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Sobering Thought of the Day


At a dinner last week for the Rockefeller Center, the public policy program at Dartmouth, I sat next to Bill Kirby, a China scholar and a former dean of the Harvard faculty of arts and sciences.  (Bill and I also sat next to each other during a Rockefeller Center board meeting earlier in the day.  Bill took copious notes—in Chinese.)  Bill explained that he isn’t particularly optimistic that China will become a democracy any time soon.  It might—but then again it most certainly might not. 

Then Bill made a fascinating point.  Whereas Stalin would find the power structure that now governs Russia altogether baffling—an elected president?—Mao would find the power structure in contemporary China altogether familiar.  The dozen or so people who hold real power in China sit on the same committees and rely on the same bases of support—above all, the People’s Liberation Army—as did Mao and his circle. “Mao,” Bill said, “would feel right at home.”


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