The China Paradox

Nir Elias / Reuters

A mother of an 11-year-old who was killed during the May 12 earthquake in Sichuan province, holds his photo as she sits with other mothers at the school's courtyard

I was born in 1957 and spent my childhood in China's remote Xinjiang region, where my father, Ai Qing, had been exiled. He was a poet, not a revolutionary, but the Communist Party had no tolerance for free thinkers. So he spent years cleaning toilets, enduring beatings and public humiliation. To me, it was a lesson in how horribly humans can treat one another.

On Oct. 1, the Party will mark the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic. Thanks to the ability of the Chinese people to struggle and...

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