The most recommended books on the Chinese Communist Party

Who picked these books? Meet our 11 experts.

11 authors created a book list connected to the Chinese Communist Party, and here are their favorite Chinese Communist Party books.
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Book cover of The World Turned Upside Down: A History of the Chinese Cultural Revolution

Kerry Brown Author Of China

From my list on modern Chinese history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been working on China as a student, teacher, diplomat, business person, and academic since 1991. 
Currently, professor of Chinese Studies and Director of the Lau China Institute at King’s College London, my work involves trying to understand how the country’s deer and more recent history has created the remarkable country that we see today. I have written over 20 books on modern China, and lived there in total 5 and a half years. I have visited every single province and autonomous region, and have lectured on China in over 40 countries, across four continents.

Kerry's book list on modern Chinese history

Kerry Brown Why did Kerry love this book?

Perspectives on one of the most bewildering and turbulent periods in modern Chinese history – the Great Proletariat Cultural Revolution, in the decade from 1966, by one of contemporary China’s foremost historians. Yang, who has worked on the era of the great famines in China prior to this, is well served by two excellent translators. A book that brings the vastness of this revolution down to the stories of specific people and places, including those who were most involved in creating and directing this seminal event.

By Yang Jisheng, Stacy Mosher (translator), Guo Jian (translator)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The World Turned Upside Down as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As a major political event and a crucial turning point in the history of the People's Republic of China, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) marked the zenith as well as the nadir of Mao Zedong's ultra-leftist politics. Reacting in part to the Soviet Union's "revisionism," which he regarded as a threat to the future of socialism, Mao mobilized the masses in a battle against what he called "bourgeois" forces within the Chinese Communist Party. This ten-year-long class struggle devastated traditional Chinese culture as well as the nation's economy.

Following Tombstone, his groundbreaking and award-winning history of the Great Famine,…


Book cover of The Communist Party of China and Marxism 1921-1985

Christine Loh Author Of No Third Person: Rewriting the Hong Kong Story

From my list on the Chinese Communist Party and Hong Kong.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am East-and-West. Born in British Hong Kong, studied in England, and worked for a US multinational in Beijing, I had a range of experiences that traversed Chinese and western cultures. Sucked into politics in Hong Kong prior to and post-1997, I had a ringside seat to colonial Hong Kong becoming a part of China. I too went from being a British citizen to a Chinese national. Along the way, I got interested in the environment and was appointed a minister in Hong Kong in 2012. I have always read a lot about the world and how things work or don’t work. I hope you like what I have enjoyed!

Christine's book list on the Chinese Communist Party and Hong Kong

Christine Loh Why did Christine love this book?

The author, a Jesuit priest from Hungary, spent years in China before moving to Hong Kong. He was the preeminent scholar on China in the 1970s-80s. Ladany poured over what the CCP said about itself to construct a marvellous “self-portrait” of the CCP, including insights about Hong Kong. His scholarship is awesome and there hasn’t been someone quite like him among scholars on China.

By Laszlo Ladany,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Communist Party of China and Marxism 1921-1985 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Without an understanding of the Communist Party no one can understand the China in which the Party has dominated the country. This book follows the development of the Communist Party and of Marxism in China from the early years. For the years 1921-49, it relies mainly on revelations in the Communist press of the early 1980s, when Chinese historians of the Party were relatively free to write. In relation to the People's Republic, beginning in 1949, it summarises what was reported by the author in China News Analysis. This is essentially the story of the Chinese Communist Party in its…


Book cover of Mao's Third Front: The Militarization of Cold War China

Lorenz M. Lüthi Author Of Cold Wars: Asia, the Middle East, Europe

From my list on Cold War history published recently.

Why am I passionate about this?

During the later Cold War, I grew up in neutral and peaceful Switzerland. My German mother’s family lived apart in divided Germany. I knew as a child that I would become a historian because I wanted to find out what had happened to my mother’s home and why there was a Cold War in the first place. My father’s service as a Swiss Red Cross delegate in Korea after 1953 raised my interest in East Asia. After learning Russian and Chinese, I wrote my first book on The Sino-Soviet Split. When I was finishing the book, I resolved to reinvent myself as a global historian, which is why I wrote my second book as a reinterpretation of the global Cold War as a series of parallel regional Cold Wars in Asia, the Middle East, and Europe.

Lorenz's book list on Cold War history published recently

Lorenz M. Lüthi Why did Lorenz love this book?

Mao's Third Front is one of the first books on life and the economy in the PRC of the Cultural Revolution that marries archival research to memoirs and oral history. Largely unknown outside of China, the Third Front was a strategic relocation program of vital industries and whole cities to the country’s hinterland during the 2nd Vietnam War and the Cultural Revolution. It essentially amounted to the largest government investment program in the Mao period. Meyskens’s book manifestly shows how closely the global Cold War and local developments interacted with each other.

By Covell F. Meyskens,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mao's Third Front as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1964, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) made a momentous policy decision. In response to rising tensions with the United States and Soviet Union, a top-secret massive military industrial complex in the mountains of inland China was built, which the CCP hoped to keep hidden from enemy bombers. Mao named this the Third Front. The Third Front received more government investment than any other developmental initiative of the Mao era, and yet this huge industrial war machine, which saw the mobilization of fifteen million people, was not officially acknowledged for over a decade and a half. Drawing on a rich…


Book cover of Feminism and Nationalism in the Third World

Jad Adams Author Of Women and the Vote: A World History

From my list on how women rock the world.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have specialised in writing about radicals and non-conformists who seem to me to be the most interesting people in the world. I like books about people doing challenging things and making a difference. I love travelling to obscure archives in other countries and finding the riches of personal papers in dusty old rooms curated by eccentric archivists who greet me like an old friend.

Jad's book list on how women rock the world

Jad Adams Why did Jad love this book?

The Sri Lankan feminist Kumari Jayawardena produced this groundbreaking history in 1986 and it has never been out of print. It told me so many things I didn’t know, for example how Chairman Mao’s early radicalism was centred on women’s issues: a social system which so subjected women must be brought down; Marxism was a later add-on (but don’t tell the Chinese Communist Party, they don’t like to acknowledge this fact).

By Kumari Jayawardena,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Feminism and Nationalism in the Third World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For twenty-five years, Feminism and Nationalism in the Third World has been an essential primer on the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century history of women's movements in Asia and the Middle East. In this engaging and well-researched survey, Kumari Jayawardena presents feminism as it originated in the Third World, erupting from the specific struggles of women fighting against colonial power, for education or the vote, for safety, and against poverty and inequality. Journalist and human rights activist Rafia Zakaria's foreword to this new edition is an impassioned letter in two parts: the first to Western feminists; the second to feminists…


Book cover of Anatomies of Revolution

Graeme Gill Author Of Revolution and Terror

From my list on understand why, as Mao said, “revolution is not a dinner party”.

Why am I passionate about this?

I became passionate about this subject when I was at university and I realised that so many revolutions that were conducted in the name of high ideals ended up involving considerable suffering and death on the part of the ordinary people. And not just the ordinary people, but the revolutionaries as well. Why, I wondered, was this the case, and did it mean, as many in the 1960s and 1970s argued, that revolution was ultimately self-defeating? The quest to answer these questions remains on-going, but the books I have suggested have helped me to make some headway towards a resolution.

Graeme's book list on understand why, as Mao said, “revolution is not a dinner party”

Graeme Gill Why did Graeme love this book?

I loved this 2019 mainly theoretical study because of the ambition it reflected and the major advances it provided. Lawson’s distinctions between revolutionary situations, revolutionary trajectories, and revolutionary outcomes provide an innovative framework for understanding revolutions.

Its analytical methodology, combined with some case studies, constitutes an immensely rich and engaging study of revolution, which helped to clarify much of my own thinking on this subject. This combination of theory and case studies made this a joy to read.

Book cover of The Changing Legal Orders in Hong Kong and Mainland China: Essays on "One Country, Two Systems"

Christine Loh Author Of No Third Person: Rewriting the Hong Kong Story

From my list on the Chinese Communist Party and Hong Kong.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am East-and-West. Born in British Hong Kong, studied in England, and worked for a US multinational in Beijing, I had a range of experiences that traversed Chinese and western cultures. Sucked into politics in Hong Kong prior to and post-1997, I had a ringside seat to colonial Hong Kong becoming a part of China. I too went from being a British citizen to a Chinese national. Along the way, I got interested in the environment and was appointed a minister in Hong Kong in 2012. I have always read a lot about the world and how things work or don’t work. I hope you like what I have enjoyed!

Christine's book list on the Chinese Communist Party and Hong Kong

Christine Loh Why did Christine love this book?

Hong Kong, as a Special Administrative Region operating a separate system than the one in Mainland China, is a pragmatic innovation of the CCP. The author is from Hong Kong and is a law professor. His scholarship on China’s constitutional history and issues is second to none. This collection of essays reveal how the CCP created a unique entity for post-colonial Hong Kong.

By Albert H. Y. Chen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Changing Legal Orders in Hong Kong and Mainland China as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This collection of selected works by Professor Albert H.Y. Chen shows the contours of the author's scholarship as it developed over 35 years of his academic career, from 1984 to the present. The essays are divided into three sections which cover the three major domains of Professor Chen's research. Part I covers the legal developments and controversies of "One Country, Two Systems" since the Hong Kong interpretation on "the right of abode" in 1999 to the anti-extradition movement of 2019. Part II shifts to focus on tradition and modernity in Chinese Law, including China's Confucian and Legalist traditions and how…


Book cover of Sparks: China's Underground Historians and Their Battle for the Future

Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom Author Of Vigil: Hong Kong on the Brink

From Jeffrey's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Essayist Historian Teacher Songwriter

Jeffrey's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom Why did Jeffrey love this book?

I found the central figures profiled in Sparks enormously compelling due to their bravery, determination, and in some cases also audacity.

These intrepid people—a mix that includes documentary filmmakers, samizdat publishers, essayists, and collectors of oral histories—simply refuse to give up on their risky mission of trying to counter-distorting official Chinese Communist Party narratives about the past. It is an important book, given how much emphasis Xi Jinping has been placing on controlling views of history.

It is also a gripping read, filled with lively anecdotes. I am biased, as Ian Johnson, the author, is a close friend. But I challenge anyone interested in issues of freedom and human rights to read this and come away unmoved.

By Ian Johnson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sparks as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'An indelible feat of reporting and an urgent read ... It's a privilege to read books like these' Te-Ping Chen, author of Land of Big Numbers

'A powerful reminder of the ways in which China's future depends on who controls the past' Peter Hessler

A documentary filmmaker who spent years uncovering a Mao-era death camp; an independent journalist who gave voice to the millions who suffered through Covid; a magazine publisher who dodges the secret police: these are some of the people who make up Sparks: China's Underground Historians and their Battle for the Future, a vital account of how…


Book cover of Fortune's Bazaar: The Making of Hong Kong

Susan Blumberg-Kason Author Of Bernardine's Shanghai Salon: The Story of the Doyenne of Old China

From Susan's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Feminist Jewish Historian Reviewer Reader

Susan's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Susan Blumberg-Kason Why did Susan love this book?

Hong Kong is my favorite city and I spent most of my 20s studying and working there. I thought I knew a lot about its history, but this book shows that it’s much more layered than one may think.

Yes, Hong Kong was a colonial city, but it was mainly built by people who came to East Asia from the Middle East and India. I think books like this are more important than ever because people are so quick to look at history in black and white terms, but like Hong Kong, there many more people involved in making a cosmopolitan city: Parsees, Jews, Muslim, Hindus, and Eurasians from Macau. 

By Vaudine England,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Fortune's Bazaar as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A timely, well-researched, and “illuminating” (The New York Times Book Review) new history of Hong Kong that reveals the untold stories of the diverse peoples who have made it a multicultural world metropolis—and whose freedoms are endangered today.

Hong Kong has always been many cities to many people: a seaport, a gateway to an empire, a place where fortunes can be dramatically made or lost, a place to disappear and reinvent oneself, and a melting pot of diverse populations from around the globe. A British Crown Colony for 155 years, Hong Kong is now ruled by the Chinese Communist Party.…


Book cover of Never Forget National Humiliation: Historical Memory in Chinese Politics and Foreign Relations

Shane Strate Author Of The Lost Territories: Thailand's History of National Humiliation

From my list on how states manipulate historical memory.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a teacher and historian, I’m interested in the collision of cultures that resulted from western intervention in Asia during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. For young Asian nationalists, historical writing was a weapon to be wielded in the fight against imperialism. It is equally important for us to understand the forces that shape our collective memories and to recognize that historians don’t just uncover the past—they produce it. 

Shane's book list on how states manipulate historical memory

Shane Strate Why did Shane love this book?

In the 1980s, Chinese students seeking democratic reforms pushed the Communist Party to the breaking point. Why then, is this current generation of Chinese youth so fiercely nationalistic? This question motivated Zheng Wang to examine how Beijing re-structured the country’s education system beginning in the 1990s. Chinese educators began cultivating suspicion of The West by teaching a history of ‘National Humiliation,’ creating a collective memory of how China was bullied or victimized by Europe and Japan. This narrative of National Humiliation, Zheng suggests, also explains China’s disproportionate responses to perceive slights on the international stage. There is an entire industry of books claiming expertise on the Chinese worldview, but this is one of the best. 

By Zheng Wang,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Never Forget National Humiliation as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How could the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) not only survive but even thrive, regaining the support of many Chinese citizens after the Tiananmen Square crackdown of 1989?Why has popular sentiment turned toward anti-Western nationalism despite the anti-dictatorship democratic movements of the 1980s? And why has China been more assertive toward the United States and Japan in foreign policy but relatively conciliatory toward smaller countries in conflict?

Offering an explanation for these unexpected trends, Zheng Wang follows the Communist government's ideological reeducation of the public, which relentlessly portrays China as the victim of foreign imperialist bullying during "one hundred years of…


Book cover of The Dynamics of Chinese Politics

Christine Loh Author Of No Third Person: Rewriting the Hong Kong Story

From my list on the Chinese Communist Party and Hong Kong.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am East-and-West. Born in British Hong Kong, studied in England, and worked for a US multinational in Beijing, I had a range of experiences that traversed Chinese and western cultures. Sucked into politics in Hong Kong prior to and post-1997, I had a ringside seat to colonial Hong Kong becoming a part of China. I too went from being a British citizen to a Chinese national. Along the way, I got interested in the environment and was appointed a minister in Hong Kong in 2012. I have always read a lot about the world and how things work or don’t work. I hope you like what I have enjoyed!

Christine's book list on the Chinese Communist Party and Hong Kong

Christine Loh Why did Christine love this book?

Lucian Pye’s parents were American missionaries in China, and the author was born in northwest China. He was a sought-after China expert in his lifetime. He had a deep understanding of China and its politics, which meant he understood the CCP, and the book includes references to Hong Kong in the days when Hong Kong was a British colony but something was rumbling.

By Lucian Pye,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Dynamics of Chinese Politics as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Book by Pye, Lucian W.