Summary of Will the Boat Sink the Water?

The Life of China's Peasants

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Will the Boat Sink the Water? book summary
China's peasants are impoverished, overtaxed and cut out of globalization's bonanza. How long will they agree to suffer?


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This short book should be an excellent antidote to the hype about China's economic resurgence and strength. getAbstract recommends Chen Guidi and Wu Chuntao's frank, unvarnished account of peasant oppression and misery. Since peasants are the majority of the Chinese population, the system described here is China's true governance. The accounts of peasants suffering under local officials' tyranny are unsparing and quite moving, but the book is particularly valuable for its insights into how weak and ineffective Chinese laws and regulations really are. At the local level, laws clearly mean little against political connections and power. The danger is that this disparity could provoke another revolution in China.

In this summary, you will learn

  • How a proliferation of petty but powerful bureaucrats exploits the Chinese peasantry, including extorting money and abusing people;
  • What impact this has; and
  • What the peasantry's fate may mean to China's future.


Ding Zuoming was a peasant in Anhui, an impoverished Chinese province. His national examination scores would have admitted him to college if he had been a city dweller. However, a different standard applied in rural villages, forcing him to return to the miserable life of a Chinese...
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About the Authors

Wu Chuntao and her husband, Chen Guidi grew up in the countryside and moved to the city, where they joined the Hefei Writer's Union. They received the Lettre Ulysses Award for the Art of Reportage for their survey of the Chinese peasantry. Chen, also a member of the Chinese Writer's Union, received the Lu Xun Literary Achievement Award.

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