Walking down a side street in Shanghai's French Concession, a partially preserved corner of that city's gloried and turbulent past, visitors come upon an ivy-covered house that served as the headquarters for the Shanghai branch of the Communist Party in the 1940s. Here the spartan quarters of Mao's second in command, Zhou Enlai, are carefully preserved, the narrow beds and wooden desks evoking a simpler, revolutionary China.
A short ride away, across the murky waters of the Huangpu River, monuments to the new China are being erected in what was farmland less than two decades ago. The Pudong New Area, with its clusters of highrise office towers and multi-story shopping malls, is emblematic of the rush to wealth and economic power that now drives China.
These were among the images from a visit to China by a delegation of scholars from the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center from April 8-14, 2007. Though time was short, the group managed to visit Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Beijing.
Fulfilling Shorenstein APARC's mission to carry its work "into Asia," the delegation met senior officials from government and business and held wide-ranging exchanges with Chinese scholars and policymakers at leading universities and research institutions. The conversation ranged from China's development strategy to the current state of relations between China and its longtime rival and neighbor, Japan.
The delegation was led by Shorenstein APARC director and professor of sociology Gi-Wook Shin and by professor of political science Jean C. Oi, who has launched the center's new China studies program. The group included Shorenstein distinguished fellow Ambassador Michael H. Armacost, associate director for research Daniel C. Sneider, and senior program and outreach coordinator Neeley Main. In Beijing, Freeman Spogli Institute director Coit Blacker joined the delegation, as did Shorenstein APARC's Scott Rozelle.
The trip started in Shanghai, a dynamic center of finance and industry that has drawn in many Stanford graduates. State-owned enterprises such as Baosteel, one of the world's largest steel producers, are in the midst of becoming players in the global marketplace. From Baosteel's sprawling complex of docks, blast furnaces, and rolling mills along an estuary of the Yangtze River, products are now being dispatched around the world. In a meeting, the leadership of the Baosteel Group expressed an eagerness to tap into the educational and training opportunities offered at Stanford University.
Shanghai is not only the business capital but also a political center, rivaling Beijing. The Shanghai Institute for International Studies is an unofficial foreign relations arm of the Shanghai government. Shanghai Institute scholars are also players in national policy debate on many key issues facing China, such as relations with Taiwan, with Japan, and even with the Korean peninsula.
The scholars presented their views on a wide range of issues, from the preparations for the 17th Congress of the Communist Party this coming fall to emerging structures of regional integration in East Asia. Professor Xu Mingqi, who is also a senior leader of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, explained that China's development strategy is shifting toward a more balanced approach. Whereas local government officials previously were pressed to meet targets for GDP growth, foreign investment, and export volume, now they must also raise employment levels, close the growing income gap, and provide social security.
Hangzhou, considered one of the most beautiful cities in China, is a two-hour drive south of Shanghai. The modern roadway passed a tableau of the suburbanization of this part of China's countryside, with multi-story brick homes mushrooming amidst the fields. The delegation arrived at Zhejiang University, considered among the best of China's provincial higher educational institutions and growing rapidly in size and scope.
The Shorenstein APARC delegation met with faculty members from Zhejiang's social science departments, who briefed the delegation on their research work in areas such as distance education, international relations, Chinese history, even a school of Korean studies. Zhejiang is also the site of a new research institution, the Zhejiang Institute for Innovation (ZII), founded by Stanford engineering graduate Min Zhu, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who is determined to bring the lessons of Stanford and the valley to his home province and his undergraduate alma mater. ZII aims to foster applied research that can tie the university to the vibrant entrepreneurial culture of Zhejiang province. Shorenstein APARC researchers may soon be carrying out fieldwork in this laboratory of change, based at ZII.
Beijing, however, is still the place that matters most in China, not only in the realm of government but also when it comes to academic scholarship. The delegation met with two of Shorenstein APARC's longtime corporate affiliates in China: PetroChina, the state-owned oil and gas giant, and the People's Bank of China. Shorenstein APARC dined with a lively group of Chinese journalists, organized by former Stanford Knight fellow Hu Shuli, the editor of Caijing Magazine, considered China's leading independent business publication.
The substantive task was to forge new ties with key research institutions. The current state of China's development strategy was again on the agenda when the delegation met with senior officials from the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), formerly China's State Planning Commission. Alongside the NDRC, the delegation met as well with the leadership of an offshoot of China's State Council, the China Development Research Foundation, which is doing important work in promoting good governance in areas such as poverty alleviation, nutrition, and budgeting. Those conversations were echoed later in our meetings with scholars from Peking University's School of Government.
Shorenstein APARC's own China program, as Oi explained, is focused on understanding the tensions that arise as China grapples with the consequences of its rapid economic development. Out of the meetings in Beijing, an ongoing dialogue has begun, to be advanced this summer with a visit from a NDRC delegation and in the fall with an international conference at Stanford on China's Growing Pains.
The delegation also engaged in frank and useful exchanges on a variety of international relations issues. We had an extended meeting with scholars and leaders of the China Reform Forum (CRF), a think-tank associated with the Communist Party's Central Party School, the premier institution for training party leaders and officials. The CRF is credited with authoring important concepts such as the foreign policy doctrine of China's "Peaceful Rise." These discussions were followed by a visit and exchange with scholars from Peking University's widely respected School of International Studies.
The scholars shared analysis of the current state of the North Korean nuclear negotiations, as well as evaluating the outcome of Chinese Premier Wen Jibao's visit that week to Japan. Over dinner with CRF Vice Chairman Ding Kuisong, the conversation turned to the American presidential politics and the future direction of U.S. foreign policy.
Professors Blacker, Shin, and Oi also met with senior officials of Peking University, as part of an ongoing dialogue about cooperation between these two premier institutions of higher education.