Richard McGregor is the bureau chief for the Financial Times in Washington DC. But a lifetime ago he was once its China bureau chief, where he has reported from north Asia for nearly 2 decades and had a unique first-hand access and experience in one of the world’s most mysterious countries.
And decades of reporting and building network there have culminated in the writing of this book, a some kind of behind the scene account of the secret world of China’s communist rulers. And it is an eye opener.
The book shows how the Communist Party creeps into every fabric of Chinese society, it provides the structure and the personnels of the Party, the politics inside the Party, the business environment in the country, the delicate balance between profitable enterprise and meeting the Party’s political objective, its long and bloodied history (including the dark days of the famine that killed 35 million people), and the ever present cult-like worship of Mao Zedong.
The book also confirms some of the well known allegations towards the Party. Such as heavy censorship over its dark past, the omitted names and events from record, the massive cover up over things that are happening (such as the denial of SARS epidemic before a foreign media blow it up), the nasty treatment over outspoken journalists or whistleblowers, how the propaganda department controls the media, even the proof of half-truths or blatant lies published by the Party to eliminate competing narratives.
It also addresses the deep corruption inside the Party, and the ironic inequalities where a contrast of extreme poverty and mega riches exist inside the supposedly socialist country.
But perhaps the most interesting part of the book is the name dropping of some of the lesser known personnels of the Party, but equally as instrumental as Deng Xiaoping in being the architects of modern China. Names such as Chen Yun (long-serving economic planner), Chen Yuan (the man behind China inc’s move into Africa), Zhu Rongji (the corruption eradicator who was indispensable in China’s overhaul of the banking system and its entry to the WTO), as well as the oppositions such as He Weifang (the idealist university professor) and Yang Jisheng (a journalist critical towards the Party).
All in all, the book is so well written as an exposé it astonishes me how McGregor can possibly published it without getting into any trouble. But he’s still alive and free, and get to tell the truth about the Party to the world. A crucial read to really understand the puzzle piece of modern China.