In This Review

China's Leaders: The New Generation
China's Leaders: The New Generation
By Cheng Li
Rowman & Littlefield, 2001, 304 pp

Li takes a quantitative approach to assess the next generation of Chinese leaders, finding that they will be solid technocrats, if not the world's best scientifically trained elite. More than 90 percent of the Politburo, Central Committee, state ministers, and provincial leaders are college graduates; of these, nearly 75 percent are trained in engineering and the natural sciences. Li also underscores the dramatic shift in leadership from the liberal-arts graduates of Peking University to the scientists and engineers from Tsinghua University, often called "China's MIT," who include in their ranks Prime Minister Zhu Rongji. This finding leads to a more general study of the role of informal networks of both political principals and their staffs. Li believes that the fourth generation is also the generation of the Cultural Revolution. That terrible experience may have hardened them, he writes, but it also gave them "grassroots consciousness." He concludes optimistically that an effective leadership will take over and give China a better international image. But he is not able to dismiss entirely the suspicion that technocrats can work for all kinds of regimes, including repressive ones.