China’s “red nobility” stands out, however, because of the country’s sheer size and the need for economic and political reform. These new Chinese leaders, who see themselves as the hereditary heirs to the 1949 communist revolution, may have little stake in change. They literally still live in a walled world. And many of their families control a large chunk of the economy.
As communist ideology has declined in popularity, the party has fallen back on old traditions to maintain power, such as nationalism and the promise of quick wealth. With a new leadership under Xi Jinping (son of a former vice premier who was a protégé of Mao Zedong), the party has reached for legitimacy by claiming that the grandsons of the Mao generation deserve to be treated as quasi-royalty. Mr. Xi himself reportedly once described top officials without a strong background to the Mao generation as “shopkeepers’ sons.”
World history, however, is moving in the opposite direction, toward a less artificial view of individual worth. Rulers must rise by the merit of their qualities – qualities learned and not passed down simply by bloodlines of family, clan, or tribe. “Power is never a good, unless he be good that has it,” said King Alfred the Great.