Best Paper Prize – China and Taiwan's divergent paths

How did Taiwan move from an authoritarian state to one of Asia's most democratic, why is China unlikely to follow suit and why does it matter to New Zealand? This is the subject of Francesca Zhang's winning entry for the Foundation's best paper prize for international relations and foreign policy.
Francesa Zhang in front of the Asia New Zealand Foundation signage

Best Paper prize winner Francesca Zhang

The Asia New Zealand Foundation Te Whītau Tūhono launched its Young Voices on Asia prizes for tertiary students in 2021 – recognizing outstanding papers that convincingly articulate New Zealand’s engagement with Asia.

The award asked applicants to submit papers in the following contexts and categories:

  • Regional environmental issues and climate change
  • Trade and economic policy
  • International relations and foreign policy
  • Humanities/social issues/media
  • Science, technology and innovation.

The prize aims to encourage tertiary students to think critically about an important Asia-related issue and articulate their thinking and perspectives on their chosen topic.

Students were invited to submit succinct commentary, opinion and assessment of topical issues based on forward-thinking and sound argument that examined possible implications for New Zealand-Asia relations.

"The Foundation is committed to supporting and championing the next generation of critical thinkers when it comes to New Zealand’s future with Asia," says Foundation Senior Adviser (Research and Engagement) Dr James To.

“It’s important to hear a broad and diverse range of perspectives – and the views of young people are a key part of that conversation.”

The winner of the 2021 round for international relations and foreign policy was Francesca Zhang, a Bachelor of Arts student at the University of Canterbury, double majoring in Political Science and International Relations, and Economics.

Francesca’s paper looks at how and why Taiwan has evolved into a blossoming democracy over the last few decades, and contrasting and comparing that with the People’s Republic of China’s trajectory towards authoritarianism over the same period. Francesca explains why a better understanding these issues are important for determining New Zealand’s relationships, opportunities and risks across the region, as well as informing its own national interests and security.

Francesca is a top student across various disciplines (including economics and mathematics), and the recipient of several internships (Wigram Capital Advisors, Department of Internal Affairs, and most recently the Reserve Bank of New Zealand) and numerous scholarships. She also has interests in orchestral music, debating and badminton.

Views expressed in this article are personal to the author and are not to be taken as representing those of the Asia New Zealand Foundation Te Whitau Tuhono.