July 22, 2014

China Expert To Speak as Communist Party in Upheaval

The Chinese Communist Party is facing its greatest upheaval since the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.  Just as the Party is trying to smooth the way for appointment of a new leader, one of its rising stars, Bo Xilai, has been ousted as chief of Chongqing, China’s biggest metropolis.  Bo’s wife is even under arrest for suspected involvement in the murder of a British businessman.

The infighting surrounding Bo’s dismissal is rocking China. To help the Brandeis community understand the monumental struggles going on behind Beijing’s closed doors, the International and Global Studies program welcomes Dr. Cheng Li, director of China research at the Brookings Institution and prolific author on Chinese politics.

Dr. Li will speak on “China 2012: What’s Next?” on Tuesday, April 17, at 5 pm in the Rapaporte Treasure Hall.  The talk is free and open to the public.

Dr. Li’s visit to Brandeis will also help celebrate the publication of a new issue of the Brandeis International Journal, one devoted to understanding new directions in Chinese politics.  Dr. Li will be joined by Brandeis Professor Gary Jefferson, an expert on the Chinese economy.  Dr. Li’s visit is supported by the Ellen Lasher Kaplan ’64 and Robert Kaplan Endowment for Economic Growth.

Dr. Li is Director of Research and Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution’s John L. Thornton China Center. Dr. Li currently also serves as a member of the Academic Advisory Team of the Congressional U.S.-China Working Group.  He is the author/editor of numerous books, including China’s Leaders: The New Generation (2001), China’s Changing Political Landscape: Prospects for Democracy (2008), and China’s Emerging Middle Class: Beyond Economic Transformation (2010).  He is the principal editor of the Thornton Center Chinese Thinkers Series published by the Brookings Institution Press.

Dr. Li has recently appeared on CNN, C-SPAN, BBC, ABC World News with Diane Sawyer, NPR Diane Rehm Show, NPR News Hour with Jim Lehrer, and the PBS Charlie Rose Show.

Comments

  1. Hillary Schwartz says:

    The aspect of Dr. Li’s lecture that captivated me most was his description of China’s current situation (like an airplane that is ahead of schedule but lost) with regards to economic recovery. I had always assumed that China had some sort of calculated advantage over the rest of the economically endangered nations, but the absence of a set future plan for the Chinese seemed very unexpected. It will be interesting to observe how China’s economic development unfolds over the next few decades, especially with the great turnover in leadership. Will China continue to possess a lead in the global economy or will a potential policy error give way to crisis? On this same subject, I found it interesting to see how the educational backgrounds of China’s leaders shifted from technocrats to those educated in history, law and journalism. Now that the turnover in power is inevitable, will future leaders continue to hold similar educational backgrounds? I thought Dr. Li did a great job of explaining how economic leadership in China is divided yet ultimately seems effective. I believe that if each political coalition truly complements each other, then in spite of differing priorities and geographic representations, perhaps China’s economy will continue to advance and will eventually develop some sort of safe and sound system for maintaining their advantage. This development would be interesting and would represent the ability of China’s government to work together to find direction along its future path.

    • Jemima Barrios says:

      China is in a postion which allows them to have immense power. Economically they grown in a fast and impressive rate. The communist party can no longer maintain the power and control. This is especially true with the “sea turtles” or the returnees who have experienced freedom in foreign countries. It is very hard for them to come back and adapt to a system that does not fit their needs. The want more of a voice and less of strict control imposed over them. Democracy is not a perfect system yet it has proven to be fair and it allows individuals to speak up and have their voices heard. The scandals that are being uncovered shows the issues and the fragile state in which the communist party lies. China is at a turning point it will change.

  2. Karrah Beck says:

    I really liked Dr. Li’s presentation on China’s future. He really made me able to identify the patterns of change with the CCP and how that related to future global relations. I had no idea just how close consumerism was to China’s core, and to me it seemed, how free trade seemed more and more a likely possibility for China. Their progression is fascinating as I see them grow more and more similar to the Western nations and yet, still holding their own identity that is different from the western world. I’m really curious to see how America and China will deal with these new changes, and how those changes will effect global relations.

  3. Heather Yoon says:

    Dr. Li’s clear explanation of the four changes in China was immensely thought-provoking. I found it interesting how in the One Party there are two coalitions consisting of the populist coalition (the new left that believe that terrorism is the solution for China) and the elitist coalition (Princelings, Shanghai mafia, entrepreneurs, etc). Dr. Li stressed that competition is really intense to occupy one of these seats. Dr. Li continued to explain Change II which came about from an emergence of a new generation and new identities. A question raised was why China was unable to find a good political system to accommodate the rapidly growing economy. Furthermore, I learned that the decline of technocrat backgrounds resulted in the increase of interests in those with backgrounds of strong education. There is an increase of returnees and of entrepreneurs. Dr. Li also revealed the emergence of strong factions and weak leaders and finally the change into political pluralism and policy dealing with diversity in leadership. Backgrounds, credentials, and political affiliates play a significant role in obtaining a seat. Age also is very important: about 2/3 of the party government and military leadership are replaced due to their age. Furthermore I was engaged by his four scenarios of China’s future including a resilient authoriarianism, the Singapore model, the coming collapse of the CCP, and the incremental transition to democracy.

  4. Zach Reid says:

    I truly enjoyed Dr. Li’s presentation. His discussion also answered a question I had been thinking about for some time: where are the new generations in China? While the Princelings seem to have taken up some of the spots in government for newer leaders, the imminent retirement of many leaders will surely be an interesting event to watch, if of no other reason than to see who will be shaping the future of China. It will be interesting to see whether these “sea turtles” or the rural leaders will capture more of the soon-to-be vacant seats. I also agree with his interpretation of the situation between the two political coalitions – it seems to me that if they’re truly complimentary, then the Chinese leadership will be able to shrug off some of the constant political deadlock he mentioned, and continue to advance their economy.His discussion on the new generations in China was also highly informative, and I enjoyed his analysis of the pressing issues facing China’s youth, including internet freedom, Tibetan, and Taiwanese independence. Additionally, Dr. Li’s handled the questions posed to him very well, and his discussions of minority groups as well as Bo Xilai’s contempt for the rule of law were eye-opening to me, as I had never considered thinking deeply about these issues beforehand.

  5. Alisha Steindecker says:

    I really enjoyed this presentation by Dr. Li. What was most interesting to me was how he described China as one party, but two coalitions. This showed us that the Chinese party is not homogenous, and is in fact very different. The coalitions represent two different policies because it is the elitists versus the populists. Furthermore, I really enjoyed Dr. Li’s joke about the airplane, and how China is ahead of schedule, but still lost. This clearly tells the rest of the world that the Chinese leadership hasn’t yet to find a sound system. Personally, I think it is fascinating that China can be so incredibly prosperous without having a secure leadership. This may be because there are strong factions, but weak leaders. Another interesting point that Dr. Li made concerned the returnees, or “sea turtles,” as he called them. Once these individuals return back from a democratic country, it is extremely hard for them to adjust to communist life again. As a result, it is hard for there to be a sound leadership in China.

  6. Jenny Chen says:

    Dr. Li started out his lecture with a funny joke: “If you ask five experts about leadership in China, you will get five different answers, six if one of the experts went to Harvard.” As his presentation progressed, one really understood that China really is lost in terms of growth and political direction. When he spoke about how China has “one party, but two coalitions’, he acutely described how stagnant and divided China’s government is. Dr Li. spoke about how China doesn’t have a democratic system, but the fact that the two factions are both equally powerful is preventing China from forming new policies because of all the in-fighting and policy deadlocks between the two groups. China’s future is doubtful, and it is unsure where China is headed, but Dr. Li seemed to imply that China does have some hope. For example, he explained how many of the leaders from China’s different governmental sections were retiring, leaving many open spaces for new leaders to fulfill. These openings, if filled by adept political leaders, will help China find its political direction and develop its government, and discover its political destination.

  7. Ethan Levy says:

    Dr. Li’s lecture was one that greatly interested me as I am considering a business major and IGS minor. It really opened my eyes as to which direction China hopes to go in the years to come. China is one of the biggest business powers in the world and with changes in their government coming soon due to the imminent retirement of many leaders, one has to ask where China is headed. While there seems to be conflict in terms of business leaders and their political restrictions, those returning from the U.S. or other democracies abroad are unable to adjust back to China’s government and hope for change in leadership as well as policy. Although China is not a democratic nation, it is experiencing many problems typically associated with a democratic nation. Although there is only one party in China, there are many different divisions within that party, or multiple factions. They each have different views and political deadlock is constant, a mimicry of the U.S. government.

  8. Kira Setren says:

    I really enjoyed Dr. Li’s presentation on the future of China. Not only was it interesting and well-organized, but Dr. Li was also charismatic, and fun to listen to. Dr. Li explained that 2012 is a year of transition in Chinese politics. Right now, China is undergoing the largest political turnover in its history, huge political scandal with Bo Xilai, and undergoing four crucial changes. Dr. Li defied these changes as: “One party, two coalitions,” or the struggle between the Populist Party and the Elitist Party within China’s CCP (Chinese Communist Party), a “New generation, new identities,” or the decline of technocrats and increase of ‘sea turtles,’ “Strong factions, weak leaders,” and, “Political pluralism, policy deadlock.” He then went on to explain that these changes could lead to one of four scenarios for Chinese politics: “Resilient authoritarianism,” over which he has some reservation, “The Singapore Model,” the “Coming Collapse of the CCP,” but not of China, itself, and the “Incremental Transition to Democracy,” with which he largely agrees. I found his position on this last possibility especially interesting in contrast with that of the next speaker, Gary Jefferson, who claimed that democracy is inevitable in China because it is the only scenario that can solve China’s global and economic problems. Although Dr. Li did not take as strong a stance as did Jefferson, I found their general consensus that China is moving toward a democracy rather bold and exciting.

  9. Wonhee Choi says:

    I was very excited to attend Dr. Li’s presentation regarding the future of China. As someone who was looking to become involved in the political scene (possibly with China if I continue taking Chinese language courses), listening to Dr. Li speak about the changing future of China’s political structure was absolutely fascinating. I was unaware that there would be a huge turnover of many of the People’s Republic of China’s government officials, whether it was because they reached retirement age or for other reasons. The implications of such a turnover that Dr. Li discussed really put into question of the future of China’s political system and its future policies. With the replacement of many of China’s longstanding high political members, it will be necessary to pay attention to future policies that are passed in China. Furthermore, another interesting thing that Dr. Li mentioned was the many people who would leave China to continue their education and then return. These people, according to Dr. Li, were dubbed “sea turtles” because they returned back to their home after spending much of their life outside of China. With education becoming more and more important, an increase in international students from other countries such as China can be noted in the U.S. It is possible that bringing back U.S. education to China, in the future, may reflect some of the political influence that the U.S. might have over China as more and more of China’s political leaders may in fact be U.S. educated leaders. Dr. Li’s discussion regarding the future of China really puts the future into perspective as China undergoes this shift.

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