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By Niu Lehou, published: August 26, 2015
The devastation and fear in Tianjin are hardly over. Anticipating the Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping making a declaration that “the Chinese people are undefeatable” in the upcoming military parade celebrating the anti-Japanese victory 70 years ago, we offer you a translation of an internet gem by an anonymous writer with the online handle “Niu Lehou” (“牛乐吼”). It was written in response to the same declaration made by the then Premier Wen Jiabao in the wake of the Sichuan earthquake in 2008. – The Editors
Taking advantage of the time between the Wenchuan earthquake and its two aftershocks, Comrade Jiabao was duping his compatriots again, who were still reeling and dizzy from the quake, with his declaration that: “The Chinese people are undefeatable!”
This is utterly disrespectful of history and the reality of today.
We don’t have to go that far back. Just take the Treaty of Shimonoseki at the conclusion of the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-95), settled with a cash payment by China and the ceding of Taiwan—were the Chinese people defeated, or not? How about when the Eight Nation Alliance invaded China and put down the Boxer rebellion—were the Chinese people defeated, or not? Or in the Second World War, when China was almost ruined, saved by America and Russia who fought down the Japanese, allowing us to keep the joss sticks burning while struggling on the verge of death? But now we don’t thank our benefactors, instead we deceive others and ourselves and declare that we can’t be defeated.
Or we could discuss natural disasters: How about the tens of millions of Chinese who died in famine, floods, droughts, landslides and pestilence, going to meet their maker before their time had come, who couldn’t eat their fill while they lived and didn’t have a patch of dirt for their corpses when they died—do these unfortunates and bitter ghosts, once they arrive at the mouth of Comrade Jiabao, all become beings with remarkable abilities, great generals who’ve never lost a battle? What did they defeat? The hundreds of thousands who died in the Tangshan (唐山) earthquake, or the 70,000-80,000 in the Sichuan earthquake, lost their homes, families, and their own lives. What did they win?
When the Chinese people encountered the Communist Party, it was even more an utter routing, too horrible to tell. For over 60 years, in the clutches of the Communist Party, they’ve been ravaged, trampled, shamed, had their houses raided, been exiled, brainwashed, and executed. 19 years ago [in 1989] they summoned up the rare courage to rally for a battle on the Tiananmen Square and in Muxidi (木樨地) on Chang’an Avenue, but lost their makeshift helmets and armor and the streets were strewn with their bodies. From that point on their waist has been fractured, their back broken, and they still haven’t recovered today.
Are the Chinese people really unbeatable? No. They can not only be beaten, but they’re easy to beat. And more, after beating them, you can subjugate them with simple methods. The Chinese are much easier to handle than the people of Iraq. First, the Party went around lynching and murdering them for no reason, made the streets run with blood, then it picked a few to rehabilitate and paid them a few dozen yuan compensation each month. Just like that, the Chinese wiped off with one stroke the hatred from their fathers, wives, and children being killed. Everyone was immersed in the benevolence of the Party, like a child who doesn’t blame his mother for being ugly, or a dog who doesn’t mind if his kennel is dirty.
The Chinese people don’t even know when they’ve been defeated. They’re a well-behaved people who remember being fed, but not being beaten.
When they fought with Heaven, the Chinese people lost; when they fought with earth, they lost; when they fought with the Communist Party, they got so badly beaten they lost their pants.
The one who truly can’t be defeated is the Chinese Communist Party: they won’t freeze to death in a blizzard, they won’t drown in a flood, and an earthquake doesn’t kill them either. In their long term battle against the Chinese people, they have been invincible, flying their flags high, winning every battle, and declaring victories over and over again.
Niu Lehou (牛乐吼), an anonymous Internet writer.
Celebrating an Anti-Fascist Victory or a Fascist Victory?, by Chang Ping, August 24, 2015.
VPN down: China goes after Astrill, other anti-censorship apps in run up to WW2 anniversary parade, South China Morning Post, August 26, 2015.
By Mo Zhixu, published: June 4, 2013
By all means, the student movement in the spring of 1989, from its emergence to its development, was a surprise. It started with the sudden death of Hu Yaobang (胡耀邦), the reform-minded CCP General Secretary who had recently been taken down by Deng Xiaoping, China’s real ruler at the time. It escalated when People’s Daily published the editorial entitled “We Must Take an Unwavering Stand against Unrest” on April 26, and climaxed with the controversial hunger strike in Tian’anmen Square. Before April 15, 1989, no one had seen such a magnificent student movement coming, let alone its cruel and bloody ending. Today, looking back 24 years later, some things have changed forever and will never be repeated, but a certain logic is continuing at work, and the June 4th movement and its tragic outcome are still important factors in China’s core problems and they have never gone away.
The Unrepeatable Student Movement
China in 1989 was still under the tight, omnipresent grip of the totalitarian system. In the cities, the work unit-based structure was barely beginning to loosen. In the countryside, much of the rural population remained isolated from the urban areas and was still living in abject poverty although the so-called household contract responsibility system with remunerations linked to output had been widely implemented. Most members of China’s intelligentsia worked in the system and under the control of the units that employed them. Private businessmen and employees of foreign or joint enterprises were only emerging and few in number. There was no social class in Chinese society that could have started a movement, if it wasn’t for that generation of college students who seemed to have arrived on the scene out of nowhere.
College students in the mid 1980s were known for being “decadent.” They were not as earnest as those classes who came immediately before them; they were content with 60 points in their course work, and they refused to be held to lofty “ideals.” In daily life, many of them found their pursuit in Ma Jong, love affairs, dancing, and the TOEFL. Before April 15, 1989, if someone predicted that this generation of college students would contribute the most inspiring movement against the regime, it would be regarded as the talk of idiots.
Looking back after all these years, we might be able to see better some of the positive qualities of college students around that time. First of all, they were no longer beholden to the bankrupt communist ideology; instead, they depended more on their common sense to make judgments, and common sense served them well enough to take a stand against the despotism around them. Secondly, college students in China at the time had a strong sense of elitism and an elevated sense of self-importance due to the extreme selectiveness of college entrance policies and the high expectations placed on them by the society at large following the bleak 10-year hiatus of the Cultural Revolution.
Finally, among the juniors, seniors, graduate students and young faculty, the memory of the student demonstrations at the end of 1986 was still fresh which resulted in, among a slew of expulsions from the party, the resignation of Party Secretary Hu Yaobang. All of these together made up the campus climate in the spring of 1989.
Almost all have changed these days. Colleges are much more accessible, young people no longer have the same kind of elitist sense of self, and commercialism has pretty much washed off idealism. The new totalitarian system, veiled under “market forces,” globalization and information technology, has become less repulsive than before, not to mention that the authorities over the years have taken measures to cleanse and control college campuses because of the student movement in 1989. Today’s university campus is no longer the place where free thinking is bred. However you look at it, a student movement similar to the one in 1989 is all but impossible.
The Distant Echo of a Mass Movement
The protagonists of the June 4th movement were college students, although in Beijing there was wide participation by the general public, especially after May 19 when martial law was announced. But overall, across China, whether it was workers, farmers, the educated class, or the emerging private businessmen, none of these groups participated enthusiastically. This had little to do with moral choice, and was determined by the level of totalitarian control and the social structure at the time.
But 24 years on, the circumstances have changed a great deal. In today’s China, while a student-led democratic movement is unlikely, the possibility of large-scale mass movement clearly has heightened. After 1989, especially from 1992 onward, the Chinese communist party chose quick and sweeping market-oriented reforms. Today, even though the party/state still keeps its grip on key economic sectors, maintains the system of units in education, science, culture and health care with some degree of commercialization, and continues to strengthen its social control arms on all levels, it has inevitably lost direct control over the majority of the society. The market economy has created millions and millions of migrant workers as well as new social groups such as private entrepreneurs, small businessmen, professionals and the self-employed who are only faintly associated with the system. In addition, market reform has created a large number of people whose interests have been hurt, such as laid-off factory workers, farmers who have lost their land to development, and city dwellers whose properties have been subject to forced demolition.
Unlike in 1989, these blocks of the populations are no longer bound by work units or collectively-owned farmland. They make their livelihood through their own efforts, and, with the help of Internet and market-oriented new media, these groups have grown to be aware of their interests and their sense of self. Meanwhile, as the new totalitarian system strengthens and perfects itself, the system is more direct in squeezing those who participate in the free market, but has established neither institutions nor rights guarantees to mitigate such exploitation. This has inevitably created resistance, even rising opposition, against the system. As for those whose interest has been harmed time and again, the antagonism against the system is even stronger.
On the other hand, market reform has given these groups economic resources, the ability to gain information, and all sorts of interconnectedness. Following the arrival and the spread of the Internet and cellphones in particular, the general public is able, fairly freely, to issue information and express opinions with more and more convenient communication tools. The combination of the convenience to express and the antagonism against the system has pushed the ever-growing volume of online criticism, and it has also brought about all forms of rights defence and resistance. These include the lasting struggle to defend ownership rights by petitioners and the struggle against deprivation of interest such as happens in forced relocation or demolition. There have been large-scale demonstrations against pollution such as those in Shenfang (什邡) and Kunming (昆明), and there are also sudden breakouts of mass events such as those in Zengcheng (增城) and Shaxi (沙溪). It all goes to show that, with a large population that is not under direct control by the government but equipped with relatively free communication, the relationship between the system and society has changed fundamentally from 1989. When society begins to rid itself of the absolute control of the party/state, a sudden, large-scale convergence of people across the social spectrum is no longer impossible.
What Is Ahead
Of course, the system is not going to let it be. The so-called stability maintenance was born precisely in 1989, and its purpose was to prevent a similar social movement from happening again as the government sought to release the economic energy through market reform. The core mechanism of stability maintenance is to reduce the possibility of large-scale gathering by controlling the activists. Since 2004, fearing a color revolution, the stability maintenance system has been further strengthened, and, in the spring of 2010, it reached new heights, spurred by the Arab revolution. Stability maintenance by way of grid management is still busily developing.
So far this strategy has been working. Assemblies with a pure political purpose have all but disappeared, and the recent arrests of ten citizens in Beijing who advocated public disclosure of officials’ personal wealth are evidence that the stability maintenance system is showing no sign of relenting. But since this strategy puts almost all of its force on activists, it will have a hard time to control a much broader base of society members. From the anti-PX protest in Xiamen in 2007 to the anti-PX protest in Kunming in 2013, we can reach the conclusion that, as long as people amass enough will power, they will assemble, let alone gather for a spontaneous protest.
Looking ahead, the antagonism against the system will only grow as the system steps up exploiting citizens. At the same time, political opposition will continue to be scattered but persevere, forming alliances based on similar ideas. With the continuous presence of the potential for sudden mass gatherings, the two could very well converge at the right turn of events. When that happens, a movement, broader than that in 1989, will arrive. However, the stability maintenance apparatus is not giving up easily. On the one hand, through measures such as internet real-name registration and the “seven no talks,” it suppresses dissent and opposition to gain more support; on the other, it will adopt a uniform social credit code and other measures to exert direct control over citizens. It will be a long and arduous contest, and there is no telling when those forces will meet.
It will not be pretty, because its roots can be traced right back to the day of June 4th, 1989. As long as the rulers of China don’t have the courage to produce a real political solution for political reconciliation, as has happened in Myanmar, then it is not unthinkable for a massive social movement to erupt not too far into the future.
Mo Zhixu (莫之许) is a Beijing-based dissident intellectual and a participant in the June 4th movement.
By Yaxue Cao, January 15, 2013
An exile returns to his 86-year-old mother and family.
In the morning of November 27, 2012, after tweeting “Good morning, tweeps!” to his friends on Twitter, Mr. Wu Renhua (吴仁华), a resident of Los Angeles, boarded a plane to China.
At Customs in Shanghai’s Pudong airport, he was nervous. On a small screen, a photo check resulted in a “data error.” An alphabetic name check also showed “date error.” When asked to provide his name in Chinese, he gave a homonymic name. Again, “data error.” He broke out in a cold sweat, thinking he was caught.
It turned out to be otherwise. “Data error” meant that his information was not identified by the database. A man on China’s political blacklist, he slipped through Customs without being recognized.
Once through, sweat ran down his face, neck and body. He felt dizzy, and smoked a cigarette to collect himself. He couldn’t tell whether he had been too nervous or too excited; too happy or too sad.
He had planned to show up at the door of his home in Wenzhou (温州) without telling anyone, but he changed his mind lest his arrival, after 22 years of separation, was too overwhelming for his 86-year-old mother. He called his younger sister and asked her to announce the news to their mother.
He took a picture of himself before boarding the flight to Wenzhou. He didn’t notice, but later on someone would point out the gate number 89 in the background.
At the highway exit to Cangnan (温州苍南), he was stuck in traffic for two hours and thought he would walk home in the rain. He arrived at one o’clock in the morning to his mother and two sisters.
“I can’t tell you what it was like,” he said when I spoke to him on the phone earlier today. “I just can’t. It’s been 22 years.”
Mr. Wu Renhua was a young lecturer at China University of Political Science and Law (中国政法大学) in 1989, a participant in the Tian’anmen Movement, and an eye witness of one of its bloodiest scenes in Liubukou (六部口) where three tanks charged into files of students leaving the Tian’anmen Square in the morning of June 4th and killed eleven and wounded more. Many of Mr. Wu’s friends were arrested during the crackdown, a few of them, such as Wang Juntao (王军涛) and Chen Ziming (陈子明), received little attention from the international media at the time because they were not on the list of the wanted, and the rumors had it that they could be sentenced to death. Determined to take the news, as well as the truth about the massacre, overseas, Mr. Wu made to the south, swam across the water separating Zhuhai (珠海) and Macau in a rainy night in late February, 1990, with the help of paid smugglers. From Macau, he sneaked into Hong Kong and, then, on July 5th that year, to the United States as a political refugee.
For years, Mr. Wu had applied in vain for a Chinese passport. Being on the blacklist of political exiles, he had been barred from visiting China, unless he wrote a Statement of Repentance about his actions during the June 4th and overseas advocacy as well as a Statement of Guarantee promising that he would never speak or write against the Chinese government, nor engage in any activities of the same nature. Many made the deal with China and returned to visit or stay, but Mr. Wu did not want to do that.
Meanwhile, his mother was getting very old, and he couldn’t wait anymore. Last year Mr. Wu reluctantly gave up his status of political refugee and became an American citizen with an English name. “I didn’t tell anyone at all, not even friends, about the American passport and my name on the passport.”
Hours after he arrived, fearing that he would be discovered and possibly deported, he and his mother and siblings – the entire family – visited his father’s grave to pay respect and “to get the most important things out of my way and be prepared for possible deportation,” he said.
Fearing that his stay would implicate his family (years ago his younger brother, a brilliant graduate of Zhejiang University on track to become a CCP cadre, was expelled from civil service because of him), he asked one of his sisters to report his visit to the authorities. To protect his family from trouble, Mr. Wu declined to provide more details about his subsequent encounter with the Chinese state security police, except that he was indeed warned there would no more visits for him.
During his stay, he didn’t use a cell phone, didn’t use the internet, didn’t speak or meet with friends, and he didn’t leave Wenzhou.
He spent all his time by his mother’s side.
“My father died young, and my mother raised five of us alone,” Mr. Wu said. “She doesn’t have much of a political awareness, nor does she understand my ideals or the meaning of what I have done, but she has never interfered with my choices. Over the years when we talked over the phone, she had never expressed her desire for my return, nor shed tears, so as not to put pressure on me.”
For years, the community of exiles has made numerous efforts to get the Chinese government to allow them visit on humanitarian basis. Many of them couldn’t go back to visit ailing parents or attend funerals. Last spring, there were rumors that Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao wished the Party to redress the June 4th Movement and welcome exiles to go back China to “take a look.” In response to the rumors, Wang Dan (王丹), Hu Ping (胡平), Wang Juntao (王军涛), Wuerkaixi (吾尔开希), Wu Renhua (吴仁华) and Xiang Xiaoji (项小吉) issued in April a public appeal to the Chinese government entitled “We Hope to Go back to China to Take a Look”.
“We believe that it is our inalienable right to return to our own country. The rulers of China should not deny our most basic human rights just because we hold different political views. China is undergoing profound changes, and it is the expectation of all Chinese citizens that human rights be protected and democracy promoted,” the open letter reads.
Mr. Wu visited one of his uncles who was in a vegetative state in the hospital. The uncle joined the Communist Party in 1937, graduated from the Anti-Japanese Military and Political College in Yen’an (延安抗大), but was branded as a “rightist” for his expressions in the anti-rightist campaign in 1950s, spent four years in a labor camp and the rest of his life in the countryside. He had been Mr. Wu’s hero since childhood. Unable to communicate and share the joy of homecoming with his uncle, Mr. Wu was reduced to tears.
After spending 42 days with family, it was time again to separate. In the early morning on January 10 when Mr. Wu left, he insisted on his mother not seeing him off, but she walked him outside the building nonetheless. When he turned around to say goodbye to her, she had already gone back. “She did not want me to see her sadness,” Mr. Wu wrote in a set of tweets hashtaged #回家 (going home). “When I looked up, I saw her standing on the balcony against the parapet. Sorrow welled up in me. She had endured 22 years to see her son!”
Mr. Wu Renhua had been prepared for three possible outcomes of his visit before he headed to China: arrest, deportation, or a smooth visit. Once in Wenzhou, his family feared that he might be “disappeared” any time. Fortunately for him, everything turned out as well as it can be, in part probably because he’s now an American citizen.
Back to Los Angeles last week, Mr. Wu, the historian of ’89, continues to work on his third book. His first two books were published in Hong Kong, Tian’anmen Massacre in 24 Hours recording the last day – June 4th – and the bloodshed in the Square and the city, while The Martial Law Troops during Tian’anmen Movement presenting his research into the troops that carried out the bloody crackdown. Both have yet to be translated into English.
His third book, tentatively titled A Chronicle of the Tian’anmen Movement, is a description of the day-by-day events from April 15 to June 20, 1989, a year destined to etch deep in the memory of China.
As I prepared myself for leaving China to embark on something of a speaking tour of American churches, I was told time and again by friends, co-workers, former students, and even the Party Secretary of the hospital to tell them the “truth” about China. The undertone seemed to be that Americans were truly ignorant about China and thought it was a place of human rights abuses, corrupt officials, a draconian one-child policy, tainted food and polluted skies; and somehow I was going to counter all of those “misconceptions” in a cozy 1-hour talk.
At the same time, I know that in most respects China is a better place than the average American is imagining. Compared to other developing countries- most Chinese children can read and attend at least a few years of primary school, wanton violence is rare, and basic social services exist (even if it is a very basic level in many areas). And, as I’ve reported here before, there is a great deal of progress being made on several social issues by small, determined groups of citizens.
On top of that, after spending 20% of my life there, China feels like a second home, and I take a great deal of pride in its accomplishments. I find myself wanting to present China in as positive a light as possible. So each night I stand in front of a small group of people and try my best to tell the truth about China.
In my presentation, I talk about the explosive growth of the church in China; projects to protect the environment, increase farmers’ wages, and support new teachers; and even manage to sneak in a few pictures of pandas, the Great Wall, and the Terracotta warriors. It’s a hectic thirty-minutes of information, but each time I do it, I feel like I’m sticking to the “truth” my Chinese associates would approve of, without feeling like a shill for the Party.
Then comes Q&A.
Are women’s rights improving? Are Chinese Christians completely free? Do they still enforce the one child policy? What is the conversation about gay marriage in China like? While none of these have easy answers, I feel that most of these issues are slowly heading in a positive direction, and so I give them something that ends up slightly longer than my typical blog post length.
Then someone said, “It doesn’t seem like the gov’t puts much value on the life of an individual.” I struggled and searched for a “truthful” answer. I thought back on Chen Guangchen’s case, the abuse Ge Xun suffered for trying to meet the mother of a Tian’anmen square protester, and the inhumane treatment of Chen Pingfu, before lowering my head and saying, “No, they don’t.”
And I would be receptive of anyone’s advice on a way to respond positively to that question. From what I have seen time and again from Chinese officials is the willingness to let someone else (typically rural residents) “sacrifice” for the privileged few. Issues like labeling executed prisoners as organ donors, bulldozing the homes of farmers, and allowing the flagrant abuse of power by public officials hang like a dark, disappointing cloud over China’s otherwise inspiring achievements.
It’s an answer I take no joy in, and I wish there was a way to respond to that which would make my friends and students proud, but so far the Party hasn’t given me much to work with. So while I try my best to tell the “truth,” the truth gets in the way.
When former General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party Hu Yaobang (胡耀邦), sacked by Deng Xiaoping for his bolder calls for re-evaluating the past and reforming for the future, died on April 15, 1989, college students in Beijing began a wave of memorials to express their sadness and anger. Soon the students were on the street demanding freedom and democracy. Quickly the movement spread to cities all over China and to people from all walks of life. On June 4th, it ended with guns, tanks and deaths.
At the time I lived in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, and was among the few in China that had the news coming from Hong Kong TV. I remember, among the last images available, bulldozers rolling over the makeshift tents in Tiananmen Square the night of June 3rd. The next image I remember was the morning after (or perhaps that of June 5th) shown on CCTV: the square was empty under a gray sky, around the base of the Monument to the People’s Heroes, the floor was washed, wet, reflecting early morning light. It was June and in sweltering south, but that sight chilled me to the bones.
Since late May, my Twitter timeline has had almost nothing else but June 4th: every aspect of it, everything having to do with it. This is my first year on Twitter, and others observed that this year, the 23 anniversary, feels heavier and more intense. Microblogs inside China have censored every possible mention of the occasion, down to the candle icon and the character “占” (you’ll see why). I wanted to share a few items from Twitter and Weibo with our readers here to learn about, and remember, this day, not to mention the perspective it provides to our observations of China today.
- greendyj’s bot@dengbot/＞80 times RT @dyc741214: It is 9:30pm now Beijing time. Around this moment twenty-three years ago, the 38th Army from Baoding (保定) fired the first shot in front of the Military Museum, marking the beginning of the bloody crackdown. Let’s not forget that evil bullet!
Mr. Wu Renhua, a participant of June 4th and an exile living in Los Angeles for more than 20 years, has been the self-appointed historian dedicated to finding and recording everything about the event. He has been tweeting, the last couple of days, names of the known dead. So far 202 have been identified by the group called Tiananmen Mothers:
- 吴仁华@wurenhua/ 51. Zou Bing, female, age about 19 years old, student of Beijing Broadcast College, class ’92; 52. Pao Changkui, age 47, performer of National Ensemble of Minorities Songs and Dances; 53. Bian Zongxu, age 40, manager of mechanical and electrical products supply Co., Xinjiekou, Beijing; 54. Tian Daomin, age 22, student of Business Management Department, University of Science and Technology Beijing, class ’89; 55. He Jie, age 23, graduate student of Institute of Computing Technology, Science Academy of China.
10:55 PM – 2 Jun 12via web · Details
- 中国大陆新闻海外最新报导@sfchinese/ Out of the 1,602 people sentenced during and after June 4th, seven are still in jail…. http://bit.ly/JG4VQF
[Yaxue’s note: The numbers of arrests and sentences have been hotly disputed. Translation doesn’t mean endorsement.]
- 成都凯旋@kaixuan2010/ People probably have forgotten Zhou Yongjun (周勇军), who was one of the three students who knelt on the steps of People’s Congress to petition Li Peng (李鹏, then Prime Minister). He’s been imprisoned the second time with a 9-year sentence [in early 2010]. He is suffering from serious medical problems with incontinence.
8:27 PM – 2 Jun 12via Mobile Web · Embed this Tweet
- 蓝色风@straightbar/ …Presently, the Beijinger walked up to the soldiers while taking his shirt off . With only an undershirt and boxer shorts on him, and shirt in a hand, he shouted at the soldiers: “You can’t kill the students!”, his chest touching the tip of the bayonet. Just then, the gun fired, “Pang!”, on his chest. http://www.epochtimes.com/gb/12/6/2/n3602902.htmhttp://img.ly/j3aL
- 流雲@liuyun1989/ from Apple Daily: During the June 4th Massacre of ’89, tanks rolled into Tiananmen Square around midnight and cleared it. For years there have been no images available of the aftermath. A picture surfaced recently, and it was taken by a participating service man at the time.
- soundfury@soundfury/ Sina Weibo has begun to delete posts on mass. Even the one below didn’t survive: “Friends in Hong Kong can go to Victoria Park tomorrow, while friends in Taiwan to Liberty Square, for anniversary events.”
10:56 PM – 2 Jun 12via web · Details
- free2000fly@free2000fly/ Sohu Weibo blocked my account for posting the following gibberish “占占占占人 占占占点 占占点占 占点占占 点占占占 灬占占占占”.
5:43 AM – 3 Jun 12via web · Embed this Tweet
(Any clue? 占 –tank; 点—tank running over a person; three tanks running over a person; the person became 灬)
- 流雲@liuyun1989/ #8964 song “For Freedom” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EAx1TcHbwL8&feature=player_embedded [video of Hong Kong singers and movie stars singing the song in support of the movement]
Over the past three days we’ve had a chance to look at the full version of the story the Party tells about China’s past 170 years. I divided it into three sections that weren’t broken up in the National Museum, but that allowed reflection on logical chunks – The Opium war up to the founding of the Republic; The founding of the Party through the Mao years; and finally, 30 years of opening up. I wanted to wait to comment on the text until you all had had a chance to read it and form some of your own impressions (which I hope you’ll share below).
The first thing that I noticed from the exhibit was that China’s default status in the world is “glorious,” and that this glory comes from the Party. This is hardly a surprising claim, but its importance in the foundational myth is worth noting. Even the title of the exhibit reinforces this idea – The Road to Rejuvenation. From there we learned that foreigners’ only interest in China was exploitation, and that the Republican gov’t failed to live up to Sun Yatsen’s vision for China.
While these two points are not completely accurate, they are presented in a way that is convincing and clear. The repeated use of the word “bourgeois,” suggests that this is a story that the Party knows how to tell (it appears 9x in the first section, and only 1 time after that when discussing the founding of the Party). All the sections prior to the actual establishment of the People’s Republic of China seem to be much clearer than the later sections.
The second section of the exhibit has a different focus and serves to emphasize the role the Party has had in improving the lives of the Chinese people. It also reinforced the idea of ethnic unity (mentioned three times here, and only one other time in the preface). While the first section may have bent the truth to some degree, this section seems to have heavily employed the use of the delete button and provides a version of history that would likely confuse many who survived Mao’s decades of rule. Without any further knowledge of China, one would come away with the impression that nothing bad happened in the 50’s, 60’s or 70’s; even though well over 50 million Chinese people died unnecessarily during that time. As despicably revisionist as it is, there is still a narrative that makes sense if you ignore all of the outside information.
However, it’s not Mao’s era that seemed the most difficult for Party historians to discuss, it’s the last 30 years. As I walked through the museum with my father, we were both left scratching our heads as we read through lists of slogans and campaigns that described each leader’s reign since Mao. I wasn’t surprised that there was no mention of Tian’anmen square or the other crackdowns, but I was surprised that there was not no mention in the narrative of a single concrete action that any of these leaders had accomplished.
Within each decade there were trinkets of accomplishments, but it felt more like a scrapbook than a museum, in that it provided very little in the way of explanation. Oh look, it’s Deng Xiaoping’s cowboy hat. Wow, remember when we got let in to the WTO, or sent that guy into space? What was clear to me was that the Party still doesn’t know how these leaders will be viewed in the future, and seems to be working on the last third of the narrative.
The conclusion though makes sure you haven’t missed the point – “Socialism is the only way to save China,” and a subtle nudge to “closely unite around the CPC central leadership with Hu Jintao as its General Secretary.”
As we left the halls of the museum and returned to Tian’anmen Square, I couldn’t help thinking that not far from here Chen Guangcheng, Ai Weiwei, Wang Lijun, and Bo Xilai were all waiting for history to judge them as well. Each one would have been seen quite differently just a little over a year ago by the authorities and by common Chinese people. Chen would have likely been forgotten in Linyi, unknown to most and a thorn in the side of leaders; Ai would have occupied a dubious position between dissident and respected artist, but I don’t have many Chinese friends interested in modern art; Wang was a cop worthy of novels and film; and Bo was a rising political star that caused the country to pause and sing the songs of an era worthy of a single photo in a museum.