How long can the regime keep expressions of discontent from snowballing again into something that threatens its power? This remains an open question, especially in light of the global economic downturn, which has not hit China as hard as it has many other countries but has led to a staggering number of factory closings and prompted an urban-to-rural migration of many workers who are not happy to be heading home. This is a phenomenon to watch, since economic frustrations were a crucial spur to action in 1989 and are likely to figure centrally in the next big challenge the leadership faces from below.

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