This is the best book I've read on modern Chinese politics. McGregor looks at how the Chinese Communist Party operates to maintain its rule. He presents a view of a Party that knows what it is doing and is adapting to maintain control. He suggests that both China and the Party will continue to grow stronger, despite many western experts saying its collapse is imminent. He also suggests that China will destabilize the existing world system whether it becomes dominant or collapses. McGregor's chapters each provide insight into a particular aspect of the Party's control. He looks at the overlap between Party and government and then how the government supports big business (as long as it remains under Party influence). The Party always trumps government and business at any level, but the 21st century party realizes that collaborating with business is the best way forward. Economic growth is the key to its legitimacy, making business essential. The most interesting party of the book (for me) was the internal politics of the Party, which McGregor was able to explore better than any western account I've seen. He looks at the human resources department, which handles appointments and is actually one of the most important ways to advance in the Party. Whoever controls appointments controls patronage by giving out the lucrative jobs. Yet he process is almost completely opaque. McGregor could not get deep into it, but was able to explain enough to show that this was where a lot of power was. He also looks at how the Party deals with corruption and dissent. Corruption is tolerated, but is cracked down on quickly if it becomes disruptive or embarrassing. The Party investigates before it becomes public. If it makes it to the legal arena, that means the Party has approved the prosecution and whomever is on trial is guaranteed a conviction. Dissent is also tolerated at very small levels. McGregor shows that the Party has learned that it does not need to use excessive force to quiet those who speak out against it. It quietly removes their voice within the country and punishes those involved, but it rarely makes a major issue of those cases. Instead, it inspires self-censorship in the media because they are never sure where the line is to be crossed. As a result, they are generally careful to stay far away from where the line may be and the central government does not have to do much actual censoring. His overall point is that the Party is learning and will remain strong because of it. It seeks to co-opt the population (particularly the middle class) rather than scare it into submission. The tools it uses to control itself and society are becoming more sophisticated. That adaptability will make it a force for the foreseeable future, regardless of what western doomsayers predict. I highly recommend this book. It offers great insight into the Party and its methods. It is also well written, making it easy to read. Anyone interested in modern China should give it a try.
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“Few outsiders have any realistic sense of the innards, motives, rivalries, and fears of the Chinese Communist leadership. But we all know much more than before, thanks to Richard McGregor’s illuminating and richly-textured look at the people in charge of China’s political machinery.... Invaluable.” — James Fallows, National Correspondent for The Atlantic
The Party is Financial Times reporter Richard McGregor’s eye-opening investigation into China’s Communist Party, and the integral role it has played in the country’s rise as a global superpower and rival to the United States. Many books have examined China’s economic rise, human rights record, turbulent history, and relations with the U.S.; none until now, however, have tackled the issue central to understanding all of these issues: how the ruling communist government works. The Party delves deeply into China’s secretive political machine.The Party - eBook
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This is the best book ...
An absolute must-read ...
An absolute must-read for anyone who is doing business in Asia. Provides a rare look at how extensive the reach of the Chinese Communist party really is.
If the Chinese Communi...
If the Chinese Communist Party's Central Organisation Department had an analogue in Washington, it would "oversee the appointment of the entire US cabinet, state governors and their deputies, the mayors of major cities, the heads of all federal regulatory agencies, the chief executives of GE, ExxonMobil, Wal-Mart and about fifty of the remaining largest US companies, the justices on the Supreme Court, the editors of the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post, the bosses of the TV networks and cable stations, the presidents of Yale and Harvard and other big universities, and the heads of think-thanks like the Brookings Institution and the Heritage Foundation." This readable book argues that a lot of analysis of China today completely misses out the importance of the Party, partly because outsiders find it hard to imagine the reach of the Party through society, partly because we have nothing in our own systems to compare it to. (Estimates of the size of the private sector in China range from below 30% of GDP to over 70%, because of this lack of clarity about the Party's role.) Through separate chapters dealing with the Party and different aspects of Chinese society (state, business, military etc), McGregor gives us a picture of how the Party ensures control - especially through its power to hire and fire, and its ability to transmit its messages down through the system so everyone knows the official line and the priorities that they need to deliver. Unlike too much stuff written about China, this is nuanced: McGregor has a sense of the historical changes over the last decades and explains how the Party has drawn back from the involvement it had in private lives, to a situation where it controls only what it needs to control. He also shows how some of the things the Party promotes leave it increasingly open to challenge: the desire for economic growth leads to a more international and professional approach to management of state enterprises, but managers may then see themselves more as businesspeople and prioritise their bottom line, rather than the party line. A more professional and effective army gradually becomes more of a national army than the Party's army. And the Party uses regional competition to drive economic growth; but the Party's own power and the high priority given to development mean that local officials, whose writ is law, pursue economic growth so strongly that they trigger popular resistance (eg over land rights or polluting factories). Finally, McGregor points out that it's very easy to imagine scenarios in which the Chinese system collapses or loses power. But in reality... the 2008 economic crisis demonstrated China's strength, not its weakness; Chinese people are aspirational in the face of inequality, like Americans; the growing middle class is a conservative bulwark of Party rule; and the Party has managed to develop in responsive ways, ruling less by terror, improving services, getting out of private lives, getting better at preventative policing and settling protests quietly and peacefully, allowing some negative news as a safety valve. He quotes Yang Jisheng (the author of Tombstone): "The system is decaying and the system is evolving. The system is decaying while it is evolving. It is not clear which side might come out on top in the end." I welcome this refusal to come down on one side or the other - how can we possibly be confident about the future of China? In conclusion, perhaps his argument was a little overstated, but I agree with McGregor that the role of the Party is often underestimated. I would have liked to see the book talk a little about ideology, which I do think remains important, although it's not always easy to know exactly how. But overall this book was nuanced, interesting and readable. It's not exactly for the general reader but I would recommend it for anyone with an interest in China.
Page after page, The P...
Page after page, The Party reveals the ugly, unvarnished details about how the Communist Party of China stays in power, It has nothing to do with ideology, nothing to do with communism. It's just all about power. Checks and balances are a horrifying prospect. All power must be concentrated. This is institutionalized Mafia. Things might look dismal in the US Congress. But there is simply no such thing as an honest Chinese government official. There can't be, by the rules. Online kibitzers argued to let the Beijing Olympics Manager go free because he "only" scammed $1 million out of it. He was as close to an honest politician as they could imagine. Or just not good at it. Incredibly, despite the constant bleating to root out corruption, the simple truth is corruption is a designed-in feature and function of the Party, and it simply would cease to be without it. "Corruption makes our political system more stable," explains a government official on p168. Central government cabinet ministers are paid less than $1400 a month. Do you need to know more? Fighting the system is useless. Corruption investigations must be approved by the next higher level, so they will only take place if 1) there is no way it could tarnish that next higher level, and/or 2) if someone wants to "get" an up and comer below him. So by the rules, you will never see a corruption investigation at the Politburo level. They are "made", in Mafia terms: It's all laid out very neatly in one sentence very early on (p.24): "Judges must remain loyal - in order - to The Party, the state, the masses and, finally, to the law." This in a report from The People's Supreme Court in 2009. So good luck you shareholders and property owners. The city can and does sell your building out from under you without warning. The state can and does swap CEOs at will among "competing" firms. After I read Hungry Ghosts many years ago, I thought that nothing could ever shock me about China again. Hungry Ghosts is an excellent book detailing for the first tine, the Mao-engineered famine that killed or ruined nearly 60 MILLION Chinese - and was covered up! The Party tells the gripping story of how this will always be possible in China. It's must reading if you hope to understand. Although the book is extremely well documented, and written from personal interviews, sometimes the language is a bit awkward and clumsy. And I got annoyed when, for the the fourth time, the author cited Exxon-Mobil as Exxon-Mobile, as if it were a telecoms firm instead of the oil giant. Once is a typo, but four times? So it's not perfect, but it's as haunting as anything yet.
A very interesting and...
A very interesting and non judgmental book on the role of the Chinese Communist Party behind the scenes in every aspect of Chinese life. McGregor doesn't cast judgement - he just points out that despite the veneer of capitalism, China is run in a very different way to any democracy. Although given the willingness of Europeans in 2011 to throw away democracy at the first sign of trouble and hand power to unelected technocrats (Greece, Italy) much like those running China perhaps there is less difference than we think. But I digress. McGregor's book is notable because he is the one of the few Western writers who neither fauns over Chinese success - he praises the party for lifting 10s of millions out of grinding poverty but points out some of the social problems this has caused - nor sees China as a threat , not is looking to undermine, belittle or sneer. The most interesting part - and it was news to me - is how deeply involved the Party is in the big state run companies such as Chinalco or China Mobile, and how their execs must juggle both the need for conventional capitalist success with the need for harmony with Party policy and the wider "social" interest. A fascinating juggling act All in all very informative and insightlful
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