Beijing Fears Sparking Its Own French Revolution
China’s political leaders put stability above all else. So it’s a remarkable sign of the times that they could be passing around well-thumbed copies of a book about the sudden, bloody outbreak of the French Revolution two-and-a-quarter centuries ago.
Why would China’s modern rulers, preoccupied with the leadership handover under way in Beijing this week, be interested in Alexis de Tocqueville’s The Old Regime and the French Revolution?
They are ”fascinated by the French thinker’s writings because of what his observations say about conditions in their times,” says a visiting professor at China’s Sun Yat-sen University, Nailene Chou Wiest.
Since the Communist Party seized power in 1949 in a violent revolution, its highest priority has been to guard against what it calls ”counter-revolution”.
Yet the popularity of Tocqueville’s work suggests that this is precisely what it now fears. ”Is China ripe for another revolution?” poses Wiest.
Among the many passages that must send chills down the spine of China’s dictators is the French historian’s famous remark that the outbreak of France’s violent upheaval was ”so inevitable, yet so completely unforseen”.