BEIJING--It's no coincidence that a legion of U.S.-educated economic and other experts is leading China's rise in international finance.
With doctorates from U.S. universities, they are collectively known as the Liumei school, or people who studied in the United States. The front-runner among these "financial diplomats" is Zhu Min, the first Chinese deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund.
"(Chinese) people in their 20s and 30s who can succeed Zhu and others are scattered all over the world," said a senior official at a state-owned financial institution.
"The government is monitoring personnel who will be strategically important on the international scene," the official said. "On their part, those individuals are hungrily looking for opportunities in which they can capitalize on their abilities."
At a news conference in Tokyo on Oct. 3, Zhu, 59, suggested that it was natural for a Chinese to be given a ranking post at the IMF, which is based in Washington, D.C.
He said there was a need to reflect structural changes in the global economy and further expand the voices of emerging economies.
However, Zhu was quick to add that he was not representing China's interests at the IMF.
Zhu said he was proud to be an international citizen. He added that his responsibility was to support the managing director and stabilize the international economy.
China, which coveted the post of deputy managing director to increase its voice in the IMF, made careful preparations.
The country appointed Zhu, vice president at the state-owned Bank of China, as deputy governor of the People's Bank of China, its central bank, in autumn 2009.
Zhu was sent to the IMF as special adviser to the managing director in May 2010 and appointed as deputy managing director in July 2011.
Zhu went to the United States in 1985 and obtained a master's degree from Princeton University and a doctorate in economics from Johns Hopkins University.
He also worked at the World Bank before returning to China.
At the Bank of China, Zhu was promoted to vice president after helping the bank's initial public offering on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange by appealing to overseas investors.
Zhu is a favorite among non-Chinese officials and economists as he can explain about the Chinese economy in English and have discussions with a sense of humor.
"Zhu has a clear head. He can also have in-depth arguments," a senior official at Japan's Finance Ministry said. "We can easily understand why China sent him to the long-sought post."
Among other U.S.-educated professionals are Yi Gang, 53, deputy governor of the People's Bank of China, Justin Lin Yifu, 59, chief economist at the World Bank, and Gao Xiqing, 58, president of China Investment Corp., the country's sovereign wealth fund.
Yi obtained a doctorate from the University of Illinois and taught at Indiana University. He moved to the People's Bank of China 14 years ago.
Lin, originally from Taiwan, received a doctorate in economics from the University of Chicago. He is the first Asian to become chief economist at the World Bank.
Yi and Lin jointly set up the China Center for Economic Research at Peking University, Yi's alma meter.
Gao obtained a doctorate in law from Duke University and worked at a Wall Street law firm in the 1980s.
However, Zhu and his contemporaries are not necessarily from the privileged generation.
During the Cultural Revolution, Zhu carried bags weighing tens of kilograms at a sugar factory, and Yi was chief of production at a people's commune in a rural area.
They were among the few to go on to university after experiencing such hardships.
Zhu entered Shanghai's Fudan University in 1978 after entrance examinations, interrupted during the Cultural Revolution, were reinstated. Yi entered Peking University the same year.
Gao graduated from a university after he studied English while working at a factory during the Cultural Revolution.
Few Chinese just above Zhu's generation are versed in the international economy or fluent in English.
For example, Zhou Xiaochuan, 63, governor of the People's Bank of China, has spent most of his career within the country. In contrast, Yi, his deputy, has been a regular at international conferences.
Yi attended a seminar on the sidelines of the annual meetings of the IMF and the World Bank, held in Washington in late September.
He said it is Europe that can solve Europe's problem and that China's support will be limited.
Gao told a separate seminar in Washington that China Investment Corp. will not make investments in Europe unless warranted.
He said China supports Europe but that profits must be guaranteed as long as national wealth is invested.
Zhu and his contemporaries are followed by a new generation of experts who are expected to help raise China's international profile.
Among the up-and-coming figures are Zhang Tao, 48, the executive director for China at the IMF, and Zhang Hongli, 46, vice president of the state-owned Industrial and Commercial Bank of China.
Zhang Tao, who obtained a doctorate in the United States, joined the People's Bank of China in 2004 after working at the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank for nearly 10 years.
He headed the central bank's international department before he was recently appointed as the IMF executive director for China.
Zhang Hongli took up key posts at Deutsche Bank and other institutions after studying in the United States.
He is the youngest vice president at the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, whose market capitalization is one of the largest among the world's banks.
Currently, about 130,000 Chinese are studying in the United States, up sharply from 10,000 or so in the early 1980s, when Zhu and others went to the United States.
Fifty-two percent are postgraduate students, while about 52 percent of Japanese students studying in the United States are enrolled in undergraduate courses.
In 2010, nearly 300,000 Chinese went abroad to study, compared with less than 10,000 until around 1990.
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