China's villages' series

Part four of the "China's Villages" series, "As Party Declines, Who Is in Charge?," Aug. 12, is alarming for more reasons than one. Insiders are quietly predicting a breakup of the Chinese empire to be more chaotic than the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Despite all the years of Marxist pressure on the time-honored evils of old China - superstition, clan warfare, exploitation of the farmers and workers, and above all, exploitation and abuse of women - these are once more rising to the surface.

The article covers family clans, old-time religion, and resurgent warlords. What it does not cover is the hidden partner of all these institutions: the suppression of women. Any hope for a genuinely improved standard of living in interior China rests with the continued education and development of the female population.

Controlling the number of births, elevating the level of literacy, and democratization itself depend upon this development. We are looking at a disaster in the making. Laina Farhat, San Francisco

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