By Marina Yoshimura
The word “service” is often thrown around in public discourse without fully appreciating the underlying nuances? According to the New Oxford American Dictionary, it means “the action of helping or doing work for someone.” Mason Ji ’16, currently a Rhodes scholar at the University of Oxford studying Public Policy and Global Governance and Diplomacy, epitomizes the word. His professional experiences at the United Nations and the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have shaped his views on a number of global issues, including climate change, nuclear issues, and domestic issues such as healthcare and immigration. He shows that by working both as individuals and as a team, the younger generation can be the solution to issues.
He was appointed as an Adviser on the Republic of Seychelles Mission to the United Nations at age 18 in 2013. As an undergraduate at Yale College, he travelled from New Haven to New York City every week to the UN Headquarters to attend UN meetings, which he said was “an amazing privilege and honor.” Nuclear disarmament, climate change with a focus on sustainable development, nuclear disarmament and human rights were issues that he addressed while at the organization. Exposure to the UN helped Ji better understand what member states have done and need to do.
Ji maximized his engagement at the UN by working in several committees that addressed different global issues. The UN is a platform in which member states can discuss—and potentially solve—international issues. Ji’s work revolved around General Assembly Committee meetings in which he addressed disarmament and international security (First Committee), economic and financial issues (Second Committee), and social, humanitarian and cultural issues (Third Committee). Because the organization comprises several committees, bodies, and agencies—UNICEF, UNHCR, and UNESCO, to name a few—member states can bring diverse issues to the fore. Committee meetings allow member states to come together to discuss pressing global issues and draft resolutions to address those issues.
Understanding global issues is crucial because they have become increasingly pressing and relevant, according to Ji. He said, “In our globalized age, the problems we face are more international in scale than ever before. In our age of increased interconnectivity and exposure, the issues we see and the issues we face take a more global perspective.” He also argued that, “global advocacy is important because global issues are becoming more salient in our lives, and these are issues we should care about.” He discussed climate change as a global issue that has the power to change daily lives because it can cause forced migration to food and water shortages. He added that, “responding to these far-flung and large issues of our time requires us to devote more attention and thought to think and act more globally.”
Nuclear disarmament was another issue that Ji worked on while at the UN. He said, “after seeing how countries are tackling and working on nuclear disarmament, I have come to believe in the nuclear non-proliferation treaty” and added that, “I believe that, in order to prevent the devastating effects of nuclear weapons, it is very important that countries across the world agree on non-proliferation and act together to prevent the spread of fissile materials.” He said that, “enforcing the terms of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty to limit the number of nuclear weapons in existence while simultaneously working to reduce the nuclear arsenal that countries possess to manageable levels is, I believe, a more realistic path forward for nuclear politics today and in the future.” He asserted that to prevent consequences of nuclear weapons, it was very important that countries across the world agree on non-proliferation and act together to prevent the spread of fissile materials. He also acknowledged that tackling nuclear disarmament is not so simple, and a pragmatic path forward necessarily requires considerations into countries’ interests and powers. To this point, he noted that, “At the same time, it is important to recognize the deterrence capabilities that nuclear weapons have. Striking an important balance between non-proliferation and deterrence is thus key. Enforcing the terms of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty to limit the number of nuclear weapons in existence while simultaneously working to reduce the nuclear arsenal that countries possess to manageable levels is, I believe, a more realistic path forward for nuclear politics today and in the future.”
Ji also focused on domestic issues. He worked as a White House Ambassador for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, through which capacity he worked to address immigration and healthcare issues, both of which the pan-Asian community faced and struggled to solve. Ji worked at the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders because he was motivated to give back. Ultimately, he realized that many of the AAPI peers were not engaged in the policymaking process and hoped to engage them in the work. Ji stated that, through this initiative, he aimed to “improve the quality of life and opportunities for AAPIs, to increase awareness around critical issues facing the AAPI community, and to highlight key federal programs and resources in which AAPIs may be underserved.” Despite struggles within the community, Ji said there was a silver lining in these issues. The “AAPI communities have historically been relatively inactive on these larger policy issues, but the change that I have seen was that more young AAPIs coming out and speaking about their opinions and concerns on these topics, and these are really exciting developments” he said. “As a Chinese American, and someone who juggles two different cultures, serving a wider community by using my bicultural and bilingual background has always been a passion of mine.”
Much of Ji’s research focuses on the present state and future of the US-China relationship. The US and China are the two of the most powerful and influential countries on the global stage, yet the two still have more room to cooperate and work together. Ji acknowledged that both “the US and China communicate regularly and substantively at the UN and are two pillars of the UN Security Council,” although he admitted that, “sometimes, particularly on the politically salient issues, the two disagree.” His solution was “to get the two countries to cooperate more on global targets.” Specifically, he argued that, “Bridging the US and China would perhaps require more heart-to-heart dialogue between people on both sides who deeply understand the other side’s interests to more productively find common ground to usher forward more opportunities for collaboration.” The future of bringing the US and China closer together, according to Ji, “rests in my and future generations: we grew up in a globalized era and have had unprecedented contact with peers across the world, and with it, an unprecedented opportunity to understand each others’ cultures. As my generation starts to take the helm in global decision-making, that gives us the chance and the opportunity to connect in ways never before.” With those opportunities comes the important chance to bridge the US and China, Ji concluded.
Yalies are global citizens. Ji shows that both local communities and the international community want and need to collaborate, so that they can leave something of value for generations to come.
Check out his professional profile here.
 (Seychelles is a country of the coast of East Africa, an archipelago of 115 islands.)
Marina Yoshimura is a visiting student from Japan. You can contact her at marina.yoshimura