diumenge, 6 de desembre de 2009

Farewell, revolution

-“You were visiting your brother, weren’t you?” the driver asked.

My eyes met the driver’s in the rearview mirror. “How did you know?”.

-“Oh, we know the Second Prison folks pretty well. My father used to work there. Your brother is a Democracy Party guy, right?”

-“You know about them?”

-“Oh, yes, they want a multiparty system. How many years did he get?”

-“Nine. He’s halfway through.”

-“Getting any sentence reduction?”

-“Nope, because he doesn’t admit to any crime.”

The driver spat out the window. “What they did is no crime! But it’s useless to sit in a prison. Is he in touch with Wuer Kaixi?”

This gave me a start. Wuer Kaixi was a charismatic student leader of Tiananmen Square, who, after years of exile in the United States, now lives in Taiwan. “No! How could he be?”

-“But you know some foreigners, don’t you? You should tell your brother to get out, and get together with the folks in America and Taiwan. Most important thing is: get some guns! How can you beat the Communist Party? Only by armed struggle!”

-“That’s an interesting idea,” I said, taken aback and trying to hide it. “But then China would be in a war. It would make for bloody chaos.”

-“That would be great!” the driver said.


Gradually, a tacit consensus emerged, which was captured in the title of a book published in the late nineteen-nineties: “Gaobie Geming” (“Farewell, Revolution”). The book was written by two of the star intellectuals of the previous decade, Li Zehou, a philosopher and historian, and Liu Zaifu, a literary critic. Both men had been hugely influential figures during the movements that led up to Tiananmen. Both became involved with the Tiananmen demonstrations, and ended up living in the United States in the nineties. Yet their book was a scathing critique of the radicals and the revolutionaries. Looking back upon the past century of Chinese history, Li and Liu observed that attempts to bring about radical change had always resulted either in disaster or in tyranny. China was too big, its problems too numerous and complex, for any quick fix. Incremental reform, not revolution, was the right approach. In a separate article, Li also laid out four successive phases of development—economic progress, personal freedom, social justice, political democracy—that stood between China and full modernity. In other words, achieving real democracy wasn’t a matter of throwing a switch"

Zha Jiangying, The New Yorker. Enemy of the State.