Will the Boat Sink the Water? The Life of China's Peasants

Guidi Chen, Author, Wu Chuntao, Author, Zhu Hong, Translator . Public Affairs $25 (229p) ISBN 978-1-58648-358-6

What's most surprising about this exposé of the Chinese government's brutal treatment of the peasantry is not that it was banned in China, but that it got past the censors in the first place. The authors—a husband and wife team who have received major awards—recount how, in the poor province of Anhui, greedy local officials impose illegal taxes on the already impoverished peasantry and cover their tracks through double-bookkeeping. Outraged peasants risk their freedom and sometimes their lives by complaining up the command chain or making the long and costly trip to Beijing, but for the most part the central government's proclamations against excessive taxation don't effectively filter back to the local level. The authors criticize the central government for its own heavy taxation and underrepresentation of the peasantry, though in much more measured tones than they fault the local officials. "Could it be that our system itself is a toxic pool and whoever enters is poisoned by it?" they ask. As Westerners look toward China as the world's next superpower, this book is a reminder that the country's 900 million peasants often get lost in the glitter of Shanghai's Tiffany's. (June)

Reviewed on: 04/10/2006
Release date: 06/01/2006
Paperback - 229 pages - 978-1-58648-441-5
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-1-58648-418-7
Open Ebook - 256 pages - 978-1-58648-539-9
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