China expert examines Communist Party changes

A leading American expert on China discussed the recently elected officials of the Communist Party in the Chinese government April 29 in the Austin Reading Room.

The lecture, “China’s Leadership Transition: Implications for Sino-U.S. relations,” was presented by Amy Celico, a principal at Albright Stonebridge Group.

Celico led a student debate earlier the same day on the resolution that the United States’ greatest national security threat is China.

Celico kicked off the lecture by discussing the issues that the Chinese government is facing. She said China faces an incomplete social safety net, and there is a growing disparity among social classes.

She said that the Chinese government wants to promote its economic development.

“They want global brands,” Celico said. “They aspire to be corporate leaders. They want their own Starbucks and Dell.”

She discussed China’s desperate need for natural resources, particularly energy resources. China is coping with significant environmental issues. Celico said she has been going to China for 20 years, but during a recent visit to Beijing, “It was the worst pollution I’ve ever seen. The pollution was so thick you couldn’t see across the street.”

Celico said that China wishes to “become a full member of the national arena.”

China has the second most powerful economy in the world. Yet, it struggles to determine how to involve itself in global economic activity, while also preserving the power of the Communist Party in its own country.

Next, Celico discussed the recent change that has taken place in China’s governmental leadership. She briefly explained that the Chinese government is dominated by the Communist Party. There are usually nine main positions that rule the party.

However, in November 2012, only seven men came to power.

“No one in China knew who these men were until it was announced on T.V.,” Celico said.

She found the leadership change interesting for two reasons.

First, there was a corruption scandal that took place in February 2012. Wang Lijun, the vice-mayor of the major city called Chongqing, was demoted after leaking information to the United States about the murder cover-up of a British businessman. The scandal had significant repercussions on top officials within the Communist Party.

Second, each newly elected official in the Communist Party came from a different background.

“They had new ideas and came from all over China,” Celico said. “They have different perspectives of what China needs to do in the future.”

China has a unique political situation because of the scandal and the widely diverse leaders, Celico said.

China must address the issues it is facing, but the way in which it will address those issues depends on the new situation in the Communist Party.

Celico said that she believes China will pursue goals to be involved internationally. And it will attempt to find solutions for its challenges. All under the leadership of these seven new men.

“I think these seven guys are different than their predecessors,” Celico said.

Carrie Skuzeski

Culture editor

Carrrie Skuzeski can be reached at