“My fifth choice is a novel, a series of detective novels set in Shanghai. Specifically, A Case of Two Cities, by Qiu Xiaolong, who is great. He’s a Chinese guy, but he lives in the States. He’s got a series of detective novels and the key character is a detective who is also a famous poet. This detective is not a revolutionary, but he’s a bit leery of the system and suspicious of promotion, though he’s a diligent and excellent detective. And the theme of the book is how he has to work through the system to get to the bottom of the case. He has a loyal underling who, like a lot of Chinese people, is struggling to get on with his life and family. But the thing that’s great about the book is how the author portrays the system. It’s like that great phrase of Perry Link’s, about ‘the anaconda in the ceiling’. You never quite see the Party operating. You never quite know what the political situation is, because you’re not allowed to know. But you get calls out of the blue every now and then from the Party Secretary. The detective always gets calls from the Party Secretary barking cryptic enquiries and vague instructions at him. It’s typical of the Chinese system – it puts you on alert, on edge: something’s up and you’d better not push too far. On top of that, they’re lovely detective stories, and very well crafted plots, set very evocatively in 1990s Shanghai, during the modernisation period.” Read more...
The best books on The Chinese Communist Party