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July 2017 Vol. 54 No. 11

Lynne Rienner Publishers

The following review appeared in the July 2017 issue of CHOICE. The review is for your internal use only. Please review our Permission and Reprints Guidelines or email

Social & Behavioral Sciences
Political Science - Comparative Politics

Xu, Zhiyong. To build a free China: a citizen's journey, tr. by Joshua Rosenzweig and Yaxue Cao; with an introduction by Andrew Nathan. L. Rienner, 2016 (c2017). 297p index ISBN 9781626375840, $68.50; ISBN 9781626375918 ebook, $68.50.

Xu, serving four years in prison for organizing the New Citizen Movement, issues an idealistic, heartfelt call to turn Chinese people into citizens under a constitution rather than continue as passive subjects. In 27 essays tracing his life from birth in 1973 into rural poverty in Henan through a doctorate in law and teaching law in Beijing, Xu details his evolution to advocating a China with “democracy, rule of law, freedom, justice, and love.” Although a secular Chinese patriot, his motives and methods track with Christianity, especially his emphasis on “love.” Angered by blatant injustice, Xu has defended all manner of aggrieved Chinese, most of them rural and poor—peasants cheated of land, petitioners sent to extralegal “black jails,” victims of tainted milk, workers denied an urban hukou—a journey through China’s seamy underside. Xu mostly got away with it, suffering only brief detentions until his 2014 trial. Some interesting points: petitioning runs so deep in Chinese political culture that people practice it even when ignored and beaten. Those who know the law, such as Xu, can make ignorant police back down. Repetitive but a useful reminder that people such as this can spark change.

--M. G. Roskin, Lycoming College

Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.