China's economic boom has enthralled the world and brought unprecedented prosperity to millions of Chinese. But as Deng's enemies within the Communist party have often warned, it has aggravated social tensions and weakened the party's grip. The gap between rich and poor and between rural and urban areas is widening. Corruption is flourishing among officials who, seeing collapse of communism elsewhere, have lost faith in their party's future. On the basis of extensive interviews with officials, ordinary citizens, and intellectuals, the author concludes that China in the late 1990s is a country deeply unsure of where it is going. Politicians and public alike are asking themselves whether China is emerging as a new economic superpower with global influence to match, or if it is heading toward the chaos they so much fear. In the coming years, the answer to this question will have major implications for the outside world. With a population four times that of the former Soviet Union, a China in turmoil would have a colossal impact on some of the world's most successful economies on its rim, especially Hong Kong and Taiwan, which is due to revert to Chinese rule in 1997.