Divide and Rule

Anxious to head off further rural unrest, China's leaders have greatly stepped up efforts to appease popular discontent and rein in wayward local officials. In 2004, Premier Wen Jiabao pledged to abolish all agricultural taxes in five years, then followed through three years ahead of schedule; in 2005, he warned local officials to avoid "historic blunders"; and last month, Beijing launched a campaign to "build a new socialist countryside," vowing to "give more and take less."

Yet the central government has so far failed to address the main political cause of the rising number of protests: farmers lack...

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