Alice L. Miller

Research Fellow

Alice Lyman Miller is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and lecturer in East Asian studies at Stanford.

Miller first joined the Hoover Institution in 1999 as a visiting fellow. She also served as a senior lecturer in the Department of National Security Affairs at the US Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, 1999-2014. Before coming to Stanford, Miller taught at the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins University in Washington, DC. From 1980 to 1990, she was a professorial lecturer in Chinese history and politics at SAIS. From 1990 to 2000, she was an associate professor of China studies and, for most of that period, director of the China Studies Program at SAIS. She also held a joint appointment as adjunct associate professor in the Department of Political Science at Johns Hopkins from 1996 to 1999 and as adjunct lecturer in the Department of Government, Georgetown University, from 1996 to 1998. From 1974 to 1990, Miller worked in the Central Intelligence Agency as a senior analyst in Chinese foreign policy and domestic politics and as a branch and division chief, supervising analysis on China, North Korea, Indochina, and Soviet policy in East Asia. Miller has lived and worked in Taiwan, Japan, and the People’s Republic of China; she speaks Mandarin Chinese.

Miller's research focuses on Chinese foreign policy and domestic politics and on the international relations of Asia. Since 2001, she has served as general editor and regular contributor to the Hoover Institution’s China Leadership Monitor, which offers authoritative assessments of trends in Chinese leadership politics and policy to US policymakers and the general public. She is also working on a new book, tentatively entitled The Evolution of Chinese Grand Strategy, 1550–Present, which brings a historical perspective to bear on China's rising power in the contemporary international order.

Miller has published extensively on policy issues dealing with China, including several in the Hoover Digest. Others include "The Foreign Policy Outlook of China's Third-Generation Elite,” with Liu Xiaohong, in The Making of Chinese Foreign and Security Policy in the Era of Reform (David M. Lampton, ed., University of California Press, 2001); "The Late Imperial State," in festschrift for Franz Michael, The Modern Chinese State (David Shambaugh, ed., Cambridge University Press, 2000); and "Is China Unstable?" in Is China Unstable? (David Shambaugh, ed., M.E. Sharpe, 2000). She is the author of Science and Dissent in Post-Mao China: The Politics of Knowledge (University of Washington Press, 1996) and, with SAIS professor Richard Wich, Becoming Asia: Change and Continuity in Asian International Relations since World War II (Stanford University Press, 2011).

Miller won the Distinguished Teaching Award at Johns Hopkins University in 1994–95 and the Schieffelin Award for Excellence in Teaching at the Naval Postgraduate School in 2012. Miller has been interviewed on Voice of America, National Public Radio, CNN, and in Business Week, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, as well as press from Japan, Taiwan, and the People's Republic of China.

Miller graduated from Princeton University in 1966, receiving a BA in Oriental studies. She earned an MA and a PhD in history from George Washington University in 1969 and 1974. Formerly H. Lyman Miller, she transitioned in 2006.

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Recent Commentary

Party Affairs

The Bo Xilai Affair in Central Leadership Politics

by Alice L. Millervia China Leadership Monitor
Monday, August 6, 2012

From a procedural perspective, the removal of Bo Xilai from Chongqing and from the party Politburo resembles the 2006 purge of Shanghai party boss Chen Liangyu and the 1995 takedown of Beijing City party chief Chen Xitong. Bo’s removal in that respect therefore does not indicate a departure from the “rules of the game” as played in the last two decades. From a political perspective, each of the three purges—of the two Chens and of Bo Xilai—removed an irritant to the top leadership at an important moment of transition. The Politburo leadership has, publicly at least, sustained its usual façade of unity throughout the Bo affair, and Bo’s removal likely strengthens rather than disrupts preparations for convocation of the 18th Party Congress this fall.

Party Affairs

Prospects for Solidarity in the Xi Jinping Leadership

by Alice L. Millervia China Leadership Monitor
Monday, April 30, 2012

It may be true, as is often observed, that if all the world’s economists were laid end to end, they would never reach a conclusion. It is all the more notable therefore that an increasing number of observers of China’s economy are skeptical that the high rate of growth sustained over the past three decades is likely to continue much longer. In the past, China’s leadership has weathered economic stress adroitly—most recently, in blunting the impact of the 2008 world economic crisis. However, the Xi Jinping leadership that is about to take the helm later this year is likely to be more diverse in its outlook, credentials, and experience. And so if projections of trouble in China’s economy ahead are accurate, then it is reasonable to inquire into the prospects of an oligarchic leadership around Xi maintaining collective solidarity and providing effective policy responses.

Special Topic: Preparing for the 18th Party Congress

The Road to the 18th Party Congress

by Alice L. Millervia China Leadership Monitor
Friday, January 6, 2012

The recent scheduling of the Chinese Communist Party’s 18th National Congress kicks off the long process of preparations for what will bring about a turnover in leadership generations next year. National party congresses are the most important public event in Chinese leadership politics, and their convocation involves long preparations that inevitably heat up the political atmosphere in Beijing more than a year ahead of time. This article lays out the formal processes involved in preparing for next year’s congress.

Party Affairs

The Politburo Standing Committee under Hu Jintao

by Alice L. Millervia China Leadership Monitor
Wednesday, September 21, 2011

During Hu Jintao’s tenure as general secretary, the Politburo Standing Committee of the Chinese Communist Party has operated under a structure intended to promote collective decision-making on the basis of informed deliberation and consensus and to reinforce stable oligarchic rule. This structure is a refinement of top decision-making arrangements first set down in the 1950s, then restored in the early 1980s by Deng Xiaoping, and revised by Hu’s predecessor Jiang Zemin. While Hu’s presumed successor Xi Jinping is not bound by any explicit provision in the party constitution to replicate the structure and associated policy-making processes of the Hu era, their intended purpose would seem to constrain his freedom to reshape them arbitrarily.

Party Affairs

Splits in the Politburo Leadership?

by Alice L. Millervia China Leadership Monitor
Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Several events in recent months—remarks by Premier Wen Jiabao on political reform, foreign travels of party security chief Zhou Yongkang, and the elevation of Xi Jinping to a key military policy-making post—have prompted conjectures about splits among China’s top leadership. This article assesses the evidence for these speculations.

Party Affairs

The 18th Central Committee Politburo: A Quixotic, Foolhardy, Rashly Speculative, but Nonetheless Ruthlessly Reasoned Projection

by Alice L. Millervia China Leadership Monitor
Monday, June 28, 2010

The 18th Party Congress, expected to convene in the fall of 2012, will see a turnover of leadership generations on a scale equaling that at the 16th Party Congress in 2002. Predicting changes in China’s top leadership has always been notoriously hazardous to the reputations of those who undertake it. Nevertheless, incremental institutionalization of leadership processes over the past two decades may offer a surer foundation for such predictions. This article projects what the 18th Central Committee leadership may look like based on the logic of institutionalization.

Party Affairs

Who Does Xi Jinping Know and How Does He Know Them?

by Alice L. Millervia China Leadership Monitor
Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The consolidation in power as China’s top leader of Jiang Zemin in the 1990s and of Hu Jintao since the mid-2000s brought with it the rise to national prominence of leaders linked to them at earlier points in their careers. The leaders associated with Jiang were known as the “Shanghai gang.” Those associated with Hu Jintao are today referred to as the “Youth League clique.” This article assays the group of leaders who have worked with Xi Jinping over his career of 25 years as a provincial leader. If Xi succeeds Hu Jintao as China’s top leader, some of these leaders may figure strongly in his efforts to consolidate power.

Party Affairs

The Preparation of Li Keqiang

by Alice L. Millervia China Leadership Monitor
Monday, February 15, 2010

The Fourth Plenum departed from precedent in failing to appoint Politburo Standing Committee member and PRC Vice President Xi Jinping to the Party’s military decision-making body, and so provoked speculation that Party General Secretary Hu Jintao is maneuvering to have his crony Li Keqiang succeed him rather than Xi. A close examination of the roles and activities of Li Keqiang in the Chinese leadership since his appointment to the Politburo Standing Committee at the 17th Party Congress in 2007, however, shows that he has been engaged almost exclusively in the work of the State Council, the PRC state’s executive arm, under the supervision of Premier Wen Jiabao, while Xi Jinping has assumed responsibility for running the Party apparatus under the direction of Hu Jintao. This rigorous division of labor has not changed in the months since the plenum. This evidence, together with other indications in PRC media of Xi’s status, suggests that Xi remains Hu’s heir apparent and that Li continues to prepare to succeed Wen Jiabao as premier.

Special Topic: The Fourth Plenum (Party Affairs)

The Case of Xi Jinping and the Mysterious Succession

by Alice L. Millervia China Leadership Monitor
Thursday, November 19, 2009

The conclusion of the Fourth Plenum of the 17th Central Committee in September without making widely anticipated leadership changes—especially with regard to Xi Jinping, the presumptive successor to top leader Hu Jintao—represented a significant departure from practices followed over the past 20 years in the highest echelon of PRC politics.  Beijing has offered little by way of public explanation for its deviation from precedent, and in the resulting information void, the range of rumors and competing interpretations put forward in the independent Hong Kong press and by foreign observers has been correspondingly wide-ranging.  Seen in the context of broader trends in leadership politics, and absent any indication that Xi has fallen out of favor, however, the plenum's abstention from making leadership changes may reflect broader reforms in leadership selection procedures being implemented in anticipation of the Party's 18th Congress in 2012.

Party Affairs

Leadership Sustains Public Unity amid Stress

by Alice L. Millervia China Leadership Monitor
Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Since the fall of 2008, Beijing has faced the PRC's most severe economic downturn in the recent past. In addition, the year 2009 brings several sensitive anniversaries, each of which might prompt political agitation and protest. Nevertheless, the regime leadership from all appearances has thus far weathered these stresses with a consistent public façade of unity and discipline. This performance contrasts starkly with the failure of the regime leadership to do so two decades ago.