In Post-CCP China, Taiwanese author Fan Chou sets out by clarifying a seemingly obvious point – China is not the CCP. In this book, Fan draws on his own experience and dealings in China – where he spent more than 20 years running various businesses – to unpick the current state of the CCP and make predictions for China’s future. Fan views the CCP as an inflexible authoritarian regime approaching the end of its natural lifespan, and thus treats its eventual demise as an inevitability. However, rather than focusing on “whether” the CCP will disintegrate (as was the premise of Gordon Chang’s The Coming Collapse of China in 2001), Fan seeks to identify the stakeholders – domestic and foreign – that are likely to decide the various potential outcomes in a post-CCP era.
This book contains nine chapters. The first three chapters focus on the book’s main premise, China’s economic development and status quo, and China’s political development and status quo, respectively.
Chapter One aims to define what is meant by the “disintegration” of the CCP. In Fan’s opinion, the CCP’s political legitimacy largely relies on China’s economic performance and wealth creation and, as such, the CCP’s fiscal competence is closely correlated to its survival. In his trademark style, Fan mixes hard facts and light-hearted metaphors to prime the reader on China’s current economic challenges, for example: In 2008, China had $375 billion worth of external debt and $1.95 trillion in foreign exchange reserves. In 2021, it was $2.75 trillion and $3.25 trillion, respectively. Put another way, if [my friend] Old Wang had $1.95 trillion worth of cash stashed under his bed in 2008, he owed $375 billion of that to his fellow villagers. In 2021, the pile of cash under his bed had grown to $3.25 trillion, but he owed his fellow villagers $2.75 trillion.
In Chapter Two, Fan explores why so many people are reluctant to contemplate the impossible: that a political behemoth such as the CCP could possibly cease to function. Fan takes the unexpected fate of the Titanic and Twin Towers as metaphors to identify the most vulnerable point in the CCP’s power structure. Again, in his witty narrative, Fan takes the reader through the main junctures of China’s stunning economic development and explains why he believes Xi Jinping’s policies threaten to speed up the CCP’s demise – while also pointing out that it is not too late for political reform.
Meanwhile, Chapter Three walks the reader through China’s political development prior to and after 1949. He challenges common rhetoric around the CCP’s political ideology (which, in Fan’s opinion, is more rooted in Chinese legalism than Marxism), and also points out what he considers to be glaring anomalies in the story of “one China” (such as the fact that Mao Zedong once advocated carving China up into 27 independent states). In this chapter, Fan also analyzes Xi’s wavering attempts to settle on an effective ideology for his rule. He warns that by overturning China’s presidential term limit and further centralizing his power, Xi is taking China and the CCP into dangerous, uncharted territory.
The book’s next two chapters focus on the domestic and international forces that could potentially affect China’s outcome should the CCP disintegrate. Chapter Four subdivides Chinese society along a multitude of political and geographical lines, giving a brief outline of the main traits and importance of each subdivision. In doing so, Fan underscores that China is a vast society with significant cultural, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity. Again, this is not an academic analysis; rather, Fan provides his own sharp – and sometimes provocative – view on the status of each subdivision of China’s political system or national territory. For example, he says of the Chinese army in the face of fiscal troubles: “Nationalism is the only way to hold the PLA together. Shouting about it loud enough avoids a military coup. But soldiers can’t eat nationalism. Once the [CCP’s] money runs out, the PLA will fragment.” Or on the region of Xinjiang, which accounts for one sixth of China’s total area: “A person’s view on Xinjiang can be used as a litmus test for their concept of ‘China’, as well as to measure their views on a ‘unified China’. If you observe carefully or push for opinions, you will discover that many people wishing to see the end of the CCP are, at the same time, opposed to an independent Xinjiang. How does this make any sense? If you understand this phenomenon, you will also likely understand Putin’s difficulty in accepting an independent Ukraine.”
Chapter Five deals with international factors, as it assesses the significance of different countries and regions on China’s future. For example, Fan points out how conflict around water sources is a potential flashpoint between India and China, how post-CCP China could learn from the experience of Vietnam’s communist government in terms of political reform, and that the success of Taiwan in building a democratic Chinese-speaking society poses one of the biggest threats to the future of the CCP.
Although for Fan the demise of the CCP in its current state is inevitable, Chapter Six begins by summarizing the main arguments for and against the possible collapse of the CCP. This is followed by a “spectrum” of scenarios that might occur should the CCP disintegrate – from minor changes (such as changing the name of the CCP and enacting Vietnamese-style political reform) to major upheavals (such as China becoming a federation). In a similar vein, Chapter Seven discusses various ways China may reorganize itself according to which foreign forces are more successful at vying for influence.
As this book was written for a Taiwanese audience, Chapter Eight addresses Taiwan-specific issues and offers recommendations as to how Taiwan should ready itself for a potential conflict with China. Similarly, the book’s final chapter mostly takes the form of a “letter” written to the citizens of the PRC (mirroring the “Message to Compatriots in Taiwan” released by the Chinese government in 1979) from the Taiwanese people.
The author’s somewhat provocative take on China and the CCP strikes a similar tone to that of The Invention of China by Bill Hayton. However, unlike The Invention of China (which makes for denser reading and requires a firm grounding in Chinese history), Post-CCP China explains China’s political history, economic situation, and cultural matters in a more anecdotal, op-ed style and, therefore, minimal knowledge of China is required to enjoy this book. The book is also structured in short, easy-to-digest sections. As such, this book would be suitable for a general readership with an interest in China.
Fan Chou is a writer, columnist, and entrepreneur. He writes regularly on cross-strait issues for various news publications in Taiwan and has published several books on related topics. He holds an MA in Philosophy from Columbia University.