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During a brief visit today, U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) praised Harvard for its role in creating the Fulbright Economics Teaching Program in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, citing the program as an example of the kind of initiative the world needs to promote increased mutual understanding and better policy environments for socio-economic growth.
The senator was visiting the country for consultations with Vietnamese leaders. While touring the Fulbright School, he received a briefing from faculty and staff of the Kennedy School’s Vietnam Program, which manages the public policy center.
Hagel, who serves as a member of the Senior Advisory Committee of the Institute of Politics, also took questions from students in the Fulbright School’s flagship one-year program in applied economics and public policy. The students, who are Vietnamese officials serving in local government, university instructors, and journalists, inquired about a range of topics related to US-Vietnam relationships, American foreign policy, and international trade.
Students, faculty and alumni also heard from Anthony Saich, Daewoo Professor of International Affairs at the Kennedy School, who delivered a lecture on current issues in Chinese social policy.
Saich, chair of Asia Programs at the Kennedy School’s Center for Business and Government and director of the Asia Center at Harvard University, highlighted the challenges confronting China’s policy leaders in the provision of social services and public goods in the current context of China’s economic reform.
Local officials in China are under enormous pressure to deliver high rates of economic growth, which creates incentives for them to invest in productive over social infrastructure, Saich explained. Yet in China the provision of social services and public goods is largely the responsibility of local government. In the face of central government pressure not to levy high taxes or other fees on local populations, China must experiment with new models for providing these critical services.
Saich identified three shifts in Chinese social policy. First, he noted the adoption of more market-oriented approaches to providing social services, for example through the use of voucher schemes and contracting out of social services to non-state entities. Second, the state is encouraging individuals to enter the workforce, heralding a shift from a “welfare state” to an “enabling state.” Third, Saich argued that the Chinese state was shifting from providing universal entitlements to all citizens to a policy of selectively targeting particularly disadvantaged groups.
During a subsequent question-and-answer session, Fulbright School students asked Saich to elaborate on a range of topics including the role of the current role of Chinese Communist Party, the relationship between central and local government, and Chinese foreign policy.
The Fulbright School is managed by the Vietnam Program, housed at the Kennedy School’s Center for Business and Government. Since its establishment in 1994, the Fulbright School has educated nearly 3,000 Vietnamese decision makers.
Its one-year applied economics and public policy program which incorporates many elements of Kennedy School degree programs. A permanent faculty of Vietnamese experts, many of whom have studied or spent time as research fellows at the Kennedy School, teach and research in close collaboration with international faculty from the Kennedy School and elsewhere. More information is available at http://www.fetp.edu.vn.
Photo: Vietnam Program, Kennedy School of Government