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College Essay Contest

The 1990 Institute believes that discovery through education paves the way for Americans to understand more about China, as well as for Chinese to understand more about the United States – thereby fostering a more thoughtful and rational view of the relations between the two countries. The 1990 Institute encourages university students to develop a more nuanced understanding of modern China and the implications of its rise as a superpower through an annual College Essay Contest. 


2024 College Essay Contest

The 2024 China Focus Essay Contest is open and accepting entries through April 21. This year's contest is organized by China Focus, an online publication at UC San Diego, and is once again jointly hosted by the 1990 Institute, the Fudan-UC Center on Contemporary China, The Carter Center, and the 21st Century China Center at UC San Diego's School of Global Policy and Strategy. The contest offers two topics and awards two prizes of $1,000 and four runner-up prizes of $500.

2024 Essay Topics (Choose only one):

Topic 1: China has positioned itself as a potential mediator in conflicts like the Russo-Ukrainian War and the conflicts in the Middle-East. How would you define China’s track record in its mediation? Evaluate Chinese success so far and the geopolitical implications and potential obstacles surrounding China’s newfound role as an international mediator.

Topic 2: The U.S. and China have had an ongoing exchange of students and migrants for years as a product of increasingly globalized education and labor markets. How does the flow of U.S.-Chinese populations influence U.S.-China relations? To what extent can these population flows and ensuing people-to-people ties help to stabilize the relationship?

Entry in both Chinese and English are accepted.

Find out more about entry rules and submission details here and don’t miss your chance to win up to $1,000.

2023 College Essay Contest

In 2023, the Carter Center join the 1990 Institute and the 21th Century China Center at University of California San Diego sponsoring the essay contest. The 2023 China Focus Essay Contest, a prestigious competition that invites talented individuals to showcase their insights on U.S.-China dynamics, received a record number of submissions this year from brilliant minds around the world. Awards made as part of the essay content include the 1990 Institute Prize, the Jimmy Carter Prize, and two runner-ups.

The exceptional quality of the essays exceeded all expectations, making the selection process a challenging endeavor for the esteemed panel of judges. Submissions were diligently evaluated by a group of experts representing renowned organizations, including the 1990 Institute, the Carter Center, the 21st Century China Center at the University of California San Diego, the Fudan-UC Center, and China Focus.

Read the 1990 Institute prize winning essay Politics Out the Way! Towards a Deeper U.S.-China Green Cooperation” by Katerina Yang and Ann-Alice Tichá.

2022 Contest Winners

Essay Topic 1

Both China and the U.S. face the challenge of large tech companies wielding huge influence in their respective economies and societies. How to regulate them without stifling growth or innovation is a key consideration for policymakers. Such regulations are also fraught with political and technological implications for both countries.

Write an essay that analyzes recent regulatory activities directed against large tech companies in both countries and considers their political, economic, or technological consequences. If appropriate, outline what principles should undergird a sensible regulatory framework that will promote innovation while protecting consumers.

Winning Essay

Innovation in Regulation: A Path Forward for U.S. Tech Competition with China


by William Yuen Yee

William Yuen Yee graduated from Columbia University with a double major in Political Science and East Asian Studies. His writing on China’s foreign relations and international trade has been published in the Center for Strategic and International Studies, The Diplomat, the Jamestown Foundation, and SupChina. This fall, he will pursue a master’s in International Governance and Diplomacy at the Paris School of International Affairs as the 2022 Michel David-Weill Scholarship laureate. Upon return to the U.S., William will matriculate at Harvard Law School.

Essay Topic 2

Both China and the United States face the problem of disinformation to some degree. How does the scale and content of disinformation reflect political and societal conflicts in both countries? Have both countries responded effectively to counter disinformation?  Why or why not? In discussing these questions, be sure to define disinformation in both national contexts clearly.  

Winning Essay

Information and Disinformation in the 21st Century

by Natasha Lock 洛夏

Yenching Academy of Peking University 

Natasha Lock holds a degree in History, International Relations and Mandarin Chinese from the University of Exeter. As a Yenching Scholar at Peking University, her work focused on the Party’s use of historical narratives and modern Chinese nationalism. She was awarded Peking University’s prestigious ‘International Graduate of the Year’ award in 2020. Natasha currently resides in Taipei, where she is conducting field research alongside working in political consultancy. This year, she will join the Lau China Institute of King’s College London to pursue her doctoral studies in Chinese Research.

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