Oceanside and Medomak Valley high school students talk of ‘China’s Global Ascendancy’

Pen Bay Pilot article, posted June 10, 2019

Students from Oceanside High School in Rockland and Medomak Valley High School in Waldoboro addressed the public Wednesday evening, May 22, with presentations on China’s Global Ascendancy as part of the continuing Informed Young Leaders Series. At the conclusion of the presentations, the students engaged with the audience in an active round of Q & A, answering questions such as ‘What was the biggest surprise you encountered when researching this topic?’ to which a number of the students replied, “Finding out how quickly China’s economic and technological gains are accelerating,” according to the Series, in a news release.

One member of the audience commended the students, saying, “I learned a lot about China tonight that I suspected but never knew. I can’t tell you how impressed and grateful I am for your thoughtful presentations.” Jake Newcomb of Medomak Valley High School, and Neal Young of Oceanside HS were the sponsoring teachers from their respective schools. “This is a great event,” said Young, “The students worked really hard on their own for their presentations, and it showed.” Newcomb concurred, saying he thought the students did a great job of addressing such a broad, complex issue.

Richard Ware, from Medomak Valley HS, started the evening presentations with and overview on ‘How China’s Government Works’, starting with the reforms initiated by former party chairman Deng Xiaoping in the late 1970s and the 1980s. Ware stated, “…bureaucratic reforms can’t substitute for political reforms forever, because as China transforms from a basic industrial economy to an innovative superpower you need political reforms, such as the free flow of information and society to have these ideas [reforms] for continued economic growth. Unfortunately, just as these reforms became the thing China needs, the Xi Jinping administration has begun back-pedaling on many of the democratic qualities that Den Xiaoping had introduced.”

Regan Crowe, from Medomak Valley High School, spoke on ‘China and The South China Sea.’ Stating that one-third of global maritime shipping goes through the sea lanes in the South China Seas, and that there are an estimate 11 billion barrels of oil and 190 trillion feet of natural gas in the South China Sea, she underscored the global strategic importance of the South China Sea. Quoting a ‘seasoned Marine Corps Veteran’, who said, “Today the South China Sea is the most dangerous area in the world, and hostile statements and aggressive actions create dry tinder, awaiting only a spark to burst into conflagration – with unimaginable consequences,” She concluded that while China seeks to gain exclusive economic control in the region, it is in the U.S. and its regional allies’ interests to defend the vital resources and commercial access in the South China Sea.

Wyatt Sikes, from Medomak Valley HS, talked about China’s rapid development of its technology sectors in his presentation, ‘China – From Imitation to Innovation.’ Using the analogy of the ‘Tortoise and the Hare,’ Sikes said China started as the tortoise and is now the hare, citing examples of Huawei’s rapid global expansion and dominance of 5G networks, as well as advances in artificial intelligence, robotics and a new government-sponsored brain surveillance project called Neuro Cap. During the Q & A session following the presentations, Sikes said, “We are now five steps from finding out we are ten steps behind China in key technologies.”

Alexa Barstow, from Oceanside HS, talked about ‘China’s One Child Policy’, and its predictable as well as unintended consequences. Beginning with the facts that China’s population is 1.9 billion, or 19.5% of total world population, Barstow states that Deng Xiaoping instituted China’s One Child Policy in 1979, when China’s population was less than half of its current population, “in order to curb China’s extreme population growth.” These reforms led to a steep increase in abortions so Chinese families could assure themselves of having a male child. However, China is now facing both an aging population and an aging workforce. The Chinese government is encouraging younger women to have more children, but this is meeting resistance as many women want to secure their financial well being before raising families.

Jethro Pease, from Medomak Valley HS, concluded the evening’s presentations talking about China’s emerging global tech giant, Huawei that is in the process of rolling out its 5G smartphones. “What is Huawei – and is it a threat to U.S. Cybersecurity?” Pease asked, “What do we do with Huawei?” and then said, “There are two trains of thought with Huawei. It could be addressed from a privacy standpoint or from a free market standpoint.” He concluded by advocating that the U.S. take a very measured, cautious approach to Huawei until we know that the company’s products comply with our privacy and security requirements.

Ryan Lynch, from Oceanside HS, talked about the ‘China’s Property Rights,’ providing a review of China’s recent history since the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s, and comparing private home ownership rates in China vs. other Asian countries and the U.S. Lynch pointed out that the U.S. has long protected private property rights in the Constitution, under the fourth and fifth Amendments, whereas in China, “property rights are often violated in order to succeed in economic growth and make way for certain infrastructure projects.”

This event marks the start of its fifth year of the Informed Young Leaders Series, which is designed to provide students the opportunity to publicly express themselves on vital political issues. As they have been since the inception of the IYL Series, The First National Bank and Eastern and Tire & Auto are the lead sponsors for this year’s programs.

The presentations can be viewed on YouTube:

Wyatt Sikes, Medomak Valley High School PechaKucha presentation for the informed Young Leaders Series (May, 2019) China’s Global Ascendancy: China – From Imitation to Innovation 

Alexa Barstow, Oceanside High School
PechaKucha presentation for the informed Young Leaders Series (May, 2019) China’s Global Ascendancy: China’s One Child Policy 

Ryan Lynch, Oceanside High School
PechaKucha presentation for the informed Young Leaders Series (May, 2019) China’s Global Ascendancy: Property Rights in China 

Jethro Pease, Medomak Valley High School
PechaKucha presentation for the informed Young Leaders Series (May, 2019) China’s Global Ascendancy: China: Is Huawei a Threat to U.S. Cyber Security? 

Richard Ware, Medomak Valley High School
PechaKucha presentation for the informed Young Leaders Series (May, 2019) China’s Global Ascendancy: How China’s Government Works

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