Deng Xiaoping died in his nineties in 1997. His successors are sometimes called the “Third Generation” rulers— Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping being the First and Second Generations. The Third Generation includes names such as: Premier Zhu Rongji, and Presidents Jiang Zemin and Hu Juntao. The current (2014) President is Xi Jiaping. He is also head of the seven-man Politburo Standing Committee which rules China in five-year terms.
The most interesting of these figures, at least as presented in Wealth And Power, is Zhu Rongji — who, like Deng Xiaoping– believed above all in Party power and economic development. “If we can increase the speed of economic construction, and continually raise the people’s living standards,” said Zhu Rongji, “then the Party will be trusted and respected, and the people will support us.” He took Deng Xiaoping’s free-market reforms even farther, supporting performance-based pay and allowing some firms and factories to fail. He also felt, according to our authors, that the State does not necessarily need to guarantee every individual healthcare, pensions, or life-long employment. I found it thought-provoking that Zhu Rongji considered the modern cooperation as a form of cooperative… “a share-holding system is only one of many forms of public ownership,” he once stated.
Someone I did not talk about in these series of posts, and who was a contemporary (and rival) of Deng Xiaoping, was Chen Yun. He would have approved of Zhu Rongji’s strategy of encouraging market reform as long as it operates within the confines of a generally planned economy. Chen Yun called this approach “a capitalist bird in a socialist cage.” Sometimes when I think of the new China and compare it to the United States of today… it seems to me that the whole world is converging upon a semi-planned-economy, semi-free-enterprise economic paradigm. The U.S. economy is far more controlled, directed, and planned than most people take time to consider.
Even in this age of the Third Generation rulers, there are still prophets and intellectuals crying out in the wilderness for reform and attempting to signal to their fellow citizens the best path forward for China. Some bewail the technological fetters the Chinese government has placed upon its citizens, including the so-called “Golden Shield” which censors the Chinese internet (wags call it the Great Firewall Of China).
Once voice crying belongs to Wei Jinsheng, whom Deng Xiaoping sentenced to 15 years in prison. Wei Jinsheng numbered what he considered the four major reforms modern China has undergone, then called for one more, what he called “the Fifth Modernization“– basically, democracy plus more social and political freedom. Wei Jinsheng was also the main force behind what was called the “Democracy Wall“– a wall of protest posters and posted essays near Tiananmen Square.
Another voice of dissent in modern China belongs to Fang Lizhi, the astro-physicist who our authors tells us, “emerged in the tumultuous 1980s as an electrifying champion not just of academic freedom but also of freedom of speech, human rights, and democracy.” His Four Cardinal Principles are: Science, Democracy, Creativity, and Indepedence. He was eventually allowed to live the country. “Henceforth,” our authors write, “exporting critics would become a regular Party strategy.”
There is also Liu Xiaobo, the “Black Horse,” a Manchurian writer who often writes in an acidic and angry tone, and who once declared that intellectuals such as himself have a duty to “enunciate thoughts that are ahead of their times.” Liu Xiaobo was a hunger-striker during the Tiananmen demonstrations of 1989, and says he is still “haunted” by the responsibility of being a survivor of the ensuing and bloody government crackdown.
Other HAMMERING SHIELD posts on the politics of modern China…