Natalie Lichtenstein is an adjunct professor of China studies at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and is currently serving as the chief counsel for the interim secretariat managing the establishment of the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).
Prior to her current position, Lichtenstein spent nearly 30 years as a lawyer with the World Bank, advising on the Bank’s lending activities in Asia with particular emphasis on China. Prior to joining the World Bank, she served as an attorney-adviser at the U.S. Department of Treasury, where she worked on the normalization of U.S. – China relations.
Lichtenstein holds an A.B. in East Asian Studies from Harvard University and a J.D. degree from Harvard Law School.
Why is she in the news?
Lichtenstein’s appointment as chief counsel was first announced in November 2014 in advance of the first AIIB chief negotiators’ meeting. She has since been playing an important role in framing the institution’s charter, which will set the terms under which the bank is established and the basic guidelines for its operation.
Given that much of the debate surrounding the AIIB has focused on whether or not it will adhere to the high standards championed by the United States and others, Lichtenstein’s role in crafting the AIIB’s Articles of Agreement is a vital one. Her nearly three decades of experience with the World Bank are seen as enhancing the credibility of pledges from Jin Liqun, the secretary-general of the AIIB’s interim secretariat, and others in Beijing that the AIIB will “operate under the highest standard of its kind.”
What can we expect from her?
Lichtenstein is well-versed in the challenges of governing international institutions. During her last decade with the World Bank, she specialized in issues related to reforming the governance and structure of the seventy year-old institution. Her final assignment focused on the reallocation of “shares and chairs” to increase developing countries’ voice within the overall World Bank Group.
Moving forward, Lichtenstein will ensure that the AIIB’s founding members are well-informed regarding international best practices as they continue the process of negotiating the institution’s Articles of Agreement. Whether or not these best practices will be reflected in the final document remains to be seen, but it is clear that amidst rising stakes and scrutiny the negotiating parties will not lack quality advice.