Rowan Callick, Asia-Pacific Editor of The Australian newspaper, has published a new book, Party Time: Who Runs China and How, which offers an analysis of the Chinese Communist Party. The China Story interviews Callick about the book and his thoughts about contemporary China, where he was based as a journalist from 2006-2009:
Q: Many people regard knowledge of the Communist Party as absolutely essential for understanding contemporary China. In your view, is this true? Or, do you now see some aspects of contemporary China developing in ways beyond the Party’s control?
A: The final chapter in my book is titled: ‘China Beyond the Party’, so I certainly feel that while it remains a jealous party, reluctant to share space, to operate in genuine partnership with individuals or organisations it does not control, China is bigger than the People’s Republic. People have more space to constructive private lives and family lives.
The Party began under Deng Xiaoping to concede space – as a result of its already being exercised – to people doing business for themselves. During and after the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, the Party began also to concede space for altruism.
The Internet has also opened space beyond Party control. Despite the deployment of thousands of ‘net police’ and massive investment in supervisory software, persistent ‘netizens’ find ways to communicate information and ideas around and beyond the Party.
But the Party remains at the centre of contemporary China. It does not have to control directly every institution and activity; it does retain though the capacity to do so, which remains crucial, a level of authority that marks China’s governance out as unique in the twenty-first century world. [Source]
Callick was widely quoted by the Chinese state media after the Australian Ambassador to China traveled to Tibet, when comments wrongly attributed to him praised the situation there. From the Sydney Morning Herald:
In state-run reports following a recent visit by three Australian journalists, veteran reporter from The Australian Rowan Callick was quoted as saying he was surprised by what “a wonderful life” Tibetans were living. It is understood the comments were wrongly attributed to him and were made by another Australian on the trip, a producer filming a cooking show in China. Callick declined to comment. [Source]
Callick did later comment on the incident in an opinion piece in the Australian.