Divya Mathew, a William & Mary MPP alumna, is one of nine co-authors of a recent policy report, Corridors of Power: How Beijing uses economic, social, and network ties to exert influence along the Silk Road. Ms. Mathew, a Policy Specialist at AidData at William & Mary, conducts research and analysis on various projects. Her focus includes tracking tools of foreign influence in the civic space in Eastern Europe and Eurasia and examining China's public diplomacy in South and Central Asia. Ms. Mathew received her B.A. (Honors) and her M.A. in English Literature from St. Stephen's College, Delhi University. She then received her Master’s in Public Policy (MPP '19) in International Development Policy from William & Mary.
The Corridors of Power report follows three previous studies, conducted by AidData, on Chinese influence in the East Asia Pacific and South and Central Asia. This report takes a deep dive into the economic, social, and cultural network ties that have persisted for over two decades in South and Central Asia. The report also evaluates the perceptions of countries on the receiving end of China’s public diplomacy overtures. One of the findings of the report is a difference between how leaders and citizens, in the South and Central Asia region, feel about public diplomacy from China.
The research for the policy report involved mixed methods, including quantitative and qualitative data analysis, fielding a snap poll, and exploring survey data. Ms. Mathew led the writing and research on the third chapter, discussing cultural and linguistic ties between China and the region. To be a successful team member on this report, Ms. Mathew had to work with a lot of qualitative data, thinking through how to communicate technical findings to a policy audience, something she says her MPP degree prepared her for.
Ms. Mathew raved about William & Mary’s MPP program, as it helped hone her writing and develop her research design skills, both vital when completing assignments such as policy reports. Specifically, the plethora of quantitative courses William & Mary’s MPP offers helped her think through models and examine the different factors that impact an outcome and, practicing memo-writing with Prof. Joosse taught her to BLUF ([put the] Bottom Line Up Front!). William & Mary’s MPP degree was the only graduate program Ms. Mathew applied to, for its access to law school courses and its heavy concentration on methods of quantitative analysis.
Ms. Mathew expressed gratitude for her unit director Samantha Custer, the Principal Investigator and lead author of the report, for her unparalleled mentorship. She credited her co-authors, Justin Schon, Ana Horigoshi, Bryan Burgess, Vera Choo, Amber Hutchinson, Austin Baehr and Kelsey Marshall with bringing unique skills and perspectives to the team, always making the work and team meetings something to look forward to. She mentioned that the report’s publication would not be possible without the work of the Partnerships and Communications team at AidData and the student Research Assistants.
There are many ongoing projects at AidData, with opportunities for students to participate. Students from all disciplines are strongly encouraged to reach out to learn more and apply!
You can find the executive summary of the Corridors of Power report here.