Five years ago, two months after the 16th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) ushered in the party's new leadership, more than 20 of the party's top decision makers began to receive lectures from experts in subjects varying from the global economy and regional security to education and medical reform.
Since then the senior leaders, including General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee Hu Jintao, have been given 43 lectures. The purpose, as Hu said in 2002, is to "empower the Party to better govern the State, serve the masses and carry forward China's socialist course".
The most recent lecture, given by Ba Shusong, a researcher from the Development Research Center of the State Council, and Li Fu'an, a senior economist from the China Banking Regulatory Commission, on August 28 covered global finance and China's banking reform.
"The central authority's regular learning sessions on one particular subject and consultation with experts are testimony to the Party's and nation's progress towards a more scientific and democratic policy-making process," said Huang Weiting, an expert on CPC's party building.
The topics of the lectures are chosen to coincide with key state policies of a particular time or in response to pressing social and public needs, said an official who would not give his name.
The learning sessions, reported through Xinhua News Agency, have become windows through which the international community can glimpse the senior party leaders' take on international and domestic issues, their focus of attention and corresponding measures, experts say.
In May, Japan's Jiji Press said the fact that a session on food safety had been arranged reflected "the Chinese leadership's high degree of concern" over the issue.
The New York Times said in a June 2004 editorial that the learning sessions demonstrated the Chinese leaders' approach of drawing on collective wisdom to help build a powerful state.
The practice of collective learning has been followed by other bodies. For example, the routine lectures for the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress and study sessions at the State Council and the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.