What To Read On Communist China

Here are 22 must-read books on the very real threat that is China:

Many people seeing a recommended reading list on China might think that this has mainly to do with politics, international relations, history, geo-politics and the like. Well, it does involve all that, but much, much more. A nation seeking to be the one great world super-power is not just active in achieving its aims at home, along with all the oppression and tyranny which that entails.

They also have their hands in most other nations, and are quite active in seeking to subvert, infiltrate and undermine any competition and opposition. This is not just done through the usual means of espionage and covert operations, but seemingly harmless things like social media apps such as TikTok.

Let me speak to that last point a bit further. TikTok and its sister app, Douyin are both produced by the Chinese internet company ByteDance. The Chinese Communists are using them to gain massive amounts of information on others, including those in the West. Many nations are so concerned about security issues that they have banned the app, at least in government departments, because of all the spying that they are being used for.

To help get you further interested in this topic in particular, and the threat of China in general, let me feature some key quotes from a recent interview involving one of the authors I feature below. I refer to Kai Strittmatter and his very important volume, We Have Been Harmonized: Life in China’s Surveillance State.

This book makes for utterly frightening reading, and what the Chinese Communists are now doing with the new technologies would shock even Orwell and Huxley. As he says in his book:

The music video app Douyin (TikTok, in English) has begun to involve the public in the hunt for trust-breakers – another example of the close cooperation between private companies and the state. Users in Guangxi Province were shown images of wanted people who had been placed on blacklists between their music videos. Anyone who knew where to find one of these people, the app said, should tip off the police. As a reward, they would receive a share of the value of that person’s debts. Credit China allows you to search for specific people whose names appear on blacklists. The virtuous are placed on ‘redlists’. A second website provides similar information about companies that have been sanctioned…

Image of We Have Been Harmonized: Life in China's Surveillance State
We Have Been Harmonized: Life in China's Surveillance State by Strittmatter, Kai (Author) Amazon logo

His entire book is well worth reading, but let me turn to the interview I just mentioned. Early last year the German journalist who speaks fluent Mandarin said this in part during the discussion:

What the Communist Party is doing with all this high-tech surveillance technology now is they’re trying to internalize control. … Once you believe it’s true, it’s like you don’t even need the policemen at the corner anymore, because you’re becoming your own policeman….


We have been told for so many years and decades by these tech prophets that every kind of new technology would actually serve the cause of freedom and would undermine and subvert authoritarian rule. Well, the Chinese, they have shown us already for … more than 20 years, that they’re not only not afraid of those new technologies, but on the contrary, they have grown to love them.


The Communist Party doesn’t see those new technologies as a danger to their rule. On the contrary, they have discovered or they think that actually these new technologies give them new instruments that will perfect their rule, and it will make their rule crisis-proof, and now that’s the same thing with artificial intelligence and big data….


There’s this one app on every Chinese mobile phone that’s called WeChat. And with WeChat basically you can live your whole life in WeChat. It started as a normal chat program like WhatsApp, but very soon it turned into a kind of Chinese Facebook. Then it became a Chinese Uber. You could get credit, you could apply for credit to your bank with it. You could use it as an ID. You could file your divorce papers through this app to the local court, and you can do all your financial transactions through this app. And that works with bar codes. And they’ve been using these bar codes for a long time already.


Nobody in China uses credit cards. … Everybody does everything with their mobile phones. And so you come to the point that even street beggars use them and they will tell you, “It’s so convenient.” But at the same time, it’s also amazingly convenient for state security. And every single one of your transactions will actually end up on one of the servers….


One thing is already nationwide, and that’s the system of blacklists. If you’re blacklisted because your social credit is down, then actually you already get sanctioned. For example, you’re no longer allowed to take a plane. You’re no longer able to buy plane tickets. You’re no longer allowed to take a high-speed railway. You’re no longer allowed, for example, in expensive hotels. Your children are no longer allowed to go to expensive good schools and things like this. And this is something that’s already happening. This is one part of the system that is already active. In 2018, there were more than 17 million people being banned from flying because of the system. https://whro.org/news/16392-facial-recognition-and-beyond-journalist-ventures-inside-china-s-surveillance-state

If this seems all a bit far off, simply think how health fascism in the West because of Covid was doing the same thing: dissidents who did not like coercive medicine were also blacklisted and banned: millions lost their jobs, could not get into schools and hospitals, could not travel on buses, planes and trains, and so on. This will only get worse, and the Chinese state is leading the way in all this.

With all that in mind, hopefully you are beginning to see why it is so vital that we are all aware of what China is up to – not just within its own borders but in Australia, America and elsewhere. Here then are 22 highly recommended volumes on what we need to know about this totalitarian powerhouse:

Blumenthal, Dan, The China Nightmare: The Grand Ambitions of a Decaying State. AEI Press, 2020.

Butterfield, Fox, China: Alive in the Bitter Sea. Times Books, 1982.

Cain, Geoffrey, The Perfect Police State: An Undercover Odyssey into China’s Terrifying Surveillance Dystopia of the Future. PublicAffairs, 2021.

Chin, Josh and Liza Lin, Surveillance State: Inside China’s Quest to Launch a New Era of Social Control. St. Martin’s Press, 2022.

Dikötter, Frank, China After Mao: The Rise of a Superpower. Bloomsbury, 2022.

Dikötter, Frank, The Tragedy of Liberation: A History of the Chinese Revolution 1945-1957. Bloomsbury, 2013, 2017.

Dikötter, Frank, Mao’s Great Famine: The History of China’s Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-62. Bloomsbury, 2010, 2017.

Dikötter, Frank, The Cultural Revolution: A People’s History, 1962-1976. Bloomsbury, 2016.

Doshi, Rush, The Long Game: China’s Grand Strategy to Displace American Order. Oxford University Press, 2021.

Easton, Ian, The Final Struggle: Inside China’s Global Strategy. Eastbridge, 2022.

Economy, Elizabeth, The World According to China. Polity, 2022.

Joske, Alex, Spies and Lies: How China’s Greatest Covert Operations Fooled the World. Hardie Grant, 2022.

Molan, Jim, Danger on Our Doorstep. HarperCollins, 2022.

Mosher, Steven, Broken Earth: The Rural Chinese. The Free Press, 1983.

Mosher, Steven, Bully of Asia: Why China’s Dream is the New Threat to World Order. Regnery, 2017, 2022.

Mosher, Steven, Hegemon: China’s Plan to Dominate Asia and the World. Encounter Books, 2000.

Mosher, Steven, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Pandemics. Regnery, 2022. (Mainly about China)

Schweizer, Peter, Red-Handed: How American Elites Get Rich Helping China Win. Harper, 2022.

Senger, Michael, Snake Oil: How Xi Jinping Shut Down the World. Plenary Press, 2021.

Spalding, Robert, War Without Rules: China’s Playbook for Global Domination. Sentinel, 2022.

Strittmatter, Kai, We Have Been Harmonized: Life in China’s Surveillance State. Old Street Publishing, 2019, 2020.

Terrill, Ross, Mao: A Biography. Stanford University Press, 1980, 2000.

If you insist that I pick my favourites here, that would be hard to do, as they are all of great value. With four volumes each by Dikötter and Mosher, I obviously think they are important authors to run with. If you want an Australian take on things, grab the volume by the late Jim Molan.

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9 Replies to “What To Read On Communist China”

  1. Thanks Bill. For those who are not big readers there is a 10 part series called the “The Specter of communism ” that can be accessed on utube. Each episode is approximately 30 minutes, very insightful.

  2. There is so much to be concerned about: Dan Andrews secretive visit to China, Anthony Albanese’s politically deceptive Voice model, the Health and Aged Care crises, dodgy Climate Change science, the Green threat to energy and our economy, the anti-conservatism of the Liberal Party and China’s breach of the rule of international law. Meanwhile, Australians queue up to attend Barack Obama’s lectures on global leadership. Duh! I’ve just read the late Jim Molan’s Danger on Our Doorstep. It lists several options for conflict with China’s hyper-military stance in the Western Pacific. The Federal Government has ordered smart mines for our ports and a domestic manufacturing facility, giving our Navy an asymmetric deterrent. They get a tick for that, but it’s increasingly obvious that the digital revolution is reducing people to a number, followed closely by a dollar sign. That’s the bigger picture.

  3. It was published in 2018, but Australian academic, Clive Hamilton’s Silent invasion : China’s influence in Australia / Clive Hamilton with research by Alex Joske Hardie, Grant Books, Richmond, Victoria 2018 deals in some detail with the important national security matters discussed in today’s post.

    Artificial Intelligence and related IT software and hardware have enormous potential for both good and evil. I’ve yet to read it, but John Lennox’s book, 2084: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humanity, Jun 2020 deals with the cyber technology issues involved in today’s blog post.

  4. Dear Bill, Thank you for the list. It is a good idea to get them in the libraries for people who cannot afford to buy many books. I have succeeded in getting Steven Mosher’s Bully of Asia, Jim Molan’s Danger on our Doorstep and Sandra J Godde’s Reaching for Immortality all of which are very readable.

  5. Where does John Pesutto get off on dissing Moira Deeming? As Greg Sheridan writes in today’s Australian, the Libs won’t be returning to Melbourne or Canberra anytime soon as long as he keeps criticising his own team.

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