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

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Overview

An eye-opening investigation into China's Communist Party and its integral role in the country's rise as a global superpower and rival of the United States

China's political and economic growth in the past three decades is one of astonishing, epochal dimensions. The country has undergone a remarkable transformation on a scale similar to that of the Industrial Revolution in the West. The most remarkable part of this transformation, however, has been left largely untold—the central role of the Chinese Communist Party.

As an organization alone, the Party is a phenomenon of unique scale and power. Its membership surpasses seventy-three million, and it does more than just rule a country. The Party not only has a grip on every aspect of government, from the largest, richest cities to the smallest far-flung villages in Tibet and Xinjiang, it also has a hold on all official religions, the media, and the military. The Party presides over large, wealthy state-owned businesses, and it exercises control over the selection of senior executives of all government companies, many of which are in the top tier of the Fortune 500 list.

In The Party, Richard McGregor delves deeply into China's inner sanctum for the first time, showing how the Communist Party controls the government, courts, media, and military, and how it keeps all corruption accusations against its members in-house. The Party's decisions have a global impact, yet the CPC remains a deeply secretive body, hostile to the law, unaccountable to anyone or anything other than its own internal tribunals. It is the world's only geopolitical rival of the United States, and is steadfastly poised to think the worst of the West.

In this provocative and illuminating account, Richard McGregor offers a captivating portrait of China's Communist Party, its grip on power and control over China, and its future.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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. (July)
The Economist
“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.”
Forbes
“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.”
Newsweek
“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.
The Financial Times
“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.”
Bloomberg
“Astute. . . . A sober, realistic book. . . . A readable guide to how China is governed.”
Esquire
“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.”
The Associated Press
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 South China Morning Post
“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 Washington 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 Sunday Times (London)
“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 Wall Street Journal
“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 Washington Times
“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.”
Isabel Hilton
“A compelling exploration of the world’s largest and most successful political machine.”
Jonathan Fenby
“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.”
Bill Emmott
“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.”
James Fallows
“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.”
Ezra Vogel
“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.”
Ian Johnson
“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.”
Esquire
“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.”
Library Journal
McGregor (China bureau chief, Financial Times) reveals the inner workings of China's political structure and the mechanisms that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) needs to manipulate the country's business, government, courts, media, and military. Not only, as McGregor shows, is the CCP pervasive in almost every aspect of citizens' lives, but it also carefully conceals corruption and human rights abuses by sheltering its own members from any hint of criticism. Although a superpower second only to the United States in global influence and modernization, China continues to be ruled by men in an anachronistic bubble reminiscent of the country's imperial past, reticent and mysterious to its people and the rest of the world. In tracing the bureaucracy and its leadership, from Mao Zedong to current president Hu Jintao, McGregor documents how such an extraordinary political machine—it has over 73 million members—with complete control of all areas from the largest cities to the tiniest hamlets, is run like a modern-day corporation, from selecting its own senior managers for all government offices to rewarding its card-holding members through a patronage system. VERDICT McGregor's portrait unravels the ambiguities surrounding this secretive state's party apparatus. Recommended for all seeking to keep current on Chinese political history.—Allan Cho, Univ. of British Columbia Lib., Vancouver
Kirkus Reviews
A remarkably in-depth infiltration of the shadowy organization of Chinese leadership. Expert observers of China's astounding economic explosion do not agree on what kind of model the country seems to be following: Is it Western, Eastern or something entirely of its own making? In this careful study, McGregor, former China bureau chief at the Financial Times, asserts that just "under the hood" of the Chinese model is the classic "Leninist playbook" embracing the "three pillars of its survival strategy: control of personnel, propaganda and the People's Liberation Army [PLA]." The author examines each in turn, using archival material and a skillful deployment of interview subjects, including a provincial member of the "Central Organization Department," which oversees appointments and maintains files on all top-level officials in the public sector. McGregor manages to penetrate the "pathological secrecy" surrounding the inner workings of Chinese power, exploring how the leadership has managed to loosen and gain control at the same time ("grasp the big, let go of the small"), both in terms of businesses and the private lives of the Chinese people. After the debacle of Tiananmen Square in 1989, which ushered in a nationwide mood of democracy, the PLA was purged and modernized, at huge expense. Emerging as "an instrument of international statecraft for China," it continues to employ hostility toward Taiwan as a useful way of holding down an anti-imperialist threat. The author delves into corruption-and the accepted belief that one must employ corruption to be successful-the cut-throat "Darwinian internal competition" within the far-flung localities, recent product scandals such as Sanlu's tainted infant formula and attempts at confronting the tragedy of the Cultural Revolution. An astute, well-crafted work that should be enormously useful in understanding China's role in the world. Agent: Gail Ross/Gail Ross Literary Agency
Andrew Higgins
…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…McGregor adds flesh to dry bureaucratic bones through interviews with Chinese who know the system from the inside…
—The Washington Post
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061708770
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/8/2010
  • Pages: 302
  • Sales rank: 721,411
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard McGregor is a reporter for the Financial Times and the publication’s former China bureau chief. He has reported from North Asia for nearly two decades and lives in Washington, D.C.

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Table of Contents

The Party

List of Illustrations

Prologue

1 The Red Machine: The Party and the State 1

2 China Inc.: The Party and Business 34

3 The Keeper of the Files: The Party and Personnel 70

4 Why We Fight: The Party and the Gun 104

5 The Shanghai Gang: The Party and Corruption 135

6 The Emperor is Far Away: The Party and the Regions 170

7 Deng Perfects Socialism: The Party and Capitalism 194

8 Tombstone: The Party and History 229

Afterword 263

Acknowledgements 274

Notes 277

Index 294

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 19 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 22, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    A fascinating explanation of the power behind China¿s economic might

    Do you feel as if you see “Made in China” everywhere you look? Financial Times correspondent Richard McGregor explains why and more. He unveils the secrets of one of the most mysterious organizations in the world: the Chinese Communist Party. If you think a communist organization controlling a major global economy is counterintuitive, you’re probably right. But McGregor explains how it all happened – and the roles that various entities such as business, the Chinese military, and the nation’s regions and cities continue to play. Understanding how an anticapitalist, communist country became one of the world’s economic powerhouses means dealing with a cast of thousands and a dizzying array of names and roles. And time is marching forward as China’s new head of state, Xi Jinping, is now replacing Hu Jintao, the leader at the book’s center. Still, getAbstract is confident readers will come away with a better understanding of what makes China tick. This is a must-read for executives interested in doing business with China and for anyone who wants to understand the system that governs its one billion people.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2011

    Insightful

    Real fly on the wall stuff. Great analysis and historical insight about the CCP. The writing style is clear and journalistic making for politically relevant and interesting page turner. This is a balanced but honest look at China's communist party thats worth buying if you want the inside scoop.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 6, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Party Keen on Stealth Exposed to Sunlight

    Richard McGregor renders a great service to his readers by shedding light on the inner workings of the ruling Chinese Communist Party which is keen on secrecy. The transformation of China's economy and society and its impact on the rest of the world in the last three decades has too often deflected attention from formal politics in Beijing.

    Highly pragmatic, cynical, and adaptive, the Party has succeeded in the last three decades in linking the power and legitimacy of a communist state with the drive and productivity of an increasingly entrepreneurial society. The party's legitimacy still depends largely on the economy and its accompanying resurgent patriotism and nationalism. For all its increasingly international presence, China and, therefore, the Party will remain focused mainly on solving the country's problems due to their scale, depth, multiplicity, and variety.

    McGregor shows systematically how high secrecy, tolerance of non-embarrassing corruption in its ranks, resolute hostility to the rule of law, and vindictive pursuit of enemies are all vital for the Party if it wants to remain at the core of the modern Chinese narrative through its tight grip on 1) personnel, 2) propaganda, and 3) People's Liberation Army.

    At the same time, the Party has traded in Mao Zedong's totalitarian terror for a seductive modus vivendi with Chinese citizens. As long as ordinary Chinese accept the enlightened leadership of their empowered elite and do not ask for either accountability or the rule of law, they can pretty much lead their life and career as they see fit and eventually get rich. McGregor also shows clearly that although the Party has adapted its membership make-up to ongoing changes in China, it is struggling to keep up with the rapidly evolving aspirations, demands, and cleavages of the Chinese society. However, the bargain that the Party has struck with ordinary Chinese does not exist in a vacuum. The Party's propaganda system has to constantly remind Chinese citizens that there is no serious alternative to the Party in order for it to remain at the top of Chinese society.

    The Party is also keen to minimize its profile abroad. For example, the Party likes to promote the largest state-owned enterprises (SOEs) that are publicly traded in Hong Kong and outside mainland China as independent commercial entities. The Party's myriad functions, starting with its control over top management of these SOEs, have been downplayed systematically.

    In summary, McGregor convincingly demonstrates that the Party is determined to pursue its own model of economic, political, and social development on its own implacable terms. The rest of the world, especially the West, has no other option but to adapt to the reemergence of China, regardless of the ultimate outcome of this metamorphosis.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 8, 2013

    This is an exceptionally well informed and balanced book about t

    This is an exceptionally well informed and balanced book about the special interest group that monopolizes China's government, politics, military affairs, and legal system--and how the Chinese Communist Party also controls most of the vital sectors of China's economy. Note that the positive ratings mostly have commentary while the negative ratings are all anonymous up till now and thus can be disregarded.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 22, 2013

    &greekletterforw

    Hi

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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