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Official memoirs lift curtain on halls of power   2011-09-15 04:04:00

Books by former senior government officials are increasingly becoming bestsellers in China. The Collected Speeches of Zhu Rongji, the former premier, released earlier this month, is a recent example of this trend.

Compared with their counterparts in foreign countries where publishing memoirs is almost routine for retired officials, similar books are still rare in China. Former US vice president Dick Cheney and former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice published their memoirs at close to the same time.

Compared to personal accounts by foreign officials, books by Chinese officials are often more "formal." The Collected Speeches of Zhu Rongji included 348 of his speeches, articles, letters and written comments made during his terms as vice premier and premier.

It is Changing however. Ten Episodes in China's Diplomacy, by former foreign minister Qian Qichen, was also a hit in 2003.

Books by former government officials, with their personal stories and policy insight, have recorded the rough times China has traversed. More importantly, these books also fill an information vacuum regarding government affairs.

For decades, books by officials were limited to the selected works of a few top leaders. The limitations have been gradually lifted in recent years as more retired officials, of both high and low rank, have taken up the pen when relieved from public duty. The contents include various forms of essays, diaries and speeches, revealing more personal characteristics than formal writings.

More officials publishing books after retirement shows progress in political transparency for the government. To some extent, the phenomenon reflects the limitation of information disclosure of government affairs. The declassification of documents often takes longer. This restriction of available information has further contributed to the popularity of books by former senior officials.

In fact, there are even fake memoirs of former senior officials available on the underground market.

Books are useful tools for officials to reveal their political views and connect with the public. Now, more Chinese officials are taking this tool. For example, Yu Youjun, former governor of Shanxi Province, finished a book called Socialism in China during his two years out of public office from 2008 to 2010 before taking up a new position.

It is these books that gradually remove the mystery that shrouds the Chinese political hierarchy.

source : Global Times     editor:: Ma Ting
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