China In Our Time

In This Review

China In Our Time

By Ross Terrill
Simon & Schuster, 1992
366 pp. $25.00
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This prominent China specialist, who was not always so critical of the mainland government, has written a strong indictment and a bleak assessment of China's future. It is not, he says, just that human rights abuses exist in China-the entire system is a fundamental denial of human rights. Communism will end in China, he predicts, though not in the short run, because of the nonchalance of the rural population. And democracy is not likely to replace it. Rather its demise could lead to chaos. There could be a long period of struggle and even civil war. And China's essentially colonial hold over Tibet, Xinjiang and other non-Han areas will be put into question. As China descends into chaos and nationalistic resentment, either Japan or Russia might be enticed to intervene.

Although this dire assessment of China's future could be right, it is not the only possibility. (And the author does not even consider alternative scenarios.) Communism could gradually wither away and be replaced by a looser, more pragmatic but still authoritarian system devoted to economic modernization. This is what is already happening in southern China.