Fifth Generation: Who is Zhang Dejiang?

This is the second in a series of posts examining the Chinese leaders expected to be named to the Politburo Standing Committee during the 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (中国共产党) that kicked off November 8.

Yesterday, I examined the background and career of Zhang Gaoli (张高丽), the Party secretary in the municipality of Tianjin.

But another Zhang is expected to be appointed to the Politburo Standing Committee — Zhang Dejiang (张德江), a North Korean expert who’s been part of the wider 25-member Politburo since 2002 and who has served as a vice premier for energy, telecommunications and transportation.

Like the other Zhang, this Zhang is also 66, and he’s also a protégé of former president and ‘paramount leader’ Jiang Zemin (江泽民).

Earlier this year, Zhang stepped into the spotlight to take over from the disgraced Bo Xilai, who was forced to step down as the Party secretary of Chongqing municipality in March 2012 amid various scandals about corruption and a high-profile trial of his wife, Gu Kailai, who was convicted in August for murdering a British expat in August.  Late last month, Bo was expelled from the National People’s Congress, and he’s expected to be tried for charges soon as well.  It marked a remarkable downfall for Bo and the most sensational Chinese political scandal in recent memory.

Bo had attained near rock-star status as Chongqing’s leader, and his leftist ‘Chongqing model’ that featured double-digit growth along with attention to social welfare programs in the face of China’s rising inequality, as well as populist attacks on organized crime and a retro embrace of the ‘red’ culture of old-school Maoism and the songs and slogans of the Cultural Revolution, caused great discomfort among the highest echelons of the Chinese government, who determined that his anti-corruption programs were less than honest governance than the corrupt shakedowns of a leader on the verge of building his own personality cult.

Like Zhang and Xi Jinping (习近平), who is expected to become China’s new ‘paramount leader,’ Bo was a ‘princeling’ — the son of an earlier senior Party dignitary, Bo Yibo — one of China’s most powerful leaders in the 1980s and the 1990s — which makes the younger Bo’s downfall all the more remarkable.

With Zhang firmly reasserting more orthodox control over Chongqing — he denied earlier this week that a ‘Chongqing model’ even exists– he appears to have passed a key hurdle in a career that’s seen as many highlights as disappointments.

Now, it appears that Zhang will take the seat on the Politburo Standing Committee that seemed at one time virtually assured for Bo.

As noted above, Zhang’s father Zhang Zhiyi served as a major general in the People’s Liberation Army.

Zhang studied Korean in his youth and studied economics in Pyongyang in North Korea before returning to China, and his Korean expertise brought him initially to prominence when he arranged Jiang’s trip to North Korea in 1990 and, under Jiang’s patronage, rose through the ranks in Jilin province, which borders North Korea and Russia in the far northeast of China.  Zhang was appointed Party secretary of Jilin province in 1995 and served until 1998, and he was credited with successfully addressing the issue of Korean immigration — about 4.25% of Jilin’s population is ethnically Korean. Continue reading Fifth Generation: Who is Zhang Dejiang?

Andrew Moravcsik, Brookings panel explore US-EU relations in Obama’s second term

I had the opportunity to catch Princeton University’s Andrew Moravcsik (pictured above, middle) at the Brookings Institution yesterday for a brief panel discussion on relations between the United States and the European Union following the reelection of U.S. president Barack Obama.  Moravcsik engaged with Atlantic columnist Clive Crook and other panelists on not only the direction of US-EU relations in Obama’s second term, but also whether US-EU relations are even incredibly relevant at all for an administration likely to have higher priorities. 

It takes a special kind of brass for an American to become one of the fundamental scholars of European integration, but Moravcsik is the father of the liberal intergovernmentalism theory of European integration, which purports that European institutions are essentially the creations of nation-states, and that supranational entities such as the European Union only have as much power as those states unanimously agree to provide them.  It stands in contrast to the competing neofunctionalism theory that purports that institutions like the European Union gather more power through the spillover effects of integration, allowing them to grow and gain additional power as integration deepens, notwithstanding the wishes of nation-states.  It’s a fascinating debate, and it’s especially fascinating to consider the consequences of both theories for the ongoing European response to the eurozone’s sovereign debt crisis.

Needless to say, few political scientists — European, American or otherwise — have had as much influence on European integration theory as Moravcsik.  As such, he’s long been one of my favorite scholars since I first studied European integration theory at the European University Institute, so it was somewhat of a pleasure to see him discuss US-EU relations in person — and not less than a 10-minute walk from home at that.

The discussion featured much of the standard debate between intergovernmentalism and functionalism, with Crook arguing in particular that the United Kingdom under prime minister David Cameron was perhaps irretrievably isolating itself from Europe and that it risked geopolitical irrelevance if it did so.  He worried that the European Union, more generally, has failed to adequately provide ‘variable geometry’ for European countries — a so-called ‘multi-speed Europe.’

Moravcsik, however, largely shrugged off those concerns and noted that a multi-speed Europe emerged two decades ago, with some countries participating more fully and others, like the United Kingdom, choosing to participate in some core functions but not others:

There’s a lot of people in Brussels who say a lot of things, but what happens is what member states say.

He pointed to the limited nature of participation in the eurozone — many members, including the United Kingdom, have not acceded to the single currency.  He also pointed to the voluntary nature of opting into any unified European foreign policy (e.g., the ‘coalition of the willing’ that included the United Kingdom, Italy and Poland, but few others, in support of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003), the flexibility of European competition policy, and the opt-out nature of the Schengen Agreement that establishes the free crossing of borders throughout Europe, to which even some non-EU countries are party.  He added that Turkey and, increasingly, Morocco are both, to some degree, integrated into the European Union, if not in quite a de jure capacity.

I found Moravcsik’s thoughts on US-EU relations more intriguing, however — especially his thoughts on the Obama administration’s much-trumpeted ‘pivot to Asia.’

Moravcsik argued that US-EU relations are far more sanguine than, perhaps, has been reported, and noted the role that German chancellor Angela Merkel and European Central Bank president Mario Draghi played in preventing — or at least delaying — the kind of eurozone crisis that could have endangered Obama’s election.  He added that U.S. and European interests are largely aligned and that when the Obama administration needs to call someone in the world with the will and means to support its goals, it’s still likely to call on Europe.  He noted that the United States and Europe agree more consistently today than they did during the Cold War on issues as wide-ranging as nuclear proliferation, Israeli-Palestinian peace, consequences of the ‘Arab Spring,’ and environmental and climate change policy.

As such, he dismissed the idea of a ‘pivot to Asia’ as nothing so much as overheated rhetoric, comparing it to the talk of the United States as a unilateral ‘hyperpower’ in 2003.  In both cases, he argued that Europeans have (wrongly) taken American rhetoric at far more than face value.  To the contrary, Moravcsik claimed that the ‘pivot to Asia’ talk was ‘drummed up’ as a strategic justification for the United States pulling out of Iraq and Afghanistan.

That was perhaps a bit starker than I’d imagined.  After all, Obama is headed, of all places, to southeast Asia for his first post-reeelction trip — to Myanmar/Burma, the first trip by a sitting U.S. president to that country in U.S. history.

Broadly speaking, Moravcsik argued that large strategic shifts, like any ‘pivot’ to Asia, are accomplished only gradually over long periods of time.  That strikes me as largely correct, but it nonetheless will be interesting to see what happens between now and 2017 on U.S. Asia/Pacific policy.

Notably, we have a handful of measuring sticks to guide us: Continue reading Andrew Moravcsik, Brookings panel explore US-EU relations in Obama’s second term