.

  • Project Assistance: drafting and proof-reading project descriptions, concept papers, etc.; helping maintain project documentation, web-pages, and filing systems
  • Research Support and Writing: providing substantive research assistance for project teams and scholars, providing market research, summarizing research papers, undertaking literature reviews, and performing other research and writing assignments as needed
  • Publications Support: reviewing, fact-checking, proof-reading and formatting publications; assisting with publications distribution (including mailings), etc.
  • Database Administration: maintaining and updating project databases; data entry and research for institutional and project databases
  • Event Planning: providing administrative support to conferences, workshops, presentations, and briefings (drafting agendas; assisting with travel, accommodation, and venue arrangements; note-taking, etc.)
  • Phone Support: answering incoming calls to the organization
  • Participating in and supporting other NBR activities as needed
  • Current BA/MA student or recent graduate, working towards or holding a relevant degree
  • Excellent written, oral, and research skills are required, as well as substantive expertise and interest in contemporary U.S. foreign policy towards Asia
  • The intern should be a motivated self-starter who can work independently or as part of a team, pays acute attention to detail, is organized, and works well under pressure
  • Advanced Asian language skills a plus, especially Japanese, Korean, and Chinese
  • U.S. work authorization (by time of application deadline)
  • Supervision: gain experience working for directors and managers and collaborating in a team setting
  • Think tank exposure: learn how a think tank works and have the opportunity to talk with staff across the organization about their roles and departments
  • Networking: make professional connections with people in your field
  • Application of academics: use your degree or what you’ve learned to date in the classroom in a professional setting
Application Process

The deadline for applications is September 12, 2014; however, qualified applications received first will be given priority. Incomplete applications will not be considered. To apply, submit the following to NBR:
  • Application Form: PDF or MS Word
  • Cover letter that details your qualifications and availability
  • Resume
  • Brief writing sample on a topic related to your field of study
  • Contact information of three references, including name, title, affiliation, relationship to you, phone number, and email address
Please send applications by email to: Ms. Kailani Cordell, Human Resources Director,, phone (206) 632-7370.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Job Opportunity: Sigur Center Staff Assistant (Part-Time, Federal Work Study Award Required)

Position Description: 

The Staff Assistant position is located in the Sigur Center for Asian Studies at the Elliott School of International Affairs. This position is primarily responsible for staffing the center's front desk which encompasses answering the main phone line, greeting visitors, and processing mail. Other administrative duties and special projects as assigned, such as creating spreadsheets and reports, data entry, editing, etc. as well as supporting Sigur Center events. The Staff Assistant also plays a central role in managing the Sigur Center's social enterprise -- our blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr accounts. This is a great opportunity for someone interested in Asian Studies and International Affairs to work closely with Asian Studies faculty, staff, and students as well as visiting scholars from Asia.
Approximate Hours Per Week: 10-12

Hourly Wage: $10/hour


* Interest in/knowledge of International Affairs and Asia
* Some knowledge of an Asian foreign language
* Experience living, working, or studying in Asia
* Strong customer service and interpersonal skills
* Administrative experience
* Must possess a Federal Work Study Award for the 2014-2015 academic year

Application Procedures:

* Apply via GWork to position number 802193 ASAP. You may contact with any questions.
* Include the amount of your FWS award in your cover letter
* Specify the dates/times you are available to work in your cover letter
* Due to a high volume of applications only shortlisted candidates will be contacted. No calls, please.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

First impressions of New Delhi
Hit the ground running but jetlagged, feeling like an extra in a zombie apocalypse flick.
Delhi is hot.  Descriptors are insufficient.  I land at 9pm and it feels over 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
Delhi is acrid.  Having lived in Beijing, I am prepared for the worst, surviving days with visibility so low you had to lie to yourself that it was fog to muster up the courage to go outside. I lack a keen sense of smell, something I have always cherished on long bus rides and in large developing cities, but even my dull nose can comprehend the pungent air; it feels like I am a prisoner of an unventilated parking garage in the desert.
Delhi is clean.  The extra bureaucratic funding and attention is apparent – streets are swept, medians are landscaped, and rotaries are decorated with extravagant fountains that mock the sweltering temperatures, Vegas-style.
Delhi is green.  Delhi must be one of the greener cities on the planet, even in the peak of the dry season before the monsoon.  Birds abound.
Delhi isn’t too loud.  Horns go off with high frequency, but without animosity.  With many cars, rickshaws, bikes, and carts sharing few lanes, a horn is neither antagonistic (unlike, say, Los Angeles) nor aggressive–it is a simple statement “I’m here.”
And so I am.  After 8 weeks of visa delay (don’t ask and I won’t tell) I am here.
My Internship
The Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) is he premier think tank in India funded by but autonomous from the Ministry of Defence. It will be my home for the next three months, thanks to generous grants from the Sigur Center as well as the Graduate School Career Development center.  Working at the East Asia Centre with Dr. Jagannath Panda, I will research the strategic triangle of India, China, and the United States, and how China both compels and constrains the India-United States relationship.  This complex subject touches on the most sensitive of issues--India's hallowed strategic autonomy, Chinese fear of encirclement, and the demands of the 'rebalancing' United States.
Despite my jetlag, big things are happening.  There is a Chinese charm offensive after Narendra Modi's recent election.  I meet Ambassador Weiwei.  He has a slick salesman vibe about himself, and is diplomatic enough to briefly chat with a mere intern and compliment my Mandarin; any nonnative speaker of Chinese knows even a 'hello' in Mandarin will elicit gushing compliments on your ability.  Regardless, I will chose to take the accolade at face value.
Ambassador Weiwei is at IDSA for a conference on the 60th Anniversary of Panscheel and its Relevance for India China Relations.  Panscheel, or five principles in Sanskrit, was first enumerated in the Agreement on Trade and Intercourse between Tibet Region of China and India signed in 1954.  This was the heyday of Nehru's optimism of a united postcolonial Asia, with India and China working together--hindi chinni bhai bhai.  This bonhomie was shattered just short years later by India's shocking defeat in the 1962 war. Any student of Chinese foreign policy sees the centrality of the Five Principles in official documents, but the Panscheel bring back bad memories and lingering suspicions for India.  In the same way the United States both engages and hedges with China, as does India, needing Chinese investment and trade as well as a stable border. I hope to explore Indian perceptions of both China and the United States to understand India's response to China's rise and what role the United States may play.  It is a large and sensitive question, but I am ready to get started.

Friday, August 22, 2014

(My Failed Attempt at) Watching the Flag Lowering Ceremony at the Tian’anmen Square

(This is the second post by Chunhua Chen, a Ph.D student of Political Science at GWU. This summer, she is doing field research for her dissertation in China supported by a Sigur Center Grant for Asian Field Research for summer 2014.)

My stay in Beijing this time is going to end next week. So yesterday, I decided that I needed to go to the Tian’anmen Square to watch the daily National Flag lowering ceremony before leaving the city.  It had been several years since I was last in the Square, and I had never watched the famous national flag-raising or flag-lowering ceremonies—strange, as I had lived in Beijing for six long years. I was sure they were scenes to marvel at. The national emblem and national flag are the symbols of a country and everything it stands for for its people. Ernest Renan says that “a nation is a soul, a spiritual principle” that necessarily entails “the possession in common of a rich heritage of memories” and “actual agreement, the desire to live together, and the will to continue to make the most of the joint inheritance.” It is in the same vein of Benedict Anderson’s definition of the nation as an “imagined political community” in the sense that the basis on which a nation is held together springs from its members’ minds. National identities, which are primarily formed on the basis of factors such as sharing the collective memories of history, awareness of oneself as belonging to the same nation as other members, and the sharing of the same culture, are all phenomena at the mental and spiritual level, based on the formation of ideas. The lines between different nations lie in, or stem from, in large part, people’s “imagination.” Ceremonies such as national flag raising and lowering are an important part of creating, sustaining, and triggering that imagination, which is essential for the very survival of any nation. Stephen Walt even calls nationalism “the most powerful political force in the world.”

            At about 6:30, following the stream of tourists, I walked slowly along the narrow street leading to the Square. In the souvenir stores were stuffed pandas, folding fans, cheong-sams, etc. At a porcelain store, I saw several big decorative plates with the portraits of the four generations of leaders of the People’s Republic of China painted on them. President Xi Jinping’s portrait, of course, was on display at the most prominent place. What’s noteworthy was that there was also a plate with the picture of both President Xi and his wife, Ms. Peng Liyuan. A former popular folk singer and performing artist, Ms. Peng charmed the whole country and the world with her glamour and fashion sense when she accompanied her husband on his first official trip in 2013 to Russia, Tanzania, the Republic of Congo and South Africa, and thus broke the tradition of Chinese "first ladies" not entering the limelight.
Left and right: President Xi Jinping; middle: President Xi and his wife, Peng Liyuan
 Two little girls, dressed by their parents like Qing-dynasty princesses, were running and laughing on the street. Every several hundred meters there was a patrol team of three helmeted police officers and a white police car. I tried to take a picture of one of the patrol teams but was called off.

I went through the security checkpoint and finally stood at the Tian’anmen Square. Last time when I had been here, I, like many of my peers, had not known much about the history of the Square, especially what happened here back in the late 1980s. But now I had known better, and could not help recreating in my mind the scenes on the Square in that eventful year. Many tired tourists were sitting on the ground, waiting for the ceremony and playing with their handsets. The Monument to the People’s Heroes was still solemn and quiet, and the sunset was purple-orange-pink. Somehow it also looked like blood.  

At about 7, someone shouted, “it started!” Then people quickly formed a wall in front of the gate of Tian’anmen, or the Gate of Heavenly Peace. I could vaguely heard the national anthem, but was too far away from the flag-raising platform and too short to be able to catch a view. So what I ended up watching was countless cellphone screens ---people were all video recording the ceremony while watching it, or to be more exact, watching the ceremony through their cellphone screens.
I was watching numerous cellphone screens
More screens

The ceremony lasted for only several minutes. Night started to slowly fall upon the Square and police officers—both in uniforms and plain cloches—started to ask people to leave the Square and not gather. I finally saw the flagpole when the crowds were dispersed.

When I left the Square through another narrow gate, I saw many disappointed tourists being turned away by the officers guarding the gate. “The flag lowering ceremony has ended,” one officer said impatiently, “now the Square is no longer open to the public.”