China’s Communist Party: Atrophy and Adaptation is a unique book. Looking at the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) it explores how they have ruled China since the end of true communism there. It shows, in their own view, how they have ruled, how they have failed, and especially how they have changed. In this well written book the author, David Shambaugh, shows gives the result of his in depth research on the CCP’s own internal communications as it experiences the crisis of faith trying to figure out where it fits into its own country.
It is a relatively brief book, but it suprisingly thurough. It describes how western countries have viewed the CCP’s situation and how that reflects their actions towards the regime. It then describes the CCP’s own view of its situation. It explores how the CCP views other countries, communist and not, and how it expects the future to look. He gets to the meat of the book when he begins talking about the CCP itself. China and the world has changed drastically, even since the opening of China to the outside world, and many things about the Mao era CCP don’t work anymore. The CCP has changed though, drastically, and Shambaugh describes how and why specific changes have occured. Finally he gets into how the CCP is still changing and if it will be able to continue to control China moving into the future (he’s cautiously optimistic).
No other book that I have read has used as many internal CCP documents to describe what and why they do what they do, it’s really fascinating to see that many of the drastic actions they have taken have had groundwork laid for years beforehand. The CCP’s views of the color revolutions which toppled the communist regimes of Europe and Russia infect all of their actions since. They have researched what happened there to an amazing degree and are fervent in their effort to not fall into the same traps.
This book gives the sense that the CCP is a powerful, intelligent entity focused on staying in power, with the will and resources to see it happen. Few other books give as interesting a view into the mind of China’s most powerful organization, and this book is well worth the read.