Chinese academic permitted to challenge the CCP

This is a fascinating review of a book — China’s New Order by Wang Hui — that, unfortunately, sounds arcane to the point of being unreadable.

What is so interesting is 1.) the fact that the government allowed the critical essays calling for across-the-board reforms to be published and 2.) the reason why the government sees it as no threat. (If no one can read, i.e., understand the essays, who cares if they’re published?)

For him, establishing the “preconditions for democracy” should not be shunted aside by concerns with economic growth rates. And he rejects those who mistake “the workings of uneven markets as the natural course leading to democracy.” What he calls for instead is the inclusion of considerations like social justice, equality and democracy — a quotient of what he calls “the spirit of humanism” — in China’s reform agenda. His goal is “a path of reform that is more fair, more democratic and more humanitarian.”

The reviewer, Orville Schell, is a China scholar and Dean of UC-Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. He concludes:

This is subversive stuff, and it is not clear whether China’s new leaders will prove any more receptive than their predecessors to such arguments, especially if they begin to escape their academic confines and reach ordinary people through the media.

As long as China’s “economic miracle” retains its momentum and almost mythic status, and as long as grievances against China’s errant Communist Party remain under control, essays like Mr. Wang’s will probably remain interesting but largely inconsequential. But should economic cycles turn, as they so often do, voices of intellectuals like Mr. Wang could acquire new power by helping to explain what is going wrong. It was Mao himself who, way back in 1930 when he was a peasant revolutionary, spoke of how “a single spark can start a prairie fire.”

The Discussion: 3 Comments

Hi Richard: Good to read that you’re finally up and about again. Here’s hoping for a successful recovery.

Did you see JJ’s small posting on Schell’s review? He’s rather critical, mainly because the reviewer seemed to skip the main chapter – a reinterpretation of 1989. This would seem pretty hard to miss, and given the importance of such an event a fairly large hole in any review. I mention this partly because you might be interested in Wang Hui’s views.

All the best.

January 5, 2004 @ 10:07 pm | Comment

But because the party still does not let critics amplify their ideas in major media outlets, essays like Mr. Wang’s remain relegated to relatively obscure niche journals. (As one Shanghai writer of avant-guard fiction told me several years ago when I asked why the party allowed him to publish his politically iconoclastic stories, “As long as no one reads them, they don’t care.”)

i see many sparks recently actually.. also the labor union incident

but when is it gonna light anything? or is it good that it lights up? maybe we want more peaceful transition?

January 6, 2004 @ 6:04 am | Comment

Thanks Stephen, i will check it out once I’m ion better shape.

Dodo, it’s hard to shine the light in China, where many who attempt to do so end up in jail, unfortunately.

January 8, 2004 @ 9:26 am | Comment

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