Thoughts on certain questions since Maoism was overturned…

The “Resolution on Certain Questions in the History of Our Party since the Founding of the People’s Republic of China《关于建国以来党的若干历史问题的决议》” was a key document in the political re-evaluation of Maoism and subsequent reforms. On Aug. 27, 2011 in Beijing, a group of influential scholars, political scientists, lawyers, and journalists convened to talk about questions still facing the Party. And yes, I found out about the Beijing meeting as I find out about most political and social events in China – text messages and weibo. Below, I have translated a selection of quotable quotes from a circulating collection of quotations from the meeting. The key message remains – ask not what you can do for the economy, but what the economy should be doing for all of us… 

It is not easy to deny the influence of Reform and Opening, it is possible to broaden democracy within the Party and to have a constitutional government under Party rule – Ma Licheng (马立诚)

Guo Daohui (郭道晖): Without a constitution there is no socialism. Socialism is above society, it is the counterpart to the country and not the counterpart to capitalism. There are three important issues. 1) open the files from the meeting thirty years ago [Resolution]; 2) open debate about Mao Zedong, and; 30 open debate about Reform and Opening. The hegemony of the Party is in crisis, what is need is to again liberate thinking and enter debate.

At the thirtieth anniversary of the publication of “Resolution on Certain Questions in the History of Our Party since the Founding of the People’s Republic of China”, Hu Deping (胡德平) said: Resolutions on historical errors leave extra room because you can’t say too much about it, all you can do is not say enough. Some things haven’t been thoroughly discussed.  Today some people are nostalgic for the Cultural Revolution. This is a regression. The Revolutionary Party needs to become a legitimate Party, this is an historical opportunity to make history. There wasn’t enough critical reflection in the Resolution from thirty years ago. Today some people want to use the Cultural Revolution to have another Cultural Revolution, turning their backs on the spirit of [Hu] Jingtao’s address [to the people]. There are extreme leftists in the Party, and individuals have put themselves above the center. In a time of revolution, centralizing resources is easy to understand. But now isn’t like that. Why in a democratic system is democracy always a weak force and centralization the strong force? Can they only feel good about themselves in a closed, feudal society?Only in an open society do we know our true value. Is it good to be isolated in the world? Lin Biao once said, What is political power? It’s the power to suppress. At that time, everyone said this was good! The essence of the party must be one with the people. It is even more important to pay attention to democracy within the Party.

Zhang Musheng (张木生) said: At the time the “Resolution” was passed, it was impossible to reflect on all the problems, and Xiaoping said that some should be left for others to deal with later. These past thirty years, our economic development has matured, bring with it many problems. Many of these problems are within the Party. We need to reflect and summarize on this. Representation in the two conferences, two farmer representatives, over one hundred billionaires. In fact the problems are huge. The Chinese economy has taken a curve, and the difference between rich and poor is approaching that of Latin America. Marxism hasn’t been realized in any country. Marxism hasn’t eliminated capitalism, but has nourished capitalism, refining it. The USSR was once the second strongest country in the world, but it didn’t last. Mao’s biggest mistake was not finding away to control capitalism. The biggest mistake of Reform is obviously doing capitalism, but not have the guts to tell the people. In a commercial revolution, people’s IQ is the lowest.

People’s Daily critic, Ma Licheng: What flag does the country want to raise? If we follow leftist Maoism, it will be difficult for the country. Singing red is to turn our backs on the perspective of scientific development. If we return to the new nationalism of 1945, that means opening debate and having true elections. What would it be like to raise the flag of Deng Xiaoping? First, democracy and freedom can’t and shouldn’t be blocked. Second, economic growth can’t resolve the problem of government legitimacy and used to cheat people.

Yu Jianrong (于建嵘):Are we trying to decide how to evaluate thirty years of political legitimacy? The emancipation of thinking today isn’t as advanced as it was thirty years ago. There are problems with how the Party understands governance. Who’s country is it? It’s the People’s. The government system needs to be reformed, the question is where to start? The Party doesn’t even follow its own laws, so what are the people to do? The problem with the “Resolution” is that it never debated the question of political legitimacy. It didn’t review basic ideas and structure. It didn’t debate the countries direction, and didn’t realize that the purpose of government is to protect the rights of the People. 

Qinghua University Professor Li Dun (李楯): (Public Interpretations of the Historical Resolution) Why can the Cultural Revolution continue to surface? Because many things that should have been repudiated were not. I’m over 60 and don’t know much of that history! We lack consciousness of suffering, all we have his consciousness of our enemies. If political power is your hands, then we say that it’s legitimate to overthrow the government. If political power is in my hands, then we say we need to maintain stability. What’s lacking is a stable moral perspective. The Cultural Revolution is over. The Party is treating the people like children, teaching textbook knowledge. There’s no future in this. 

Chinese Economic Reform Research Institute Director, Song Xiaowu (宋晓梧) said: Looking at the “Resolution” today, I feel heavy. At the time, only by repudiating class struggle as the main line, did we win the hearts of the people to initiate economic reform and achieve today’s success. Only by repudiating the planned economy, did we achieve economic vitality. Today, if someone were to have me write an essay analyzing social questions such as the Tonggang Affair from the perspective of class struggle and contradictions between labor and capital, I wouldn’t agree. However, we still haven’t perfected our union and other social systems. The left has an audience because of these systemic problems. To continue, or go back? Of course, we go forward. Now the local governments don’t listen to the central government, instead GDP has the greatest force. We can’t return to centralized power, so we need to give power to society, democratize. We can’t go back.

Beijing University Professor, Zhang Weiang (张维迎): Politicians can’t be born from functionaries. Functionaries have been bureaucratized and don’t think. Second, The history that we read is false. The Cultural Revolution has been thoroughly repudiated, and the Chinese People’s spirt can’t be clean. All files need to be opened. Third, we need to implement the constitution. I have sincerely read our constitution, and only one item has been actualized – Party leadership. Other than that, every item in our constitution is empty. Our future task is to implement the constitution. The “Resolution” generation of leaders has left the world in glory, they had ideals. Today, the temperament of the country has changed. We value profits over reason, and relationships over truth. Commemorating the thirtieth anniversary of the “Resolution”, I don’t feel good. China today is in a sub-healthy condition. We have profits but now ideals. Thirty years ago, there were people with ideals, but that atmosphere has gone bad. At the time, the Center asked Shen Zulun to be the Party Secretary of Zhejiang, but he refused saying, “I’m suitable to be the Governor of Zhejiang, but not the Party Secretary.” Is there anyone like that today? Our country’s international position isn’t what it was in 1945, when we helped start the United Nations.

Hong Kong University Professor, Ding Xueliang (丁学良): Khaddafi loves the Cultural Revolution and has studied the Cultural Revolution, indeed he’s studied it too well. Mao had a little red book, Khaddafi had a little green book. Both got rid of the government and set up a revolutionary committee. And they weren’t chairmen, but revolutionary leaders. If we’re going to walk the route of the Cultural Revolution, its Khaddafi’s fate.

He Fang (何方): The cult of personality is a problem, and we still haven’t reflected on it. Deng Xiaoping said, Mao had the last word on Mao. I have the last word on me. I can only relax when you have the last word.

Jiang Ping (江平): Two false theories. The first is the theory that stability is the highest good. Who decides what is or is not a stable society? There is then illegitimate governance. The second is the theory of Chinese exceptionalism. The people with power decide the standard for stability. Differences are accepted as inevitable and when they are too extreme, we just say its “exceptional” or a “special case”, ignoring common ideals. The most important ideals are to have a common constitution, legal system, and human rights.

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