Kaizhao (Zero) Lin ’21 strives for global citizenship and policy reform in China

“I am thousands of miles away from home to learn more about the world,” Kaizhao (Zero) Lin wrote on his website portfolio.

Zero — who was born in Guangzhou, China — is now a senior at Syracuse University, studying international relations at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs along with newspaper and online journalism at the Newhouse School of Public Communications. An incredibly organized and driven student, Zero is also pursuing minors in both political science and economics to supplement his learning.

This very combination of interests alone speaks to Zero’s personal mission: to use the skills and knowledge that he obtains while studying in the U.S. to influence change in China.

“Many of us can see a transfer of superpowers occurring between the U.S. and China right now,” Zero says. “I want to use my experiences to help my home country do better not only in the bilateral relations but also the international community.”

To Zero, global understanding is vital to being a proactive citizen of the world. It is this mindset that also inspired him to work with Globalists, a publication on campus that celebrates diversity and gives a voice to underrepresented perspectives.  When Zero first joined Globalists, he served as an assistant editor before taking greater responsibility and moving up the ranks to copy editor, managing editor, and now — the editor-in-chief himself.

Zero is paving the way for Globalists to publish a print issue in December — a victory that overcomes the challenges print media has faced amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The theme of the upcoming print issue will be to reflect back on 2020 while looking forward to 2021.

“People need something to read,” Zero says, “and we want to continue tradition.”

He explains that the team has been perseverant despite the online setting: “Our editors are currently located all around the world — from California to Hong Kong to India — and we are all still working closely together.”

As an international student, Zero hoped to contribute to the international student community through his research and storytelling abilities. Beyond his work at Globalists, Zero has written for The Daily Orange, where he became the first writer for the newspaper to publish stories written not in English for SU’s robust international student body.

These pieces led Zero to be noticed by a professor in the Asian/Asian American Studies department, where Zero now works as a program assistant to help engage and support international students.

Beyond his journalistic work, Zero is also an active researcher. As part of his international relations distinction capstone, he analyzed China’s evolving role in global health governance, especially after the country’s quick and effective containment of both COVID-19 and, in prior years, SARS.

“When it comes to health, China takes a leadership role and shares its lessons with other developing countries, especially those in Africa,” Zero found.

Zero emphasizes the value of this communication between nations and cultures and the importance of multilateralism, which is the collaboration of countries toward a common goal.

“How will globalization influence me?” Zero asks. “How will it influence my country?”

Questions like these are what inspire Zero to use the power of words to advocate for his communities.

Although Zero has examined China’s successfully growing global role in health, he has also investigated the flip-side — where can China still improve? Zero explains that although recent shifts in government have been leading China to enact progressive changes, there are still many problems that must be confronted.

For example, as part of his investigative journalism project for the social justice reporting class, Zero examined lesser-known social injustices in the education system that create difficulties for students in rural homes.

To begin, students in China already face significant pressure due to the National College Entrance Examination — the one standardized test students take upon finishing high school to determine their advancement to college. This creates disparities in the admission process, particularly between students in well-developed cities compared to students living in rural regions with less access to the same resources and educational materials.

Zero didn’t have a classic educational path either.

Growing up, Zero attended an international high school. This was a brave choice by his parents because it immediately alienated Zero from a traditional student identity in China. That said, being raised by a global education with foreign teachers opened his eyes to different perspectives around the world, ultimately shaping him into the thoughtful person he is now.

In high school, Zero was also heavily involved in the Model United Nations, which led to his deep investment in human rights and development.

His time spent studying at an American university has continued to enhance his unique outlook. Zero has even written briefings for the China Development Student Think Tank, where he examines how Chinese international students interpret social issues differently than experts back home.

Looking to the future, Zero plans to attend graduate school to further his understanding of policy so that he can then tangibly influence policy reform. 

 “Some policy reforms in China were not led not by policymakers but by scholars,” he clarifies. This policy-shaping scholar is exactly who Zero hopes to be.

“As younger generations step into leadership, we may see a more open China in the future,” he adds with hope in his eyes.

Zero speaks to what it means to be a global citizen — “Acknowledge your origins and nationality but maintain a long-term vision for the global community. It’s not enough that my country is doing well. We should strive for everyone to have prosperity.”

Though this universal prosperity seems like a tall order, Zero notes that the movement starts on a local scale. “If you want to change society as a student, start with something small in your community first.”

And to all people of the world, Zero urges, “Practice your rights as a global citizen.”

To read more about Zero and his projects, check out his website portfolio and LinkedIn.

Story by Sasha Temerte ’23, LaunchPad Orange Ambassador; photo supplied; story thumbnail photo by Morgan Tucker