Jamil Anderlini, Beijing Bureau Chief for Financial Times, praises Kerry Brown’s The New Emperors in his review, stating that ‘Brown provides a great introduction to the world of elite Chinese politics and the men – they are all men – who inhabit its upper reaches.’
Jamil Anderlini goes on to say:
As Kerry Brown, a professor at the University of Sydney and an associate fellow at Chatham House in London, points out in The New Emperors, China is run by an increasingly hereditary ruling class. Even the best- informed insiders, including people actually involved in the process, have no clear idea how the country’s most senior leaders are actually chosen.
At least four of the seven standing committee members are considered ‘princelings’, the children or close relatives of former senior leaders in the Communist party firmament.
Building on earlier books in which he has provided a more human picture of China’s leaders, Brown provides good anecdotes and assessments from multiple sources to say as much as he can about the personas behind the stiff dark suits. Those who have not spent a significant amount of time trying to peel back the carefully drawn masks of the leadership cannot appreciate just how hard this is. It is not just the inner workings of the party that are guarded by layer upon layer of secrecy. The very existence of a senior cadre’s family members is treated as a “state secret” and the appearance in public of the wives of Mr Xi and Premier Li Keqiang is trumpeted as a sign of openness by state propaganda.
As Brown points out, China is a country with a population of 1.36bn that is run by just over 2,500 people – fewer than the population of most villages in Europe. Not all of these high-ranking cadres are princelings, and this book does a good job of explaining some of the other factors that can help someone reach the top.