Beijing's handling of a case involving a blind activist suggests dangerous political divisions at the top of the ruling Communist Party, splinters experts warn could plunge China into chaos.
Should the case of Chen Guangcheng set off a wave of political unrest and a widespread backlash against the Communist rulers and the entire Chinese governing structure, experts warn the Asian giant's ascension to global power could be derailed.
Such a scenario "would, I think, be enough to make China a failed state," says Susan Shirk, chair of the 21st Century China Program at the University of California-San Diego. "Communist governments are brought down by splits at the top, not from the bottom up."
Read more about the potential of Chinese state failure.