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Looming behind this book is one of the most important questions in world politics: is China’s current leadership doomed and will its end be violent? The answer given by Ian Buruma and the Chinese dissidents he interviews is optimistic and pessimistic, for it is yes to both.

Scarcely known to the outside world, the flicker of rebellion is a constant in China, almost all of it rural, and almost all occasioned by particular grievances-payment for rice harvest by vouchers instead of money, anger over corruption by local party officials, or some other exacerbation of the bitter life lived by China’s…

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