It's about sharing and trust, according to Visiting
Scholar Ming-Yu Cheng. Cheng was granted a Fulbright
Visiting Scholar award in September 2004 to research
her project on The Qualitative-Cum-Quantitative
Institutional, Social Economic and Technological
Growth Model. "My study here is more about
the importance of social capital," Cheng
said. "If you have that type of civic engagement,
if you trust each other or you can establish a
trust, then you can help the economy develop."
Cheng specializes in economics and ASEAN studies.
She believes one of the challenges of ASEAN is
how 10 countries in varying economic stages can
develop and grow stronger as a group. Cheng hopes
the data that she has collected in the U.S. will
help her understand the reasons behind successful
economic growth. Understanding this may help ASEAN
continue its economic growth. "I want to
see different countries and learn why some can
grow so fast and why some remain poor. I want
to see what causes the problem," she said.
What Cheng found was, in addition to all the technological
and economic factors, social factors play an important
role in economic development. "Countries
with very high social capital can develop very
fast," she said.
For example, the economic and social systems
are very good. "The system is well developed
and well implemented," she said. "This
is a country that is very systematic, very disciplined.
People here are more civic minded, they respect
each other and they respect the laws too."
In this way, Cheng believes Malaysia can learn
from the U.S. in making economic systems more
Cheng, while conducting her research, was extremely
pleased with the resources made available to her
by Fulbright and Washington State University,
her host institution. "The U.S. is very established.
It has a long history in economic research, so
there is an advantage to that," she said.
"If I didn't come here, I don't think I could
have finished my project because my project needed
data that I don't have in Malaysia. Many of the
articles and journals are not available in Malaysia."
Cheng's field of economic development has allowed
her the opportunity to travel to many countries,
something she enjoys very much. She has held a
fellowship in Japan, lectured in Australia, conducted
research in Taiwan and visited countries including
Germany, Khazastan, Ubekestan and South Africa.
One of the benefits of traveling and international
exchange is that it is a great tool for developing
social trust. "I think it is a good way for
people to understand each other better."
For example, Cheng said before she came to the
U.S., she did not think that people here would
be friendly. "But when I came here, I found
people to be really quite friendly and very helpful."
Learning about a culture through articles or
other third-party means is different from understanding
a culture through experience. "If you just
listen to people, and you form your perception,
it might cause misunderstanding and that can lead
to quite a disaster," said Cheng. "I
think that is the purpose for Fulbright, to allow
us to come here and to have a professor go to
other countries to have an exchange. This exchange
allows us to understand other cultures and to
understand other people."
"You should go out and see the world because
for you to change the world, you need to understand
the world first," said Cheng. "People
who travel a lot see things from many perspectives.
When you go to different countries or different
parts of the world, you see that things are really
different, so you can accept new things more easily
because you know there is the possibility of these
For Cheng, the international culture of the U.S.
was a comfort. "I don't feel like I'm a foreigner
here because there is a mixture of people from
all over the world and that's great. I feel like
I'm at home."
us if you would like to submit your own story
exchange is the most significant current project
designed to continue the process of humanizing
mankind to the point, we would hope, that
nations can learn to live in peace"
--J. William Fulbright