David Lamp­ton: Up US-China in­ter­de­pen­dence BIO

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSSAMERICA - By CHEN WEIHUA in Wash­ing­ton chen­wei­hua@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

David Lamp­ton, a prom­i­nent China scholar, has been struck by the qual­ity of Chi­nese lead­er­ship from county and provin­cial to the na­tional level over the past 40 years of the coun­try’s re­form.

These are the people who knew the facts in their cir­cum­stances, con­sid­ered the al­ter­na­tives and fig­ured out so­lu­tions, ac­cord­ing to Lamp­ton.

e au­thor of Fol­low­ing the Leader: Rul­ing China, from Deng Xiaop­ing to Xi Jin­ping (2014), Lamp­ton cred­ited the de­vel­op­ment of China’s strong lead­er­ship to the coun­try’s highly de­vel­oped ad­min­is­tra­tive train­ing sys­tem, which he de­scribed as “amaz­ing”.

Lamp­ton, a pro­fes­sor at Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity Paul Nitze School of Ad­vanced In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies (SAIS) since 1997, noted that 230,000 Chi­nese stu­dents are study­ing at US col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties and many will re­turn home to work for the govern­ment, as well as an in­creas­ing num­ber of mid­ca­reer Chi­nese sent not just to the US, but Ja­pan and Europe for train­ing.

For ex­am­ple, Cui Tiankai, the Chi­nese am­bas­sador to the US, and Zhu Min, a for­mer Chi­nese of­fi­cial who is deputy man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund, both grad­u­ated from SAIS.

“So they have what you might call ca­reer lead­er­ship­train­ing ap­pa­ra­tus that I hes­i­tate to say, but prob­a­bly is sec­ond to none,” Lamp­ton said.

Re­call­ing his ex­pe­ri­ence of sit­ting across the ne­go­ti­a­tion ta­ble from Chi­nese, Lamp­ton said he found none who did not know his port­fo­lio.

He would not com­pare US lead­ers with Chi­nese lead­ers, who gov­ern very dif­fer­ent so­ci­eties with dif­fer­ent de­mands, but he said the US has in gen­eral very good lead­er­ship for an in­no­va­tive so­ci­ety.

“I don’t think any­body beats us on that. But it isn’t pretty along the way,” he said, clearly re­fer­ring to the se­ri­ous po­lit­i­cal grid­lock be­tween Congress and the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Lamp­ton, how­ever, stressed that he has high re­gard for the train­ing of Chi­nese lead­ers.

“Gen­er­ally I found the Chi­nese lead­ers were promis­ing less than the sys­tem de­liv­ered… Broadly speak­ing, this is a sys­tem that per­forms very well in the ma­trix,” said Lamp­ton, a for­mer pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Com­mit­tee on US-China Re­la­tions based in New York.

With its so­ci­ety be­com­ing in­creas­ingly plu­ral­is­tic, Lamp­ton be­lieves China now needs a whole new set of ma­trix to deal with the sit­u­a­tion.

“And we’ll see. I have an open mind,” he said.

While China’s fu­ture still looks un­cer­tain to Lamp­ton, he found him­self be­ing a lit­tle up­beat about China through­out the years. He said it was prob­a­bly be­cause of some books he read about “cul­ture revo­lu­tion” (1966-1976) and the late 1950s.

When Lamp­ton trav­eled to China for the first time in 1976, the coun­try was be­hind In­dia in many im­por­tant so­cial in­di­ca­tors and it was even be­hind Cam­bo­dia in cer­tain im­por­tant in­di­ca­tors.

“Look­ing at what China is now, it’s a dif­fer­ent place… and this is ba­si­cally a very pos­i­tive story,” he said.

His lat­est book, based on 558 in­ter­views of Chi­nese lead­ers at var­i­ous lev­els over the past 40 years, was in­tended to ex­plain the mag­ni­tude, the sig­nif­i­cance and un­der­stand­ing of Chi­nese lead­ers about their jour­ney in the last 40 years. “And it’s re­ally been quite a jour­ney,” he said.

Lamp­ton dis­missed it as “sort of cliché” that China has had eco­nomic re­forms but no po­lit­i­cal re­forms.

“I think that’s kind of not ac­cu­rate and not ac­tu­ally a very help­ful way to un­der­stand it,” he said.

There is no doubt in Lamp­ton’s mind that Chi­nese lead­ers ini­ti­ated re­forms that changed Chi­nese so­ci­ety. How­ever, he pointed out that po­lit­i­cal in­sti­tu­tions in the coun­try still haven’t fully ad­justed to the enor­mous changes in a so­ci­ety that is “plu­ral­iz­ing, ur­ban­iz­ing and mid­dle clas­siz­ing.”

He be­lieves people must have a stag­ger­ing de­gree of self-con­fi­dence to even con­tem­plate be­ing lead­ers in China to han­dle the prob­lems they will face.

He de­scribed China as be­ing on a “very tough piece of real es­tate” with floods and earthquakes. “If you are Chi­nese lead­ers for 10 years, sta­tis­ti­cally you are go­ing to have a ma­jor earthquake worse than the San Fran­cisco earthquake.” The 1906 quake and fire killed 3,000 people and de­stroyed 80 per­cent of the city.

An­other headache Chi­nese lead­ers face is the huge bu­reau­cracy, which Lamp­ton de­scribed as six lay­ers deep and big­ger than any other coun­try’s pop­u­la­tion.

Lamp­ton said that such enor­mous chal­lenges faced by Chi­nese lead­ers also ex­plain why he un­der­stood and was even em­pa­thetic about some of the ma­jor de­ci­sions made by Chi­nese lead­ers over the years, in­clud­ing some in the hu­man rights and democ­racy fields. He also pro­claimed that he did not feel sym­pa­thetic to those de­ci­sions.

First be­com­ing in­ter­ested in China un­der the in­flu­ence of his high school teacher in Cal­i­for­nia, Lamp­ton be­lieves both coun­tries need to work on the re­la­tion­ship. “This can’t be one hand clap­ping,” he said.“I am not say­ing that China has to do noth­ing, but we have to worry more about what we are do­ing.”

To Lamp­ton, in­ter­de­pen­dence is what holds the two na­tions to­gether be­cause no sig­nif­i­cant world prob­lems can be ad­dressed with­out China and the US work­ing to­gether, from cli­mate change and global health to sta­bil­ity in the global eco­nomic sys­tem.

Lamp­ton be­lieves global warm­ing and en­su­ing floods on ev­ery con­ti­nent will be a far greater global threat than the Cold War. The same ap­plies to global eco­nomic in­sta­bil­ity, he said.

“We re­ally need to em­pha­size that in­ter­de­pen­dence,” he said, adding that pri­or­i­tiz­ing con­flict in the re­la­tion­ship will take away that bind­ing agent.

He said he was puz­zled that the US would co­op­er­ate with the Soviet Union even when the Sovi­ets had 22,000 war­heads aimed at the US, but now China is not even al­lowed by the US to take part in the in­ter­na­tional space sta­tion.

Such a de­ci­sion is un­wise to Lamp­ton. “You get to se­cu­rity people in this town and that’s just so far off the charts,” he lamented.

He said the same is true about US ex­port con­trols on China which he de­scribed as look­ing like an at­tempt to keep China down. “And it could ease up,” he said.

Chi­nese lead­ers have long called on the US govern­ment to lift its ban on high­tech ex­ports to China, which would also help ease US trade deficits.

Hav­ing trav­eled with US law­mak­ers to China, Lamp­ton said that more Chi­nese for­eign di­rect in­vest­ment in the US will help change views of those in Congress once their con­stituents work for Chi­nese firms that have in­vested in this coun­try.

“So I would do ev­ery­thing I could to raise in­ter­de­pen­dence,” he said.

“We have po­ten­tially a much bet­ter and durable strate­gic base for this re­la­tion­ship. I just don’t un­der­stand why politi­cians don’t see this,” he said.

De­spite dif­fer­ent lev­els of eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, the two coun­tries face sim­i­lar prob­lems in im­prov­ing ed­u­ca­tion, in­fra­struc­ture and sci­en­tific re­search, Lamp­ton said.

“We need to rebuild our so­ci­ety and, in fact, we need to gov­ern our­selves bet­ter here, so we can’t re­ally af­ford be­ing each other’s en­emy,” he said. “Amer­i­can people are fully ca­pa­ble of sup­port­ing such sen­si­ble poli­cies if some­one ar­tic­u­lates them well.”


Ge­orge and Sadie Hy­man pro­fes­sor and di­rec­tor of China Stud­ies at Johns Hop­kins Paul H. Nitze School of Ad­vanced In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies (SAIS)

Age: 68

• Univer­sity of Michi­gan, post-doc­toral fel­low, Cen­ter for Chi­nese Stud­ies (1973-1974) Stan­ford Univer­sity, PhD (1974) Stan­ford Univer­sity, MA (1969-1971) Stan­ford Univer­sity, BA (1965-1968) Wil­lamette Univer­sity, Ore­gon (1964-1965) Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity-SAIS, Ge­orge and Sadie Hy­man pro­fes­sor of China stud­ies and di­rec­tor, China stud­ies pro­gram, Wash­ing­ton (1997-present) Dean of fac­ulty, Johns Hop­kins Univer­si­tySAIS, Wash­ing­ton (2004-2012) Con­sul­tant and se­nior in­ter­na­tional ad­viser on China, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP (2009-2010) Se­nior in­ter­na­tional ad­viser on China, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, LLP (2006-2009) Found­ing di­rec­tor, Chi­nese stud­ies pro­gram, The Nixon Cen­ter, Wash­ing­ton (1998-2006) Pres­i­dent, Na­tional Com­mit­tee on US-China Re­la­tions (1988-1997)


David Lamp­ton be­lieves in­ter­de­pen­dence is what holds China and the US to­gether.

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