BEIJING - The Party School of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, mysterious in the eyes of many for its role in training senior Party officials, is unexpectedly a place where active minds and ideas clash and sparkle.
Just ahead of the 89th anniversary of the founding of the CPC on Thursday, the Central Party School opened its doors on Wednesday to more than 60 reporters, including 42 from 24 overseas media organizations.
"It is not our first opening to foreign media, but it is the first time that we have received so many media friends at one time," said Zhang Zhongjun, professor and deputy chief of the school's general affairs office.
The Central Party School serves as the highest educational institution for the training of medium and high-ranking Party officials from across the country, including ministers, provincial Party chiefs and governors.
Many overseas reporters, including those from CNN, the Associated Press and Agence France Presse, said they previously knew little about the school, according to Xinhua News Agency.
The opening of the institution is regarded as a gesture for a more open Party.
"Although some questions definitely went unanswered, it was a good chance for us to see from their answers whether the CPC is advancing with the times, and whether it is adapting to the changes," said Han Yong Hong, Beijing chief correspondent with the Singapore-based Chinese newspaper Lianhe Zaobao.
Many are curious about what the officials learn and get out of their experience of being at the school.
As Li Jingtian, vice-president of the Central Party School, said at a press conference on Tuesday, many of the students already have higher education degrees, a wealth of work experience and are knowledgeable about world issues.
"It is very difficult for our faculty to shine in these students' eyes," he said.
Xie Chuntao, a professor at the school, said that whereas the students have the advantage in work experience, the faculty holds the upper hand in the area of theoretical research.
All in all, however, the faculty and students learn from each other and search together for solutions to problems. Heated discussions are inevitable, he said.
Students usually bring to class problems they have encountered in the course of their work as officials.
"They are usually concerned with how to boost the economy and improve people's livelihoods," he said.
Newly appointed county-level Party chiefs are also concerned with how to handle social contradictions, which have become more pronounced and complicated in recent years, he said.
"These county-level Party chiefs face the people directly. If they do not handle problems properly, a small issue could lead to misunderstandings and feelings of dissatisfaction toward the Party and the government," he said.
With the use of case studies, the county Party chiefs are advised to face the people, instead of staying in the office or sending out the police.
"If there is a misunderstanding among the people, the county-level Party chief should stand up as early as possible, understand what people are dissatisfied with, analyze the problem and find out the reasons," he said.
On average, some 2,000 senior and middle-ranking Party officials study at the Central Party School each year. Over the past three decades, the school has trained 60,000 officials.