Professor of International Affairs, Harvard University | United States
They may seem like strange bedfellows: Harvard University, the widely recognized global center of intellectual rigor and a pinnacle of academic freedom, and China’s Communist Party, the profoundly opaque institution that governs the world’s most populous country with tight restrictions on many freedoms.
But party officials see Harvard as a prestigious and safe place to study, while Harvard benefits from the access a close relationship with China’s elite brings. At the forefront of this mutually beneficial relationship stands Professor Anthony Saich, director of the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
Through programs in China, the center helps prepare the country's leaders to manage public policy, address national crises, and implement reform. It also hosts several initiatives that bring Chinese officials to Harvard, including the New World Fellows Program, which provides short-term executive training and longer independent research fellowships for rising Chinese leaders. Founded in 1998, the program now boasts over 150 alumni, including Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao and Hubei Provincial Party Secretary Li Hongzhong. That doesn’t mean it’s changed over 150 hearts and minds. In November 2012, Saich told Bloomberg, “One of the things [these Chinese officials] often say to me is, ‘Well, we don’t agree with you any more than we did before, but at least we have a sense of why you think the way you do.’”