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When the Party Ends – China’s leaps and stumbles after the Beijing Olympics


“When the Party Ends is a colorful and insightful look at a key pivot in Chinese history… A veteran correspondent with an affinity for both elite and street-level politcis, Peh is a sure-footed guide through this more complicated period, weaving on-the-ground color with shrewd analysis.”

– Ian Johnson, Pulitzer-prize winning correspondent for The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times


Winner – Singapore Literature Prize 2016

When the Party Ends offers a fascinating insight into a changing China, one where the status quo is being reinvented with each passing day.

A provocative book that is the product of one journalist’s labour of love to capture the awakening of Asia’s sleeping dragon, When the Party Ends captures Peh Shing Huei’s harrowing, humbling, and sometimes hilarious experiences in China while he was China bureau chief for The Straits Times. As he documents the rise of China, he also uncovers the problems beneath its sinews.

It chronicles the battles of the voiceless and powerless against the Chinese Communist Party and errant companies over rights and resources. Some vignettes include how he:

  • Shakes off officials to meet an environmentalist tortured for wanting to save a river from pollution
  • Speaks to a man who was jailed simply for posting an intemperate tweet
  • Interviews an ageing former Red Guard undertaker who still cries when he recalls the atrocities of the Cultural Revolution

These are counterposed against Peh’s riveting narrative of the “palace intrigues” of the powerful communist leaders in the lead-up to the epochal leadership change in late 2012. It culminates in the dramatic downfall of princeling Bo Xilai – the latest in China’s complex political machinations.

When the Party Ends won the Singapore Literature Prize in 2016 for non-fiction and was featured in international publications including The New York Times, the BBC, the South China Morning Post, and the Diplomat.

About the Author

Peh Shing Huei is a journalist and an author who has written 10 books, including four No. 1 bestsellers in Singapore. These include Tall Order and Standing Tall, a pair of biographies on former Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong; Neither Civil Nor Servant: The Philip Yeo Story; and The Last Fools: The Eight Immortals of Lee Kuan Yew. When he was news editor and China bureau chief at The Straits Times, he wrote his maiden book When the Party Ends: China’s Leaps and Stumbles after the Beijing Olympics, which won the Singapore Literature Prize in 2016.

Product Description

ISBN: 978-981-4342-54-4 (Softcover)
Page Count: 293
Year Published: 2014
Author: Peh Shing Huei
Publisher: Straits Times Press Books


“When the Party Ends connects the dots, brilliantly encapsulates the momentous year that marked China’s arrival on the world stage, and contextualises the future challenges and threats facing the world’s second-biggest economy. It is a must-read to understand where China came from, where it is today, and where it will head to.”
Benjamin Kang Lim, former Reuters Beijing and Taipei bureau chief

“Countless books have been written on China’s rise, yet this one by Peh Shing Huei captures precisely the incongruity so commonly observed in China.”
Ching Cheong, former senior writer for The Straits Times and author of My 1000 Days Ordeal: A Patriot’s Torture

“(It) 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.”
Jeffrey Wasserstrom, historian, in the LA Review of Books

Behind the Book

Author Peh Shing Huei grew up on a steady diet of stories from his father, taken from classical Chinese tales like Journey to the West and Romance of the Three Kingdoms. But there’s nothing quite like a “front-row seat”, in his words, to China’s modern epoch.

Over the four years he spent stationed in the country as China bureau chief for The Straits Times, this seasoned journalist had the perfect vantage point from which to witness China’s leaps and stumbles after the 2008 Olympic Games. And he was a participant in events, too – from pestering officials for passes to the 60th anniversary parade commemorating the founding of the People’s Republic of China, to tracking down elusive environmental activists, to straying into the front lines of bloody ethnic riots in Urumqi.

The result of hundreds of interviews with locals, this book tells the tale of two Chinas – the “steroid superpower”, and a nation struggling to modernise. It was an instant bestseller, and to this day remains a treasure trove of knowledge for anyone looking to find out more about one of the most amazing and complex countries of our time.