Reading Tocqueville In Beijing

After being praised by Vice Premier Wang Qishan, Tocqueville’s classic analysis of the French Revolution, The Old Regime and the Revolution, has become a bestseller in China. The reason why:

The aspect of the book that most analysts have focused on is this threat of a brewing crisis, or what is sometimes called the Toqueville Paradox: that the most dangerous period faced by a governing regime is not when the people are most repressed, but when reforms are underway and life is getting better – as has been the case in China now for some years.

“It is almost never when a state of things is the most detestable that it is smashed,” China Daily quotes Tocqueville, “but when, beginning to improve, it permits men to breathe, to reflect, to communicate their thoughts with each other, and to gauge by what they already have the extent of their rights and their grievances. The weight, although less heavy, seems then all the more unbearable.”