Price faculty present research, advance partnerships across China

January 8, 2016

By Cristy Lytal


For the USC Price School of Public Policy, the USC Global Conference in Shanghai set the stage for a series of events, meetings and partnerships throughout China.

“China is a hugely important partner, primarily because they face so many of the same public policy issues that we do,” Dean Jack H. Knott explained. “And together, the U.S. and China can help shape these issues globally.”

Housing and health care

Associate Professor Annette Kim with Dean Jack Knott at their talk as part of the USC Global Conference.

At the USC Global Conference in October, Knott moderated a discussion featuring Associate Professor Annette M. Kim titled “Planning the Future City: Humanistic Digital Media and the Urban Challenge.”

“For the first time in human history, most people are living in cities, and that’s because of people moving there. Urbanization is migration and immigration,” said Kim, director of the Spatial Analysis Lab (SLAB) at USC Price. “We’re all trying to live in the same place that’s getting much denser and more crowded. But we’re still trying to make a city like it was in the 1970s, when the conditions were very different. We have to live in the city in a different way.”

Dean Knott joins USC Price alumni at a reception in Shanghai.

Dean Knott joins USC Price alumni at a reception in Shanghai.

Kim described how this urban challenge has given rise to informal economies, ranging from sidewalk businesses in Saigon to an underground housing market in Beijing.

“They’ve been called the ‘rat tribe,’ these people who live underground,” said Kim of the approximately one million people who live in basements and bomb shelters in Beijing. “One of the videos we made follows a woman, who lives underground, as she goes up the two flights of stairs to above ground and walking to work. She just blends in as a normal person. She’s not the scary ‘other.’ That’s why visualizations are powerful for public policy and discussion.”

Price faculty participated in the Shanghai Symposium on Housing and Healthcare.

Kim made similar observations on the housing panel of a workshop with the Shanghai Municipal Development and Reform Commission.

Professor Mike Nichol served on the workshop’s health care panel, highlighting parallel challenges in the U.S. and China. In both countries, he predicted that people will become increasingly accountable for their own health care decisions — because of the rising out-of-pocket costs in the U.S., and the modest level of reimbursement in China.

“It’s really remarkable how much interest there is on the part of some of our Chinese colleagues, as well as some of the institutions there, about being able to really address these issues in a shared way,” said Nichol, Price’s director of graduate programs in health and interim vice dean for faculty affairs.

Knott delivered the workshop’s opening remarks, and Professor Eric Heikkila – Price’s director of international initiatives – closed with a summary of the day’s progress. The event was organized by the USC U.S.-China Institute.

Emergency management

Professor Eric Heikkila

Professor Eric Heikkila speaks at the symposium in Shanghai.

Following the Shanghai events, Heikkila, Nichol and Professor Najmedin Meshkati from the USC Viterbi School of Engineering led a workshop advising Fuzhou University on how to establish an Institute for Emergency Management.

Heikkila then traveled to Beijing to speak at a national conference on emergency management, which also featured the head of China’s federal emergency management agency and a senior scholar from the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Energy forum

Professor Daniel Mazmanian organized a collaborative Energy Policy Exchange Forum in China’s capital.

In Beijing, Tsinghua University’s School of Public Policy and Management hosted the first of three annual Energy Policy Exchange Forums. Sponsored by the USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy and organized by its Academic Director Daniel Mazmanian, the forum brought together more than two dozen scholars from three internationally recognized schools of public policy: USC Price, Tsinghua University and the Hertie School of Public Policy in Berlin, Germany. The three deans – Knott, Xue Lan and Helmut K. Anheier – were all in attendance, and several Chinese policy practitioners also participated.

“The goals of the forum are to create research collaborations across the three schools, synergies across three leading state actors in the energy transition, and policy dialogues with practitioners in advancement of the demanding greenhouse gas reduction objectives being articulated around the globe,” Mazmanian said.

USC Price presenters included faculty members Mazmanian, Hilda Blanco, Adam Rose, Nicole Sintov, Detlof von Winterfeldt and Dan Wei, as well as graduate students Blake Cignarella and Lee White.

“At the institutional level, this forum provided a key opportunity for USC, the Price School and the Schwarzenegger Institute to be involved in international engagement, research and ideas,” Mazmanian said. “And for faculty and for our graduate students to be able to develop peer-to-peer relationships through the forum is very important too.”

Strategic partnerships

Dean Knott at Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

Throughout the trip, USC Price deepened existing relationships and forged new ones with key universities and organizations.

While in Shanghai, Knott signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between USC Price and Shanghai Jiao Tong University’s School of International and Public Affairs establishing undergraduate, graduate student and faculty exchanges. He also signed an MOU with Fudan University’s School of Public Health to explore potential collaborations.

In Beijing, USC Price discussed potential collaborations with Renmin University of China and Peking University. In addition, Heikkila met with Bert Hofman, the World Bank’s country director for China, Mongolia and Korea in the East Asia and Pacific Region, and with President Li Xiaojiang of the China Academy of Urban Planning and Design.

“There’s an affirmation of the direction that Dean Knott has established for the Price School, which is to actively explore collaboration on academic programs with high-quality institutions overseas,” Heikkila explained. “This trip in particular has demonstrated the great potential in this area, because more and more institutions overseas are now also beginning to recognize that their own institutional agendas are best advanced through collaborative engagement.”

Knott noted, “China has been making huge investments in public policy and public administration education and research. They’re a terrific partner for us, and it was a very productive trip.”