Kerry Brown / News / Politics / Reviews

Wall Street Journal review The New Emperors

The New EmperorsAfter broadsheet attention in the UK, now it’s time for the US to take notice of Kerry Brown’s study of power in China.

Reviewed in The Wall Street Journal by Jeffery Wasserstrom, professor of history at UC Irvine, he describes The New Emperors: Power and the Princelings in China as ‘unique’, emphasising how Brown successfully ‘creates something of a map of power within contemporary China.’

In his review, Wasserstrom explains how Brown setss about answering how and why President Xi Jinping, Premiere Li Keqiang and five others — rather than some other set of party officials — emerged in 2012 as the members of the new Standing Committee:

The party is ‘like a partly family-run business,’ Brown says. In some cases it actually is birth or marriage that gains an individual a spot in an influential network. In others, however, power comes via an official posting, a tie to an institution, such as Tsinghua University, the Beijing school sometimes called China’s MIT, where a disproportionate number of recent elite figures matriculated. Or it can come through the patronage of a former leader, such as Jiang Zemin or Hu Jintao. Xi Jinping rose highest, in Brown’s view, because his set of meaningful connections was densest. It helped that he had a father with strong revolutionary credentials and a wife with military ties. But it also mattered that he had Mr. Jiang’s backing, that he had held posts that made him known in provincial circles, and that he had attended Tsinghua.
The best recent books about elite politics in China, such as Richard McGregor’s The Party (2010) and Rowan Callick’s Party Time (2013), tend to eschew biographical approaches. Instead, they seek to explain how the Communist Party has survived by retaining some habits from its youth (tightly controlling formal power and censoring the press) while jettisoning others (going from persecuting to co-opting capitalists, from vilifying Confucius to venerating his teaching). What makes Brown’s book unique is the attention he directs toward the individuals at the top of the party structure.

Read Jeffery Wasserstrom’s review in full over on The Wall Street Journal‘s website. ■

Follow Kerry Brown on Twitter @Bkerrychina.

Further Reading

Reading List: 5 Books to Understand Modern China
China Dreams under Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang
Kerry Brown talks to ChinaFile
Why Xi Jinping’s investigation of Zhou Yongkang is a big deal
The New Emperors in the Observer
Kerry Brown’s The New Emperors in the Financial Times
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