Imminent Fears, Immediate Hopes — A Beijing Jeremiad

In September 1953, the modern Confucian thinker and rural reformer Liang Shuming (梁漱溟, 1893-1988) famously clashed with the Communist Party Chairman, Mao Zedong. Liang was mildly critical of how, following the Liberation of 1949, Party policy favoured the urban working class to the disadvantage of the countryside. Until then, Mao had regarded Liang as a zhēngyǒu 諍友, ‘a principled friend who dares to disagree’. Liang dared speak truth to power. During a heated exchange at a meeting of the Central People’s Government Council power spoke back. After a series of biting remarks about the Confucian scholar, Liang openly asked the Party Chairman if he had the ‘magnanimity’ 雅量 to allow him to voice his views at length. Mao famously replied:

I probably won’t show you the magnanimity you’d like!
您要的這個雅量,我大概是不會給的!

He did, however, say that he would be magnanimous enough to allow Liang a seat on the National Consultative Congress; Liang didn’t need to perform a self-criticism. ‘For you,’ Mao told him, ‘all that remains is denunciation 批判.’ He subsequently launched a scathing attack on the scholar, who only resurfaced because he managed to outlive his nemesis.

Xu Zhangrun 許章潤, a professor of law at Tsinghua University in Beijing and the author of the following cri de coeur, has praised Liang as a dàrú 大儒, a Great Scholar of Principle — here the term  儒, often clumsily translated as ‘Confucian’, means ‘a man whose learning and actions are grounded in Confucian principles of righteousness, fearlessness and probity’.

On the eve of the 120th anniversary of Liang Shuming’s birth on 18 January 2018, Xu offered the following appraisal:

Liang tirelessly travelled through the land for the betterment of all. True Confucian scholars [rúzhě 儒者] put Confucian thought into practice, they do so in their own lives and through their actions. They have a kind of religious sense of working for the salvation of the world. Nowadays there are those New Confucian Academics 新儒家學者 who might claim they are Confucian Scholars, but then they just head off to sing karaoke. Mr Liang was always mulling over issues to do with our Family-Nation-All-Under-Heaven. You must include these words when you write up your report. What’s the good of blathering on in the abstract if you don’t possess an all-encompassing perspective 眼界 and true insight 眼光. Most people simply don’t get it.   為蒼生起,奔走於大地。儒者是要實踐儒家學說,要身體力行,有一種宗教般的救世情懷,現在有一些新儒家學者,天天在說我是一個儒者,說完可能就唱卡拉OK去了。梁先生從來都是在家國天下這個大框架里來思考具體問題,你們寫文章,一定要把這句話寫進去。沒有這個眼界、眼光,瞎嚷嚷有什麼用?但這正是一般人忽略的問題。

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On 24 July 2018, Xu published a lengthy online critique of China’s present political and social dilemmas. In issuing his Jeremiad, Xu, who is something of a latter-day  儒, locates himself in the Grand Tradition by effectively addressing a Memorial to the Throne, 諫言 or 上書. Given the relentless police repression and intensifying ideological clamp-down in Xi Jinping’s China, this is a daring act of ‘remonstrance’ 諫勸.

Although composed for the most part in modern Chinese, Xu’s appeal also employs numerous turns of phrase and formulations from the literary tradition. Among other things it appeals to the Way and Heaven, as well as eternal principles of governance.

Reading Xu’s petition, students of Chinese history will readily recall the outspoken scholars of the Eastern Forest Academy 東林書院 in the late-Ming dynasty who railed against the rule of eunuchs and imperial corruption (and who were extolled by critics of Mao in the early 1960s); or the ‘Scholars’ Memorial’ movement 公車上書 from 1895 that contributed crucially to the short-lived One-hundred Days Reforms 戊戌變法 under the emperor Dezong 德宗, Aisin-Gioro Dzai Tiyan (愛新覺羅 · 載恬, 1871-1908). But Xu’s work has a wider audience since, in effect, he is also ‘cautioning the world’ 勸世, that is, warning China as a whole of the incipient dangers threatening the nation if its modernising trajectory dating from the mid-nineteenth century is frustrated once more. It is here that his work is reminiscent both of similar analyses and writings by his contemporaries, as well as of Zheng Guanying’s 鄭觀應 famous 1893 tract Words of Warning to a Prosperous Age 盛世危言.

Of course, Xu Zhangrun’s Petition also recalls the most famous ‘Memorial to the Ruler’ of the Communist era, that addressed by the Minister of Defence Peng Dehuai 彭德懷 to Mao Zedong. Known as the ‘Ten-thousand Word Appeal to the Ruler’ 萬言上書, it was written during a crucial Party meeting at Lushan in south China in July 1959. In it Peng warned his old comrade-in-arms and fellow Hunanese revolutionary of the unfolding disaster of the Great Leap Forward, and he backed up his advice with details recorded during his own investigations in the countryside. For his troubles Peng was denounced, not only by Mao but by other Party leaders including the State President Liu Shaoqi 劉少奇 and Party General Secretary Deng Xiaoping 鄧小平. He ended his days in ignominy. Peng’s outspokenness and Mao’s obsession with weeding out all support for it would be a pretext to launch the Cultural Revolution in 1966. The sweet irony of the cataclysm is that both Liu and Deng were themselves early victims of what soon became a nationwide purge.

Xu’s Jeremiad also brings to mind the 1974 Big-character Poster of Canton —  ‘Concerning Democracy and the Rule of Law under Socialism’ 關於社會主義的民主與法制. This 26,000-character critique of the Cultural Revolution was written in calligraphy on multiple, large sheets paper in the form of a ‘big-character poster’ 大字報. The work of a writing collective that signed itself Li Yizhe 李一哲 (the nom de plume of Li Zhengtian 李正天, Chen Yiyang 陳一陽, Wang Xizhe 王希哲 and Guo Hongzhi 郭鴻志, as well as a number of others), it appeared on the walls of buildings at the intersection of Beijing Road in the heart of Guangzhou on 10 November 1974. As Simon Leys wrote at the time:

In Canton at the end of 1974 three courageous young revolutionaries wrote under the pen name of ‘Li Yi-che’ a political manifesto of historical importance. On the occasion of the anti-Lin Biao campaign, then in full swing, they dared to ask the only relevant question: what is the point of attacking a dead person if we do not attempt to identify the mechanism by which he came to power — what is the point of denouncing Lin Biao, if we do not endeavor to denounce the Lin Piao system?

Simon Leys, ‘Comrade Chiang Ch’ing’,
Broken Images, London 1979, p.77

The lead authors were detained for having published a ‘reactionary big-character poster’ and they were subjected to dozens of mass denunciations, although on occasion they were also permitted the right of reply. Supporters surreptitiously put up their own posters in defense of Li Yizhe, but, in late 1975, the group was formally arrested on the charge of having formed a ‘Counter-revolutionary Clique’ 反革命集團. When Xi Zhongxun 習仲勳 — the father of China’s present ruler and the object of Xu Zhangrun’s digital ‘big-character poster’ below — took charge of the Guangdong Party Committee after Mao’s death, he ordered that the case against Li Yizhe be re-examined. The Li Yizhe collective was exonerated and formally rehabilitated at a mass rally in February 1979.

The main members of the ‘Li Yizhe Counter-revolutionary Clique’, following their 2 February 1979 rehabilitation

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Posters, petitions and pleas direct to the Chinese authorities, both by single authors and by groups of writers and signatories, have been a hallmark of the era of Reforms and the Open Door. Starting with the public outpourings on Democracy Wall in Beijing from November 1978 to December 1979, they continued throughout the 1980s and reached a crescendo with the petition movement that unfolded both before and during the Beijing Protests of April-June 1989, with such powerful gestures as students kneeling to petition the rulers 跪諫, some even willing to advance their pleas at the cost of their own lives 死諫. It is now nearly ten years since over 300 Chinese men and women of conscience signed Charter 08 零八憲章, a manifesto calling for the peaceful evolution of China’s authoritarian system towards democracy. It is just over a year since the Charter’s most famous signatory, the imprisoned writer and Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo 劉曉波, was murdered by state neglect.

Xu Zhangrun’s powerful plea is not a simple work of ‘dissent’, as the term is generally understood in the sense of samizdat protest literature. Given the unease within China’s elites today, its implications are also of a different order from liberal pro-Western ‘dissident writing’. Xu has issued a challenge from the intellectual and cultural heart of China, or 文化中國, to the political heart of the Communist Party.

The author possibly seems himself within the ‘tradition of Confucian continuity’ 道統, the age-old stream of cultural becoming with which certain intellectuals identify. It is a tradition that long pre-dates Communist rule, and it is one that will still flourish long after they quit the historical stage. The content and powerful literary style of Xu’s ‘remonstrance’, as well as its tone of ‘moral outrage’ 義憤, not to mention the author’s scathing humour, will resonate deeply throughout the Chinese party-state system, as well as within Chinese society and among concerned citizens more broadly.

If, as some scholars have previously observed, many Chinese men and women of letters revere ‘China’ 中華 as something akin to a religion — that is, an all-embracing system of identity, personal salvation, values and beliefs — then the author of this extraordinary petition, a sincere devotee, has offered his advice as an act of sacrifice on the Altar of State 社稷. One could say that Xu’s gesture is both that of conscientious objection and of martyrdom for China 殉國.

— Geremie R. Barmé
Editor, China Heritage 
1 August 2018

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Another Lesson in New Sinology

In China Heritage we celebrate the vital aspects of the Chinese tradition both by introducing readers to Nouvelle Chinoiserie 奇趣漢學, as well as by adding to our long-term advocacy of New Sinology 後漢學, which we first articulated in 2005. Previously we have illustrated this way of appreciating contemporary China in the context of the tradition in the series New Sinology Jottings 後漢學劄記. We also publish translations related to contemporary Chinese politics and culture. To date, these have included political commentaries by the noted Hong Kong writer Lee Yee 李怡 (see The Best China), an annotated translation of series of critiques from the People’s Daily and an introduction to Deng Tuo’s 鄧拓 Evening Chats at Yanshan 燕山夜話. The following translation is the latest addition to this growing body of material.

What’s useful about New Sinology? As we have remarked previously:

Today’s corporatised education system too often leaves students of China well versed in the professions, but unable to understand with ease and fluency the wellsprings of what China is today. Deprived of the broader linguistic and cultural context, they are ill-equipped to understand, translate or engage with such daily essentials as online discussions, coded commentaries or sometimes even newspaper headlines, let alone the myriad traditional concepts used by Chinese thinkers, politicians, economists and strategists in articulating China’s sense of itself and its new place in the world. …

New Sinology advocates an approach to contemporary China that appreciates the overculture of the dominant Chinese Communist Party and what, through ideology, its policies, the mass media, the education system and its internal and global propaganda efforts the Party promotes as Official China. It also inducts those engaged with China into the particularities of Translated China, that is the versions of China advocated by the Party authorities through their selective approach to and interpretation of the Chinese world, be it in the contemporary context or that of the tradition or the twentieth century.

On New Sinology

Today, the Xi Jinping-era version of The China Story claims to be the sole legitimate way to understand China, both present and past. Many writers, journalists and academics, be they inside China or overseas, strain to hear, report, create stories or translate the polyphony of voices, the jostling of ideas, aspirations and the melding of the traditional with the contemporary that can inform an engaged yet independent appreciation of the Chinese world unencumbered by Communist Party dogma. It is the task of China’s Communist Party organs like People’s Daily to corral a Chinese multiverse that is constantly threatening to break out of the prison of words. Through our advocacy of New Sinology we hope to aid and abet people to appreciate better the limits of that party-prison.

Xu Zhangrun’s essay ‘Imminent Fears, Immediate Hopes’ 我們當下的恐懼與期待, offers words of warning to China’s leaders, as well as a series of practical (although unimaginable) policy suggestions. Xu’s style is a heady admix of the most dense kind of writing combining the vernacular with the literary registers of written Chinese. Despite the sometimes knotty circumlocutions, it is an incisive, amusing and sarcasm-laden work. It does not spare its reader literary references, quotations from important traditional and modern works, the use of historical analogy, or indeed contemporary jokes and vulgarities. 

Although the author’s message is clear, his layered and nuanced prose may well be overlooked by the careless reader or dismissed by those ignorant of Chinese discourse as mere affectation, nothing more than an effort to appeal to sanctified tradition, a kind of pedantic footnoting or a flashy display of scholarship. However, for those familiar with modern Chinese prose more generally, such devices are par for the course. This kind of literary-historical-intellectual 文史哲 usage adds both literary validation and strength to prose that appeals both to the heart and the mind of the Chinese world. Merely to mine this kind of writing for transient and ill-conceived political purposes, or to fail to appreciate the broader cultural, social and political ambience that it reflects — one far beyond the limited purview of the Communists and their immediate critics — is to overlook an essential part of Chinese cultural expression.

— The Editor

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Reading Xu Zhangrun:

Related Reading:

Further Material:


 

This Translation is Dedicated to

Wu Zuguang (吳祖光, 1917-2003)
君子風骨

Inspiring friend, playwright and essayist, a True Gentleman with 
boundless contempt for Mao Zedong and his Cult

(See A Disaffected Gentleman)

 


To the Reader:

This is a Draft Translation of a long and intricate document. Due to the level of interest in Xu Zhangrun’s outspoken views among English-language readers, the following has been produced in a matter of days, whereas in the normal course of events a work that is the result of deep thought and reflection (and informed by a lifetime of experience) on the part of the author would require weeks of dedicated effort for any translator to do it justice.

In undertaking this task I am particularly grateful to Warren Sun 孫萬國, an old friend, who is himself a writer of elegant Chinese and a noted expert on the intricacies both of Chinese history and politics. As my energies lagged and my ability was found wanting, Warren’s alacrity, insights and timely corrections proved invaluable. I would also like to thank Chris Buckley of The New York Times. It goes without saying that for the many infelicities and absurdities of this translation I bear sole responsibility.

Square brackets [] indicate amplifications and explanations by the translator. Further revisions of the text and extended annotations will be made over the coming days.

The Translator

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Imminent Fears, Immediate Hopes

我們當下的恐懼與期待

Xu Zhangrun 許章潤

Translated with Commentary and Notes by Geremie R. Barmé

 

 

Yet again people throughout China — including the entire bureaucratic class — are feeling a sense of uncertainty, a mounting anxiety in relation both to the direction the country is taking as well as in regard to their personal security. These anxieties have generated something of a nationwide panic. This is primarily due to the fact that in recent years our National Orientation [立國之道, literally, ‘The Way to Establish the State’, a term popular among Confucian-oriented thinkers from the Republican era (1912-1949). The Communists claim sole proprietorship over the expression, its articulation and its contents. By using this and other expressions related to modern Chinese history, Xu indicates that he doesn’t limit himself to the Party line] has betrayed the Basic Principles that I outline below. In fact, we now seem to be heading in the opposite direction from the one that we have previously been taking. In my opinion, these Basic Principles should not be compromised, and under no circumstances should they be undermined. They are the principles central to the policies formulated by the Communist Party following the ‘Cultural Revolution’ and during the years that it slowly and painstakingly managed to regain a measure of political legitimacy. Throughout the three decades of the Open Door and Reform era [c.1978-2008], these Principles proved to be the most appropriate political approach; they reflected a minimum consensus arrived at by the entire populace on the basis of which the country could enjoy a form of peaceful co-existence.

包括整個官僚集團在內,當下全體國民對於國家發展方向和個人身家性命安危,再度深感迷惘,擔憂日甚,已然引發全民範圍一定程度的恐慌。蓋因近年來的立國之道,突破了下列底線原則,倒行逆施,而這曾是「文革」後執政黨收拾合法性,並為三十多年的「改革開放」證明為最具正當性的政治路線,也是全體公民和平共處最低限度的社會政治共識,本不該動搖,千萬不能搖撼。

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1. Four Basic Principles
一、四條底線

So, then, what are the Four Basic Principles?
那麼,是哪四項底線原則呢?

First Basic Principle: Security and Stability

For four decades the present system has enjoyed a legitimacy based on maintaining basic security and stability. This is why, in the wake of the Catastrophe [of Mao’s rule and the Cultural Revolution] over some four decades hundreds of millions of Chinese have supported the policies of Reform and the Open Door.

What we need is continued social order and a clear vision for the nation’s future. There must be an end of the tendency to pursue new and repeated ‘Political Movements’ [that is, mass moblisation and voluntarist campaigns with short-lived political aims] as well as ‘Lawlessness’ [here Xu uses a well-known two-part pun or double-entendre: 和尚打傘 (無髮/法無天) ‘A monk in the shade of an umbrella (no hair/law 髮/法 and no sky above 天/ limit to power)’. This saying was famously used by Mao to describe his limitless power and authority to Edgar Snow on 18 December 1970, but Snow misunderstood him completely. By using this expression he is comparing Xi Jinping to Mao], and that includes repeated cycles of ‘Strike Hard’ campaigns [that have been launched variously in 1983,1996, 2001 and 2010] aimed at crushing criminals and underworld gangs. It is important [for the government] to confront increasing signs of social anomie and maintain social order, while at the same time promoting social reconciliation. Only by so doing can they vouchsafe the basic conditions of normalcy that allow the Common People to go about their daily business.

Admittedly, these public goods as ensured by the government are legitimate; they are essential for the broad spectrum of needs essential for normal life: basic social order, a fair society, employment opportunities, as well as the chance to live with dignity. It is inevitable that with the passage of time and given changing circumstances, people’s aspirations are bound to evolve. In the absence of ‘high-tier public products’ [that is, freedom of expression and an independent judiciary, in short, real democracy], the people of China who have experienced so much turmoil and suffering in the past require the base-line guarantees of safety and stability.

Overall, the Basic Principle of Security has been assured, even desirable. After all, people just want to have a peaceful life, make enough for food and clothing and enjoy a measure of prosperity. All of these things are premised on individuals enjoying a settled environment and living in a reasonable society. Nonetheless, this kind of stable environment [we have] and the ‘Stability Maintenance’ [維穩, short for 維護國家局勢和社會的整體穩定, ‘Protect the Overall National Situation and Maintain the Stability of Society’. Although this policy evolved in the wake of the Protest Movement of 1989, and was a particular feature of the Hu Jintao-Wen Jiaobao decade of ‘Harmonious Society’ building from 2003 to 2012, its origins go back to the early reform period when, faced with political challenges and pressures, Deng Xiaoping declared that ‘Stability Comes First’ 穩定壓倒一切] policies that have been developed to maintain it, have in turn generated new problems and revealed their own limitations, creating in fact deadly lesions that threaten the political legitimacy [of the party-state] itself.

Moreover, for over three decades, in particular following [Deng Xiaoping’s Tour of the South during which he invigorated the process of economic reforms that had stalled following 4 June 1989 and the ideological squabbles that ensued in] the spring-summer of 1992, the ruling Communist Party has pursued economic growth or, as the formula goes ‘Devoted Itself to Development, Focussed Its Energies on Construction’. Such a policy was pursued for twenty years and overall it enjoyed for the most part the active collaboration of officialdom and the society as a whole. Despite a few clashes, the average Chinese has been of the opinion that no matter who was in power, or who fell from grace, given the orderly succession of bureaucrats, a general feeling grew up over time that national policy priorities would continue to focus on substantive nation building. Thus, when it came down to it, most people were willing to put up with the existing political arrangements, in other words: ‘You hold onto the reins of power; I’ll enjoy my personal life’. This official-popular consensus and collaboration produced the social stability and security that I have been discussing here. That’s to say, it’s not so much about ‘This Dream’ or ‘That Dream’, rather it’s been about growing the economy and developing the society with an emphasis on nation building. Don’t launch any more political campaigns; let us continue to enjoy a peaceful life. This Basic Principle is the starting point for the [generally held] view that [the power-holders] were fulfilling their moral duty [to the people]. It’s on the basis of this premise that the common citizenry of China accepts Your Rule.

第一,維持基本治安,明確國家願景。結束連年「運動」,中止「和尚打傘無法無天」,以包括連番「嚴打」在內的強力整肅,阻止社會失範,維護社會治安,同時盡力實現社會和解,大致提供了一般民眾生聚作息的基本秩序條件,是四十年里現有政體的底線合法性,也是歷經劫難後的億萬國民擁護「改革開放」的原因所在。雖說從治安到公正,自就業而尊嚴,公共產品的內涵缺一不可,而且時移世易,訴求必然逐次提升,但在高端產品闕如之際好歹有底線保障,對於歷經動亂和苦難的百姓而言,總是好事。畢竟,升斗小民,日常起居的美好願景不過是安寧生活,期期於溫飽小康,而以世道安靖為前提。雖說此種治安格局及其後來發展出來的「維穩」路徑,反過來滋生出新的問題,暴露出政治統治正當性不足這一致命病灶,但就其提供基本治安而言,卻是成功的,也是合意的。不寧唯是,三十多年里,尤其是1992年春夏之後,執政黨以經濟建設為中心,所謂「專心致志謀發展,聚精會神搞建設」,堅持二十年不變,則官民互動之下,幾個回合下來,一般國民認為不管誰上誰下,他唱罷你登場,反正發展經濟、專心國家建設這一條蔚為基本國策不會改變。有此預期兜底,遂彷彿多所安心,接受既有政體安排,你當你的官,我過我的小日子,而合作共謀出此刻這一社會治安格局。換言之,不是這個夢那個夢,而是發展經濟社會,專注於國家建設,別搞運動,安寧生計,凡此底線原則,築就了展示並通達國家道義願景的起點,也是百姓接受統治的前提。

Second Basic Principle: A Measure of Respect for Property Rights

Respecting private property and tolerating people’s desire to pursue wealth creation is the Second Basic Principle. We went from a time when private property and ownership were regarded as the source of all social evils [during the era of ‘High Maoism’, from 1956 to  1976] and entered a period that tolerated hundreds of millions of Chinese legitimately pursuing greater personal wealth, and then on to a time when there was the prospect that property rights would even be recognised constitutionally — or as the short-hand puts it, ‘private property would be allowed into [recognised by] the Constitution’ [私產入憲]. This new approach liberated the natural desires of our people to seek prosperity for themselves and their families. The politics of China [finally] embraced the natural human desire for a better life. In these circumstances, not only did the state enjoy massive economic growth, it also made it possible for the state to allocate appropriate funding to Science and Technology, Education, Culture, National Defense and the Military. Importantly [for the Power-Holders], it also underwrote the massive expenditures of the Party-State itself. Of course, the average Chinese benefited as their standard of living improved. Such is the legal and legitimate basis upon which China has enjoyed such rapid development; it is also the underlying economic rationale behind why the existing political legitimacy [of the regime] has been tolerated by All-of-China. After all, this is what people regard as fundamental: Touch whatever you must, just don’t touch our wallets. This is a principle universally accepted by humanity at large for, in the modern era, the idea of private property is wedded to the concept of human nature. 

After [the Party implemented a raft of policies in the late 1970s in the wake of the Cultural Revolution as a result of which] ‘Wrongs were Righted and Order replaced Chaos’ [撥亂反正, a short-hand covering a series of significant policy adjustments, including the rehabilitation of tens of thousands of cadres, intellectuals and individuals, along with the implementation of new quality-oriented educational policies and the encouragement of basic positive social values, among other things. The conceit of the Communist Party was that for a time — 1957 to 1976, or 1966 to 1976, it had strayed from its mission to build a united, strong and prosperous China. This ‘fake history’ has been central to the Party’s post-1976 self-mythologising, and to The China Story that it now tells] China converted [皈依, a Buddhist expression that denotes conversion to the tenets of faith and the foreswearing of one’s sinful past] taking up once more the journey along the Broad Way of Universal Human Existence. And, lo and behold!: ‘Verily, There is No Greater Virtue than to Realise the Error of Your Ways’.

第二,有限尊重私有產權,容忍國民財富追求。從廢除私有制,聲言私產為萬惡之源,到有限保護私有產權,容忍億萬人民對於財富增長的追求,並且訴諸立憲,所謂「私產入憲」,釋放了發家致富的普遍人欲,給予追求美好生活的人性志向以正面政治迎應。在此情形下,不僅國家經濟實力空前增長,並以此支撐了科教文衛與國防武備,特別是龐大的黨政費用,而且,一般國民亦多獲益,生活水準多所提升。此為中國經濟快速成長的法制緣由,同時說明了既有政制合法性之獲得全民容忍的經濟原因。畢竟,動什麼,別動大家的錢袋子,是硬道理。其實,此為一切正常人類社會的通則,近世產權理念與人性觀念為此特加張本,「改革開放」以「撥亂反正」皈依普世大道,實為知錯能改善莫大焉。

For demolition

Third Basic Principle: A Measure of Tolerance of Personal Freedoms

Over the past decades, civil society has not evolved in China. Whenever there’s been an outbreak of anything approaching normalcy, it has been crushed. This has had a profoundly negative impact on the individual growth and political maturation of our citizenry. Politically speaking, things are dire and the Chinese Nation as a whole continues to be seriously diminished as a result. However, personal ethics have, to a great extent, enjoyed a revival; in the economic and private realms there has even been positive growth.

Today, people enjoy their liberties of social actors but not as citizens; this is particularly so in the case of the more economically advanced provinces where this has been the case for some time. What I mean by ‘the liberties of social actors’ is that in the private sphere people can enjoy limited personal freedoms, in particular in regard to normal pleasures such as eating, going about one’s daily business and personal intimacy behind closed doors. There is also latitude in regard to a range of individual choices that have no immediate political dimension. For example, if nothing else, people don’t have to be worried about official invigilators interfering with their hairstyles or fashion choices [as they did from 1966]. You can also enjoy massage parlors and public baths, travel freely, eat yourself silly and even indulge in extra-marital affairs [in Chinese, the tone of these remarks is, to put it mildly, ‘male-centric’]. It’s all very comfy and petit-bourgeois. People have for some time been able to enjoy a general sense of social normalcy and everyday ease. Given the brutal monotony of the Maoist years when everyone had to be careful to keep it in their pants, you can’t be that critical of the fact that people prefer to settling for normal everyday pleasures rather than perilously demanding their true rights as citizens. Again, this [relative non-interference in the private sphere] is a major contributing factor to why people are willing to tolerate the present political arrangements.

And it is in this context that we should also mention how, the police use the pretext of, say, cracking down on prostitution to target certain individuals [as in the case of the environmental activist Lei Yang 雷洋 who died in custody after being detained by the police for supposedly soliciting a prostitute at a foot-massage parlor in Beijing in May 2016]. Such policing behaviour contributes to an atmosphere of insecurity. Although you might think you’ve achieved what you want in one particular case, [since these stories are reported both in the official and the unofficial media] you end up undermining people’s general sense of personal security. So you end up losing more than you gain.

Or take the policy to clean up Beijing [launched by Cai Qi 蔡奇, mayor of Beijing and one of Xi Jinping’s protégés, in late 2017, ostensibly aimed at ‘urban renewal’, but for all intents and purposes it was a putsch against what was derisively referred to as the city’s ‘low-end population’ 低端人口 of itinerant workers and their families]. The forced closure and destruction of small shops, convenience stores and bars was a typical example of ‘Vanity Politics’ [that is, political actions that are more for show than practical effect; policies that are aimed either at pleasing other bureaucrats or at currying favour with one’s superiors] that allowed the Authority to demonstrate His power over the common mass and to pursue an aesthetics of suffering in the process. — Don’t urban planners in such international metropolises as Hong Kong, London and Paris allow spaces for open-air trading and business as a matter of course?

In a market economy, people all too readily despise poverty but they tolerate prostitution; some even chose to amuse themselves to death. There people who might put on a big show and come across all coy, yet [behind closed doors] they indulge in the boundless possibilities afforded to them by their obscene wealth and they do so in the most immoral [無德], mindless [無識] and shameless [無恥] fashion. Very well, [we admit that] such debauched phenomena are the price one pays for the existence of a consumer society. In the eyes of ordinary people  who living average lives, such things are all part and parcel of the modern comedy — or the post-modern farce. They have no choice but to live according to the logic of the market, one that stipulates that everything is a commodity.

第三,有限容忍市民生活自由。幾十年里,公民社會不見成長,稍有冒頭即遭整治,嚴重阻滯了國民政治心智發育與公民人格養成。政治社會更是不見蹤影,導致中華國族的政治成熟捉襟見肘。但是,倫理社會基本恢復,經濟社會與市民社會確乎多所發育。市民自由而非公民自由,尤在市場經濟較為發達省份,早成生活事實。所謂市民生活及其市民自由,指的是私性領域的有限生活權利,著重於吃喝拉撒卿卿我我,特別是對於自家生活方式無涉政治的自我支配,至少是髮型服飾無需看官家臉色行事。大家搓澡搓腳,旅遊宴饗婚外戀,小資麻麻,這世道才有煙火氣。較諸毛氏極權政治下千篇一律的鐵桶生活,連褲襠都管得死死的,此刻國民暫棄公民身份追求,而滿足於市民幸福,回歸普通人的日常本色,既無可厚非,更是大家之能容忍刻下政體的原因所在。就此而言,警力以抓嫖為柄,實施定向人身控制,造成普遍不安全感,雖於一案一事得計,可喪失的卻是普遍的市民預期,反而得不償失。至於北京市以整治市容為據,而將好端端便民商鋪酒肆一律封拆,彰顯的是「光榮政治」對於市民社會的為所欲為,一種權力的美學惡趣。——就是香港、倫敦與巴黎,超大規模國際大都會,不還都容忍並規劃街市交易嘛。至於市場經濟之下,笑貧不笑娼與娛/愚樂至死,忸怩作態、無德無識無恥卻大富大貴,亦為普通眾生的市民生存,遵循的是商品邏輯,講述了一個不得不為了市民常態生聚而付出文明腐朽代價的現代喜劇與後現代鬧劇。

Fourth Basic Principle: Set Term Limits for Political Appointees

For over three decades, and despite the evidence of a certain level of social pluralism and a measure of political tolerance [at certain points in time], China has in fact experienced no substantial political reform. In essence, the Party-State is founded on dictatorial political principles which at their rotting core are maintained by a philosophy of pitiless struggle and factional infighting. On the surface, this is a political modality with an ugly maw that can only be sated by ruling over and consuming the wealth of the nation. However, due to a Constitutional Provision [introduced following Mao’s death and in consideration of the depredations resulting from his lifelong tenure as Party Chairman] that limited the highest power-holders to two five-year terms in office — and that includes both the state president and the premier — since 2003 [when Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao came to power], and with the peaceful transition of leadership [from Jiang Zemin who was personally appointed to lead the party-state by Deng Xiaoping following the ouster of his predecessor Zhao Ziyang at the time of the 4 June 1989 Beijing Massacre], the country finally experienced ten years [2003 to 2012] after which the leadership showed that it was satisfied with two five-year terms in power. It finally seemed as though we were coming to regard the situation [involving the regularisation and peaceful transition of political power] as something like a ‘constitutional convention’.

For once it was as though the Law and our Reality were in sync, and that we might now be able to proceed along a set path [of regular political turn-over]. The situation afforded the people of China a measure of political certainty and it bolstered international confidence due to the fact that our country seemed to be on the way to becoming a modern polity. It should be pointed out that this, and this alone, has, over the last thirty years, been the only tangible example of real political reform and progress in China. Despite all the vacuous hoopla about other kinds of political reform initiatives, the Party-State system had otherwise remained immobile. So, everyone came to believe that now, no matter who you are or what you do [that is, regardless of how bad or incompetent Party and State leaders might prove to be], at most you’ll only be in power for ten years. For the blameless masses of Chinese — they who are as humble and as numerous as ants, the people who till the yellow earth tirelessly, their sweaty backs bent beneath the sky, those who live laboring to the end of their days just to keep their families fed, people who are absolutely powerless to resist the might of a highly organized state machine — now, finally, they had [understood the concept of] a ‘ten-year rule’; there actually seemed as though a [quasi-legal] measure had been instituted that would prevent the outbreak of yet another period of political instability. Finally, the Masses could go about their everyday lives with one less thing to worry about.

第四,實行政治任期制。三十多年里,究其實質,雖說社會多元與政治容忍度明顯增長,但整個政治體制未見任何具有實質進步意義的變革,骨子裡依舊是那一套陳腐而殘忍的敵我鬥爭與專政理念,外加上「吃江山」的貪婪醜態。但因立憲規定了包括國家主席和國務總理在內的政治任期制,以及「人權入憲」,並經2003年以還的十年任期後實現黨內和平禪讓,終於兌現了最多連任兩屆、最長十年這一憲法規定,紙上的憲法規定至此似乎積習而為「憲法慣例」,好像立法與實踐均雙雙塵埃落地,這便總算給予國民以一定政治安全感,也令國際社會覺得中國正在步入現代政治。不妨說,三十多年里嚷嚷政體改革而政體巋然不動,這是唯一看得見摸得著也拿得出手的政治改革成果。在大家看來,不管你如何,不過就是十年的事。諸位,百姓無辜,小民螻蟻,平時面朝黃土背朝天,分散如沙,為養家糊口而勞生息死,根本無力抵抗任何組織化強權。此刻終於好歹有此「十年任期」,似乎感覺也還算是對於隨時可能爆發的政治任性的一招制約,這便隨遇而安地打理自家油米柴鹽也。

In Summation:

Reviewing the above, social control based on the maintenance of public order, which as a public good, is still effective. However, in expanding to become a system of ‘Stability Maintenance’ the methods of employed to achieve social control have in effect put entire areas under quasi-martial law [in particular, the Tibetan and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Regions in West China]. The system has become unwieldy as well as economically unviable, proof that this approach has exhausted its potential and is in need of renovation and upgrading. The recent Sino-US Trade War has, in particular, revealed underlying weaknesses and the soft underbelly of the system. All of this has only served to exacerbate a widespread sense of insecurity in the society at large. Prior to this, at a high-level meeting [of The Chinese Communist Party in Dialogue with World Political Parties 中國共產黨與世界政黨高層對話會 from 30 November to 3 December 2017], our Highest Authority declared that ‘political legitimacy cannot be fixed at once [neither can it be taken for granted]’. This would seem to to indicate that the Concerned Authority is aware of a legitimacy crisis. However, more recently there has been a definite lack of sensitivity in regard to this issue coupled with a tendency towards overweening self-confidence. This [attitude] has found expression in such things as the Party’s anti-poverty programs which approach policy issues by using dated methods from the era of old-style mass mobilisation campaigns [which pursued short-term political goals at great cost but for scant long-term benefit]. This undermines confidence in policy continuity and sustainability.

The limited protection of property rights, along with a basic tolerance of people working to strike it rich, has contributed to economic growth and enhanced the living standards of countless Chinese. But [over the last decade], both of these things have encountered the nationwide [Party] polity allowing for the ‘State to Advance while the Private Sector is Forced to Retreat’ [國進民退, that is, a Party-led government policy aimed at protecting state-owned enterprises (SOEs) not on the basis of financial realities but to guarantee the political role and power of official ideology and the cadre-ocracy. These policies became more prevalent during and after the Global Financial Crisis; calls for the reform of SOEs as part of an urgent need for China’s further economic transformation have been continuous]. In the private sector, people have also witnessed repeated cases of official rapaciousness and the [state-sanctioned] plundering of private property and wealth. As a reaction, people have increasingly wanted to promote the ‘Sanctity of Private Property’. There is now a public awareness that the logic lurking behind all of this is that ‘Power Cannot be Privately Held and Property Should Not Be Public’ [a line devised by the economist Mao Yushi 茅于軾 and inspired by the ideas of John Locke]. And so it is that the division between the public and the private is the basis for social peace, both are intrinsic to the politics of the past and of the present. Only if China manages to work through this stage [of conflict] will there be true peace. But, in recent times people been both critical and fearful of the meaning of the revision of the Constitution [in March 2018] and the abandonment of term limits on political leaders [which has, in effect, allowed State President/ General Secretary/ Chairman Xi Jinping to enjoy de facto tenure for life]. It is felt that this amounts to a negation of the last thirty years of the Reform and Open Door policy era. It is feared that in one fell swoop China will be cast back to the terrifying days of [one-man rule under] Mao. Along with this Constitutional revision there is also a clamour surrounding the creation of new personality cult, something that in particular has provoked the Imminent Fears that I outline below.

綜上所述,總體來看,以治安為導向的社會控制,在提供治安這一基本公共產品層面,依然有效,但發展至「維穩」體制,局部地區甚至是一種准戒嚴狀態,則尾大不掉,靡費非常,說明體制潛力已然用盡,有待升級換代。特別是此次中美貿易戰爭,將國力的虛弱與制度軟肋暴露無遺,更加強化了不安全感。此前高峰申言,「執政合法性不是一勞永逸的」,對此危機似乎還有所警醒,而近年來對此嚴重缺乏敏感,卻自信膨脹,類如「扶貧運動」這種准運動式政經操作方式再度登場,令國家願景的確定性再度打折。另一方面,對於私有產權的有限保護與一般國民發家致富慾望的有限滿足,不僅促進了經濟增長,而且提升了億萬國民的生活水準,但卻終於遭遇所謂「國進民退」與實際生活中屢屢發生的公權力肆意剝奪私有產權惡性案件的證偽,倒逼出「私權神聖」這一國民訴求,而背後的邏輯不過是「權力不能私有,財產不能公有」這一公民認知。本來,「分清公私」方能「提供和平」,二者均為古今政治的基本內涵,今日於此必得過關而後安。而最為世詬病並令人膽戰心驚的,便是修憲取消政治任期制,等於一筆勾銷了三十多年的改革開放,一巴掌直要把中國打回那個令人恐懼的毛時代,伴隨著甚囂塵上而又可笑之至的領袖個人崇拜,這才引發出下列全面恐慌。

***

2. Eight Imminent Fears
二、八種擔憂

Below I offer an overview of the major causes of anxiety and panic in contemporary China under eight topics.

在此,總括而言,大家的擔憂與恐慌,主要集中在下列八個方面。

Fear One: Property Tremens

Is there any certainty that people will be able to protect the personal wealth they have amassed over the past few decades, regardless of how much it is? Will they be able to maintain their standard of living? Will property rights as outlined by the law really be protected by the relevant legislation? Will you be bankrupted or your family destroyed if you happen to fall foul of one of the Power-Holders (a stratum that includes bureaucrats as low down as the Committee Head of a village)? Over time, especially in the past few years, certainty about these issues has decreased, and this has contributed to a sense of panic at all levels of society. Those most concerned are the people who Got Rich First during the initial wave of economic reforms [in the 1980s]. The response of these wealthy individuals has been to immigrate. As for average members of the middle class although they don’t have to worry about  basic necessities such as food and clothing — in fact, they enjoy a surplus — but like others who are just trying to live a normal life, they are also constantly worried about the unexpected. In particular, they are concerned both about inflation and devaluation, for either way their money could become worthless.

The wealthy immigrate for a host of different reasons: some do so in pursuit of a better quality of life, others slip away to launder money, while members of the Party nomenklatura want to put themselves beyond the reach of the law. But the most common reason for immigrating is born of worry about the safety and security of private wealth. The biggest winners during the decades of the Reform policies and the Open Door has been that particular [and peculiar] stratum of Party bureaucrat-cum business tycoon. They have milked the system with consummate skill and they make up the lion’s share of the migrating uber-rich. The official media carefully limits information [about all of this], but popular grumbling is rife and, added to that, the propagandists still time and again strum the old tune about ‘the ultimate goal of communism being the abolition of private property’ to which hysterical populists add [the old early revolutionary slogan] ‘Overthrow the Wealthy, Divide the Spoils’. All of these [mixed messages] simply exacerbate the sense of anxiety [among property owners]. Then, smack in the middle of all this anxiety it has been truly marvelous to witness the Pinnacle [that is the members of the ruling Communist Party Politburo] sitting themselves down for a collective study session devoted to The Communist Manifesto. [On 23 April 2018, the fifth collective study session of the Politburo elected by the Nineteenth Party Congress the previous October was devoted to this topic.] It’s only here and now in China that a dazzling work written by two wildly talented young authors [Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels], one that absolutely unsettled the status quo when it first appeared, can truly be appreciated as it both explains things and shakes the equanimity of just about everyone in the country.

第一,產權恐懼。幾十年里積攢的財富,不管多少,能否保有?既有的生活方式能否持續?法定的產權關係還能獲得立法所宣諭的保障嗎?會不會因為得罪了哪位實權人物(包括村委會主任)就企業破產、家破人亡?凡此種種,最近幾年間,反倒隨著時間推移,而愈發缺乏確定性,遂至上上下下恐慌不已。它首先衝擊的是在改革開放大潮中已然掘金成功人士,而以大規模富人移民現象作為應對之道。一般中產階級中下層,溫飽有餘,但卻同樣為生老病死進程中隨時可能降臨的任何意外而擔驚受怕,尤其害怕通脹通縮錢不值錢。當然,富人移民的原因複雜,既有追求更高生活品質的,也不乏洗錢趕緊溜的,更有權貴攜款逍遙法外的,但普遍缺乏產權安全感則為通例。官商一體權貴的巧取豪奪是「改革開放」的最大贏家,也是富人移民的主體。官方信息披露有限,民間傳說嘈嘈切切,加上官媒時不時演奏個「共產黨的終極理想就是消滅私有制」之過門,伴隨著「打土豪分田地」式民粹叫囂,更且加劇了此種不安全感。恐慌之際,高峰居然集體學習《共產黨宣言》,一份曾令世界不得安生的兩位年輕天才的輕狂之作,其予全體國民的負面心理震撼,也只有在此語境下,才能獲得真切解釋。

‘Overthrow the Wealthy, Divide the Spoils’

Fear Two: Putting Politics Back in Command

[For the Authorities] To emphasise yet again policies that ‘Put Politics in Command’ [政治掛帥, a Mao-era strategy dating from the Great Leap forward in 1958 that required the nation to orient itself entirely according to Party policies; it was put in practice through mass political movements and class-based politics] and abandon the Fundamental National Policy in favour of developing the economy is what I mean by Fear Two.

In recent years, the gunpowder-like stench of militant ideology has become stronger. It reeks of what is [fashionable termed] ‘Taking the Lead to Achieve Discursive Hegemony’ [that is, the right of the voices of those in power to speak over all others], although in reality it is a perverse use of the public to impose ideological punishment [on private citizens]. This has already lead to a universal dread being felt in the intellectual sphere. Given this situation, coupled with a ever-increasing emphasis on Self-Criticism [that is, formulaic rituals in the work place during which people are pressured to negate openly what are deemed to be private failings and then pretend to measure all of one’s thoughts, words and deeds against the Party’s ever-changing ideological catechism], the publishing industry has already experienced severe contractions and the silencing of the media more generally is becoming worse by the day. This state of affairs is also increasingly hindering exchanges between China and the outside world. We are even seeing examples of official propaganda in which children are encouraged to report on their parents, in flagrant violation of normal ethical relations. Such an approach is a betrayal both of our traditions and of our present aspirations. In this day and age one would have thought it to be unthinkable: but this vile totalitarian mien brings to mind the barbarism of the Cultural Revolution.

The influence of such propaganda is seeping throughout the society, and some university lecturers have been singled out and repeatedly punished for what they say [in lectures]. They now live in trepidation, ever fearful that Party ideological watchdogs [in their institutions] or Student Spies will report them. Even more serious is the fact that local bureaucrats, afraid of making political mistakes, are being forced into passivity. In reality, China’s economic development is dependent on the political engagement and achievements of just such local cadres, men and women who are dedicated to and believe in development. While over there the remnants of the [highly politicised] ‘Chongqing Model’ [promoted by Bo Xilai 薄熙來, former Party chief of Chongqing who in 2011-2012 was in competition with Xi Jinping to lead the Party, and then subsumed by Xi’s own gimcrack policies, was a socio-political formula that encouraged political revanchism in tandem with harsh policing as part of a strategy to mobilise, manipulate and control the population] are working hand-in-glove with the ‘Three Types of People’ [三種人, or types of opportunists active in the Cultural Revolution era: Red Guard Rebels 造反派, Factional Opportunists 幫派分子 and Violent Thugs and Thieves 打砸搶分子 — these categories of extremists were denounced by Deng Xiaoping in the late 1970 but in many cases they went unpublished for their deeds] in the tertiary education sector. With a sleight of hand and consummate skill they have become a burgeoning force that disguises itself as ‘New Leftism’, and they are baying for blood.

Painful memories of ‘political movements’ still linger in the minds of average citizens [of a certain age]. Younger people are engrossed in urban life and are accustomed to a suitable modicum of economic comfort. They have absolutely no interest in or awareness of the lurking totalitarian tendencies undergirded by the illogicality of a new, manufactured push to ‘Put Politics in Command’. If you force them to pay attention to such things it will have the opposite of the desired effect and repulse them. In reality, over the past decades people’s thinking has been fairly unified, and [as noted a number of times] the reason that the present Political System has come to be tolerated is because it has focused on economic construction, been devoted to development, and has no longer been obsessed with a constant quasi-movement mentality that constantly tried to impose ‘Political Proselytising’ on everyone. That [had eventually] come to an end or [at least] its interference in the private sphere was reduced; people knew there would be no more crazy talk about ‘preferring the weeds of socialism over the sprouts of capitalism’ [the ‘Gang of Four’ member Zhang Chunqiao’s 張春橋 1975 slogan that promoted a tolerance of the wastefulness and irrationalities of the socialist command economy over the iniquities, efficiencies and benefits of the market]. Ultimately, ‘Economic Development as the Core’ should by all rights evolve towards a core desire to pursue a constitution-based rule of law, and it is on that basis that politics and the economy should work together to build a truly modern nation; thereby the two will be like joint handmaidens at the birth of modern China. However, in the present circumstances, what is necessary is for the former [that is economic development] to be be maintained unstintingly; it is unthinkable that other plans should be afoot or that anyone could be considering a volte-face.

第二,再次凸顯政治掛帥,拋棄以經濟建設為中心這一基本國策。幾年來,意識形態火藥味愈來愈濃,以爭奪話語權為標識,而實則依仗公權力施行意識形態迫害的陣勢,已然導致知識界的普遍恐慌。置此情形下,自我審查,層層加碼,導致出版業遭受重挫,輿論界鉗口日甚,中國與外部世界勾連之阻力加劇。甚至出現了鼓勵小朋友舉報告發父母這類官方宣傳品,違忤基本倫理,既反傳統又違現代,活脫脫一副極權政治嘴臉,令人不得不想起曾經的野蠻「文革」歲月,實在匪夷所思。影響所及,大學教師連連因言獲罪,因為擔憂黨政宣傳口子找麻煩與課堂上學生特務告密,而戰戰兢兢。更為嚴重的是,地方官僚基於政治擔憂普遍不作為,而中國經濟的成長實在有賴於地方官員基於政績觀而認真幹活的發展觀。那邊廂,「重慶模式」那幫餘孽與高校中曾經的「三種人」聯袂一體,今日搖身一變,滾雪球,構成「新極左」,喊打喊殺。本來,一般國民對於「政治運動」之苦記憶猶新,新生代汲汲於市民生活,已然習慣於常態經濟社會與市民生活,對於人為的「政治掛帥」與毫無邏輯的極權泛政治化傾向,了無興趣,也不關心,硬逼他們,只能徒增反感。實際上,幾十年來,上下一心,這個政治體制還能獲得國民容忍,就在於國家以經濟建設為中心,全心全意謀發展,不再天天運動式「講政治」,停止或者減少干涉私人生活,更不會上演什麼「寧要社會主義草,不要資本主義苗」這類荒唐鬧劇。終究而言,「以經濟建設為中心」發展到一定階段,必需轉向以憲政建設為中心,而於政經兩面次第推進建設現代國族,為現代中國接生。但就目下而言,最低限度卻依然應該是固守前者,再謀他圖,豈能背道而馳。

‘Put Politics in Command: go out and work with masses to see the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution through to the end.’ — Mao Zedong

Fear Three: Class Struggle, Again

Starting a few years ago the official media and Party ideologues began to talk again about Class Struggle [that is, imposing artificial socio-political categories on individuals and groups and demonising, ostracising or otherwise scapegoating them for political and economic ends]. By now, people have been anxious about this for ages. The general thrust of politics in recent times has led people to speculate about the possible revival of the farrago of Class Struggle-based Politics of the kind pursued by Stalin and Mao Shaoshan [Mao Shaoshan is a classically styled derogatory name for Mao Zedong. The author has substituted the name of Mao’s birth place, Shaoshan in Hunan province, for his personal name]. Even worse is that, given the continued pursuit of the Anti-Corruption Campaign [initiated by Party leaders under Xi Jinping from early 2013], and in particular with the establishment of this new and all-powerful National Supervisory Commission [formally inaugurated in March 2018] — a party-state institution that which will wield authority over all government employees and teachers [and use politically determined goals to exercise nationwide control] — people feel no greater security in their legal rights. In fact, its quite the opposite — they can’t help but think that these developments are an augury foretelling the advent of a form of KGB-style control [under a secretive Party bureaucracy] that will itself become embroiled in the factional politics of the Communist Party. As a result, people are panicked about the fact that we may be returning to the long-gone days of Class Struggle. This is why so many are feeling increasingly alienated from the country’s political life; the overall social atmosphere of peace and harmony is under threat. After all, memories of a political model that was based on constant, pitiless Struggle [under the Communist Party itself form 1949 to 1978, and in reality during the mini-purges of the 1980s — in 1980, 1983, 1987 and 1989, and beyond] remains fresh and the concern that it could well be reimposed on China is real.

Given the two-term limit imposed on state leaders [formerly stipulated by the Constitution, a regulation that would normally have resulted in a defined ten-year period of rule for Xi Jinping, but which was abandoned in early 2018] and the continuation of an orderly politics of succession within the Communist Party itself, people were hopeful that China would continue to move in the direction of becoming a normal, and normalised country, one in which both property rights and human rights would, over time, be granted appropriate expression in, and protection by, the Constitution. It was assumed that the old mantra of ‘Ceaseless Struggle’ had lost its power. But these years it seems as though, yet again, we are moving in the opposite direction [from the one we were previously headed in]. Not surprisingly, there is widespread alarm.

第三,又搞階級鬥爭。前幾年官媒與官方意識形態主管官員屢提階級鬥爭,早已讓大家一陣恐慌。這幾年的施政方向,令人再度懷疑會否重搞斯大林—毛韶山氏階級鬥爭那一套。猶有甚者,隨著反腐之第次展開,特別是新建國家監察委及其權力之無限擴大,將全體公教人員悉數划入,不僅未能提升大家基於法制的安全感,相反,卻不禁令人聯想到克格勃式轄制以及殘酷的黨內鬥爭的可能性,而再度引發重回過往階級鬥爭歲月的陣陣恐慌。因而,對於「鬥,鬥,鬥」這一恐怖政治模式的國民記憶,及其是否重回華夏大地的普遍擔憂,使得政治疏離感日增,和合與祥和氣氛日減。本來,「私產入憲」與「人權入憲」,伴隨著兩任到頂這一黨內禪讓制的施行,有望朝向一個常態國家漸行漸近,意味著不再需要動用「鬥」字訣,可這幾年的做法卻彷彿與此背道而馳,大家自然心驚膽戰。

Fear Four: A New Closed-Door Policy

Just as we at loggerheads with the United States — the representative of the [civilised] Western World — China is engaging in renewed intimacy with heinous regimes like North Korea. China’s economic development and social progress are part and parcel of this nation’s self-advancement as a civilisation. This is a continuation of the logic of the Civilisational Transformation that has been taking place [in China] for over 150 years, one that has seen a backward nation once more participate in the unfolding global system. It isn’t something authored or directed by external forces. But in terms of practical policy, [from the late 1970s] China reinvigorated policies [and ideas] related to Reform and the Open Door [which had been integral to previous efforts to modernise the nation from the mid-nineteenth century dating from the years of the Tongzhi Restoration 同治中興 (1860-1874), and again during the Self-Strengthing Movement that was related to that restoration]. Concomitantly, relations with the West improved and moved in a progressive direction so that China would [as the slogan of the Jiang Zemin era when China worked to join the WTO put it] be able to ‘be integrated within the global community’ [and in the process accept its norms and practices]. This was brought about by fast-tracking development as part of the globalisation of economic activity. If it were not for the fact that the ‘Open Door Forced [Ever Greater] Reform’ [meaning that the pressures brought to bear on the Chinese system by its global trade policies were constantly putting pressure on the party-state to extend, often reluctantly, its internal economic and structural reform agenda] , China would not enjoy the economic, social and cultural prosperity that it does today.

Now, for China to buddy up to failed states and totalitarian regimes like North Korea and Venezuela not only goes against the popular will, it flies in the face of the tide of history. Indeed, it lacks wisdom. [Given the anomalies of the present situation], ordinary folk are scathing when the mock a situation in which large swathes of the cadre-ocracy and their progeny long ago squirreled away wealth in those very foreign climes [that are officially being attacked, that is, North America] and that’s why they are not overly concerned about rising tensions in the Sino-US relationship. However, if by chance there is some major slip-up [in the Sino-US relationship] China as a whole will suffer, as will the nation’s wealth, something that, theoretically at least, belongs to all the people. Regardless, the effects will be felt by ordinary Chinese men and women, they will be hurt in the pocket. What really lies at the root cause [of this hubristic behaviour of allowing tensions with the US to increase why diplomatically embracing North Korea is that the requirements of One Political Party [that is the Communists] outweigh the reasonable and rational needs of the nation. [To disguise this reality] a twisted statist logic is employed [by the party-state propaganda machine] to repress and pervert popular common sense. With no real will to pursue [the reform process] in a positive fashion, yet harboring a dogged determination to indulge in their own willfulness, [The Powers That Be] have been failing to keep up with the currents of modern thought. And so the folly continues understandably, inevitably.

第四,再度關門鎖國,與以美國為代表的西方世界鬧僵,卻與朝鮮這類惡政打得火熱。中國的經濟成長與社會進步,是中國文明的自我進步,循沿的是超逾一個半世紀的文明大轉型固有邏輯,也是現代世界體系在中國落地後之發育成長,並非外力所能主導。但在具體操作層面,卻是在重啓「改革開放」而與西方世界關係改善之後,以進步主義為導向,以「與世界接軌」為目標,而搭乘上全球化市場經濟快車實現的。沒有「開放倒逼改革」,就沒有今天的中國經濟、社會和文化。而與朝鮮、委內瑞拉這類失敗國家、極權國家打得火熱,違背民意,忤逆歷史潮流,實在不智。雖說民間調侃,鑒於中國大量官商的子女玉帛均寄存於彼方山水,故而不用擔心兩國交惡,但明暗之間一閃失,倒霉的是這個據說全民所有的國族,而必然落在每個具體的百姓人頭,搖撼的是他們的口糧與衣衫。在此,究其緣由,就在於以政黨理性代替國家理性,而以扭曲的國家理性壓制公民理性,不思進取,一意孤行,早已落後於時代思潮,所以然哉,有以然哉。

Fear Five: Excessive International Aid

Over-investment in international aid may well result in deprivations at home. It is said that China is now the world’s largest source of international aid; its cash-splashes are counted in billions or tens of billions of dollars. For a developing country with a large population many of whom still live in a pre-modern economy, such behaviour is outrageously disproportionate. Such policies are born of a ‘Vanity Politics’; they reflect the flashy showmanship of the boastful and they are odious. The nation’s wealth — including China’s three trillion dollars in foreign reserves — has been accumulated over the past four decades using the blood and sweat of working people, in fact, it has actually been built up as a result of successive policies and countless struggles dating from the time of the Self-Strengthening Movement [launched during the Tongzhi Restoration during the 1860s when, following its defeat in the Second Opium War, the court of the Qing-dynasty adopted the first modernising reform agenda in Chinese history. By saying this Xu, to an extent, indicates that he does not completely embrace the Communist narrative or its soteriology]. How can this wealth be squandered so heedlessly?

The era of fast-paced economic growth will come to an end; how can such wanton generosity be tolerated — a generosity which, in many ways, replicates [the vainglorious Maoist-era policies when China boasted that it was the centre of world revolution to] ‘Support Asia-Africa-Latin America’ [which meant that an impoverished China was generously giving aid to Third World countries in an effort to gain political advantage and counter the influence both of the American imperialists and the Soviet revisionists] that led to countless millions of Chinese being forced to tighten their belts simply to survive, and which even saw the corpses of those who had starved to death scattered in the fields.

Following the recent outbreak of the Sino-US Trade War, the official state media has called on the nation to ‘Overcome the Present Difficulties in a Spirit of Unity’ [共克時艱], a slogan that has been widely mocked. [The slogan 共克時艱 is a reformulation of the older expression 共濟時艱. It has been recast by online jokers as 艱時克共: ‘times are tough so we should all oppose the Communists’]. Added to that, there’s all that grand pontificating [expressed by using a common quote from an essay by the Song-dynasty writer Fan Zhongyan 范仲淹] about how ‘One should put the cares of the nation ahead of the enjoyment of the individual’. The Masses have responded by deriding such nonsense mercilessly: ‘Fuck you’, you hear people say. ‘What the hell does that have to do with anything?’ Such sentiments reflect popular sentiment; people can’t be duped like the hapless and uncomplaining subjects of yesteryear.

第五,對外援助過量,導致國民勒緊褲腰帶。據說中國已成世界最大外援國,動不動「大手筆」划拉幾十億幾百億。此就一個發展中人口大國而言,不少地方還處在前現代,實在是不自量力。究其根源,擴張性「光榮政治」邏輯作祟,蔚為主因,而公子哥心態與做派亦且難辭其咎。現有的國家財富,包括那三萬億外儲在內,是四十年里幾代人血汗累積的,更是遠自洋務運動以還數代中國人奮鬥的善果,怎能隨便亂花。長期高速的經濟增長終有結束之時,則如此慷慨,類如當年無原則「支援亞非拉」,導致億萬國民勒緊褲腰帶過日子,甚至於餓殍遍野,在在不能重演。此次中美貿易戰爆發後官媒以「共克時艱」號令,儻論什麼「先天下之憂而憂,後天下之樂而樂」,立刻遭遇百姓無情嘲諷,「去你媽的,都哪兒對哪兒呀」,正說明人心所向,早已非當年那般忽悠得了的了。

‘One must put the cares of the nation before the enjoyment of the individual’ — Fan Zhongyan

Fear Six: Repression of the Intelligentsia 

There has been a leftward [that is, repressive, Mao-era-like] turn in policies related to the intelligentsia, along with a renewed imposition of Thought Reform [like that first imposed by the Party from 1952 when university professors, employees and  people in the state bureaucracy were required to accept Party dogma and then to parrot it both in dedicated study sessions and publicly]. Although it has long been said that intellectuals [a broad category including many who are educated, as well as educators] are part of the working class [this was Party policy until the High Maoist years, from 1957 to 1976, during which intellectuals were regarded as dangerous ideological enemies; Deng Xiaoping championed the role and status of the educated, technocratic elite again from 1977], but when there’s the slightest policy tremor once more they are unfairly targeted, or indeed treated like the enemy.

The way intellectuals are regarded has long been the regnant dynasty’s most reliable political barometer; it reflects the basic tenor of the nation’s life. The Ministry of Education has repeatedly declared that it is necessary to intensify Ideological Education among educators [so that they in turn inculcated the correct political ideas and attitudes among their students]. Online speculation holds that returnee teachers who have studied overseas are seen as a particular threat. Meanwhile, a small clutch of Remnant Leftists [‘New Leftists’ and anti-humanists who support various aspects of a revived Maoist ideology, some of the most famous of which are celebrated in the left-leaning international academy] in the tertiary sector are jumping for joy; it’s as though they have been given a new lease on life [如打雞血般, literally, ‘it’s as though they’ve been injected with chicken blood’ — a satirical reference to late-Cultural Revolution-era quackery. See Joel Martinsen, Injecting Chicken Blood]. They are bounding around in a blood-thirsty frenzy. All of these phenomena contribute to an atmosphere of fear, a trepidation among intellectuals that enforced Ideological Reform [that is the demand for intellectual conformity] is making a comeback. The leftward turn in educational policy and a mooted Thought Reform movement may indicate that even more extreme developments are on the cards.

‘Inappropriate discussions about National Policy can get you expelled from the Party!’

[The old expression] ’Inappropriate Discussions’ is once more a term bandied about with a deadening effect; the result is that people are being scared into silence [the ban on ‘Inappropriate Discussions of the Major Policies of the Centre (of the party-state)’ 妄議中央大政方針 came into force from late 2015 when the Communist Party Central and its Disciplinary Commission issued warnings against, and stipulated the punishment of, idle speculation about Party policy, leaders and factional infighting]. In an atmosphere such as this, how can there be any freedom of speech? Without Intellectual Freedom and the Independent Spirit [自由思想與獨立精神, an expression taken from Chen Yinque’s 陳寅恪 epitaph for Wang Guowei 王國維 and a long-cherished formulation embraced by China’s liberal intellectuals from the 1980s, one that has it roots in the Republican era when it was celebrated in particular by academics at Tsinghua University] what hope is there for people to explore the unknown, for the advancement of scholarship or for intellectual creativity? Up until recently, given the positive legacy of the last four decades — one that should be further enhanced by the concerted efforts of the next few generations — there was good reason to believe that [in the future] Chinese Civilisation could well enjoy an extraordinary peak of achievement in terms both of its intellectual and of its scholastic life. However, if the present policies that clamp down on free speech continue, or are extended further, these hopes will remain unrealised. China will be little more than a cultural backwater of intellectual dwarfs.

第六,知識分子政策左轉與施行思想改造。雖然早就說知識分子是勞動人民的一部分,但一有風吹草動就拿他們當外人,甚至當敵人,已成國朝政治的最佳晴雨表,也是政制底色的政治表達。教育部一再聲言要加強對教師的思想教育,網傳必須重點防範海歸教師,以及高校中的極少數文革遺左紛紛如打雞血般跳將出來喊打喊殺等等,都令人擔憂所謂的知識分子改造政策再度降臨,特別是伴隨著政策左轉而再次施行思想改造運動,乃至於不排除更為嚴重的態勢。「妄議」大棒揮舞,人人噤若寒蟬,還有什麼言論自由可言。而無自由思想與獨立精神,則探索未知、學術精進與思想創發云乎哉。本來,歷經這四十年的積累奮鬥,再好好幹一、兩代人,中華文明有望迎來一個思想學術的全盛高峰。但是,假若此種鉗口政策再延續下去,甚至日益趨緊,則此種可能性無望變成現實性,中華國族終究只是精神侏儒與文明小國。

Fear Seven: A New Arms Race and the
Danger of War, Including Another Cold War

Over the last decade, Asia as a whole has for all intents and purposes entered an arms race. Fortunately, the probability of war has so far been maintained within acceptable parameters. The main issue for China is that we cannot afford to interrupt our developmental trajectory or further frustrate the Great Modern Transformation [that has been unfolding for nearly two centuries] just as it is within sight of being realised. Over the past two years, I have written two essays — ‘Don’t Let Civil War Break Out in China’ and ‘Protect the Reform Policies and the Open Door’ [both collected in Xu Zhangrun’s book The Rational State and Superior Politics: a Chinese Understanding of China’s Problems 國家理性與優良政體:關於中國問題的中國意識, Hong Kong City University Press, 2017] — in which I argued that China has added a System of Military Preparedness to its previously existing Stability Maintenance Regime [mentioned above]. I did so in an effort to point out the inherent dangers in this development and to forewarn of its negative consequences.

At the moment, as the political atmosphere of China is becoming increasingly repressive and the country is entangled in a foreign trade dispute, there is an increased possibility of an economic downturn, something that could led to things that are beyond control and that may have various unintended consequences. In such a situation it is not unreasonable to be afraid that matters could result in some form of military conflict, be it either a hot or a cold war. One should mindful of the need to prevent such an outcome. Popular wisdom argues that a trade conflict between China and the United States should not be used as a pretext [by the propagandists and policy advisers] for heightened ideological contestation, nor should there be a competition over which side has a superior political system. I think my earlier concerns have recently been justified by the evidence of just such developments.

第七,陷入重度軍備競賽與爆發戰爭,包括新冷戰。短短十年間,整個東亞其實已然陷入軍備競賽,但所幸爆發戰爭的概率依舊尚處可控層面。問題是,不能由此打斷中國的常規發展,就此摧折了尚未最後水落石出的偉大現代轉型。兩年來,在「阻止中國陷入全面內戰」與「保衛改革開放」兩文中,筆者都曾指認中國逐漸於「維穩體制」之上又疊加了「戰備體制」,就在於提示其危險性,防範其負面影響。此刻隨著內政緊繃與外貿糾紛日甚,經濟下滑可能性加劇,則其進程不可控因素增多,防範其不至被迫走向戰爭狀態,不管是熱戰還是冷戰,絕非杞人憂天。坊間輿議提醒中美貿易爭端不應再引向意識形態之爭,更不要進行政治模式之爭,亦為同此憂慮而發,還算靠譜。

Fear Eight: The End of Reform and a
Return to Totalitarianism

Even though the word ‘Reform’ is somewhat tarnished and, despite the fact that even rather reprehensible polities use it as camouflage, nonetheless, given the discursive environment of contemporary China and the fact that we are at a time in the country’s life when the Great Transformation requires a final push, and compared to the outbreak of some explosive revolution or a regression to a form of extreme leftism, Reform is and remains the most prudent and promising way forward. The engine of reform, however, has been idling for the last few years; [now] if it isn’t used to propel us forward we will go into reverse. In fact, this state of affairs has become the hallmark of the last term [that is, Xi Jinping’s first term in office from 2012 to 2017]. Given the overall direction being taken people may be entirely justified in asking whether the Reform Policies and the Open Door have reached the end of their history, and will totalising politics now return in their stead? Who knows? At the moment, this questions is of the greatest concern to the largest number of Chinese.

During the Hu Jintao-Wen Jiabao decade [from 2003 to late 2012] it seemed as though the Totalitarian was transitioning towards the Authoritarian; that’s why some dubbed the resulting arrangement a ‘Post-Totalitarian-360-Degree-Authoritarian Political System’. Over the last two years, however, we have seen things moving in the opposite direction, ergo the widespread anxiety that we may all be witnessing a ‘Thorough-Going Return to Totalitarian Politics’.

Modern Chinese history teaches us that first, because of the Sino-Japanese War of 1894, and then, with the Anti-Japanese War of Resistance starting in 1937 [and continuing until 1945], China’s advance towards modernity was interrupted. Those wars put paid to any hope that the country could enjoy a normal political life. Modernity was derailed. Now we are approaching the final stages of a profound Transformation that has unfolded over nearly two centuries [starting with the political and military disruptions of the Daoguang era of the Manchu-Qing dynasty and the First Opium War of 1840]. We need a final push to achieve the goal [a point that the anxious author has already made a number of times]. Under no circumstances can the nation be derailed again by yet more military conflict. If that were to happen, when might history present us with another opportunity? Heaven only knows!

第八,改革開放終止與極權政治全面回歸。雖說「改革」一詞已然多少污名化,畢竟,惡政亦且假爾之名而行之,但在當下中國語境下,置身大轉型尚未完成、有待臨門一腳的現狀,較諸爆炸性革命與極左式的倒退,改革依舊是最為穩妥的路徑。改革空轉,抑或不進則退,早已非只近幾年的事了,實已延綿一屆任期。照此趨勢以往,「改革開放」會否就此終止,極權回歸,亦未可知。此時此刻,全體國民之最大擔憂,莫此為甚。說是極權回歸,就在於胡溫任期,彷彿出現極權向威權過渡趨勢,故而稱為「後極權時代全能型威權政制」。但這兩年反其道而行之,這才引發「極權政治全面回歸」的恐慌。中國近代史上,1894年的甲午戰爭與1937年抗戰爆發,兩度打斷中國的現代進程,致使追求日常政治的努力付諸東流,中國的現代事業因而被迫延宕。今日這一波延綿將近兩個世紀的大轉型已到收尾時段,有待臨門一腳,切切不能再因戰禍而中斷。倘若中斷,下次歷史機遇何時再來,恐伊於胡底矣。

***

3: Eight Immediate Hopes
三、八項期待

In outlining the above anxieties and the broadly felt sense of panic I have focussed on the domestic political realm — I have not expanded my considerations to discuss matters related to the economy or trade (including the question of massive tax cuts), nor have I touched on the provocative themes of democracy and rule of law. Below I will confine myself to offering a series of concrete policy suggestions [that is, Hopes] that I believe are of timely importance.

當此之際,針對上述擔憂與恐慌,從內政著眼,無涉經貿(包括大幅度減稅),也不上綱上線到民主法治層面,僅就下列八項而言,具體而有形,允為時務。

The First Hope: Put a Stop to Empty Grand Gestures and
Wasteful International Largesse

Average Chinese are most frequently offended by the way the state scatters large sums of money through international aid to little or no benefit. China is still slowly making its way up the steep slope of development. In terms both of basic infrastructure and social facilities, as well as in regard to people’s ability to access welfare, we are confronting massive problems; our burden is great and the road ahead leads far into the distance. And I make this point without even mentioning the crisis in aged care, or issues related to employment opportunities and education.

Rural destitution is a widespread and crushing reality; greater support through public policy initiatives is essential. Without major changes, half of China will remain in what is basically a pre-modern economic state. That will mean that the hope to create a modern China will remain unfulfilled, if not half-hearted. If this situation continues what good is it to talk about the Great Revival of Chinese Civilisation?

At the recent China-Arab States Cooperation Forum [on 10 July 2018] the Chinese Leadership [that is, Xi Jinping] announced that twenty billion US dollars would be made available for ‘Dedicated Reconstruction Projects’ in the Arab world. On top of that, [Xi Jinping declared that] ‘a further one billion yuan will be offered to support social stability efforts in the region’. Everyone knows full well that the Gulf States are literally oozing with wealth. Why is China, a country with over one hundred million people who are still living below the poverty line, playing at being the flashy big-spender? How can the Chinese not comment in astonishment: just what is the Supreme Bureaucratic Authority thinking? Don’t They care about our own people? Furthermore, the people who indulge in such grand and expensive gestures evince no respect for existing budgetary procedures or institutional formalities; in the process They shunt aside a National People’s Congress that is constitutionally empowered to maintain budgetary oversight. In the process, existing institutionalised bureaucratic mechanisms are for all intents and purposes paralysed. It is akin to a declaration of war on the authority of the Constitution and the Rule of Law.

第一,杜絕援外撒錢「大手筆」。非必要的無謂援外大撒把,砸錢,最令一般民眾反感寒心。中國尚處發展爬坡時段,無論基礎設施還是民生福利,均難題如山,任重道遠。且不說養老、就業與教育,但就鄉村凋敝而言,就壓力山大,而需公權力多所措意。否則,半個中國仍處前現代,等於現代中國只是個半拉子工程,談何文明復興。近日中阿論壇期間宣佈撥銀兩百億美金,設立所謂阿拉伯國家「重建專項計劃」,並且「探討實施總額為10億元人民幣的項目,支持有關國家維穩能力建設」。可我們知道,海灣國家個個富得流油,何需尚有上億未曾脫貧國民的中國在此充當冤大頭,讓人不禁感慨有司心腸何在,還把自家國民當人待嗎?而且,凡此支出,完全無視既有預決算體制,將最高國家權力機關的國庫司庫憲法職權撇在一旁,在實質性癱瘓既有官僚科層建制化之際,等於向憲制與法制開戰。

The Second Hope: Put an End to Diplomatic Extravagance

Even the most commonplace international meeting organised in China involves extraordinary levels of expense. There is no regard for budgets; fiscal waste and the heedless loss of human work hours is considerable. Such activities are content-free and superficial. It’s all about pursuing ‘Vanity Politics’ not ‘Practical Politics’, let alone ‘Hard-edged Politics’. Such events have nothing to do with the so-called ‘venerable traditional of warmth and hospitality demonstrated by the Chinese people from ancient times’; only the most vain and self-serving [leaders and bureaucrats like to] indulge in such things. If foreigners were to copy what we ar constantly doing here, then the VIP-filled headquarters of the United Nations in New York would be on police lock-down 24/7, and the headquarters of the numerous international organisations based in Geneva and Paris would perforce have to stage nightly fireworks displays with their personnel expected to be decked out in all their finery all the time.

As independent entities countries should aim for validation by means of their actual national strength [實力], and thereby they can pursue their own national interest [實利] through regular international activities, while in the process also exhibiting certain values and moral probity [道義]. All of these things can co-exist and they can have a net benefit for one’s people. The glory and respect will come naturally.  — To lack this breadth of understanding and devote instead considerable energy to political grandstanding, even though the Host himself might feel very smug, it is nonetheless a waste of human resources; it is the behavior of a wastrel who is careless of public finance. Moreover, such excessive displays actually elicit contempt from foreign guests; they serve merely to excite popular outrage among one’s own people. Even our Lard-Arse neighbour — Kim Jong-un, a loathsome dictator ostracised by the international community — was welcomed to Beijing with an extravagant motorcade; you can see it all in the print and electronic media. Gossip even has it that top-tier Special Mou-tai valued at 1.28 million yuan a bottle [sic] was served at the official banquet. To be quite frank, this one gesture offended and alienated untold numbers of people in China. Now, as for the so-called China Dream, all I can say is: Dream On!

Kim Jong-un and Xi Jinping at the Diaoyu Tai State Guest House, Beijing, on 28 March 2018

第二,杜絕主場外交中的鋪張浪費。開個平常的會,就使勁折騰,不計成本,勞民傷財,其實既無裡子也無面子。此為「光榮政治」,而非「實利政治」,更非「實力政治」,亦非什麼「中國人民自古以來具有熱情好客的優良傳統」,非徒謀虛榮者不為。照此思路,聯合國所在地的紐約峨冠博帶,豈非天天戒嚴不可;全球性組織最多的日內瓦和巴黎,衣香鬢影,還不夜夜都要放煙火。就國家自助體而言,概需以實力立世,而旨在謀取實利,同時不廢道義心腸。兩項既存,三者並立,沾溉國民,榮光不求自來。無此維度,汲汲於光榮政治那一套,當事者出頭露面好像挺風光,而不恤民力,做冤大頭,實則招人鄙夷,也會激發民憤。連舉世嫌棄的隔壁獨夫胖墩來,居然大陣仗迎送,那文圖俱在、傳聞中酒席宴上128萬元一瓶的矮嘴茅台,說實在的,一下子令億萬國民離心離德。——還中國夢呢,做夢吧!

The Third Hope: End the Privileges of the Party Nobility

Elitist privileges for retired high-level cadres should be eliminated. The system of the present ‘dynasty’ [國朝, the dynastic-era term for ‘court-as-country’] allows for the state to provide inclusive retirement-to-grave care for high-level cadres according to a standard that is far and away above that allowed to the average citizen. These cadres retain the privileges they enjoyed during their working lives, including premium health care and special access to luxury resorts for recreation and holidays. Everyone is aware of the financial burden this places on the people, but the details are never released for fear of sparking public outrage. This system replicates the kinds of prerogative that were provided to the Imperial Zhu Family Lineage during the Ming dynasty [founded by Zhu Yuanzhang in 1368CE], as well as the emoluments permitted to the families of the Eight Banners [八旗 jakūn gūsa, the exclusive Manchu military and administrative groups that were crucial to the founding and rule of the Qing dynasty in 1644; those privileges continued until the abdication of the Royal House in early 1912]. This is not merely a betrayal of the self-advertised ‘Revolutionary Spirit’ [of the Communist Party], it is also in breach of modern standards of civic life. What’s all that talk of ‘the remnants of feudalism’ for? This is a perfect example of it! People are outraged but powerless to do anything about it and it’s one of the main reasons why people regard the system itself with utter contempt. On one side of the hospital Commoners face the challenge of gaining admission for treatment, while everyone knows that grand suites are reserved on the other side for the care of high-level cadres. The people observe this with mute and heartfelt bitterness. Every iota of this bottled up anger may, at some unexpected moment, explode with thunderous fury.

第三,取消退休高幹的權貴特權。國朝體制,高幹生養病死全賴國庫,而享受超國民待遇。原有生活待遇、醫療標準與度假休養諸項,耗費巨量民脂民膏,大家耳聞目睹,而至今不敢公佈,正說明見不得人。此種體制,承繼的是朱姓子民、八旗子弟的奉養傳統,既違忤曾經自詡之革命精神,更不符現代公民立國原則。若說什麼「封建殘餘」,此為典型。國民痛恨不已,可毫無辦法,遂成制度招恨之一大毒瘤。這邊廂普通人民住院難,那邊廂高幹病房巍哉峨兮,隔離於一般病區,讓多少百姓看在眼裡恨在心裡,而每一絲仇恨都可能在某個時刻於心田中成長為驚天雷暴。

The Fourth Hope: End the System of Luxury Provisioning

Eliminate the system of Special Needs or Luxury Goods Provisioning. Starting in [the wartime Communist guerrilla base] Yan’an some seventy years ago, this system [whereby Party cadres/ government bureaucrats have been permitted privileged access to goods and services depending on their rank in a 27-tier network] continued unimpeded even during times of mass famine and deprivation. And it continues even now as the Countless Masses are ever increasingly concerned about [the quality of and access to] dairy products for their babies and the hygiene and safety of their everyday foodstuffs.

The Special Needs Provisioning system allows the high-level Party nobility access to a vast range of specialty products far beyond the dreams of the average person. Apart from a few totalitarian polities, there is no other country that does this like China. Surely this is a case of ‘luxury in the extreme and shamelessness that defies description’ [豪奢之至,而無恥之尤]. Of course, inequalities exist in all societies and disparities in ability and wealth are only natural, but they are a result of differences, not due to the fact that the ideal playing field imagined by our citizens does allow for a level starting point. And none of this even takes into account the outrage felt because a small group of Party grandees is being continuously mollycoddled by [a political party] dipping into the coffers of the state. As long as this system and ‘No 34’ [a code word for the regulations covering special access to necessities and luxury goods provided to the Party nomenklatura which was set up after 1955. (See ‘Providing for the Leadership 特供茶’ in Barmé, More Saliva than Tea 口水多過茶, 2012)] remains unchecked, real food safety in China will never be realised; neither side will really be assured of its long-term security.

第四,取消特供制度。七十多年里,其實早從延安時期就已開始,無論是在國民飢寒交迫的年代里,還是此刻億萬百姓為嬰兒奶品、日常食品安全而提心弔膽之際,特供制度供養著這個號稱人民政權的高層權貴,提供著一般人做夢都不敢想象的諸種特權,除開幾個極權政體之外,舉世找不出第二家,可謂豪奢之至,而無恥之尤。社會恆有差等,賢愚貧富實為自然,但那是結果,而非抹煞起點平等的公民理想,更非公然利用國庫供養少數權貴。此制一日不除,「第34號」依舊,中國食品安全就一日沒有保障,兩方同樣無任何真正的安全可言。

The Fifth Hope: Require Officials to Divulge their Personal Assets

People have been calling for a law requiring officials to gazette their assets for many years, without effect [it was also an early demand of student protesters in 1989]. It is evident that this is where the real skulduggery takes place and that is why the truth cannot be revealed. As cadres and government bureaucrats scale the ladder of officialdom there is a complete lack of transparency about the personal assets that accrue to their children and their families; this is a closely guarded secret hidden deep in the Party’s personnel files. Normal people have no knowledge of what is really going on and everything is clouded in obfuscation.

In terms of the state’s ability and economic wherewithal, let alone in terms of technical ability, all is in readiness [to reveal the truth], what’s required is for the system to be activated. Thereupon, via the national Internet, and with the oversight of 1.4 billion pairs of eyes, everything would immediately become clear. Despite continued anti-corruption activities, boundless new cases of corruption are constantly being generated. That is because both [the anti-corruption push as well as the corrupt activities themselves] take place internally (and secretly), none involve a legal process based on the principles of open and transparent politics. What is missing is a ‘Sunshine Policy’: if you have nothing to hide then implement such a policy and everything will finally be out in the open! If you are truly sincere, then join the majority of other countries who have signed up to the anti-money laundering Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units. Why conceal yourselves in the obfuscating mists of rhetoric and treat the Vast Multitudes of China like simpletons?

第五,實施官員財產陽光法案。有關於此,民間早已呼籲多年,居然毫無動靜,說明其間貓膩最大,最見不得人。現有官員升遷程序中對於子女玉帛的說明,只限內部掌握,存見於幹部檔案,而一般國民無從知曉,遂使一切迷霧重重。而無論人力物力,還是技術手段,早已成熟,正為施行此制,並經由全國聯網,用十四億雙眼睛施行有效監督,鋪墊好一切基礎。反腐而腐敗不止,就在於搞成了內部的事,而非基於政治公開原則的法製作業,缺的就是陽光法案這一環。你們若非心虛,那就施行此制,讓一切大白於天下吧!你們要是正心誠意,那就加入大多數國家均在其中的《艾格蒙國際反洗錢組織》吧!何必雲山霧罩,將億萬國民當二百五。

A designer mortuary for the dead letter of the Leader’s words. People’s Publishing House display, Beijing, 2018

The Sixth Hope: Put a Stop to the New Personality Cult Immediately

An emergency brake must be applied to the unfolding Personality Cult. Who would have thought that, after four decades of Reforms and the Open Door, our Sacred Land would once more witness a Personality Cult? The Party media is going to extreme lengths to create a new Idol, and in the process it is offering up to the world an image of China as Modern Totalitarianism. Portraits of the Leader are hoisted on high throughout the Land, as though they are possessed of some Spiritual Mana. This only adds to all the absurdity. And then, on top of that, the speeches of That Official — things previously merely to be recorded by secretaries in a pro forma bureaucratic manner — are now painstakingly collected in finely bound editions printed in vast quantities and handed out free throughout the world. The profligate waste of paper alone is enough to make you shake your head in disbelief.

All of this reflects the low IQ of the Concerned Official and His craving for fame. More importantly, we need to ask how a vast country like China, one that was previously so ruinously served by a Personality Cult [under Mao Zedong], simply has no resistance to this new cult, and this includes those droves of ‘Theoreticians’ and ‘Researchers’. In fact, they are outdoing themselves with their sickeningly slavish behaviour [舔癰吸疽,  literally ‘licking the carbuncles and sucking liquid from the ulcers’ (of the power-holder to gain favour and solicit reward)]. It’s as though hundreds of millions of Chinese are oblivious; people tolerate the New Cult and allow it unfettered freedom; they are powerless in the face of all those arse-kissing bureaucrats. It goes to show that China’s Enlightenment is far from over. Every generation must champion rationalism in public affairs and continue painstakingly to forge a way to the future. The New Cult is clear evidence that China faces a long struggle before it can claim to be a modern, secular and rational nation-state.

第六,「個人崇拜」亟需趕緊剎車。改革開放四十年,沒想到神州大地再度興起領袖個人崇拜。黨媒造神無以復加,儼然一副前現代極權國家的景象。而領袖像重現神州,高高掛起,彷彿神靈,平添詭異。再者,官員講話,本為秘書手筆,不過等因奉此,居然匯編刊行,精裝亮相,全球免費贈送,徒耗紙張,令人噴飯。此間不僅需要反思為何當事人如此弱智而好名,更需要檢討為何曾經遭遇此種戕害的偌大國家,包括她的芸芸「理論家」「研究者」,居然對此毫無抵抗力,卻不乏舔癰吸疽之徒。而億萬人猶如虛無,竟然容忍其大行其道,奈何不了那幾個馬屁精大員,正說明所謂啓蒙是一個未竟事業,需要每一代人在公共事務上公開運用自己的理性,方能如履如臨而砥礪前行。而且,它更加說明中國尚未完全進入現代世俗理性的常態國家境界,而有待接續奮鬥矣。

The Seventh Hope: Restore Term Limits for the National Presidency

International opinion was astounded by the decision made earlier in the year to revise the Constitution and abandon the term limits set for the State Presidency. In China it resulted in widespread and profound anxiety. Overnight it seemed ‘As though we were shocked awake after a four-decade-long dream.’ Suddenly, as if out of nowhere, we had a ‘Supreme Leader’ with no checks on his power; how could people not have all kinds of strange imaginings and new fears?

It is for this reason, that I urge that at an appropriate time during this or the coming year — say, for instance, at a Special Meeting of the National People’s Congress this autumn or at the scheduled annual convocation of the Congress in March  2019 — a further revision of the Constitution should be made so as to reinstate the term limit on the presidency. To do so would vouchsafe the policies of the Reform and Open Door era while frustrating the slide towards the totalitarian politics of the Cultural Revolution. We have a Constitution, and regardless of its quality it is, after all, the nation’s Basic Law, and it should not be revised willy-nilly. However, it is still a Temporary Constitution that was formulated by a political arrangement during what has in effect been a crucial transitional period in the nation’s life, therefore it cannot but be repeatedly subject to revision. Hopefully, this will be the final necessary revision of the Constitution before the eventual transition [to democracy] is achieved.

第七,恢復國家主席任期制。年初修憲,取消政治任期,令世界輿論嘩然,讓國人膽戰心驚,頓生「改革四十年,一覺回從前」的憂慮。此間作業,等於憑空製造一個「超級元首」,無所制衡,令人不禁浮想聯翩而頓生恐懼。因此,今明兩年的適當時機,如秋季召開人大特別會議或者明年三月全國人大例會,通過再度修憲,恢復國家主席任期制,以保衛改革開放、防範重回文革極權政治。《憲法》既立,無論是何種質量的憲法,本不宜改來改去,無奈這是大轉型時段過渡政體下的一部臨時憲法,只好頻繁修訂。但願轉型落地之前,這是最後一次修憲。

Student protesters on Tiananmen Square, May 1989. Source: China Daily

The Eighth Hope: Overturn the Verdict on 4 June

Overturn the Verdict on the ‘4th of June’ [1989 Beijing Massacre]. Over this and next year China will mark a series of sensitive anniversaries: it will be the fourth decade since the policies of [what would become known as] the Reforms and Open Door, the centenary of the May Fourth Movement [of 1919, a major feature of which was modern student activism and strident patriotism; it was also a contributing reason for the founding of the Chinese Communist Party in 1921], as well as the thirtieth anniversary of 4 June. The upshot of the Sino-US Trade War will extend through this period and will only serve to add to the uncertainty of things.

In pursuit of the usual posture of Stability Maintenance [the authorities will daresay] ‘use policing methods to deal with political issues’ in the process of which they will ‘deploy the mechanisms of the state machine [政制] to clamp down on [鉗制] the political situation [政治]’. The system will go to extremes rather than approaching things by ‘dealing with politics by employing politics [for the resolution of things]’ [as we witness in the West when they deal with difficult political issues]. Back in the day, the ‘5th of April’ [1976 Tiananmen Incident when protesters flooded to Tiananmen to mourn the recently deceased premier Zhou Enlai and denounced Mao and his coterie, later known as the ‘Gang of Four’] was re-evaluated [literally, ‘rehabilitated’] and ever since then that date has no longer been one of any particular political sensitivity. This was precisely because [after Mao’s death, the authorities] ‘confronted a political problem by employing a political solution’ — as the old saying puts it: ‘when an army approaches a good general knows how to block its advance; when the waters rise we know how to sandbag against flooding’. Everyone took from that [decision regarding the 5 April 1976 Tiananmen Incident] what they wanted and all were satisfied.

That’s why, in light of the upcoming thirtieth anniversary of 4 June [in 2019], I would encourage Those In Power to find a suitable moment either this or next year to rehabilitate ‘4 June’ publicly [that is, to re-evaluate an event which is still officially classified as a necessary military action launched to quell a ‘counter-revolutionary rebellion’ by hooligans in Beijing against the Chinese state with the aim of toppling the Communist Party]. This would not only demonstrate a sincere and wise application of the principle of ‘politics embracing the political’, it would also mean that from then on there would be no need to treat the 4th of June every year like a political emergency. [The authorities, that is Xi Jinping] would clear the way for all Chinese to enjoy a peaceful coexistence, it would uplift people psychologically and benefit [the party-state] by accruing political capital to its legitimacy.

第八,平反「六四」。今明兩年,適值「改開」四十週年、「五四」百年與「六四」三十週年,一連串所謂敏感節點紛沓。而中美貿易戰的後果,亦將延時第次顯現,增加了所謂的不確定性。在此,既有的「維穩」思路是「以治安對付政治」,疊加上「用政制鉗制政治」,而非「以政治迎應政治」這一常態政治之道。當年給「四五」平反,從此每年四月五號不再成為敏感節點,就在於「以政治迎應政治」,兵來將擋水來土掩,結果各得其所,皆大歡喜。因此,值此迎來「六四」爆發三十週年之際,當局於今明兩年適當時刻公開為其平反,不僅表明「以政治迎應政治」的誠意與智慧,而且,從此每年六月四號無需再如臨大敵,為全體公民政治上的和平共處掃清障礙,既裨益於民心舒暢,更有助於收拾政治合法性。

The Hopes outlined above merely articulate what one would call contemporary political commonsense; they also reflect widespread appeals and desires [regularly expressed] within the populace at large. Herein I am — to use an old expression — ‘Putting My Life on the Line Simply to Say What Everyone Knows and Thinks’.

In this vast world of great disorder, if there is no reasonable way to express such views [說法] there can then be no [reasonable way to legitimate them through appropriate] legislation [立法]. And, in that case, neither I nor the Masses have a way to live [活法] [without fear]. What to do? Alas and Alack indeed!

以上諸項,均為現代政治的一般常識,也是刻下國人的普遍訴求。此番「冒著殺頭的危險說出人所共知的道理」,就在於舉世滔滔,若無此說法,就無此立法,從而吾儕百姓沒個活法,其奈也何,嗚呼哀哉!

***

4: In What is a Period of Transition
四、過渡時段

Don’t panic just yet since, although over the past two years the world has entered a mini-cycle of political adjustment, the dust has far from settled. For China to get through this period what is of crucial importance is that the nation must continue along its chosen path of sustained internal reform while focusing on raising the standard of living and ameliorating the wellbeing of the people. What matters for China and the world is that this particular Grand Ship of State continues to catch the wind in its sails as it peacefully steers a course on the way to continued political normality.

Conflict and warfare are part and parcel of the inherently violent nature of the human animal. The Sacred Duty of politicians living during a period of historical opportunity like today is to delay or avoid entirely the outbreak of hostilities. This is a great test for the wisdom and moral probity of the Meat-Eaters [肉食者, an ancient term from pre-dynastic times that refers to the social and political elite who, according to court regulations, were permitted to eat meat]. Human beings are, above all, political animals, and politics is the ultimate expression of human ingenuity. What is necessary in the here and now is that, no matter what the present situation happens to be, we cannot allow ourselves to deviate from the grand course of Peaceful Development. We have a period of historic opportunity that can only be seized on by the wise. We don’t need heedless antagonism; at all costs we must not cast aside the good hand that we have been dealt.

兩年多來的世界進入政治調整小週期,無需驚恐,遠未到分曉時分,更須也唯有穩健推行內政改革,健全國族身心,方能應對過關,維持包括中國在內的這艘世界大船持續揚帆於和平與發展的常態政治航道。衝突與戰爭是人類這個殘忍物種的常態,但是身處歷史機遇關頭而推延或者避免其發生,則為政治的天命所在,更是對於肉食者政治智慧與德性的大考,而人類恰恰就是政治的動物,政治為世間最高智慧。就刻下情形而言,縱便事態已如今日,也還未能根本偏轉「和平與發展」這一大勢。而這就是歷史機遇,就是所謂的「機遇期」,唯智者方能攫獲,而不至於東懟西懟,將一手好牌打成爛牌也。

‘Old Red Guards’, Palace Museum, Beijing, 8 November 2017

The Great Powers on either side of the Pacific [China and the United States] now find themselves by chance ‘Under the Rule of Old Red Guards’ [this is a somewhat baffling description, first in regard to Donald Trump, a roué whose tone is more tangerine than red and, secondly, mystifying in the case of Xi Jinping who was more of a ‘Blackguard’ 黑幫, that is from a family under attack in the early Cultural Revolution, than a ‘Red Guard’ 紅衛兵]. This is and can only something that happens in a transitional moment; it’s the typical kind of unruly coincidence that occurs during periods of heightened historical drama. On this side of the ocean we have One who has no real historical awareness or truly modern political sensibility, let alone a moral vision that reflects an awareness of the principles of universal civilisation. The One is blind to the Grand Way of current affairs and is scarred indelibly by a political brand from the Cultural Revolution. Overweening pride and official competence leads this One to bend his efforts to serve the wrong ends; talented enough to play the bureaucratic game, and doubtlessly masterful at achieving high office, but as for Guiding the Nation along the Correct Path, [what the One does] is worse than arrant time-wasting for there is something perverse at work.

至於太平洋沿岸東西兩大國均不期然間先後步入「老紅衛兵執政」狀態,是而且不過是一種短暫的過渡現象,實為每臨歷史危機關頭就會出現的那種一再上演的亂象之再現而已。就此岸言,其毫無歷史感與現代政治意識,更無基於普世文明自覺的道義擔當,昧於時勢大道,卻又深濡文革政治烙印,虛驕之下,允為幹才而用力過猛卻用錯了方向,致使弄權有術,當官有方,而治國無道,豈止折騰,直是倒行逆施。

And there, on the other side of the Pacific, a crowd of the Ghoulish Undead nurtured on the politics of the Great Game and the Cold War have taken the stage. Certainly, they have their own analysis of world affairs and an particular understanding of the cultural upheavals of today, but like their opposite number here, they lack a truly historical perspective; they are shortsighted and avaricious. Since their diagnosis is faulty, the prescriptions they offer are completely off the mark. Trained in a mercantilism that favoured the capitalist elite, with a personality amplified by bloated self-regard and the lifetime habits of rapaciousness, the result is [a person possessed of] a prideful quasi-imperial mindset that is coupled to heinous vulgarity. We now have [to deal with] the crudest of blackmailers, a person who knows no shame. What, therefore, [in the case of the United States today] we are presented with is but a degraded civilisation under the tutelage of a flailing and desperate imperialism that is itself in terminal decline. Their boastful and vainglorious patriotism stokes the fires of national disaster; we know them all too well as ‘Patriot-Scoundrels’ [愛國賊, literally ‘patriot thieves’; a kind of shyster who boastfully promotes themselves while sullying everything in the guise of loyalty].

Be it in China or abroad, in the present or in the past: we’ve seen their kind before. One is reminded of those [recent] jokes about how ‘Bad People Have Gotten Older’ [a reference to a popular comic observation that: ‘It’s not that old people have suddenly turned bad, it’s just that bad people have gotten older’ 不是老人變壞了,而是壞人變老了]. Everyone is the product of the education they receive. So [for the ‘Old Red Guard’ on that side of the ocean, Donald Trump] there’s no way he can break out of those self-made shackles; he simply doesn’t give a damn on top of which he’s completely lacking in self-awareness. Dealing with new problems within the framework of an out-of-touch mindset while nonetheless exuding supreme confidence, je inevitably make the mistakes of the willful. Their ideas and policies are, as Alexis de Tocqueville said [of the Ancien Régime], nothing more than a load of musty debris. [Note: Like autocrats elsewhere, Chinese Communist Party leaders are fascinated by the history of regime collapse. Shortly after joining the Standing Committee of the Party’s ruling Politburo in late 2012, and as head of the Central Disciplinary Commission charged with oversight of Xi Jinping’s ‘signature’ anti-corruption campaign, Wang Qishan 王歧山 recommended that his underlings study de Tocqueville’s The Old Regime and the French Revolution.]

就彼岸看,實為一群依舊生活在列強時代與冷戰政治中的老不死幽靈登台,雖不乏對於當今世界政治圖景與文明變局的現實判斷,卻同樣缺乏歷史感,短視而貪婪,根本開出了誤診處方,反將早年裙帶資本權貴的重商主義國策與基於唯我獨尊、掠奪成性的帝國主義式傲慢偏見與粗鄙蠻橫,赤裸裸的訛詐,盡興抖露無遺,展示了一個文明衰敗的疲憊帝國狗急跳牆式的晚期症狀。而自大愛國狂適成禍國害人精,所謂愛國賊,中外古今,史不鮮見。同時,它還說明,如同「壞人變老了」一般,人人都是自己早年教育體系的產物,此後無所用心,了無自省,便難以掙脫羈絆。以舊知識應對新事物,卻又自信爆棚,遂剛愎自用。其理念,其政策,如托克維爾所言,不過是「發霉的舊貨」。

At this moment, taking stock of the general tenor of discussion in the Chinese-speaking world, and the mindset that it reflects, it is evident that a kind of political awareness based on civilian rationalism has come into maturity; nor is it lacking in proud righteousness. What would appear to be deficient, however, is a cultural self-awareness based on national rationality, in particular people seem to have difficulty identifying National Rationality as it relates to the political relations between nations, and National Rationality in terms of how citizens engage with their own political lives [that is, emotionalism leads people to act against their own, and their country’s self-interest]. The confusion between the two, with neither besting the other, in some cases leads people to admire that Old Red Guard reprobate on the other side of the Pacific. These tyros end up being little better than those rednecks from the Rust Belt. To apply a famous line from a famous person, they are ‘Too Young, Too Simple’ [this is a jocular reference to former Party leader, Jiang Zemin, who once berated a young Hong Kong journalist for their naïveté. Here the Chinese transliteration of ‘too young, too simple’ — tǔ-yàng-tǔ-suī-pɑo 土樣土尿泡 — is a play on Jiang’s Yangzhou-accented English pronunciation. In the original, Jiang added ‘sometimes naïve’]. At the same time, the appeal of [our own] political system is insufficient, resulting in an insufficient or weak sense of identity. The result is a strange contradiction between Citizens and Civic Awareness. But then again, although the ‘Great Qing’ 大清 [dynasty ruled by the Manchus] was enmeshed with ‘China’ 中華, they weren’t really one and the same thing at all.

You [Communists] ‘Rule the Rivers and Mountains’ [坐江山, a traditional expression that indicates control over the geo-political and civilisational realm of China]; you ‘Gorge Yourselves on the Rivers and Mountains’ [literally, ‘Eat/ consume the Rivers and Mountains’ 吃江山] but, when Your Rivers and Mountains are in trouble [江山有事了], suddenly we’re all expected to pull together and [help you] ‘Protect the Rivers and Mountains’ [保江山] as well as ‘Join as One to Overcome Present Difficulties’ [that have resulted from the trade war]. What utter nonsense! There is discussion in the non-official media that although certain figures are seemingly busying themselves [in negotiations] they are really acting as they though they aren’t Chinese; instead they devote their real energies to coming up with ways to convenience the other side. Oddly enough, this is not all that surprising. After all, this is the kind of scenario you should expect in a nation that lacks a coherent and unifying focus.

Moreover, putting aside debates about identity and what ‘Being Chinese’ really means, given the present situation, there are those Prophets who each say their piece and in their proud justifications end up finding no common ground for compromise. Let repeat my previous observation: a nation’s maturity relies on the nurturing authority of its intellectual elite, and for their wisdom to have full sway they require a freedom of spirit. All the red noise and attempts to silence it cannot detract from the realities of shared human ideas. It is necessary to rejecting the misguided folly and pridefulness of any and all Absolute Authorities. In China it is necessary to call for an end to the ever-increasing censorship and to give freedom of expression back to the intelligentsia [讀書人, literally, ‘those who read books’]. For only then, and only with the painstaking work of generations, can the motherlode of Chinese Civilisation be regenerated and nurtured, its role protected and its relevance strengthened. Only then will it be possible to face unfolding possibilities with clear-sightedness, or to be able to respond calmly to immediate challenges so that we can apply ourselves to practical service in the world.

此時此刻,就中文世界的一般輿議心態與脈絡來看,基於公民理性的政治自覺已然充沛發育,更不缺昂揚正大的道義立場,但少見基於國家理性意識的文明自覺,特別是未能梳理清楚適用於「國家間政治」的國家理性與適用於「國家政治」的公民理性之二元分際,而混戰一團,指東打西,甚至崇拜起彼岸老紅衛兵來,將自己降格到鐵鏽州紅脖子們的水準,套用一句名人名言,可謂「土樣土尿泡」。同時,也是政體感召不足,導致認同缺失或者疲弱,而使國民身份與公民認同兩相悖逆之怪象。畢竟,「大清」與「中華」,雖糾結纏繞,還就真的不是一回事。你們「坐江山」「吃江山」,江山有事了,就讓大家「共克時艱」來「保江山」,這不扯淡嗎!有輿議感慨,一些人說話辦事,彷彿自己不是中國人,而處處倒為對方設計著想,實在是怪而不怪,正為向心力凝聚力這一軟實力不足國族常見的景象矣。再者,撇開究竟何為「中國人」等等認知爭議,置此情形下,可得申言者,兩邊各說各話,越是昂揚正大,越可能將話談死,而無轉圜餘地。凡此再度說明,國族的政治成熟必以其知識精英的心智作育為先導,而心智作育要在精神自由,眾口喧嘩卻又緊扣人生與人心的普世心思,摒拒任何定於一尊的愚妄與傲慢,要求當局不要再鉗口日甚,而把言論自由還給讀書人,從而,在幾代人的接續用功磨礪中,涵養保育中華文明思想母機,護衛其功用,強化其勢能,這才有望清醒觀勢,冷靜應事,而清明用世矣。

At present, the Authorities repeatedly claim that despite the Trade War they will not change the basic national policy of Reform and the Open Door; they will not slacken their efforts to pursue economic development via continued open-door exchange; and they reaffirm their determination to work collectively to protect the multilateral system. Echoing this stand, a series of related policies have been announced, so there seems to be a measure of certainty. This should be regarded as further evidence of the ‘Open Door [to the outside] Forcing [Further] Reform [on the inside]’. It’s a particularly Chinese kind of developmental path dependence. Yet despite [all the talk], we have yet to see any actual internal reforms. ‘Though the heavens may resound with thunder, only a few drops of rain are falling’; despite all the expressions of sincerity [from the Authorities], the lack of practical results leaves people cold and with no choice but to look on from the sidelines unconvinced.

目前來看,當局一再重申絕不會因為貿易戰而改變「改革開放」的基本國策,也不會動搖在開放交往中發展經濟的既有路線,並決心協力捍衛多邊體制。與此表態相呼應,並有相應開放措施出台,彷彿尚有定力。其於證明「開放倒逼改革」這一中國式發展路徑依賴的同時,卻又似乎未見任何實質性內政改革,雷聲大雨點小,則不免令人失望,而對其誠意和實效,採取游移觀望態度。

And so that’s why I have offered here my Eight Immediate Hopes — a series of concrete policy suggestions that I believe to be of timely relevance. Let’s just see what happens. Forget all the pretty talk about You being willing and able to take action. We’d be delighted if you managed to implement just one of the Eight Hopes. If you carry out three or four, we’ll sing your praises and bless you in our hearts. Now, if you manage all eight then the whole of China will rejoice rapturously. Earlier this year, the Supremo said a series of impressive policy measures would be launched to mark the fortieth anniversary of the Reform and Open Door. Well, we’ve already passed the six-month mark and, although we are still wanting to believe, we’re waiting.

故而,上述八項,允為時務,先做起來再說。都說你能幹肯幹,這八項你只要乾一件,我們就歡喜。你要是幹三、四件,我們就心服口服。你要是全幹了,則普天同慶。年初高官曾經宣示今年還要陸續放大招,以回應「改革開放」四十週年,此刻時間過半,寧信其有,且翹首以待矣。

And, furthermore, while I’m at it, let me take this opportunity to say: there are only fifty to sixty households in Liangjiahe Village in Shaanxi, and the place only has a population of over a hundred people [where Xi Jinping spent seven supposedly formative years; nowadays as part of the state-manufactured Xi Cult, Liangjiahe is accorded the status of a ‘sacred site’]. But, despite such modest statistics the place boasts a representative office in Shanghai along with an exhibition space for showcasing local agriculture produce. It’s obvious that the unassuming and frugal farmers [of Liangjiahe] didn’t come up with any of this themselves. Rather, one imagines that the whole performance is being stage-managed by a duet of bureaucrats and businessmen, each in hot pursuit of their own ends.

Then there was a report informing us that the Supreme People’s Procuratorate was creating the 12309 Disciplinary Investigative Service Centre. The Party Secretary of Liangjiahe — a place that has absolutely nothing to do with any of it — was invited to attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony [for the centre in late June 2018]. On the day, a scrum of eunuchs was on hand, all to them eager to pursue their own agendas, kissing arse as they flaunted their shamelessness. And, as for the Academy of Social Sciences in Shaanxi announcing that it was pursuing a research project titled ‘The Profound Wisdom of Liangjiahe’ [announced on 21 June 2018 and disbanded on the orders of Beijing in early July], along with all of the research topics devoted to the Personality Cult and Leader Worship, I have this to say: they are antediluvian, they fly in the face of progress and are an affront to credulity; they are grotesque, cringeworthy and much, much more. As for all of this to do: it’s simply too much, too excessive, over the top, as those involved vie to outdo each other. All of these things serve to drag us back to the Dark Ages of fearfulness and deprivation. [觳觫苟存; 觳觫 húsù is used in Mencius to describe the trembling of an ox being led to slaughter; 苟存 gǒucún means ‘living in dire circumstances barely able to survive’.]

Liangjiahe, published in May 2018, book cover

最後,順說一句,陝西省梁家河村四五十戶人家,常駐百十來口,居然在上海設立聯絡處和農副產品展示館,一望可知非淳樸鄉民所能為,毋寧,官商勾結的媚上雙簧,於各懷襟抱中各逞其圖。還有,最高檢開設「12309檢察服務中心」,層峰邀約與此八竿子打不到一塊兒的梁家河村支書共同揭牌,同屬太監姿態,希圖借此創造勾兌機會,拍馬屁不要臉。至於陝西省社科聯的招標項目「梁家河大學問」,以及近年來各類所謂社科項目之造神運動與領袖崇拜,反現代,逆潮流,匪夷所思,恬不知恥,丟人現眼,更不論矣!凡此種種,太作了,太過分了,而過猶不及,只會把我們帶回那個人人觳觫苟存的酷烈人世也!

That’s all I’ve got to say now. We’ll see what Fate has in store; only Heaven can judge the nation’s fortunes.

話說完了,生死由命,而興亡在天矣。

July 2018
2018年7月


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