China’s New Leadership
Dr. Mike Lampton
July 13, 2007
On July 13, USCPF hosted the fifth lecture in its Policymakers Seminar Series. Dr. Mike Lampton, the Director of China Studies at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and Director of China Studies at the Nixon Center, addressed the topic of China’s New Leadership.
This year’s policymakers trip should be particularly interesting as China is entering its 17th Party Congress and will elect a new president. Also making things interesting, this year is also an election year for the United States and Taiwan. The 17th Party Congress is especially interesting as it will mark the new process of defining the next generation of Chinese leaders.
Dr. Lampton began by noting that Americans have largely underestimated the capability of China’s leaders and have tended to think that they are weaker than they actually are. Dr. Lampton asserts that China’s current leaders, on the contrary, are a very capable, focused group with clear strategies. The new Chinese leadership is pursuing a pragmatic and factual approach to both internal and external issues.
The New Leadership is also in many ways different from the previous generations of leaders. The new leaders are mostly college educated. In addition, the entire Politburo is now made up of engineers, pragmatists and technocrats who concentrate on ‘getting the facts’ by using science and technology. The diplomats are also much more skilled in their dealings with foreign nations. They seek to appeal not only to foreign presidents, but also society and legislators.
The current leadership is also more comfortable with globalization as they have witnessed the effects of trade on China’s economy and hope to continue its ‘opening’. Finally, the Chinese leadership continues to want a good relationship with the US, they do not seek to cause problems over trade.
With regards to communism, while it is still called the Communist Party, they are not Marxists. In fact, over 3/4ths of the GNP comes from the private sector. In addition, in the trade argument with the U.S., they site negative U.S. savings as part of the deficit problem, using our own economic theories and facts rather than preaching Marxist dogma.
China’s leaders seek to minimize external issues to order to maximize their control over internal issues.
China is very concerned with its internal situation. There is a rapid growing middle class who will want rights and a say in the government. The government is being pushed by the middle class to open up but they are afraid of the billions of poor people who have not received the benefits of China’s growth. The Chinese government faces the problem of liberalization without losing control over the population and discovering ways to distribute and equalize China’s growth.
Dr. Lampton is positive about China’s liberalization but believes it will continue very slowly. In addition, he believes that the United States can, and should, work towards building a better relationship with China.
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