Review: Understanding the CCP through four important books

This month marks a century since the founding of the Chinese Communist Party. Given its continued position as the ruling party of one of the world’s most powerful countries, understanding the CCP is as critical as ever.

Here, Thai Enquirer has compiled a list of interesting books on the CCP for the interested reader.

Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China by Ezra Vogel

There are few figures who had a greater impact on modern China than Deng Xiaoping. Ezra Vogel’s biography is a detailed and thorough overview of Deng’s life, covering what Vogel calls Deng’s “tortuous road to the top” and surveying Deng’s economic and political policies after his ascent to the role of paramount leader. Deng was both what Vogel terms the builder and administerer of policies pre-Cultural Revolution, and the architect of reform and opening up after Mao’s death, and studying his life reveals the marked contrasts in the CCP’s trajectory that is Deng’s legacy. 

The Third Revolution: Xi Jinping and the New Chinese State by Elizabeth Economy

Elizabeth Economy argues that Xi Jinping’s policies represent a “third revolution” within the CCP: instead of Deng’s reform and opening up, Xi has pushed for reform without opening up, along with the reassertion of the CCP’s role in China. Economy examines the ramifications Xi’s policies have had on the state-owned enterprises sector, internet management, corruption, innovation, the environment and Chinese foreign policy. Given that this third revolution is still continuing, this policy survey continues to be relevant to understanding Xi’s China.

The Party: The Secret World of China’s Communist Rulers by Richard McGregor

The Party is a highly engaging and readable book on the inner functioning of the CCP and its relationship with Chinese society. McGregor explores the CCP’s position at the center of Chinese politics and the structure of what is in many ways a party that is built on its Leninist roots. This is no easy task, given the secrecy and closedness of the system; it is, as McGregor writes, “the story of a curious journalist opening, or trying to open, the system’s many locked doors, and looking inside.” Yet the result is a book is filled with interesting facts, exploring everything from the importance of the Central Organization Department to the role of the People Liberation’s Army as a revolutionary party’s military arm. 

Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister by Jung Chung

Jung Chung follows the lives of the remarkable Soong sisters from the founding of the Chinese republic to its transition to Communist rule. The three sisters were inextricably tied to the most important events in China’s 20th century history. One sister was married to Sun Yat Sen, one was married to China’s richest man, and one married Chiang Kai Shek who led the nationalist forces against the communists.

As one reviewer puts it, “They each played a major role in influencing their husbands, who, along with their own positions of power, ultimately changed the course of Chinese history.”


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