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Following the Leader: Ruling China, from Deng Xiaoping to Xi Jinping, David M. Lampton

Reviewed by Bruce Dickson



In this fine new book, David M. Lampton offers an authoritative depiction of how China’s leaders view their domestic and international environments and how they respond to pressures from each. It is authoritative not just because of Lampton’s stature in the field but also because the book is based on meetings and interviews over more than three decades with Chinese leaders, bureau­crats, and scholars. His description of elite perceptions does not address factional differences among leaders at a given point in time or changes over time among different generations of leaders. Other scholars have teased out these differences. Instead, Lampton reminds us that China’s leaders have also shared a common perspective over the past few decades.

Lampton gives a compelling picture of how China’s leaders have set their priorities in the post-Mao era. Deng Xiaoping gets the most attention, which is appropriate because his priorities—pursuing economic reform and opening policies while maintaining the Chinese Communist Party’s monopoly on power, engaging in pragmatic experimentation, adopting material incentives and markets, promoting talented people, and so on—remained the priorities of subsequent leaders. The most recent leaders—Hu Jintao, Wen Jiabao, and no

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