Overseas civil servants receive training in political, social systems at Academy of Governance
James Kur Muorwel said confidence in the future is the most important thing he will take back to his home country following his participation in a training program about China’s system of governance.
Muorwel, the director of Asian and Australian Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in South Sudan, was one of 192 civil servants from 35 countries who visited Beijing this month to study the latest developments in China’s political and social systems at the Chinese Academy of Governance.
Previously stationed in Sweden and Norway, Muorwel had never visited China before.
“It’s the first time I have been to China. The country’s development is truly unbelievable. More important, China has not hesitated to share its experiences with the rest of the world,” he said while displaying a painting of a panda he had just completed with a brush and ink.
Yang Keqin, deputy director of the government-funded academy, said since the training programs began in 2000, more than 8,500 administrators and diplomats from 159 countries have participated in the courses, which are designed to help people understand the “real China”.
Established in 1994, the academy is important in training senior and middle-level civil servants, along with high-level administrators and policy researchers. It also is a center for research, particularly studies related to theories of public administration and innovation in government administration.
In recent years, training programs for foreign administrators have become increasingly popular, especially among those from developing countries. Every year, the academy organizes about 50 classes for 3,000 foreign civil servants to meet the rising demand for information about the latest developments in China and the secrets of the country’s success, according to Liu Hongyi, director of the academy’s training center.
“Many trainees are asked to brief their own country’s leaders about the things they learned at the academy,” he said.
Each training program lasts between two and three weeks, and includes lectures, seminars in Beijing and field trips to other cities so the trainees can see different parts of the country.
Before the students arrive in China, the academy designs courses to meet each country’s specific requirements. For example, the latest Cuban course mainly focuses on structural reform of government because that is the topic most in demand among the country’s trainees, Liu Gang, deputy director of the academy’s training center, said.
Since last year, additional lectures have been provided upon request throughout the program. “Some trainees want to learn more about China’s poverty-alleviation efforts, so we have added a lecture about that,” Liu Gang said.
Jacobo Dominguez Gudini, a consultant for the Organization of American States in Mexico, was keen to learn more about China’s measures and systems to eradicate corruption. “It will be helpful for Latin American countries, where the battle against corruption is tough,” he said.
Liu Gang said that in the past civil servants from China were sent to developed countries to learn about their experiences, and it was rare for administrators from developed countries to travel to China to participate in courses.
The situation started to change in October 2011, when a group of civil servants from France, including high-level policymakers and provincial heads, took part in the academy’s program.
The move came at a time when many developed countries were experiencing slower growth, but China’s economy was booming. The officials were interested to know how that was being achieved, according to Liu Gang.
“For them, China’s own development path suddenly deserved attention, and was as valuable as the experiences of developed countries,” he said.
Since 2012, the academy’s courses have attracted civil servants from the European Union, Italy, Australia and New Zealand.
In December 2010, Shao Wenhai, former head of the academy’s training center accompanied President Xi Jinping, who was vice-president at the time, when he sat in on a class designed to help civil servants from developing countries to better react to natural disasters.
Xi told the trainees that he had met with the leaders of a number of developing countries, and they had expressed the hope that more of their civil servants could be trained in China. As a result, Xi encouraged the academy to organize more training programs for civil servants from both developing and developed countries so they could get a better understanding of China.
Shao said most of the trainees make their first trips to China to attend the academy’s programs. Chinese culture is one of the most popular courses, and deeper knowledge of the subject can help the students to gain a better understanding of Chinese people’s attitudes and core values.
“The majority want to learn about three key things: the country’s cultural diversity; China’s development; and the benefits of cooperating with China. Now, the academy is much more confident about organizing training programs for foreign civil servants than when it first started because we are more confident about the path of development, which has helped China to become stronger,” he added.
Texious Masoamphambe, chief resident magistrate of the judiciary in Malawi, said, “China’s achievements have made African countries see new possibilities in our own development, and that’s why we are eager to learn more about China.”
Shao said that in addition to helping foreign civil servants become more familiar with China’s political and social systems, the program aims to clear up misunderstandings, such as whether China is a developing country and if it will seek hegemony once it becomes stronger. Many of these misunderstandings are the result of a lack of understanding of China and misleading media reports.
On Nov 15, before he taught a class of civil servants from Africa, including Muorwel, how to paint pandas with traditional brushes and ink, Shao asked them if China is still a developing country. Many shook their heads.
In response, Shao explained about China’s unbalanced development and that many people still live in poverty. “Setting foot in China can quickly clear up many misunderstandings,” he said.
Andrej Bratkovic, who works in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Slovenia, said China’s openness makes policy easy to formulate and he will pass on everything he has learned to his colleagues at home.
“I am sure that our different political systems won’t be an obstacle to China and Slovenia tightening trade ties. China is so different to how I imagined. In the future, it will not be an unfamiliar place when I deal with related issues,” he said.
In addition to understanding basics issues, such as China’s political and social systems, the latest groups of trainees have learned about hot topics, including the Belt and Road Initiative and the new strategies outlined in the report Xi delivered at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in his capacity as general secretary of the CPC Central Committee.
“Learning from China’s experiences will help us to push forward our own economic and social reform,” said Zamira Marin Triana, Cuba’s vice-minister of labor and social security, after taking part in a seminar about the report.
She was impressed mostly by the report’s insistence that a government’s focus should always be the fulfillment of the ever-growing needs of its people, which is also the goal of the Cuban government.
Luis Carlos Arce Cordova, supreme prosecutor with the National Electoral Tribunal of Peru, said China has provided the world with a different vision of development.
“High-quality reforms have helped China to achieve a high speed of development,” he said, adding that a country’s development policies need to be constantly adjusted to suit new situations and challenges that emerge, but the goal should always be to improve people’s livelihoods, just as Xi said in the report.
He said Peru, which is also a developing country, can learn from China’s development model: “We should not only introduce short-term stimulus policies but also implement supply-side reform to achieve long-term growth.”
According to Dennis Alvarenga Sandoval, a professor at the National Autonomous University in Honduras, China has laid out a very impressive long-term development plan through to 2050.
“China now aims for sustainable and high-quality development so its people can live quality lives. Its development has attracted the world’s attention and China has become a role model,” he added.
Muorwel believes China’s success will be an inspiration to many countries in Africa, including South Sudan.
“China has achieved so much in such a short time. If China can do it, we should be able to do it, too,” he said.
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