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China Shakes the World by James Kynge; China’s Trapped Transition by Minxin Pei

- Abstract

We know more about China today than ever before, but we may understand less. In late 1949, after grabbing power and establishing the People’s Republic, Mao Zedong quickly moved to exclude outsiders from his domain. Still, although foreigners may not have had the opportunity to roam the new China in its first years, the essential nature of its totalitarian system was well understood. After all, we had seen that same system, albeit with Russian characteristics, at work in the Soviet Union.

Today, foreigners need no longer stand on the outside; they can go to China and even live there. Yet, whether from the inside or the outside, gazing at China in its present state of turbulent transition can cause a loss of perspective. The People’s Republic is too large and diverse—and changing much too fast—for anyone to comprehend the whole of what, along with the American effort in the Middle East, is undoubtedly the greatest experiment of our time.

About the Author

Gordon G. Chang is the author most recently of Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes On the World. His articles in COMMENTARY include "How China and Russia Threaten the World" (June 2007) and "China in Revolt" (December 2006). He blogs regularly on Contentions at