"Oceanic issues" is a topic that has recently been added to the syllabus of the highest school of Communist Party of China (CPC), an institution that prepares the country's leaders for future global challenges.
Changes to the syllabus started to happen quite a few years ago, as the scope of courses gradually expanded from traditional Marxist politics, history and philosophy to encompass a much wider and more open variety of topics at the Party School of the CPC Central Committee.
"Remaining open-minded and forward-thinking is actually a long tradition here in designing courses," said Feng Qiuting, director of the school's research unit.
Feng noted that the school has been continuously adjusting its syllabus, as well as its teaching methods, in order to cultivate a group of leaders and theoreticians able to cope with the trends of multi-polarization and globalization.
Courses currently range from "contemporary global financial structure" to "the Book of Changes" -- a traditional Chinese classic, and there are also discussions on recent news events, including the territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
LEARNING AS TRADITION
Prof. Wang Dongjing, a member of the school's managing committee, believes that building a Party committed to learning requires not only offering leaders systematic training on political theories, but also equipping them with strategic thinking and global vision.
Strengthening Party-building and the Party's governance capability has become an urgent task for the CPC, as the country's reform and development has come to a stage of unprecedented opportunities and challenges, as well as one featuring more complicated issues, Wang said.
At the upcoming 18th National Congress of the CPC, a new Central Committee, as well as its Political Bureau, will be elected.
Commentators have noted that a capable leadership is the deciding factor in whether China will succeed in achieving its development goals, and the CPC's tradition of valuing learning may contribute to the country's continued leapfrog development.
On July 23, President Hu Jintao told a seminar about the necessity of Party-building amid unprecedented external risks and internal changes.
Vice President Xi Jinping, the current head of the school, noted on September 1 that mass learning at the school is truly necessary and beneficial, as it promotes the exchange of both knowledge and experience.
MORE OPEN TRAINING
The changes in the training at the school are also seen as symbolizing a shift in the CPC's ruling pattern and marking a leap forward in the competence of the Party's elites.
Long Guoqiang, a senior research fellow with the Development Research Center of the State Council who was trained at the school in 2011, said that the cutting edge seminars "greatly improved" his awareness of crisis and hardship.
"The training broadened my mind and enabled me to think outside the frame of our county," an anonymous county Party chief wrote in a piece of course feedback.
Another school tradition requires each participant to contribute to the courses with a theoretical question and practical problems, as the students have a say in how the courses are formatted, said Wang.
He revealed that the school is also exploring new teaching methods, including inviting external lecturers and pushing students to engage in research outside the school.
In 2011, over 500 foreign leaders, scholars and executives of multinational corporations came to the school to give speeches or attend seminars, said Wang, adding that some students have also been sent to court hearings for those facing corruption charges.
No matter what, Party spirits will always, undoubtedly, be the core content of the training, said Feng.
The school's history dates back to the School of Marxism and Communism, which was set up in March 1933 in east China's Jiangxi Province.
In 1978, an article titled "Practice is the Sole Criterion for Judging Truth" was first published in the school's magazine. The article is believed to have laid the foundation for the Third Plenary Session of the 11th CPC Central Committee, which marked the beginning of China's 30-year reform and opening-up drive.
The CPC has boosted training of Party cadres and members since the concept of a "pro-learning Party" was conceived at the Party's 16th National Congress in 2002.
In 2006, the CPC Central Committee decided to push forward mass systematic training for senior and mid-level officials. Since then, the school has trained some 3,000 officials annually, including a large portion of cadres serving in minister-level capacities.
According to the school, young officials are taking up a growing share of enrolled students, and these young officials are expected to play crucial roles in China's future strategic deployments.