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Good books on China if that’s your bag

If you are interested in reading about social/environmental/governance issues in China, then the below list might be for you.

Some New Year reading suggestions from our China editor Paul French:

1) Jonathan Watts – When a Billion Chinese Jump – How Will China Save Mankind…or Destroy It – from the Guardian’s East Asia Environment correspondent who is based in Beijing, Watts weaves an examination of the major issues facing China’s environment (dirty water, filthy air, untrammelled consumption, rampant new car ownership etc etc) with a travelogue around the vast country.

Watts identifies the major issues and, in true journo style, is fairly even handed if not perhaps a little too quick to give credit to Chinese officials who’s efforts may occasionally appear but are far from universal or consistent.

Still, this is the best examination of the country’s coming environmental crisis to date and nicely dispenses with the ‘wow look at all those progressive Buicks and skyscrapers’ view of China’s growth.

2) Richard McGregor – The Party: The Secret World of China’s Communist Rulers – McGregor is a FT hack, just appointed their DC bureau chief but, until recently, was an Asia hand based in Tokyo, Shanghai and then Beijing.

His skewering of the CCP is precise, detailed and vast revealing the Party as endemically corrupt, interested mostly in self preservation, all pervasive, prone to thuggishness and lies. This may be why every method of buying this book from a physical ban to blocking Amazon pages has been deployed by the Party-State machine against McGregor!

In particular McGregor highlights the level of involvement and interference by the Party in just about every significant listed Chinese company – as none of these companies has ever admitted to this Party involvement all, McGregor suggests, are illegally listed on foreign exchanges where disclosure of political influence is required.

It’s been a point of fact for a long time that the investment and regulators have chosen to ignore – with McGregor’s book on the shelves no one can now say they weren’t told.

3) James Fallows – Postcards From Tomorrow Square: Reports From China – Fallows has (until his departure last year) been a studious and detailed student of China spending time living in both Shanghai and Beijing.

He has consistently been one of America’s more thoughtful and less trenchant journalists, as he showed previously on subjects as diverse as the rise of Japan in the 1980s and the invasion of Iraq.

This book is a collection of his reporting from China for The Atlantic which many non-American readers probably missed. Fallows is well worth catching up with.

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