Just finished blowing through The Party Forever: Inside China’s Modern Communist Elite, written by Rowan Callick, The Australian’s Asia-Pacific editor.
I liked it but I did not love it.
It reads like it was written by a knowledgeable journalist who wrote it while still on his day job and maybe rushed it to print to have it coincide with China’s recent leadership change. In other words, it is a really good book to read now if you are interested in the (oversized) role China’s Communist Party plays in China, but probably will not be used in Chinese history classes even ten years from now.
What I liked about the book is that it gave me a really good feel for how the party operates and for many of the individuals behind the operations. And all in one place.
The weird thing about the book though is that each chapter reads more like a discrete article than as a chapter in a book. This can be both good and bad. It can be good if you pick and choose your chapters and do not read the entire book, but it can be rather tiring to have repeated explanations of things as the book progresses.
If I were to single out a favorite chapter (which would be a weird thing to do but for the fact that the chapters are so discrete), it would definitely be Chapter 9, “Doing Business.” This chapter does a truly excellent job detailing the connections between the Party and the business world in China, and if you are doing business in China, I would buy this book for this chapter alone. I especially love its concluding sentence mostly because it reaches no conclusion at all: “In opening itself up to the business world, the party may be getting more than it bargained for.”
If you have an interest in China politics that newspapers and magazines cannot satisfy, and yet do not want to read a 985 page tome, I recommend The Party Forever. It is only 243 pages and I assure you that upon its completion, you will have a better understanding about China politics than before you started it.
What do others think?