It is a book promotion that puts Harry Potter in the shade: rave reviews, front-page headlines, lead stories on TV and a must-buy recommendation by the former president of the world's most populous dictatorship.
Add the distinct possibility of demotion, imprisonment or the withdrawal of publishing licenses for any critic, and there is every reason to believe that the The Selected Works of Jiang Zemin (
Published in three tomes, the collection of 203 speeches, articles, letters and decrees is difficult to carry, let alone read.
But since its launch last week, the work has been extolled as one of the three ideological foundations of the Chinese Communist party. Along with similar works by Mao Zedong (毛澤東) and Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平), it forms the closest thing the party has to a Bible, guaranteeing its place in every library, university and military barracks.
President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) called a special meeting of the party's Central Committee on Monday to discuss the book. He called on all party members to study Jiang's words, saying the Central Committee had decided to push forward "the great cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics."
The Selected Works cover 1980 to 2004, when Jiang resigned his last important post. A 7,000-word summary issued by the Xinhua news agency suggests Jiang is focused on protecting his legacy rather than re-examining contentious issues. He claims credit for China's accession to the WTO, its successful Olympic bid and the economic growth that followed the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, about which there is almost no mention.
A large chunk is devoted to the "Three Represents," Jiang's theory justifying the party's embrace of market economics.
On the day the book was launched, Xinhua reported lines at bookshops from Beijing to Lhasa. Strangely, on the same day, foreign journalists at one of Beijing's biggest bookstores expressed disappointment when the expected crush of customers failed to materialize.
Seventy-five thousand copies of the first print run were reserved for the military.
The newspaper of the People's Liberation Army said: "Officers and men were absolutely elated to receive their elegantly bound copies ... and one after another vowed to diligently study it in order to fully grasp its spiritual essence."
The political significance of the publication is open to question. Several commentators believe Jiang is trying to reassert his influence before next year's 17th party congress, when key personnel and policy decisions will be made.
* In a June 24, 1989, speech to Chines Communist Party leaders following the crackdown on the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests (from Vol. 1): "We have to look into all the political conspiracies that created these troubles and disturbances. We have to firmly crack down on those who plotted, organized and commanded the riot and counterrevolutionary thugs who took part in the riot. But for those young students and people who made some mistakes, we have to separate them out and take different measures."
* In a speech on April 25, 1999, the day that followers of the Falun Gong spiritual group surrounded the Beijing compound where Chinese leaders live (from Vol. 2): "We have Marxist theory and we believe in objectivity and atheism. How can we not triumph over the things promoted by Falun Gong? If that is the case, it is a big joke. Leaders at all levels, especially the top, it is time to wake up!"
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