Thursday, 16 September 2010

Stoking Curiosity

Richard McGregor, the deputy news editor and former Beijing bureau chief of the Financial Times has written an insightful book on the Chinese government, aptly titled, The Party: The Secret World of China's Communist Rulers which was released in June.

McGregor has spent a long period of time in China, speaks Mandarin and at one point had his own consultancy, selling reports to companies about the latest economic, political and social developments in the country.

I've only read one or two excerpts from the book and hope to get my hands on it soon. Thankfully I'm in Hong Kong now which makes it easier as apparently the Chinese government has caught wind of this book and have tried to stop anyone in China from getting a copy.

In his blog, McGregor writes that those in China trying to order a copy online from Amazon were blocked from seeing that page. And if anyone tries to find information on the book from other booksellers, they would be stumped too.

While that might appease most regimes, the Chinese government went a step further.

In August, the American Chamber of Commerce in Beijing invited McGregor to speak about his book, which he did, as well as a video interview on it for the website. He was also asked to write an article, and gladly did.

However, the Chinese government caught wind of this and asked AmCham to suggest -- which means to request -- that the video interview be taken off the website, which then led to the organization to stop its plans of publishing the article McGregor wrote, as the newsletter it would have been printed in, is distributed to some 1,000 government officials.

He understands their concerns of getting into trouble, but thinks as a representative body of the United States, and thus representing freedom of speech and the press that it backed down on publishing the article shows how AmCham chose how to deal with the situation.

AmCham was not the only one. A monthly publication geared at expatriates called That's Shanghai also got its knuckles rapped by authorities about publishing an interview about McGregor and his book on its website, and had to take it down.

This clearly shows how "dangerous" China considers McGregor's book to be. From what I've read, it seems to give a pretty accurate portrayal of what goes on in China and how the government works. How it can try to maintain its aura of vagueness is sure to dissipate soon, as we're now in the era of the Internet and disseminating information 24/7.

The funny thing is, as the vast majority of Chinese don't read English, what's the big deal about this book? The memoir of Zhao Ziyang had a legitimate cause for concern as it was transcribed in Chinese, but a book about China written by a laowai?

Perhaps we should check it out ourselves to see what all the fuss is about.

1 comment:

  1. agree, we should read the book to find out what it is all about. but don't forget there will be a chinese edition following. that will add salt to injury.