Monday, September 1, 2014

WHEN THE PARTY ENDS - China's leaps after the Beijing Olympics by Peh Shing Huei

When I first saw this book at Changi Airport, I did not even bother to cast a second look. I thought I had had enough of books on China already. After a round of the book shop and still finding myself empty-handed, I reluctantly picked it up - only to see later it is indeed one of the most objective books I have come across on modern Mainland China.

The author is The Straits Times of Singapore' journalist who got assigned to cover China for a couple of years. He has the benefit of both Western and Chinese perspectives of Chinese social psyche. On China's handling of Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines over some of the disputed islands in East and South China Seas, he presents facts as they are without the "baggage" of Chinese-ness. The leadership in China appears to practise 臥薪嘗膽 (loosely, to ensure hardship to fight another day) the detriment of its own good. And the recent leaders have apparently forgotten the teachings of Deng after the 2008 Olympics and Shanghai Expo. The air of arrogance and intolerance that is emerging is suffocating, even to a an ethnic Chinese like Peh.

The book reveals a great about pollution in China, the food safety issues there and the ethnic minorities in Xinjiang. As a "civilisation" with which many of us are proud to be identified, we certainly can learn a great deal from his exposé, especially on ethics, scruples and social conscience, or more correctly, the lack of them, by Chinese businesses.

However the book is not without conspiracy theories as it wants to be. The chapters on Bo Xilai are a case in point. Nonetheless, the insights are gripping, save the top level intrigue part.

I hope this book will get translated and gain widespread readership in Mainland China. 

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