Take Junior Department-Level Researcher Ou Beibei for example: disappointed in her lackluster husband, she tries her hand at riskier paths to power. Devious plots, seduction, blackmail and bribery are all on the table in a no-holds-barred scramble for political prestige and personal gain. The Civil Servant's Notebook is the story of the unmasking of a corrupt official in a big Chinese city. But it is worth the read for the insight into how the various players see themselves and their positions in the system, the mindset with which they approach their situations, and the deep flaws of a system where so much depends on personal power as opposed to any kind of real rule of law. Since then Wang, who is 49, has published thirteen novels about corruption and politics in China, selling millions of copies in the process.
So the losing Mayor is detained administratively in barracks and, after some political interference, later executed, as it is evidently normal to do, with no discussion of the morality of so doing. If you fail, that's evil. Devious plots, seduction, blackmail, and bribery are all on the table in a no-holds-barred scramble for political prestige and personal gain. In my notebook, I hazarded a few observations about the type of novel that is translated into English. A House of Cards, with pawns at play, and undercover moles swimming in shark-infested waters. If you succeed, that's good. Most of the point-of-view civil servants are concerned with their own advancement, or how the politicking in the department is going - either by who gets picked to do what task, or who they know.
But Wang shows us that in China, and by extension in England, and, for all I know, in every civil service anywhere in the world, there is something malignant at the heart of government that is most evident in the pursuit of rank and status by favour. Dongzhou City needs a new Mayor. It can be confusing some times, but nonetheless takes us close and personal. Told through multiple narrators, Wang Xiaofang crafts a unique and complex tale of official mischief where civil servants prioritize personal welfare over public welfare and 'serve the people' is just about the last thing on their minds… This is the first book of Wang Xiofang to be translated in English and after reading this wonderful satire of public service in China, I wait in anticipation of more. Without a position of respect, no one would take you seriously, and you would have to live by taking hints from the power brokers.
Language is Given the nearly uninterrupted growth in China since the economic reforms of 1978, it is fascinating to see how the Chinese view their life on the job. Devious plots, seduction, and bribery are all on the table in a no-holds-barred scramble for political prestige and personal gain. During the struggle, the secretary of the provincial disciplinary committee, Qi Xiuying, starts receiving some provocative letters, said to be from Liu Yihe's notebook, which, if proven to be legitimate, could ruin Liu Yihe for good. Wang was found innocent of involvement and left the civil service to set up shop as a writer. In a series of soliloquies, the administrative and political characters, with their trappings of seating arrangements, vehicles, office equipment and writing instruments, come in turn to the stage he has constructed and lead the story along.
It's a world that Wang is familiar with, having begun his own career in the civil service and risen through the ranks of officialdom to become private secretary to the deputy mayor of one of China's biggest cities. Peng is far from alone in making the most of the opportunities his office provides him with. The plot revolves around the personal notebook of a high-up official, who works in provincial government. Wang was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing, quit his job and put pen to paper. Ma achieved infamy for gambling and losing millions in public money in Macau's casinos, and was later sentenced to death for his crimes. The writer portrayed all the characters in the book brilliantly; from Beibei to old leader, it really impressed me.
Language is a problem here. Not even the most practiced of civil servants can predict just who will outmaneuver whom, and, indeed, whether anyone will remain unscathed. Penned by a former insider, The Civil Servant's Notebook offers a glimpse into the distorted psyches of those who roam the guarded halls of Chinese political power. The 'iron fist of the law' only frightened the small fry, not the big fish. This book illuminated my experience of living in China, in ways both welcome and unwelcome. Dangerous factions begin to form around the two contenders and longstanding rivals, the Vice-Mayors Liu Yihe and Peng Guoliang.
A northeastern city in Dongzhou province needs a new Mayor, and there are plenty of hungry candidates eager for the top job. As I mentioned in the beginning, tales of corruption are a staple of modern drama. I had never thought of myself as a cog. But these are the accounts of observers. Xiofang writes from the position of experience as he was a career civil servant - which in ancient China and it appears in the Republic of China is a respectable position.
I loved this book, and its cutting observations on Chinese culture, corruption, and the civil service in general. At the center of it all is a notebook, a humble witness to events, but one whose pages contain information they shouldn't. Government corridors are awash with rumor and subterfuge as the local Communist Party mandarins go through the motions of selecting a candidate. Penned by a former insider, The Civil Servant's Notebook offers a glimpse into the distorted psyches of those who roam those guarded halls. However, they will be disappointed to discover that it just not the same. The notebook is akin to several short stories each centered on a different character even a Chair which hilariously reminisces on the impetus a throne gives This is the first book of Wang Xiofang to be translated in English and after reading this wonderful satire of public service in China, I wait in anticipation of more. Perhaps author Wang Xiaofang, who has previously walked the wallpapered corridors of bureaucracy, had to somehow balance the raw human emotions that he so deftly portrays at their very worst.