Understanding China, One Blog at a Time

An American in China

China’s Communist Party and Chinese Companies

Posted by w_thames_the_d on January 16, 2011

The Party: The Secret World of China’s Communist Rulers (Richard Mcgregor)

On the desks of the heads of China’s fifty-odd biggest state companies, amid the clutter of computers, family photos and other fixtures of the modern CEO’s office life, sits a red phone. The executives and their staff who jump to attention when it rings know it as ‘the red machine’, perhaps because to call it a mere phone does not do it justice. ‘When the “red machine” rings,’ a senior executive of a state bank told me, ‘you had better make sure you answer it.’ The ‘red machine’ is like no ordinary phone. Each one has just a four-digit number. It connects only to similar phones with four-digit numbers within the same encrypted system. They are much coveted nonetheless. For the chairmen and women of the top state companies, who have every modern communications device at their fingertips, the ‘red machine’ is a sign they have arrived, not just at the top of the company, but in the senior ranks of the Party and the government. The phones are the ultimate status symbol, as they are only given out to people in jobs with the …”

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