Category: SAIS Matters

The Briefing: Dr. Lance L.P. Gore on China’s governance model

Dr. Lance L.P. Gore presents at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center
Photo credits: John Urban

By Nova Fritz

NANJING, China — Last week at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, Dr. Lance L.P. Gore  presented research findings from his recent article, “China’s Governance Model: Legitimacy, Accountability, and Meritocracy,” in which he compares the Chinese government’s model to Western ideals of good governance. In his article, Dr. Gore explores the limits of China’s model of governance as well as gaps in the traditional model of good governance. Departing from what Dr. Gore refers to as the “holy trinity of development” — the World Bank’s 1994 call for capable public administration, democratic accountability and rule of law — Dr. Gore scrutinizes the Chinese governmental system and its achievements. For example, Gore points out that in the “voice and accountability index,” China ranks alongside so-called failed states such as Syria.

Yet China’s developmental outcomes seem positive, challenging the World Bank’s assertion that the “holy trinity” of good governance is a prerequisite to economic development. Moreover, while many democratic governments in possession of these important qualities are nonetheless suffering a crisis of faith among their people, the Chinese government seems to enjoy relatively high public approval.

Gore points out that while the Chinese government is not democratic in the electoral sense, it does have a sort of “connective tissue” which allows it to keep in touch with the populace. It oversees a series of grassroots party organizations that interact with every part of social life in China. “Jiguan” organizations are connected to local government, while “danwei” organizations are connected to business operations and social programs. In addition to these institutions, ideological indoctrination, which creates a “corporate identity” at higher levels of the party, as well as pressure from the political center, represent mechanisms of accountability. Moreover, unlike the typical Western model of governance, Gore argues that through college education requirements, cadre training programs and the ever-improving cadre responsibility system, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has successfully constructed a meritocracy.

Gore acknowledges some weaknesses of this system. For example, there is a tension between party leadership and the rule of law, and the above-mentioned mechanisms of popular accountability remain underdeveloped, meaning that corruption and losing touch with the masses remain an existential threat to party leadership. Additionally, Gore contends that party-building institutional reform conflates party and state bureaucracies, further weakening the function of the CCP as a bridge between the state and society.

Ultimately, Gore posits that the Chinese style of governance can help expand our ideas of what constitutes good governance, contrasting the Chinese government’s success against that of developing democratic countries. Gore notes that the Chinese style of governance is based on a unique context and believes its lessons are theoretical, rather than concretely transferable.

Nova Fritz is a second-year master’s degree student at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center studying energy, resources and environment (ERE).

The Past Shapes the Future: The German Constitution at 70

Germany is celebrating three important events this year: The 100th anniversary of the Weimar Constitution, 70th anniversary of its Basic Law and 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. To commemorate these occasions, the Center for Constitutional Studies and Democratic Development (CCSDD) in Bologna and The SAIS Observer are partnering for a series on the future of German constitutionalism. This article is the first of eight.

By Stephen F. Szabo

The Federal Republic of Germany celebrates its 70th  birthday this year. Much has changed since 1949. Today, the FRG encompasses all of Germany and not just the West, as it did at its founding. No longer the eastern border of the West, the FRG is now at the center not only between east and west but between north and south. Furthermore, it is once again Europe’s largest power both in terms of population and economics, although not so large as to be a hegemon. What remains unchanged, however, is that it still lives under the constitution of 1949. What are the implications of this constitution for contemporary Germany?

The Grundgesetz was written by Germans who did not trust their country. The founders, with the assistance of American authorities and German emigrés, created a constitution which was not even called a constitution but a Basic Law (Grundgesetz), as it was meant to be temporary until the country was reunified and an all-German constitution could be written. It was written with both the Weimar and Hitler experiences seared into German memory. Both the failure of democracy in Weimar and the mass support for Adolf Hitler meant that the framers believed that the German public could not be trusted to be democrats and had to be restrained within a democratic context. Consequently, a number of “never agains” were built into the constitution which was not a constitution.  

The Basic Law contains a ban on anti-democratic parties and speech both to prevent a return of an extreme right nationalist party like the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP), as well as to prevent the Communists from taking power. The Communist Party (KPD) was banned in 1956 by the Constitutional Court and only reemerged under a different name in 1968. Strict laws on hate speech including those pertaining to social media are a current manifestation of this concern. The numerous checks and balances built into the political system including a vigorous federal system of strong state governments, a Constitutional Court, the limits on a federal police force to prevent a new Secret State Police (Gestapo) and a liberal asylum clause all stem from this aim. The restrictions on militarism and the military was another goal, and the Grundgesetz limits the autonomy of the German military and its missions by requiring it to operate in a multinational coalition and expressly for territorial defense. The Bundestag must approve any deployments of German forces and the Chancellor is not even granted the power as commander-in-chief.

In addition to the bans on extreme parties and speech, the electoral law passed after the constitution includes a 5 percent clause which limits the number of parties in the federal parliament with the hope of avoiding the ineffective multiparty system of Weimar. The office of the President, which was held by Paul von Hindenburg in Weimar and led to Hitler being appointed Chancellor, was downgraded to a figurehead role. The Constructive vote of No Confidence (which requires a parliamentary majority not only to remove the Chancellor but also to elect his or her replacement) was designed to maximize executive continuity and prevent revolving door governments. The limited use of referenda, which had the misuse of referenda in Weimar in mind, limits direct democracy and has spared Germany from a Brexit type quagmire.  

In addition to the legacies of Weimar and the Third Reich, the reunification of the country in 1990 has been influenced by the Constitution. When Germany was able to get the agreement of the Allied Powers to reunify under the Treaty which followed the Two Plus Four negotiations, Germany had two ways to constitutionally unify. It chose the Article 23 accession route, which simply extended the constitution to the eastern states of Germany rather than the Article 146 route, which would have called for a new all-German constitution. By doing so, the Grundgesetz remained in force. This has had a number of consequences, most notably the lack of a feeling of agency in the former East Germany (GDR) and the failure to consolidate the Länder (states). This left 16 state governments in a country the size of Tennessee and Oregon combined. The Final Treaty also banned German production and possession of atomic, biological or chemical weapons and limited the size of the Bundeswehr.

A constitutional success story with limits

There is no doubt that the Grundgesetz has been a very stable and successful constitution. It has avoided the excessive personalization of power found in presidential systems and has promoted consensus-oriented, centrist coalition governments. Its federalism has both reflected and strengthened a polycentric society which has avoided the centralization of power and wealth in the capital, thus limiting the sort of populist backlash evident in more centralized countries like the U.K. and France. The requirement of the wealthier states to make transfer payments to the poorer ones, based on a concept of solidarity, has also limited the number of economic and political losers. To live in Munich, Leipzig or Hamburg, for example, is quite different than to be in Lyon or Manchester. The concept of an armed democracy, which proactively combats extremism, has allowed Germany to better defend itself against extremist speech and groups, as well as against the abuses of privacy by American social media companies.

All successes contain the seeds of demise and Germany is no exception. The consensus-oriented centrist politics of coalition governments has limited the role of opposition, and of the Bundestag. Grand coalition governments, as is also the case in Austria, have opened the door to the extremes which argue that there is an elite consensus which prevents real change. Despite the five percent clause, the voting system set up by the electoral law is essentially one proportional representation which has ensured a multiparty system. As a result, Germany now has a six-party system which includes a far-right extremist party as the largest opposition faction in the Bundestag. The fact that much of the former GDR, despite receiving close to $1.5 trillion in funding since unification, has been left behind, has opened the door for the rise of the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) and other extremist groups.

The anti-militarism of the past has not only produced a culture of strategic restraint but a Swiss style parochial mentality which avoids taking responsibility and providing larger public goods. Rather than restraint, there is a tendency for free riding in post-unification Germany. The need for parliamentary approval of all military action and the limits on the Chancellor in this field have hindered Germany’s role as an alliance partner and provider of security beyond its borders. The fear of a Gestapo and the decentralization of the security services have hindered Germany’s ability to counter terrorism and extremist groups at home.

These are, however, largely problems of political leadership rather than of a constitution, which in comparison to others in the West, still looks to be a model.

Dr. Stephen F. Szabo is currently a Senior Fellow at the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies and Adjunct Lecturer in European Studies at Johns Hopkins SAIS.

SGA Election Transparency: An Unfortunate Example of Poor Leadership


Bologna: The Student Government Association (SGA) Vice President was elected without a single vote. The SGA Vice President was elected without meeting the election’s basic requirements. The SGA Vice President was elected with zero student input from any of SAIS’s three campuses. That is not an election; that is a backroom deal.

To be fair, not a single individual at SAIS Europe met the nomination requirements for Vice President, which included submitting a video and personal statement. However, the peremptory decision to fill the position anyway was nothing less than undemocratic. The process lacked transparency, and for all the campaigning on inclusivity, SGA leadership has clearly displayed the opposite.

The SGA in Washington ultimately decided it would be more convenient to not seek out Vice Presidential candidates and to abandon the election altogether. They asked the two students running for the Bologna Representative position to decide between themselves who would become Vice President. One of them then changed their nomination to fill the vacancy after the deadline had passed. No other student was bestowed this political privilege.

This is an abdication of responsibility. Neither the current SGA leadership in Washington nor the future leadership in Bologna informed the student body that there was no legitimate candidate for Vice President. Neither group engaged SAIS students in Bologna or on the other two continents for their opinions on what to do about it. The current SGA chose to offer leadership opportunities without a democratic process. The Bologna candidates then chose to accept that offer instead of acting upon it.

With over 40 countries actively represented at SAIS Europe, it’s hard to believe that no one wanted the position. All signs would point to poor communication as the cause. The positions were announced via email without any description. Students were given less than a week’s notice to meet the nomination requirements and there was no follow-up about the filing deadline. There were no fliers on campus and not a single post in SAIS Europe’s Facebook group. These communication outlets are used by Bologna’s SGA, student organizations, and administration for everything from events to t-shirt orders. So, why not for the election?

The current and incoming SGA members are, of course, capable leaders. However, those involved in this election’s backroom dealings shirked the political values we have come to expect from our representatives. If we cannot successfully carry out a democratic process here at SAIS, how can we effectively advocate for its principles in the real world?

To resolve this, the SGA could simply decide to hold a second election for the Vice President and Bologna Representative positions. A new election may be the only way to retain the process’s integrity. Regardless, we can hope that the SGA will engage its diverse constituency to produce a more transparent form of leadership. Our classmates, and the leadership qualities we all hold as SAISers, help keep that hope alive.

Ross Medico is a first year MA candidate specialising in American Foreign Policy. He is currently studying at SAIS Bologna.

Smash for Coffee


Nanjing – “You know hips don’t lie!” exclaimed Christian Flores, a second-year MAIS student. He wasn’t referring to Shakira’s famous song “Hips Don’t Lie,” but Princess Peach’s ability to knock her opponents off the stage using her hips in Super Smash Brothers.

A group of Super Smash Brothers enthusiasts came together to participate in the first ever Smash Tournament at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center. With a 100 RMB gift card to the HNC coffee shop at stake, HNC smashers brought their A-game and used their favorite characters during the competition.

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Spectators and Players

Spectators livened up the competitive arena with fun comments such as “He plays like an economist!… Well, I mean, he did go to the University of Chicago!” and “That game between Wolf and Toon Link … is like Little Red Riding Hood, except that Riding Hood (Toon Link) has a sword and a shield!”

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Students Enjoying Super Smash Brothers

Andrew Rankin, a first-year MAIS student and tournament organizer, told the SAIS Observer that the Super Smash Brothers community is a representation of positivity that is everywhere at the HNC.

“The students come every now and then for a couple of hours, several times a week and play. It’s a good way to take a break from reading and studying. I also notice that students would then go back to studying afterward,” Andrew explained. “It gives you energy and fun. You can completely escape from studying and then go back to studying afterward.”

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Intense battle in session

After several hours of battling, first-year MAIS student Nathan Frit emerged victorious. The veteran Smasher described the tournament as “stressful” and “overwhelming.”

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Tournament Champion, Nathan Fritz

“I didn’t expect that I would win! I am not great when playing under pressure. But I like this game a lot,” said Nathan.

While Nathan took home the gift card, the participants were able to share the real prize, a fun time with good company.

All photos courtesy of Khun Nyan Min Htet.

Khun Nyan Min Htet is a staff writer at the Nanjing Bureau. He is a HNC Certificate/SAIS MA student currently completing his Certificate at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center before starting at SAIS DC this fall.

The Contrarian’s Guide to Valentine’s Day in Bologna


Bologna: Valentine’s Day is here! If you’re like me, you either forgot what day it was or you’re using it as an excuse to go out to the bar. But for a lucky few, they actually have to worry about where to take their special someone to properly appease their inner Cupid. If you are a Strat major, you might have been strategic enough to reserve a table at that fancy restaurant in Modena five months in advance. But, fear not! There are plenty of delicious places you can take your love interest to right here in charming Bologna.

You could drop top dollar (or euro) and get that fancy dish at any Italian restaurant in Bologna, but that’s honestly the basic option. You can go to an upscale restaurant any day of the week! We are surrounded by Italian food, so you really have to think outside the box when it comes to a Valentine’s Day dinner. Don’t go to a cooking class because that is too time-consuming, and don’t cook anything because you’re most likely going to mess it up. One restaurant that is truly something special is the magical gem better known as Taj Mahal. You can easily walk there with your date from school and you don’t have to worry about it being closed because it’s open until 11 p.m.! Once inside this fine establishment, you have a wide array of Indian and Pakistani delicacies. In fact, they even have a daily special menu!

Photo Credit: Josh Brickman

Those prices simply cannot be beat. Plus, if you want to ball out on your date, you can get not one, but two different dishes. Get a scalding hot chai tea as well! Nothing says romance like you and your valentine eating with your hands while attempting to make small talk without sweating profusely or wiping your nose thanks to that Vindaloo spice you thought sounded interesting. I also recommend you wear bright colors because if you spill on yourself and stain your shirt, it will be more noticeable and the night will be that much more memorable.

Once you have had your Vindaloo sauna experience, it is time to have a drink together and reign in the night. Of course, you could get a bottle of wine, but you do that all the time! Why not try something new for a change? If you go to one of the many alimentaris, you might be fortunate enough to discover a delicious beer which has the innocuous sounding name of “Bear beer” from the bear-rich country of Denmark.

Source: Wikimediacommons

Personally, I recommend you go for the 12% because, surprisingly enough, it tastes smoother than the “Premium” lager. Once you and your valentine have downed a few beers in the street, the two of you can take in the sights and sounds of Piazza Verdi, and watch the sunset from what can best be described as a “vertical container prison” that moonlights as a tourist attraction.

Photo Credit: Josh Brickman

Finally, if you are still hungry after all these libations, you can have a midnight snack at none other than the renowned Beirut Snack.

Valentine’s Day is a day to remember, and it will be a lot harder to remember if you simply have a nice bottle of wine at a fancy Italian restaurant. Chances are, you do that almost every week already. So, make this Valentine’s Day a special one instead. Nothing says “you’re special to me” like eating that dish made with eternal hellfire while trying not to cry tears of joy, which are completely unrelated to how incomprehensibly spicy your dish might happen to be.

Photo Credit: Dylan Parkes

Josh Brickman is a first year Strat concentrator living in Bologna. When he is not in the library studying, he is either out travelling, skiing, or hiking.


Dating at SAIS Bologna


Bologna: Coming to Bologna offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but it also has some unique challenges. Unlike at a large university in the U.S., English is a rarely spoken language in Bologna. Despite all the emphasis on assimilation, an overwhelming number of SAISers do not have a basic comprehension of Italian (myself included). So, when it comes to dating, you either have that random Tinder match who speaks three languages (including English) or you come to the realization that the grammatical divide is too great. Often, instead of looking at what the population of Bologna has to offer, SAISers turned their curiosity toward their fellow classmates.

In anticipation of Valentine’s Day, an anonymous survey was sent out about dating experiences in Bologna. Although answers ranged from comical to serious, the survey shed some light on the challenges of dating a fellow classmate. Here’s your helpful step-by-step guide to dating at SAIS Europe.

Step 1. Stand Out in a Crowd

Survey respondents agreed that it is essential to stand out amongst your peers. Specific interests included “Intellectual capacity, humor, and good looks” or to be “Someone whose conversation and wit is so electric that I’m drawn to them.” While for others, it boiled down to “How well they did on the micro final.” You clearly need to work hard to get noticed at this school. Otherwise, you might be considered just an Average Joe (or Giuseppe?). So, you should play to your strengths and effectively peacock yourself.


Step 2. Stick Around

Once you have gotten yourself noticed, you need to build that connection. Unfortunately, this can take time. When respondents were asked how long it took to develop feelings for someone, responses varied from the almost instantaneous, “After that first problem set” or “Around the second or third date,” to a much slower time frame of “2 months in.” Someone even realized they had feelings for someone else within one week “but [they] weren’t even dating. In fact, [they were] dating someone else when it began!” Feelings can bubble to the surface at any time. If you are truly interested in someone, much like writing a good paper, you have to put in the work.  

Step 3. Find Your School/Life Balance

After you and your partner have settled into dating, the next challenge is balancing your studies with your dating life. For some, this has been a symbiotic experience. One respondent claimed, “It allowed me to think about something else rather than school the entire time” and for the lucky few, it has actually enhanced their studying since “We study together and bounce ideas off each other.” Others have not been as fortunate, responding “Dating has allowed me to (unfortunately) self-procrastinate. I am never encouraged to choose relationships over studying, but I sometimes do when I don’t want to work.”

Dating someone can also intrude on your personal time. One respondent wrote, “Can’t wait for the honeymoon phase to be over with. I need more sleep.” Still others prefer to avoid the problem entirely, “Not dating … is why I have good grades and am still a sane human being with only slight trust issues.”

Step 4. Know When It’s Not Working

Sadly, not all relationships succeed and there comes a time to move on. A major issue was trust. One respondent claimed “It’s (about) loyalty. Hoes ain’t loyal. And by hoes I mean men.” So, if you are a man, please try to do better and not upset women before the next dating survey goes out.

Perhaps the biggest consequence of dating someone you go to school with is that you are inevitably going to see that special someone almost every day. Understandably, this can get especially awkward when, as one respondent claims, “That someone is now dating another SAISer.” This can be compounded by that “You are surrounded by the same people in the same building, with the same 30 rooms. Good luck avoiding someone.” So, if you are interested in dating someone, you’ll have to accept that fact that you will still see this person if the relationship goes south.

Step 5. Be Glad That At Least You Aren’t Long Distance

There are also a select few Bolognesi who are in long distance relationships. While some are only a $15 Ryanair flight away, most are not so lucky. They have to deal with not only a major time difference, but also months apart. However, SAIS students like Milena Casabella have found a way to make the distance work.

When asked about advice for those in a long-distance relationship, Milena recommends to “Make sure to make time for that person every day. You need time for that but don’t let it take over your social life. Don’t not go out because you have to Skype.” It is clear that to make a long-distance relationship work, you have to put in an effort to stay in touch while at the same time enjoying your independence at graduate school. Finding the right amount of time for yourself while also being with or looking for someone else is always tricky, but we owe it to ourselves to discover our own ideal balance.

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Photo Credit: Milena Casabella


There you have it! A simple five-step-plan to a successful relationship at SAIS Europe. However, no promises that it will be worth it. With a small dating pool, in a country far away from most of our homes, the overall dating experience at SAIS ranges from “Awesome” to “Feels like high school” to “-5” and finally, “Non-existent; I’m dating my weekly readings, but we’re in an open relationship.” With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, those book worms might have some company after all!

Josh Brickman is a first year Strat concentrator living in Bologna. When he is not in the library, he is either out travelling, skiing, or hiking

Investing in the Future: U.S. National Infrastructure Bank


Washington: How to respond to the threat of failing infrastructure in the United States? Have no fear, dear Americans, for President Donald J. Trump is here, and he has a plan to “Make America Great Again.” In his State of the Union address to Congress on January 30, 2018, Trump reiterated his commitment to improving infrastructure.

President Trump first unveiled his plan to invest USD $1.5 trillion in the nation’s infrastructure on February 28, 2017, in his first speech to a joint session of Congress. In 2017, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) summarized the state of U.S. infrastructure succinctly, rating it a D+. Roads are littered with potholes, bridges are sagging, dams are collapsing, power outages are occurring, airports are congesting, rail and transit systems are failing, schools are being defunded, and drinking water is increasingly contaminated. Suffice to say, the state of the union is not strong.

What few people remember is that President Barack Obama addressed this national issue first. He proposed a budget back in 2011 to allocate USD $5 billion per year over six years to establish a national infrastructure bank. This bank would fund transportation, energy, and water infrastructure projects. Loans made by the bank would be matched by private sector investments, and each project would generate its own revenues to ensure repayment of the loan. The U.S. National Infrastructure Bank would focus on nation-building and reconstruction at home and serve as a catalyst for private investment. In this manner, the National Infrastructure Bank would resuscitate the bank as a vehicle for reinvestment and bolster bank approval ratings.

Source: American Society of Civil Engineers, 2017

In terms of structure, the U.S. National Infrastructure Bank would be owned, but not operated, by the federal government. This framework is similar to the World Bank and the European Investment Bank. Ideally, the National Infrastructure Bank would have a capital base of USD $50-$60 billion, and would insure bonds of state and local governments as well as issue 30 to 50-year bonds.

The mission of the proposed U.S. National Infrastructure Bank is to use public-private partnerships to finance infrastructure projects in the United States and provide direct federal investment. The National Infrastructure Bank would also foster coordination through state, municipal, and private co-investment in the nation’s physical capital. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the U.S. needs USD $2.2 trillion of investment for infrastructure, with priority in highway and rural infrastructure. China (9% of GDP), India (9% of GDP), and Europe (5% of GDP) are investing heavily in their infrastructure; the U.S. (2% of GDP) must invest more to maintain global competitiveness, ensure quality of life, and create American jobs.

The National Infrastructure Bank enjoyed widespread support from various corners, including the Departments of Treasury, Transportation, Commerce, and State, Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Roy Blunt (R-MO), and national organizations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and AFL-CIO. At the state and local level, Governor of New York Andrew M. Cuomo and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel introduced initiatives similar to the infrastructure bank.

In May 2017, Senators Mark Warren (D-VA) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) introduced the Building and Renewing Infrastructure for Development and Growth in Employment (BRIDGE) Act to create a national infrastructure bank and improve the nation’s transportation network, water and wastewater systems, and energy infrastructure. The BRIDGE Act is co-sponsored by seven senators who support this bipartisan bill for the good of America.

While there is bipartisan support, more congressmen need to get on board. Congressmen, not just in the Senate, but also in the House, need to come together and get this sorely-needed infrastructure bill through. Congress passed the BRIDGE Act in 2015 and it was reintroduced in the Senate in 2017. It is currently awaiting the Senate’s delayed action. Trump has delivered his speeches. Now, it is high time for Congress to get its act together and invest in America’s infrastructure.

Joniel Cha is a second year ERE concentrator living in Washington DC

HNC Intramural Basketball Scouting Report


NANJING – Nanjing University’s Gulou Campus Basketball Tournament is about to begin as the Hopkins-Nanjing Center’s basketball team gears up for the coming fall season games. Here is a look at the HNC squad this season.

Player 1: The Sam Duo

It’s hard to tell this dynamic duo apart on the court given their short, average, white, male stature. They can both run a 3.3” 40-yard dash and they average a 37.3 inch vertical jump between the two of them. Unfortunately, their crippling addictions, Sam 1’s gambling and Sam 2’s staring at himself in the mirror for hours on end while whispering “who is the prettiest,” may end up hurting the team. Hopefully, they find help early enough to propel the team to victory this season.

Player 2: Luke

Averaging 12 points, nine rebounds and eight assists a game in college, Luke was planning on playing in the CBA after graduating. However, during a tryout for the Shanghai Bili Bili Sharks, he accidentally hit owner Yao Ming in the face with an errant pass. Luke is hoping to use this season to sharpen his basketball skills while maintaining his anonymity until his tryout with the Beijing Ducks next fall.

Player 3: Eli

While he may not have scored a point since college, Eli’s ability to trash talk, rattle, chirp and otherwise get into the opposing players’ heads is a quintessential element of success. However, his crippling alcoholism may lead to too many bench penalties this year. Last year, he was ejected from a record-setting eight games for throwing chairs at referees from the sidelines.

Player 4: Lin Feng

The shortest member of the team at 5’0”, Lin Feng’s short stature disguises his cheetah-like speed and agility. He can run a 3.0” 40-yard dash and has an equally impressive three-cone drill time. He can change direction faster than you can blink, frequently resulting in the broken ankles of his defenders.

Player 5: Dominic

Domination in the paint belongs to none other than Dominic. The 6’6” center averaged 8.3 points, 15 rebounds in college, and throws a mean elbow. Let’s just hope he doesn’t foul out in the first game.

Player 6: Joel

Joel had a career high of 46 points in the 80-56 win over Nanjing Law School last season. He is also the team’s top shot blocker. As the Center’s resident nihilist, he can be frequently seen reading Kierkegaard. We just hope he can be bothered to play this season. Unfortunately, he couldn’t be bothered to show up for a picture.

Player 7: Joy Joy

Hailing from the Big Blue Nation, guard Joy Joy averages 12 three-pointers per game. As impressive as his high-arc three-pointers are, his turnover ratios are just as high. He cites his generosity in giving others a shot at winning.

Player 8: Xing Jun Wei

Forward Xing Jun Wei is ecstatic about honing his giant Euro Step against the Nanjing Gulou teams this season. When interviewed for this piece, he said, “what do you mean you can’t take three steps?”

Player 9: JesusisLord

Center JesusisLord, the true lord under the net, is excited at the prospect of slam-dunking at any opportunity.  Having about as many triple doubles last season as Russell Westbrook, let’s just hope he can get some help from the rest of the squad.

Player 10: Ruan Chan

Ruan Chen, also known as Ronnie, is the co-captain of the team. With his cool head and quiet demeanor, Captain Ronnie hopes to utilize the team’s crazy dynamic and lead the squad to victory.

With their first game against a former rival, the Nanjing Physics Department Team, the HNC squad is ready to slam its way into the season.

All photos taken by Khun Nyan Htet

Eli Tirk is the managing editor for the Nanjing Bureau. He is a second year master’s student concentrating in international politics.

Khun Nyan Min Htet is a staff writer at the Nanjing Bureau. He is a HNC Certificate/SAIS M.A. student currently completing his Certificate at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center before starting at SAIS DC next fall.

SAIS Europe Staff Ride to Monte Cassino, Italy


CASSINO, ITALY – “I don’t think I’m ever going to forget the empty streets of San Pietro.”– Zeke Schumacher, SAIS MA student

A ”Staff Ride” is a trip provided for participants to conduct a case study at the site of a major event. It contains three parts: a preliminary study, a site visit, and a post-visit debrief. Strategic Studies students at the SAIS Europe campus coordinated a staff ride to the hollowed grounds of Monte Cassino. On the weekend of November 24th-26th, SAIS students and faculty educated themselves on how various factors, such as the strategic value, complexity, challenges in leadership and terrain affected military operations.

Monte Cassino was the scene of arguably the most bitter fighting of WWII.  The constant barrage of airstrikes and artillery shelling lasted four months and included four separate offensives to break the German “Gustav Line,” leaving the area wracked with lasting damage.  The organizers of the staff ride sought to examine this battle because of its importance in the Italy campaign. I interviewed the leadership team to gain further insight into the planning and execution of the staff ride and whether the planners achieved what they set out to do.

T.J.: Welcome back from the trip! My first question for you is, what made you plan this trip?

Zeke: (Zeke Schumacher, SAIS MA student) In the Strategic Studies program here in Bologna, we are a long way away from Washington, but when we told them about this trip, they were helpful with the trip. Staff rides to battle sites are common at SAIS DC, but are not over in Italy.  Our purpose was to establish the tradition here.

Sebastian: (Sebastian Dannhoff, SAIS MA student): We feel that academically, our Strat program is on par with DC, but we’re not as active with our extracurricular learning experience.  Noticing this deficiency, we took it upon ourselves to build this staff ride, so that we’re getting a parallel experience to our DC peers, and to provide those outside Strat with an interactive experience.

Mike: (Mike Marrone, SAIS MA student and former Captain, US Army): If you’ve never been to war, it’s difficult to identify with the terrain, defensive positions – to include natural and manmade obstacles, impacts of weather, and other barriers that affect military movements, maneuvers, and tactics. The staff ride offered students the opportunity to analyze the terrain, and see firsthand the effects on the ground as it relates to strategy and operations.  Essentially, the staff ride transformed what we read in books to the physical and tangible aspects of warfare that affect so deeply the challenges and decision-making of military planning at all levels of operations.

Veronica: (Veronica Trujillo, SAIS MA student): Just to say, this was not just a Strat thing, this was open to everyone.

Devan: (Devan Kerley, SAIS MA student): This presented the opportunity for fellow students to learn by doing.

Zeke: We came in with no idea of what a SAIS staff ride looked like. Dr. Karlin, the Assistant Director of Strategic Studies at SAIS, took the time to explain the process, placed us in touch with the right people and even helped us financially for the trip. We are deeply grateful for her mentorship and assistance.

T.J.: Were there any surprises during the trip?

Veronica: Pleasantly surprised with how many non-Strat concentrators participated. 24 students participated, and among them we had four military veterans.

T.J.: Did the veterans add value to the trip?

All: Yes. They provided unique context into the inner-workings of all warfighting functions*, explained in detail the level of coordination required to pull off such a difficult battle, and added a lot of value to the trip – they turned it from a field trip to a staff ride.

*Warfighting functions differ from Army and Marine Corps, but generally are fire, maneuver, logistics, command and control, intelligence, and force protection

Devan: Also, our guide, Dr. Danila Bracaglia, was so invested into our experience. She was so important to the success of this trip because unlike most staff rides, we didn’t have faculty to accompany the ride. Her knowledge filled that gap.

Sebastian: Pleasantly surprised by the degree of preparation and participation by all students, especially the non-native English speakers (there were nine non-native speakers from China, South Korea, Italy, Germany, Uruguay, India and Mexico). Each student was assigned a role to research and brief to the participants.  Everyone read ahead and gave quality briefs.

Zeke: We were surprised by how long everything took, but it’s a good thing. We ran behind because of the engaged interaction between all members of the staff ride.

ride 4
Photo Credit: T.J Sjostrom


During the trip, the team visited the Monte Cassino monastery, the site of the controversial Allied bombing campaign that destroyed it.  Following the exhibit at the monastery, the team visited Point 593. Point 593 is the highest ground surrounding Monte Cassino, the Polish War Cemetery, and the Rapido River, which divided the Axis and Allied forces in the Liri Valley and San Pietro (the village destroyed by Allied forces as they sought to wrest control of the high ground and break the Gustav Line). After four devastating months, the Allied forces finally broke the Gustav line and eventually made it to Rome to liberate the city.  I had one final question for the planning team.

T.J.: Did this trip accomplish what you intended to achieve?

Mike: Yes; we achieved camaraderie and esprit de corps.

Sebastian: It exceeded our expectations; we were able to create a baseline for future Bologna-based trips, making this easier in the future.

Devan: We’re being very intentional with feedback, notes, lessons learned from the trip, so we can further refine the process.

Veronica: It was really successful in getting people out of the classroom and putting them in the roles and mindsets of leaders – you can’t learn that element in a classroom.

Mike: It wasn’t just about Strat – we had representation from several concentrations. This staff ride has relevance to nearly all concentrations in one way or another at SAIS.

Zeke: Trying to think of this battle as a nexus between much bigger considerations that led up to the battle, and proceeded from it.

In unison, all agreed that the staff ride was “worth it.”

As a participant and a veteran, I concur with the planning team – the trip was worth it.

Photo Credit: Veronica Trujillo

ride 3
Photo Credit: Sarahann Yeh.  From left: Zeke, Devan, Veronica, Sebastian, and Mike

T.J. Sjostrom is the Deputy Editor-in-chief of The SAIS Observer and a first year European and Eurasian Studies concentrator at SAIS Europe in Bologna, Italy.