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The Party: The Secret World of China's Communist Rulers Hardcover – June 8, 2010
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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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
“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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Top customer reviews
Even though the central leadership, standing committee memberships and politburo has changed (as of 2012), this is still highly relevant to many of the themes that the Party continues to struggle with and confront. This includes the growing middle class and income disparity, State-Owned versus Private Corporation governance, environmental issues, the major anti-corruption campaign underway. And this books helps understand why these dominate the party, and why the party behaves the way it does. And the author does this in a very effective manner - well organized, well researched, and well sourced. The chapters on the Shanghai Gang are also very informative as it allows the reader to understand the massive struggle Xi Jinping must of had (continues to have) in installing his key officials into key posts that will help him with his policy agenda.
Highly recommend this for anyone doing business in China (or with Chinese companies), travelling or planning to live in China as this book provides a very well-rounded view of the key decision making body that is present throughout all aspects of life in this interesting country.
Along these lines, the book is relatively light on historical detail. It's more about individual stories and how they reflect greater trends. Don't look to this book for any comprehensive narrative. Think of it as a look inside the mind of a Chinese leader. If you are not already familiar with the history of the PRC, you could use some background. But this book will help put trends in context, giving you a basis for further studies about communist rule. Before you study isolated facts and specific leaders, it helps to have a book like this that gives you a picture of the underlying structure that defines and drives the party as a whole. The content itself is perhaps not even the book's strength. Rather it is the gripping style, intended to paint a picture and tell a story rather than lecture. Think of McGregor as a tutor, trying to teach you so you really understand. Ultimately, this is his great success: proving convincingly that the current party in power on the Mainland is persistent, flexible, and completely pervasive.
The book itself is very readable. There are a couple of places where the writing is a bit repetitive -- chapter introductions are like "executive summaries" of each chapter. My Kindle edition had a small number of typographical errors that did not interfere with the book's overall readability.
If you do business with China, or are interested in China, or have views on how the west interacts politically with China, you really ought to read this book to help inform your understanding of the fascinating country and state that is modern China.