Over the next few days I will be serializing an essay written by the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo. The purpose of this is to give us the chance to analyze more deeply why the Nobel Committee decided to award him the Prize, and not some other deserving soul. When translating this first section, a couple of questions ran through my brain.
- What is the function of government?
- What is democracy, and is it always desirable?
- Why the Nobel Committee decided to award him the prize?
I hope this translation proves interesting. Once I have finished translating the entire thing, I’ll write further about my own views on the award.
From the Cultural Revolution to the Tiananmen Incident: The Difficulties in Bringing Democracy to China, Part 1
The multitudinous disasters and calamities of the last one hundred years of modern Chinese history reached their peak during the time of Mao Zedong. Of particular note was the Great Cultural Revolution, which effected an unprecedented calamity upon China. The despotic methods of the Communist Party, the lawless and godless nature of the personal totalitarianism, the crazy convulsions of the countless amount of tyrannical policies, all reached their peak. This resulted in the economy being pushed to a state of near collapse, and the rule of law becoming completely non-existant.
Culture and morals were hugely damaged to an unprecedented degree, the people’s rights and existence were thoroughly trampled upon. The damage wreaked by these policies were extensive and affected over one hundred million people. From the nation’s Chairman to the newborn baby, the number of deaths numbered in the many tens of thousands.
Owing to the exceptionally tragic nature of the Cultural Revolution, the corrupt practises of the the Communist apparatus were revealed. So, the natural death of absolute totalitarian Chairman Mao, and the conclusion of the Cultural Revolution resulted in an ideal time for the implementation of market liberalization and democratic reforms. Owing to the experiences of China through the Cultural Revolution, at least two types of social consensi were reached regarding the political structure of the country:
- The realities of modernization could not be seperated from democratization. The reforms and opening up of China should be both political and economic in nature and proceed at the same pace, and not economic reforms combined with crippled political reforms.
- To realize democratic participation should be the result of steady reforms from co-operation between the government and the people, and not the result of a radical revolution. Because social changes result from such reforms, it would likely be necessary for the speed of which to be fairly slow; but this would also lower the total costs of social integration.
The 1980s were the Golden Age for Chinese reforms. The market liberalization that resulted from economic reforms yielded fruit from the start, [thought] culture because more lively, with desire for democratic reforms becoming a main thread among citizens’ desires. Following the “Xidan Democracy Wall”, the “thought liberation movement”, university elections up and down the whole country, student demostrations, marches and other activities, achieved an increasingly clear and powerful expression.
What was gratifying was that there was a grouping of liberal reformers who were able to influence government policy within the highest echelons of the Communist Party. This grouping strongly supported the equal implementation and progression of economic and political reforms. Two of the liberal reformers, Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang, were General Secretaries whose views corresponded with those of the populace, and assisted Deng Xiaoping develop his official speeches regarding the reforms, helping to exclude the conservative side of the party who stubbornly opposed reforms, stopping the leftist resurgence “Clean Up Politics” and “Anti-Freedom” campaigns; thus creating a Golden Age of political reforms in contemporary Chinese history.
The 1989 Movement that was aimed at such political reforms was built on the base of this co-operation between the people and the government. Students conducted a grassroots campaign to promote their desire for democratization. They achieved extensive support throughout society, and became the large scale 1989 Movement. It can be said that this Movement that was pushing for political reforms, on such a vast scale, that kept its momentum, and with a wide grassroots mobilization, had already had an exerted influence on China’s government policy from its support from the people. The liberal reformers element within the Party and the intellectuals had all they needed just within their grasp, and had made a big impact.
Unfortunately, the liberal reformers within the Party, and the intellectuals without, were on the whole not mature; and did not display the right kind of courage, ability and intelligence in their actions. They did not display the right skills in dealing with the sudden eruption of the incident and failed to direct the people the right way. They lacked organization skills and expertise, maturity in strategy and wisdom. They lacked spirit and moral courage, and repeatedly failed to take the opportunity to lead the citizens, and completely and utterly wasted this enormous [human] resource. After the massacre, the elite were lacking even more the intuition to stand fearlessly and with moral courage before the great terror. The price paid in young lives has had not compensated with any progress, even to the present day.
The mistakes made by the liberal progressives had the effect of passing the initiative to the stubborn element within the Party, letting them oppose the public consciousness with an unforgiving attitude. Allowing them to influence the decision making of the highest level of the Party, finally opting to using military force to suppress the 1989 Movement. Representing Deng Xiaoping, the stubborn element acted as though the good and honest intentions of the people were absolutely implacable foes. They turned the liberal progressives in to traitors and washed them out of the Party, and turned what was a grand scale political reform movement into a great evil that shocked the world. Deng Xiaoping’s killing spree not only ruined so many young lives, but also ruined the period of peaceful direction of [reform of] China’s political system.
Part 2 coming soon