This book is empirically rich and thought provoking. For those who want to know about the formation and development of the Bureau of Letters and Visits in China and how it has turned into a site for the Chinese to address their grievances and fight for their interests, the book will be a classic. It is also among very few books on related topics that take explanation and analysis seriously. The book categorizes different kinds of petition activities and state strategies, and it introduces and persuasively explains several patterns of social protests familiar to the Chinese but previously unaddressed in the English-language literature (such as “troublemakers get more” and a tendency for social protests to move to the power center). Authoritarian regimes tend to be associated by analysts with tight political control, but this book shows that, to maintain its rule, the Chinese state has become very flexible, and that...

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