In This Review

China's Leadership in the 21st Century: The Rise of the Fourth Generation
China's Leadership in the 21st Century: The Rise of the Fourth Generation
Edited by David M. Finkelstein and Maryanne Kivlehan
M. E. Sharpe, 2003, 302 pp
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The New Chinese Empire: Beijing's Political Dilemma and What It Means for the United States
The New Chinese Empire: Beijing's Political Dilemma and What It Means for the United States
By Ross Terrill
Basic Books, 2003, 432 pp
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From two very different perspectives, these books seek to predict where China is headed. Terrill seeks answers to China's future by interpreting its contemporary developments in the context of China's great traditional civilization and deep cultural constraints, while the contributors to the symposium volume focus on the immediate decision-makers and their predispositions. Terrill sees China as still caught up in its imperial tradition of rule by emperors and mandarins, and thus, for him, it lacks the "traits of a nation and does not behave like a nation." He argues that China is still an empire because of traditions of rule and because more than a third of its land is inhabited mainly by non-Han Chinese people. The imperial system in its formal sense collapsed with the 1911 revolution, and communism brought a new official ideology, but Mao ruled in the style of a emperor. Terrill has extensive knowledge of Chinese history that he imparts with graceful style and in fascinating detail, but he is not wedded to the idea of a permanently "enduring China." He sees the current situation of the People's Republic as filled with fundamental problems, which will soon cause the collapse of the empire and the emergence of a potentially democratic China. The contributors to the symposium volume are among the most skilled experts in what was once called "Pekingology." These scholars have tracked with great care who is on the rise in Chinese politics and who is in decline, who belongs to which network, and where key individuals stand on critical policy issues. The arrival of what is called the "fourth generation" of Chinese leaders means that there is now a new cast of characters that students of Chinese politics must learn. The all-star team of authors includes Cheng Li, Murray Scott Tanner, Joseph Fewsmith, Bruce Dickson, Carol Lee Hamrin, and David Shambaugh. Their collective analyses conclude that China does indeed face the impressive array of problems that Terrill identifies, but they too see positive signs in a more professional political elite and more thoughtful intellectuals now emerging.