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China: Over the Great Wall

No country promises to exert more influence over the coming century than China. Little more than two decades ago that statement would have seemed unthinkable. Although China was vast, it seemed irretrievably backward. A closed and secretive nation, it was mired in massive rural poverty and suffered a stagnant, heavily-centralized economy. But following the collapse of Soviet Communism, China's Communist leaders began to loosen the shackles of oppression. Political power was maintained by permitting the emergence of limited capitalism, private enterprise and profit-making. Significantly, the population was also granted the right to choose where they would like to live. The result has been a social relocation and economic expansion that is without parallel in human history.

Today, Chinese influence has spilled out far beyond the Great Wall: China offers economic support to countries worldwide. Some view its increasing influence with alarm. After all, the Chinese people are still repressed under the authoritarian hand of a nominally Communist government. But the genie is out of the bottle. The sleeping giant is finally awake. Social and economic freedoms are expanding beyond all artificial tyrannies. What may ultimately shape all our futures lies in the essential character of the Chinese people, in their rich 5,000 year cultural heritage, in their diversity, and in their common purpose. The Chinese represent one fifth of the global human population, and it behooves everyone to understand all we can of them.

In this Special Collection, we offer a wide-ranging survey of China's cultural heritage, discussions of the emergence of greater Chinese economic and social democracy, and studies of this massive nation's emerging role in the world. We also invite our readers to visit China through a collection of travel and cultural tales. There is still so much more that needs to be said. But we are confident that our collection offers today's students as comprehensive introduction to modern and traditional China as is currently available. China will inevitably be a presence in all their lives. We trust that our efforts will help your students to be prepared for, to recognize, and to accept the opportunities and challenges that this presence will bring.
 
 


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