Global Public Policy and Service

A lively debate grew up around an UN University-sponsored event yesterday moderated by Dean Dr. Jean-Marc Coicaud and featuring Professor Lan Xue, Dean School of Public Policy and Management at Tsinghua University. The “Open to Global: Preparing a New Policymaking Generation for China” event was also streamed to students at Tsinghua and Peking Universities. Dr. Xue Lan, who received his Ph.D. in Engineering and Public Policy from Carnegie Mellon and taught at George Washington University before returning to China in 1996, covered five major points: China in Transition; Challenges of change in the Public Policy process; Responses to these changes; the program at Tsinghua University; and moving from Open to Global. China’s economic status has evolved from that of central planning to that of market driven and is now a global manufacturing hub. This has resulted in one of the world’s major migration as its rural youth has sought out opportunity in its cities in the past two decades has resulted in China moving away from a rural and closed society to urban and open society. This transition period has seen China dealing with increasing internal demands for transparency and accountability at home as well as external pressure to meet global issues such as climate change, resolving conflicts, effective financial markets and reaching trade agreements. In response, China has improved its policy deliberation processes and put in place mechanisms to create learning systems within government as well as external independent think tanks. Interestingly, some of the issues raised in the Q&A were not unique to China such as: how do schools build in public service and produce public servants who are not self-serving but responsive to the majority of the people? How do schools internationalize curricula that, in the West moves it away from the position of power, and in the East produces future leaders who will question underlying assumptions and challenge the status quo? How do schools foster superb critical thinking skills in order to offset studying for extremely competitive entrance exams in China and standardized tests in America as well as Europe? How will China deal with Western influences of individualism and market forces and greed that has penetrated its ideological vacuum? What this writer found interesting is that the Q&A touched on a discussion of the influence of Confucius and China’s relationship with nature. It must be noted that China has a long tradition of grooming public servants and these literati were devoted to lifelong learning and nurturing their intuitions through the “Three Perfections” of painting, calligraphy and poetry. For the Chinese, art was never separate from daily life and the individual saw to the continuous process of self-cultivation so that one not only participated in one’s own self-transformation but that of the community and the world as well. If China taps into even a small portion of its own cultural DNA it could have great ramifications at home and abroad.

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