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The New Emperors: Power and the Princelings in China

The New Emperors: Power and the Princelings in China
Kerry Brown

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China has become the powerhouse of the world economy and home to 1 in 5 of the world's population, yet we know almost nothing of the people who lead it. How does one become the leader of the world's newest superpower? And who holds the real power in the Chinese system? In The New Emperors, the noted China expert Kerry Brown journeys deep into the heart of the secretive Communist Party. China's system might have its roots in peasant rebellion but it is now firmly under the control of a power-conscious Beijing elite, almost half of whose members are related directly to former senior Party leaders. Brown reveals the intrigue and scandal surrounding the internal battle raging between two China's: one founded by Mao on Communist principles, and a modern China in which 'to get rich is glorious'. At the centre of it all sits the latest Party Secretary, Xi Jinping - the son of a revolutionary, with links both to big business and to the People's Liberation Army. His rise to power is symbolic of the new emperors leading the world's next superpower.

Author Info

Kerry Brown is the Director of the China Studies Centre at the University of Sydney and former head of the Asia Programme at Chatham House. With 20 years experience of life in China, he has worked in education, business and government, including a term as First Secretary at the British Embassy in Beijing. He writes regularly for the Times Literary Supplement and the Guardian amongst others, as well as for many international and Chinese media outlets. He is the author of Contemporary China (2012), Friends and Enemies: The Past, Present and Future of the Communist Party of China (with Will Hutton, 2009) and Struggling Giant: China in the 21st Century (with Jonathan Fenby, 2007).


'A rare example of informed, forensic enquiry... a well informed antidote to the overdose of repeated half-truths and non-truths that often pass for analysis of Chinese politics... The New Emperors is an essential read.'
Isobel Hilton, Observer

'Unique... [Kerry Brown] creates something of a map of power within contemporary China.'
Jeffrey Wasserstrom, Wall Street Journal

'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, Financial Times

'An impressive, eye-opening study of the seven men who rule China.'
Julia Lovell, The Telegraph

'Kerry Brown... has written the best study I know of the ‘ruthlessly successful multinational corporation’ that is the Communist party of China, and its leaders, whose money, contacts, relatives and women have propelled them to the top.'

'Kerry Brown's account of China's power elite is sweeping, topical and accessible, and a most valuable addition to our knowledge of the rising superpower.'
Jonathan Fenby, author of Tiger Head, Snake Tails and The Penguin History of Modern China

'So many people I meet often discuss China in their own Western context, and have little or no regard for the structure of Chinese society or how it has developed. Few say that the Chinese communist party is the biggest business organisation in the world. Kerry Brown's book is a must read for anyone who has genuine interest or need to understand those complexities, which given how important the country is becoming to the world, means the other 5 billion plus of us that don’t live there.'
Jim O’Neill, Former Chairman of Goldman Sachs

'Brown takes this vitally important yet inherently obscure subject and makes it about as accessible to the general reader as it could hope to be.'
Asian Review of Books

'In his indispensable study of China’s present leaders, Kerry Brown... does more than touch the backsides of a tiny group of tigers, the seven newest members of the Politburo’s Standing Committee who rule China: he skins them alive.'
Jonathan Mirsky, Times Higher Education

'The New Emperors tells the story of the “princelings” who really matter in China and how their networks work. The central question that Brown tries to answer is where China as a polity and a society might be headed, and what this means for neighbouring states and the world as whole.'
The Australian

'An engrossing account... [The New Emperors] should be read by anyone interested in the phenomenon that is post-Maoist China.'
Simon Scott Plummer, The Tablet

'Professor Kerry Brown provides a fascinating take on "super elite"  politics in China. He deconstructs the notion that we should focus on  factions when we try to get to the heart of elite politics. Rather, he provides us with a nuanced assessment of the personalities at the  pinnacle of power in China and describes their paths to the top. Professor Brown also reminds us how little we outsiders and the Chinese  people themselves know about the inner workings of the Chinese leadership.'
Linda Jakobson, Visiting Professor at US Studies Centre at the University of Sydney
'China is so important in the world today that we can ill-afford to base our judgments about its politics on unexamined assumptions or ideological prejudices. In The New Emperors Kerry Brown takes us right to the heart of the matter – the Communist Party leadership and the networks that sustain it and the issues that challenge and  divide it. It focuses on  personal histories, institutional  loyalties, ideological differences and business networks to explain how power and influence are achieved and sustained. It’s a world of almost pure politics, as personal and unforgiving as it is philosophical and sophisticated. We need to know these things and The New Emperors is an invaluable guide.'
Hon Geoff Gallop, former Premier of Western  Australia


Reading List: 5 Books to Understand Modern China Read
China Dreams under Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang Read

Bibliographic Info

Imprint: I.B.Tauris
Publisher: I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd.

ISBN: 9781780769103
Publication Date: 29 Jun 2014
Number of Pages: 240
Height: 216
Width: 135
Illustrations: 16 bw integrated, 2 maps

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