I just started reading "Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang". I haven't read in far enough to give an evaluation of the main part of the book, but I can say I'm impressed with the preparation. When it comes to modern China, you'd be lucky to name anyone past Deng Xiaoping. The authors that put the book together understand this and have 2 introductory chapters, an index of names in the back, and fill the narration with notes and explanations. They've done an incredible job at making the book as accessible as possible and I commend them for it.
I've noticed a few news stories from China lately that fit well with the flow of the book thus far that I'll highlight:
Think US infrastructure is in bad shape? Look at this building collapse in China.
Chinese steelworkers protest layoffs, by killing boss. Private steelmaker takes over state-run factory and orders 25,000 layoffs. 30,000 workers, including the 5,000 still keeping their jobs, beat the manager to death. Remember that the economic crisis has also hit Chinese factory jobs hard and, while their economy is still growing, there's a lot of frustrated, unemployed factory workers out there. Perfect recipe for a little revolution...
Files Vanished, Young Chinese Lose the Future - NYTimes. Crooked bureaucrats have been selling academic records to lesser-performing students to help them get jobs and academic visas, leaving the honest students in the lurch working menial jobs.
China doesn't have the Rule of Law, at least not in the way we understand it. If a Party official doesn't like the law, they disregard it. Which leads me to my last story...
Chinese Workers Say Illness Is Real, Not Hysteria - NYTimes. Chemical plant leaks H2S (!) and government response is, 'suck it up and quit whining, pussies.'
Hydrogen Sulfide is something every oilworker learns to fear. It's an extremely toxic gas that smells like rotten eggs. The first thing that happens when you're exposed is you lose your sense of smell. You smell it briefly and then it goes away. And then, about 30 seconds later (at sufficient concentrations), you keel over dead. It's not something to fool around with. Why is it still going on?
"...the plant has a complicated corporate structure that includes investors from Hong Kong and a number of local government officials."
Ah, now I understand. Say whatever you will about corruption in this country, but we haven't hit that low.