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

3.98 of 5 stars 3.98  ·  rating details  ·  1,084 ratings  ·  114 reviews
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

Hardcover, 320 pages
Published June 8th 2010 by Harper (first published 2010)
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Dec 27, 2011 AC rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: china
This book flirted with 3-stars, but finally got a 4. It's overrated, in my opinion, but....

The author has great difficulty, though he is obviously well informed about the facts on the ground, in understanding (and contextualizing) the soft authoritarianism that is China today. This is proof, which one finds often in many walks of life, that those who know the most don't always understand the best. (My own experience in my own field has given me MANY examples of this, to be sure.)

I have already e
This is a very well informed book about the current state of modern China. However, (as AC has helpfully said), this book is poorly organized and the author seems to change his mind over several pages. Nothing wrong with changing your mind over the course of an investigation, of course, but the book, as a finished product, should reflect that.

The key traits of the party, as McGregor finds out, are a sort of adaptive soft authoritarianism. From my perspective (at the lowest rungs of academia, as
If this book had been written just a little better, I'd give it 5 stars. The information presented is nothing but enthralling to a China outsider. The organization of the sections deftly enhances the content. In about 200 pages, McGregor successfully manages to give you a comprehensive intuition for how The Party operates, even if you have no prior knowledge of China. That's a towering achievement.

The language, on the other hand, leaves much to be desired: it's your typical, found-on-your-doorma
Eric Tamm
The beast that is China’s ruling party

This review of The Party: The Secret World of China’s Communist Rulers by Richard McGregor was originally published in the Vancouver Sun on August 14, 2010 and on my blog at

In the spring of 2006, I enrolled in a curious course at the B.C. Institute of Technology in Vancouver. It was called the “Fundamentals of Doing Business with China,” but it turn out to be more like “Leninism 101.”

Our instructor, Lawrence Gu, had just b
An up-to-date and fascinating insight into the party's inner workings. McGregor explains the byzantine nature of the Party's bureaucracy to minute details and unmasks the far reaching grasps of the Party's tentacles. What I find hard to believe is how the Party's organizational department controls nearly the entire Chinese elite (including those in the private sector) and leadership.
Michael Gerald Dealino
China is a popular and complicated subject these days. To make it simple yet concise as possible:

Almost every thing about China for the last 60 or so years is about the Communist Party of China, its centrality and primacy can be seen in its society, culture, politics, media, corruption, etc. The Party takes precedence before anything, maybe even before China itself. Its presence can be quite literally be felt by a person, from the womb to the grave. It is a totalitarian yet adaptive system, ridi
James Smyth
Believing that The Communist Party of China Is Bad is not enough. One must understand how they operate, and THE PARTY by Richard McGregor is a worthy read for doing this so well in so few words. It covers everything you've heard about and a number of details you hadn't heard of but won't forget. It's structuralist, not biographical or polemical.

It's easy to see why the Party's rule is now so secure, and at the same time why the PRC will never be dynamic or a model for other nations: the Party ke
I had mixed feelings about the book; some of the material was interesting, but I didn't feel it was that well written - a lot of repetition, even a couple of typos.

Also, while it's understandable that he couldn't get many sources inside to the Party (or even Chinese who aren't Party members) to speak on record, I think the title is a little sensationalist, as it implies that the author is going to somehow give you access to this "secret world". As the author himself said in an interview, he didn
Steven Grimm
This is a fascinating and eye-opening glimpse into how the Chinese Communist Party works, how it interacts with various elements of Chinese society, and how it's adapting as society changes around it. The book covers a wide variety of topics, from how the Party takes control of commercial enterprises in practice while leaving them as private entities in name, to how the elections in Taiwan threw the party leadership off its stride for quite a while but no longer do, to the changing relationship ...more
If you're interested in China, you ought to make some attempt to understand how the CCP works, but don't expect to find a page-turning thrill ride. This book helped me, but took forever to get through (long march?) and by the time I finished it, I forgot where it began. Luckily, the author saved one of the most interesting stories for last: that of the Party's determination to keep a tight control on the history that is known to its people, including much of the history that predates the CCP. Th ...more
Ethan Cramer-Flood
If you have any sort of interest in the Chinese government, the Chinese Communist Party, Chinese politics, or modern China in general, this is the book you need. The Party is by far the best single resource I have ever come across in terms of describing how China really works on a political level. Even better, the writing is completely accessible and the details are presented in an entertaining, almost journalistic, kind of way. Unlike the Shambaugh book on the CCP, which amounted to painfully d ...more
Dec 10, 2012 Brian rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Brian by: the economist
(3.0) Expected a little more meat, less repetition

I dunno, it felt not that 'inside' the secret world of the Communist Party and its rulers. He did get some frank information and quotes from some (former) leaders within the Party, but this book felt far less revelatory than I had hoped. I did learn from it, but I could've done the same through other channels.

Quick summary (by chapter):
* The state IS the Communist Party, at this point pretty much by definition. No surprise here. Leads to corrupti
This was a thoroughly enjoyable read that adds a lot of color to my understanding of China. I wouldn't say there are any major revelations or ground breaking conclusions here for anyone who follows China reasonably closely in the press or general history, indeed I think the best summary of the book is contained in the introduction where McG says the book is really an attempt to fill the void of understanding how the CCP works "by explaining the Party's functions and structures and how political ...more
Lauren Albert
Astute and fair minded look at the Chinese Communist Party. He criticizes without demonizing and praises without sanctifying. He answers so many questions--But most of all how China manages to have a booming economy while the Party maintains an iron grip and control over the largest companies. He shows us how the centralized economy sometimes benefits them and how it sometimes stifles change and growth. The most fascinating part of the book was getting to know the culture of the party-how and wh ...more
Chapter 1: The Red Machine: The Party and the State

Describes how the government is a front for the Party. Party positions matter more than official government positions and behind each official committee and title there’s a puppet master in the Party wielding real power. Via the Party seemingly disconnected elements of government, military, and business have tight links.

"The ‘red machine’ is like no ordinary phone. Each one has just a four-digit number. It connects only to similar phones with fo
Sean Francisco Yau-Smith
A got a chance to catch-up on recent non-fiction and this book had been in my eye for some time. The book focuses specifically on the workings and structures of the Chinese Communist Party, which given modern times is a critical topic for anyone to understand- right after the American government. Unlike most books on China that either focus on economic events, or the dichotomy between a free-wheeling private sector and an overbearing public sector.- Richard McGregor focuses on the party, and por ...more
Very useful book. Perhaps not the smoothest read, but very necessary. Simply put, the Chinese communist party is not what you think it is. It's not necessarily better or worse, just different. Practically hard to call communist, but not sure what else to call it. Anyone familiar with American machine politics from the mid 19th to mid 20th century, will find uncomfortable similarities. LOTS of corruption, lots of wealth, lots of control, but all in ways that are "different."
Fantastic read - really valuable information about how China is run today especially insightful on the relationship and role of the government and private sector. Found the book very enjoyable, peppered with a lot anecdotes and interesting observations of the system. Also very well balanced, author does not seek to create either a pessimistic or optimistic outlook. Overall he believes China's rise will continue but his reasons for believing so are well thought out and well measured.

4 stars inste
Nov 17, 2013 JJ W rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: china
A good introduction to the Party. Nice prose. Entertaining and illustrative stories. Still valuable, even if it's bit outdated now given the leadership transition that happened since it was written.
Samantha Tan
An enlightening examination of the inner workings of the Party. Although the book is a couple of years old, it would seem that the attitudes of the CCP have not evolved much at all since the time of writing, or for that matter, since the Party's founding. In particular, the paranoia inherent since 1989 remains present today, apparent in the state of affairs in HK now. After reading this book, I sympathize with the cause of the pro-democracy protestors more than ever because rule under the One Sy ...more
At first I found this book rather dry and tough reading==probably why I put it down for several months. But I found the later chapters engrossing. My only contact with China has been as a tourist on two occasions. As a tourist, you are impressed with the "new" cities going up, with all the construction cranes and the friendly chatter with your guides. McGregor's book tells you what is behind some of these seemingly positive activities (e.g., the building) including the major part politics plays ...more
David Vaughan
This fellow knows his China, and has known it with an "All Access" pass for decades. Well, as much access as a non-member can have. Plus, he has callouses on his feet from trying to walk into rough patches barefoot. Some of the things he asked to fairly senior Party members would be cringe-worthy if they weren't so gutsy and asked so ingenuously. Add in the asides he records from trusting low-level functionaries, whom McGregor actually names, and the verified tasty gossip from business people, b ...more
Doug Vanderweide
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
If you want to understand China, you will have to understand Chinese politics and governance. As this book clearly demonstrates, the Communist party is at the heart of the country and has a controlling hand in every aspect of society. Upon finishing it, I felt like I had a better grasp of how the political system works and how the Party is able to retain their power. I even had some incorrect preconceived notions cleared up. The author certainly has some great insight and understanding. However, ...more
I really wish I had had the chance to listen to this book in an audiobook format instead of on my Kindle because the computer voice was very confusing at times. I believe I missed key points of the book because the computer voice ran so many words and sentences together. This is DEFINITELY a book I want to read again, and I hope I gain more out of it the second time around. It worked that way when I read "The People's History of the United States." I couldn't believe how much better I liked "The ...more
Jeffrey Cavanaugh
A rather compelling examination of what is arguably the most powerful contemporary political organization on Earth - the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The author paints a picture of a party that is present at every level of Chinese life and which is often, nowadays at least, pulling the strings of Chinese society from behind the scenes. It is, in essence, the ultimate 'good-'ole-boy's' network; one mostly devoted to preserving its own power and privilege through whatever means necessary than in ...more
Peter Gregoire
Richard McGregor's "The Party" offers us a well-balanced, thought-provoking insight into the machinations of the Chinese Communist Party and, more generally, into how China functions.

Many Western commentators bray constantly about the imminent and inevitable collapse of the political system in China. According to them, the liberalization of the economic system and adoption of the free market, in which individual decisions about what to buy and what to sell hold sway, will inevitably undermine t
This is an incredibly insightful and well-researched book, but I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would. It got dry bordering on boring in a lot of the middle, with what seemed like endless accounts of cronyism and illegal real-estate deals by communist party officials. Even though I speak some Chinese and have been to China, a lot of the anecdotes in the book seemed to concern people whose names I found hard to keep track of doing complicated things in places I've never heard of. It got h ...more
David Nealis
Oct 30, 2011 David Nealis rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People doing business in China
The Party: The Secret World of China's Communist Rulers by Richard McGregor

I have been a business consultant helping Americans to do business in China for over eleven years, over this time period I have read many books on China and I must say that this book by Richard McGregor is one of the most well written books I have read on the subject.

McGregor did an incredible job drawing from his eight years in China as correspondent for The Financial Times, to be able to demystify how the Chinese Commun
Megan Blood
First of all, if I were the editor of this book I would be very, very ashamed of myself. I'm talking more than just a mistake here and there--this is in bad shape. BUT if you can get past that (and it's hard) then this book is a fantastic glimpse into China today. It's not a quick read at all--not quite a textbook, but like a very in-depth article from a specialized magazine. But I thought it was awesome. Jon & I have had many discussions about China and how the Communist Party can possibly ...more
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“In a remarkable research finding, Yasheng Huang, an MIT economist, established that Shanghai had the lowest number of private businesses relative to the city’s size and its number of households in 2004, bar two other places in China. Only Beijing and Tibet, where government and the military are, respectively, the main businesses, had lower shares of private commerce.” 0 likes
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