2017 Jefferson Fellowhips


Theme: Trade, Security and Strategic Relationships in Asia Pacific and the Future of the US Role

Destination: Honolulu, Hawaii; Tokyo, Japan; Beijing & Shenzhen, China; Manila, Philippines

Dates: May 6-May 28, 2017

The 2017 Jefferson Fellowships Program took place May 6-28, 2017. Fourteen journalists from Asia, the Pacific, and the U.S.—including the first Fellow from Laos—spent one week in Honolulu followed by study tour travel to Tokyo, Beijing, Shenzhen, and Manila. The 2017 program theme was Trade, Security and Strategic Relationship in Asia Pacific and the Future of the U.S. Role. With a new Presidential Administration in the United States, journalists explored the stakes in the Asia Pacific region in terms of trade, security, and partnerships and the potential impact of new U.S. policies, approaches and actions. Participants explored the way that the dynamics of the region are changing, especially with the rise of China, and the future of the US role in this context. The theme felt very timely as key regional developments were happening in real time throughout the program: serious escalations with North Korea and Japan’s first-ever civilian emergency drills related to the NK threat, meetings on the future of the TPP among Asia and Pacific signatories at the APEC trade ministers meeting in Hanoi, the Belt and Road Summit in Beijing, and martial law being declared in the Philippines as the group’s plane arrived in country.

Right: Journalists share perspectives with one another and with experts in dynamic discussion sessions. Left: A tour of the missile destroyer the USS John Paul Jones provides first hand insights into US military presence and readiness.

Because of this, the journalists found much to report on during the travel. Journalists tweeted experiences to audiences back home throughout the program; others posted on Facebook, and still others filed stories and videos or beamed into their stations for interviews, all with first-hand perspectives and on-the-ground sources.[1] They were able to do this by engaging with 29 experts, 52 policymakers, business and community leaders, students, journalists, workers, and others during the course of the program, and making 22 site visits to see factories, nursing homes, drug rehabilitation centers, fish markets, innovation centers, companies, cultural sites, free trade zones and other places that illuminated and brought life to what they were learning. They had high-level access to policymakers such former defense minister Gen Nakatani and special advisor to the Prime Minister’s Cabinet, Tomohiko Taniguchi, in Japan; and Sr. Col. Yang Yujun, Spokesman, Ministry of National Defense and Wang Xining, Deputy Director-General, Information Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, People’s Republic of China. But a key element of the program is to provide multiple and unique perspectives on the issues. For example, in the Philippines, journalists learned about the drug war not only from officials in the Duterte administration, but from the independent Human Rights Commission, from the families of victims, from doctors and patients dealing with drug addiction, and a priest who embeds with the police to document their actions. The cross-cultural perspectives also are valuable. The Fellows now see issues from the view of four countries through their meetings and visits—in this case the U.S., China, Japan and the Philippines—but they also see every issue through the lens of the journalists in the program, representing 11 different countries. The Americans even learned from one another, sharing different views of what is happening in the U.S. from the East coast, Midwest and West coast, from newspapers to TV to radio, and local to national.

The journalists produced 63 stories reaching audiences in excess of 10 million across Asia Pacific and the US, bringing them unique perspectives that they would otherwise not have had.

Left: Celebrating a Shinto festival in a Tokyo neighborhood for a taste of Japan’s rich cultural traditions. Center: Shenzhen’s free trade zone is an example of China’s experimentation in its largest trade hub. Right: Philippine priest Brother Jun shared his experiences on the night shift in the country’s drug war.

For more photos of the 2018 Jefferson Fellowships program, please visit the Flikr page https://www.flickr.com/photos/eastwestcenter/sets/72157685955515235

Reflections from the 2017 Jefferson Fellows:

"I had only arm chair knowledge of Asia-Pacific relations since my core competency areas are Latin America and Europe. I exponentially learned about the history, dynamics, fault lines, and alliances that inform those relations which will help me better inform my viewers, especially to report on the impact that trade deals have or don’t have on the loss of manufacturing jobs in my area."

"The Fellowship exposed us to an array of issues that are topical now, which have roots in the past and are likely to be in the headlines for years ahead. The program has also left us with a rich network of resources we could tap in exploring future developments in US/Asia-Pacific. There was good access to a variety of newsmakers who are involved in making/enunciating policies which helped me get a feel for the issues and how they are officially/unofficially expressed."

“Jefferson provided very deep background information on many of the things that interest me as a journalist, especially Asia-Pacific/US relations, both by way of expert opinion and first-hand experience of the countries I visited. The expert briefings were a rare opportunity as were the trips to places as diverse as Huawei HQ and a drug rehab center in Manila. One of the best takeaways was the conversation among the fellows after these trips/visits/briefings, adding fresh, and multiple, points of view and further enriching the experience.”

"I learnt a lot of different perspectives, which were different to the usual narrative played by media in the Philippines. The different countries we travelled to were a great selection and even in the Philippines, the country where I work, I still learnt a lot by listening to how the other journalists saw issues like Ph/US relations…Yes it definitely deepened my understanding of the complex theme of ‘Trade, Security and Strategic Relationships in Asia Pacific and the Future of the US Role’. I now have a wide contact base and lots of recommendations and reading material to help me produce in-depth analytical pieces on the subject which I plan to use to write commentary pieces on the theme.

Funding: The Jefferson Fellowships are supported by a grant from The Freeman Foundation and by the East-West Center. The 2017 program also was supported by: The Mary Morgan Hewett Fund, Asia New Zealand Foundation, NHK Japan Broadcasting Corporation, Phoenix Satellite TV, South China Morning Post, Hybrid News Limited/The Asian Correspondent, Channel News Asia, and US Embassies in Port Moresby, Vientiane, Hanoi, Singapore, Tokyo, and the Consulate in Hong Kong.


The 2017 Jefferson Fellows were:

  • Mr. Henry (Hal) Berton, Staff Reporter, The Seattle Times, Seattle, USA
  • Ms. Huong Doan, Reporter, The Economy and Urban Newspaper, Hanoi, Vietnam
  • Mr. Thonglor Duangsavanh, Director-General, Vientiane Times Newspaper, Vientiane, Laos                                       
  • Ms. Bhagyashree Buddhavarapu Garekar, Deputy Foreign Editor, The Straits Times, Singapore Press Holdings, Singapore
  • Ms. Viviana Hurtado, Anchor, WTOL/WUPW, Toledo, USA
  • Mr. Abdul Azim Idris, Senior Writer/Journalist, Hybrid News Limited / The Asian Correspondent, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  • Mr. Xiaofeng (Terry) Jiang, Assistant Editor-in-Chief; Senior International Correspondent, Phoenix Satellite Television, Shenzhen, China
  • Ms. Wendy Lee, Tech Reporter, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco, USA
  • Ms. Waywaya (Aya) Lowe, Philippine Correspondent, Channel NewsAsia, Manila, Philippines
  • Ms. Quintina Primrose Naime, Senior Journalist, LOOP PNG, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
  • Mr. Toshifumi Oikawa, Reporter, International News Division, NHK, Japan Broadcasting Corporation, Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, Japan
  • Mr. Debasish Roy Chowdhury, Deputy Editor, South China Morning Post, Hong Kong
  • Ms. Stacey Samuel, Supervising Editor, National Public Radio (NPR), Washington, DC, USA
  • Ms. Philippa Tolley, Executive Producer Insight, Radio New Zealand, Wellington, New Zealand