A Dual Challenge For Gao Jian: President Of Mandarin II And Tenure At University Of Bologna

In 2008, when ex-Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party Jiang Zemin wrote an article for the University he frequented in his youth, the Chinese media notice the unusual event, exceptional in its uniqueness, with great enthusiasm. A piece about energy policy written by an engineer who has held the most important offices in the country may seem to be a natural occurrence. In the West it is standard practice to remain fresh in the memory of one’s Alma Mater: it increases the prestige of the University and gives ex-leaders a neutral stage from which to promote their ideas. In China, Jiang’s initiative caused an uproar because of its eccentricity. There, the political elite quickly exits the scene after completing their mandate. The Secretary of the Party (who in China is also President of the Republic), his closest collaborators, the members of the Central Committee, Ministers, and managers of the same rank practically disappear from public life. There is no written law, but an unwritten agreement, a custom, a silent pact by which everyone abides. The ex-leaders don’t do interviews, or hold conferences, or hold memoirs. They must not interfere with the work of the new leadership, respecting the carefully coordinated continuity that must be free from bumps and contradictions. The must abstain from overshadowing their successors with their presence. They also must be kept quiet to prevent the release information critical to the security of the country. Those who have directed the various public spheres – politics, the military, and finance – are obligated to respect these rigid rules, probably enforced with excessive severity, but nevertheless unchallenged. The fear of transmission of sensitive information is amplified by China’s tradition of secrecy and “syndrome of encirclement,” where they feel surrounded by hostile states. Ex-leaders often assume honorary positions where they can avoid taking positions on sensitive issues. They rarely travel abroad, having turned in their diplomatic passport, and in those rare occasions when do wish to travel, they are issued normal travel papers. For many years after stepping down they will avoid contact with foreigners, even in China. They are shepherded towards an honorable retirement, a dignified epilogue to their brilliant careers. For these reasons, Gao Jian’s decision to accept a teaching position at the University of Bologna may appear striking on many different levels. He will be able to teach the finance of the globalized economy, taking advantage of his experience on the Chinese side. He has been General Director of the Ministry of Finance, and also Vice Governor of the China Development Bank, the state-run banking colossus that is tasked with facilitating development, both internal and international, of key fields like communications, infrastructure, and energy. The CDB is China’s primary weapon for taking action according to the macroeconomic decisions made by the country’s executive. Gao Jian’s appointment is therefore both prestigious and unusual for Bologna and for Italy, and Gao will bring with him his youthful memories of a course taken at the Bocconi University in 1983 and also an important executive function as President of the Advisory Board of private equity fund Mandarin II.