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June 6th - "China's Leadership Transition" with Dr. David Lampton. Lecture III of the Policymakers Seminar Series

Dr. Lampton broke the discussion into five questions:

Has succession occurred? Dr. Lampton explained that the "core" of the party is currently unclear. Hu Jintao, the current president and party secretary and Jiang Zemin, the former holder of those positions, each hold some degree of power. These two centers of control create a potential for conflict. But he emphasized that local leaders, who are generally forward-looking and cosmopolitan, also wield a great deal of control in China.

How does this succession compare to previous successions? Dr. Lampton described a meeting with Jiang Zemin in which he boasted of how efficient his succession had been in comparison to Mao and Deng. Unlike the aftermath of previous successions, it appears that there will also be a continuity of policy for some time. This is best for the US-China relationship.

What are the characteristics of the new leadership? Dr. Lampton explained that the fourth generation of Chinese leadership was about five to ten years old during the communist revolution. Many came to positions of power just in time to be attacked in the Cultural Revolution. Most are engineers who were educated in Britain or the United States. They lack the revolutionary credentials that lent legitimacy to previous generations. Therefore they will be dependent on policy successes to protect the party and their own positions. This leads most experts to agree that the U.S. will be able to work with the fourth generation, perhaps more easily than the third generation. They have a vested interest in bringing China up to world standards.

What can we expect in their policies? Dr. Lampton explained that these leaders are pushing China toward a more pluralistic and populist government while still focusing primarily on continuing to develop the domestic economy. He imagined that China would continue to keep a relatively low international profile and not pick fights that might distract from the primary objective.

What will be the effects of recent developments such as SARS and the situation in North Korea? The final question's answer truly remains to be seen. But Dr. Lampton felt that the North Korean and SARS situation have actually strengthened the 4th generation. In addition to getting the 4th generations names and faces out, these crises gave them the opportunity to look effective. This creates distance from the third generation, which now seems comparatively secretive and bungling.
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