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May 30, 2015

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China’s Communist Party reaches out to the West

IN a bid to help a Western audience understand why it remains the single, largest ruling party in a country of 1.3 billion people, the Communist Party of China has published a series of five books about itself, the English versions of which were launched at BookExpo America in New York on Thursday.

The “China Today: Understanding the CPC” series, published by Beijing-based Party Building Books Publishing House, is said to represent the first attempt by the 86-million-member CPC in its 94-year history to convey a “genuine and understandable” image of itself to the outside world.

“We have released this book series to cater to the needs of both the Party itself and the outside world,” Zhao Fan, the publisher’s president, told reporters at the launch.

“As China is becoming increasingly important in the international arena, most people, including those who once held stereotypes about the CPC, eventually want to know more about the Party,” Zhao said.

The books offer a rare glimpse into the world’s largest ruling political party, he said.

The first book in the series, “Exploring The Miracle,” explains the gist of the so-called China Miracle, or the country’s stunning economic rise after 36 years of reform and opening up.

Another three — “Serving The People,” “Governing China” and “China and the CPC” — focus on the fundamental aims of the Party and how it designs its governance structure, strategies and systems.

The last of the series, “The Good Fight,” highlights the ongoing anti-corruption campaign which has become one of the top priorities for the Party’s current leadership.

The books are said to lack the empty slogans that were common in Chinese political publications of the past.

Instead, they are full of historical anecdotes, substantial data, and stories of Party members deemed role models or those derided for their corruption and abuse of power.

Robert Lawrence Kuhn, chairman of the Kuhn Foundation, which is dedicated to promoting China-US relations, said the Party’s decision to open itself up was of significance to both China and the world.

“China is involved in every matter of international importance, yet China is misunderstood in many ways,” Kuhn said.

“People are more knowledgeable about China today but not so knowledgeable about the Party at all, and that’s why it is critical for the Party itself to make an outreach to the world in a detailed manner.”

While China is eager to cooperate with the rest of the world in promoting world peace and prosperity, it could only happen when the world understands China and the CPC in a proper way, he added.

Ryan Allen, a doctoral fellow with New York-based Columbia University, said the books offer an opportunity for Western audiences to understand a political party that led China from poverty to economic and political excellence.

“It’s always a good thing to offer information for people to read about and analyze. It shows the Party is trying to let people understand, including those who might be hostile or not willing to have the reception,” Allen said. “Now the step has already been made, the Americans have to reach out and take it.”

Several decades ago, when McCarthyism prevailed in the United States amid a so-called Red Scare, even the mere mention of communism seemed taboo.

“I think foreigners can disagree with the CPC, argue with the CPC, but all who need to understand China must understand the CPC,” Kuhn said.

Zhao said publication would have been impossible without “strong support and all-round assistance” from various Party departments, particularly the organization department of the Party’s Central Committee.

“In the past the Party seemed to be a sensitive topic to the external world, and it seemed to want to keep everything internal. But a very secretive approach doesn’t work in the world today,” said Kuhn. “Therefore, China and the Party should be credited, for a beginning of the current outreach and openness.”

He added: “We have seen the Party develop and we have had Party building in different ways that are very important. So now I think there is confidence to go out into the world. As this process continues, and as China continues to develop, I hope the Party will become more and more confident and more and more open.”


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