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One of a nation’s most salient features is the relationship between the leaders and the led, the expectations and the uncrossable lines that are drawn for the country’s best interests. In the case of China, it can be difficult for outside observers to understand its unique social contract, given the murky leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the reforms instituted under President Xi Jinping, arguably the most powerful Chinese leader since Chairman Mao Zedong.

Peeling back the communist onion is Bruce J. Dickson’s new book “The Party and the People: Chinese Politics in the 21st Century.” A professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, Dickson offers a comprehensive primer on how the CCP chooses leaders and makes policy, how it responds to political protests with repression both hard and soft, and how it may either use or constrain the forces of nationalism based on what helps its political survival.

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