A policeman leads inmates as they walk along a road in the Emei Mountain region of China. (Courtesy Reuters)

Just 40 years ago, as my family and I were completing a very pleasant and productive academic year in Japan, we had our first opportunity to visit China. We had been waiting to do so for more than a decade. For me, the highlight of the visit was a four-hour dinner conversation with Prime Minister Zhou Enlai. Never one to waste time, and always well-briefed on each of his guests, with a certain air of bemusement Zhou said to me, "I understand you have done many books about our legal system." With his country still emerging from the chaos of the

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