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Former Chinese official sheds light on dark side of power

Saturday, October 20, 2012

 HONG KONGO: “Politics is an ugly business,” says an official in Chinese author Wang Xiaofang's novel, The Civil Servant's Notebook. “You always need to keep a knife in reserve, even for your own boss.” Delving into the darkness of Chinese bureaucracy, Wang depicts a world of intrigue where those at the top lose sight of their principles in the race for political power.

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.

But then scandal erupted, and Wang's boss -- Ma Xiangdong, the deputy mayor of the city of Shenyang -- was sentenced to death in 2001 for gambling away more than $3.6 million of embezzled funds in Macau casinos.

Other officials were embroiled in the scandal. Wang was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing, quit his job and put pen to paper.

“That was an experience that rattled my entire life,” Wang said in an interview last week following a reading at the Hong Kong International Literary Festival.

“After that, I didn't want to repeat the same life. I didn't want to become a spiritual eunuch. I realised that to be able to be yourself is real success,” he said.

Since then Wang, who is 49, has published thirteen novels about corruption and politics in China, selling millions of copies in the process.

“The Civil Servant's Notebook” is his first novel to be translated into English and its September release was particularly timely as the world watches China deal with its biggest political scandal in decades, ahead of a pivotal leadership transition in November.

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