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China Dream

Page history last edited by Bob Andrian 5 years, 11 months ago

Tiananmen's Legacy: The China Dream


As we have seen in the film, The Gate of Heavenly Peace (1995), Deng Xiaoping, seeking better relations with the United States (and a buffer of sorts against the Soviet Union), came for an official state visit in January, 1979. A month earlier, President Jimmy Carter had announced, shockingly to many in Congress and perhaps around the world, that the U.S. and China would establish diplomatic relations. At a state dinner in his honor, Carter stated warmly to TIME's Man of the Year,


"Today we take another step in the historic normalization of relations which we have begun this year." ... We share in the hope which springs from reconciliation and the anticipation of a common journey. ... Let us pledge together that both the United States and China will exhibit the understanding, patience, and persistence which will be needed in order for our new relationship to survive." (Schell, NYReview of Books, 10/23/14)


Last month (September 2014),  Jimmy Carter traveled to Beijing to commemorate the 35th anniversary of "normalized relations" between the two countries. To say that the former president's visit was treated disinterestedly would be an understatement. President Xi Jinping skipped the banquet in Carter's honor at the Great Hall of the People. China's Vice President Li Yuanchao spoke briefly and rather coolly according to Orville Schell, Director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society in New York, who accompanied the Carter delegation.


The overall effect of the visit---and it is an "effect" that has been sealed at a good many other meetings between Americans and Chinese---was to make the visitors feel the impossibility of making real contact. ... What made the dinner all the more unsettling was the feeling that a whiff of "humiliation"---chiru---hovered over it. ...


The Party's new message was, in effect: "Because China emphatically rejects all Western forms of democratic governance as unworkable, Americans should forget their missionary-like dreams of bringing elections, human rights, and democracy to China. What you see now is what you're going to get! Changes are not wanted." ...


"From now on, you will deal with us on our terms, or your foreign businesses will be circumscribed, official visits will be downplayed, visas for free-thinking scholars and journalists will be denied, and those who come filled with democracy will be snubbed. And since we know that few can afford to be shut out of the lucrative Chinese market, we in Beijing can redefine the terms of the game."



In other words, one of Tiananmen's legacies has been simply that there will be never be another Tiananmen. As is implied in the last quoted excerpt, part of the regime's legitimacy after Tiananmen rested with Deng Xiaoping's fervent commitment to continue China's economic modernization.


Both Deng and Mao were "demolition men," but the former lacked, fortunately for China, the utopian idealism and belief in constant class struggle of the latter. As Harvard's Roderick MacFarquhar wrote after Deng's death in 1997,


Deng never formulated a clear vision of China’s future, but once in command he certainly had a clear idea of how to get there, wherever or whatever it was: “It’s the economy, stupid.”17 For Deng, liberation of the economy from the shackles of central planning and the shibboleths of socialism, making “practice the sole criterion of truth,” was the key to the success of what he vaguely called “building socialism with Chinese characteristics.” Deng’s reform program has been lustier than all its predecessors precisely because he was prepared to set people free to improve their lot as they saw fit rather than force them to conform to some grandiose vision of his own. (NY Review, 3/20/97)


In a sense, the declaration of martial law and subsequent violent crackdown by the PLA on June 4, 1989 galvanized Deng even more to continue the road to bureaucratic, authoritarian capitalism and private entrepreneurship begun in the late 70s. The post-Tiananmen "deal" with the people essentially meant that as long as they stayed out of politics, they could get prosper and do anything they wanted; "to get rich is glorious," the slogan went.


Central to "national rejuvenation," which is at the core of the China Dream is the four-word phrase, "Never Forget National Humiliation." China's "century of humiliation" began with the First Opium War in 1842 and ended first with the surrender of the Japanese in 1945 after a brutal occupation of 14 years and finally with "Liberation" on Oct. 1, 1949. September 18, 1931 is known as the "Day of National Humiliation," when the Japanese fabricated a pretext to invade Manchuria. Chinese government "controlled" anti-Japanese demonstrations are not uncommon on that date, all focused on the need to protect national sovereignty, which includes ownership of the contested Diaoyu (Senkaku in Japanese) islands in the East China Sea. (The Japanese control the islands but they are claimed by China and Taiwan as well.)





Anti-Japanese TV programs have spiked in the past decade. "In 2004, 15 television shows approved by the [government] regulator featured battles with the Japanese. By 2012 that figure had increased to 177." (Lim, 146) The same pattern holds for Chinese cinema.


Ahead of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit (Nov. 9-10 in Beijing), protesters of Japan's leader Shinzo Abe's visit were already making plans.


With the Tiananmen crackdown Deng realized that "Socialism and Communism were no longer an ideology for the the Chinese people." In addressing the PLA martial law troops on June 9, 1989, he said,


"I have told foreign guests that during the last ten years our biggest mistake was made in the field of education, primarily in ideological and political education---not just of the students, but of the people in general. We didn't tell them enough about the need for hard struggle, about what China was like in the old days and what kind of country it was to become. That was a serious error on our part." (Lim, The People's Republic of Amnesia, 137) 


Not long after, gone from history textbooks was the classic Marxist-Leninist-Maoist emphasis on class struggle. In its place came a constant reminder of national humiliation at the expense of Western colonial powers and the Japanese. True patriotism therefore was all about Chinese nationalism and a return to wealth, power, respect and global standing, not about a call for democracy as the students clamored for during the spring of 1989. The Party could claim that hostile foreign elements that spring had been marshalled to overthrow the CCP. They could point to Western economic sanctions after June 4 as yet another humiliation. And they could argue that had the government not suppressed the Tiananmen protest movement, China would have had its own version of the fall of the Berlin Wall. 


In 2009 in an effort to promote patriotic education, the Party financed the production of a film, The Founding of a Republic. In one scene, Chairman Mao laments the fact that he cannot buy a cigarette. "If there aren't any businessmen, I can't even buy cigarettes, let alone talk about market prosperity." 


In pursuit of the "China Dream," the permanent exhibition, "The Road to Rejuvenation," at the National Museum of China serves as the Party's attempt to engender national pride while whitewashing the nation's past. And, included among the nearly 1,000 photos on display is Deng Xiaoping congratulating the PLA troops for their work at Tiananmen on June 4.


In the last 20 years, more than 10,000 "Communist Disneylands" or Red Tourism sites have sprouted across China. One of these is in Yanan, the oddly named "Holy Land of the China's Communist Revolution," the resting place of the Long March in 1934. Louisa Lim recounts her visit there not long ago:


... the Memorial Hall's lobby was filled with people dressed up as Red Army soldiers in brand-new pale-blue cotton jackets and pedal-pushers. I had assumed they were government officials or perhaps staffers from a state-owned enterprise on a state-sponsored freebie. In fact, they turned out to be China's top Amway salespeople, who had earned themselves a Red Tourism holiday for their prowess in selling skin-care products and protein powders. Lining up for the obligatory group photo, they enthusiastically shouted chants that I couldn't quite decipher. I assumed it was a Communist slogan until I was informed that this new Red Army was shouting out the name of the year's bestselling Amway product. (Ibid, 148) 


The social, moral and spiritual fiber of Chinese culture nowadays has little to do with a moribund Communist ideology. Instead of quoting former CCP heroes like Mao, President Xi Jinping is fast compiling his own little book of quotations from the ancients like Confucius and the Legalist Han Fei who offered sage advice about governance and social order. In a sense, part of the China Dream on a more individual and social level may very well dovetail with a restoration of China's "outstanding traditional culture," as the Ministry of Education recently decreed. As Yan Xuetong, author of Ancient Chinese Thought, Modern Chinese Power, put it:


"Where can China's leaders find their ideas? ... They can't possibly find them nowadays from Western liberal thought, and so the only source they can look to is ancient Chinese political thinking." (NYT, 10/12/14) 


It is important to note that the "rule of law" proffered by Han Fei and the Legalists is not the same "rule of law" as conceptualized during the Western Enlightenment. Law ultimately serves the power of the Party or in ancient times the Emperor even if today President Xi would want to apply the law more fairly (taking on corruption of Party officials for example).


                              Confucius                                                    Han Fei



























Here is a link to a listing of Chinese cultural traditions.



MIT incident with Chinese students?? (151-53)---if yes to use, then just read excerpts from those pages



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