No More Chinese Communist Party

June 25, 2010

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

The Economist: ANY study of the Chinese Communist Party today will soon confront two jarring questions. The first is how a party responsible for such horrors—the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, the death of some 35m-40m people in the worst-ever man-made famine from 1958-1960—has stayed in power without facing any serious threat, the 1989 Tiananmen protests aside. The second is why it still calls itself “communist”, when China today seems closer to the cut-throat capitalism of Victorian England than to any egalitarian dream.

The second question is easier. In 1979 Deng Xiaoping, the pragmatic founder of the new China, answered it in “four basic principles”, the most important being “the leading role of the Communist Party”. Richard McGregor’s masterful depiction of the party today cites a less pompous tautology, from Chen Yuan, the son of a Long March veteran and hero of central planning, who is himself a leading state-banker: “We are the Communist Party and we will decide what communism means.”

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