Harvard-Trained Communists Vie for Power as Party Gathers
By Bloomberg News – Nov 9, 2012 2:59 AM ET
Li Yuanchao serves the Chinese Communist Party as head of its organization department. For a few months in 2002 he had a different overseer: Larry Summers.
Delegates attend the opening of the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012. Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg
Li controls the patronage system of the 82 million-member party that this month is unveiling its next generation of leaders, overseeing an apparatus that names cadres to posts in state-owned companies including China Mobile Ltd. (941) and acting as career manager for thousands of rising officials. He took part in an executive training program at Harvard University when former U.S. Treasury Secretary Summers was the school’s president. Li reminded Summers of that when the two met in 2010 in Beijing.
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Li is the most prominent graduate of a program that has brought rising Chinese leaders to Harvard’s Cambridge, Massachusetts campus for more than a decade. The initiative underscores the fact that even as the U.S. and China are at odds over issues ranging from the value of the yuan to Syria, top politicians in China are increasingly drawing on their U.S. experiences in setting policy for the world’s second-biggest economy, said Anthony Saich, a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government who oversees the program.
“They’re exposed to America, and best practices from around the world,” Saich said in an interview in Beijing. “One of the things they often say to me is, ‘well we don’t agree with you any more than we did before, but at least we have a sense of why you think the way you do.’”