A surprising number of people in China have been writing and talking about “revolution.” First came word, in November, that China’s new leaders have been advising their colleagues to read Alexis de Tocqueville’s classic book on the French Revolution, L’Ancien Régime et la Révolution (The Old Regime and the Revolution), which subsequently has shot to the top of China’s best seller lists. Just this past week, Chinese scholar Zhao Dinxing, a sociology professor at the University of Chicago, felt the need to publish an article (in Chinese) laying out the reasons China won’t have a revolution (you can read an English summary here). Minxin Pei, on the other hand, thinks it will.
In the midst of this debate, I happened across an interesting set of passages in retired Harvard professor Richard Pipes’ slender volume Three “Whys” of the Russian Revolution. The first “why” he asks is “Why did Tsarism fall?” An event that few saw coming: