15 November 2012

The New Chinese Emperor

The Chinese Communists have rediscovered old imperial procedures. After a few years of secret rivalries and a weeklong meeting in closed-door, smoke-filled rooms, the party rulers have appointed the new leader, Xi Jinping. It’s the second time that the Chinese communists achieve a peaceful leadership transition without the bloody conflicts and disorders that were typical of the party for many decades. As I discovered in the imperial palace in Beijing, appropriately also called the Forbidden City, the basic procedure currently used to appoint the leader heir was invented in the 18th century. Before that, when the successor of the emperor was appointed openly, usually his siblings fought him in rivalry for the office. In reaction, emperor Yongzheng set up the system of the ‘Heir Apparent Box’, by which the name of the successor was written in a document sealed within a box placed behind the board of the throne, while the emperor always carried a copy with him. After the emperor passed away, the secretly appointed crown prince would ascend the throne. Somehow, this procedure was also reinvented in Mexico by the Revolutionary Institutional Party, PRI, as each Mexican president appointed his own successor, usually known as ‘The Covered’ (el tapado), over a period of about sixty years.

This procedure of secret appointment, which the Chinese communists introduced just five years ago, may not only solve the problem of succession by nonviolent means. It can also trigger attraction and faithful supports to the incumbent leader during his mandate by all potential candidates for nomination for successor. Some stability can be attained. Yet, as happened this time, an agreement is not likely to be reached much before the last moment. 


Simon Hix said... 

Hi Josep,
And similar to the Roman Empire, where the Emperor nominated his successor on his deathbed - which wasn't always a harmonious transition of power, of course.


London School of Economics

Angel Gil-Ordonez said...

Gracias Josep, excelente artículo y muy interesante. 
Ojalá Obama pudiera hacer lo mismo con Hillary!!


Georgetown University


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