150-Year-Old Book On The French Revolution Becomes A Chinese Best Seller

Alexis de Tocqueville

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Last year there were multiple reports that Chinese officials were being advised by senior party members to read a classic history book on the French revolution and its aftermath during their crucial leadership transition: Alexis de Tocqueville’s The Old Regime and the French Revolution.The book, first published in 1856, examines the Ancien Regime and exactly what caused the French Revolution that tore it down.

Now it appears readers have heeded the advice and been buying up the book. France 24 calls says the book has become “a sensation, rising to the top of bestseller lists and lighting up discussions on China’s social networking website, Weibo”.

A quick search on one of China’s largest sites for book buying, Dangdang.com, finds multiple copies of the book for sale, with a note pointing out the book is “recommended” by vice-premier Wang Qishan.

Businessweek reports that the book actually sold out in many stores in Beijing after it was recommended by senior officials.

Peter Hartcher, the Sydney Morning Herald’s political and international editor, wrote last year that the book appears to have found a new found popularity amongst Chinese leaders as they grow worried about the possibility of a counter-revolution. Unfortunately for these leaders, it doesn’t offer much in the way of advice.

“He diagnoses the condition. Yet warns against attempting a cure,” Hartcher writes.