Chinese society

A country for old men

China's culture of paternalism means that former leaders never truly give up power.
China's current and former presidents Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin. Who's really in charge AFP

A popular quip in China caricatures how the country’s leadership is really decided the 80-year-olds summon the 70-year-olds to discuss which 60-year-olds should retire. The leadership might change, but the elders will probably continue to wield power in the country’s cabinet.

China watchers sometimes mistakenly ascribe this gerontocracy to the country’s one-party dictatorship, but it is in fact a product of China’s paternalist culture and ideology, which asserts that power emerges from the process of establishing an orderly succession. China has attached great importance to seniority...

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