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The Party: The Secret World of China's Communist Rulers Hardcover – June 8, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. McGregor, a journalist at the Financial Times, begins his revelatory and scrupulously reported book with a provocative comparison between China™s Communist Party and the Vatican for their shared cultures of secrecy, pervasive influence, and impenetrability. The author pulls back the curtain on the Party to consider its influence over the industrial economy, military, and local governments. McGregor describes a system operating on a Leninist blueprint and deeply at odds with Western standards of management and transparency. Corruption and the tension between decentralization and national control are recurring themes--and are highlighted in the Party™s handling of the disturbing Sanlu case, in which thousands of babies were poisoned by contaminated milk powder. McGregor makes a clear and convincing case that the 1989 backlash against the Party, inexorable globalization, and technological innovations in communication have made it incumbent on the Party to evolve, and this smart, authoritative book provides valuable insight into how it has--and has not--met the challenge.
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“A masterful depiction of the party today. . . . McGregor illuminates the most important of the contradictions and paradoxes. . . . An entertaining and insightful portrait of China’s secretive rulers.” (The Economist)

“A fascinating and ambitious book. . . . Revealing. . . . McGregor lays bare the secretive machinery of the party, how it operates far more pervasively in public life and commerce than many suspect.” (Forbes)

“McGregor does a persuasive job of sketching how communist the country really still is. . . . Anyone who wants to understand more about China would be well advised to pick up McGregor’s book. (Newsweek)

“As informative as it is entertaining. . . . China has been transformed. There is no denying it. The system that takes the credit is brilliantly described by McGregor.” (The Financial Times)

“Astute. . . . A sober, realistic book. . . . A readable guide to how China is governed.” (Bloomberg)

“Richard McGregor has penned a detailed look at the Chinese Communist Party that is must reading for U.S. officials and China affairs specialists who profess to be perplexed at why the regime in Beijing consistently operates like a Soviet-style communist dictatorship and not a Western-style democracy.” (The Washington Times)

“Fascinating. . . . The Party examines the intricate relationship between the Communist Party and the Chinese government, exposing how a political machine subverts the will to properly govern a billion people.” (Esquire)

The Party: The Secret World of China’s Communist Rulers is a careful, highly well-informed and entertaining account of China’s ruling class, chronicling the country’s 30-year rise to major economic power despite high levels of poverty.” (The Associated Press)

“A compelling exploration of the world’s largest and most successful political machine.” (Isabel Hilton, New Statesman)

“Superb in its depiction and demystification of the most important force at work in China today. Essential , riveting guide to how the rising power really works.” (Jonathan Fenby, author of The Penguin History of Modern China)

“This is a marvellous and finely written study of how China is really run, and how its strange but successful system of Leninist capitalism really works. It should be read by anyone doing business with or just trying to understand China.” (Bill Emmott, former editor of The Economist)

“Illuminating and richly-textured. . . . The Party will be invaluable for anyone trying to make sense of China’s future plans and choices. It has certainly enriched my own understanding of the country.” (James Fallows, National Correspondent for The Atlantic)

“Richard McGregor is one of the best foreign journalists who have ever reported from China. The Party is a fine contribution for those who want to know about the rising power they will face in the decades ahead.” (Ezra Vogel, Professor Emeritus, Harvard University)

“An engrossing read. . . . McGregor’s is a vivid narrative, sprinkled with humour and insightful analysis, of how the party has imprinted itself on almost every aspect of life in China, and how it has maintained its stranglehold on power.” (The South China Morning Post)

“An illuminating and important new book. . . . A lively and penetrating account of a party that, since its founding in Shanghai as a clandestine organization in 1921, has clung to secrecy as an inviolable principle.” (The Washington Post)

“An extraordinary book . . . with details never published before. . . . McGregor has done a terrific job of parting the curtains. . . . This book has come out at the right moment.” (The Sunday Times (London))

“Masterful. . . . McGregor’s book is proof that for all of its secretive tendencies, the Party and its power can be usefully analyzed. . . . An accessible introduction to the Party’s power in today’s China.” (Ian Johnson, The New York Review of Books)

“Fascinating. . . . Illuminating. . . . Mr. McGregor guides readers through recent events in China, teasing out what each tells us about the Party’s role. . . . Reading this primer will help foreigners better navigate the hidden political shoals of the Chinese business world.” (The Wall Street Journal)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1st edition (June 8, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061708771
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061708770
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (94 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #215,077 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Through a series of anecdotes and interviews, largely drawn from his eight years in China as correspondent for 'The Financial Times', Richard McGregor illustrates 'the Party', a remarkable social organization which subordinates 1.3 billion people.

It is a journalist's treatment rather than academic, so instead of explicitly offering analysis, Richard McGregor lets his interviews and stories largely speak for themselves. This provides a range of interesting characters, quotes and anecdotes. However, a side-effect is that many remarkable insights are either buried innocuously in the text or left to the reader's inference. The story is no less fascinating for it.

The picture that emerges is of a creative, adaptable, self-aware and resilient social network. Made up of 75 million party members, one in twelve adult Chinese, this self-perpetuating elite has no legal form beyond a mention in the preamble to China's constitution. The party exists outside the regular state apparatus and operates like a controller chip grafted into China's governing structures through party cells throughout government, the military, public companies and even private firms.

Grounded in its near ubiquitous presence in the state, military, public and private spheres, the Party maintains its grip via a number of interconnected and synergistic processes. Its personnel system allows any individual to be replaced, transferred or expelled at the will of the organism. Party control of the military provides ultimate coercive sanction. The Party's discipline system places members above the law even as it strengthens Party control of the behaviour of its members.
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87 of 89 people found the following review helpful By M. G. Zink on August 21, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I spent the last four years living in China, serving as the president of a Chinese bank. That role took me to 44 cities all across China, where I met hundreds of government officials and Party members. I worked daily with the General Secretary of the bank's Party Committee. During my time in China I read every major book by any foreigner who had lived and worked in China. Richard's book, The Party, is the most insightful book I have encountered. If you wish to understand how China is run today and you only have time to read one book, then read this one.
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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Robert on January 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed reading this book. I learned a lot about China and a lot about the impact of the Communist party since it took power in 1949 (?). But I was ultimately unsatisfied for 2 reasons:

One, it felt more like a collection of interesting stories and less like a coherent book. The stories of particular episodes in China did not seem to follow any time line or any other organizational structure. I struggled to understand how the stories related to each other or whatever connections were implied. The stories seemed to jump between periods in China that didn't make any sense to me. That said, each episode was interesting and educational.

Two, I kept expecting for the author to explain to the reader why China is thriving. He provides a wealth of details about how corrupt the system is from the highest levels in Beijing to the lowest levels in each town/province/whatever. He details how "the party" influences almost every economic decision that gets made. He makes various statements about how this or that leader opened up China to market reforms and private property rights but in the same breath details how government at every level influences decisions. I walked away from this book still scratching my head as to how China has grown in the past 30-ish years. I'm still trying to figure that out.

Read this book for interesting insights into China over the past 60 years. But don't expect to have any better understanding of the big picture.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By jbd on April 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book will change your understanding of China. McGregor's main theme is that China is coming to look more and more like Western societies on the surface, with similar market and other institutions--but as he shows repeatedly, under the surface the country still runs on Soviet hardware. He tells his story with panache.

Most fascinating and original is how he describes the continuing control the party still has over the commanding heights of the economy, particularly over publicly traded companies. The book is brimming with fascinating anecdotes to back up its claims. I particularly enjoyed the story of how the Party decided to simply switch the management teams of two publicly traded companies that were competing against each other in the same industry, practically overnight; it's as if you awoke one morning to find that the top management of Ford and GM had simply switched places with each other. Dorothy, this isn't Kansas.

The highest praise for a book on current affairs is that it will change the way you think, and what you understand when you read the newspaper. This book accomplishes both.

I'm baffled as to how anyone could give it fewer than five stars. Yes, it doesn't tell a seemless story, but that's not the nature of the material. A fun and penetrating read.
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