Heaven Is High: Demystifying the People's Republic of China. (Editor's Note)

Harvard International Review, Summer 2003 | Go to article overview

Heaven Is High: Demystifying the People's Republic of China. (Editor's Note)


In the mouth of an old man fishing on the Oujiang River, it carries the authority of ancient wisdom: "Heaven is high; the Emperor is far away." This Chinese aphorism, used since time immemorial to emphasize the distance between China's government and the local, quotidian life of its people, encapsulates the challenges facing any attempt to understand the country's future.

The world's most populous state and the World Trade Organization's newest member, the People's Republic of China (PRC) is an increasingly important member of the world community. All too often, however, China's global character is taken for the whole: its international and domestic policy are reified, while the facts of everyday life in China are neglected by the media. Indeed, in order to understand the PRC's future role in international affairs, it is necessary to investigate the local problems facing China's people as well as pursue analyses of the policies promulgated by the Beijing government. Before it can be understood, China must first be demystified.

This issue's symposium moves beyond traditional policy analysis to embrace a multidimensional understanding of the issues confronting China today. Drawing on his extensive experience with the Beijing government, Ezra Vogel embarks on this journey of demystification with a unified discussion of the PRC's increasingly open international stance, its domestic economic and social challenges, and the new leadership that will carry these policies into the future. …

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