SINGAPORE - When the book "When the Party Ends: China's leaps and stumbles after the Beijing Olympics" was launched in November 2013, it was a best-seller which received favourable reviews from China watchers, and made it to the must-read list of the Los Angeles Review of Books and Japan Times.
Published by The Straits Times Press, a wholly owned subsidiary of Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), the 320-page book by The Straits Times journalist Peh Shing Huei vividly captured the surge of a "steroid superpower", accompanied by an upswing in social unrest, political intrigue and insecurity. It is a compelling account of China after it stunned the world with the memorable opening of the Olympic Games, an exciting period which coincided with the author's posting to the country.
Mr Peh was based in Beijing as The Straits Times' China Bureau Chief from 2008 to 2012, where he reported on the massive Sichuan earthquake three months before the Games in 2008, the dramatic fall of Chongqing chief Bo Xilai and the once-in-a-decade leadership handover in 2012.
The author also uncovered the simmering tension behind China's meteoric progress, which has seen the communist country launching high-speed rail networks at a breakneck pace and conquering space in the midst of a growing income divide. Even as China grew stronger and more assertive, it also became more fragile. This is evident in the many insightful interviews with scholars, dissidents, civil servants, politicians, and the ordinary Chinese citizens whose stories are intricately weaved into the eight chapters.
Besides a paperback edition, it is now available as an e-book on Kindle at Amazon.com and stpressbooks.com.sg at US$9.90 from 4 September.
This is the second book written by Mr Peh. He was the co-author of "Struck By Lightning", a collection of essays on Singapore politics, published in 2006.
Now the news editor of The Straits Times, Mr Peh, who is a graduate of Columbia University in New York and the National University of Singapore, said of his latest e-book: "There has been strong interest overseas since the book was launched but many have been unable to get a copy of it. Now that it is available on Kindle at Amazon.com, I hope the book can be enjoyed by more people."
Mr Warren Fernandez, Editor of The Straits Times, said: "Peh's book has been well received in Singapore, and among those who watch China closely. By making the book available for download online, we hope to bring his insightful analysis of the country and vivid story-telling to a global audience."
Historian and China watcher Jeffrey Wasserstrom writes on LA Review of Books blog that Mr Peh's book is one of 12 China books to buy. He wrote: "Peh Shing Huei's "When the Party Ends: China's Leaps and Stumbles After the Olympics"… should appeal to readers fascinated by elite politics and its author, who did good reporting from Beijing for the Singapore Straits Times before moving back to Southeast Asia, knows when and how to enliven top-down views of China with human interest stories and engaging personal touches."
Professor Jeff Kingston of Temple University in Tokyo placed the book on a New Year Asian reading list to savour and inspire. The book, he says in The Japan Times, has "colourful, fast-paced analysis" of steroid superpower China. The author, he adds, "raises important questions about the sustainability of what he dubs "market Leninism" and the Communist Party's capacity to take China to the next stage."