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.