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5.0 out of 5 stars "The Party". China's ruling elite revealed, 28 July 2010
This review is from: The Party: The Secret World of China's Communist Rulers (Hardcover)
Every now and again, a truly definitive book on China emerges. One such was "Hungry Ghosts", Jasper Becker's account of Mao's disastrous "Great Leap Forward". Another is "The Dragon's Gift," Deborah Brautigam's definitive account of China's involvement in Africa. "The Party", Richard McGregor's investigation of the Chinese Communist Party(CCP), its structure, influence and power, is a truly authoritative work.

McGregor's strength as an author is that "The Party" is not only informative, but also immensely readable. It is enlivened with anecdotes of particular case studies, cadres who have risen and fallen from grace, entrepreneurs who have carved out business empires only to fall foul of the authorities, and Party officials who have made fortunes from bribes, only to be executed as scape-goats for the Party's overall corruption. He reveals the sheer extent and pervasiveness of the Party's grip on China as no other book has yet done. And suddenly, so much of what emerges from China as distinctly alien politics makes perfect sense. The Party has the same hierarchical structure and power as the medieval Church of Rome. Indeed, the sale of Party official posts and favours resembles nothing so much as the sale of indulgences in pre-Reformation Europe. Simony, the buying or selling of ecclesiastical pardons, offices, or emoluments, is exactly paralleled by the sale of similar, secular perks in China by the CCP.

A few quotations will give the spirit of the book, and a quick insight into the flavour of 21st. century Communism, Chinese-style.

"The Party is like God. He is everywhere. You just can't see him." [a professor at People's University in Beijing].

"Listen, we are the Communist Party and we will define what communism is." Chen Yuan, Governor of China Development Bank, in response to being hectored by a US political scientist about contradictions between Marxism and China's free market reforms.

"...the only way to put the latest communist principles into practice was to maximise returns for shareholders." Guo Shuqing, CEO of the China Construction Bank.

McGregor draws on twenty years of reporting from China, and has done more than any other writer really to penetrate the veils of secrecy and paranoia surrounding China's ruling elite. He shows how a non-elected Standing Committee of just nine men ultimately control every aspect of Chinese political life.

McGregor points out that one organisation alone, the Central Organization Department, the party's vast and opaque human resources agency, has extraordinary power by any standards. "It has no public phone number, and there is no sign on the huge building it occupies near Tiananmen Square. Guardian of the party's personnel files, the department handles key personnel decisions not only in the government bureaucracy but also in business, media, the judiciary and even academia. Its deliberations are all secret.

"If such a body existed in the United States, McGregor writes, 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, Exxon-Mobil, Wal-Mart and about fifty of the remaining largest US companies, the justices of 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-tanks like the Brookings Institution and the Heritage Foundation.'"

Chairman Mao said that the State stands on three legs, the Military, the Economy, and the Media. The CCP has complete control of all three.

Richard McGregor has written a stunning, engrossing, fascinating book. Don't miss it. China controls an ever-expanding slice of the world. This book shows whose hands are on the levers.
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