It’s possible to identify another period that might surpass the 1980s as China’s most open: a 10-year stretch beginning around the turn of this century, when a rich debate erupted over what lay ahead. As in the past, many of those speaking out were establishment intellectuals who were careful not to challenge too directly the Communist Party’s right to rule but took advantage of the relatively relaxed social policies championed by Deng’s successors, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, to launch a sophisticated discussion about how China should be run and its place in the world.

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