Peter Perdue, Professor of History at Yale University, says that China's 18th Party Congress, which will usher in the new leaders of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, bears some resemblance to the Qing Dynasty practices of emperor selection among the ruling Manchus from northeast China, who were connected to the Mongols, a Central Asian people who were ruled by a khan. Perdue spoke with Susan Jakes, Editor of the website ChinaFile, a project of Asia Society's Center on U.S.-China Relations.
"After a khan died, in the Mongolian tradition, there was an all-out free-for-all of brothers and uncles and other people, all fighting it out to see who would be the best man to take over," Perdue says.
"And then finally one succeeds and they hold what they call a khuritaii, or acclamation ceremony that brings everyone together like a modern party Congress to acclaim the new leader. And then after that the new leader goes out and kills all his brothers and cousins and rivals and everybody else."
This Manchu system tended to produce good warriors but doomed the system of leadership to failure as internecine rivalries split the nation in to factions through the early 17th century as the Manchus prepared to take over China.
Below, Perdue goes on to reflect on the impulse of each successive Chinese leader to put his mark on the period of his rule, noting that Hu Jintao's catchphrase of "Harmonious Society" has failed to mean much and marveling that disgraced politician Bo Xilai of Chongqing managed to revive songs from China's revolution as long as he did. "Who knows? Xi Jinping's wife, who likes to sing old revolutionary songs, might be the most charismatic leader they have now."