The New Emperors: Power and the Princelings in China by Kerry Brown is the kind of book that I’ve been waiting for since I started reading about China. The Chinese government seems like this inscrutable black box outside of a handful of highly visible leaders – the politburo standing committee. They have immense power but why? Who are these leaders? How are they chosen? What do they do? The 10,000 ft view of the CCP is well given in The Party, but The New Emperors gives real insight into the real CCP by looking in detail at the current standing committee members and their path to power.
The book looks at the most common perceptions as to how people come to power, including common backgrounds (e.g. Shanghai clique), nepotism (e.g. princelings), governing ability (e.g. GDP growth under their command), and political subgroup allegiance (e.g. Jiang Zemin’s protege Li Keqiang) . Brown finds that each member’s path to power has been different and includes each of these in different amounts.
I was struck after reading this book how many parallels their are between the CCP and an American political party. Imagine if the Republican or Democratic party outlawed the other party and took over government. There are many things that might work well but also many things which would be bad, no one in the US would want such a thing. Why does China?