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Archived Stories

The Center hosts conferences, workshops, seminars and cultural events, connecting leaders from government, business and civil society to address economic growth and market change in the Pacific region. These stories represent a small portion of the work happening on campus each day.

A marriage of policy and advocacy

Oct. 28, 2019 | By Rachel Hommel | GPS News

A Q&A with fellows and human rights advocates Bennett Freeman and Rebecca MacKinnon during their residency at the Center on Global Transformation
Read more.

Aruna Sundararajan forecasts the future of Digital India

Oct. 23, 2018 | By Rachel Hommel | GPS News

A Q&A with the Secretary of the Indian Department of Telecommunications during her Pacific Leadership Fellowship. Read more.

Gregory Lee looks at the future of digital health and technology

May 17, 2018 | By Rachel Hommel | GPS News

A Q&A with Nokia Technologies president during his Pacific Leadership Fellowship. Read more. 

Eduardo Porter finds journalistic inspiration at GPS

Jan. 29, 2018 | By Rachel Hommel | GPS News

A Q&A with New York Times Economic Scene columnist during his Pacific Leadership Fellowship. Read more.

Managing risk to accelerate economic growth

Somkiat Tangkitvanich lends GPS an inside view of how Southeast Asian countries will continue to grow in the current global climate

| By Amy Robinson | GPS News

For Somkiat Tangkitvanich, examining how countries in the region are working to accomplish the goals laid out in ASEAN Vision 2020 is second nature.

Somkiat TangkitvanichAs president of the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI), a leading think tank that helps formulate policies to support long-term economic and social development in Thailand, he is used to sharing his views on how Southeast Asian countries will continue to accelerate economic growth. Indisputably, he is recognized as a leading Thai expert in the policy areas of trade and investment, innovation, education and ICT.

Which is why the UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy’s Center on Global Transformation (CGT) invited Tangkitvanich, as a Pacific Leadership Fellow (PLF), to share his perceptions and experiences with students, scholars and the larger San Diego community during his fall residency.   

Having completed its eleventh year, CGT has hosted 85 PLFs from 21 different countries. The program brings leaders from around the globe to engage in dialogue, research and instruction. Fellows are scholars and policymakers who shape strategy in their own countries through government, the private sector and academia, and provide insights into how economic and political systems are evolving.

Tangkitvanich’s residency kicked off the wave of visits from CGT’s 2017-2018 PLF cohort.

Somkiat Tangkitvanich and studentAmid imparting his wisdom on the university, he guest lectured in the GPS course titled “Politics of Southeast Asia” and met with many student including hosting an event for the Southeast Asia Link (SEAL) student group.

"GPS is a hub for analysis, debate and learning about economic policy design from leaders across the Pacific region,” said Krislert Samphantharak, associate professor and associate dean at GPS. "Our graduate students benefited greatly from Tangkitvanich residency, whether it was from mentoring session to guest lecturing in classes."

As part of his residency, Tangkitvanich also held a public talk on Oct. 30, “ASEAN: Opportunity and Risk,“ expanding on how Southeast Asian countries are changing in the current global, economic and political climate. GPS Associate Professor and Associate Dean Krislert Samphantharak served as the discussant.

“ASEAN is growing very fast. One of the fastest growing regions in the world after India and China,” Tangkitvanich said.

In explaining how the region is working to accomplish the goals laid out in ASEAN Vision 2020, Tangkitvanich drew from his research at TDRI.

Using satellite imagery, Tangkitvanich also illustrated ASEAN’s rapid urbanization by highlighting two night time maps from 2010 and 2016 in this public talk.

“It becomes clear that the area around Bangkok and its proximity to the city, plus Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi cities in Vietnam are much brighter. Meaning that they have been urbanizing really quickly,” he said.  

He went on to explain that this is also an indicator of the rise of the middle class in these countries and a contributor to the accelerated economic growth of the region.

He concluded the talk with a few simple messages. ASEAN is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Growth is expected to be sustainable in the immediate future if ASEAN countries can manage the risk. And there is a lot of business opportunities in the region. Tangkitvanich shared that he would like to see the U.S. engage more with ASEAN economically and a return to the pivot to Asia strategy formulated during the Obama administration.

“During his residency at CGT, Tangkitvanich impressed me and my colleagues with his deep insights on economic issues in the region and his broad research interests, many of those are what we focus on at GPS,” said Samphantharak.

To round out his residency, Tangkitvanich was able to learn more on campus about the work being conducted at the Qualcomm Institute, plus the microgrid system – the university’s microgrid generates approximately 92 percent of the electricity used on campus annually.

Tangkitvanich also had the opportunity to explore the vibrant San Diego community including meeting with executives at the BIT Center, Connect, Qualcomm, Inc. and MindHub. He was even able to make a trip to the border wall to meet with the owner of Norte Brewing Company and learn about the growing microbrewery industry in our vibrant cross-border region.

View more photos from PLF Somkiat Tangkitvanich’s visit.

Taro Kono appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs

Aug. 21, 2017 | By Amy Robinson | GPS News

Former CGT Pacific Leadership Fellow appointed by Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to become the new Minister of Foreign Affairs. Read more.

Coming home for collaboration

May 16, 2017 | By Sarah Pfledderer | GPS News

As CGT’s first-ever research fellow, Terra Lawson-Remer is bridging research and the real world in the classroom and creating new connections outside of it. Read more.

Experiencing the ‘crossroad of the US, Asia and Mexico’

April 20, 2017 | By Sarah Pfledderer | GPS News

As part of his Pacific Leadership Fellowship, Enrico Letta derived new impressions of not only the EU-U.S. relationship but also the U.S.-Mexico one. Read more.

Connecting the dots on the U.S.-Japan relationship

Feb. 21, 2017 | By Sarah Pfledderer | GPS News

As part of her Pacific Leadership Fellowship, Yoriko Kawaguchi rediscovered the strength of and predicted what’s in store for U.S.-Japan relations. Read more.

Big Pixel Initiative Develops Remote Sensing Analysis to Help Map Global Urbanization

Sept. 8, 2016 | By Anthony King | UC San Diego News

Big Pixel Initiative Researchers at University of California San Diego’s Big Pixel Initiative are using unique tools to map urban areas around the globe, potentially revolutionizing large-scale analysis of urbanization. Using Google Earth Engine, they developed and tested new machine-learning approaches that use high-resolution satellite data to detect and map settlements around the world. Read more.

10 NAFTA takeaways to consider in the TPP

| By Sarah Pfledderer | GPS News

As part of the San Diego Global Forum, PLF Antonio Ortiz-Mena listed 10 lessons we can use from NAFTA in implementing the TPP. Read more.

Robert Hormats reconnects, reflects at GPS

 By Sarah Pfledderer | GPS News

A Q&A with the vice chairman at Kissinger Associates during his Pacific Leadership Fellowship. Read more.

Putting Google Earth Engine on the map at UC San Diego

 | By Sarah Pfledderer | GPS News

Ran Goldblatt brings to GPS more than just his expertise as a geographer and GIS analyst but also a determination to equip students with the latest tools of the trade. Read more.

Reiko Akiike strikes up scholarly exchange at UC San Diego

 | By Sarah Pfledderer | GPS News

CGT’s inaugural 2015-2016 PLF lends GPS an inside glance at Abenomics and returns to Tokyo with a new point of view for business strategizing under it. Read more.

Joan and Irwin Jacobs give $4 million to rebrand EmPac to CGT

Sept. 29, 2015 | By Sarah Pfledderer | GPS News

Rebranding is abuzz at the UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS), as the School’s Center on Emerging and Pacific Economies (EmPac) now is the Center on Global Transformation (CGT), thanks to a $4 million gift from founding supporters Joan and Irwin Jacobs. Read more.

UC San Diego Launches Japan Forum for Innovation and Technology

May 20, 2015 | By Jade Griffin | UC San Diego News

Gift from Japanese technology leader Broadband Tower helps create program. Read more.

University Students Turn Satellite Images into Policy Analysis

June 15, 2015 | By Doug Ramsey | UC San Diego News

Recently, over 50 students – most of them graduate students – showed up for the day-long Big Pixel Hackathon to Discover the Planet in Atkinson Hall’s Calit2 Theater. The May 23 hackathon was organized by the Big Pixel Initiative (BPI) to showcase what can happen when you let students loose on the largest private collection of high-resolution satellite imagery on earth. Co-directors Gordon Hanson, a professor in the School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS), and Qualcomm Institute research scientist Albert Yu-Min Lin oversaw the event, with hands-on management by lead coordinator Jessica Block and postdoctoral researcher (and GIS expert) Ran Goldblatt, both based in the Qualcomm Institute. Read more.

UC San Diego Granted Access to DigitalGlobe Commercial Satellite Imagery

March 18, 2015 | By Doug Ramsey | UC San Diego News

The DigitalGlobe Foundation has selected the University of California, San Diego to be one of two institutions of higher learning given open access to DigitalGlobe Basemap, an online map and database of current, high-resolution satellite imagery – of the entire planet. For a one-year pilot study, commercial satellite imagery will be made available free of charge to selected UC San Diego faculty, students and staff who, until now, would not have been able to afford access to the planetary-scale data included in the DigitalGlobe Basemap. Read more.

Getting into action mode

August 1, 2014 | By Anthony King 

“I like being in action mode. It’s fun, it’s exciting and it’s challenging,” he said. “And it’s a bit of a relief, because I’m more of a doer than a talker.”While Dean Peter Cowhey is on his research sabbatical, professor Gordon Hanson has stepped up to take over as acting dean. And while Hanson has his hands full with his own ongoing research and faculty duties, he is overwhelmingly committed to this new role at the School of International Relations and Pacific Studies (IR/PS).

Hanson is the Pacific Economic Cooperation Chair in International Economic Relations at UC San Diego, straddling both IR/PS and the Department of Economics. He is the director of the Center on Emerging and Pacific Studies (EmPac) and co-director of the Policy Design and Evaluation Lab (PDEL), among many other leadership roles.

Before his sabbatical started July 1, Cowhey called Hanson an “intellectual leader” among faculty, and in the same vein, Hanson is a leader for students and alumni as well. As acting dean, he will be the figurehead for incoming students.

“We want to communicate the vision of the school and help students understand their role,” he said about what he hopes to achieve this fall. “It’s important to help students understand the School as being a dynamic place. They should want that.”

The same is true for alumni. Hanson has been attending more events, including the June IR/PS alumni paella party, and frequently meets with the San Diego alumni club. He will also be hosting the upcoming IR/PS Open House and Summer Celebration Aug. 14.

Supporting the School’s identity

Another goal for his time as acting dean is to continually reinforce IR/PS’s identity as a place where faculty and students do cutting-edge research on what’s happening in the Pacific region. Hanson himself is excited about what lies ahead for the School, including a push to do policy-relevant research in the key fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, otherwise known as STEM.

“IR/PS will really be the nexus at UC San Diego for STEM and policy work,” he said. “A lot of what that involves is figuring out how you design, evaluate and implement affective policies, which is something we’re really good at.”

In the coming year, the School will be working with researchers and faculty at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Jacobs School of Engineering and the Qualcomm Institute on new initiatives. A similar working relationship with researchers at the School of Medicine is also planned, and as a researcher at UC San Diego since 2001, Hanson is more than ready.

“One of the things we’ve been doing as a faculty over the last 15 years is bringing new methods to bear on how you figure out what works and what doesn’t in a very rigorous way — in the field — in countries all over the world,” he said.

Policy design is a key part of the School’s identity, including its curriculum. This strong STEM-based curriculum is not only shaped by each faculty’s research, but Hanson said helps form their lines of inquiry as well.

Straddling the borders

Regions play an important part of Hanson’s academic research, though he does not necessarily focus on China over Latin America when constructing his theories. It happens naturally, depending on the research itself.

“I have periods where I am more focused on international migration, and then periods where I’ve been more focused on international trade,” he said. “When it comes to migration, the United States-Mexico linkage is the largest migration flow in the world. When it comes to trade, China has become the engine of the global economy.”

Understanding how economies integrate, and then looking at exactly what that means for labor markets, has been the center of Hanson’s research for over 20 years. It is in borders, he said, where these issues truly play out.

“Borders are where you see contrasts, and as a consequence they’re very instructive,” he said, hinting at a double meaning. “If you look at our faculty, what a lot of us have in common is we like to ‘populate the borders’ in areas of inquiry. We straddle economics and political science. We straddle different sub-disciplines within our broader disciplines. We straddle thinking about methodology and region.”

Hanson’s current research will be ongoing, with two projects in particular that are related to IR/PS initiatives. The first is looking to understand how China’s growth has impacted the U.S. labor and manufacturing market, and the second is utilizing new, cutting-edge satellite imagery to study economic urbanization and industrialization.

“Instead of using information we get from surveys, which are expensive to collect and take a long time to collate, we extract information from images,” he said, emphasizing the importance of real-time data. “With satellite imagery, I can get stuff that’s hours old. It’s a very dynamic area.”

Research for the entire Pacific

EmPac will be starting its ninth year, and while the center will continue to connect global leaders through its Pacific Leadership Fellows program, Hanson said it will also continue to be an important avenue in supporting research on campus.

The 21st Century China Program came about, in part, through EmPac’s guidance, and PDEL came directly from the center’s efforts. At IR/PS, Hanson is dedicated to growing all research, encompassing the entire Pacific region.

 “The 21st Century China Program has shown the ways in which we’re being innovative on what we’re doing in Asia, and that’s been a big focus the last couple of years,” he said. “This year, we’re going to be very much focusing on pushing the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies forward, trying to bring in new leadership and establish new programs, as well as hire new faculty.”

Hitting the Japanese jackpot

July 31, 2014 | By Anthony King

School of International Relations and Pacific Studies (IR/PS) professor Ulrike Schaede has found a unique way to share her extensive knowledge about business, industry and manufacturing in Japan: she’s started her own online column written in, naturally, Japanese.

Published by Nikkei Business — one of Japan’s leading business news sources — Schaede pursued the column at the request of several Japanese students here at UC San Diego. Calling Schaede’s analysis of ongoing changes in Japanese business “fresh and interesting,” the students encouraged her to reach a larger audience.

And the results have been nothing short of spectacular.

“The Tokyo subway story got 300,000 page views in just a few days and was the most widely read article on Nikkei Business Online for that entire week,” Schaede said, calling the entire experience tremendously rewarding. “I think I hit the jackpot with that topic.”

In addition to explaining why the Tokyo mass transit system is the best in the world — Schaede should know, she lived and commuted in Japan for over eight years and frequently returns to expand her research — she has also focused on the growing role of Japanese materials in the global supply chain, Japan’s position in electronic money transactions, the difficult changes in their current employment system and the country’s new role as a leader for the 21st century.

It is easy to see the links to Schaede’s academic research. As the executive director of the Center on Emerging and Pacific Economies, she is the go-to expert on Japanese business, focusing on Japan’s corporate strategy, business organization, management, financial markets and government-business relations. Her 2008 book “Choose and Focus: Japanese Business Strategies for the 21st Century” helps generate topic ideas, as does her current book project on the best companies in what she calls the “New Japan,” explaining what makes them so great.

Schaede’s positive view of Japanese business is infectious. Grounded in research, she views the transition out of the 20th century as a “strategic repositioning” of the entire business system, encouraged by several companies moving in the right direction. It’s these companies that she chooses to highlight.

The column’s reach extends beyond her thousands of readers and research, into the very business sector Schaede is writing about itself. The e-money column, for example, led to her being contacted directly by several of the industry’s main players: a Sony engineer who invented the technology in Japan, an engineer in charge of the payment system, a United States citizen who, now living in San Diego, sold the technology in Hong Kong, and a senior manager from Sony in charge of the failed U.S. launch.

“I now have a pretty good sense for the entire story,” she said, “and it has already developed into a paper. I have a long-standing interest in this topic, and because it is ongoing, it makes for a great case to teach ‘disruptive technologies’ in my strategy class at IR/PS.”

Paying attention to every detail, Schaede said although each column does require quite a bit of work, she finds the process — including reading and re-reading online comments — very useful. Even the time she inadvertently used the wrong Japanese character in an accompanying chart.

“The magazine got a lot of calls on that,” she said, “but I didn’t mind at all because that correction was helpful for me, too. You really had to read the thing very, very carefully to even spot the mistake. I was surprised.”

Ultimately, the comments serve as an extension to the column itself and provide insight into Schaede’s continuing research. It was one commenter, however, that summed it up nicely: “This column rocks.”

Search all of Schaede’s Nikkei Business columns at her landing page, published in Japanese, of course.

Keeping Focus on the New Japan

Jan. 29, 2014 | By Anthony King 

Invite a group of contemporary, Japanese-business scholars to dinner, and the list would be surprisingly very small. Extend that invite to Japan-focused political scientists or sociology experts, and it would still be an intimate affair. Yet one thing is for certain: School of International Relations and Pacific Studies (IR/PS) Professor Ulrike Schaede will always be at the center.

As the IR/PS professor of Japanese Business, leader of the International Management track for graduate students and, along with Professor Ellis Krauss, the leader of the Japan concentration at the School, Schaede’s influence is felt daily. Additionally, she serves as the executive director of the Center on Emerging and Pacific Economies (EmPac), and 2014 marks her 20th year at IR/PS.

Her main areas of research focus on Japan’s overall corporate strategy, including business organization, management, financial markets and government-to-business relations. Her 2008 book “Choose and Focus: Japanese Business Strategies for the 21st Century” explains the point in the early 2000s when Japan’s business architecture began to change. The book, which was developed in part through conversations she had with students at IR/PS, looks at what she calls a “new Japan,” a powerful tool in assessing the country’s role in the global economy.

“There is a new Japan that we actually don’t know, because most of us studied Japan 20 years ago,” she said. “I’m studying the companies that operate in that new Japan that are successful, profitable, powerful and important.”

As a follow up to “Choose and Focus,” Schaede is now in the latter stages of a new book that expands on her original research to examine Japanese businesses in the global supply chain.

“When you look at your cell phone and ask who makes the added value, then you’ll learn that 35 percent of it is made in Japan,” she said. “It’s about positioning Japan in a larger story about how and why Japanese companies are great. How are these companies different? What makes them so successful?”

Beyond IR/PS, Schaede continues to be a leader in Japan research and contributes to the overall academic discourse on the subject. She is on the editorial board of several Japanese-focused academic journals, and is an active member of the Academic Advisory Board at the German Institute for Japanese Studies.

She is also a former visiting scholar at the research institutes of Japan’s Ministry of Finance; the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry; the Development Bank of Japan; and the Bank of Japan, the equivalent to the United States Federal Reserve. And because of her connections and high profile within the global business community, Schaede is happy to host a very special EmPac Pacific Leadership Fellow.

Former Bank of Japan head Masaaki Shirakawa will be in residency Feb. 17 – 28, where he will meet with faculty, students and the greater UC San Diego community. He will also participate in an informal economic roundtable breakfast and give a public presentation on Feb. 20.

Shirakawa was perhaps the most stable face of the Japanese government for over five years, during a time of multiple prime ministers and changing leaders in the country. He is a member of the Group of 30 – a non-profit organization aiming to deepen the global understanding of international economic and financial issues – and was named one of the 50 most influential policy makers of 2011.

Schaede calls Shirakawa a good leader, “relentless and reliable” during his time in office at the Bank of Japan that spanned from 2008 to 2013, a key time during the global financial crisis.

“One way to assess how good a Federal Reserve chair or governor of a Central Bank is, is by asking, ‘What have they accomplished?’ Another way to asses them is, ‘What did not happen?’ There are a lot of things that could have gone bad during this time. None of them happened under Shirakawa’s watch,” she said.

When Schaede introduces Shirakawa at his public talk with EmPac Director Gordon Hanson on Feb. 20, this is most likely what she will convey. Examples of what did not happen stack up: Shirakawa sheltered the Japanese economy during the crisis – the economy slowed down, certainly, but banks did not fail – and was on the ground during the country’s own internal crises: the 2011 tsunami and subsequent Fukushima nuclear disaster.

“The Bank of Japan did something wonderful that we were unable to do during Hurricane Katrina in the United States,” Schaede said. “Within a week, they delivered brand new, clean 100-dollar notes (10,000 Japanese Yen) to everybody in the prefecture so that people had money. Money is important. To have cash in your pocket is important.”

For EmPac, Pacific Fellow Leadership residencies occur throughout the academic year, welcoming leaders like Shirakawa to IR/PS for several weeks at a time. Shirakawa’s planned conversation-style event is unique, offering a way for the audience to be more involved in an open dialogue.

“This way, Gordon Hanson can look to the audience and guide the conversation to the hot topics,” Schaede said.

Registration for Shirakawa’s Feb. 20, 5 p.m. public talk is currently open, and the EmPac website includes additional information on his groundbreaking work.

Schaede’s research, academic history and current projects are posted on her IR/PS faculty page, and complete coverage of all PFL visits can be found on EmPac.