The Party : The Secret World of China's Communist Rulers, Paperback

The Party : The Secret World of China's Communist Rulers Paperback

4 out of 5 (1 rating)


Richard McGregor's "The Party" has been established as the book on China and its political leadership.

It is indispensable to understanding what may soon become the most powerful country on earth, and here is it is newly updated to include material on the once-in-a-decade leadership changes taking place in November 2012.

Newly updated version including analysis of the once-in-a-decade leadership changes taking place in November 2012 China's Communist Party is the largest, most powerful political machine in the world.

Here, Richard McGregor delves deeply into its inner sanctum, revealing how this secretive cabal keeps control of every aspect of the country - its military and media, legal system and businesses, even its religious organizations.

How has the Party merged Marx, Mao and the market to create a global superpower? And what does this mean for the world? "Extraordinary". ("Sunday Times"). "Masterful...entertaining and insightful". ("Economist"). " essential, riveting guide to how the rising power really works". (Jonathan Fenby). "If you read only one book about China this year, it should be this one. And if you do not read this book, you probably do not understand China today". (Arthur Kroeber, China Economic Quarterly). "A compelling exploration of the world's largest and most successful political machine". ("New Statesman"). "A book that is as informative as it is entertaining...China has been transformed.

The system that takes the credit is brilliantly described by McGregor". (Chris Patten, "Financial Times"). Having joined the "Financial Times" in 2000 in Shanghai and being appointed China bureau chief in 2005, Richard McGregor is now Washington Bureau Chief for the FT.

McGregor has won numerous awards throughout his nearly two decades of reporting from north Asia, including a 2010 Society of Publishers in Asia Editorial Excellence Award for his coverage on the Xinjiang Riots and 2008 SOPA Awards for Editorial Intelligence.

He has spent twenty years in north Asia, starting in Taiwan, and then in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Beijing, where he established offices for "The Australian" newspaper.

He has also contributed articles and reports to the BBC, the "International Herald Tribune" and the "Far Eastern Economic Review".


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 336 pages, Illustrations
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Marxism & Communism
  • ISBN: 9780141975559



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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 <i>New York Times</i>, the <i>Wall Street Journal</i> and the <i>Washington Post</i>, 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.

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