People vote in a local election in Wukan, China, March 2012.
BOBBY YIP / REUTERS

In the spring of 1989, students from Beijing's elite universities protested in Tiananmen Square to demand democratic reform. The military crackdown and repression that followed were not limited to Beijing, and its victims were not only students. But the Tiananmen movement of 1989 has nevertheless gone down in history as one of the world's great student movements for democracy.

In China and elsewhere, democratic student movements often disappoint. From revolutionary France and postcolonial Africa to Weimar Germany and today’s Iraq, history has shown that stable democracies can be built only on a broad base of politically educated citizens—ordinary people who believe that democratic decision-making and the rotation of leaders into and out of power are both normal and fair.

Democratic norms, of course, must be learned. And although they are often learned first by urban elites, it's no good having democratic leaders without a democratic society. If democracy flowers in

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