An Australian journalist probes the perplexing presence of the Chinese state in all aspects of Chinese life and culture.
For all that China has transformed itself over the last 30 years, the more it has stayed the same, as Callick finds in this engaging look around the “screened scenery” of the political system. Although the Chinese Communist Party is no longer run by a personality like Mao or Deng, the tentacles of power and control can still be felt in all aspects of Chinese life. While the rest of the world has been assuming that China’s growing middle class, the result of its recent spectacular economic surge, will naturally demand greater liberties and freedoms that the West takes for granted, that has not been the case. In fact, writes Callick, that successful middle class, bolstered by its ties to an all-pervasive state, has grown increasingly nationalistic and not timid about adopting traditional Chinese values, such as those propounded by Confucius, as a way to balance Western bias against China. A strong state is viewed as the country’s success. The state has generated the country’s enormous prosperity, modernity and wealth, and joining the party from an early age means tapping into a network of career opportunities, as the author shows through interviews with various members. The network is controlled from top to bottom, and participants are willing and well-compensated. “Reforms” take place strictly within the one-party system, where there is no separation of powers or self-criticism. It is a mind-boggling modus operandi, but the Chinese will keep it this way, until they don’t.
Fascinating glimpses inside the frustrating machinery of power in China.