When in 1972 the then Chinese premier Zhou Enlai was asked about the influence of the French Revolution, he reportedly replied: “It is too early to say.” For many years, Zhou’s answer was interpreted as being evidence of China’s long-term view of history, as opposed to the short-termism of western politicians obliged always to think in terms of the electoral cycle. Much later it was understood that there had been a misunderstanding: Zhou wasn’t referring to the French Revolution of 1789, but to the students’ and workers’ revolt that had spread across France in 1968. Less well known is Zhou’s longer-term ...


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