When Xiheng Jiang (MPP 2017) joined the Blavatnik School, she had already been working at the Development Research Center of the State Council (DRC), China for 17 years. As Deputy Director General of the Department of International Cooperation of DRC, and subsequently as Vice President of the Center for International Knowledge on Development, Xiheng had gained extensive experience of management and coordination of international collaborative programmes.
So the decision of pursuing an MPP was not easy. Having already gained a master’s degree in public administration in China, she was keen to build on that knowledge; however, she was sceptical about the value that another master could add to her education, and in addition she knew she would have had to take more time off a busy and demanding job.
“I was not sure if this course would only offer a one-sided perspective, but the MPP’s curriculum is very diverse and inclusive. For example, the Foundations module included different theories of philosophical thinking, allowing us students to build our own independent thinking.”
As a student Xiheng also had the chance to attend seminars and lectures not only with government and civil service representatives from the UK and other Western countries, but also with officials and civil societies from other countries. The Oxford Africa Forum organised by the African Union left a mark on Xiheng, in particular she found it interesting to hear about the aspirations that African countries have for their future.
Throughout her professional life, Xiheng’s motivation is that countries, including her own, need to improve mutual understanding and learn from each other. In this sense, besides the diverse curriculum, the MPP’s global, immersive experience was incredibly valuable for her.
“I’ve been building professional networks for years, but discussing and spending time with MPP classmates from over 50 countries really helped to improve mutual understanding among peoples.”
Xiheng also really valued the structured thinking on public policy offered by the MPP course.
“The step-by-step design of the MPP is very effective: the four core modules help build the fundamental rationale behind all public policy; the applied policy modules and the optional modules are instead targeted at the frontier of public policy and at tackling the challenges that governments face today. At the end of the MPP, I felt like I had developed the understanding of these challenges as well as the skills and tools needed to tackle them.”
After completing the MPP, Xiheng has gone back to her role leading the Centre for International Knowledge and Development, a new institution affiliated with the DRC which aims to promote sustainable development within China and beyond, and responsible for tracking and studying the country’s progress on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
She is also still involved with the School through her DRC Fellowship, working closely with Professors Stefan Dercon and Paul Collier to bring China’s perspective to a new workstream focused on urbanisation and industrialisation in Africa.
“It’s vital for countries to work together and understand each other. The MPP was an incredibly rewarding experience, and provides a starting point for future leaders in public policy to build dialogue and mutual understanding.”