The Leaderboard: Natalie Lichtenstein

The Leaderboard profiles the people behind the policies of the Asia-Pacific.Who is she?

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.


3 comments for “The Leaderboard: Natalie Lichtenstein

  1. Liars N. Fools
    April 14, 2015 at 12:07

    The Americans have been going around pre-criticizing AIIB, mostly in an effective way as judged by the fact that only Japan has remained in the hole dug by the Americans. Lichenstein’s agreement to take on the general counsel job suggests how America should have handled the AIIB membership issue.

    Due to a passive negative Congress, America reneged on a deal that would have given China a bigger voice in how international financial institutions are managed in line with America’s stated desire for China to be a responsible stakeholder adding to the public good. Then when China raised the idea of AIIB, America in essence went into hypocrisy modality.

    What America should have done was to say that it legally could not join AIIB but then encourage its friends and allies to provide advice and counsel on the governance issues and entered into a cooperative rather than hectoring discussion with China itself. Now the Americans have only themselves to blame for the reputational cost it incurred even though it had warned its friends and allies of the reputational cost they would incur joining the bank.

    It is not too late for reputation repair, America should loudly applaud moves such as the engagement of Lichenstein. It should do the needful to promote a close relationship with the World Bank and the Asian Development Bsnk, which these institutions are doing any way, without a yea or nay from America. As the major responsible stakeholder it should do the responsible thing which is to welcome and help China’s taking on a greater responsibility for contributing to the public good.

  2. Tetsuo O
    April 14, 2015 at 23:37

    Counterpoint: China has done literally nothing to deserve anyone’s trust or faith. China has never and will never have any concern with “contributing to the public good”; its sole motivator and concern is the wealth and status of the Party.

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