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Chinese Politics in the Xi Jinping Era: Reassessing Collective Leadership

Cheng Li, director - John L. Thornton China Center, Brookings Institution
Monday, April 3, 2017 -
4:30pm to 6:00pm
A71 Louis A. Simpson International Building
Monday, April 3, 2017 -
4:30pm to 6:00pm

In the years since he became general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party in 2012, Xi Jinping has surprised many people in China and around the world with his bold anti-corruption campaign and his aggressive consolidation of power. Given these new developments, we must rethink how we analyze Chinese politics—an urgent task as China now has more influence on the global economy and regional security than at any other time in modern history.

Chinese Politics in the Xi Jinping Era examines how the structure and dynamics of party leadership have evolved since the late 1990s and argues that “inner-party democracy”—the concept of collective leadership that emphasizes deal making based on accepted rules and norms—may pave the way for greater transformation within China’s political system. Xi’s legacy will largely depend on whether he encourages or obstructs this trend of political institutionalization in the governance of the world’s most populous and increasingly pluralistic country.

Cheng Li also addresses the recruitment and composition of the political elite, a central concern in Chinese politics. China analysts will benefit from the meticulously detailed biographical information of the 376 members of the 18th Central Committee, including tables and charts detailing their family background, education, occupation, career patterns, and mentor-patron ties.

Cheng Li is director of the John L. Thornton China Center and a senior fellow in the Foreign Policy program at Brookings. He is also a director of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations. Li focuses on the transformation of political leaders, generational change and technological development in China.

Li grew up in Shanghai during the Cultural Revolution. In 1985 he came to the United States, where he received a master's in Asian studies from the University of California, Berkeley and a doctorate in political science from Princeton University. From 1993 to 1995, he worked in China as a fellow sponsored by the Institute of Current World Affairs in the U.S., observing grassroots changes in his native country. Based on this experience, he published a nationally acclaimed book, "Rediscovering China: Dynamics and Dilemmas of Reform" (1997).

Li is also the author or the editor of numerous books, including "China’s Leaders: The New Generation" (2001), "Bridging Minds Across the Pacific: The Sino-U.S. Educational Exchange 1978-2003" (2005), "China’s Changing Political Landscape: Prospects for Democracy" (2008), "China’s Emerging Middle Class: Beyond Economic Transformation" (2010), "The Road to Zhongnanhai: High-Level Leadership Groups on the Eve of the 18th Party Congress" (in Chinese, 2012), "The Political Mapping of China’s Tobacco Industry and Anti-Smoking Campaign" (2012), "China's Political Development: Chinese and American Perspectives" (2014), "Chinese Politics in the Xi Jinping Era: Reassessing Collective Leadership" (2016), and "The Power of Ideas: The Rising Influence of Thinkers and Think Tanks in China" (forthcoming). He is currently completing a book manuscript with the working title "Middle Class Shanghai: Pioneering China’s Global Integration." He is the principal editor of the Thornton Center Chinese Thinkers Series published by the Brookings Institution Press.

Sponsored by
Center on Contemporary China