China is currently involved in several disputes with its neighbors over small islands, many of them uninhabited. Here, Chinese fishing boats sail off the island province of Hainan in the South China Sea in July. AP hide caption

itoggle caption AP

A man walks through a former unofficial, or "black," jail in Beijing, in 2009. It's estimated that thousands of Chinese lodging protests against the government are illegally detained in secret sites such as this one, even though the government says they don't exist. Elizabeth Dalziel/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Elizabeth Dalziel/AP

China's rapid expansion has been fueled in part by massive construction projects, like this one in Beijing, shown last year. But many economists say the Chinese economic model is unlikely to produce the same explosive growth in the coming years and needs to be revamped. Lintao Zhang/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

A bloodied woman is helped by demonstrators after clashes with police in a protest against an industrial waste pipeline in Qidong, Jiangsu province, on July 28. The Chinese government devotes enormous resources to suppressing dissent, but opposition to government policies is increasingly common. Carlos Barria/Reuters/Landov hide caption

itoggle caption Carlos Barria/Reuters/Landov

Once a top Communist Party figure, 79-year-old Bao Tong was kicked out after he sympathized with the student protesters in 1989. Louisa Lim/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Louisa Lim/NPR

"The Defense of Yan'an" re-enacts a 1947 battle to protect Mao Zedong's Communist stronghold during the Chinese Civil War from the Nationalists, who fled to Taiwan. Louisa Lim/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Louisa Lim/NPR