On December 7, 2012, GMF’s Berlin office organized a discussion entitled “China's Leadership Transition: The challenges ahead" at Restaurant Tim Raue. The main speaker was Dr. Minxin Pei, director of the Keck Center for International and Strategic Studies at Claremont McKenna College and non-resident senior fellow at GMF. Sarah Raine, GMF transatlantic fellow and IISS consulting research fellow for Chinese Foreign and Security Policy, moderated the event. The audience consisted of think tankers, academics, and senior staffers from the Bundestag and different federal ministries.
During his introduction, Dr. Pei gave his assessment of the new leadership in China under President Xi Jinping and discussed the policy challenges ahead. He argued that the new leadership is trying to rebrand itself as pragmatic populists while at the same time facing economic, social, and foreign policy challenges. These include the restructuring of the economy to dodge a potential economic crisis, China’s relationship with its neighbors and the world, as well as a return of a democratic discourse. Dr. Pei concluded by giving a pessimistic outlook of the Chinese economy and also emphasized that President Xi’s administration is facing a variety of litmus tests that will determine both the country’s future and the shape of the new leadership.
The following Q & A picked up many of Dr. Pei’s talking points. One of the topics discussed was China’s foreign policy and how it is perceived by other countries, especially with regard to the situation in the South and the East China Sea. Other questions touched upon the comeback of the democracy discourse in China, the perception of China in the U.S., as well as the role of social media in China.