FEATURE: Asia-Pacific media professionals join Jefferson Fellowship

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - The Jefferson Fellowship programme gives journalists from countries of the Asia-Pacific including the United States of America the chance to share experiences through a 3-week seminar and study tour that focuses on the diverse region.

The 2017 Jefferson Fellowship members managed to learn and experience even more than they had expected.

They started from Honolulu in the US island state of Hawaii then were in Tokyo, Beijing, Shenzhen, Hong Kong before concluding in Manila.

Participants were from different backgrounds, political systems and media cultures with varying points of view and methods.

Yet within a week, these journalists were working closely together and in many ways, it may have appeared that they had known each other for years.

They assisted each other during the tour, sharing food and drinks, gifts and song as well as sharing happiness. 

They understood each other much more than they may have reasonably expected.

Network groups were created to keep in touch and share experiences going forward.

Since the conclusion of the programme they have continued to chat, send video clips and photos to each other via social media platforms such as Facebook, Whats'App, Wechat and Line.

Moreover, these fellows also gained access to the EWC's international network of more than 1,000 media professionals and 50,000 alumni.

During the seminars at the East-West Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, time flew by.

Reporters asked and received answers to various questions based on their different interests and backgrounds.


During travel to Tokyo, Japan the participating journalists explored the US-Japan treaty alliance and forward-deployed American military.

They also visited Shin Tomi, a special nursing home to see how robots are being used in the nursing care industry.

Journalists interviewed the facility manager and residents about how robots were first introduced, and changes that have occurred since their introduction.

Experiencing “Robots as Caregivers” allowed participants to understand the ways high technology can be used to assist elderly people.

Journalists also had the chance to try out a wearable robot.

It was a rare chance indeed to interview Mr Tomohiko Taniguchi, Special Adviser to the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe about his insights on foreign policy, security and the future of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

One of the most interesting things in Japan was learning the challenges in terms of globalisation and plans for future competitiveness and significance of the TPP for Japan and the potential impacts of its failing.

Another session was explored in regard to Security Challenges, Japan's Self-Defense Forces, and Future Role of Japan in the Security of the Asia-Pacific Region, particularly focusing on the potential for amendments to the Constitution's Article 9.

The fellows then visited the precision metal-working company Daiya Seiki Co., Ltd. in Ota, Tokyo to report on this example of Japanese craftsmanship.

Company president Takako Suwa spoke to journalists from her perspective as a female executive followed by a tour of the factory.


China is now among the most advanced countries in term of information and communication technology development. Fellows visited the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), one of the most powerful multilateral financing organisations in the world.

AIIB Head of Communication and Development Ms Laurel Ostifeld said it would boost and help to build the infrastructure and connectivity of countries in Asia and other parts of the world.

Another main topic was, of course, China's "One Belt, One Road" Initiative that China is advocating and implementing to connect with neighbouring countries that has AIIB as one of the main contributors.

Journalists also visited the US-invested Asia-Pacific R&D Group (ARD), one of Microsoft's three strategic global development centres that create some of the company's most high-impact and innovative tech in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.

With campuses across the region, ARD's 3000+ engineers and researchers span Microsoft's major engineering divisions, encompassing cloud and enterprise, search, productivity, and hardware.

Journalists had time to explore a wonder of the world in the form of the Great Wall at Mutyianu that provided many options for visitors.

They could walk or take cable cars to the section of wall.  

Meanwhile in the new industrial zone of Shenzhen, we could witness the results of the fastest industrial development progress ever seen in China or the world.

Visiting the ICT development of Huawei Company was unforgettable, exploring the company’s progress toward its current influential position in terms of telecommunication technology.

Huawei is a Chinese multinational networking and telecommunications equipment and services company headquartered in Shenzhen, Guangdong, China.

It is the largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer in the world, having overtaken Ericsson in 2012.

Huawei has 21 rescarch and development institutes in 16 countries in the world, and in 2014, the company invested US$6.4 billion in R&D, up from US$5 billion in 2013.

In 2014, Huawei recorded a profit of 34.2 billion CNY (US$5.5 billion) with its products and services deployed in more than 140 countries and serving 45 of the world's 50 largest telecoms operators.

Journalists also had the more opportunity to Tencent, which is a Chinese investment holding company whose subsidiaries provide media, entertainment, payment systems, internet and mobile phone value-added services, and online advertising services in China.

Its headquarters are based in the Nanshan district of Shenzhen.

Tencent is one of the largest Internet companies as well as the largest gaming company in the world.

Its many services include social networking, web portals, e-commerce, mobile games and multiplayer online games.

Offerings in China include the well-known instant messenger Tencent QQ and one of the largest web portals, QQ.com.

Mobile chat service WeChat has helped bolster Tencent's continued expansion into smartphone services.

In April 2017, Tencent surpassed Wells Fargo and became the 10th largest publicly traded company in the world.

Moreover, the company has developed 5G, which was 100 times faster than 4G.

The 2017 Jefferson fellows visited the factory of Aoxing Audio Visual Equipment Co., Ltd, home to some of the best technology innovation in China. It started from small business operation to be a large company. 

Before leaving Shenzhen to Manila, Philippines the journalists visited the KPMG Hong Kong Office to know more about economic development in the region and in the world.

The Philippines:

It was very good to hear directly from both Chinese and Filipino sides about Philippines-China relations and the South China Sea dispute.

The two lecturers explained their own points of view.

The Chinese side aired a stance on South China Sea disputations involving their country and some other ASEAN member states.

Meanwhile, views were aired on Philippines’ President Duterte’s efforts to fight against drug traders and tackle addiction .

According to the statistics reported by some officials, more than four million people are involved in narcotic drug use in the Philippines.

It was a view aired by some that if one does not crack down, the rate of narcotic usage could continue to increase, which would seriously affect the future of the entire Philippines.

Efforts of the Duterte administration to work with the business community and economists to best realise a vision to realise the aspirations of the Filipino people for a strongly-rooted, comfortable, and secure life in the next 25 years were also aired.

The plan mentioned that by the year 2040 the country should be a prosperous middle-class society where no one is poor.

People could then live longer and healthier lives and be smart and innovative.

It was said that the Philippines is a high-trust society where families thrive in vibrant, culturally diverse, and resilient communities.

Development is a shared concern of Laos of course.

In Laos' 2030 Vision it is mentioned that Laos aspires to leave the low-to-medium income country group and move on to the group of developing countries with medium-to-high income.

The Journalist Fellows visited and interviewed drug addicts at a rehabilitation centre in Bicutan, Manila, where the visitors met both young, old male and female recovering addicts.

This reporter found the Jefferson Fellowship programme to be one of the best and most diverse programmes that bring journalists from Asian countries and America to work closely together despite different cultural backgrounds, news media environments and political systems.

Their points of view, thinking and working methods are different.

Bridging this gap, the East-West Center is promoting better relations and understanding among the people and nations of the United States, Asia, and the Pacific through cooperative study, research, and dialogue.

The 2017 Jefferson Fellowship boasted 14 members from the Mainland of China, Hong Kong, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea,  Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam and four from the United States of America.

The Jefferson Fellowship programme is supported by a grant from The Freeman Foundation.