I got a signed copy of the recent (2010) book by Richard McGregor as a present. The Party: The Secret World of China's Communist Rulers is a serious piece of work. Mr. McGregor, the former China bureau chief of Financial Times, has written a disturbing portrait of one of the most powerful and secretive forces on the planet today and written it well.
In his position, the author had access to people inside the system few westerners have had the opportunity to meet. I assume being the chief of FT in China opened doors to Mr. McGregor that stay closed to most academics. In any case the author has had the chance to interview some pretty interesting individuals from different sides of Chinese society, including government heavyweights, businessmen and political dissidents. From the pumpkin seed producer drying his hard earned, but moldy cash out in the open for all to see, to city mayors, all explain their position in China today.
McGregor's writing is easy to follow and I especially appreciate the fairness seldom encountered in contemporary western books about the Party, or Chinese society in general. The author pulls no punches when he exposes the corruption and the, to western eyes incomprehensible, system of favours and nepotism prevalent in China, but he also gives credit where credit is due. This book is not about bashing the Chinese system or the Party; it's a book that really digs deep into behind-the-scenes politics, without gloating at the failures of the system.
I have not come across a book giving such a detailed account of the inner workings of the CPC before. However, McGregor's book is more than that; The Party is not just about the Communists, it paints a vivid picture of Chinese society as a whole. This is not an academic book, but an enjoyable read for anyone who wants to learn more about China.