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A vivid account of Chinese intellectuals across the twentieth century that provides a guide to making sense of China tod

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The Intellectual in Modern Chinese History
 9781107021419, 1107021413

Table of contents :
Cover
Half-title
Title page
Copyright information
Dedication
Table of contents
List of figures and maps
Preface
Acknowledgments
List of abbreviations
Map of China
Introduction: for the public good
The birth of the long twentieth century
The map: ideological moments, social worlds, and enduring ideas
‘‘The intellectual’’ and Chinese thinkers and writers
Ideological moments
Worlds of intellectual life
Enduring ideas
Perspectives: how to tell the story
Perceptions: Chinese and anglophone scholarship
Chinese maps of modern Chinese intellectual history
Chinese intellectuals: the Goldman school and after
The disciplinary dispersal of Western studies of Chinese intellectuals
1 Reform: making China fit the world (1895-1915)
The ideological moment: reform
Words, ideas, and thought
Print capitalism: China's new public sphere
Challenges of the day
Liang Qichao's ‘‘people’’: educating the new citizen
Zhang Binglin discovers ‘‘Chinese’’ identity
Discovering democracy in the provinces: constitutions and business associations
From government service to business
Serving Christ and China
From medicine to literature
Enduring ideas around 1905
China in the 1910s
2 Revolution: awakening New China (1915-1935)
The ideological moment: revolution
Awakening China
Ding Wenjiang and China's revolution in science
Science and politics: Hu Shi's liberal revolution
Ding Ling (1904-1986): women's revolutions on the national scene
China's ‘‘other’’ intellectuals: local, everyday, rural, and ordinary
Liang Shuming's moral revolution
Enduring ideas in the 1920s
China in the 1930s
3 Rejuvenation: organizing China (1936-1956)
The ideological moment: building China
War and industrialization
China's propaganda states
Propaganda: the directed public sphere of the party-state
Intellectual cadres: servants of the propaganda state
The perils of state service: Hu Shi, Chen Bulei, and Wu Han
The intellectual cadre: Deng Tuo and Wang Shiwei
Western-trained scholars and patriotic returnees: Zhou Yiliang and Qian Xuesen
Enduring ideas in the 1940s
China in the 1950s
4 Revolutionary revival: overthrowing the lords of nation-building (1957-1976)
The ideological moment: making socialism work
Revolution to change your soul
The last gasp of Chinese liberalism: Luo Longji
Mobilizing the left: Zhang Chunqiao and Yao Wenyuan
Records of survival and loss: Yang Jiang and Yue Daiyun
Rumblings among the Red Guards: Li Yizhe and youth criticism
Rural and regional intellectuals
Enduring ideas, 1965
China in the 1970s
5 Reviving reform: correcting revolutionary errors (1976-1995)
The ideological moment: reforming the revolution
From Party revival to market socialism
Liu Binyan and Wang Ruoshui: reforming propaganda and theory
Fang Lizhi's science and democracy and Li Zehou's academic assault on orthodoxy
Students: from culture craze to Tiananmen 1989
Tiananmen 1989 and after: hope, repression, and a return to reform
The post-Tiananmen intellectual establishment
Enduring ideas, 1985
China in the 1990s
6 Rejuvenation: securing the Chinese Dream (1996-2015)
The ideological moment: the Chinese Dream and the perils of prosperity
The challenges of China’s prosperous age
China’s directed public sphere and the social media revolution
China’s directed public sphere
The sinophone sphere, and worrying about China
The many worlds of China’s intellectuals
The official world
The academic world
The commercial world
Associational worlds
Dissent
Establishment intellectuals: Cui Zhiyuan and the New Left Chongqing model
The academy and public intellectuals: Xu Jilin and the liberals
Voices from civil society: Chan Koonchung, New Confucians, and dissent
New Confucianism
Contemporary dissent
Enduring ideas, 2005
China in the 2010s
Conclusion: intellectuals, China, and the world
Intellectuals and China
China and the world
Who’s who (intellectuals featured in the main text)
Further reading
Useful textbooks
Chinese voices: translations from Chinese intellectuals and ordinary citizens
Recommended next reads
Useful websites
Bibliography
Index

Citation preview

The Intellectual in Modern Chinese History

This vivid narrative history of Chinese intellectuals and public life provides a guide to making sense of China today. Timothy Cheek presents a map and a method for understanding the intellectual in the long twentieth century, from China’s defeat in the Sino-Japanese War in 1895 to the “Prosperous China” since the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Cheek surveys the changing terrain of intellectual life over this transformative century in Chinese history to enable readers to understand a particular figure, idea, or debate. The map provides co-ordinates to track different times, different social worlds, and key concepts. The historical method focuses on context and communities during six periods to make sense of ideas, institutions, and individual thinkers across the century. Together they provide a memorable account of the scenes and protagonists, and arguments and ideas, of intellectuals and public life in modern China. timothy cheek is Louis Cha Chair in Chinese Research and Director of the Centre for Chinese Research at the Institute of Asian Research, and Professor in the Department of History at the University of British Columbia. His books include Living with Reform: China since 1989, Mao Zedong and China’s Revolutions and Propaganda and Culture in Mao’s China, as well as New Perspectives on State Socialism in China (edited with Tony Saich), The Secret Speeches of Chairman Mao (translated and edited with Roderick MacFarquhar and Eugene Wu), and China’s Establishment Intellectuals (edited with Carol Lee Hamrin), and China’s Intellectuals and the State (edited with Carol Hamrin and Merle Goldman). Most recently, he has edited A Critical Introduction to Mao (Cambridge University Press, 2010) and Vol. VIII of Mao’s Road to Power: Revolutionary Writings 1912–1949 (co-edited with Stuart R. Schram).

The Intellectual in Modern Chinese History Timothy Cheek University of British Columbia

University Printing House, Cambridge CB2 8BS, United Kingdom Cambridge University Press is part of the University of Cambridge. It furthers the University’s mission by disseminating knowledge in the pursuit of education, learning and research at the highest international levels of excellence. www.cambridge.org Information on this title: www.cambridge.org/9781107021419 © Timothy Cheek 2015 This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press. First published 2015 Printed in the United Kingdom by Clays, St Ives plc A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloguing in Publication data Cheek, Timothy. The intellectual in modern Chinese history / Timothy Cheek. pages cm Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-1-107-02141-9 (Hardback) – ISBN 978-1-107-64319-2 (Paperback) 1. China–Intellectual life–1949– 2. China–Intellectual life–20th century. I. Title. DS777.6.C44 2015 951.05–dc23 2015005492 ISBN 978-1-107-02141-9 Hardback ISBN 978-1-107-64319-2 Paperback Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this publication, and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.

For my father who taught me 天下為公

Contents

List of figures and maps Preface Acknowledgments List of abbreviations Introduction: for the public good

page ix xi xviii xx 1

1 Reform: making China fit the world (1895–1915) China in the 1910s

29 66

2 Revolution: awakening New China (1915–1935) China in the 1930s

70 108

3 Rejuvenation: organizing China (1936–1956) China in the 1950s

113 159

4 Revolutionary revival: overthrowing the lords of nation-building (1957–1976) China in the 1970s

163 214

5 Reviving reform: correcting revolutionary errors (1976–1995) China in the 1990s

217 259

6 Rejuvenation: securing the Chinese Dream (1996–2015) China in the 2010s

262 315

Conclusion: intellectuals, China, and the world

320

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Who’s who (intellectuals featured in the main text) Further reading Bibliography Index

332 338 340 365

Figures and maps

Map 1 Map of China (from A Critical Introduction to Mao, edited by Timothy Cheek) page xxi Fig. 1 Liang Qichao, as he appeared around 1901. Photo of Liang Qichao from Joshua Powers collection, Box 5, Envelope A, Hoover Institution Archives. Courtesy of Hoover Institution Library & Archives, Stanford University. 29 Fig. 2 Propaganda poster shortly after the May Thirtieth Movement, c.1930. China Disaster Aid Society calls for members—Chinese people are under the pressure of the militarists and imperialists. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Washington, DC. 70 Fig. 3 Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong, Chongqing, August 1945. By Jack Wilkes for Life magazine. Used with permission from Getty Images. 113 Fig. 4 “Study the revolutionary spirit of Daqing, hold high the great red banner of Mao Zedong Thought, struggle for the realization of the third Five Year Plan!” Revolutionary poster, 1966. Zhang Ruji, Fei Shengfu, and Lin Jie, Beijing, April 1966. From the Stefan R. Landsberger Collection, IISG BG E13/664. Courtesy of the International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam. 163 Fig. 5 Raising a banner which reads “Lift Martial Law and Protect the Capital.” Catherine Henriette, Beijing, May 1989. Used with permission from Getty Images. 217 Fig. 6 Chan Koonchung in a Beijing Starbucks. Photo by Sean Gallagher. Used with permission. 262

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China’s intellectuals are in the news today, but what do they tell us? Xu Zhiyong, a Beijing academic and social activist, was arrested in July 2013 for his work on the Open Constitution Initiative and efforts to mobilize the New Citizens’ Movement, and sentenced to four years in prison in 2014. Ai Weiwei, China’s most famous international artist today and pesky social critic, is under house arrest and unable to attend the opening of his own art shows in the West. Chen Guangcheng, a courageous local lawyer from Shandong, called “the barefoot lawyer” for his work on behalf of regular citizens, continues his asylum in the US after being hounded out of China. In December 2013 Tsultrim Gyatso, a Tibetan monk of Amchok Monastery in China’s Gansu province, set himself on fire to protest the ongoing crackdown by Chinese authorities in Tibet. Liu Xiaobo, the lead author of the democratic manifesto for China, “Charter 08,” and 2010 Nobel Peace Prize-winner, is currently languishing in jail in Beijing.1 A similar list could have been drawn in 2010 and most probably could be in 2020. The Chinese intellectuals we hear about are dissidents. Brave, idealistic, inspiring people. Surely, we tell ourselves, a government that persecutes such fine people cannot long endure. And yet the Chinese Communist Party is with us, decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the demise of the Soviet Union, and the turn to “democracy” in Eastern Europe. What’s the problem? The problem is us, or rather how we look at China’s intellectuals. China’s intellectuals serve as a bellwether for many of us, telling us

1

On Xu Zhiyong, see Chris Buckley, “Formal Arrest of Advocate Is Approved in China,” New York Times, August 23, 2013. On Ai Weiwei, see James Adams, “Ai Weiwei: The Artist Is Not Present,” Globe and Mail (Toronto), June 18, 2013. On Chen Guangcheng, see Pamela Constable, “Chinese Human Rights Activist Chen Guangcheng Joins Catholic University,” Washington Post, October 3, 2013; Thubten Samphel, “Self-Immolation/Tibet/ China,” Huffington Post, posted January 3, 2014, at www.huffingtonpost.com/thubtensamphel/self-immolation-tibet-china_b_4537565.html. Liu Xiaobo, No Enemies, No Hatred: Selected Essays and Poems, ed. Perry Link, Tienchi Martin-Liao, and Liu Xia (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012).

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how China is doing on reform and democratization, sounding out how much China has or has not become “like us.” We use these intellectuals as a mirror for our own concerns, hopes, and fears. Yet by focusing on dissidents and religious activists, we miss most of what China’s intellectuals are doing today and have done over the past century of dramatic change in Asia. How can we get past our habits and anxieties to see something more of what China’s industrious, talented, and dedicated intellectuals have been doing? How do we put down our largely unconscious Chinese mirror and pick up a telescope to peep at the range of intellectual participation in public life across this huge country and tumultuous century? This book provides a map and a method for understanding the intellectual in modern Chinese history by sketching a narrative of the public role of China’s intellectuals in the long twentieth century from China’s defeat in the Sino-Japanese War in 1895 to the “Prosperous China” since the 2008 Beijing Olympics. It maps the changing terrain of intellectual life over a century, so that the reader can “place” a particular figure, idea, or debate sensibly. The map provides co-ordinates to track different times, different social worlds, and key concepts. This book also demonstrates a method, the historical method, for making sense of ideas, stories, and examples from the past. The narrative is centered on a unifying theme: the self-appointed task and widely held social expectation of thinkers and writers in China to serve the public good. This came to be expressed, in various ways, as “serve the people.” Over the decades, what that service amounted to, who the people to be served were, and which educated people qualified to provide such service varied importantly. Yet intellectual service has been a central part of China’s modern history because China’s governments have been fully ideological regimes that have needed the services of an intellectual elite to devise, elaborate, implement, and police the ideological “software” of each regime. This was equally true of the last dynasty, the Qing, the Republican governments under Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-shek, and the People’s Republic under Mao and his successors. It continues to be the case in China today under leader Xi Jinping. It is an exciting story. Intellectuals’ participation in public life in modern China is a chronicle of idealism, bravery, foolishness and cunning, disaster and success. Throughout, China’s intellectuals played a central role in what happened. Comfortable intellectual elites threw themselves into dangerous social conflicts, and doughty provincial intellectuals forced their way onto the national scene. All along, China’s intellectuals dealt directly and perilously with political and military power. From the start, the reformers of 1898 got the ear of the emperor,

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only to suffer on the sword of the Empress Dowager; republican revolutionaries faced exile, the police, and assassination, and later danced a dangerous waltz with China’s militarists. From the 1920s, Bolshevik political parties dominated the public realm—first the Nationalist Party under Sun Yat-sen and then Chiang Kai-shek—and from the 1930s the Chinese Communist Party as contender, opponent, and then national victor. The decades of the new People’s Republic of China under Mao from 1949 were both utopian and dystopian, careening from liberation to torment, and the reforms of the post-Mao period in the past four decades have brought both stunning economic growth and new challenges of commercialism, professional norms, and the social perils of unemployment and pollution. In all these public trials, many Chinese intellectuals chose to participate as public commentators, critics, revolutionaries, or servants of the state. We learn some interesting things from this perspective. China’s modern intellectuals have been connected with the world but grounded in China. Neither the New Confucians espousing a Chinese theory for Chinese problems in the 1920s or in the persent, nor the Maoists of the 1960s or the New Leftists of today have been cut off from the world and the influence of the ideas, practices, and challenges of the West. Similarly, even the most cosmopolitan and radical of liberals, human rights activists, and Christian evangelists have been thoroughly grounded in China’s realities and focused on Chinese problems rather than trying to become like us. We learn that most Chinese intellectuals are not dissidents today, though they are certainly critical of their government and deeply worried about China’s future. Finally, we learn that China’s intellectuals are brilliantly inventive, at the forefront of synthesizing inherited traditions (now including Confucian, liberal, and socialist Chinese traditions) and foreign, or global, resources to help make life in China, and in the world, better. Rather than focusing on how democratic China’s intellectuals are, or how much they are like us or not, it is far more interesting to find out what they think they are doing, to see what they have come up with, and what might be of use to us as we confront problems in our societies. Not only have China and China’s intellectuals been connected to the wider world, but their experience over the century also offers a fresh perspective on the history of intellectuals around the world. Considering Chinese experience in this comparative perspective lays to rest claims of Chinese exceptionalism—and European or American exceptionalism, as well. Intellectuals across the world experienced the high tide of EuroAmerican imperialism at the end of the nineteenth century, the shock of the Great War of 1914, and the global economic depression in the 1930s.

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They lived through the age of extremes in the middle decades of the twentieth century, coping with National Socialism, state socialism, and American triumphalism. All responded to the collapse of the Soviet empire, 9/11, and the ongoing War on Terror, and embraced in varying ways the neoliberal global financial order at the start of the twenty-first century—only to face the challenge of the financial collapse of 2008 and global financial anxieties since then. As part of the world system, China has been a part of all these trends. Naturally, China’s experience is also distinct—as is that of every country and every economy from America to Angola and Britain to Bahrain. China’s intellectuals and their experience across the long twentieth century are thus not something exotic or exceptional, but rather a distinct response to local variations of global change. We will reflect on four key global changes: colonialism and its aftermath, revolution and the attraction of Leninism, state-led development, and post-socialist reform. The story of intellectuals and their public life in China is full of lessons for all intellectuals who aspire to bring truth to power, to fulfill the more noble goals of their own societies, and to serve the public good. This history, or any history, is not the same thing as the past: it is the stories we tell about the past. Such stories are shaped by the questions we ask and the assumptions that we bring to them. My questions are: first, what was it like for the people at the time? What was on their minds? What were the burning issues of the day? What were the contending answers to those challenges? Second, what shaped their world? How was it organized? What institutions and communities defined life? What was happening that they were responding to? Who was their audience? And third, who were some of the main actors? Who was famous? If they were not famous, why were they important? A clearer sense of the ideas, institutions, and individuals that shaped life in each time and place (ideological moment) will help us understand what people thought, said, and wrote about the events they experienced. The assumptions that drive these questions are three. First, ideas matter; the simple test of that is the social mobilization that revolutionaries achieved with ideas and the list of intellectual martyrs killed for their ideas under all of these regimes. Second, intellectual traditions are invented, which is to say, ideas and schools of thought from the past are reinterpreted, sometimes radically, by later generations. For example, we shall see that the overwhelming drive to serve the state that many claim was a Confucian tradition from past centuries was in many ways a twentiethcentury innovation. And third, foreign ideas can become Chinese over time, as we shall see in the competing twentieth-century traditions of political liberalism and Marxism–Leninism. Most essentially, the questions and

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assumptions of this book are driven by the working motto of my teacher, Philip Kuhn: thought is related to social experience. We can only make sense of what people say and mean by understanding where they lived and what they experienced, how they made sense of this and with whom they were talking. While such historical context as I can create will not be “the whole past” or “the only truth,” it is a scholarly attempt to re-create as fairly as possible past experience and meaning as a check on our natural human propensity to forget “what it was like” in a previous time and another place or to project our sense of the reasonable onto others. Emphatically, what you and I think makes sense was not necessarily the case in the past. Equally, what “democracy” meant to Liang Qichao in 1902 was not the same as what it meant to an ordinary Shanghai student in 1922 or to Mao in 1940 or to students on Tiananmen Square in 1989 or, indeed, to the Chinese government or its critics today. Bringing together some detail from the past and assessing and interpreting that detail according to the norms of professional historiography is the best way I know to learn from the past and to enrich (rather than simply to reinforce) our current understanding of the world. This history reflects a serious project: to move from working on China to working with Chinese. Both Chinese Marxists and Western postmodern scholars typically announce their ideological stand—the politics or purpose behind their work. This book reflects my politics and is inseparable from my scholarly generation. I was trained as a “China-centered” historian. This approach to the study of Chinese history has dominated Western academia since the 1970s and focuses on a thorough grounding in Chinese language, history, arts, and culture in order to understand China from Chinese perspectives. Scholarship, including China scholarship, has always been rooted in this search for understanding. However, as we look back on modern China studies in English and European languages over the past fifty years it becomes clear that our work was most valued by governments and the public as contributions to efforts to change China. Whether it was to Christianize, democratize, fully revolutionize, or simply to modernize China, government interest, research funding, and publishers’ encouragement focused on scholarship that would help change China. With the rise of China since the 1990s and the revival of academic scholarship in China itself, that mood has changed. Both social expectations and scholarly interest in Western countries are shifting interest to engage individual Chinese. The information in this book is offered as part of a general effort among many Western scholars of China today to prepare ourselves to work with Chinese colleagues in various walks of life, most often in our own area

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of research or professional work. Our own ideological moment has shifted from a world centered in the West to a multimodal or multicentered world where we must work together to address shared problems. To do that we need sound information about each other, where we have come from and what is on our minds. A good history can help. I use three tools to organize this history of intellectuals in modern China: ideological moments, worlds of intellectual life, and enduring ideas. Six ideological moments across the years from 1895 to 2015 serve as a way to organize distinct contexts. Each ideological moment is shaped by a guiding challenge, the question of the day. Naturally, in a polity the size of China (bigger than the United States or the European Union), more than one ideological moment lives among different populations. Yet in different decades one or another ideological moment certainly appears to have held center stage in Chinese public life. Additionally, each ideological moment reflects a basic orientation or mood—reform, revolution, or rejuvenation. While we can identify all three at any given time, one mood shaped intellectual participation in each moment in modern Chinese history. In the context of specific times and places we can see both the dominant or major ideological mood and the contrary or immanent role of alternative ideological orientations at the same time. What is needed, what makes sense, what constitutes service to the people, all changes with the change in ideological moment. It also varies across different worlds of intellectual life: the communities in which individual actors live, whose interests and concerns they reflect, and to whom they primarily speak even when using the language of the nation or “the public.” The worlds of the examination elite in the Qing, the urban professionals of the Republic, the intellectual cadres of Mao’s time, and the university professors in China today are significantly different, as are the worlds of provincial elites, the urban publics of middle-class and prosperous workers, and the worlds of local communities in China’s diverse rural areas. Across all, the experiences of women have varied greatly from those of men, and woman intellectuals have addressed this. Within and across these social worlds we shall note four varieties of public participation, or roles, in particular: ordering society (government service), educating society (public commentary), criticizing society (dissent), and mobilizing society (active organizing or opposition). Finally, we look at enduring ideas. Not all was changing context and social difference. Modern China’s intellectuals have continued to worry about three fundamental aspects of public life: the role of the people, the meaning of being Chinese, and how to make democracy work. These enduring ideas return in each generation and ideological moment, sometimes with significantly different content or sometimes simply expressed

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in different words, but across the twentieth century, China’s intellectuals worried about awakening or guiding the people, what it means to be Chinese and modern, and what sort of “people’s rule” is right for China. For example, who counts as “the people” to be mobilized has changed over the century—male, female, Han nationality or minority, urban, rural, proletarian, or all classes. Of course, these are not the only enduring ideas or important terms, but these are so central across the century that they can help us see what has endured, or developed, as well as to appreciate all the social diversity and different historical contexts. Each chapter in the story begins with a snapshot, reflecting the ideological moment, in which we can see something of the living world of intellectual service. This is followed by “Voices,” short extracts of original writings by a few Chinese intellectuals from that time to give a feel for the issues of the day. The body of the chapter describes the ideological moment and explores the writings and lives of representative intellectuals in that moment. Each chapter ends with a return to the three enduring ideas as they have evolved by that time. The goal is to put a memorable face on each ideological moment in terms of scene and protagonists, arguments and ideas; not to be encyclopedic but to provide an orienting map of the changing worlds and ideas of public life in China’s long twentieth century. This book offers to the general reader a narrative history of the efforts by intellectuals in China to contribute to their society over the twentieth century, what they thought they were doing and how it worked out. For the historian, it offers a methodological essay on the role of narrative with examples, testing what happens to a historical narrative when a frame, the focus on ideological moments, breaks the development of an easy plot or metanarrative. For the comparative scholar, this story of China’s intellectuals is cast in a fashion to encourage comparison and contrast with the experiences of intellectuals in Europe, North America, and the countries of the global South. For the China specialist, I hope to offer some challenging interpretations of familiar figures and useful information about those parts of modern Chinese intellectual history with which they are less familiar.

Acknowledgments

This project is the summation of what I have learned in a professional lifetime. It has taken community and conversations and an astonishing five years since the writing began in earnest. I am indebted to my teachers, both formal and informal, over the years. Most of them are among the many scholars cited in the notes and bibliography. I especially thank my research students for what they have taught me that has shaped this book: the significance of the nexus of environment, ethnicity, and locality for intellectual work from Jack Hayes; the shape of sinophone debates from Yu Zhansui; new perspectives on ideological remolding in Maoism from Wang Ning; the formative power of gender in intellectual life from Huang Xin; the active role of overseas Chinese in the Chinese revolution across the century from Anna Belogurova; the ongoing salience of religion in intellectual and political life from Wang Xian; the resilience of Maoism from Matt Galway; the wonders of the New Sociology of Ideas from François Lachapelle; the significance of pan-Asianism from Craig Smith; and that anarchism still lives from Morgan Rocks. This work is also shaped by my own current communities, my worlds of intellectual life. I am nothing short of blessed by these friends. Josh Fogel and David Ownby lead a project with me on the use of historical thinking in public debates in China today. The Levenson group, a true traveling symposium in which we have tested our thinking about Chinese history, is my sounding board and inspiration: Geremie Barmé, Gloria Davies, Madeline Yue Dong, Mark Elliot, and Wen-hsin Yeh. The China History Cluster has provided a supportive scholarly community at UBC and a tough reading of a draft chapter that gave me important feedback at a critical juncture in writing this book. A two-decade-long relationship with Xu Jilin and colleagues at East China Normal University, Shanghai, has shaped my thinking on Chinese intellectuals. My intellectual world is limned by decades of debate with my far-flung comrades, each of whom has shaped parts of this book: Harry Barber, Tim Brook, Paul Evans, John Friedmann, David Kelly, Pitman Potter, xviii

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Jim Spear, and James Wilkerson. Jim Williams, polymath sinologist, environmental scientist, and engineer is my comrade from my start of Chinese studies and I owe him special thanks in addition for explaining the wondrous mysteries of outlining a chapter on a sheet of butcher block paper. It broke a terrible writing block. My thanks to the reviewers for Cambridge for their detailed and helpful suggestions, most especially from the non-sinologist. I am especially indebted to six colleagues who gave careful critiques of individual chapters (1–6, in order): Josh Fogel, Charles Hayford, Matthew Johnson, Jeremy Brown, Joseph Fewsmith, and Gloria Davies. Thanks to Ling Shiao and colleagues at Southern Methodist University for inviting me to give the Stanton Sharpe lecture in 2013 where I profiled the themes of the book and benefited from a workshop critique of the project. Funding for the research and writing time that went into this book comes from the Social Science Research Council of Canada; the Institute of Asian Research, UBC; and the Faculty of Arts, UBC. Special thanks to Jim Spear and Tang Liang for use of Grandma’s House at Mutianyu outside Beijing and facilitating this project at an early stage, including our workshop on “Intellectuals and the Countryside” in 2010. My family made this work possible. Alison was always sure it could be done, Bronwen kept me healthy, Song Jin kept me going, and Tessa taught me writing spirit. I am grateful to colleagues at Cambridge for helping me make this book possible: Marigold Acland for taking it on, Lucy Rhymer for seeing it to fruition, Rosalyn Scott and Amanda George for inspired editorial guidance, Beata Mako for superior production work, and John Gaunt, for excellent copyediting. Once again I am indebted to Nancy Hearst in the Fairbank Center Collection of Harvard’s Fung Library for final proofreading above and beyond the call of duty. My thanks to Jenna Dur for finding and securing permissions for the photos. This knowledge comes from generations of scholars but the faults in this book remain my own.

Abbreviations

CASS CCP CPPCC GMD NPC PLA PRC YMCA YWCA

xx

Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Chinese Communist Party Chinese People’s Political Consultative Congress Guomindang (Kuomintang), the Chinese Nationalist Party National People’s Congress People’s Liberation Army People’s Republic of China Young Men’s Christian Association Young Women’s Christian Association

Map of China

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Map of China

Map 1: Map of China (from A Critical Introduction to Mao edited by Timothy Cheek)

Map of China

Map 1: (cont.)

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Introduction For the public good

“Serve the People!” This clarion call from Mao Zedong is one of the signature phrases from the Chinese revolution, and particularly the phase of it led by the Chinese Communist Party. But the phrase did not originate with Mao. The sentiment in its modern form pre-dates Communist ascendancy by at least half a century and animates intellectual life in China today. Mao’s call, in fact, is but a particular version of the intellectual vocation to serve the public good that is captured in the classical question weigong ruhe 為公如何 (how best to serve the public good). The Chinese thinkers and writers we follow in this book all sought to serve the public good (gong), albeit according to their own lights. Nonetheless, the phrase “serve the people” captures the ambiguities and changes that have characterized intellectual public service since 1895. The meaning of “service,” “the people,” and the implied actor— who is qualified to provide this service to the people—changed significantly over the century. The birth of the long twentieth century The “long century” from 1895 to the 2010s has confronted China’s thinkers and writers with unprecedented disasters and existential threats that became increasingly personal. China in 1890 was not a country, it was an empire, the Qing empire, ruled by non-Chinese Manchus but experienced as Chinese civilization (known as Tianxia, “All under Heaven”). This all came crashing down between the Qing’s defeat in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894–5 and the actual fall of the dynasty by 1912 and its replacement by a modern-style republic. This profound political change shaped China’s long twentieth century, making it a nationalist century. The Qing empire had perforce become China, the nation-state. For all the changes recounted in the pages to follow, one shared concern animated the range of intellectual activities we shall encounter. It was to identify, preserve, and perfect this new thing— China: nation-state, society, and personal identity. 1

2

Introduction: for the public good

China’s educated elites in the closing years of the Qing Dynasty were scholars: a few scholar-officials serving the state as its privileged administrators and most serving as lettered local elites enjoying life as prosperous landlords and local notables respected in their communities and legally immune from corvée labor and corporal punishment. They studied the Confucian classics in order to pass the state examinations that would certify their elite status. They were generally called shi, which amounted to “scholars.” Thus the world of China’s educated elites was one of explicit moral cultivation, expectations of cultural and ethical leadership in their communities, and the aspiration to public service as government officials. This was the mandarinate that bedazzled early Western sojourners. By 1800 this had been the model intellectual life for some two millennia of otherwise eventful and dynamic history. China then was at the peak of its wealth and power, conquering new territories in inner Asia, supporting massive population growth, and selling its products to the whole world for cash on the nail (silver bullion).1 It was also a society in peril from internal forces, most notably the inability of the conservative government to keep up with the massive population growth—the population more or less tripled in the century before 1800, but the government neither increased its revenues nor expanded its services in infrastructural care of dikes and canals or keeping the peace.2 What is key for our story is that for the generation of 1895— that is, scholars of around at least twenty years of age in that year—their identity, their history, and their social memory through their fathers and grandfathers reached back to these glory days of the early nineteenth century when China really was the center of the world, when Confucianism was the international ideology of record (across East Asia), and where—like Lord MacCartney’s mission to Beijing in 1793—one either conformed to China’s ways or was shown the door. In fact, things had not been going so well since at least the 1820s, with the progressive immiseration of the lower classes from the previous fifty years finally exploding into revolts and rebellions in several parts of the empire.3 1 2

3

William T. Rowe, China’s Last Empire: The Great Qing (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009). The most vivid evocation of these internal developments and strains is given in Philip Kuhn’s Soulstealers: The Chinese Sorcery Scare of 1768 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990); and its implications for Chinese statecraft are covered in his Origins of the Modern Chinese State (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2003). There are several fine survey histories of modern China. Still my favorite is Jonathan D. Spence, In Search of Modern China (New York: W.W. Norton, 1999); also John King Fairbank and Merle Goldman, China: A New History, 2nd edn. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006); and R. Keith Schoppa, Revolution and Its Past: Identities and Change in Modern Chinese History, 3rd edn. (New York: Prentice-Hall, 2011).

The birth of the long twentieth century

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Arguably, Chinese elites may have been able to deal with these domestic challenges, perhaps through the traditional mechanism of dynastic change. However, at this inopportune moment Western powers returned with a determination and the power to force themselves into Chinese society, and this clash changed everything. Western merchants had hit upon a solution to their problem—that at that time Europe had nothing marketable to export to China other than silver— by promoting the use and purchase of opium. The British turned around the terms of trade between 1800 and 1840 by selling opium from their Bengal colonies to Chinese buyers. The ensuing series of wars with China and resulting “unequal treaties” gave the British a presence in major Chinese cities in privileged treaty ports. These perquisites were soon extended to other foreign merchants and diplomatic personnel, and critically also to Christian missionaries. Together, they brought an unprecedented comprehensive challenge to the Chinese polity. This commercial and cultural challenge was backed up by Europe’s new military power. China had always been connected to the world through trade, and foreign merchants—generally Central Asians but also Muslims from Southeast Asia—had long been present in some Chinese cities. China had also embraced foreign faiths, most particularly Buddhism, which arrived from India in the early centuries of the current era. And China had been invaded by foreign military forces, and, indeed, conquered. After all, the Qing Dynasty itself was not Chinese; it was Manchu. But earlier religious influxes had either been relatively small (as in the case of Nestorian Christian, Jewish, or Muslim) or, in the case of Buddhism, which was a major cultural challenge in the medieval period, did not come with an army. Equally, military invasion had not brought alternative political or cultural models that challenged the Chinese Confucian pattern. The Mongols had conquered China in the thirteenth century and the Manchus had done so in the seventeenth century, but both invaders became Chinese dynasties in the sense of adopting the already existing Confucian emperorship, the study of Confucian classics, and, of course, the use of the Chinese language in most official and all public statecraft. By the 1880s the triple punch of Western treaty port economics and technological prowess, military presence and meddling in local politics, and Christian missionaries and their cultural challenge, on top of major domestic rebellions, began to take its toll. Urban Chinese began to read the new Chinese-language newspapers, modeled on the European example, to supplement their long-standing networks of bookshops and personal contacts among the scholar elite. And the news for this particular public, the world of intellectual life among what

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we would call leading intellectuals, was disheartening. The Qing Dynasty was repeatedly humiliated either by failing to respond to depredations and perceived insults by foreign powers or by losing badly when it attempted to use force to resist further inroads. A sense of crisis emerged in these circles. The responses, naturally enough, drew primarily from the traditional resources of Confucian statecraft theory. Despite the picture given by Western merchants and diplomats at the time, and repeated too often in scholarly studies until recently, the “tradition” from which China’s leaders and intellectuals drew was neither moribund nor uniform. Chinese statecraft in the nineteenth century had a dynamic history with many practical successes and contained the contentious variety we would expect of any developed political tradition.4 Drawing from Chinese statecraft, leaders devised what became known as the Tongzhi Restoration in the 1860s and 1870s. They sought to adapt the best of Western technology, particularly armaments, to the service and preservation of their Confucian dynasty. Some scholars proposed reactionary solutions—a sort of Confucian version of fundamentalism and family values and “just say no” to all modern innovations brought by the foreigners. Other scholars drew from the practical traditions of “realistic statecraft” (jingshi) to adapt selected bits of Western models and techniques to strengthen the economy as well as the state. Finally, some—most famously represented by Kang Youwei beginning in the 1880s—found Confucian precedents for radical change to save China. Modern China was born in the three decades of political reform and innovation from the 1860s to the 1890s. This new world was increasingly shaped by the social changes that modern technology brought from the West (such as steam engines in boats and trains, newspapers, and telegraphic communications) and the model of “modern life” presented by Europeans in treaty port society from Shanghai to Guangzhou to Tianjin. This was the context that shaped the response of China’s thinkers and writers to the twin challenges of domestic unrest (particularly the dire consequences of the major mid-century civil war, the Taiping Rebellion) and foreign intrusion. We will enter that world in Chapter 1, but how can we make sense of the turbulent history of the twentieth century and the role of China’s intellectuals in it?

4

See particularly the first section in Kuhn, Origins of the Modern Chinese State.

The map: moments, worlds, and ideas

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The map: ideological moments, social worlds, and enduring ideas We can sharpen our understanding of the intellectual in modern Chinese history through three lenses to bring the activity of intellectuals into focus: ideological moments, worlds of intellectual life, and enduring ideas. This includes making sense of what happens to ideas when they cross cultural or discursive divides through a set of examples of how people have dealt with challenging foreign ideas, both to understand the experience of Chinese intellectuals over the recent century and to make their example available for us today, as we, too, must engage challenging foreign ideas and find compelling local solutions. “The intellectual” and Chinese thinkers and writers The definition of intellectuals and the public appraisal of intellectuals has varied over time. Nonetheless, we shall have to be clear about what we mean by “intellectual.” In short, “intellectual” is our word, a modern word that only imperfectly fits as a description of Chinese thinkers and writers over the century, but it is in such common use in Englishlanguage studies of China that it would be more confusing to change to another term. It is enough to remember that “the intellectual” is a general marker that points to quite different kinds of thinker and writer whom we meet in this story. The key word is zhishifenzi (知识分子), an imported term most agree draws from the Russian word “intelligentsia.” The dictionary definition for zhishifenzi, given in a recent Chinese dictionary, is “educated person; intellectual; the intelligentsia.”5 The social use of zhishifenzi is more important than a dictionary entry. Most scholars writing outside China agree with something close to the formulation offered by He Baogang in his English-language review of Chinese ideas of the intellectual: “An intellectual is one who commands knowledge and cultural symbols and who is able to use reason to go beyond the restrictions of his or her family, class, and locality.” To that generic offering, He Baogang adds that the Chinese intellectual “has a mission to defend and develop the dao.”6 The dao, originally the 5 6

Xin shidai Han-Ying da cidian (Shanghai: Commercial Press, 2000), p. 1988. He Baogang, “Chinese Intellectuals Facing the Challenges of the New Century,” in Edward Gu and Merle Goldman, eds., Chinese Intellectuals between State and Market (London: Routledge, 2004), p. 263. He Baogang (who has taught in Australia and now Singapore) gives a thoughtful review drawing on major theorists from Weber to Bourdieu. This general definition with Chinese additions pretty much parallels the definition (based on Shils’s entry in David L. Sills, ed., International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences

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Confucian Way in earlier Chinese thought, refers to a contemporary Chinese conception of civilized governance. He Baogang cites Wang Yuanhua, a noted post-Mao Chinese intellectual, for a contemporary expression of Confucian courage: “The life of theory lies in courage and sincerity; theory does not bow to power or flatter anybody.”7 Scholars in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) writing in Chinese attend to this question in a similar fashion. Zhu Yong, in the preface to What Should Intellectuals Do?, gives an account to which most of his colleagues in Beijing would subscribe: Intellectuals in the modern sense only made their appearance in China recently, following the eastward flow of Western learning, the opening of China, the entry of Western scholarly disciplines, and the abandonment of the imperial exams, all of which began the transformation of the traditional knowledge community of the shi [scholar].8

Actual intellectuals begin with the May Fourth period in the 1910s, although, Zhu Yong notes, Lu Xun used the title “On the Knowledge Class” (Guanyu zhishi jieji) for an essay in 1927, so apparently the formulation “intellectual” (zhishifenzi) was not common even then. Zhu concludes that intellectuals are distinct from traditional shi, or Confucian scholar elites, while nonetheless maintaining “thousands of connections” with shi traditions. This heritage, Zhu states, defines the specific character and fate of China’s intellectuals. The figures we will meet in the first chapter were not, strictly speaking, intellectuals in this modern sense. They were scholar-officials in the Qing Dynasty, student aspirants, or local notables. The concept or social role and identity of an intellectual, as well as the term itself, did not come into common usage until the mid-1920s. We will trace the specific identities of China’s thinkers and writers across the century—from scholarofficials, to independent intellectuals, to intellectual cadres, to professors

7

8

(New York: Macmillan, 1968)) that Hamrin and Cheek adopt in China’s Establishment Intellectuals (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1986), p. 4. He Baogang, “Chinese Intellectuals Facing the Challenges of the New Century,” citing in Merle Goldman, Sowing the Seeds of Democracy: Political Reform in the Deng Xiaoping Era (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995), p. 285. Wang Yuanhua is a noted senior scholar in China whose return to an interest in Confucian values has prompted criticism of his turning his back on May Fourth enlightenment ideals. Xu Jilin defends Wang Yuanhua’s project as “another kind of enlightenment” in Xu Jilin, Ling yizhong qimeng (Another Kind of Enlightenment) (Guangzhou: Huacheng chubanshe, 1999), pp. 325–8. Zhu Yong, “Xu” (Preface), in Zhu Yong, Zhishifenzi yinggai gan shenme? (What Should Intellectuals Do?) (Beijing: Shishi chubanshe, 1999), pp. 1–2; the entire preface, pp. 1–6, is a meditation on definitional questions. Zhu Yong is an essayist on intellectual and cultural topics and an editor at Current Affairs Press, Beijing.

The map: moments, worlds, and ideas

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and experts. The common term “intellectual” will have to serve as a general marker for these varied identities and roles. Ideological moments An ideological moment captures the intellectual world of a time and place, including the key issue of the day, the cultural order, the language of debate, the competing solutions, and the notable speakers and actors. Ideological moments are shaped by the dominant questions that engage a generation. Ideological moments are the intellectuals’ experience of historical context that shapes the questions of the day—created from inherited problems and tools, the facts of geography and economy, and contingent events. In intellectual history we often define “communities of discourse,” and we could say “publics,” by the questions they share. Republicans and Democrats in the United States are in the same community of political discourse since they share the same questions—how to govern America through the current Constitution—and only differ on the answers. To look to the changing “question of the day” will help us walk through the long twentieth century from 1895 to 2015 in a way that helps us make sense of the experience of China’s intellectuals. This book is organized around six ideological moments and these roughly correspond with different generations of Chinese intellectuals. While each ideological moment is, of course, unique, three key orientations or intellectual moods have characterized ideological moments in modern Chinese history and thus have shaped the world in which each generation of Chinese intellectuals has sought to serve the people: reform, revolution, and rejuvenation. While every ideological moment has examples of all three, generally one intellectual mood dominated. Reform is an ideological moment when incumbents of a troubled system seek fundamental renewal by considering far-reaching and controversial change. In the late Qing (1890s) this involved importing alien political ideas and institutions, such as liberal constitutional political forms first as a constitutional monarchy and then as a republic, and in the 1970s and 1980s this involved a fundamental rethinking of state socialism and Cold War politics. Revolution seeks to overthrow one system and put in place a new and radically different one. In the 1910s and 1920s this involved a fundamental critique of Confucian family and political values, a search for new political ideologies, and finally an embrace of Bolshevism. In the late 1950s and 1960s revolution involved rebelling against the hierarchies of state socialism and seeking to find the ideal community based on collective labor and pure thought under Chairman Mao. Rejuvenation (which includes nation-building) seeks to strengthen the administration

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of the state and make coherent the social life and public culture of a system. It has been the enduring project of twentieth-century China and was the dominant ideological moment at mid-century and at its end. Between 1928 and 1955, rejuvenation, under first the Nationalists and then the Communists, competed with revolution as the core issue on the minds of leaders and intellectuals. The nation was the solution that revolution came up with. Indeed, most of the institutions of the new People’s Republic—from the Leninist political order to state-owned industry and the organization of labor around the “work unit”—were initiated under the Nationalists’ wartime economy in the 1940s. Rejuvenation has returned since the 1990s to supplant the reform efforts of the 1980s. Today, the Chinese state is more powerful than it has ever been, though the challenges of environmental sustainability, economic justice, and regional security are immense. Ideological moments are not the same as generations in the usual sense. In each ideological moment—whether in 1905, 1925, 1945, 1965, 1985, or 2005—there were new entrants to the public arena as well as older actors who had been active in one or more earlier ideological moments. For example, Liang Qichao was a new entrant in the first ideological moment in our story and was at the peak of his influence as a reformer around 1905, but by 1925 he was considered something of a reactionary conservative and his newer writings were not as widely influential. Later, Wang Ruoshui was a devoted Maoist and radical theorist in the 1960s. Wang was not so influential at that time but he was representative of a radical new generation who found their futures in a sort of faith Maoism. By 1985, however, Wang was a repentant radical and confirmed reformer criticizing most of what he had earlier believed. Wang’s writings on “socialist humanism” in the 1980s are his most influential and amongst the most important developments in the history of Chinese socialism. We cannot detail every change of generations or the experience of every intellectual over the various ideological moments, but we will meet enough examples to get the picture. China’s changing public sphere The dominant questions of the day set the agenda for intellectuals, but the nature of the public sphere shaped intellectual expression and participation in public life. Over the course of China’s long twentieth century we will see three distinct forms of the public sphere in which China’s intellectuals operated. At the beginning of the century, print capitalism of newspapers and magazines published by commercial companies helped redefine public debate in China. In combination with the power of the foreign treaty ports (which protected residents in parts of Shanghai and other major cities from Chinese censorship),

The map: moments, worlds, and ideas

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these non-state, private media outlets provided a huge new public space for China’s intellectuals in which to speak. Alongside the very successful commercial newspapers like Shenbao and Shibao, intellectuals also published small print runs of specialized and short-lived radical periodicals. These were able to exist because of the norms of free circulation of print capitalism aided and abetted by foreign powers in China. The next development was the propaganda state envisioned by Sun Yat-sen in the 1920s, fitfully applied by the Nationalist government under Chiang Kai-shek from 1928 until its move to Taiwan in 1949 and fully realized by the Chinese Communist Party, first under its administration in Yan’an and North China from the late 1930s and then nationwide in the new People’s Republic of China from 1949. In the propaganda state all forms of public communication are controlled by the party-state in a “directed public sphere” that seeks to make all public life conform to the norms of its ideology. This is what Westerners know as “totalitarianism.” Chinese proponents, on the other hand, saw themselves as implementing the pedagogical state envisioned by Sun Yat-sen. The propagandists were intent on “teaching the people to be free.” Thus “propaganda state” better captures the complex mix of idealism and compulsion that animated the leaders and many of the participants of China’s “directed public sphere” since the 1930s. The propaganda state was only fully realized under Mao and for most Chinese between 1949 and Mao’s death in 1976. In the post-Mao period the CCP has loosened its control over the public sphere considerably. But this has been a change in tactics and not in strategy. The goal remains the same: for the party-state to direct or now to manage public life to move society toward its ideological goals. Since the 1990s this relative latitude has combined with a resurgence of a print capitalism without full legal protections and with a key technological innovation in communication—the Internet. Together these have produced a directed public sphere in China today characterized by a social media revolution. China’s social media have changed public discourse by bringing in the voices of ordinary Chinese and putting them in contact with each other with an ease and efficiency never seen before (as is also the case for other countries). At the same time, it has extended the reach of China’s central and local state through e-governance offerings, subtle propaganda, and pervasive monitoring and censoring of Internet communication. China’s citizens can organize street marches, as well as chess clubs, over social media, and China’s intellectuals have infinitely more outlets through which to express themselves—in fact, too many for people to read. China’s netizens can surf the world, as well, though their main interest is China and their main language is Chinese. These social

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media, however, are not fully free. They are managed in the ongoing directed public sphere of China’s reformed party-state.

Worlds of intellectual life Ideological moments—expressed through whatever sort of public sphere —are typically experienced inside worlds of intellectual life. These are what Thomas Bender identifies as the “cultures of intellectual life” that shape intellectual work: Men and women of ideas work within a social matrix that constitutes an audience or public for them. Within this context they seek legitimacy and are supplied with collective concepts, the vocabulary of motives, and the key questions that give shape to their work. These communities of discourse, which I am here calling cultures of intellectual life, are historically constructed and held together by mutual attachment to a cluster of shared meanings and intellectual purposes. They socialize the life of the mind and give institutional force to the paradigms that guide the creative intellect.9

These communities, or what I will also call worlds of intellectual life, exist within the broader sinophone universe defined by those reading and writing in Chinese and addressing themselves to issues and problems inside China (whether from Beijing or Vancouver, Guangzhou or Penang). Language and the life orientation of Chinese-speakers divides them from European/American intellectual worlds, but the life experiences among different social groups inside China subdivide the sinophone universe meaningfully across time (ideological moments) and space (regional differences; class, gender, and cultural/ethnic and other differences created from social life).10 There are any number of worlds of intellectual life, from as large as the circulation of Chinese newspapers to as small as the members of a religious sect. Our purpose is not to provide a taxonomy, for there is certainly more than one way to name these worlds, but it is to remember the range of intellectual worlds within China without confusing ourselves. So we will start with three: metropolitan elite, those well-known 9

10

Thomas Bender, Intellect and Public Life: Essays on the Social History of Academic Intellectuals in the United States (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993), pp. 3–4, emphasis in the original. Gloria Davies explores the sinophone universe particularly inside China in Worrying About China: The Language of Chinese Critical Inquiry (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007); and I briefly map out the worlds within this universe—inside and outside China—in “China’s Intellectuals and the World,” in Lionel Jensen and Timothy Weston, eds., China in and beyond the Headlines (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2012).

The map: moments, worlds, and ideas

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intellectuals active on the national scene; provincial elite, intellectuals influential in their province or region; and nonelite, or local intellectuals with the skills, interests, and activities clearly representative of the everyday lives of most of China’s thinkers and writers but not widely influential. Keeping these three levels or domains of activity in mind helps us not to confuse famous intellectuals like Liang Qichao, Lu Xun, or Fang Lizhi with most Chinese intellectuals, even though their work influenced many millions. Across these three worlds of intellectual life shaped by power and position coexist at least three worlds defined by social experience. First, popular culture and voices from literate nonintellectuals (movies, popular novels, the tabloid press, the mental life of a village, and any voices from the land). Second, women’s worlds, reflecting the segmented world of female life—the family revolution, “modernizing” women of the commercial classes, economically active women of the working classes, and “female intellectuals,” such as the writer Ding Ling’s characters Miss Sophie and Meilin. And finally, worlds of affinity, including minorities in both the ethnic sense, such as Manchu, Mongol, Tibetan, Hui (Chinese Muslim), and Jewish, and the sub-ethnic sense, such as Yue (Cantonese), Min (Hokkien/Fujianese), Shu (Sichuanese), etc., and by a person’s self-chosen identity: Buddhist, religious Confucian, and Christian. These cross-cutting worlds of experience can be found at the metropolitan, provincial, and local levels. Another way to look at how worlds of intellectual life are shaped is in terms of institutions. Institutions both enable public activity and constrain the range of that activity. Contemporary social sciences view institutions quite broadly, including bricks and mortar organizations but also cultural pathways and personal identities. Bender, in the quotation above, gives us a structural map of the institutions of intellectual participation in public life. When Bender talks of the “social matrix that constitutes an audience or public,” we can identify social institutions; for the “shared meanings” that help hold each world together we can see intellectual identity; and for “intellectual purposes” that likewise serve such worlds we will see the social roles of intellectuals. Social institutions have organized certified knowledge and licensed practitioners in China. The identity of the educated elite, including their sense of self, their group élan, and their professed public mission, has been shaped by those institutions. Finally, their social roles reflect what these educated folk have in fact done in Chinese society and how others view them. These terms may seem abstract but they allow us to trace the relationship between China’s educated elite and public institutions of knowledge over the twentieth century—across a sea of changes in names and functions—and to see

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how the current relationship between intellectuals and public life was created and developed. This will give some sense of the parameters that shape intellectuals and public life in China and their future development. Over the course of the twentieth century, one theme in the public life of intellectuals stands out: professionalization. Western models of modern professions began to appear from the 1910s in medical associations, public-health boards, efforts by journalists to organize, a growing sense of the professoriate in academia, and even chambers of commerce. Professionalization is the core of our sense of modern life; a historical review not only helps show the novelty of professions and professionalism in the Chinese context, but also will show potential limits of and alternatives to professionalization. Enduring ideas We will look at some key ideas across the century, even as we give prominence to the different ideological moments and worlds of intellectual life. We shall be able to see both the continuities and the variations of some important ways to think about public life in China. We will follow three ideas in particular: “the people,” “Chinese,” and “democracy.” These three ideas have been central to intellectual discussions and debates about the public good from Liang Qichao’s time in the late Qing to today’s scholars and activists who try to define the “Chinese Dream.” Each chapter will take the time to consider each of these three ideas in its ideological moment, offering a thread across the century and through the book. Contexts will vary; the question of the day will change; the roster of speakers will change; the words used will shift, recede, and return to prominence only to be replaced by a novel term; and the implications for social and political order will change – but the project, the purpose and the goal of these conversations, contestations, and declarations, will not change: how to serve the public good, here, now, in this sort of China. Philosophers and political theorists are quite careful about words, ideas, and concepts. Words are lexical items in our dictionaries and are recognized by the people with whom we want to communicate. Ideas are meanings that make sense to us but can be expressed in more than one way, in more than one word or set of words. Concepts are the underlying categories of thought that give shape to ideas that then find expression in a set of words.11 We need to be aware of the distinctions, but can settle on “enduring ideas” as ideas that function as concepts that 11

Raymond Williams’s classic study, Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983) has been updated in Tony Bennett,

The map: moments, worlds, and ideas

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give shape to political thought and expression, even when different words are used to express them and when their range of meanings shifts. Enduring ideas are the concerns and categories of thought that carry on over changing ideological moments across the century and can communicate across different social worlds. Everyone had an idea about who “the people” were at any given time, the same for “Chinese” and “democracy.” But there were significantly different understandings of these core ideas. Enduring ideas bring to mind Benjamin Schwartz’s discussion of problématique in Chinese intellectual history, enduring issues to which thinkers and writers over the generations have felt compelled to return.12 Yet enduring ideas are more specific, as they suggest the shape or range of available answers to the questions of a problématique. Enduring ideas also bring to mind concepts in the work of conceptual history or Begriffsgeschichte. Reinhart Koselleck says a concept is an idea that is both powerful enough in a certain discourse to direct thought and ambiguous enough to hold within it a range of meanings.13 Koselleck’s contribution to our understanding of enduring ideas is to remember that as concepts they are distinct from specific words. The same enduring idea or concept, we shall see, can be expressed through more than one word, and similarly a particular word may come to mean different things in different contexts. We will confuse ourselves and misunderstand our subjects if we think a given word—say “democracy,” or in Chinese minzhu (民主)—always meant exactly the same thing, but we will see that it has endured as an important, if contested, idea across the century. For example, as an enduring idea, “the people” is an answer to the problématique “who should drive this political order?” “The people” is both more specific and different from the dominant Chinese answers offered before the 1890s. Serving the people’s basic interests was a longstanding tenet of Confucian statecraft, but the people were considered

12 13

Lawrence Grossberg, and Meaghan Morris, eds., New Keywords: A Revised Vocabulary of Culture and Society (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2005). Benjamin Schwartz, The World of Thought in Ancient China (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985). Reinhart Koselleck, “Begriffsgeschichte and Social History,” in Koselleck, Futures Past: On the Semantics of Historical Time (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1985), pp. 73–91, esp. p. 74. One example is of “democracy” in its European formulation, which carries a Greek definition of the constitution of a polis to the rules of eighteenth-century European states, to the expectations of industrialized society—all different meanings but related and able to encompass persistence, change, and novelty within its meaning (pp. 82 ff.). An excellent review and assessment of German “history of concepts” is provided in Melvin Richter, The History of Political and Social Concepts: A Critical Introduction (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995).

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passive, unable to articulate or pursue their true interests on their own. Confucian governments were paternalistic, treating the population like children. Children should not lead the family. Beginning with Liang Qichao’s generation from 1895 this changed. In a variety of ways China’s thinkers and writers at the turn of the twentieth century came to believe that only by energizing the common people could an adequate political order be achieved. This popular activism is a hallmark of modern Chinese thought, a new branch on an old and vigorous trunk of political thinking. However, we will see a startling variety in what mobilizing the people meant across the century. Similarly, the idea of “democracy” (minzhu) has endured in China from the beginning of the twentieth century, but it has had significantly different inflections at different times and in different hands (not least in what Liang Qichao meant in 1902, or Sun Yat-sen in 1924, or Mao Zedong in 1940, or Wang Ruoshui in the 1980s, or Liu Xiaobo in 2008). The same holds for “republic” and “constitution.” Similarly, concepts like “society” (shehui), “economy” (jingji), and “citizen” (guomin) have endured across the century, but with some variation in use. It is one purpose of historical study to show the significant variations over time and to warn us not to assume that a similar word has an identical meaning in different circumstances. This natural mistake is the constant object of historians’ self-appointed task: to keep ourselves from the “autopilot fallacy” of, for example, assuming that what we know “democracy” to mean is the same as what it means to Liu Xiaobo in Jinzhou today or meant to Liang Qichao a hundred years ago, never mind to Sun Yat-sen or Mao Zedong. Through such historical reading we sensitize our intellectual “ear” to hear what people from the past or distant from our experience are saying in their own terms, a skill we can use in our lives today internationally and within our own multicultural societies. Much of this book draws attention to the discontinuities of intellectual life in China over the decades—differences in global and domestic contexts; different ideological moments with different dominant questions of the day in different decades; different worlds of life among metropolitan, regional, and local communities; not to mention women’s experience, everyday life matters in cities and rural districts, and subcommunity identities built around language, ethnicity, or religious conviction. The variations were real, and are real today, but variation does not mean mutual incomprehension or an inability to communicate. Rather, ideas cross both time and space (physical and social) but they do so at a cost—the same “idea” can have significantly different meanings in different contexts, and yet people think they are understanding each other. Differences in meaning are more a matter of interpretation

Perspectives: how to tell the story

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than of intellectual error. Furthermore, the range of interpretations is not unlimited. While Liang Qichao’s democracy under a constitutional monarch was not the same as Hu Shi’s liberal democracy, Sun Yatsen’s guided democracy, or Mao’s democratic dictatorship, there are attempts to use the good reputation of democracy that do not work: China’s militarists claimed democratic support in the 1910s and 1920s, but few believed them; Chiang Kai-shek’s corrupt and ineffective guided democracy in the 1940s lost public support; and Mao’s revolutionary democracy wore out all concerned by the 1980s so that even his successor, Deng Xiaoping, dedicated the rest of his life to making sure Mao’s populist version of democracy could never return. Enduring ideas shape the range of what intellectuals imagine and do, but do not predetermine their thought. They help define the stage but do not determine the play.

Perspectives: how to tell the story There are a variety of ways to tell intellectual history—through biographies; through ideas such as socialism, liberalism, or nationalism; or through a focus on changing contexts, what I am calling ideological moments. Each approach, or lens, has its value. Ideas do endure over time, and it is possible to see the life of ideas over millennia and not just decades, as in Arthur O. Lovejoy’s “great chain of being.”14 The importance of time and place, however, is fundamental to modern historiography and has been reinforced by the insights of critical theory or what is known as postmodernism. The focus on distinct ideological moments challenges the teleology of historical narratives that present the story, whether of a life or an idea or a nation, as leading up to a specific goal. The problem with a teleological approach is that the focus on the goal toward which each person, expression, and event moves along from point A (say “tradition” or “monarchy” or “religion”) to point B (say “modernity” or “democracy” or “science)” obscures too much. Things that happen that do not fit that story tend not to be mentioned; they don’t become “facts.” Kinds of people and activities (the poor, women, everyday life) that do not move the story along are left out. More so, the intentions of actors at different times show up only in terms of that grand narrative—was so and so a democrat, proto-democrat, antidemocrat, or post-democrat? 14

Arthur O. Lovejoy, The Great Chain of Being: A Study in the History of Ideas (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1936).

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Introduction: for the public good

This history of intellectual life in China, in addition to limiting itself to those who tried to engage public issues beyond their technical speciality, who tried to speak truth to power, primarily seeks to recover something of what Chinese thinkers and writers thought they were doing, what they did, and what others thought of their efforts at the time. This follows Philip Kuhn’s injunction that thought is related to social experience. More so, this study follows a fairly simple concern that forms much of intellectual history: an idea in a given essay, lecture, novel, poem, picture, editorial, or other intellectual expression is an answer to a question. Joseph Levenson, a titan in the Western study of Chinese intellectual history, famously enjoined his readers to remember that an idea “is a denial of an alternative and an answer to a question”; if we do not know the question and the answers that others offer at the same time, we cannot hope to make reasonable sense of an idea.15 This is true for the broader intellectual world of a generation, as well as for specific thinkers arguing with each other. The focus on ideological moments, then, seeks to recover the “questions of the day” in different decades across China’s twentieth century to help us appreciate what these ideas meant at different times. This is not the only way to tell the story of intellectuals in modern Chinese history. Others have written powerful histories of part or all of the century. Jerome Grieder has followed the ideas and debates of major Chinese intellectuals from the 1850s to the 1940s, with a real sensitivity to changing contexts but with a powerful focus on key ideas, particularly liberalism and socialism. Hao Zhidong has told the second half of this history, focusing on the decades since 1949 to the early years of the 2000s, using the lens of sociology and opening up the history of intellectual debate, intellectuals in politics, and dissent and repression in terms of ideal types of organic intellectuals, technical intellectuals, and critical intellectuals. Jonathan Spence has told a moving and insightful story of three lives across the century up to the stunning reform and opening of the early 1980s, focusing on how three intellectuals experienced, and contributed to, China’s modern revolution: Kang Youwei, Lu Xun, and Ding Ling. Rana Mitter grounds his intellectual and cultural history in the social history of China’s new culture from the May Fourth Movement to today. He stresses the impact of warfare and violence on the May Fourth’s promise of enlightenment. Orville Schell and John Delury have recently profiled a dozen political and intellectual leaders from the 15

Joseph Levenson, Confucian China and Its Modern Fate: A Trilogy (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1965), Vol. 1, p. xxix; invoking R.G. Collingwood, An Essay in Philosophical Method (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1933), pp. 106–9.

Perspectives: how to tell the story

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mid-nineteenth century to today. Their story focuses on how national leaders led their people through the struggles to revive China to the search for wealth and power and, Schell and Delury hope, to make it more ready for a democratic future.16 China’s story can speak to broader questions in comparative context. While many studies, including this one, point out connections and comparisons between Chinese experience and experiences elsewhere around the world, there have been few comparative intellectual histories for the modern period. A promising exception is Pankaj Mishra’s study of the birth of the modern Asian intellectual from the 1890s to the 1930s. He follows the lives of three exemplary intellectuals in some detail: Liang Qichao from China but wandering the world with much time in Japan; Jamal al-Din al-Afghani born in Afghanistan and educated in Tehran but living much of his life in Cairo, Paris, and across the Ottoman Empire; and Rabindranath Tagore, the Bengali polymath from Calcutta, briefly trained in Britain and a famous novelist and “peripatetic littérateur” through the 1930s. These three influential Asian intellectuals paint in vivid detail one of the four comparative themes noted in our Preface— colonialism and anticolonialism—across Asia and the Middle East.17 Mishra’s account also is valuable for providing an Asia-based perspective on this story in English. Our focus on ideological moments will find individual biographies cut up across chapters, core ideas coming in and out of focus, and greater “movements of history” broken up into recurring themes but no satisfying “big story” of the growth of freedom, the rise and fall of revolution, the search for (or creep of) modernity. It is my hope that giving primacy to the reality of the importantly different contexts that shape personal experience, intellectual expression, and the communication of ideas will not completely overshadow these larger themes, but might suggest new understandings of them. In the end, the study of history presents the historian with a challenging paradox: we want to read history to learn something useful for today, but to the degree that we project our interests and concerns onto the past, we distort that history, looking and listening 16

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Jerome B. Grieder, Intellectuals and the State in Modern China: A Narrative History (New York: The Free Press, 1981). Zhidong Hao, Intellectuals at a Crossroads: The Changing Politics of China’s Knowledge Workers (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2003). Jonathan D. Spence, The Gate of Heavenly Peace: The Chinese and Their Revolution, 1895–1980 (New York: Penguin, 1981). Rana Mitter, A Bitter Revolution: China’s Struggle with the Modern World (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004). Orville Schell and John Delury, Wealth and Power: China’s Long March to the Twentieth Century (New York: Random House, 2013). Pankaj Mishra, From the Ruins of Empire: The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2012).

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only for our current concerns. If we rigorously expunge any contamination by our interests in the researching and telling of a history, the result will almost certainly be uninteresting and probably appear as an unordered jumble of detail. The trick is to strike a balance between past experience and present concerns. Our own concerns provide the narratives for the stories of the past that we construct. After all, we live in our ideological moment, just as much as the intellectuals who appear in this book. We can appreciate difference and also find shared, if not timeless and universal, understandings. There may not be Platonic forms, Weberian ideal types, or timeless Truth in some simple sense, but there are certainly “family resemblances” (in Wittgenstein’s sense) across time and place. Thus our present concerns are usefully tempered and challenged by the norms of academic historiography that demand of us that, to the limited degree that we are able, we should seek to reconstruct first what events, ideas, and exchanges between people meant in that other time and place. Then we can sit back and reflect on what lessons those stories might have for us.18 This book is as much a historical essay as a narrative history. Historical essays seek to contribute to how we understand history while narrative histories contribute to what we know.19 This book attempts a bit of both, but is primarily an essay that argues that we might better understand the intellectual history of modern China by shifting our focus from life histories, big events, or continuity of ideas to ideological moments as the crucible of experience, expression, and communicative rationality.

Perceptions: Chinese and anglophone scholarship From whatever perspective we view history, we necessarily come to the story of modern China and of China’s intellectuals with preconceptions about China and about intellectuals in general. Professional historians urge us to be aware of our assumptions, of the models in our heads. Chinese scholars naturally seek to understand their own history and place. English language, or anglophone, studies have approached modern Chinese intellectuals as a window into understanding how

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A cogent and coherent statement of this approach to history is given in Charles A. Beard, “Written History as an Act of Faith,” American Historical Review, Vol. 39, No. 2 (January 1934), pp. 219–31. My model is Benjamin Schwartz in his lovely essays on tradition and modernity and on Maoist idealism that argue an incisive point in plain language with information generally already recognized by his readers, rather than Joseph Levenson’s marvelous compositions of contrapuntal examples that were largely new to his readers.

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China works and how other countries should best interact with the Chinese—the state and the people. Chinese maps of modern Chinese intellectual history Chinese historians have written their own history of thought, thinkers, and more recently intellectuals. The first person we meet in our story, Liang Qichao, also wrote his own history, The Intellectual History of China during the Last Three Hundred Years.20 Writing in 1924, Liang’s goal was to map out parallels between European thinkers of the Renaissance and Qing thinkers. At mid-century, three Chinese scholars offered their sense of modern Chinese intellectual history. In 1937 the noted NeoConfucian scholar, Qian Mu, wrote a neo-traditional interpretation that rejected May Fourth criticisms of Confucian thought and even borrowed the same title as Liang Qichao’s earlier survey.21 The historian of political thought Hsiao Kung-ch’üan (Xiao Gongquan) and philosopher Feng Youlan, while focusing on China’s long history of political thought, both tried to make sense of China’s traditions of thought for the mid-twentieth century.22 Chinese scholars who have surveyed or emphasized twentieth-century philosophy and political thinkers will also turn up in our story as subjects. In the late 1970s and early 1980s Li Zehou produced a three-volume series surveying all traditional thought but focusing on the rise and tribulations of Marxist thought in China. In the past two decades three PRC scholars have surveyed China’s modern intellectual history. Wang Hui’s 2004 four-volume study comes to three times the length of Li’s, while limiting his story to the last millennium, from the Song Dynasty. Wang Hui is interested in radical thought and in mapping out the “depoliticization” of both society and the work of intellectuals. He seeks to describe an alternative modernity for China distinct from the West and able to avoid its pitfalls. Xu Jilin, a professor of history in Shanghai, has focused on the most recent century to recover something of China’s liberal thought. Most recently, Ge Zhaoguang, a professor of history at 20

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Liang Qichao, Zhongguo jin sanbai nian xueshu shi (The Intellectual History of China during the Last Three Hundred Years) (first published in 1924) (Beijing: Tuanjie chubanshe, 2006). Qian Mu, Zhongguo jin sanbai nian xueshu shi (The Intellectual History of China during the Last Three Hundred Years) (first published in 1937) (Beijing: Shangwu yinshuguan, 1997). Hsiao Kung-ch’üan (Xiao Gongquan), Zhongguo zhengzhi sixiang shi (A History of Chinese Political Thought), 2 vols. (Chongqing: Shangwu yinshuguan, 1945). Fung You-lan (Feng Youlan), Zhongguo zhexue shi (A History of Chinese Philosophy), 2 vols. (Shanghai: Shangwu yinshuguan, 1930–6).

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Fudan University in Shanghai, once again surveys the entire corpus of Chinese social thought (stopping in the nineteenth century). Ge’s approach is explicitly academic, rather than polemic, but he has a clear purpose in mind: to find a way to think about China’s history, including intellectual history, that is not beholden to and shaped by EuroAmerican concepts.23 On Taiwan, Wang Fansen, a leading historian at the Academia Sinica, is the reigning master of intellectual history.24 With the exception of Li Zehou, who nonetheless is a well-read Marxist and scholar of Immanuel Kant, each of these Chinese scholars visited or received advanced training in Europe or America early in their careers. While fully Chinese, they are each engaged in different ways with the broader world of the twentieth century—imperialism, socialism, and globalization. All engage Western scholarship, or at least acknowledge the influence of methods picked up from Plato (Feng), Karl Marx (Li), Michel Foucault (Wang Hui), John Rawls (Xu), or contemporary Western academic methods (Ge and Wang Fansen). Each of these studies immensely is rich, and parts of each have been translated into foreign languages,25 but their audience understandably is Chinese readers and their concerns engage the concerns of those living in China.

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Li Zehou, Zhongguo gudai sixiang shi lun (A History of Ancient Chinese Thought) (Beijing: Renmin chubanshe, 1986); Li Zehou, Zhongguo jindai sixiang shi lun (History of Earlier Modern Chinese Thought) (Beijing: Renmin chubanshe, 1979); and Li Zehou, Zhongguo xiandai sixiang shi lun (History of Modern Chinese Thought) (Beijing: Renmin chubanshe, 1987). Wang Hui, Xiandai Zhongguo sixiangde xingqi (The Rise of Modern Chinese Thought), 4 vols. (Beijing: Sanlian, 2004). Xu Jilin, Qimeng ruhe qisi huisheng: Xiandai Zhongguo zhishifenzide sixiang kunming (The Birth, Death, and Revival of Enlightenment: The Predicament of Modern Chinese Intellectual Thinking) (Beijing: Beijing daxue chubanshe, 2011). Ge Zhaoguang, Qi shiji qiande zhishi, sixiang yu xinyang shijie: Zhongguo sixiang shi, diyi juan (Worlds of Knowledge, Thought and Belief before the 7th Century: Chinese Intellectual History, Vol. I) (Shanghai: Fudan daxue chubanshe, 1998) and Ge Zhaoguang, Qi shiji zhi shijiu shiji Zhongguode zhishi, sixiang yu xinyang: Zhongguo sixiang shi, di’er juan (Chinese Knowledge, Thought and Belief from the 7th to the 19th Centuries: Chinese Intellectual History, Vol. II) (Shanghai: Fudan daxue chubanshe, 2000). Wang Fansen’s work is representative of scholarship in Taiwan that is more focused in scope than the general histories popular in China, though his books are generally copublished in China. Examples include Wang Fansen, Zhongguo jindai sixiang yu xueshu de xipu (Genealogy of Modern Chinese Thought and Academics) (Taipei: Lianjing chuban shiye gufen youxian gongsi, 2003) and Wang Fansen, Jindai Zhongguo de shijia yu shixue (Earlier Modern Chinese Historians and Historiography) (Hong Kong: Sanlian, 2008). Representative translations available today include Liang Ch’i-ch’ao, Intellectual Trends in the Ch’ing Period, trans. Immanuel C.Y. Hsu (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1959). Feng Youlan’s history was translated by Derk Bodde, first in an abridged version in 1948 and in two volumes in 1983. Fung You-lan, A Short History of Chinese Philosophy (New York: Macmillan, 1948); and Fung You-lan, A History of Chinese Philosophy, 2 vols. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1983). Kung-ch’uan

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Chinese intellectuals: the Goldman school and after No one scholar stands out to match Merle Goldman’s influence among Western scholars writing on modern China’s intellectuals. Goldman’s signature work is Literary Dissent in Communist China.26 Covering the activities of major “dissident intelligentsia” from Lu Xun (China’s most famous modern writer) and colleagues in Shanghai in the 1930s, to independent intellectuals struggling in wartime Chongqing, and continuing from the Communist thought-reform campaigns of the 1940s in Yan’an and the early 1950s, throughout the new PRC to the Hundred Flowers debacle of 1957, Goldman’s story in Literary Dissent sets the terms and the chronology for our understanding of modern China’s intellectuals. I call her model “Russian refuseniks with Chinese characteristics.” That is, the intellectuals who turn up on Goldman’s radar screen and are the heroes of her narrative were those who were “speaking truth to power” in public, men and women who criticized the government of the day—such as Lu Xun, Wang Shiwei (1906–47), Ding Ling (1904–86), Hu Feng (1903–85), and Chu Anping (1909–66). The field they fought upon was a political one; their enduring problem was the relationship between intellectuals and the party-state.27 Merle Goldman’s model of Chinese intellectuals as refuseniks made sense to Western readers during the Cold War because, as Richard Madsen has suggested in the case of America, public discussion and

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Hsiao, A History of Chinese Political Thought, Volume 1: From the Beginning to the Sixth Century AD (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1979). Li Zehou, A Study on Marxism in China (Hong Kong: Joint Publishing Co., 1993) and Li Zehou, The Path of Beauty: A Study of Chinese Aesthetics (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994). Wang Hui’s long history of Chinese thought is currently being translated by Theodore Huters. An earlier example is Wang Hui, “On Scientism and Social Theory in Modern Chinese Thought,” trans. Gloria Davies, in Davies, ed., Voicing Concerns: Contemporary Chinese Critical Inquiry (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2001), pp. 135–56. Xu Jilin, “May Fourth: A Patriotic Movement of Cosmopolitanism,” Sunkyun Journal of East Asian Studies (Korea), Vol. 9, No. 1 (2009), pp. 29–62 and Xu Jilin, “The Fate of an Enlightenment: Twenty Years in the Chinese Intellectual Sphere (1978–1998),” trans. Geremie Barmé and Gloria Davies, in Gu and Goldman, Chinese Intellectuals between State and Market, pp. 183–203. Ge Zhaoguang, An Intellectual History of China, Vol. I: Knowledge, Thought and Belief before the Seventh Century, trans. Michael S. Duke and Josephine Chiu-Duke (Leiden: Brill, 2014). Wang Fan-sen, Fu Ssu-nien: A Life in Chinese History and Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000). This is an original English work, being a revision of his Princeton University PhD dissertation. Merle Goldman, Literary Dissent in Communist China (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1967). Goldman’s later books continue the story from the 1960s to the early 2000s: China’s Intellectuals: Advise & Dissent (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981); Sowing the Seeds of Democracy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995); and From Comrade to Citizen: The Struggle for Political Rights in China (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005).

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most influential scholarship about China in the West has been animated by the role of China as a “secondary common reference point”—that is, China studies have served as a metaphor for public debates over the meanings of democracy and identity.28 Goldman’s binary model of China in which intellectuals wore the white hats and the CCP wore the black hats was a useful metaphor for US discussions about democracy during the Cold War standoff between the United States and the Soviet Union. But it does not fit the realities of a post-Cold War world with its internationalized businesses, professionalized management of work (including intellectual life), and revived local pride. It does not help us make sense of globalization and of China’s place in this new order. The experiences of 1989 brought the end of the Cold War and created a dividing line between earlier generations of Western scholars on China’s intellectuals and the state and today’s generation of scholars. For scholars in the West, the authors of Western information about China, it was the Tiananmen Square massacre that changed everything. The great hopefulness many felt—both in China and in Western societies —in the mid-1980s that the CCP might actually make a peaceful transition from Stalinism to something better was shattered by the harsh military crackdown of June 4, 1989.29 The intellectual impact on Western scholars of this unaccountable tragedy cannot be overestimated. It was the end of innocence for yet another generation of China scholars in the West who had projected too many hopes (per Richard Madsen’s analysis above) onto China.30 The result was a continuation of the disaggregation of China’s intellectuals in Western studies that had begun with the focus on “establishment intellectuals” in the 1980s.31 In addition, an emphasis on academic disciplinary perspectives further 28

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Richard Madsen, China and the American Dream (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995), pp. 211 ff. Madsen’s book extends this analysis to scholarship by Chinese scholars in the PRC as well. Literally dozens of books by these scholars came out in the aftermath of the June 4 crackdown in China, for example Tony Saich, ed., The Chinese People’s Movement: Perspectives on Spring 1989 (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1990); Brantly Womack, ed., Contemporary Chinese Politics in Historical Perspective (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991); Timothy Brook, Quelling the People: The Military Suppression of the Beijing Democracy Movement (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992); and Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom and Elizabeth J. Perry, eds., Popular Protest and Political Culture in Modern China: Learning from 1989 (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1992). In fact, the history of Western interest in China shows such cycles of hope and crushed expectations going back at least to the sixteenth century. See Jonathan D. Spence, The Chan’s Great Continent: China in Western Minds (New York: W.W. Norton, 1998). Hamrin and Cheek, China’s Establishment Intellectuals; and Merle Goldman, Timothy Cheek, and Carol Lee Hamrin, eds., China’s Intellectuals and the State: The Search for a New Relationship (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Council on East Asian Studies, 1987). Also, Bonnie S. McDougall focuses on “politically active intellectuals” among writers and

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balkanized Western scholarship on China’s intellectuals. From the 1990s, research focus shifted to political advisers, academics, professional writers, or activists. This reflects a sea change in China studies. For Western scholars the “big story” of China’s revolutionary modernization no longer defines our work. In the late 1950s Joseph Levenson famously named this meta-narrative China’s change from empire (tianxia) to nation (guojia). He argued that as China became a modern nation-state (implicitly on the Western model), Confucianism would fade away, since it was an artifact of an earlier political order.32 Today, China is a nation-state, and a powerful one, but Confucianism has not disappeared, but rather has reappeared, along with a good deal of cultural nationalism. Furthermore, Chinese theorists allied with the state are promoting ideas of a new Chinese universalism, a new tianxia. The dichotomy Levenson drew between culture and nation no longer helps us understand China. The challenge today is: if not Levenson’s big picture, then what? A new general model has not yet been embraced by China scholars, so we have to accept smaller narratives, mid-level theory, and partial models. The age of extremes has passed and with it total explanations. Three developments in our scholarship—the disaggregation of intellectuals, an emphasis on academic disciplinary perspectives, and a questioning of the public role of intellectuals in China—have all built upon what can be understood as a new historiographical period in China studies that began in the 1980s but came to fruition in the 1990s. Goldman’s picture of “good” Chinese refuseniks versus “bad” Communists began to break down on the basis of new research in the 1970s and 1980s. Equally important in influencing Western scholarly perspectives on China in this new historiographical period was personal access to Chinese scholars and surviving participants in the events and issues Western scholars study. A classic early example is Guy Alitto’s meeting with Liang Shuming (1893–1988) in the early 1980s, at which Dr. Alitto gave Liang his recently completed biography The Last Confucian: Liang Shu-ming and the Chinese Dilemma of Modernity. Liang said to Alitto, “But I am not a Confucian!” As we Western scholars not only have met and talked with Chinese intellectuals but lived something of their lives on the campuses and in the cities where they worked, we have developed a more complex picture of these intellectuals and the state than the refusenik model allowed.

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artists in Popular Chinese Literature and Performing Arts in the People’s Republic of China, 1949–1979 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), esp. p. 271. Levenson, Confucian China and Its Modern Fate.

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Introduction: for the public good

Fallout from the popular protests and official repression around Tiananmen Square in 1989 shut these contacts down for some time. When relations picked up again by the mid-1990s, a new circumstance had emerged: China was globalizing. The single channel of official exchanges and work unit-based intellectual life began to erode. Chinese intellectuals in the 1980s had to watch every word they published in the national press, but what got past the censors made it into a truly national forum. By the 1990s, they had considerably more leeway in any one of hundreds of new academic and intellectual journals and publications. This came at a cost: Chinese intellectuals had more opportunity but had lost a national audience.33 At the same time, Western scholars finally had sufficient contacts inside China to help them make friends on an individual basis and hatch co-operative research programs. The net result of these changes has been the sea change in perspective suggested above—no topic looks monolithic once you get close to it. It really is a case of duoyuanhua (“pluralization”) of our conception of Chinese intellectuals, of our analytical frameworks and disciplinary presentation of our research, and of our sense of why we are doing this, our “so what?” These are the changes and challenges that underscore three lines of scholarly research that can be seen over the past two decades that define the shift from looking at Chinese intellectuals as heroes in a Cold War fight against tyranny to potential and actual allies today facing shared intellectual, social, and environmental problems that span the globe.

The disciplinary dispersal of Western studies of Chinese intellectuals We can identify three major lines of research in English-language (and mostly American) scholarship on Chinese intellectuals. They can be distinguished by the key questions or concerns that motivate their research and organize their work and writing. These more specialized studies represent an improvement on the more general studies of Chinese intellectuals carried out during the 1960s and 1970s because they are based on extensive new data and contacts in China from the new historiographical period, but they come at a cost: they are balkanized. The political-science studies generally do not draw from the literary or historical studies, and vice versa; the proverbial forest often gets lost in a 33

The public, ideological work in the 1980s is well analyzed in Bill Brugger and David Kelly, Chinese Marxism in the Post-Mao Era, 1978–94 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1990). The breakup of the unified media in China is documented in David Lynch, After the Propaganda State: Media, Politics, and “Thought Work” in Reformed China (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999).

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wealth of trees. To achieve a comprehensive picture of China’s intellectuals we need to draw from all lines of research. These three main lines of research concern (1) democratic transitions and state analysis, (2) postmodernism and the critique of capitalism and globalization, and (3) China-centered historical and contextual studies. Democratic transitions and state analysis The key question for this line of research is, “Will China democratize?” It is based on traditional Western political-science methodologies and draws from studies by Linz, Przeworski, and others who have focused on Latin American and East European experience. The strengths of this line of research are its practical focus and its clear, analytical frameworks. Its weaknesses are a lack of critical reflection on some of its assumptions and often a limited empirical basis. Scholars working in this line of research tend to be political scientists, and they work in or assume an audience in government and policy circles, as well as in academia. Good examples of this work include Joseph Fewsmith’s China since Tiananmen (2008) and David Lynch’s After the Propaganda State (1999).34 Postmodernism and the critique of capitalism and globalization The key question for this line of research is, “Can China survive globalization?” It is based on new methodologies of literary criticism and cultural studies and draws from French theorists like Foucault, Derrida, and Bourdieu (among many others) and an evolving theoretical literature in Western cultural studies, such as work by Stanley Fish. The strengths of this line of research are its challenge to Western cultural assumptions, its call to social justice, and its focus on issues of power and repression. Its weaknesses are a lack of practicality, a certain analytical looseness or abstraction, and often a limited empirical basis. Additionally, this line of research has a problematic relationship with previous radical scholarship in North America. That is, it inherits the radical critique of American values and foreign policy made by Marxist-inspired scholarship of the 1960s and 1970s, but because of the critique of state socialism today (and the terrors of Stalinism and Maoism), it fails to make an explicit acknowledgment of this heritage or to engage it seriously. Thus there are still other Western scholars of the “old Western Left” who engage the same issues and criticisms as the postmodernists today, but with a different vocabulary.35 Scholars working in this line of research tend to be 34 35

Joseph Fewsmith, China since Tiananmen: The Politics of Transition (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001); Lynch, After the Propaganda State. Edward Friedman, Paul G. Pickowicz, and Mark Selden, with Kay Ann Johnson, Chinese Village, Socialist State (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1991); Arif Dirlik and

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academics in literature or cultural-studies programs and assume an audience of fellow academics and students. Good examples include Xudong Zhang’s Whither China? (2001), Gloria Davies’s Voicing Concerns (2001), and Tani Barlow’s New Asian Marxisms (2002).36 China-centered historical and contextual studies The key question for this line of research is, “What is Chinese experience?” It is founded on the methodologies of text-based sinology, social history, and especially Ming–Qing social and economic historical studies. It draws from a diverse group of empirical–historical studies, ranging from the pioneering work of John King Fairbank to that of Frederic Wakeman Jr. and Philip Kuhn. The strengths of this line of research are its detailed and rich factual base, its strong tradition of source criticism, and its ability to evoke the life of the Other. Its weaknesses are its distance from practical concerns and often its lack of critique of Western assumptions in its analytical approach. For example, Fairbank could maintain what today looks like an astonishingly paternalistic, missionary point of view despite his careful scholarship. Scholars working in this line of research tend to be academics in history or Asian studies departments and assume an audience of fellow academics and students. A very few manage to reach a broader reading public in the way that Jonathan Spence can. This is an extremely large literature that features biographies, and studies of communities, institutions, literature, and thought, and also increasingly includes sociological and anthropological studies of intellectuals (not a feature of Western scholarship on intellectuals before the 1990s). Examples include biographies of revolutionary intellectuals like Shen Dingyi (1883–1928) and of noncommunist artists and writers like Feng Zikai (1898–1975), as well as studies of generations among intellectual activists;37 institutional studies of colleges and universities in Republican China and of Peking University;38 studies of literature and

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Maurice Meisner, eds., Marxism and the Chinese Experience: Issues in Contemporary Socialism (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1989). Geremie Barmé, In the Red: On Contemporary Chinese Culture (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999); Xudong Zhang, ed., Whither China? Intellectual Politics in Contemporary China (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2001); Davies, Voicing Concerns; Tani Barlow, ed., New Asian Marxisms (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002). R. Keith Schoppa, Blood Road: The Mystery of Shen Dingyi in Revolutionary China (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995); Geremie Barmé, An Artist Exile: A Life of Feng Zikai (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002); Nora Sausmikat, “Generations, Legitimacy, and Political Ideas in China,” Asian Survey, Vol. 43, No. 2 (2003), pp. 352–84. Wen-hsin Yeh, The Alienated Academy: Culture and Politics in Republican China, 1919–1937 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Council on East Asian Studies, 1990); Timothy

Perceptions: Chinese and anglophone scholarship

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society by Perry Link and sets of studies of communities and cultural practices that loom large for intellectuals in two collections that Link and colleagues compiled: Unofficial China and Popular China;39 and studies on thought and ideology and on the erosion of official ideology, as well as excellent reviews of recent ideological squabbles among “New Left” and “liberal” intellectuals.40 Most exciting has been the application of new disciplines to the study of intellectuals, as in sociological studies of teachers in Shanghai and an excellent comprehensive sociology of contemporary Chinese intellectuals, as well as an ethnography of Chinese archaeology professors (provocatively called Obedient Autonomy), and a revival of cross-cultural philosophical reflections.41 Given the checkered history of Western images of China and Chinese intellectuals—from Edgar Snow’s lionizing Mao in 1937 to Chang and Halliday demonizing him in 2005,42 and the dispersal of studies across different disciplines, one might despair of “getting the story right” or fall into the relativism of “each story has its value.” While I urge caution upon the reader and remind myself that even my best efforts will appear dated to the next generation, there are tools for finding and telling a reliable and useful story. I rely on the methods of academic historians to check my facts, test my interpretations, and temper my strong opinions.43 The reader will note fairly frequent footnotes throughout the body of the text,

39

40

41

42 43

B. Weston, The Power of Position: Beijing University, Intellectuals, and Chinese Political Culture, 1898–1929 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004). Perry Link, The Uses of Literature: Life in the Socialist Chinese Literary System (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002); Perry Link, Richard Madsen, and Paul Pickowicz, eds., Unofficial China: Popular Culture and Thought in the People’s Republic of China (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1989); Perry Link, Richard Madsen, and Paul Pickowicz, eds., Popular China: Unofficial Culture in a Globalizing Society (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2002). Brugger and Kelly, Chinese Marxism in the Post-Mao Era; Kalpana Misra, From PostMaoism to Post-Marxism: The Erosion of Official Ideology in Deng’s China (New York: Routledge, 1998); Geremie Barmé, “The Revolution of Resistance,” in Elizabeth J. Perry and Mark Selden, eds., Chinese Society: Change, Conflict and Resistance (London: Routledge, 2000), pp. 198–220; Davies, Worrying about China. Eddy U, “The Making of Zhishifenzi: The Critical Impact of the Registration of Unemployed Intellectuals in the Early PRC,” China Quarterly, No. 173 (March 2003), pp. 100–21; Hao, Intellectuals at a Crossroads; Erica E.S. Evasdottir, Obedient Autonomy: Chinese Intellectuals and the Achievement of Orderly Life (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2004); Kim-chong Chong, Sor-hoon Tan, and C.L. Ten, eds., The Moral Circle and the Self: Chinese and Western Approaches (Chicago: Open Court, 2003). Edgar Snow, Red Star over China (London: V. Gollancz, 1937); Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, Mao: The Untold Story (New York: Knopf, 2005). Thus this book has been through the standard scholarly peer review and revision of a university press. A fine introduction to scholarly methods of historical research and writing is Georg G. Iggers, Historiography in the Twentieth Century: From Scientific Objectivity to the Postmodern Challenge (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1997).

28

Introduction: for the public good

referring those interested to the sources—some primary documents, some fine scholarly studies by Chinese and international scholars—and to relevant debates among scholars on key points of interpretation.44 Forewarned, but I hope undaunted, let us now turn to the remarkable stories of intellectuals and public life over China’s tumultuous twentieth century.

44

I save my methodological demonstrations and epistemological hand-wringing for my offerings to specialized academic journals, duly cited for those who feel the need.

1

Reform Making China fit the world (1895–1915)

Fig. 1. Liang Qichao, as he appeared around 1901

By 1905 the search for a new order in China was captured in three trips: Liang Qichao’s return to Japan from America, Qiu Jin’s return from Tokyo to China, and Zaize’s mission from the Manchu Qing court to Europe and America. Liang Qichao, the young hero of the failed Hundred Days Reform of 1898, had returned from Canada and America the year before convinced of the need for a constitutional monarchy, since the Chinese people were not ready for a republic: “Were we now to 29

30

Reform: making China fit the world (1895–1915)

resort to rule by this majority, it would be the same as committing national suicide . . . In a word, the Chinese people must for now accept authoritarian rule; they cannot yet enjoy freedom.” In his newspaper, New People’s Miscellany, Liang promoted the German idea of the organic state and monarchical authority, along the lines of the Meiji constitutional monarchy in Japan. Even this modest step required further public education, in Liang’s view, and he slipped back to Shanghai in spring 1904 to help organize a new means for advancing their reforms—a newspaper, Shibao (The Times), which Liang would edit from the safety of Japan. Tokyo in September 1905 was a town in celebration: the Japanese had just defeated a European power, the Russians, in a local war. Amid the celebrations, along the bustling streets full of streetcars, electric lights, and modern shops, a Chinese woman found her way to the home of a Chinese scholar and soldier, Huang Xing. There she met Sun Yat-sen, the exiled Chinese revolutionary leader. They discussed China’s political future and Dr. Sun’s new organization, the Revolutionary Alliance. Qiu Jin joined the alliance then, writing to her sister back in China, “I am devoting my life to making a lasting legacy that will benefit the generations of women and men to come.” She returned to China to pursue that revolutionary struggle for a full, democratic republic, serving as principal of the Datong Academy in Shaoxing, a few hundred miles south of Shanghai. The academy focused on anti-Manchu agitation and training women in military skills. Her activities got her arrested and Qiu Jin was executed for treason in July 1907: China’s first feminist martyr. On December 11, 1905, the Manchu grandee Zaize and his mission set out to visit Japan, America, and Europe to explore models for constitutional systems. Zaize was a strategically placed noble, married into the clan of the Empress Dowager, Cixi. This government effort, too, followed a Japanese model: the Iwakura Mission of the new Meiji regime in 1871 to observe Western models. On its return in 1906, Zaize’s mission would conclude that the Japanese model of constitutional monarchy best suited China’s conditions. The Manchu reforms, announced in September 1906, did, in fact, promise a constitution, but it quickly became apparent that these reforms were a ruse by the Manchus to strengthen their political control. Chinese thinkers and writers committed to reforming, revolutionizing, or rejuvenating their country in the twentieth century inevitably were connected to and in conversation with the broader world outside China. Across the century China’s intellectuals engaged in public life were shaped by the world outside China in ways their forebears never were. This was not because China lacked the resources for intellectual participation in politics, but rather it was due to the nature of Chinese statecraft (a conservative government) in conjunction with intrusive Western imperialism from the mid-nineteenth century. This engagement with the world was a product of a specific historical conjunction.

Voices from the early 1900s

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Liang Qichao, as well as the younger Qiu Jin, had started their public political agitations inside China, working in Confucian language (albeit one already influenced by earlier Chinese reformist writings, Christian missionaries, and foreign-style newspapers over the preceding generation). They had directed their efforts to the reform of the Qing Dynasty and to catching the ear of the emperor. The political response of the Qing state to these efforts, in crushing the 1898 reforms, drove these intellectuals abroad—to survive, to regroup, and to find new solutions. Reformers and revolutionaries open our story of intellectuals and public life in modern China with these images of Liang Qichao, Qiu Jin, and a Manchu grandee. Reformers and revolutionaries, as well as those who resisted them, will be with us for the duration, along with the many unsung servants and critics of Chinese regimes, down to Chinese Communist Party reformers today and democratic activists like 2010 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Liu Xiaobo.

Voices from the early 1900s K A N G Y O U W E I ( 1 8 5 8– 19 27 ): T H E TH R E E A G E S (1 90 2) In the progress of mankind there have always been definite stages. From the clan system come tribes, which in time become nations, and from nations the Great Unification comes into existence. From the individual man the rule of tribal chieftains gradually becomes established, and from the rule of tribal chieftains the correct relationship between ruler and minister is gradually defined. From autocracy gradually comes [monarchic] constitutionalism, and from constitutionalism gradually comes republicanism . . . Thus in the progress from the Age of Disorder to the Age of Rising Peace, and from the Age of Rising Peace to the Age of Great Peace, their evolution is gradual and there are reasons for their continuation or modification. Examine this process in all countries and we shall find that the pattern is the same . . . Confucius was born in the Age of Disorder. Now that communications have extended throughout the great earth and important changes have taken place in Europe and America, the world has entered upon the Age of Rising Peace. Later, when all groups through the great earth, far and near, big and small, are like one, when nations will cease to exist, when racial distinctions are no longer made, and when customs are unified, all will be one and the Age of Great Peace (datong) will have come. Confucius knew all of this in advance.1

1

Kang Youwei’s “The Three Ages” is part of his commentary on the ancient classic, Spring and Autumn Annals (attributed to Confucius), which he drafted in the 1880s but did not finish until around 1902, as translated in Wing-tsit Chan, A Sourcebook in Chinese Philosophy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1963), pp. 725–6.

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Reform: making China fit the world (1895–1915)

(cont.) Z OU RO N G (1 88 5– 19 05 ): O N R E V O L U T I O N (1 90 3) Revolution is a universal rule of evolution. Revolution is a universal principle of the world. Revolution is the essence of a transitional period of struggle for survival. Revolution follows nature and corresponds to the nature of man. Revolution eliminates what is corrupt and holds on to what is good. Revolution is to advance from savagery to civilization. Revolution is to eradicate slavery and become the master . . . I have heard that the English Revolution of 1688, the American Revolution of 1775, and the French Revolution of 1870 were all revolutions that followed nature and corresponded to the nature of man. They were all revolutions designed to eliminate what was corrupt and hold on to what is good and to advance from savagery to civilization. They were all revolutions to eradicate slavery and become the master. The individual was sacrificed to save the world; the nobility was sacrificed to benefit the common people and to allow everyone to enjoy the happiness of equality and freedom.2

The ideological moment: reform In 1905 and the decade before and after, the dominant questions were: how to save China? What kinds of change are needed to enable what is important in the world we grew up with to endure and prosper? These questions, of course, grew from contemporary experience: the Qing Dynasty was faltering, society was unraveling, and foreign powers occupied key parts of major Chinese cities and held sway over whole regions in China. All agreed that China must change to withstand the assault of Western imperialism, but how? In what ways? By how much? In short order these questions gave rise to the question: what is the “China” that is to be saved? Thinkers at the time most often started with words like “we” and “us” to describe that polity, or they used terms of the day—the dynasty, the empire, the Florescence (hua, still widely used to refer to China as a civilization and lived culture). We immediately use “China” in English, but “China” as we understand it—as the nation-state—was a new idea, part of the answer to that pressing question of cultural survival among this first modern generation of the people of hua (huaren) in the era of Euro-American imperialism. 2

Zou Rong, Gemingjun, trans. in Pei-kai Cheng and Michael Lestz, with Jonathan D. Spence, The Search for Modern China: A Documentary Collection (New York: W.W. Norton, 1999), p. 198. The full text is available in Tsou Jung, The Revolutionary Army: A Chinese Nationalist Tract of 1903, trans. John Lust (The Hague: Mouton and Company, 1968), pp. 58 ff.

The ideological moment: reform

33

We will see a range of answers to these burning questions, more than Liang’s reforms and Qiu Jin’s rebellion, and those answers will map out key worlds of intellectual life among Chinese who chose to think broadly about public affairs: the examination elite, the provincial elite, new urban publics, worlds of popular culture, women’s experience, and worlds of a variety of ethnic and religious subcommunities. These worlds deserve a book each to describe their rich variety, but we will content ourselves to focus on the efforts of just a few example members of these worlds of mental life who chose to participate in public affairs, to speak their truth to power. Their answers reflect, as well, the varieties of service to the public good an educated person could choose: government service, public commentary and criticism, political dissent, and social mobilization. Finally, these answers emerged in debates and disagreements, but produced ideas that endured. Some ideas were very conscious and contentious, such as “democracy.” Some were seminal innovations that all disputants quietly agreed to, such as the idea of “China” as a nation-state. And some were portentous reinterpretations of longstanding concepts, such as “the people.” New ideas are born by applying inherited tools to new problems in unfamiliar circumstances. The experience of China’s educated elites in the 1890s and the years immediately following is an example of how this change works and how innovation in thinking and social practice happens. New social roles were born in the struggle to address new challenges. In this ideological moment old elites confronted new jobs. Educated to be Confucian scholar-officials or merchants with Confucian scholarly aspirations, elites of the 1890s and early 1900s lost their vocation as state officials with the ending of the state examination system in 1905. Their status changed. Before then, and in their memory of China’s history, they had always been “scholars” (shi), “scholar-officials” (shidaifu), or “literati” (wenren); now their link to the state was less sure, their role in society uncertain. They had no model in mind for freefloating, essentially unemployed, thinkers and writers. They had to make it up as they went along, but inevitably they looked to models from Japan—which appeared to be dealing more successfully with the Western threat—as well as from those who imposed a new order upon them, the Westerners themselves. The creation and certification of the educated underwent a seismic shift, from Confucian academies, private tutors, and literary and artistic societies of landed gentry, to modern-style normal schools, military academies, and universities, along with urban “study societies” and a vibrant new public sphere—the print capitalism of daily newspapers and popular journals. Liang Qichao’s generation was not prepared for these

34

Reform: making China fit the world (1895–1915)

changes, any more than they were prepared for Western imperialism and dynastic decay. But they had to make use of the tools at hand with the habits of the mind that they had been taught in the past, along with what they could glean from the new world of Western newspapers in China and Japanese reforms that increasing numbers of Chinese students saw firsthand. This modern generation of Chinese thinkers and writers became the first generation in China, since the introduction of Buddhism in the time of Rome, to seriously engage outside civilizations as a resource to serve and to save China.

Words, ideas, and thought The tools that intellectuals of Liang Qichao’s generation had at hand were predominantly words—old words, new words, confusing words, inspiring words. They had to make the language they had learned in Confucian academies serve with some fruitful additions from Japan, to explain dramatic changes in their lives and to articulate what to do. The focus on ideological moments in our broader story of modern Chinese intellectuals helps us to focus on what the debates and ideas we find in the historical record actually meant to people at the time. Words (the actual terms in Chinese characters), ideas (the meanings given to those words by writers and readers), and thought (the systematic presentation of ideas) were the software of China’s intellectuals. Some powerful words and concepts come from precisely this ideological moment in Chinese history. In fact, not only do key ideas or propositions, such as “republic” (gongheguo) and “democracy” (rendered variously, but ultimately as minzhu), come into common usage at this moment, but also a framework of modern concepts took root. The categories of political thought and social analysis were fundamentally enriched by the import of new formulations, via the casting of Western concepts in Chinese characters (hanzi) largely by Japanese translators over the previous twenty years. Chinese students studying in Japan then brought those neologisms back to China. The modern Chinese words for “society” (shehui), “economics” (jingji), and “citizen” (gongmin or guomin) all came into common usage over the decades following the 1898 Hundred Days Reform.3 Many were 3

There have been many studies of these loan words (including Meiji kotoba or “Meiji terms”): Federico Masini, The Formation of the Modern Chinese Lexicon and Its Evolution toward a National Language: The Period from 1840 to 1898 (Berkeley, CA: Journal of Chinese Linguistics Monograph Series, No. 6, 1993); Lydia H. Liu, Translingual Practice: Literature, National Culture and Translated Modernity in China, 1900–1937 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1995); Michael Lackner and Natascha Vittinghoff, Mapping Meanings: The Field of New Learning in Late Qing China (Leiden:

Print capitalism: China's new public sphere

35

introduced or popularized by one man, Liang Qichao, who is justifiably famous for his public commentaries published in the newly popular newspapers in the first decade of the twentieth century. Almost every intellectual leader of the next generation cut his/her teeth on Liang’s essays (including Mao Zedong), in which Liang introduced them to these concepts and formulations.

Print capitalism: China’s new public sphere Newspapers in the 1890s were a new world of public discussion for China’s thinkers and writers. The model was distinctly Western—the modern commercial daily newspaper introduced into China by Western missionaries—but the application was distinctly Chinese. What Westerners brought, along with better printing presses, was the example of the circulation of public information in channels not directed by the state. Rather, these newspapers wrote up information to attract a broad readership willing to pay for the service. This was print capitalism—newspapers run as businesses and funded by commercial advertising revenues as well as sales of individual copies of the paper.4 This became the hardware on which the software of new and repurposed words, ideas, and thought ran as China’s intellectuals entered this public sphere. As early as 1873, the Chinese-language newspaper Shenbao in Shanghai offered an example. Though established by a foreigner, Ernest Major, a British merchant, its content was written and read by Chinese literati and their merchant brethren.5 The model of Shenbao was powerful: public information could be circulated and commented on independently of the Qing government (because the paper was located in the International Settlement of Shanghai and not under Qing law) and free of the burden of the proselytizing of foreign missionaries. And the project could pay for itself. A new medium took root in treaty port China. Yet the application of this foreign-style newspaper was distinctly Chinese. The editorial focus of the paper was clear: educational journalism. Shenbao intended to edify and instruct its readers; Liang Qichao opened Shibao in 1904 with the declaration, “China needs a guide of the right kind.”6 Liang’s use of the new medium in this way was not unique in

4 5 6

Brill, 2004); and Joshua A. Fogel, trans. and ed., The Emergence of the Modern SinoJapanese Lexicon: Seven Studies (Leiden: Brill, 2015). Christopher A. Reed, Gutenberg in Shanghai: Chinese Print Capitalism, 1876–1937 (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2004). Barbara Mittler, A Newspaper for China? Power, Identity, and Change in Shanghai’s News Media, 1872–1912 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2004). Mittler, A Newspaper for China?, p. 14.

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Reform: making China fit the world (1895–1915)

China’s emerging public sphere, nor in East Asia. The Japanese scholar Fukuzawa Yukichi famously held forth in a similar fashion in an early Meiji publication from the 1870s, Meiji Six Journal. This journal and other early Japanese newspapers were directed at the educated former Samurai audience, with their front pages taken up by long, moralizing essays. No pictures, no news, no ads, just ideas and policy.7 It was only in later decades, and certainly by the 1890s, that the raucous commercial press familiar to us emerged with headlines, drawings, and soon photographs, plus scandal and gossip—all the things that sell newspapers to a general urban public.8 Both models took root in China, but Liang was dedicated to the first: newspapers as an intellectual public sphere for the elite. As Fukuzawa Yukichi had started by addressing Japan’s traditional elite, so, too, did Liang Qichao and his reformist compatriots address China’s Confucian scholar elite. In doing so, they drew on a rich tradition of literati propaganda work on behalf of the state. While the practice of “transforming the people through the rites” (yili jiaomin) was articulated in the ancient Confucian classics and had animated governments from the Song Dynasty in the tenth century onward, most recently Chinese scholar-officials had propagandized the sacred edicts of the Kangxi Emperor and later Qing monarchs from the late seventeenth century in xuanjiang lectures elaborating on the emperor’s moral maxims. These maxims included general moral injunctions, such as “filial piety and brotherly submission” and “instruct sons and younger brothers” to avoid wayward behavior, and practical advice to “cultivate peace and concord in your neighborhood” and “show that you prize moderation and economy.” The maxims included political reminders, as well, to “pay your taxes promptly” and “combine in collective security groups (baojia) in order to put an end to theft and robbery.”9 These lectures were not simply in books. Local magistrates were instructed to recite the maxims and expound upon their meaning in monthly public meetings. Handbooks, such as Li Laizhang’s Explanations of the Sacred Edict Lecture System of 1705, literally mapped out how to hold these meetings, down to diagrams showing the placement of the tablets with 7 8 9

Sharon Sievers, Flowers in Salt: The Beginnings of Feminist Consciousness in Modern Japan (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1983), pp. 16 ff. James Huffman, Creating a Public: People and Press in Meiji Japan (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1997). Translated in Wm. Theodore de Bary and Richard Lufrano, eds., Sources of Chinese Tradition: From 1600 to the Twentieth Century, 2nd edn., Vol. 2 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000), pp. 71–2; Kung-ch’üan Hsiao (Xiao Gongquan), Rural China: Imperial Control in the Nineteenth Century (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1960).

Print capitalism: China's new public sphere

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the maxims and altars, and the locations of where both scholars and townsfolk should stand, as well as instructions on how to hold the meetings and fill out the registers of good and bad behavior.10 The rise of print capitalism in China at the turn of the century reinforced the polemical and educational nature of the xuanjiang experience of scholar-officials in the Qing, marrying the urge to instruct with mass market newspapers to produce a distinctive brand of “educational journalism” that continued across the twentieth century, becoming part of the propaganda efforts of both the Nationalist and Communist regimes.11 Two key characteristics of late Qing journalism were, first, Liang’s use of journalism to get the ear of the monarch and his imitators’ focus on the same political “audience,” and, second, the times—China’s dire straits and economic upheaval—which led Chinese journalism to be much more serious than Western journalism of the day. “Editors,” says James Pusey in his study of this period, “were interested not in ‘all the news that’s fit to print’ but only in that news pertinent to their main concern, China’s welfare.”12 The strengths of such educational journalism lay in polemical essays and educational articles in the cause of China’s salvation. They also gave voice to dedicated patriots, a public forum for frustrated reformers. The famous official reformer, Zhang Zhidong, an early supporter of Liang’s Current Affairs paper in the late 1890s, had this to say of early efforts at journalism: After 1895, literary men of patriotic spirit began to publish journals . . . Internal politics, foreign affairs, academic knowledge—all were within their scope . . . They shared a common aim: to spread information, arouse unselfish spirit, wash clean the poisonous apathy . . . One cannot say that this was not an aid in the education of men who wanted to help their country.13

Professional associations and their publications were a part of this new public sphere as well. This was enabled by the creation of universities, beginning with Capital Imperial University during the 1898 reforms, which became Peking University. Others emerged in the 1900s and proliferated in the 1920s, especially under the sponsorship of missionary 10

11

12 13

Li Laizhang, Shengyu xuanjiang xiangbao tiaoyue (Regulations for “CommunitySecurity” Sacred Edict Lectures), preface dated 1705; the drawings appear between the table of contents and the first page of text. Educational journalism seeks to guide, lead, and transform an uncritical audience which must be protected from alternative, and presumably dangerous, ideas and information for their own good. See Timothy Cheek, “Redefining Propaganda: Debates on the Role of Journalism in Post-Mao Mainland China,” Issues & Studies (Taipei), Vol. 25, No. 2 (Feb. 1989), pp. 47–74. James Pusey, China and Charles Darwin (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Council on East Asian Studies, 1985), pp. 84–5. Zhang Zhidong cited in Pusey, China and Charles Darwin, pp. 85–6.

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Reform: making China fit the world (1895–1915)

organizations. Beijing saw the establishment of Yenching University (1919) and Tsinghua University (initially as a prep school in 1911, then in 1925 as a university), while Shanghai had started earlier with missionary colleges such as St. John’s College in 1879 (becoming a university in 1905) and Aurora, the premier Catholic university, founded in 1903. These academies and universities published a number of specialized journals. While many might not count as “public” in the sense that they spoke to linguists or paleontologists or chemists, some of these publications do count as contributions to conversations in the public arena, particularly as scientific experts. For example, the efforts of the Jiangsu Provincial Educational Association in the 1910s brought foreign missionaries, Western- and Japanese-trained medical doctors, and Chinese philologists together to sort out how to render the terms of Western medical science into Chinese (such as how to translate “dissection” or “aorta”). This group was a public association of local notables, attracted educated Chinese interested in public service, and promoted the “new” Western sciences of biology and physiology through various formal professional associations set up in 1915. The network of the Association’s Terminological Committee, according to David Luesink, helped to establish in Chinese society how scientific modernity would look, based on material practices like anatomical dissection. Leading intellectuals involved in this group, including Dr. Tang Erhe and the head of the YMCA in China, Yu Rizhang, helped devise how modern doctors would be trained and public health campaigns would be carried out in China.14 Public commentary was not limited to the high-minded. The raucous tabloid press, particularly in Shanghai, but by the new century active in a number of cities from Tianjin to Chengdu (in Sichuan), addressed public affairs through the metaphors of scandal and celebrity and directly by criticizing officials and mocking the elite.15 Though aimed to entertain rather than instruct, what caught the newspaper-buying public’s interest reflects their concerns. Also, owners and chief editors of the tabloid press, in China then as in London or New York today, had their politics and they were not shy about pushing their preferences via their massmarket entertainment. This was all part of the rise of print capitalism in China and a fundamental development and extension of the already pervasive, but of smaller scope, book market from the Qing. While we

14 15

David N. Luesink, “Dissecting Modernity: Anatomy and Power in the Language of Science in China,” PhD dissertation, University of British Coumbia, 2012. Mittler, A Newspaper for China?; and Juan Wang, Merry Laughter and Angry Curses: The Shanghai Tabloid Press, 1897–1911 (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2012).

Challenges of the day

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focus on the politically engaged sector of this modern media industry, it is well to remember that many, perhaps even most, of the books and newspapers published were devoted to entertainment, nonpolitical interests (the proverbial cookbooks, travel guides, and guides to breeding birds or puppies), and professional or academic specialties. This public sphere of print capitalism in Shanghai and other treaty ports of China was “free” or pluralistic in only a de facto way. Treaty ports dominated by Western powers had grown significantly in the halfcentury since the Opium War, with Shanghai becoming the model. A modern urban environment of a hybrid Chinese–Western style was emerging. This included a newspaper-reading “public” of both traditional scholars and white-collar workers in the new banks, trading houses, department stores, and other institutions of the treaty ports. The new newspapers, most famously Shibao in Shanghai, did create a shared experience among this Chinese-language-reading public that extended to provincial elites living in inland areas not directly touched by the European presence.16 Treaty ports were fundamentally important in the changes of this period by providing both an example of Western modernity—from newspapers to streetcars to modern warships in the harbor—and by providing safe havens for Chinese critics, dissidents, and revolutionaries outside Qing jurisdiction. Most of the important Chinese newspapers and journals of this period were published from within the safety of these treaty port concession areas. Thus, for a portion of China’s reading public, and especially those in these bustling urban conclaves, the expectation grew that a public sphere where divergent views on political matters could be aired without fear of reprisal is a good thing. Chinese governments, however, demurred. To the extent that Chinese states found the means to do so, they would corral, control, and finally dictate the content of newspapers and the public sphere, choosing to embrace the pedagogical model of the propaganda state by mid-century. Today in China the models of de facto pluralism of print capitalism and the directed public sphere of state socialism continue to compete. Challenges of the day Events in the decades around 1905 went from bad to worse. These formed the challenges to which China’s scholars responded. Foreign encroachment increased, domestic disorder exploded, the government faltered and then fell. The new republic from 1912 quickly failed to 16

Joan Judge, Print & Politics: “Shibao” and the Culture of Reform in Late Qing China (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1997).

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Reform: making China fit the world (1895–1915)

address these issues. All efforts to reform—the military, the political system, even China’s culture—by 1915 seemed inadequate to the task. These main challenges came down to what Immanuel Hsü concludes toward the end of his long career studying modern China: “A major shaping force of modern China was the search for a way to survive with honor in the new world that had been forcibly thrust upon it by the West.”17 The shocking start to this ideological moment was the resounding defeat of the Qing’s Beiyang fleet and army forces by the Japanese in late 1894 and early 1895 in and around the Korean peninsula. By April 1895 the Qing had signed the humiliating Treaty of Shimonoseki which gave up traditional Chinese suzerainty over Korea and relinquished the island province of Taiwan, along with a huge cash indemnity. The military trouncing highlighted the failure of the previous decades’ efforts at “self-strengthening” and the corruption of the Qing leadership. The Hundred Days Reform of summer 1898 saw the young Guangxu Emperor wrest control back from the Empress Dowager and brought maverick reformers, like Kang Youwei (1858–1927), into the Imperial Court. Kang famously had a long audience with the emperor and fed the Throne a series of draft edicts to reform finances, administration, and education. We will never know if these efforts would have shored up the dynasty, as conservatives around the Empress Dowager staged a countercoup in September, put the young emperor under house arrest, took back the reins of power, and executed or drove into exile all the reforming scholars and officials. The period of conservative reaction was derailed in turn by the explosion of popular antiforeignism known as the Boxer Movement in 1900. Conservative reaction to foreign impositions—particularly in the form of swaggering Western businessmen and their military escorts and the well-intentioned but socially destabilizing Christian missionaries in villages as well as cities—was a popular force as well as an elite one. The rise and fall of the Boxers is a fascinating and complex story, but for China’s educated elites it was a galling thing— reactionary, superstitious, fanatical, and most shamefully an abject failure.18 The Boxers were violent and killed numerous innocent people (mostly Chinese Christian converts, but of course the West focused on the murders of European missionaries) and their violence provoked the largest foreign military invasion since the Manchus as the Eight Powers

17 18

Immanuel C.Y. Hsü, The Rise of Modern China, 6th edn. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), p. vii. See Joseph Esherick, The Origins of the Boxer Uprising (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988); and Paul A. Cohen, History in Three Keys: The Boxers as Event, Experience, and Myth (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997).

Challenges of the day

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(of European and American states and Japan) marched a joint army into Beijing and sacked the palace, drove the Court into hiding, and demanded a yet larger indemnity. The twentieth century proper thus began in China at this low point: defeat, shame, and increasing dependence upon these powerful but deeply resented foreign forces. In fact, a theme throughout China’s twentieth century would be national humiliation (guochi) and how to expunge the shame and restore dignity.19 Nonetheless, the Qing Court even under the Empress Dowager regrouped and initiated a series of reforms, the New Policies, that incorporated a number of the earlier administrative reforms from the quashed 1898 reform effort—including establishing provincial assemblies, streamlining the administration, reforming education, and extending the new universities and military training academies. The leader of this new effort was a senior Chinese military official for the Qing, Yuan Shikai, who turned his regional base centered in the northern metropolis of Tianjin into a model of modernization. For the next decade, the model of the modern was Japan. Yuan created the first municipal police department in China, for example, based on the Japanese model.20 As is often the case, policies adopted for one purpose (to strengthen the Qing) had a different effect (strengthening forces of regional power and political change). Two innovations had the most profound effect: the end of the Confucian state exams in 1905 in favor of new, Western-style education in science and technology in universities and military academies, and the creation of provincial assemblies. The end of the exams cut China’s educated elites adrift, alienating them from the state and undermining their status as gentry in local society. The new assemblies gave local elites a new place in which to focus their attentions and to articulate their interests in the public arena. While the Qing tried its New Policies, and exiled reformers like Liang Qichao opined from Japan, some Chinese intellectuals turned directly to revolution. Sun Yat-sen, later to be “the father of the Republic,” started his political career being spurned by Qing reformers because he lacked the classical education (he had been raised in Hawaii) and, in turn, putting on one failed uprising after another. In time he formed the Revolutionary Alliance (Tongmenghui) in Japan. During the 1900s the leading alternatives for Chinese progressives were constitutional reform 19 20

Paul Cohen, Speaking to History: The Story of King Goujian in Twentieth-Century China (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009). Douglas Reynolds, China, 1898–1912: The Xinzheng Revolution and Japan (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 1993).

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along the lines of Liang Qichao or republican revolution espoused by the radicals in the Tongmenghui. We will meet some of these radicals below, but they were not ultimately successful. Neither, really, were the constitutionalists. Competition over control of the new railroads precipitated a local mutiny of Qing forces in central China (at the midYangzi city of Wuchang, now part of the metropolis of Wuhan) in 1911 and the whole house of cards came down. The new provincial assemblies provided a public voice to declare this a revolution that gave local notables a claim to legitimate political autonomy, and a consensus went for the idea of a republic. A coalition of provincial elites then called Sun Yat-sen (on a fund-raising tour in the US; he was in Denver at the time of what became known as the “1911 Revolution”) to return to become the first president of the Republic of China (Zhonghua minguo).21 The Qing fell with nary a whimper. But the Republic stumbled almost immediately. Sun Yat-sen was elected provisional president of the Republic in Nanjing at the end of 1911, but by February 1912 he was forced from office by the northern former Qing general, Yuan Shikai—the reforming militarist from Tianjin. Yuan required the Republic’s new capital to be moved from Nanjing to Beijing, his power base. Yuan had an army and Sun did not. This became the bitter rule of political life in China for the next forty years. Mao Zedong’s famous political bromide (made in the late 1920s), that “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun,” merely summarized the general experience of all Chinese in the decades following the aborted republican revolution. The Republic quickly became a travesty. The effort to convene the required national legislature was suborned when Song Jiaoren, a charismatic and talented politician with prospects of leading a parliamentary coalition, was shot down at Shanghai’s railway station in March 1913. Yuan became increasingly autocratic and even attempted to crown himself emperor of a new dynasty in 1916. The effort collapsed immediately. For the next decade one after another in a string of militarists (popularly called warlords in the day) marched their armies into Beijing, declared themselves president, and took out yet more foreign loans (as the representative of the sovereign state), compounding the crippling debt inherited from the Qing. 21

The Chinese calendar counted years by a sixty-year cycle with two-character names. The year we call 1911 was xinhai, so this republican revolution is known in China as the “Xinhai Revolution” (xinhaigeming). The new republic, modeling itself on the French Revolution, started the political calendar with “Year 1 of the Republic” (minguo yinian) and counted all years from that. Thus 1937 was Minguo 26. Taiwan, as the Republic of China on Taiwan, maintained this counting in official documents (including bibliographic information for books) until recently.

Liang Qichao’s “people”: educating the new citizen

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Reform the Qing; reform the monarchy; reform the polity into a republic; reform the Chinese people so they can do this more successfully. Protect China from the West by learning from the West. These were the challenges facing China’s political and intellectual leaders in the opening years of the twentieth century. Liang Qichao’s “people”: educating the new citizen Liang Qichao (1873–1929) attempted to answer these challenges in 1900 in a series of lectures to overseas Chinese in Australia under the title “On Tracing the Sources of China’s Weakness.”22 “A country is founded on equality,” Liang declared, “and love [of country] arises from the way [people] treat one another . . . Westerners look upon their countries as the common property of rulers [jun] and people [min].” Liang drove this point home, because he reckoned political “equality” begins at home. “It is just as though fathers, elder brothers, sons and younger brothers all worked together in managing a family’s affairs. In this case, every single person is a patriot. Not so in China, where the country belongs to one family and everyone else is a slave.” This was Liang’s fundamental diagnosis and prescription, his answer to “how to save China.” The people of China must be made new by learning how to treat each other with respect as equals. Then Westerners would also treat Chinese as equals. Liang’s image of a Chinese family run equally by all generations (albeit of males) flew in the face of social fact: Chinese families of the day were run by the fathers, or at least the elder males. This brought political change home to roost in social change. It was not enough to adopt Western armaments and training academies, or even some maths and sciences, a few trains and steamboats. The defeat by the Japanese in 1895 proved that was not enough. China had to mobilize its citizens by giving them respect, responsibility, and resources to make China stronger. This was the new people Liang envisioned. And he got his vision from visiting Japan, Europe, America, and even Australia. Liang Qichao acted on his ideas by organizing, publicizing, and articulating ideas. He helped organize the Preserve the Emperor Society along with his teacher, Kang Youwei, first in Canada, Southeast Asia, and Australia. He publicized his ideas through the new medium of newspapers, 22

See discussion of Liang in Australia below. Quotation from Liang’s lecture comes from John Fitzgerald, “The Slave Who Would Be Equal: The Significance of Liang Qichao’s Australian Writings,” in Billy K.L. So, John Fitzgerald, Huang Jianli, and James K. Chin, eds., Power and Identity in the Chinese World Order: Festschrift in Honour of Professor Wang Gungwu (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2003), p. 365.

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daily commercial newspapers in Japan and China. He articulated ideas, ideas of the renovation of the people, of constitutional monarchy, of joining the West as a civilized society and nation through becoming enlightened citizens of the world and at the same time patriotic citizens of China. Frozen out from legal politics after 1898, Liang chose the role of educating society. This is the most familiar role for intellectuals for most of us—speaking up in public. However, public commentary requires a “public” and a social consensus as to who can address that public. This seems a needlessly basic reflection, except that a public such as we now know it did not exist in the high Qing. That is, comment on political affairs was a privilege of the examination elite and the ability to offer advice, never mind criticism, to the state was strictly limited to senior officials. Meanwhile, life went on in a series of smaller publics, localities, circles of literary interest, or shared business concerns or common religious observances. The creation of larger publics, and ultimately a national public, in China is one of the startling creations of modern Chinese history. Both the constitutional reformers around Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao, and the emerging revolutionaries around Sun Yat-sen, availed themselves of this new public—the newspaper public. Each produced a series of newspapers and periodicals that were eagerly snapped up by the examination elite, the provincial elite (and especially the “young masters,” the rising generation who soon had no exams to take) and the more literate and upwardly mobile members of the urban society (well-to-do merchants and ambitious clerks). We can mark the changes over these decades by key periodicals and the arenas of public discussion that they created. Liang Qichao’s New People’s Miscellany and Shibao introduced the generation after 1900 not only to the idea of a constitutional monarchy, but also to the language of modern politics, the words needed to understand the Western models and to devise a Chinese version of a modern nation-state. Sun Yat-sen’s Revolutionary Alliance pushed the conversation further with explicit proposals for a republic to replace the Qing. Its publications allowed the expression of ethno-nationalism, of Han versus Manchu, and of the desire for ethnic cleansing of the government. Its paper, Min bao (The People’s Tribune) promoted the revolutionary republican version of constitutional reform. For Liang, after the failure of the 1898 reform and his flight from China, it was only possible to organize openly outside China. He did this in Japan, Hawaii, Southeast Asia, Australia, and North America over the next ten years. In the process he used the new medium of the day, the daily newspaper—in Chinese and occasionally in English—to reach

Liang Qichao’s “people”: educating the new citizen

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his intended audience: overseas Chinese. He wanted their support and he wanted their money. And, by and large, they were happy to oblige. One of Liang’s earliest efforts at overseas fund-raising was in Australia from late 1900 to early 1901. There he gave lectures later published as “On Tracing the Sources of China’s Weakness.”23 Australia provided a compelling focus for Liang—as both challenge and promise. Liang was well treated as a visiting dignitary, not only by local Australian-Chinese communities, but also by Anglo-Australian officials and dignitaries. Yet Liang also saw and heard much about the discrimination against Chinese in Australia. The life of Chinese inside China and overseas he saw as intimately linked: “If only China could educate its people, and enrich and strengthen itself,” Liang told his friends in Melbourne, “then those who live within the country and overseas will never again be humiliated by foreigners.” At the same time, Melbourne held out the promise of renovation for China. As John Fitzgerald notes, “the extensive rail yards, the palatial residences, the substantial community halls and churches, and the banks, zoos, parks, and gardens” in the city were “products of his own lifetime.” If Australia could do it, China could, too. Liang articulated his vision in one of his most famous essays, “Renewing the People,” published in his Yokohama newspaper of the same name, Xinmin congbao, in 1902.24 Liang brought cultural capital to bear, as a Confucian scholar and degree holder in the Qing. His reform essay, one that draws heavily on the Western example and uses a fluid and easy-to-read Chinese (unlike the formal official prose of the day), draws on his classical prowess. The title “Renewing the People” draws from the famous eleventh-century Chinese Confucian sage, Zhu Xi, who in his own commentaries on the Confucian classics stressed the need to “renovate the people.” Thus Liang presents his solutions in 1902 as the appropriate Confucian response to new circumstances. His focus is “public morality” (gong de). It is “that which allows people to form groups and nations . . . [And] is founded on the interests of the group . . . What is beneficial to the group is good; what is detrimental to the interests of the group is bad. This principle applies to all places and ages.” Finally, “we who live in the present group should observe the main 23

24

Fitzgerald, “The Slave Who Would Be Equal”; and Gloria Davies, “Liang Qichao in Australia: A Sojourn of No Significance?”, East Asian History, No. 21 (2001), pp. 65–111 (available online in China Heritage Quarterly, at www.chinaheritagequarterly.org/articles. php?searchterm=027_liang.inc&issue=027, accessed June 25, 2015). Liang Qichao, “Renewing the People,” trans. in de Bary and Lufrano, Sources of Chinese Tradition, Vol. II, pp. 288 ff. The Chinese texts for this and other essays by Liang discussed here are in his collected works, Liang Qichao, Yin bing shi heji (Notes from the Ice Studio) (Beiping: Zhonghua shuju, 1936).

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trends of the world, study what will suit our nation, and create a new morality in order to solidify, benefit, and develop our group.” He pronounces his goals: love of the people, love of the nation, and love of truth. The “people” or “group” that Liang refers to is “the nation” or “country.” Here Liang was popularizing new concepts, new ways to think about his place in the world, and how that world worked. Because he was an influential publicist, the words he used became widely used and changed what intellectuals did in their quest to save China. Liang focuses on “the people” as a political group. The Chinese word is qun, which had meant a cluster or group of people, generally common people. To invest such commoners with a political role was a huge change, one that Liang and his fellow reformers felt was at the root of Western wealth and power. It changed what intellectuals did because it changed the object of their services: if the key to legitimate and successful political life was “the people,” then it was no longer necessary to serve the emperor or the Imperial Court, at least not in the same way. The constitutional monarchy of Meiji Japan, which had held its first plebiscite in 1890, offered a model for Liang and the reformers. Others were more interested in republics on the model of France and America. Either way, this natural shift to electoral politics unplugged Confucian scholars from their traditional political role as servants of a universalist empire. In time, as Frederic Wakeman Jr. notes, this political alienation would be the price of autonomy that Chinese intellectuals had to pay for freedom to act independently of the state orthodoxy—political marginalization.25 The second word Liang honors is “nation” or “country” (guo). Here the conceptual shift was seismic, as well. Before this time China was not a country or nation, any more than had been the Roman, the Ottoman, or the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It was a civilization sometimes ruled in kingdoms but in 1900 ruled by an empire, albeit a non-Chinese, Manchu empire, the Qing. Thus the “national identity” of Liang and his fellow “Chinese intellectual” some twenty years earlier would have been neither “Chinese” nor “intellectuals” in the modern sense. “China” as a nation came into current consciousness as the unavoidable fact of the Westphalian international system forced upon the Qing by successful imperial powers like Britain, France, and America. They were nationstates. They demanded that the Qing act like one in international diplomacy. In the half-century from the Chinese defeat in the first Opium War in 1842, the idea that the international order now worked as nationstates took hold among China’s thinkers and writers. Liang Qichao and his colleagues became members of a Chinese state distinct from a British, 25

Frederic Wakeman Jr., “The Price of Autonomy: Intellectuals in Ming and Ch’ing Politics,” Daedalus, Vol. 101, No. 2 (1972), pp. 35–70.

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French, American, or Japanese state. They became citizens of China rather than subjects of the Qing. It was a new identity.26 Modern urbanization also changed what it meant to be a Chinese thinker and writer. In a matter of two generations, elite families that had promoted study of the Confucian classics in rural academies as the path to official exam status had migrated to the new metropolitan centers dominated by Western powers and their fabulous inventions—electricity, trains and trams, industrialization, newspapers—and abandoned their ancestral districts to managers or residual elites. This had disastrous consequences for rural life, as ill-governance increased in the absence of a cosmopolitan-oriented elite schooled in Confucian social ethics, and it unplugged Chinese thinkers and writers from most of China’s actual people, the farming majority. Thus Liang Qichao’s generation endured a dual alienation: alienation from the seat of power and alienation from the majority of Chinese. They had no word for who they were becoming or what their role in society should be. They had only the concepts and ideas taught them in Confucian academies, supplemented by some recent translations from Western sources and the examples of foreigners they saw in China’s treaty ports, and slowly transformed by personal experiences outside China after 1895. What they became, by the 1920s, was intellectuals and professionals, but those roles were not current in Beijing and Shanghai, much less the provinces, in 1905. Liang’s third word, “truth,” helped in the transition from Confucian scholar-official to modern intellectual or professional. “Truth” for Liang was an observable reality, as well as an ethical commitment. Liang’s generation of reformers and revolutionaries were for the most part fearless observers of China’s decline, the power of Western nations, and the rise of Japan. They were committed to finding the truth of their failures and the successes of the others, no matter the pain. Truth in this new context would become for most of China’s intellectuals Western historical experience, natural sciences, and technological innovation that appeared most developed in the West, as well as Western political philosophy explaining society, governance, and public civility. Nonetheless, some Chinese scholars still sought an authentic truth in China’s inherited culture, especially in traditions beyond Confucianism in Daoism and Buddhism. Liang intended to apply the truths he found in public. He announced the purpose of his paper, The Times (Shibao) in Shanghai in 1904: 26

See the essays in Joshua A. Fogel, ed., The Teleology of the Modern Nation-State: Japan and China (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004).

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It is the duty of newspapers in advanced nations to report on the facts in the news, to follow the trend of international public opinion, to investigate conditions in the interior of the nation, to develop knowledge of politics and the arts, to introduce new ideas, and to provide materials for leisurely reading.

The idealistic goals of his paper were explicit: “We will use our writings to define and convey the will of the nation, [and] . . . to resolve the major political and scholarly problems that arise in China and abroad.”27 Liang was arguing that institutional change alone had not been sufficient without this social and personal move toward equality, but institutional change was necessary. Liang matched his cultural prescriptions with a political proposition: constitutional monarchy. Liang’s goals were wrapped up in the example of the Constitution. Civilized, successful, powerful nations had them. China should have one, too. But what kind? Constitutional monarchy or republic? This was a fight for over a decade that was represented by Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao with their Preserve the Emperor Society on the one hand, and Sun Yat-sen and his colleagues in the Revolutionary Alliance on the other. For Liang, “a constitution, a parliament, and a responsible government” were the key to China’s salvation. While he supported the Qing, if it would return to the halted reforms of 1898, he knew that this meant fundamental institutional reform, along the order of the end of the Tokugawa bakufu and creation of a new Meiji state in Japan in 1868. Liang warned, “we must shatter at a blow the despotic and confused governmental system of some thousands of years; we must sweep away the corrupt and sycophantic learning of these thousands of years.” He concluded in words that Mao Zedong would take up fifty years later: “Because without destruction there can be no construction.”28 In this, the difference in Liang’s radical approach to constitutional reform of the Qing and Sun Yat-sen’s call for republican revolution was more a matter of degree than of kind. Both envisioned a new conception of the polity, as a nation-state rather than an empire, and with citizens rather than subjects, a new role for Chinese educated elites as public voices in the forum rather than as private advisers in the Imperial Court, as leaders of those citizens rather than as administrators over subjects, and a new project for all: to become modern.29 27 28 29

Liang Qichao, “Inaugural Statement for the Shibao,” trans. in de Bary and Lufrano, Sources of Chinese Tradition, Vol. II, p. 301. Liang Qichao, “Renewing the People,” trans. in de Bary and Lufrano, Sources of Chinese Tradition, Vol. II, p. 292. An excellent set of studies on this new idea of “citizen” in China is Joshua A. Fogel and Peter Zarrow, eds., Imagining the People: Chinese Intellectuals and the Concept of Citizenship, 1890–1920 (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1997).

Zhang Binglin discovers “Chinese” identity

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Zhang Binglin discovers “Chinese” identity The key differences between the reformers around Liang and the revolutionaries around Sun were about speed and about race. A new polity as a nation-state, a new people as citizens, new scholars as teachers of the public and leaders of public consultation, a new project in modernizing China: the revolutionaries wanted to shed more of the old and embrace more of the new and in shorter order. They did differ in where they laid the blame for China’s woes. Liang made a cultural critique laying blame on outdated education, institutions, and customs. Sun and his colleagues made this into a racial problem. They blamed the Manchus, the different ethnic group that made up the ruling Qing dynastic house, for enslaving the Chinese—politically as the despotic rulers over China and culturally for promoting and continuing a repressive form of Confucian culture that had made Han Chinese subservient to the Manchus (not least by their token of submission, the queue, or shaved head and pigtail required since the seventeenth century). The Manchus had to go, and with them the monarchy. Only a republic of ethnic Chinese would save China. One of the most scholarly of the group of revolutionaries associated with Sun Yat-sen was Zhang Binglin (1868–1936), a classically trained scholar from the southeastern city of Hangzhou. He was radicalized by the 1895 defeat of the Chinese navy by the Japanese and wrote for Liang Qichao’s newspaper, Current Affairs (Shiwu bao), until the failure of the 1898 reform. Zhang then decamped to Taiwan (a new territory of the Japanese empire). He went to Japan and met Sun Yat-sen. Back in China in 1901 Zhang taught at Soochow University, a missionary college in Suzhou near Shanghai, but he was soon arrested for his revolutionary activities and jailed for three years for defaming the Manchus. In 1906 he was released from jail, went back to Japan, and joined Sun Yat-sen’s Revolutionary Alliance, and edited the alliance’s newspaper, the People’s Tribune.30 It was in this revolutionary newspaper that Zhang Binglin argued for the racial definition of Chinese identity. It was a theme picked up by other revolutionaries, such as Zou Rong (jailed together with Zhang), who made a sensational case in his banned book The Revolutionary Army in 1903. However, Zhang’s exegesis brought the power of classical Chinese scholarship to this task. In the process, he coined the term for China, Zhonghua minguo, that would become the official name of the

30

Kenji Shimada, Pioneer of the Chinese Revolution: Zhang Binglin and Confucianism, trans. Joshua A. Fogel (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1990).

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Chinese Republic not five years later. In “Explaining the Republic of China,” published in July 1907, Zhang made the case: “So, is the Chinese nation (minzu) really an empty frame which we can fill with foreigners?” Zhang begins, using the new word, minzu, to convey the European conception of “ethno-nation,” so he uses the term to express “ethnicity” and to denote “nationality” in the sense of a racially homogeneous nation-state. My answer is: It is only possible to allow alien races (yizu) to assimilate with us (tonghua) when sovereignty is in our hands; that would be sufficient for accepting them . . . The reason why I have advocated anti-Manchuism before is because they have overturned our country and seized our sovereignty.31

Zhang’s reasoning confronts the implications of China as a nation-state: Previously I have said, “By changing their language and customs, these peoples will be able to assimilate with us, which is not the same as the attitude of the Americans towards the blacks.” Now there are some people rebuking my view, saying, “. . . The treatment of the Mongolians, Moslems and Tibetans as black would be the inevitable outcome of nationalism.”

Zhang defends the racial/ethnic view of “Chinese”: when these other peoples assimilate to Chinese culture and customs, he reiterates, they too should have “the right to vote and express ideas.” But he concludes, “Nevertheless, as long as they have not improved, there is no question of allowing them to vote.”32 For Zhang Binglin, Chinese identity was an ethnic attribute, residing in the Han race but learnable by those who wished to assimilate to Han customs. Zhang’s model of the Zhonghua identity meant that “the people” had to be Han or act Han. His was not a model for a multiracial polity. Sun Yat-sen faced this challenge in later years by declaring a “fiveethnicity” core to Zhonghua, but Han dominance of the Chinese Republic was and is a fact. The question of what it is to be Chinese dominated the debates and proclamations of the day. Zhang Binglin’s version became known as “national essence” (guocui), again from a Japanese neologism. And while for Zhang and other revolutionaries Han ethnicity was the main carrier of this essence, it was more cultural than racial. As a student raised in a functioning traditional society, Zhang Binglin did not look at “Confucianism” as a monolithic whole. Rather, he approached Chinese traditional culture as a complex mix, as any living tradition is. 31

32

Zhang Binglin, “Zhonghua minguo jie,” Min bao, July 5, 1907, trans. Pär Cassell as “Explaining ‘The Republic of China’,” Stockholm Journal of East Asian Studies, Vol. 8 (1997), pp. 15–40, at 25. Zhang Binglin, “Explaining ‘The Republic of China’,” p. 30.

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National-essence scholars in the 1900s came to be associated with those searching for historically rooted alternatives to the crumbling Confucian orthodoxy.33 Thus Zhang, and colleagues like the mercurial Liu Shipei, combed the tradition for Daoist, Buddhist, and populist strains that could serve them in their own day. They favored Ming loyalist scholars who resisted the Qing back in the seventeenth century and revived the “Hundred Schools” of philosophers from the ancient period who had been eclipsed by Confucian orthodoxy for so long, and they embraced the other-worldly detachment of Buddhism. In all, these scholars adapted the Darwinian sense of progress and struggle for natural selection to long-standing minority voices in the traditions of China. This view did not hold sway with practical reformers and revolutionaries, but served as a solace to those who had tried and felt beaten down by the power politics of their day. “National-essence” ideology would make a comeback some three decades later under the ruling Nationalist Party in the 1930s. Zhang Binglin had something of a conversion experience to Buddhism during his time in jail between 1903 and 1906. By his own account, Zhang reckoned he only survived his imprisonment by reciting and meditating on Buddhist sutras, particularly of the Yogacara or Weishi (Consciousness Only) school.34 The austere philosophy of the selfdeception of human consciousness, the unconscious replanting of karmic seeds of suffering that constitutes human history, and the rational reflection needed to overcome this blind replication of suffering made sense to the young revolutionary who was, after all, deeply trained in traditional philosophies. Zhang’s practical attraction to this particularly intellectual school of Buddhism was twofold. First, it provided a critique of Confucian moralism and opened the door to other resources from China’s rich philosophical traditions, such as Daoism and alternative schools of thought like Moism, from the time of Confucius. Zhang used it to attack Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao’s reform Confucianism. Second, the careful logic of Weishi Buddhism provided a vocabulary that Zhang used to resist mainstream Western thought, providing trenchant criticisms of the philosophies of Hegel, Kant, and even Plato. In anarchism Zhang Binglin found a philosophy congenial to these beliefs, critical of the dominant traditions in both China and the West, and offering an austere 33

34

Charlotte Furth, “Intellectual Change: From the Reform Movement to the May Fourth Movement, 1895–1920,” in Merle Goldman and Leo Ou-fan Lee, eds., An Intellectual History of Modern China (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002), pp. 45 ff., gives a good account of these debates. Material on Zhang Binglin’s philosophy from Viren Murthy, The Political Philosophy of Zhang Taiyan (Leiden: Brill, 2011), pp. 107 ff.

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individualism and the voluntary communities of mutual assistance consistent with his Buddhist ethics and Daoist naturalism. In all, Zhang was perhaps the most intellectually sophisticated of his generation of scholars who attempted to find Chinese resources to meet the challenges of modernity. Zhang Binglin’s importance in modern Chinese intellectual history is less in his revolutionary phase than in his contributions to what may seem a contradictory strain of Chinese thought: cultural conservatism. Zhang himself broke with Sun Yat-sen in 1907, and even served Yuan Shikai’s regime (though he crossed swords with Yuan as well, and had another stint in jail between 1913 and 1916). In all, Zhang dedicated his life and scholarship to reviving Chinese self-confidence in their civilization—his answer to the question of the day: how to save China? While his public life was eclipsed by the energetic and cosmopolitan revolutionary activities of the next generation, he has left a body of scholarship that forms a core resource for Chinese nativist thinking down to today. Discovering democracy in the provinces: constitutions and business associations Only a tiny fraction of the tens of thousands of gentry males who took the imperial exams passed even the first of the big three exams, not to mention the elite Palace Examination that produced the august jinshi scholars. The great majority of these products of the Confucian academies became a social elite glued together by their shared experience as students and as local landlords and, despite the official disdain for commerce, as substantial merchants. Their language was the elite culture of China, the poetry, painting, and calligraphy that defined the “Three Treasures” of the scholar and also the Confucian discourse that shaped ideas of how the universe worked, what made a person honorable, all the way down to rules for family life and strictures on the public role of women. For the century before the 1898 reforms, this provincial elite had wrestled with the contradiction between their stated goal of government service and the reality that over 90 percent of them would never have that chance. This limitation to scholarly service was heightened after the Qing suppression of the Taiping Rebellion in 1864 by two generations of local notables who came to regional government service through practical service, purchasing their exam status and rising through the bureaucracy by competent administrative skill. Both forces created an actually existing life for most Confucian scholars outside the ideal model of the literati. An already vigorous commercial book trade grew stronger and became a sort of public for this elite, with shared preferences in new

Discovering democracy in the provinces

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writings (often cast as commentaries on the classics) and issues of the day (often concerning how better to contribute to local order in the face of the weakening presence of the state in their locality). These channels of communication, language of politics, and community of mutually recognized local elites were a key audience for the debates of Liang Qichao and the examination elite. By the 1890s, newspapers provided a critical accelerant to discussions among this public, this world of intellectual life. Local elites in Zhejiang read Liang Qichao’s newspaper, New Citizen’s Miscellany, as well as Shenbao. The fathers and uncles worried about the failures of the Qing court and tried to imagine what the parliament and a proposed “modern” school curriculum would entail. Meanwhile, their sons grew up on a visceral sense of “China’s shame” at the hands of European and Japanese imperialists, most vibrantly experienced in the presence of foreign enclaves in the treaty ports and European and American missionaries in their area. These younger gentry increasingly trained in new-style military and technical schools called high schools, but operating as colleges for young men, and soon women, by the late 1910s. The textbooks that students of these new schools studied gave a changing picture of their history. Mixing traditional models of dynastic change (the rise and fall of dynasties from the ancient Qin and Han down to the current Qing), the model of “liberation by returning to the ancient” shown in Japan’s recent successful modernization through “restoring” their imperial system in the Meiji Restoration, and a state-centered national identity, new history textbooks in the early 1900s helped shape an emerging identity for China among students. The results were twofold: a state-centered patriotism in which Chinese citizens were encouraged to identify with the state—but only if that state could protect national boundaries—and encouraged to serve “China” in new ways—as teachers, publishers, academics, and entrepreneurs.35 This new generation was thrilled by the writings of Liang Qichao and a raft of other reformers in Liang Qichao’s circles, at those of the even more exciting Republicans like the militant Zou Rong, and soon by startling claims by anarchists. As Wen-hsin Yeh has shown for the 1910s, the social experience of this rural elite, such as those from the “middle counties” of Zhejiang, entailed a jarring disjunction as they migrated from traditional societies in the hinterland (albeit already 35

Peter Zarrow, “Discipline and Narrative: Chinese History Textbooks in the Early Twentieth Century,” in Brian Moloughney and Peter Zarrow, eds., Transforming History: The Making of a Modern Academic Discipline in Twentieth-Century China (Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 2011), pp. 169–207; and studies in Tze-ki Hon and Robert J. Culp, eds., The Politics of Historical Production in Late Qing and Republican China (Leiden: Brill, 2012).

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undergoing economic and social change, and in many cases decline as new treaty ports usurped their economic roles) to attend the new provincial colleges teaching the new learning from the West in major cities like Hangzhou. In a few weeks, these scions of the provincial elite tumbled through the already helter-skelter “modernization” that these treaty port societies had experienced over the past half-century. It was disorienting and exciting, and most youth accepted that they had no choice but to find a way to cope with this new world of Chinese weakness (militarily, technologically, politically, and, most painfully, culturally) and Western dominance.36 In their forced encounter with “modernity with Edwardian characteristics” of the first decades of the twentieth century, these Zhejiang students used the framework of Neo-Confucian thought they had imbibed at the feet of their tutors back in the home counties to interpret “society” and “citizen” and how to mobilize the latter to serve the former with minzhu to benefit the qun or the shehui of Zhongguo. They knew the words—min for people; zhu for rule; qun for people as a group. Putting together she for community, usually a place, together with hui, usually a meeting or association, introduced the idea of “society” as a social and political force alien to Confucian political theory.37 And then there was the revival of “central states” (zhongguo), which these students knew from their ancient history of the centuries before the Qin Dynasty (third century BCE) now used to describe the polity they had grown up calling the Great Qing Dynasty. Today, as we encounter these words in their mouths, we risk misunderstanding the jarring novelty of these terms and the inherited echoes from Confucian thought they carried for this generation. In the hands of Liang Qichao, however, the new language became clearer, and intoxicating. Everyone knew that Japan had humiliated China in the recent war, and now Liang Qichao in his lucid prose was using the language—the new words—of Meiji Japan to explain the harsh new realities of a new period of warring states, this time coming from Europe, and to encourage fellow Chinese scholars that they could, in fact, meet that challenge. It was the world of social Darwinism: survival of the fittest. Liang, in fact, was drawing from the translations of Yan Fu

36 37

Wen-hsin Yeh, Provincial Passages: Culture, Space, and the Origins of Chinese Communism (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996). Another case of the return borrowing from Japan of neologisms using Chinese characters, shehui is the Chinese reading of the Japanese shakai, “society.” See Fogel, Emergence of the Modern Sino-Japanese Lexicon.

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(1854–1921), who provided the locus classicus for this new worldview in a half-dozen book-length translations of major Western thinkers.38 Yan Fu translated Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, Thomas Huxley’s Evolution and Ethics, John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty, and especially Herbert Spencer’s A Study of Sociology in just a few years after 1895. He translated them into literary Chinese, limiting the audience to the well-educated examination elite, but Liang Qichao and others popularized new ideas coming out of these seminal nineteenth-century European writers in the popular language of the newspapers. Yan Fu, like Liang and the generations of Chinese intellectuals active after 1905, was groping for a way to think about China as a society-nation rather than as a culture. Spencer’s image of the “social organism” provided just the missing intellectual DNA to help Yan Fu see China in a new way that suggested what to do. Spencer’s “social organism” invoked the model of the biological organism. Huxley’s Evolution and Ethics connected this social organism to social Darwinism—where the struggle for survival drove not only species evolution but civilizational development (translated by Yan Fu as tianze, “selection by Heaven”). Social Darwinism provided a convincing explanation of China’s woes and a heartening analysis of what to do. Yan Fu translated A Study of Sociology as Qunxue yilun, literally “a discussion of the study of qun,” giving the term and its new meaning to Liang Qichao and others to promote. China was a qun, a social body of people, and they could struggle to survive! Drawing from Yan Fu’s translations, Liang and soon many other voices from this provincial elite used social Darwinism in their own local newspapers and journals to map out what the thinking person should do: reform themselves through the study of modern subjects, like mathematics and military arts, and reform their province and their counties by making them modern. At just this moment, the Qing finally brought some political reform in the New Policies after 1902. For the provincial elite the key was the provincial assembly. Intended by the Qing to serve as a relatively passive voice of regional scholars to inform Beijing how the reforms were being applied in the provinces and to identify problems that could be addressed by readjusting central-level policies, the new assemblies quickly became a political tool for aggregating local concerns (as voiced by the gentry elite) and agitating for those interests. The reforms announced by the Qing court legalized provincial assemblies for the “discussion” of public affairs, giving a public forum to the Confucian scholar elite. The same 38

Material on Yan Fu from Benjamin Schwartz, In Search of Wealth and Power: Yen Fu and the West (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1964), esp. pp. 52–61.

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reforms also permitted chambers of commerce in the cities, giving voice to China’s merchant elite. Without meaning to, the Qing—who used the constitutional reforms to try to centralize power—handed to Chinese society two of the major institutions of a bourgeois revolution: parliaments for landed elites and associations for merchant elites, both empowered to propose legislation. The organization of politics and education for the previous centuries had been designed to avoid just this sort of thing. Chinese statecraft had long recognized the centrifugal force of local interests and had devised the central civil service examination system and the “rule of avoidance” (where the examination elite could not serve the government in their home region) precisely to inhibit the formation of regional power. Just as the Qing went back on the parallel plank of traditional statecraft that prohibited the formation of local military power in order to combat the mortal challenge of the Taiping Rebellion in the 1850s (by allowing the formation of the Hunan Army under Zeng Guofan, who did defeat the Taipings, but initiated the practice of local armies that led to the rise of local military leaders), so, too, in order to combat the military and economic challenge of the Western powers by century’s end, the Qing allowed not only military organization at the provincial level but also legitimate political assemblies as well. Each move was necessary, but together created the mechanisms for the republican revolution and its quick descent into the miasma of competing regional militarists.

From government service to business The regional elite of China did not uniformly turn to public debate and government service in the new Republic, not least because the fall of the Qing brought a new and dangerous form of political competition: political violence became the order of the day. One path for regional elites concerned with public affairs is reflected in the life of Ye Chongzhi (1873–1930), scion of a family of civil servants from the interior provinces, born in Anhui and raised in Henan as his grandfather and father served the Qing as local officials.39 By 1912 Ye Chongzhi had turned away from government service. He had served his father’s patron, Yuan Shikai, and was appointed police daotai for Zhili province (around Beijing) in July 1911, but before the fateful Wuchang uprisings that October 39

This material comes from Joseph Esherick’s valuable social history of this politically active family over a century of modern China’s political and social changes, Ancestral Leaves: A Family Journey through Chinese History (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011).

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that initiated the republican revolution, Ye Chongzhi was cashiered by the tottering Qing authorities due to the revolutionary activities of a clan member. His younger cousin, Ye Chongju, a revolutionary in Sun Yatsen’s camp, was arrested in Beijing in September. Before the uncle could travel from Tianjin to meet with Yuan Shikai to plead his case, confident that family ties would, as usual, prevail, the young revolutionary was summarily shot. Ye Chongzhi was not ready for this new, violent brand of politics. A year later, when his old patron was president of the new Chinese Republic, Ye Chongzhi declined his offer to serve as a high official in the new regime. The grandson of a regional governor, son of a reformist official, Ye Chongzhi turned away from government service and spent the next twenty years working, and prospering, in business. Ye Chongzhi’s family was a model of the transitional Chinese family around 1900. He set up his home in Tianjin, an administrative center for north China throughout the Qing, but also by this time a major foreign treaty port. His family compound was large and with his mother, his wife, two concubines, their nine sons and five daughters, plus associated servants, the compound was home to some fifty people. Ye Chongzhi lived a traditional home life, honoring his parents (in this case only his mother was surviving), maintaining a wife by arranged marriage and one or more concubines by choice, and raising all the resulting children. Yet his public life was modern in many ways, and life in the treaty port transformed the family. At the superficial level, the household had electricity, though the patriarch preferred to read by the light of a kerosene lamp. More significantly, the family hired modern tutors conversant in foreign languages and mathematics to supplement the boys’ traditional education and to make sure the girls were literate. By the 1920s the children were studying in the modern, coeducational schools of Tianjin giving an education geared toward the new knowledge of international business, science, and other professions of modern life, but also changing the shape of China’s elite families. The coeducational high schools and colleges led to love marriages, and the social upheavals of post-Qing China weakened the authority of elders to continue arranged marriages. New ideas and new families emerged by the 1930s.40 The material and social world of this provincial elite changed most dramatically in these treaty ports. In Tianjin there were paved roads, gaslights and later electric lights, public buildings with impressive stone facades in the European style, a great town hall, public parks modeled on 40

Zhou Yiliang, whom we will meet in Chapter 4 as a returned student in the 1940s, grew up in a similar family of a reformist businessman in Tianjin. See his Just a Scholar: Memoirs of Zhou Yiliang, trans. Joshua A. Fogel (Leiden: Brill, 2013).

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London’s, telegraph connections to the world, and a vibrant press, including major English-language publications. These signs of urban modernity had begun with the British concession area in Tianjin in the 1880s, but were extended to the whole city in the aftermath of the Boxer Uprising (foreign forces administered Tianjin for two years as part of the settlement of the conflict) and deepened after 1903 with the return of the Qing administration under Yuan Shikai, in those years a leading modernizing reformer. These changes naturally affected people’s outlook. Ye Chongzhi may have maintained his traditional personal life, even as he served as director of a series of major companies and banks, finally serving as the director of the National Industrial Bank of China. But, as the Ye family biographer, Joseph Esherick, notes, younger generations took the changes to heart. The 1906 Ye family genealogy (a fully traditional genre of elite lineages) enthused about “the tides of nationalism.” The editor, Ye Shanrong, had studied in Japan and the changes there had changed him: I observed the beauty of its broad and elegant parks, the imposing statues along its boulevards . . . Riding on the buses and street cars I felt exhilarated. There are lutes [probably player pianos] which play by themselves; ploughs [tractors] that till by themselves; looms that weave by themselves, and machines that make things by themselves. Things are so finely made that dust dissolves with washing and they glisten when polished.

Mechanization and hygiene equal modernity for Ye Shanrong, and nationalism is the reason. “What is the cause,” he asks rhetorically, “for the majestic and radiant appearance of this new society? It all stems from a people being organized on the principle of the nation-style (guojia zhuyi de minzu) and not on the principle of the extended family.”41 Prophetic words from a 1906 family genealogy that echo Liang Qichao’s newspaper exhortations. While Ye Chongzhi eschewed government service in these newly violent times, the next generation would not be so reluctant. In fact, the Ye family offspring of the May Fourth generation (coming into public life in the 1920s and 1930s) fanned out across China, some serving the new Nationalist government, others joining the Communists, and others taking up new academic roles as scientists, while the eldest son carried on the family business. The elder daughters were married off more traditionally, but the younger ones spread their wings. The result was that China’s families, the hearths in which China’s intellectuals grew and found their support and solace, would change by mid-century from 41

Quote from Esherick, Ancestral Leaves, p. 108.

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extended families like Ye Chongzhi’s to nuclear families, most often not living with their parents and siblings and often in different cities. Mao’s revolutions, despite their attacks on personal attachments, would make the husband–wife bond the strongest emotional reality for most Chinese after the fires of the Cultural Revolution. But in the 1930s, celebrations of conjugal affection, or just plain sexual attraction, were still scurrilous, indeed revolutionary. The sexual revolution would catapult one of our May Fourth intellectuals, Ding Ling, into the public spotlight in the next ideological moment. Merchant life was not, however, apolitical. The Qing reforms of 1906 that gave legitimacy to provincial assemblies dominated by landed gentry had also legalized commercial chambers of commerce in China’s cities. These quickly became fora of public life and political agitation by China’s merchant elites. The merchants of the lower Yangzi region, particularly around Shanghai, were the first to respond. Just three months after the Qing announcement, they had formed the Society for Constitutional Preparation in December 1906. This included some highprofile literati reformers, but most of its directors were leaders from area chambers of commerce. Indeed, the society was housed in the same offices as the Shanghai Commercial Study Society, which was also staffed by chamber members. This was the public face of merchant interests and they addressed themselves to questions of commercial legislation in the proposed constitutional reforms. They held conferences in 1907 and 1909, drawing representatives from as far afield as Singapore, and there published a journal. This was an immense change in Chinese political life. As Zhongping Chen notes, it was a network revolution organizing commercial voices directly into a legal political public sphere.42 Together, the provincial assemblies and chambers of commerce provided the infrastructure for a bourgeois revolution, giving voice to regional and business interests in a direct and palpable manner never before seen in Chinese statecraft. China’s intellectuals from Changsha to Chengdu grabbed these tools with both hands.

Serving Christ and China Religious life has always had a place in Chinese life, even if the religious organizations most familiar to Westerners, the church or synagogue or mosque, were not. Chinese popular religion is famously pantheistic and 42

Zhongping Chen, Modern China’s Network Revolution: Chambers of Commerce and Sociopolitical Change in the Early Twentieth Century (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2011), pp. 169 ff.

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more focused on festivals and funerals than on doctrine and organization. Elite views of the transcendent were similarly uninstitutionalized and tended toward a sort of meditative naturalism. The state took a role unfamiliar to Western societies, serving as cosmic peace-keeper but not embracing a particular faith.43 In this open society of faiths, Buddhist monasteries and temples flourished but did not form a church. Confucian rituals dominated state ritual from Beijing to the local yamen, but made no theological claims. Mosques and synagogues had been in China for centuries, but were seen by most Chinese as signs of ethnic distinctiveness, not something for most Chinese. Into this open world of faith, Christian missionaries had endeavored to spread the word of Jesus Christ since the Italian Jesuit Matteo Ricci famously tried to adapt his faith to Chinese conditions during the late sixteenth century. Catholic missionaries had limited freedom in China until the early eighteenth century, when the religion was proscribed for being intolerant. Small Catholic communities endured but did not really expand. The arrival of Western powers in the nineteenth century, particularly after the British victories in the first Opium War in 1842, brought a new and more vigorous wave of evangelism in the form of a dedicated cadre of Protestant missionaries. These missionaries, inflamed with the civilizational confidence of the modern achievements of European society and protected by foreign gunboats, penetrated deep into China’s interior as well as setting the tone of bourgeois life in Shanghai and other treaty ports. Their impact on modern Chinese intellectual history was immense. Not least, they brought the newspapers. Wang Tao, known as China’s first major journalist, learned the trade in Shanghai and Hong Kong from British and American missionaries. In fact, Wang Tao was baptized in Shanghai in 1854, though he did not advertise his conversion.44 The missionary impact was not limited to material or social factors. Protestants had some success in conversions. The nineteenth century saw the birth of a small but growing and quite vibrant community of Chinese Christians, some of whom became leading lights in China’s modernization. While the missionary effort is stained by its complicity with European imperialism and was often blighted by thinly disguised racism (exemplified in Rev. Arthur Smith’s notorious 1894 book Chinese 43

44

An excellent study of religion and public life in modern China, with a good overview of traditional roles, is Vincent Goossaert and David A. Palmer, The Religious Question in Modern China (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2011). Paul Cohen, “Christian Missions and Their Impact to 1900,” in John King Fairbank, ed., The Cambridge History of China, Vol. X, Late Ch’ing, 1800–1911, Part I (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978), p. 584.

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Characteristics), the faith was real to some Chinese and shaped their sense of how to serve the public good for their country. Ma Jianzhong (1844–1900), for example, was trained in Catholic schools, studied in France, and served as one of the most valuable advisers on foreign affairs to the late Qing reform leader, Li Hongzhang. In this earlier generation, however, it is hard to tell how much Christianity was a driving faith and how much it was the religious aspect of their Western orientation. At a minimum, as Paul Cohen notes, Christianity as presented by Western missionaries in the late nineteenth century “served to dramatize the fact that other worldviews—legitimate and respectable—were possible. Once this became plain, Confucian society, for the first time, was placed on the defensive.”45 Religious identification was clearer in the next generation, the generation of revolutionaries represented by Sun Yat-sen, himself a Christian. Chinese Christians played a prominent role in the pre-1905 revolutionary efforts of this movement, including the leadership of the Canton plot in 1895 and some 30 percent of the original participants in the Waichow (Huizhou) uprising of 1900. Among the reformers around Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao, the inspiration and model of Western missionaries influenced their proposals, from Kang’s endorsement of Confucianism as a state religion (calling it Kongjiao, the teachings of Kong, rather than ruxue, or Confucian scholarship), to the mutual endorsement of Confucian and Christian ethics of their famous martyr to reform, Tan Sitong.46 The next generation, products of the new schools after 1900, found Christianity far less alien, and for some Christianity became the way to be both Chinese and modern. Yan Yangchu (1893–1990), known in America by his English name, James Yen, or “Jimmy” to friends, stands as a major example of this cohort, many of whom found that Jesus and liberalism, generally on the American Protestant model, went together. Yan Yangchu was born in the heart of China’s inland province, Sichuan, to a literate family of moderate means. Trained in the Chinese classics by his father, who practiced Chinese medicine, he was sent at age ten to the School of Western Learning run by Protestant missionaries in a larger town some ninety miles away. There the youngest of the Yan boys came under the influence of a quietly charismatic missionary teacher, William B. Aldis, whose goal was to make Christianity Chinese by example and not by declamation. As his biographer, Charles Hayford, notes, the future James Yen encountered Christianity in its Chinese form through the way Aldis treated him and the other students. Yan recalled that Aldis

45

Cohen, “Christian Missions,” p. 585.

46

Cohen, “Christian Missions,” pp. 587–8.

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never preached to the boys, “but he lived literally the Christian life . . . because of that I have remained all my life a Christian at heart.”47 The theology was real for the lad, and practical. The model of Jesus, who said, “it is written in the book, but I say unto you . . .,” served for him as an inspiration to change the received word in China. After four years, he moved on to a middle school run by American Methodists in Chengdu, Sichuan’s capital city. There he befriended James Stewart, son of a British missionary, and through him doors opened to the YMCA and university training in Hong Kong and then America. They were such friends that the young Yan Yangchu took his British friend’s English name, James, becoming James Yen. The upheavals of 1911 reverberated in Western China and local Chinese secret societies agitated against the British for taking over China’s railways. James’s parents called him home to the safety of their mountain town, where he became a respected teacher of modern topics. The first years of the new Republic for James Yen, however, were years of English study, first back in Chengdu and in 1913 in Hong Kong, where the YMCA connections were decisive and propelled him to scholarship study in America. He enrolled in Yale University in 1916 and was in America and Europe until the summer of 1920. He would return to lead one of the most important rural reconstruction projects in the decades ahead. We will consider James Yen’s contributions in the context of his more traditional Confucian colleague, Liang Shuming, in the next chapter.

From medicine to literature A third provincial example is the medical student Zhou Shuren (1881–1936), from a declining gentry family in the southeastern town of Shaoxing in Zhejiang province. After training in the new schools of the late Qing, the Jiangnan Naval Academy, and later the School of Mines and Railways, young Zhou went to Japan in 1902 on a government scholarship, moving to the Sendai Medical Academy in 1904, where he was the first Chinese student admitted. One day after class, one of his Japanese instructors screened a lantern slide documenting the imminent execution of an alleged Chinese spy by the Japanese army during the Russo-Japanese War (1904–5). Zhou Shuren was shocked by the

47

James Yen, interview in Charles Hayford, To the People: James Yen and Village China (New York: Columbia University Press, 1990), p. 16. Material on James Yen comes from Hayford’s book.

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complete apathy of the Chinese onlookers; he decided it was more important to cure his compatriots’ spiritual ills than their physical diseases: At the time, I hadn’t seen any of my fellow Chinese in a long time, but one day some of them showed up in a slide. One, with his hands tied behind him, was in the middle of the picture; the others were gathered around him. Physically, they were as strong and healthy as anyone could ask, but their expressions revealed all too clearly that spiritually they were calloused and numb. According to the caption, the Chinese whose hands were bound had been spying on the Japanese military for the Russians. He was about to be decapitated as a “public example.” The other Chinese gathered around him had come to enjoy the spectacle.48

Disgusted, Zhou soon gave up his medical studies. Following Liang Qichao’s advocacy of the power of fiction as a moral example, he turned to the study of literature in the hopes of addressing the “calloused and numb” condition of his fellow Chinese. He returned to China in 1909 to teach in one of the new secondary schools in Zhejiang. This emphatically provincial role was just the place where the readers of Liang Qichao, Sun Yat-sen, and the new textbooks generated a new generation of active intellectuals. Mr. Zhou himself soon made the transition from provincial scholar to national intellectual. Through the excellent contacts of the Shaoxing network of intellectuals (which included Cai Yuanpei, soon to be president of Peking University), Mr. Zhou took up a post in the Ministry of Education of the new Republic in Beijing. Some five years later, making good on his plans to use literature to awaken his fellow citizens, he published a new-style political short story, “Diary of a Madman,” under the pen name Lu Xun. Thus was born China’s most famous twentieth-century writer. Enduring ideas around 1905 Three ideas formed the heart of public discussion of China’s fate in this first ideological moment of modern China: the people, China, and democracy. While different intellectuals disagreed on how to save China, they all employed these three key ideas that were to endure, with changes, over the century to today. The people, generally qun, came into prominent use in political language during this ideological moment. While the word, and the idea of “groups of people,” had been used in Chinese political writings since the Axial Age of Confucius some 2,500 years earlier, in the days of Yan Fu 48

Lu Xun, “Preface to Call to Arms,” trans. in Selected Stories of Lu Hsun, trans. Yang Xianyi and Gladys Yang (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1972), p. 23.

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and Liang Qichao qun gained significantly new meanings. In fact, it was at the heart of the modern transformation of what China’s thinkers and writers do, whom they would serve, and how they sought to serve the public good. Previously, the public, gong, referred to the interests of the dynasty or to the ideals of political Confucian philosophy. We might call these political and moral goods. Benefits to the people were a product of these two more fundamental goods. In traditional statecraft the population was seen as families and individuals, not national groups, and they were subjects, not citizens. Liang’s generation changed all that. An identity as Chinese came down from Heaven and landed on these new qun. The word for this Chinese identity was not Zhongguo, the word we all know now stands for “China” the nation-state. It was hua, or “Florescence.” The identity of our thinkers and writers and all the people amongst whom they lived in the area we now call China was cultural rather than national or biological. You were Chinese if you were civilized in the ways that famous sinophone writers and philosophers had advocated and governments ruling the area had adopted for millennia. In traditional writings, it was embracing the cultural attributes of hua—writing phonograms (what we call “Chinese characters”), cooking your food in the Chinese style, following certain marriage and family patterns articulated in Confucian texts, speaking one of the variants of the yu (language) shared by people of hua (dialects of huayu we know as Mandarin, Cantonese, Hokkien/Fujianese, etc.). That it is so awkward to express premodern identity without the word “Chinese” in English, or Zhongguo (China) or Zhongguoren (Chinese person) in Chinese, shows us how different modern conceptions of identity, nationality, and ethnicity are. Those modern concepts began to attract the attention of Liang Qichao’s generation for all the reasons we have seen—essentially a civilizational challenge from the imperialist West and an example of successful adaptation in Japan. By 1905, “Chinese” began to be expressed in terms of Zhongguo, as well as Zhonghua, and, as Zhang Binglin insisted, it was based on race, on bloodline as well as on cultural practice. This racially defined group now constituted the legitimate basis for a political identity, for a nation-state (guojia), a neologism borrowed back from contemporary Japanese usage (kokka). This fateful shift in perspective was probably the greatest single conceptual leap that has shaped twentieth-century Chinese history. The Westphalian nation-state was as alien to Chinese political thought and social experience in the nineteenth century as it had been to European societies before the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. It took European polities some 200 years to build identities as citizens of nation-states

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across the populations of its political entities,49 but the Chinese would have to make this conceptual shift in less than a single generation. If China was to be a nation, like Britain or America, then it may as well have a state like theirs: a republic. After the failure of reform efforts in 1898, some intellectuals turned to the idea of making China a republic. Some thought this could be done by transition—a constitutional monarchy, as in Meiji Japan at that time; others felt only a violent revolution to overthrow the Qing Dynasty would provide the necessary radical surgery on the body politic. At this moment, the Western concept of race, of race as identity and of racial hierarchy of civilized and uncivilized peoples, began to make sense to Chinese intellectuals. The republican movement thus picked up a racial, anti-Manchu overtone. The Manchus were blamed for the recent misfortunes. Here began a story about Han supremacy that would thread across the twentieth century, appearing as revolutionary nationalism, briefly as eugenics, and today in the discourse of personal “quality” (suzhi). Democracy as an idea came to China’s public discussions in the 1890s through Japan in the word minzhu, literally “people’s rule.” What that meant varied by writer, but we have seen that those around Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao saw minzhu as part of a constitutional monarchy, with an elected legislature. It did not mean one person, one vote, as Liang, amongst others, bemoaned the woeful characteristics of his fellow Chinese around 1900 and the unsuitability of the unenlightened masses for democracy. The radicals around Sun Yat-sen and Zhang Binglin plumped for a republican form of democracy, drawing on French and American models, but with a wide range of adaptations to fit Chinese conditions. They, too, sought a limited franchise, limiting citizenship to Han Chinese or other ethnicities that adapted to Han ways. The proclamations of local elites in provincial assemblies and chambers of commerce echoed these assumptions—people’s rule meant rule by these elites, such as themselves, defined by wealth, land, and education.

49

A classic study of the last stages of this development is Eugen Weber, Peasants into Frenchmen: The Modernization of Rural France, 1870–1914 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1976).

China in the 1910s

The world of Yuan Shikai’s failed emperorship in 1916 had been unimaginable in 1905 or 1895. The Qing was gone: the monarchy, the ordered world of the Confucian bureaucracy, the verities of tradition and social practice. China was now a republic, albeit a poorly functioning one. The universe around China had changed, as well. The rumblings of Western encroachment, which the Qing and Chinese elite did their best to ignore in the last half of the nineteenth century, had come crashing down upon Chinese society, both urban and rural, in the form of everpresent treaty ports; new trains and steamships; telegraphs and newspapers; entitled Christian missionaries around the country; great, looming modern stone buildings; banks; and businesses. All buttressed by overwhelming military might and cultural pride. The world that imposed itself upon a faltering Qing and tenuous Republic was the world of Barbara Tuchman’s “proud tower”—the self-confident imperial powers of Europe and America, along with the less confident but much more insistent new Japanese empire.1 The world, largely the West, was here to stay. Twenty years of addressing the question “how to preserve the world we were born to” had made that question moot. That world was gone. Gone with the Qing emperor, gone with the examination system, gone with an indigenous commercial agricultural system all transformed by economic dislocation, social upheaval, and political revolution that came with being plugged into the world system of European and American industrial capitalism. There was no going back. The suicide in 1918 of the noted Confucian scholar Liang Ji (father of Liang Shuming, whom we shall meet in Chapter 2) came to symbolize this loss. But how to go forward was not clear. That challenge became the defining question of the next ideological moment: revolution.

1

Barbara Tuchman, The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World before War, 1890–1914 (New York: Random House, 1996).

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By 1916, the scholar-officials had faded but the intellectuals or modern scholars or writers had not yet emerged. The old roles were gone but the new roles were not yet clear. In short, old elites had to attempt new jobs. Along with this fundamental change in the identity and role of intellectuals there were related changes in the institutions that created, certified, and employed them. Gone were the Confucian academies. In their place had emerged new high schools, normal schools, military academies, and Western-style universities. Most challenging to the inherited roles of thinkers and writers in China was the birth of modern professions. Professions were the fundamentally new organization of knowledge production and employment of educated people that defined modernity in Europe and America, as well as in their Asian outposts. These professions in their modern form, from selfregulating associations of medical doctors to engineers to academic disciplines, were a relatively new innovation in Europe and America in the mid-nineteenth century. In China, the social and political claims of these professions were utterly new.2 While specific skills, as well as trade guilds, existed throughout Chinese history, the organization of those skills, their employment in the economy, and the public view of all of them changed fundamentally in the early decades of the twentieth century. We have seen this most directly in the public role of chambers of commerce and the medical work of the Jiangsu Educational Association. How educated elites were made and how they were employed began the fundamental transformation to suit industrial capitalism that continues to today.3 Not only were there new ideas during this time, from democracy to republic to science, but also new conceptions took root in social life. In particular, the word, the concept, the idea of “the people” was born in these decades. From the traditional concepts of people such as min and qun there emerged new meanings and understandings of the population, including ideas of citizenship, of nationality, of ethnicity, of economic class. In time, these conceptions would redefine the content of some

2

3

Xiaoqun Xu, Chinese Professionals and the Republican State: The Rise of Professional Associations in Shanghai, 1912–1937 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000). On the rise of professions in Europe and America, see Penelope J. Corfield, Power and the Professions in Britain 1700–1850 (London: Routledge, 1995); and Louis Menand, The Metaphysical Club (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2001); and for public intellectuals Bender, Intellect and Public Life. Robert Culp, Eddy U, and Wen-hsin Yeh, eds., Knowledge Acts in Modern China: Ideas, Institutions and Identities (Berkeley: Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, forthcoming).

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already common usages, such as qun. However, a new term began to be used at this time, though it was slow to attain currency, citizen or guomin. The public world of China had changed. China had become a nationstate. It was a republic, even if a failed republic. It was a state among states in the world, with its own culture, no longer an empire espousing a universal culture. As part of a nation-state, the population became citizens. The huaren became Chinese, or Zhongguo ren. All major writers and thinkers by the 1910s accepted this fact. This fact, however, had not been a fact a generation earlier.4 The nation-state status of China is one of the defining features of China’s modernity. The identity of the educated elite, of thinkers and writers, not only was shaped by the rise of professions but also came to be known in a new form drawn from the example of European intellectuals, particularly French intellectuals such as Émile Zola. The intellectual, or zhishifenzi, would not gain its Chinese name nor present a recognizable face to society until the mid-1920s. However, the transition away from scholar-official or shidaifu was well in progress by the 1910s and a freefloating writer and thinker could find an audience, generate income, and build an identity in the garrets of Shanghai and the alleyways of Beijing, writing for the new commercial press. China’s thinkers and writers, the educated elite, sought to serve the public good by serving China in one way or another. As a generation trained in Confucian service, the first generation of the twentieth century naturally felt that public service to the state administration was the most normal service they could offer. However, as we have seen, during the previous 200 years under the settled rule of the Qing, public service was much broader than being a scholar-official employed directly by the Qing Dynasty.5 The idea that state service is the primary role for the educated elite in China is one that took form at this time but it had not existed so simply, or so dominantly, in earlier generations. In this sense, the tradition of Confucian state service invoked by intellectuals and China’s various states in the twentieth century is a manufactured tradition, along with the kilts of Scotland.6 What was painfully clear was that public service by the 1910s had become physically dangerous. In a way not true 4 5 6

Peter Zarrow, After Empire: The Conceptual Transformation of the Chinese State, 1885–1924 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2012). Benjamin Elman, From Philosophy to Philology: Intellectual and Social Aspects of Change in Late Imperial China (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1984). Eric Hobsbawm and T. Ranger’s seminal collection The Invention of Tradition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983) is usefully updated with Asian examples in Ton Otto and Poul Pedersen, eds., Tradition and Agency: Tracing Cultural Continuity and Invention (Aarhus: Aarhus University Press, 2006).

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in previous generations, service to state administrations in the Republic was uncertain, uncivil, and unsafe. Politicians and bureaucrats were regularly murdered. The brutalization of Chinese politics is a regrettable feature of the twentieth century and was very clear at least from the assassination of the parliamentary leader, Song Jiaoren, in 1913. This uncertainty and this danger shaped intellectual participation for the next fifty years. In all, by the time of the Great War (which we now know as World War I) China’s educated elite found itself between worlds, struggling to create a new one. The profound challenges of political revolution, combined with the frightening changes in their social position, predisposed China’s thinkers and writers to look for revolutionary answers.

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Fig. 2. Propaganda poster shortly after the May Thirtieth Movement. Shows an “imperialist” and a “warlord” torturing a Chinese patriot. The imperialist is in classic cartoon capitalist garb with top hat, and the patriot looks like a workingman, not a scholar. The caption on the top left reads, “Warlord and Imperialist Oppression of the Chinese People [Zhongguo renmin]” and at the bottom, “Recruiting for the China Disaster Committee” (a Communist-led organization in Shanghai that raised funds for imprisoned demonstrators and their families). 70

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On the morning of May 30, 1925, some 2,000 students and local protestors pressed on the Louze police station on Nanjing Road in the International Settlement of Shanghai. They wanted fifteen student leaders recently arrested in labor disputes with Japanese cotton mills to be released. It was a Saturday morning, and the police chief was at the Shanghai Race Club. It was left to a junior and jittery officer, Inspector Edward Everson, and a dozen Sikh and Chinese policemen to handle the protest. They did badly, panicked and shot. A handful of Chinese protestors were killed; a nationwide wave of strikes, protests, and boycotts followed. No one, foreign or Chinese, had seen such public mobilization before. Students, workers, and merchants in colleges, factories, and chambers of commerce rallied to protest foreign privilege and domestic misrule. Revolution had come to the streets of more than twenty-eight Chinese cities. A year later in the winter of 1926–7, as the momentum of these urban protests galvanized the coalition of revolutionary forces based in Guangzhou, a young activist, Mao Zedong, returned to his rural community in the central province of Hunan to prepare for the coming joint Nationalist–Communist armies set to reunify China in the name of Sun Yat-sen’s revolution. Mao was a Communist but worked for the Nationalist Party, as did all his compatriots at the time. What he saw in the rural counties of Hunan inspired him—the energy of China’s rural poor, their ability to organize and overturn village government and redistribute landlord wealth to poor farmers. Mao had seen the future and it was violent revolution based on class antagonism. And it could work. He famously enthused, “Revolution is not a dinner party!” Revolution was not a gift of the urban elite; revolution was growing out of China’s countryside itself.

Voices from the 1920s MAO ZED ONG (18 93 –1 97 6) : R E P O R T O N T H E P E A S AN T M OV EM ENT IN HUNA N ( 19 27 ) Many of the arguments of the peasant movement were the exact opposite of what I had heard from the gentry class in Hankou and Changsha. I saw and heard many strange things of which I had hitherto been unaware. I believe that the same is also true of every province in all of China. Consequently, all criticisms directed against the peasant movement must be speedily set right, and the various erroneous measures adopted by the revolutionary authorities concerning the peasant movement must be speedily changed. Only thus can the future of the revolution be benefited. For the present upsurge of the peasant movement is a colossal event. In a very short time, several hundred million peasants in China’s central, southern, and northern provinces will rise like a fierce wind or tempest, a force so swift and violent that no power, however great, will be able to suppress it. They will break through all the trammels that bind them and rush forward along the road to liberation. They will, in the end, send all the imperialists, warlords, corrupt officials, local

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(cont.) bullies, and evil gentry to their graves. All revolutionary parties and all revolutionary comrades will stand before them to be tested, to be accepted or rejected as they decide. To march at their head and lead them? To stand behind them, gesticulating and criticizing them? Or to stand opposite them and oppose them? Every Chinese is free to choose among the three, but by the force of circumstances you are fated to make the choice quickly.1 HU SHI (1 891 – 19 62 ): FAILURE O F L AW IN NA TIONA L IST CHIN A ( 19 29 ) If there is a real desire to protect the rights of man and to have a true government by law the first prerequisite should be a Constitution of the Chinese Republic. The least . . . should be the promulgation of a Provisional Constitution for the period of tutelage. Dr. Sun Yat-sen in his work entitled Revolutionary Tactics [1906] divided his national construction program into three distinct periods: (1) the Military Era, scheduled to last for three years, (2) the era of the Provisional Constitution, which is to last six years during which all the rights and obligations of the military government towards the people as well as the people’s rights and obligations towards the government shall be definitely fixed by the Provisional Constitution. This law should be rigidly obeyed by the military government and the local assemblies as well as private citizens, [and] (3) the era of Constitutional Rule . . . What we want to-day is a Provisional Constitution or convention, the kind which, in the words of Dr. Sun, “would define the rights and obligations of the people as well as the governmental powers of the revolutionary government.” We want some law to fix the proper limits of the government beyond which all acts become illegal. We ask for a convention that will define and safeguard man’s person, liberty, and property. Any violator of these rights, be he the Chairman of the National Government, or the Colonel of the 152nd Brigade, may be prosecuted and adjudicated by law.2

The ideological moment: revolution The verities of reform had disappointed. The Republic was a sham, the vaunted, feared, and admired Western powers no longer a source of challenge and inspiration but rather a cause of resentment and an object 1

2

Mao Zedong, “Hunan nongmin yundong kaocha baogao,” trans. in Stuart R. Schram and Nancy J. Hodes, eds., Mao’s Road to Power: Revolutionary Writings, 1912–1949, Vol. II, National Revolution and Social Revolution (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1994), pp. 429–30; reprinted in Timothy Cheek, Mao Zedong and China’s Revolutions: A Brief History with Documents (Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2002), p. 42. Hu Shi, “Failure of Law in Nationalist China,” North China Herald (Shanghai), June 22, 1929, reprinted in Cheng and Lestz, The Search for Modern China, pp. 274–5.

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of disillusionment and scorn for the terrible carnage of their Great War (1914–18). China was in the eyes of its educated leaders worse off than it had been a decade before, yet there was no going back. The Western powers, and now Japan, were an inescapable part of life in China—with their smug superiority, treaty port privileges, and dominant military and economic position. The pathetic warlord governments that constituted the shambles of the Republic of China gave no answer to the horrors of the Great War and the betrayal of Chinese interests in the Treaty of Versailles.3 Reform had not worked. It was time for revolution. By the end of the 1910s a new ideological moment had emerged. The revolutionary moment in China in the 1920s was most fundamentally a question of how to awaken the Chinese people in order to save themselves from the clear and present danger of foreign domination and domestic misrule. Military rearmament to support the Confucian dynasty had failed; constitutional monarchy had been subverted by crass Manchu political interests; and the republican revolution had been suborned by warlords. The Chinese people had failed to save themselves by these external means. Something more drastic was needed: a revolution. Most of China’s intellectuals embraced one overriding idea: national revolution. But what kind of national revolution? Answers varied. Revolution seeks to overthrow one system and put in place a new and radically different one. In China from the mid-1910s to the 1930s this involved a fundamental critique of Confucian family and social values—a cultural revolution—and a search for new political ideologies—a political revolution. Both aimed to deliver on the failed promise of 1911—a nationalist revolution. At the same time, the growth of the modern urban sector, based in but not limited to the concession areas of the treaty ports, created a social revolution that saw the articulation of new urban classes, an industrial proletariat, a more mature capitalist class, and a vibrant urban middle class. All of these revolutions can be seen as part of modernization, the recent restructuring of culture, politics, economics, and society in ways that fundamentally change the way people live in industrialized society. Thus the revolution that describes this ideological moment is a revolution in the sense we would use to describe “the modern revolution” rather than a particular political orientation. In these terms, the nuclear family, privileging the technical specialist as a professional, and defining political legitimacy as representation of the people were key revolutionary changes of these decades. The incarnation of this

3

We, of course, know this as the First World War or World War I, but it was known at the time as the “Great War.”

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comprehensive revolution in China in the 1920s was Sun Yat-sen’s reorganized Nationalist Party, the Guomindang. China’s thinkers and writers filled the new commercial press with articles, manifestos, and their own newspapers and radical journals calling for one sort of revolution or another. They trained as scientific and social-science professionals in the missionary colleges and new Chinese universities, as well as going abroad for advanced degrees, creating a social revolution in the natural sciences and modern professions. Despite reservations about first Yuan Shikai’s administration and then a later series of increasingly craven and corrupt “national governments” run by militarists, many educated Chinese served the Republican administration in Beijing, trying to make the government serve these revolutions. China’s most famous man of letters, Lu Xun, served a number of years in the 1910s in the Education Ministry of the Beijing administration. Also, China’s most famous university, Peking University, was run under these woeful governments yet managed to attract the talents of great intellectuals, such as Cai Yuanpei to serve as president of the university, as well as dozens of fine scholars. Universities like Peking University provided a focal point and a public perch for China’s leading intellectuals interested in public commentary and increasingly social activism.4 These two institutions—the commercial press and modern colleges and universities—were the heart of the public sphere that provided the framework for China’s New Culture Movement, generally dated from 1915 to 1925, that takes its name from the May Fourth Movement and the demonstrations against the Treaty of Versailles on May 4, 1919. Most of the intellectuals we will meet in this chapter worked in these universities or published in journals such as New Youth (Xin qingnian) or newspapers like Shibao. All participants in this public conversation accepted the earlier changes in public life captured by Liang Qichao—that China is a nation-state and not a cultural empire and that the Chinese people as a group (qun) were the key to the nation-state’s survival; that governments should represent the people and the people’s interests more directly than via the traditional “mandate of Heaven”; and, more importantly, that the people themselves had to be active citizens rather than passive subjects. The people had to be remade in order to save China. The range of ideas, ideologies, and religious movements we will meet in this chapter all addressed these questions of what sort of

4

Weston, The Power of Position. Beijing daxue itself renders its name into English as “Peking University” and I follow that translation.

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fundamental revolution was called for to save China and how to bring about that revolution.

Awakening China Lu Xun famously captured in 1922 the disillusionment with the Republic felt among China’s new intellectuals—scholars born to the Qing examination system who now found themselves either serving a motley crew of corrupt politicians and fractious warlords or cut off from public service, at best teaching in the new universities or schools or paid to write for the periodical press, or at worst scratching out a living as tutors or clerks. Asked to contribute to a radical journal in order to inspire younger intellectuals, Lu Xun replied, Imagine an iron house without windows, absolutely indestructible, with many people fast asleep inside who will soon die of suffocation. But you know since they will die in their sleep, they will not feel the pain of death. Now if you cry aloud to wake a few of the lighter sleepers, making those unfortunate few suffer the agony of irrevocable death, do you think you are doing them a good turn?

Still, even the famously ambivalent Lu Xun couldn’t simply give up, “I could not blot out hope, for hope lies in the future.”5 He wrote prolifically in support of literary and social revolution for the next fifteen years. The younger generation of students raised in the new schools were more enthusiastic in their efforts. They read their radical elders and took up new approaches to public life in missionary universities, YMCAs, student unions, and soon Bolshevik political parties. Recent events had given Lu Xun cause to have doubts about the future. The combination of domestic failure of the Republican government and international disillusionment at the carnage of the Great War gave political urgency to the cultural revolution that had been brewing in the discussions and debates of the New Culture Movement since 1915. The progress of political life was marked by ongoing disasters, due to domestic and foreign causes. Finally, there was a revival of the Republic in an explicitly revolutionary form under Sun Yat-sen in 1922 in the southern province of Guangdong, followed by the military–political reintegration of the middle provinces of China in the Northern Expedition of 1926–7. This culminated in the establishment of a much more functional national government in Nanjing by 1928 under Sun’s military successor, Chiang Kai-shek. Meanwhile, the Nationalists’ fundamental 5

Lu Xun, “Preface to Call to Arms,” p. 24.

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competitors, the Chinese Communist Party, made their own social and political revolution, first in the cities through a United Front with the Nationalists that Sun Yat-sen had engineered in 1923, and then, after being ruthlessly (and successfully) purged by Chiang Kai-shek in 1927, in the countryside. Revolution in both cases began with breaking down old systems, devising new systems, and then installing and institutionalizing a new order. Two forces in international affairs shaped this ideological moment: increasing Japanese imperialism in China and the impact of World War I. Japan’s response to the weak new Chinese republic was to press its advantages from the concessions of the 1895 war with China. In 1911 Japan formally annexed Korea as part of its empire. Japanese business interests, followed by military protection under the terms of extraterritoriality, extended bit by bit into China’s northeastern provinces. Throughout the 1920s, Japan pushed its control into North China and the environs of Beijing. This culminated in the Japanese seizure of these northeastern provinces, collectively known as Manchuria, and the creation of a puppet state, Manchukuo, in March 1932 (ironically, the Japanese installed the last Qing emperor, Pu-yi, as head of state). Japan, which had been a model of modernization in the opening decade of the 1900s, now became the prime imperialist. “Resisting Japan” would be a constant call of Chinese nationalists until the final reunification of the country and expulsion of all foreign powers (except the Soviet Union) in 1949. World War I had a profound effect on China. In terms of the economy, the distraction of the European powers between 1914 and 1919 gave Chinese capitalists and industrialists a window to grow, and they did. In terms of culture, China’s elites were dismayed at the vicious selfdestruction that these global paragons of civilization inflicted upon themselves (and a number of Chinese saw this firsthand as support troops sent to the European theater, since China was an ally to the Allied Powers). Real doubt about Western civilization began. Politically, Chinese elites were outraged by the cynical terms of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 which gave German concession areas in China (particularly large parts of Shandong province) not back to China as a member of the winning side, but to Japan. The outrage drove Chinese students to the streets in Beijing on May Fourth. They succeeded in pressuring the government of the day not to sign the treaty. China never did. Violence framed this ideological moment. The fighting almost never stopped and natural disasters, including horrific famines in north China in 1922 and again between 1928 and 1930, added to the misery and to the determination of the revolutionaries that harsh measures were called for. Northern warlords had nearly annual “wars” through the 1920s. In

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May 1925 crowd violence erupted in Shanghai involving Chinese and British police forces, as we have seen in our opening image for this chapter. Similarly, labor agitation at several Chinese mines, with strong Communist participation but not limited to CCP organizers, endured violent repression from warlord troops—especially the brutal suppression of the CCP-led railway strike on the Wuhan–Beijing line in 1923 and the crushing of the Anyuan workers’ organization in 1926. As we have seen in our voices selection for this chapter, rural violence emerged when some version of “the revolutionary message” met the frustrations of farmers in central China; Mao, according to his account, was present at the “Hunan Peasant Uprisings” in 1926 and early 1927 but he was not leading them. A generation of anarchists and “enlightened gentry”peddling rural uplift had been stirring the pot, leading protests and providing new ideas and education to farmers—some of a conservative nature, some of a more radical bent. On top of this social violence were three kinds of political violence. The first was fighting between the various regional warlords and between the forces of Sun Yat-sen’s revolutionary government in Guangzhou (which operated as a “United Front” between GMD and CCP organizations) and these warlords, most notably in the Northern Expedition of 1926–7, but carrying on endemically throughout the period. Second was the fighting between Nationalist and Communist forces after their 1927 split. This struggle continued for two decades—pausing only for a few years of mutual nonaggression in the “Anti-Japanese United Front” between 1937 and 1941—and culminating in the CCP victory in 1949, expulsion of the Nationalist forces to Taiwan, and the Cold War tensions of the 1950s and 1960s. Third was, as we have seen, Japanese aggression. Indeed, the date of the Mukden Incident that began the takeover of Manchuria, September 18, 1931, became a national rallying cry for popular anti-Japanese agitation. Boycotts were organized to avoid buying Japanese products and students across China formed “national salvation” organizations. The tone of the 1930s was, indeed, national salvation. Chiang Kai-shek, China’s leader at the time, took this shame and this responsibility to heart. He stepped down briefly as the chairman of the National Government, but most tellingly for the next fifteen years he began his daily diary with “sweep away the shame” (xue chi).6 6

Chiang Kai-shek’s diaries are now stored at the Hoover Institution archives at Stanford University, where I consulted them in May 2011. The theme of national shame in twentieth-century China has been explored in Cohen, Speaking to History and Zheng Wang, Never Forget National Humiliation: Historical Memory in Chinese Politics and Foreign Relations (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012); and Schell and Delury, Wealth and Power.

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Nonetheless, Chiang felt that the challenge from the Communists was a greater threat to China than even that of the Japanese, and he spent his time chasing Communists rather than resisting Japanese encroachments. Continued Japanese aggression, however, turned public opinion even in the Nationalist areas against Chiang’s “fighting with Chinese instead of against Japanese.” Zou Taofen (1895–1944), a leading journalist in Shanghai, and his colleagues formed the “Seven Gentlemen” who led the National Salvation Association in Shanghai in 1934 to protest Nationalist government failure to resist Japan. This nationwide movement peaked in massive student demonstrations known as the “December 9th Movement to Resist Japan and Save the Nation” in 1935. Zou and the others in the Seven Gentlemen were arrested and jailed by Nationalist authorities, further weakening Chiang Kai-shek’s authority amongst intellectuals.7 By late 1935, a decimated Communist force had made it to the relative safety of northwest China. Chiang’s final push to destroy them—which quite possibly could have succeeded—was aborted by mutiny among his regional forces, and he was forced to make peace with the Communists and turn his attention primarily to the Japanese threat (this was the Xi’an Incident of December 1936). The upshot was a second United Front between the Nationalists and Communists. Six months later, the Japanese attacked central China in force and the Nanjing government was compelled to flee further inland. Social changes during the warlord imbroglios of the 1920s and fighting between the GMD and CCP in the 1930s were equally revolutionary. We can think of these social revolutions in two parts: urban and rural. The urban revolution was the growth of modern Chinese society in all its complexities, self-doubts, consumerism, and promise cut short by war and political revolution. This is the famed Republican society of the 1920s and 1930s much studied by scholars inside and outside China as a repository of modern Chinese culture independent of the now much discredited Maoist alternative. It is also the object of popular nostalgia and aesthetic interest—from clothing to restaurant styles—in the People’s Republic today. Shanghai and other modern cities with treaty ports or foreign enclaves moved from electricity and trams to commercial publishing and coffee shops, to new jobs and identities as factory workers, white-collar workers, and independent intellectuals.8 Women

7

8

Parks Coble, “The Anti-Japanese Movement in China: Zou Tao-fen and the National Salvation Movement, 1931–1937,” Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 44, No. 2 (1985), esp. p. 305. Well covered in Wen-hsin Yeh, Shanghai Splendor: Economic Sentiments and the Making of Modern China, 1843–1949 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007).

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came into the public arena as never before. And in these modern sectors the imprint of foreignness was everywhere. Some found the efficiency, the wealth, the modern literature, and even the fashions of Westerners attractive, but others found these to be a challenge to their identity. No one was neutral on the Western origins of modern urban life. Equally revolutionary, though negative, changes were happening in the rural districts of China. The energy and intellectual leadership seen in urban China had been sapped from rural society. The sons and daughters of the gentry elite had departed in droves from their rural lineage estates, warlord armies and rural rebels had devastated many areas, terrible famines and floods wrecked others, and there was no state that could ease the suffering or repair the damage effectively. Finally, rural leadership devolved into the hands of toughs and incompetents. These were the famous “local bullies and evil gentry” mentioned in Mao’s “Report on the Peasant Movement in Hunan,” the shadow self of the glories of Shanghai or of the Academy of Sciences in Nanjing. The Guomindang’s focus on the Communists not only required them to postpone dealing with Japan, it also forced the Nationalists to rely on these degraded local elites. Thus Sun Yat-sen’s revolutionary party, dedicated as part of Sun’s Three People’s Principles to securing the people’s livelihood, had to give Guomindang membership to these local toughs and unscrupulous gentry to staff their county-level government.9 The result was a fundamental break in Chinese statecraft of revolutionary proportions: the central state in Nanjing stopped focusing on the administration of the rural majority. Rural reform was left to independent activists willing to ally with the local Nationalist administrations, such as James Yen’s Mass Education Movement or Liang Shuming’s new Confucian Rural Reconstruction Movement, or to the Communists. This not only had dire consequences for the Nationalists as a regime, but also systematically divorced the countryside from the monumental social and ideological changes going on in China’s vibrant urban centers. The economic, as well as social, chasm between China’s cities and countryside widened as never before. The three revolutionary challenges of this ideological moment were revolutions in culture (what matters in Chinese civilization), in national identity (what it means to be Chinese), and in politics (how to achieve a new culture and polity). We can trace something of how intellectuals responded to each by following a New Culture scientist, Ding Wenjiang; a new-style Confucian, Liang Shuming, who sought a robust modern 9

Lloyd Eastman, The Abortive Revolution: China under Nationalist Rule, 1927–37 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990; first published in 1974).

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Chinese culture rooted in its Confucian and Buddhist heritage; and a radical feminist writer, Ding Ling, who combined social and political revolution in service to the Communist Party. Ding Wenjiang and China’s revolution in science Revolution was not limited to political change. The May Fourth generation explored revolutions in family life (in the critique of Confucian patriarchal “family values”), economic order (through anarchist collectives and peasant mobilization), and cultural order (through a revolution of literature in the vernacular and new forms of advocacy, particularly through the European-style novel). However, one of the most fundamental revolutions of the period was the embrace of modern science. Natural science and its attendant impact on technology were widely embraced by the elder opinion leaders and the enthusiastic new youth of the 1910s and 1920s. Science not only was power—the source of the West’s steamships, armaments, railroads, industrial production, and electricity—but it also equaled civilization, the hallmark of a superior civilization able to produce wealth and public health. Debates on constitutionalism waxed and waned, different political solutions held sway and retreated, and no one agreed on what the new literature should look like exactly, but over the first decades of the twentieth century, two ideas, two worldviews, took root in all but the most recalcitrant minds: the social Darwinism embraced by Liang Qichao’s generation and the power of the natural sciences embraced by the May Fourth generation. These became part of the operating system on which various ideological and political software ran, including the neo-traditional “new Confucians” of the 1920s. That Heaven (the natural tian of inherited Chinese cosmology) ordained this “struggle for survival” was seen as sensible, obvious, a given. Anarchists offered communitarian solutions, New Confucians revived the selfcontrolling and community-building rituals and rites of the classics, revolutionaries espoused militarized political parties, and liberals counseled education and democracy. Science was the shared value of all sides. It was the method by which one could respond to the challenges of a social Darwinist world. The hundreds and then thousands of Chinese students who studied first in Japan and then in Europe and America absorbed the confidence of Victorian and Edwardian society, not to mention the can-do attitude of the Americans. All believed that science as method, as practice, and as product was the root of modern civilization and the guarantor of its future. Science in the popular mind became the correct, accurate, and penetrating study of the material world that produced clear and effective

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solutions to current problems of wealth and power. For those students who trained in the natural sciences and modern medicine this became the scientific method. This gave a new role to China’s thinkers and writers as scientists (kexuejia). Natural science, the tenets of the laboratory experimental method, and the organization of scientists as professionals in self-regulating public societies with the authority of experts in medicine, engineering, and agricultural sciences together offered a new way for China’s intellectuals to participate in public life. The most noted spokesman for the methods of empirical science was Ding Wenjiang (1887–1936). He articulated these values in public in a debate in 1923 on “science and the philosophy of life.” Already of a new generation, Ding Wenjiang went to study in Japan in 1902 and then to the United Kingdom, majoring in zoology and geology. He graduated from the University of Glasgow in 1911. Back in China he taught in one of the new schools, Nanyang Public School (which later became Shanghai Jiaotong University). Ding served the new Republic, like many May Fourth intellectuals even under the troubled militarized Republic of Yuan Shikai. In 1913 Ding became the geological section chief in the Mining Administration of the new Republic. He conducted field surveys in the interior provinces from Shanxi to Yunnan. He also served in other new organizations. In 1921 he became the general manager of the Beipiao Mining Company and he founded a scholarly society, the Chinese Geological Society, where he served as editor of a professional journal, Chinese Paleobiology. In 1925 Ding took up work in Shanghai, even concluding a preliminary renegotiation with foreign powers of Chinese rights in Shanghai. Later Ding served as professor of geology at Peking University, joining colleagues in producing new maps, along scientific lines, of the Republic and of each province. He became one of the leaders of the Republic’s Academia Sinica (the top government research institution in the new capital, Nanjing) in 1934. On a field trip to Hunan, Ding Wenjiang died in an accident in a coal mine in January 1936. In 1923, at the height of the cultural debates following the actual May Fourth demonstrations of 1919, Ding published a polemic, “Mythology and Science,” in which he made fundamental civilizational claims for the scientific method and scientists, and explicitly attacked those intellectuals who felt that science had nothing to do with “the philosophy of life.” His sparring partner, to whom Ding’s essay was a rejoinder, was Zhang Junmai (1886–1969),10 who had made an earlier attack on the universal claims of science. Zhang Junmai himself was a noted Chinese 10

Roger Jeans, Democracy and Socialism in Republican China: The Politics of Zhang Junmai (Carson Chang) (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1997).

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philosopher, public intellectual and later democratic politician. Known for his “Third Force” democratic party during the Nationalist era and as an early theorist of human rights, Zhang had both traditional training, having passed the first of the Confucian state exams, and foreign experience as a student in Japan. He traveled with Liang Qichao to Europe in the aftermath of World War I in 1919 and became deeply influenced by German political philosophy, particularly that of Henri Bergson and Rudolf Eucken. He came to favor German-style social democracy that opposed both capitalism and communism. Later in life he opposed both Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong and moved to America in 1949, where he was known by his English name, Carson Chang. Zhang was a lecturer in philosophy at Tsinghua College in Beijing when he crossed swords with Ding Wenjiang. Zhang Junmai’s lecture in February 1923 on the philosophy of life kicked off the public debate. His point was direct: human life in its spiritual and moral dimensions cannot be guided by the scientific laws of the material world. Human life was, Zhang said, “subjective, intuitive, freely willed and unique to the individual.”11 Zhang drew from the German philosophy he had been studying, and in particular the German counter to Anglo-American empiricism. Thus his attack on the broader social pretensions of the scientists drew as much from Kant’s epistemological skepticism as from the intuitive tradition in Confucianism represented by Wang Yangming. Zhang’s stance is a good example of the alternatives that presented themselves to Chinese intellectuals as they encountered Western political philosophy: AngloAmerican pragmatism and faith in science, German Romanticism and focus on moral philosophy, and Soviet revolutionary ideology, or “science of society.” There were traditions familiar to Chinese intellectuals from China’s own rich storehouse of traditional political thought as well—from Zhu Xi’s “investigation of things,” to Wang Yangming’s moral intuition, to the totalistic claims of imperial Confucian doctrine and its competitor, ongoing redemptive societies (often known as folk Buddhist sects or secret societies). These indigenous thoughtways made foreign imports comprehensible and attractive, bringing new solutions through approaches that were more or less familiar. At the same time, Chinese habits of the mind shaped the imports. Even the most ardent “Westernizers” among Chinese intellectuals were more adapters than adopters. Whether it was liberalism, socialism, or even

11

Zhang Junmai, quoted in Benjamin Schwartz, “Themes in Intellectual History: May Fourth and After,” in Goldman and Lee, Intellectual History, p. 130.

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today’s academic postmodernism, Chinese versions have always been distinctly different from the Western (or global) original. Zhang Junmai’s humanism thus reflected less an import of German Romanticism than a synthesis of neo-Kantian doubts about the scope of natural science as a form of philosophical knowledge that could drive political policy and the moral intuition of Wang Yangming’s Confucianism. Zhang would go on to embrace a tolerant form of political liberalism that reflected these doubts about anyone finding the “total truth” for “all people.” His humanism led to a belief in the need to accept that people would be unlikely to agree on all things, and thus would have to have a mechanism by which to negotiate a reasonable compromise. Like Hu Shi, the leading Chinese liberal, Zhang found democracy to be the most sensible form of political compromise. Ding Wenjiang’s science, on the other hand, embraced the British empiricism he absorbed as a graduate student in Edinburgh. As a geologist, his science was based on Baconian inductionism, which focuses on experience, observation, and experiment. This form of science was congenial to the pragmatic statecraft tradition in Qing China that drew from the philosophical confidence of Zhu Xi (whose version of Confucian doctrine had formed the core of the imperial examination curriculum) that the human mind could know the natural world and that the forces that ordered the cosmos were the same for the natural world and for humans and society. Ding Wenjiang went after Zhang Junmai’s philosophy of life with gusto. First, he called Zhang’s approach “metaphysics” (xuanxue), which smacks of ancient Daoist mysticism, instead of “philosophy” (zhexue), the modern term for academic thought. Ding makes a daring rhetorical move: he blames Zhang’s approach on a discredited European example, while claiming science as a proven universal method: Metaphysics is a bewildered spectre that has been haunting Europe for twenty centuries. Of late it has gradually lost it treacherous occupation and all of a sudden has come swaggering to China, full of pomp and circumstance, to deceive and swindle. If you don’t believe me, look at Zhang Junmai’s ‘Philosophy of Life’! Zhang Junmai is my friend, but metaphysics is an enemy of science. The spectre of metaphysics has attached itself to Zhang Junmai, so we scientists cannot but strike out at it. But the reader should make no mistake: we strike out against the spectre of metaphysics and not Zhang Junmai.12 12

Ding Wenjiang, “Xuanxue yu kexue: Ping Zhang Junmai de ‘Rensheng guan’” (Metaphysics and Science: A Critique of Zhang Junmai’s “Philosophy of Life”), Nuli zhoubao (Working Hard Weekly), Nos. 48 and 49, April 12, 1923, reprinted in Kexue yu renshengguan (Science and the Philosophy of Life) (Shanghai: Shanghai yadong tushuguan, 1923). Part of this opening paragraph to the essay is translated in de Bary

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This metaphysics is so harmful, Ding maintains, because it causes Zhang Junmai to claim that there are no universal standards for right and wrong. Ding demurs and insists, “To find right and wrong and truth and falsehood, what other method is there aside from the scientific?” This is because “whatever cannot be studied and criticized by logic is not true knowledge.” So, to Zhang Junmai’s claim that a philosophy of life is personal and interior, Ding declares, “Science replies: Psychological phenomena are at bottom materials of science. If the phenomena you are talking about are real, they cannot go beyond the sphere of science . . . the scientific method is all-mighty in the realm of knowledge.” Ding concludes by reaffirming “as truth is revealed, metaphysics becomes helpless.”13 The reader is left to conclude that Ding Wenjiang eagerly awaits the recovery of his friend, Mr. Zhang.

Science and politics: Hu Shi’s liberal revolution Hu Shi (1891–1962), a leader of the new generation, studied at Columbia University under John Dewey and became a major spokesman for science as method—including the need for patient, step-by-step research. He famously said, “diligently hypothesize; carefully demonstrate.”14 Like Ding Wenjiang, Hu Shi felt that science should shape the scholar’s approach to public life, but, unlike Ding, he applied science directly to politics. Hu Shi felt that the scientific attitude was the root of British and American liberalism and should be adopted by the Chinese. Hu Shi defined the pragmatic basis of his liberalism clearly in the “problems and -isms” debate of 1919. “Study More about Specific Problems, Talk Less about General Theories (-Isms)” was the title of Hu’s article that kicked off the debate.15 For Hu Shi “problems” were always concrete, specific things—like the working conditions of Beijing’s rickshaw pullers, standards of public health, school textbooks and curricula, customs and prejudices that affected women—and they were each and all susceptible to scientific investigation. The patient

13 14

15

and Lufrano, Sources of Chinese Tradition, Vol. II, p. 372, though I have modified the translations in minor ways to capture in the Chinese text the image of metaphysics as a swaggering demon. De Bary and Lufrano, Sources of Chinese Tradition, Vol. II, pp. 372–3. The best biography in English remains Jerome Grieder, Hu Shih and the Chinese Renaissance: Liberalism in the Chinese Revolution, 1917–1937 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1970). Hu wrote a fair bit in English, collected in English Writings of Hu Shih: Literature and Society (New York: Springer, 2013), Vol. I, where a version of Hu Shi’s motto, yongxin jiashi, danxin zhengming, appears on p. 89. This famous debate is well covered by Hu Shi’s biographer in short compass in Grieder, Intellectuals and the State, pp. 327–31.

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pursuit of an investigation of such a problem required the specialized knowledge of an expert. Hu Shi’s sparring partner was Li Dazhao (1888–1927), Peking University’s librarian and China’s first true Marxist. Li defended the “-isms” that Hu Shi maligned. Li’s faith in a comprehensive solution to the whole set of social problems facing China, rather than a piecemeal approach, was based on two assumptions. First was the importance of collective action. “The solution to any social problem,” Li Dazhao argued, “must depend upon the concerted actions of the social majority.” This social majority will identify and solve whatever social problem there is. This, of course, contradicted the individualism of the expert in Hu Shi’s approach. Second, Li Dazhao had his version of cosmopolitan, or universal, science: Marxism–Leninism. Comprehensive solutions were necessary because social and political problems are interrelated; they must be addressed as a package or not at all. Improving textbooks hardly helps when farmers are hungry. It is hard to feed them when the economy is in a shambles. Indeed, the root of Li’s comprehensive analysis is the economy, specifically Marxist historical materialism, which argues that all of social life (the superstructure) is determined by fundamental economic realities (the base). “The solution of the economic problem is the fundamental solution. As soon as the economic problem has been solved, then whatever problems there may remain concerning politics, the legal system, the family system, the liberation of women or the liberation of laborers, can all find their solution.” The economic problem for Li was capitalism. The fundamental solution was the class struggle of proletarian revolution.16 This was the heart of the difference between the liberals and the Bolshevik parties. While Li Dazhao’s approach was embraced by the Chinese Communist Party when it was formed a few years later in 1921, the Nationalists under Sun Yat-sen would embrace a similar “total solution” under Sun’s “Three People’s Principles,” with their “political tutelage”—the “ism” in the Sunism espoused by Chiang Kai-shek and the Nationalist government after 1927. Hu Shi could not have disagreed more. He reaffirmed his liberal, step-by-step approach in 1929 in a major article, “Which Road Are We Going?”:17 16

17

Grieder, Intellectuals and the State, pp. 328–30. Still the major study of Li Dazhao is Maurice Meisner, Li Ta-chao and the Origins of Chinese Marxism (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1967; reprinted as an ACLS e-book in 2008). Hu Shi, “Women zou na yitiao lu?”, Xin yue, Vol. 2, No. 10 (December 1929); the English version appears in Pacific Affairs, the journal of the Institute of Pacific Relations, Honolulu, in Vol. 3, No. 10 (October 1930), pp. 933–46. Grieder, Intellectuals and the State, p. 330, gives a slightly different translation.

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Our real enemies are Poverty, Disease, Ignorance, Corruption, Anarchy. These five devils are the real opposites to revolution, and every one of them cannot be destroyed by any violent revolution. There is only one revolutionary road by which we can destroy them and that is by clearly recognizing our enemies, clearly recognizing our problems, gathering together all the ability and wisdom of the nation, making full use of the world’s science and knowledge and the concomitant methods, and proceeding step by step to carry out a conscious revolution, so achieving the success of a ceaseless revolution which moves on under the detailed direction of a conscious will.18

This was Hu Shi’s idea of revolution, the revolution of thought and government by the tenets of modern science. It is an inspiring vision, but many in China faulted the liberal approach for precisely its failure to address the problem of violence; that is, political power. Through the 1940s Hu Shi and other liberals pushed for constitutional reform to prepare for democratic elections. However, their fundamental idea of limited government—the heart of the liberal democratic system in which the power of the state is limited by laws that protect the individual and are enforced through the power of open, free, fair, and regular elections—did not “take” in China. In part, the focus on the individual and the presumption to limit state power had, as Jerome Grieder argues, “no precedent, no cultural resonance,” in Chinese political thought.19 Both neo-traditional collective solutions, like Liang Shuming’s village compacts, and the Bolshevik leadership of the Nationalists and Communists could draw on long-standing traditions of state activism and the Confucian tradition to “transform the people through the rites” under state supervision. While the individualism and limits to state power in liberalism may have been uncongenial to inherited assumptions in Chinese political thought, they were not incomprehensible. Hu Shi and other liberals made a cogent case in plain language with plenty of Chinese examples. But it was a new way of looking at politics. It is reasonable to conjecture that in time this liberalism would “take,” just as a form of democratic liberalism has taken root in Chinese society in Taiwan since the 1980s. The real enemy of liberalism in China was the historical moment—of fundamental social breakdown, endemic warfare, and cultural anxiety—what Hobsbawm has called “the age of extremes.” It is exceedingly difficult to try something new when you are down on your luck, tired, and fighting to survive. In the end, it was the violence that doomed liberalism in China at mid-century: Hu Shi’s models and methods could not corral the armies of the contending 18 19

Hu Shi, “Which Road Are We Going?” pp. 944–5. Grieder, Intellectuals and the State, pp. 348 ff.

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Bolshevik parties. Liberalism was a sensible answer to the question of this ideological moment—how to awaken the Chinese people to save themselves? It simply failed to address the question of power. Science, so much a part of our worldview, carries at least two dangers. First is the link with technology. For governments, the technological wonders that science can produce in energy, transport, communications, production, and, of course, weapons are far more compelling than the pure knowledge produced by basic research. There is always the danger of the tail wagging the dog, of scientific research becoming a handmaiden to immediate policy goals. This has been a challenge for all modern governments, but it has particularly bedeviled China’s revolutionary regimes. Instead of serving as a source of enlightenment and a school for democratic toleration, scientific research in China in the twentieth century has largely been a compliant servant of authoritarian states. The second problem is scientism, the political philosophy or ideology that assumes that the methods of natural science can explain how society and individuals work and can determine infallible policies for better government. In China, the rhetoric of revolution came to co-opt science from the 1930s as a panacea with emphasis on “correct” knowledge, ideas, and even thought, as well as an elitist approach to the science of society. Sun Yat-sen would claim a special foreknowledge for “those who awaken first” (xian juezhe): “People of superior wisdom who take one look at a thing and see numerous principles involved, who hear one word and immediately perform great deeds, whose insights into the future and whose achievements make the world advance and give mankind its civilization.”20 Sun’s invitation to serve the party-state as an awakened functionary proved to be attractive to many Chinese intellectuals, whether under Chiang Kai-shek or Mao Zedong. Ding Ling (1904–1986): women’s revolutions on the national scene The siren call of the pedagogical state that would teach the people how to be free offered China’s intellectuals the chance to become once again the teachers of the people. The differences from the role of the traditional Confucian scholar-official were several. These differences are captured in the life and struggles of one of China’s most noted women writers, Ding Ling, as she came up from the provinces to join the literary revolution in Shanghai in the 1920s, committed herself to revolutionary literature in 20

Sun Yat-sen, quoted in John Fitzgerald, Awakening China: Politics, Culture and Class in the Nationalist Revolution (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1997), p. 45.

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the 1930s, and served the new party-state under the CCP from the 1940s. In the ideological moment of May Fourth China, Ding Ling explored the thrill of literary and social revolution and came to see the solution to her frustrations in service to a disciplined Bolshevik party. China’s twentieth century brought many nonelite actors like Ding Ling more fully into the public arena. Ding Ling was born as Jiang Bingzhi into a declining gentry family in the rural center of Hunan province, some 200 miles northwest of Changsha (she took her famous pen name later, after going to Shanghai). Ding Ling’s mother moved to the local county town, Changde, after her husband’s early death when Ding Ling was a small child. The mother trained herself in the modern schools there and became a schoolteacher. Ding Ling followed in her mother’s footsteps and enrolled in the progressive Zhounan Girls’ School in Changsha, the provincial capital. There she became active in street demonstrations around the May Fourth Movement in 1919. Radicalized, Ding Ling declined the arranged marriage her clan planned for her and fled to Shanghai in 1920.21 The social experience of women cuts across the other worlds of intellectual life according to the fundamental social category of gender. Women were treated differently among the examination elite (entirely excluded), the provincial elite (excluded from the public realm, but central to the private society of the family and clan), and in local worlds (still subordinated but with powerful roles in the rural family and exciting new opportunities in professional and public life in the city), as well as in popular culture (depicted as paragons of virtue or as wicked temptresses). But articulate women in each world of life pushed against the bounds of social convention, some in search of meaningful private lives, but some in public affairs—Qiu Jin in 1904 was a fighter. Ding Ling would become the voice of liberated Chinese women in Republican China.22 Revolution for Ding Ling and her colleagues involved a fundamental critique of Confucian family and political values, a search for new political ideologies, and finally an embrace of Bolshevism (communism). After decades of foreign intervention and domestic failure, the Soviet Union and Lenin’s successful Bolshevik revolution offered a modern solution to China’s problems that was not tainted by imperialism. 21

22

Ding Ling’s biography is covered in Yi-tse Mei Feuerwerker, Ding Ling’s Fiction: Ideology and Narrative in Modern Chinese Literature (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1982). Also, women as a topic became a powerful metaphor for reformist and revolutionary men—so one needs to be careful to distinguish between the metaphorical women of men’s political discourse and the voice of actual women.

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Marxism–Leninism promised it all: modernity and a Chinese identity that fit its conditions. In the writings of Chinese Marxists, such as Chen Duxiu, Li Dazhao, and Li Da, revolution turned a backward China into a vanguard example for the whole world.23 China’s suffering at the hands of foreign imperialists and domestic militarists no longer made her a failure, it made her more revolutionary than thou. Revolution promised to overthrow a repressive Confucian tradition, overcome the rapacious militarists, and throw out the meddling foreigners. All one had to do was follow Marx’s map and Lenin’s directions. Ding Ling lived this revolution, from its opening stages in the 1920s and 1930s, to its bitter fight for national success in the late 1930s and 1940s, to the unexpected joys of success by 1950 and equally dumbfounding failures in the late 1950s and the 1960s. Throughout, Ding Ling struggled to serve the public good, especially as a woman engaged in public life. Ding Ling was an intellectual, a zhishifenzi, or an independent intellectual in the 1920s and 1930s.24 She was a writer for the new commercial media—newspapers and magazines—the public world created by print capitalism. In Shanghai she could make a living as a writer—earn money, get an audience, have some influence. Nonetheless, new intellectuals of the May Fourth era like Ding Ling were alienated from both government service and the common cultural world of Confucian norms and texts and even the traditional language. With this alienation came considerable freedom of action, opportunity to try new things, and profound personal and employment insecurity. If 1895 had seen the greatest intellectual challenge of modern China—the unprecedented requirement to abandon the verities of their upbringing and to shake their worldview to its core—then the 1920s saw the largest social challenge to scholars wanting to serve China: they lost their traditional jobs, their inherited family roles (as patriarchs and submissive wives), and their shared cultural codes. They did not like it. Very few embraced the new role as preferable to some more socially honored, politically effective, and financially secure role. But they had little choice. So they wrote and published. There was income, but it was erratic. There was a public, an audience, but it was of limited scope. There was a social place—in part inherited from the esteem in which scholars had traditionally been held in public—but it was insecure. Thus these new intellectuals sought ways to address these uncertainties, marginalization, and insecurities,

23

24

Each man has been the subject of English-language biographies, and the Chinese Marxist response in this period is covered in Grieder, Intellectuals and the State, pp. 280–325. Xu Jilin, Ling Yizhongde Qimeng (Another Kind of Enlightenment) (Guangzhou: Huacheng chubanshe, 1999), p. 2.

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some through university appointments, some in business, many through the press and in new-style novels, and others in service to the new ideological political parties and their states. Ding Ling is famous for her 1927 novel, Miss Sophie’s Diary. A diary of a “modern girl” living free and unmonitored by family, the story was a shocking and exhilarating example of the “literary revolution” of the day.25 The novel was popular among the new, young urban readership and it exposed the limitations of “free love.” The story’s protagonist fritters away her freedoms with directionless experimentation and ends up in a dead end. Ding Ling’s medium was part of her message—easy-toread colloquial Chinese. The literary revolutionaries promoted this vernacular language. This meant writing as you speak. China, like medieval and early modern Europe, had used a literary language for scholarly and government writing. Latin for Erasmus, literary Chinese for Liang Qichao. The new generation denounced this literary language as linguistic chains that imprisoned free thought and expression. Nonetheless, this baihua, or “plain language,” was still more formal than everyday conversational language, and reflected class differences. Early baihua writings were quite intellectual and peppered with foreign terms from Europe (demokelexi) and Japan (terms for “society” and “economy” that we have seen were borrowed in the 1890s), not readily comprehensible when read aloud, especially to workers or villagers. A slew of famous scholars and writers made this modern Chinese come to life in the new press with essays, short stories, and novels in the European style by Hu Shi, Lu Xun, Mao Dun (1896–1981), and, down the line, Ding Ling. The stage Ding Ling took up to engage in public life was the media, but media distinct from Liang Qichao’s newspaper editorials and essays. Ding Ling mostly wrote fiction. While the liberal West had besmirched itself by the carnage of World War I, nonetheless the European idea of the power of literature, and particularly the revolutionary role of novels and fiction, captured the imagination of Ding Ling’s generation. The slogan in the 1920s changed from “literary revolution” to “revolutionary literature.” Literature was going to answer China’s question of the day— how to overcome traditional culture and really change society to fulfill the failed promise of the 1911 Revolution. Literature was going to do this by 25

Chinese texts are collected in Ding Ling wenji (Writings of Ding Ling) (Changsha: Hunan renmin chubanshe, 1983). Translations include Ding Ling, Miss Sophie’s Diary and Other Stories, trans. William J.F. Jenner (Beijing: Chinese Literature Press, 1985); Tani E. Barlow, I Myself Am Woman: Selected Writings of Ding Ling (Boston: Beacon Press, 1989). Ding Ling’s feminist writings are selected and translated with some of Lu Xun’s in Ding Ling and Lu Xun, The Power of Weakness (New York: Feminist Press at CUNY, 2007).

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awakening China’s people, changing how they looked at the world, how they related to each other, and what they fought for. Revolutionary literature would save China. This is the spiritual awakening of literature for which Lu Xun declared he had abandoned medical studies, and it was the project to which Ding Ling dedicated her life. Ding Ling, understandably, took women’s liberation as a key part of China’s revolution. Part of the attack on “old China” since 1915 had been a rejection of the traditional, patriarchal family and its subjugation of women. Ding Ling’s early stories turn around the conflict between men and women. Miss Sophie was a wild child, putting into print the sexuality and wild emotions of women previously hidden from “serious literature.” But Ding Ling’s characters also illustrated women’s intelligence, strength, and integrity. In the novella “Shanghai, Spring 1930,” Ding Ling captures the transition from personal liberation of the “literary revolution” to the social radicalism of “revolutionary literature” with a woman, Meilin, in the lead: “I wonder why my life shows no sign of improving,” Meilin said to herself. It was true. They had endured a life without pleasure or hope into mid-spring, Shanghai’s most exciting season. Pot-bellied businessmen and blood-sucking devils wizened and shriveled from overwork on their abacuses were going at full tilt in the careening money market, investing and manipulating to increase their exploitation of the laboring masses and to swell their astronomical wealth. Dozens of newspapers being hawked in the street carried banner stories about antagonists on various battlefronts, but the news was contradictory and unreliable. Beautiful young aristocratic ladies, faces rouged and eyes radiant, strolled through the streets wearing their new spring outfits . . . As for the workers, although they had endured winter’s rigor, their lives got harder with spring’s arrival because rent and the price of grain were up, and working hours lengthened. They worked harder and got weaker . . . The workers suffered so much that they simply had to resist. And so struggle began. Every day brought news of strikes and the beating and killing of workers. Subsequently, revolutionary young people, students, and members of the [Communist] Party found themselves extremely busy . . . It was mid-spring. The wind was soft and the weather intoxicating! But every evil, pain, agony, and struggle unfolded under the soft clear sky.26

In short, and in a time of confusing and changing social norms, Ding Ling led the charge to bring women into the public sphere as independent actors. As the 1930s progressed, Ding Ling’s stories became more social, focusing on the social conditions that shaped women and men. She, like her generation, also became more patriotic, as Japanese armies occupied more and more Chinese territory. Revolution became intertwined with 26

Ding Ling, “Shanghai, Spring 1930,” trans. in Barlow, I Myself Am Woman, pp. 128–9.

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national defense. This was called “National Salvation.” China’s leader, Chiang Kai-shek, tried to fend off the Japanese with diplomacy, knowing that his armies were not yet up to facing the Japanese war machine. Meanwhile, he would not brook the public criticism of these self-righteous patriots. Ding Ling, amongst other urban writers and intellectuals, spent her share of time in Nationalist prisons for her agitation.27 The Chinese Communist Party, illegal and embattled after 1927, made a good case as an anti-Japanese leader, willing to face the invaders. Many younger Chinese were inspired by the Communists’ approach and disillusioned with intellectual repression under the Nationalists. Ding Ling went to their rural capital, Yan’an, in northwest China in the late 1930s. China’s “other” intellectuals: local, everyday, rural, and ordinary Ding Ling’s early life is really a history of a provincial student and local intellectual. China’s locals are not generally subjects of intellectual history. Yet our view of intellectual life has to be broader than famous writers, certified scholars, and noted thinkers. We need to keep in mind something of all significant mental activity, not least because this undercurrent of local, daily, and “unimportant” mental life also shaped our metropolitan and provincial intellectuals, but also because local life is what these intellectuals aimed to shape, wished to uplift, or retreated to for solace. The humble opera stage in a Chinese village is as much a part of modern China’s intellectual history as Liang Qichao’s newspapers or Lu Xun’s short stories and barbed zawen (“polemical”) essays. Ordinary intellectuals and local intellectual life have only recently begun to appear in historical studies. Scholars of the Republican period have opened up the lives of petty intellectuals in Shanghai and other cities, particularly in journalism, the publishing houses like the massive Commercial Press, and amongst the ranks of the “white-collar workers” in banks and other offices. They were the audience to which our famous intellectuals played, and from which some notable intellectuals emerged. Their urban lives in the 1930s and 1940s began to shape what “Chinese modernity” looked like—nuclear families; an interest in hygiene; a taste for both Western fashions and “traditional” Chinese styles that mixed business suits with qipao dresses; and a love of films, radio, and of course trains, trams, cars, and aeroplanes.28 27 28

Li-hsin Ting, Government Control of the Press in Modern China, 1900–1949 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1974). This arena of “everyday life” has been the focus of newer social and cultural histories: see Madeline Yue Dong and Joshua Goldstein, eds., Everyday Modernity in China (Seattle:

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In the 1910s China’s rural elite provided the alienated Confucian scholars and idealistic students who led and staffed the May Fourth Movement. This rural elite suffered the dislocations of economic disruption from the influx of industrial products from foreign trade and endemic warfare after 1911. Even the most prominent lineages had lost the promise of the path to government service and local status with the end of the imperial exams in 1905. Their children were being trained, even in rural towns, increasingly by “modern” schoolteachers like James Yen in Sichuan or Ding Ling’s mother in Hunan, and even more radical teachers in major cities like Changsha and Hangzhou. As Wen-hsin Yeh has documented in the case of Zhejiang counties and the local metropolitan city of Hangzhou in southeast China, there was a strong link between the cultural life of such rural “middle counties” and the emerging literary and social revolution in China’s cities. China’s regional elites were cultured but local in their focus. Prosperous agricultural counties, such as Jinhua county well up-river from Hangzhou, were social worlds built around dense clusterings of social ties remembered over centuries in lineages, Confucian academies, and Buddhist temples. This world was sustained by stable kinship organizations rooted in landed interests, distinguishing themselves from neighboring communities by regional dialects and often their own popular opera.29 That culture generally embraced a confident, conservative, family-oriented (patriarchal) Confucianism. When that world fractured in the 1910s, the sons (and a few daughters) of this local elite abandoned both the space and the customs of their fathers. They studied new, foreign topics, and they moved to the exciting major cities to attend new high schools and colleges. In the cities of May Fourth China the descendants of the rural Confucian elite made revolution. But the way they made revolution was shaped by their fathers’ Neo-Confucian faith. In addition to the factors we have seen, the rise of new schools, the leadership of the older generation of reformers, and access to new ideas, the particular family backgrounds of these youths shaped their approach to revolution. “The sons of these northern progressive gentry liberals often matured into liberal

29

University of Washington Press, 2006); Yeh, Shanghai Splendor; Robert Culp, Articulating Citizenship: Civic Education and Student Politics in Southeastern China, 1912–1940 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2007); Eugenia Lean, Public Passions: The Trial of Shi Jianqiao and the Rise of Popular Sympathy in Republican China (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007); and Helen Schneider, Keeping the Nation’s House: Domestic Management and the Making of Modern China (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2011). Yeh, Provincial Passages, esp. p. 29.

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progressives themselves,” writes Yeh of her Zhejiang student activists, while “those who became radicals were instead sons of conservative fathers and students of progressive teachers.”30 Ding Ling was of this generation. From a conservative family, but with the powerful example of her progressive mother, Ding Ling’s commitment to radicalism over liberalism no doubt stemmed in part from her experience as a woman of the rural gentry. Since the 1910s there have been two versions of local society in each ideological moment—the urban and the rural. Treaty port cities led in the creation of new urban publics. The journalists and their readers in treaty port China had a wide range of newspapers—missionary, elite, tabloid, and pictorial—as well as magazines of all sorts. The novel (from Lin Shu’s translations of European novels at the turn of the century onward) and fiction as the new literature of modern life filled these pages. An older generation produced sappy romances and adventures, what would be scorned as “mandarin duck and butterfly” literature, but these stories built a considerable reading public.31 A younger generation, including Ding Ling, availed themselves of these technologies and distribution networks to produce a new literature evoking the pedagogical ideals of their Confucian fathers but filled with the European revolutionary content of their progressive schoolteachers. In the cities a new elite arose to parallel the traditional provincial elite. These were the new capitalist class and their educated managers and white-collar employees. Theirs was the voice of business, as we saw in the chambers of commerce active in the constitutional debates before 1911. Print capitalism, modeled by the Western powers in their treaty port concessions but enthusiastically taken up by Chinese entrepreneurs, provided the sinews of this new public sphere. China’s intellectuals leapt into it with gusto. Meanwhile, rural publics continued, but were transformed tragically in the early twentieth century. The exit of the rural elite left localities economically disengaged (or disfavored as industrial imports, such as British textiles and kerosene, laid waste to local handicraft incomes) and socially crippled by the exodus of the gentry youth. Less savory characters, the local bullies and evil gentry (tuhao lieshen) of the day, came to fill the roles of local leaders. Misrule and periodic warfare added to the misery of economic privation. Lu Xun’s story “My Old Home” paints a depressing picture of rural decline and intellectual alienation from it. Returning from his life in urban centers to move his aging mother from 30 31

Yeh, Provincial Passages, p. 193. Perry Link, Mandarin Ducks and Butterflies: Popular Fiction in Early Twentieth-Century Chinese Cities (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981).

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their hometown to his new job in Beijing, Lu Xun’s narrator encounters his childhood friend, Runtu: The newcomer was Runtu. But although I knew at a glance this was Runtu, it was not the Runtu I remembered. He had grown to twice his former size. His round face, once crimson, had become sallow and acquired deep lines and wrinkles; his eyes too had become like his father’s, the rims swollen and red, a feature common to most peasants who work by the sea and are exposed all day to the wind from the ocean. He wore a shabby felt cap and just one very thin padded jacket, with the result that he was shivering from head to foot. He carried a paper package and a long pipe, nor was his hand the plump red hand I remembered, but coarse and clumsy and chapped, like the bark of a pine tree. Delighted as I was, I did not know how to express myself, and could only say: “Oh! Runtu—so it’s you? . . .” After this there were so many things I wanted to talk about, they should have poured out like a string of beads: woodcocks, jumping fish, shells, [that mysterious animal, the] zha . . . But I was tongue-tied, unable to put all I was thinking into words. He stood there, mixed joy and sadness showing on his face. His lips moved, but not a sound did he utter. Finally, assuming a respectful attitude, he said clearly, “Master! . . .” I felt a shiver run through me; for I knew then what a lamentably thick wall had grown up between us. Yet I could not say anything.32

Nonetheless, a handful of metropolitan and local elites would, from the 1920s, spend a good portion of their time trying to redeem local China from this dismal fate. Most famously after 1927, the Communists pushed rural revolution, but a number of Chinese intellectuals, from Liang Shuming to James Yen, promoted rural reconstruction on Confucian or liberal terms. Localities were not simply the object of elite reforms or revolution. Worlds of popular culture blossomed in the twentieth century. While the urban publics of business circles and readers of elite newspapers comprised a wider circle than the locally oriented provincial elite, there were worlds of popular culture in both city and countryside that shaped the environment of elite conversation and deeply influenced elite debates mostly in the primary colors of collective expressions or social movements. The tabloids and pictorials were the newsprint media of this commercialized pop culture, as were the “mandarin duck and butterfly” romance novels. Urban elites read translations of European novels; broader publics enjoyed racy news, pictorial magazines on romances, scandals and sensational murders, and thrilled to the salacious news of 32

Lu Xun, “My Old Home,” in Selected Stories of Lu Hsun, trans. Yang Hsien-yi and Gladys Yang, p. 60.

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misbehavior by opera stars and theater performers. Meanwhile, radical theorists from Qu Qiubai to Zhou Yang would insist on “national forms of literature” in the 1930s to bring the radical content of the cities to the conservative worlds of village China. Finally, China’s intellectuals often affiliated with other circles on the basis of local language, ethnicity, and belief. The role of Buddhism was particularly important in the Republican period. We have seen how Zhang Binglin, back in the first years of the century, found solace and guidance in esoteric and intellectual Buddhism. Throughout the Republican period, middle-class urbanites, some intellectuals, more office workers or professionals, turned to various forms of Buddhism, particularly lay Buddhist associations, to make sense of their lives in a time of rapid social change and deteriorating personal safety.33 For example, according to James Carter, Tanxu, an activist Buddhist monk during these years, “believed that foreigners had succeeded [in modernization] primarily because of a stable, united society and strong spiritual foundation. A reassertion of China’s traditional culture—for Tanxu, grounded in Buddhism—would enable the nation to succeed both at home and abroad.”34 The cross-cutting role of popular culture defines the twentieth century; it was not limited to local China but became part of the life of metropolitan and provincial elites, not only as their own entertainment but as the actually existing form of the public arena, most commonly through the newspapers and novels of print capitalism (and later film and today the Internet). Thus, as we look at worlds of intellectual life, we have not only three spatial worlds of metropolitan, provincial, and local, but also three cross-cutting social worlds: popular culture, women’s worlds, and worlds of affinity. This matrix of spatial interaction and social experience is the framework of intellectual life in modern China.

Liang Shuming’s moral revolution Liang Shuming (1893–1988) was not interested in the role of the urban independent intellectual, nor was he attracted to the role of party or government cadre proffered by either the Nationalists or the Communists. Born to a Mongolian family in Beijing, Liang was the scion of an illustrious line of scholar-officials dating back to the Yuan Dynasty in the 33 34

Brooks Jessup, “The Householder Elite: Buddhist Activism in Shanghai, 1920–1956,” PhD dissertation, University of California at Berkeley, 2010. James Carter, Heart of Buddha, Heart of China: The Life of Tanxu, a Twentieth-Century Monk (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), p. 114.

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fourteenth century that had since fallen on hard times. Liang’s father, Liang Ji, was a noted scholar and degree holder and had served in the early 1900s as a secretary in the Qing’s Grand Secretariat. Although trained in modern schools, Liang Shuming grew up a neo-traditionalist and identified with Confucianism, the very object of Ding Ling’s and May Fourth intellectuals’ ire. In truth, Liang Shuming’s approach was a new Confucian, or progressive conservative, response. He is most famous for his focus on the countryside, what he called rural reconstruction. The awakening Liang wanted for the Chinese people was moral, communitarian, and drawn from the rich and varied resources of Chinese culture, from Neo-Confucian rural administrative ideas of “community compacts” (xiangyue) to Buddhist ideas of service, all inflected inevitably by his engagement with the foreign presence in China. Though he considered Western culture doomed to eventual failure for its lack of morality, he appreciated and plumped for scientific and technological modernization, particularly in agriculture. This was always in the service of a “true” Chinese character, one represented by what Liang felt was the authentic Confucian world buried under centuries of corruption and distortion and surviving only in the countryside. He was a conservative rather than a simple traditionalist, as he criticized his own tradition. Liang was also critical of Marxist class theory, and famously met with Mao Zedong in the autumn of 1938 in Yan’an, where he told him so. Liang would later help to found the Democratic League during the Anti-Japanese War to help mediate between the GMD and the CCP. In all, Liang worked for an ethics-based society that he felt was congruent with China’s family-centered, face-to-face social order in rural China, in contrast with the interest-based society dominant in the individual-oriented and impersonal legal social order of Western nations and China’s cities. Still, even as a Buddhist at heart, Liang was very critical of Chinese folk religion—considering it venal and superstitious— and he promoted Confucianism as China’s answer to the West’s Christianity. Thus Liang Shuming was the quintessential dissident or intellectual concerned with criticizing society. We tend to think of dissidents as liberals under a socialist state or Communists under a traditional or authoritarian state. But Liang Shuming shows that a self-identified Confucian can be a dissident in modern China. Of course, political dissent has always been a part of public life in China and an option for China’s literati since Confucius in the fifth century BCE. Dissenters fundamentally take issue with the status quo and say so. Some may speak up with the aim of reforming the current regime; some in order to overturn it. Either way, dissidents are generally outspoken, are not given to compromise, and—if successful—touch a nerve of political legitimacy.

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That is why states usually repress dissent. Dissent, importantly, is in the eye of the beholder, especially the state. At several moments in our story we will encounter cases of “manufactured dissent” where the state sees dissent in the words and actions of people who did not think of themselves as dissidents, or at least not as implacable foes of their regime. Ding Ling had been imprisoned for leftist writings in Shanghai. Wang Shiwei in Yan’an and Wen Yiduo in Nationalist areas would both pay with their lives for their criticisms in the 1940s. The model of dissidents that we carry probably comes from the Cold War and especially the famous Soviet dissidents, Sakharov the scientist and Solzhenitsyn the writer. These are courageous and important intellectual models and China has had her share, under the Qing and the Nationalists, as well as under the CCP. It is well to remember, however, that dissidents are defined by their relation to power—they pick a fight with it for reasons of higher value—not by the content of what they propose. It may be unpleasant to contemplate, but from a scholarly perspective Islamic theorists who publicly criticize the state in Egypt or in England in 2014 were as much dissidents as Soviet or PRC Chinese democrats dissenting from their authoritarian governments. That some Islamic dissent was connected with terrorism reminds us that not all dissent necessarily corresponds with your or my political values. Qiu Jin’s dissent and social organization against the Qing in 1906 extended to participation in a failed rebellion and assassination attempts. Mao Zedong, after all, was a dissident in the 1920s. Liang Shuming’s public life shows that the role of the critical intellectual could include a neo-traditional figure. From his tradition, and the example of Confucius himself, Liang took the role of ideological leadership. As his biographer, Guy Alitto, documents, Liang Shuming without embarrassment saw himself as a modern sage, the man with the correct philosophy to save China.35 Liang felt he inherited this mission to save China by reviving the Confucian tradition for modern times from his father, Liang Ji, himself a reformist official whose suicide as a martyr to this lost tradition in 1918 stirred public debate. Based at Peking University, Liang Shuming’s role as a critical intellectual was foremost in the controversy over Chinese and Western cultures in the early 1920s, while his status as an aspiring ideological leader and social mobilizer came in his Rural Reconstruction Movement in Shandong in the 1930s and his co-operation with James Yen’s Mass Education Movements.

35

Guy Alitto, The Last Confucian: Liang Shu-ming and the Chinese Dilemma of Modernity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979).

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The debate over Chinese and Western cultures, like the debate over science and philosophy of life that Ding Wenjiang and Zhang Junmai led a few years later, was an artifact of the new public sphere of this ideological moment. All participants could get into print fairly easily and they clearly read each other because their next essay would hammer on their opponent’s most recent rejoinder. Liang Qichao led off the debate over Eastern and Western cultures with his reflections on visiting war-torn Europe in 1919. Liang Qichao, as we saw in Chapter 1, had lost faith in the West and was turning to a renewed faith in the enduring powers of China’s rich and diverse traditions beyond the sterile Confucianism of state exams and hidebound lineage elders. In this, he found strong support from Liang Shuming, who penned one of the most famous books of modern Chinese intellectual life, Eastern and Western Cultures and Their Philosophies, in 1921.36 Liang Shuming compares China, India, and the West. In short, he finds the West too aggressive and materialistic and India too passive and spiritualistic. “The fundamental spirit of Chinese culture,” in contrast, he writes, “is the harmony and moderation of ideas and desires.”37 While he acknowledges the vigor and achievements of science and democracy of the West, Liang points both to the disasters of the Great War and to China’s fundamentally different worldview to make the point that China should not and indeed cannot simply copy the West. He accepts that China can learn from the West, but “we must change the Western attitude somewhat” from a focus on the intellect to traditional Chinese intuition. Similarly, “we must renew our Chinese attitude and bring it to the fore, but do so critically.” Liang’s commitment to renewing China found expression in his selfappointed role as ideological leader in rural reconstruction. Liang ran his own Rural Reconstruction Movement based in Zouping in central Shangdong province from 1931 to 1936, and in 1934 joined forces with James Yen to lead the Rural Work Discussion Society, which held three national meetings over the next two years.38 This was Liang Shuming’s revolution. He intended to redeem not only China’s suffering rural majority in the villages but also China’s troubled intellectuals: If the intellectuals still loll about in the relaxed atmosphere of the cities and the foreign concessions, then they will not make revolution. Only if they go to the

36 37 38

Liang Shuming, Dong-Xi wenhua ji qi zhexue, published in many editions in the 1920s and since. Covered in detail in Alitto, The Last Confucian, Chapters 4 and 5. Liang Shuming, Dong-Xi wenhua, trans. in de Bary and Lufrano, Sources of Chinese Tradition, Vol. II, p. 380. Covered in Hayford, To the People, pp. 154 ff.

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countryside, where the problems are the greatest and the suffering the most intense, will they be certain to make revolution.

This revolution was nothing less than “the final awakening in the Chinese people’s self-salvation movement.”39 Liang’s revolution set out to [c]ombine the [peasants’] motive force with that [of the intellectuals] to form one united force . . . In other words, the revolutionary intellectuals must go down to the countryside and merge with the inhabitants . . . Each side will transform the other . . . All that needs to be done is for the peasants to train and transform the revolutionary intellectuals and for the revolutionary intellectuals to shift the direction of and transform the peasants. Ultimately, there will be no difference between the two: then the problem of China can be considered solved.40

Not many intellectuals in the 1930s felt inclined to abandon their “lolling” in the universities and the modern amenities of Shanghai and Beijing to “merge with” the impoverished and dispirited peasants of China’s distressed rural society. But some did and Liang’s Rural Reconstruction Movement trained hundreds of young intellectuals, many coming up from the villages. Liang’s vision is astounding in its moral absolutism: cities are bad; villages are noble; the redemption of both the intellectual and the peasant depends on their co-operation and, ultimately, their unification. This ideal is all the more momentous in modern Chinese history because it brings to mind the vision proclaimed by Mao Zedong a few years later and enforced by the Chinese Communist Party. Liang Shuming’s rural renovation, however, was significantly different from Mao’s. It was both earlier (and, indeed, there is some indication that Liang’s meeting with Mao in 1938 may have had some influence on Mao’s evolving thinking),41 and, most significantly, based on a revival of Confucian statecraft traditions of community building and not on Marxism or class struggle. The form and approach—moral renovation of the countryside and re-engagement of the intellectuals in rural society—were similar but the content was significantly different and Liang knew it: he used harmony and community building; Mao used struggle and class warfare. Like Sun Yat-sen, Liang Shuming felt that the problem besetting China was that “Chinese have always lacked a group life,” and so Liang set out to “construct new customs” through a relational ethics congruent with what he felt was Chinese spirit and culture. 39

40 41

Drawn from Liang’s appropriately titled 1934 book Zhongguo minzu zijiu yundong zhi zuihou juewu (Final Awakening of the Chinese People’s/Nation’s Self-Salvation Movement), quotations translated by Alitto, The Last Confucian, p. 194. Liang Shuming, Zhongguo minzu zijiu yundong zhi zuihou juewu, quoted in Alitto, The Last Confucian, p. 199. Alitto, The Last Confucian, pp. 283 ff.

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Liang found the mechanism for cultural renewal at the village level in utopian rural models from the Song Dynasty. “This new organization,” Liang writes of his proposal, “is just the supplementation and transformation of what earlier Chinese called ‘the community compact’ (xiangyue).” Its goal was to mobilize China’s peasantry, educate them in the best morals of their civilization, help them “form producing and marketing cooperatives” and, in general, promote “an upward movement of human life, the stirring up of aspiration.”42 Two themes were central to Liang’s model of intellectual–farmer reformation. First, participation had to be voluntary and safely distant from the corrupting influence of political parties or government officials. This is why Liang favored the Song model of the Lü Brothers from the eleventh century (popularized by Zhu Xi) over the Ming and Qing versions that had become mere tools of the autocratic state. Second, the “community compacts” relied on moral-improvement village meetings in which community members would scrutinize and perfect each other’s moral character. These would be sessions of mutual criticism and self-criticism, under the moderating guidance of an elected village elder, and following the moral injunctions of a stern and somewhat puritanical version of Neo-Confucianism. This focus on morality in the community compact system, Liang felt, “aimed at making junzi [moral exemplars] of the masses.”43 Liang Shuming’s revised Neo-Confucian community compact system in Zouping offered a total ideology, from personal moral improvement to community organization, including local granaries, schools, and militia self-defense. To this traditional model Liang added the goals of modernization—mass mobilization, political participation, and economic and technological development. Liang’s neo-traditional model of rural reconstruction gained traction beyond his disciples. Cato Young (Yang Kaidao), an American-trained sociologist at the National Central University in Nanjing, took up community compacts along the lines of Liang’s model. Yang, who received his PhD in sociology from the University of Michigan in 1927, had taught in the prestigious Sociology Department of Yenching University in Beijing until his move in 1930 to Nanjing, and had worked in the Yenching field stations.44 That such a Westernized modern professional academic embraced Liang Shuming’s vision, and did so in the premier

42 43 44

Liang Shuming, trans. in de Bary and Lufrano, Sources of Chinese Tradition, Vol. II, pp. 382–3, and covered in detail in Alitto, The Last Confucian, pp. 206 ff. Quoted in Alitto, The Last Confucian, p. 207. Yung-chen Chiang, Social Engineering and the Social Sciences in China, 1919–1949 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), p. 52.

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scholarly journal, Sociology World (Shehuixue jie), reflects the breadth of Liang’s influence. Like many of his American-trained sociologist colleagues, Cato Young was interested in bringing the benefits of modern education to rural China through social engineering. He found these traditional community compacts a suitable tool for this modern project. In his 1931 article on community compacts, Young gives concrete suggestions on how to write your own village compact. Although he liked the integrated services of a Ming Dynasty model (of Lu Shiyi), Young stresses that the voluntary spirit of the Lü Brothers’ Song Dynasty original must be the core. In fact, “if someone in your local area cannot write a Community Compact,” Young writes, “I think Zhu Xi’s corrected version of the Lü Brothers’ Community Compact can still serve.”45 There were two other revolutions on offer for China’s countryside, and Liang Shuming had some contact with both. James Yen, our transpacific liberal and Chinese Christian from Sichuan whom we met in Chapter 1, led the Mass Education Movement in the 1920s to bring basic literacy to China’s villages as the first step in modernizing China. By 1930 this had shifted to a Rural Reconstruction Movement based in Ding county, or Dingxian in Chinese, in Hebei province. Where Liang Shuming sought to revitalize the Confucian tradition to make it relevant to the modernizing needs of rural China, James Yen sought to make modern medicine and technology serve village China through a Chinese adaptation of social science, or what his biographer Charles Hayford calls “the sinification of liberalism.” James Yen’s model had material support from the Rockefeller Foundation and intellectual support from the Sociology Department of Yenching University. Progressive Westerners saw a future for China in Dingxian. The noted journalist Edgar Snow (who would introduce Mao Zedong to the world in 1937) was deeply impressed by Yen’s work in Dingxian in 1933 and coined the term “Dingxian-ism.”46 James Yen’s sinification of liberalism can be seen in the work of one of his team, Dr. C.C. Ch’en (Chen Zhiqian), a 1929 graduate of Peking Union Medical College with an MA in public health from Harvard.47 Chen moved to Dingxian with his family in 1932. He confronted a core issue in public health for rural China: the catastrophic lack of trained

45 46

47

Yang Kaidao (Cato Young), “Xiangyue zhidu de yanjiu” (Research on the Community Compact System), Shehuixue jie (Beijing), Vol. 5 (1931), pp. 40–2. Hayford, To the People, quoting James Yen, p. 118; Edgar Snow’s term in the romanization of the day was “Ting Hsien-ism” and it quickly entered into the Chinese press as Dingxianzhuyi, p. 141. Material on C.C. Ch’en from Hayford, To the People, pp. 134–41.

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personnel. There was, in short, no way to provide modern, Westerntrained doctors for China’s masses. Chen came up with a novel system of village health workers in which locals were given mini courses of just a few weeks in basic hygiene and diagnosis of the most common killing diseases, along with a simple first-aid kit. These village health workers would be supervised by better-trained staff at the nearest market town (often serving a population of some 10,000 people in surrounding villages). Finally, the local headquarters for public health would have university-trained staff at the county seat. However, even this very modest and simplified medical service turned out to require more staff than the Dingxian project could train. Nonetheless, the Dingxian village health worker was one of the singular successes of James Yen’s project and the model certainly calls to mind the famous “barefoot doctors” of rural China in the Mao period. The third form of rural revolution was explicit political revolution on the Bolshevik model based on class conflict. Mao Zedong’s version, finalized in Yan’an in the late 1930s and early 1940s, is the most famous and certainly the model that dominated China at mid-century. But, as we have seen, aspects of the Yan’an model of rural revolution were already being tried out by Liang Shuming and James Yen a decade earlier. In fact, in 1929 Mao had recommended James Yen’s Thousand Character Primer in his regulations for training Communist Red Army soldiers. Rural renovation on the Marxist model, however, had started earlier, before James Yen started his literacy campaign. The first prominent Chinese Communist leader to devote himself to rural revolution was Peng Pai (1896–1929). Born to a wealthy landlord family in the southernmost province of Guangdong, Peng Pai grew up in the generation that benefited from new schools and foreign study (having studied at Waseda University in Tokyo from 1918 to 1921). After returning to China from Japan, Peng joined the newly established CCP, returned to his home area in Guangdong, and set about organizing peasant associations. His own reminiscences mock his urban ways—for his first efforts to engage the peasants were thwarted by his sleek white suit and snappy hat: the local farmers assumed he was a rent collector. Slowly he managed to engage a few willing locals and from there built up a series of peasant unions to resist local abuses (extra rents, local bullies, pettifoggery by local elites).48 These peasant associations on the outskirts of Guangzhou grew in power in the mid-1920s as the Nationalist– Communist United Front brought the revolutionaries together in 48

A portion of Peng Pai’s account is translated in Patricia Ebrey, ed., Chinese Civilization: A Sourcebook, 2nd edn. (New York: The Free Press, 1993), pp. 364–72.

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Guangzhou to plan a national campaign. Peng Pai, like the younger Mao Zedong, served in both parties. Peng led the Nationalists’ Peasant Training Institute, and participated in the Northern Expedition. After the violent split of the Nationalists and Communists in April 1927, Peng Pai returned to his peasant associations and, radicalized by the violence, formed the Hailufeng Soviet, leading an armed peasantry and a few Communist-led military units in battling the Nationalists. In January 1928 the soviet was crushed. Mao’s engagement with rural revolution began as a student in Peng Pai’s Peasant Training Institute and in his 1926 trip home to Hunan, during which Mao wrote his famous “Report on the Hunan Peasant Movement.” However, while James Yen and Liang Shuming were carrying out their village reform movements in northern provinces, Mao was a fugitive roaming the mountains of south-central China with a military force almost always on his tail. Thus the rural revolutions first in Jinggangshan and then in the Jiangxi Soviet (1931–4) were strongly colored by the violence of warfare. The rural policies were straight-up class warfare—peasant appropriation of landlord land and property occasioned frequently by violent struggle. This early land reform did not fear alienating local elites; it disposed of them and it killed those who resisted. Land was redistributed to the tiller. Other radical policies, such as measures allowing women to own land and to initiate divorce, were also enforced, for a while.49 The promises for women that Ding Ling saw in Marxism were beginning to be implemented. In all cases, however, the exigencies of war overwhelmed policy. The land reform was more violent because of the brutalizing effects of the ongoing warfare, as well as the bitter shock of the slaughter of Communist personnel by the Nationalists in 1927 and after—it was palpably a lifeand-death struggle. Women’s liberation for peasant women soon came to a halt because many village wives divorced their husbands at the first opportunity, but this depressed the morale of the Red Army’s peasant conscripts. The fighting had to come first. Chiang Kai-shek’s forces greatly outnumbered the rural Communist forces in men and matériel. By October 1934 Chiang had succeeded in forcing the Communists out of their rural soviet and put them on the run on the brutal retreat known as the Long March. The full version of Chinese Communist rural revolution would have to wait until the survivors had regrouped in Yan’an later in the decade. That same violence, culminating in the full-scale 49

Ilpyoong Kim, The Politics of Chinese Communism: Kiangsi under the Soviets (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973); and Stephen C. Averill, Revolution in the Highlands: China’s Jinggangshan Base Area (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006).

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invasion of central China by Japan’s Imperial Army in the summer of 1937, put an end to Liang Shuming’s and James Yen’s peaceful rural revolutions—only those with an army could continue in China’s age of extremes. Enduring ideas in the 1920s The people, by 1925, meant renmin, working people both well-off and poor. The word and the image appear on the poster that starts this chapter. The people moved from being the object of Liang Qichao’s “renovated or new people,” xinmin, through being the object of radical cultural reformation in the New Culture Movement from 1915, to being the putative objects of mobilization under both Sunism and Communism. Under Sun’s “political tutelage” the people were to be educated in the ways of democracy. Under communism, the people were to be organized and mobilized to throw off the shackles of capitalists, militarists, and reactionaries (called “feudal forces”). The people in the 1920s were seen as capable of acting in the public arena, something not believed by most Chinese thinkers and writers twenty or thirty years before. But the people could not be trusted to act on their own without suitable guidance by those who had already “awakened.” Liang Qichao lived in this ideological moment and moved from trusting the people to deploring the weaknesses of Chinese national character. Lu Xun, a major voice for the next generation in his famous short stories around 1920, called out to “save the children” from despicable aspects of Chinese tradition. Chen Duxiu and leaders of the Chinese Communist Party adopted Soviet agit-prop to educate and mobilize the proletariat. For James Yen and Liang Shuming there were important differences between urban and rural people, but both were Chinese and needed each other. They were to save each other by social engagement, modern technology, and moral uplift. For all but the most doctrinaire Marxists among the May Fourth intellectuals, the people were everyone who lived in China (thus including, with some ambiguity, Mongols, Manchus, Tibetans, and other “minorities”), bar a few bad eggs and evil militarists. For the Communists the people were the proletariat, progressive national bourgeoisie, and revolutionary intellectuals, not the capitalists, traitors, or reactionaries—a good deal more Chinese fell outside this definition of “the people.” Chinese became distinct culturally and racially and was explicitly contrasted with Western culture and white people. The Republic was called “the Republic of Zhonghua,” the term coined by Zhang Binglin in 1906. It combined the older terms of hua for Chinese civilization and zhong for the central states. The racial, bloodline definition of Chinese

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identity took root in these years: it was the culture of yellow people, sons and daughters of the Yellow Emperor. These are the Han, an ethnicity or minzu. What about all the non-Han? The Manchus who had ruled “China” since 1644? The Mongols, the Tibetans, Chinese Muslims (called the Hui), and dozens of tribal groups in the southwestern provinces? In the early 1920s, Sun Yat-sen advocated an inclusive assimilation—everyone could become Chinese, if they adopted Chinese cultural ways. The flag for the Republic until 1925 was the five-color flag representing the five major minzu—Han, Manchu, Mongol, Hui, and Tibetan—and claiming all were “Chinese” or part of Zhonghua. Sun’s replacement of that flag with the “Blue Sky and White Sun” flag that is still the national flag of the Republic of China was meant, in Sun’s thinking, to correct the old Republican flag. Instead of identifying the five “nationalities” in China, the new flag—which put the blue and white motif of the Guomindang in the top left corner of a red flag—would treat all people in China as Chinese without distinction.50 Thus culture and race existed in an uneasy relationship in discussions about Chinese identity. In addition, intellectuals of this time debated the character and value of “the Chinese.” Liang Qichao had become a pessimist, despairing of the slavish habits and self-destructive tendencies of the Chinese. Lu Xun thought ordinary Chinese people were asleep at the wheel of history. Liang Shuming and other conservatives saw Chinese culture as a needed contribution to world culture, with China’s “spiritual” qualities counterbalancing the self-destructive “material” prowess of Western culture. In all, “Chinese” (now generally rendered as the quality, zhongguode, “of the [nation-state] China,” or the person, zhongguo ren) was seen as the identity of the culture and peoples living in the old areas of the Qing empire, the same area claimed by the Republic. “Chinese” was predominantly cultural, but for many was also strongly racial, but in either case it was—or with rectification or revival should be—an object of pride. Democracy was half of the most famous slogan of the New Culture Movement that advocated “Mr. De and Mr. Sai” (De standing for “democracy” and Sai for “science,” here taking the phonetics from the European terms). This formulation is telling. First, the reference to the European pronunciations of these two key ideas suggests the Western provenance of the ideas. Early articles, indeed, referred to democracy phonetically as de-mo-ke-la-xi. Second, however, that these two ideas are even jokingly referred to as “Mr.,” as if these funny, foreign strings of meaningless characters were the transliteration of a barbarian’s name,

50

Fitzgerald, Awakening China, pp. 180 ff.

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indicates how strange the ideas were to a broader reading public. This ideological moment saw all these new ideas reach out from a tiny elite to a broader urban public, and even to parts of a rural public. The transition was not easy, nor smooth. Liberals, and Chinese who had traveled, worked, and studied extensively in Japan or the West, understood democracy in ways quite close to ours today—liberal democracy with secretballot elections, an independent judiciary, freedom of association, and a free press. This they had seen in Europe and America and, more or less, in Japan. But the failure of the first Republican government, the assassination of the elected leader of the parliament (Song Jiaoren), and dismissal of parliament by Beijing strongman Yuan Shikai in 1913, showed that democracy was not going to work in China quickly or easily. In part, this stimulated thinking about “the people” and “Chinese,” as we have seen. But it also prompted some Chinese thinkers and writers to question the applicability of Western-style liberal democracy to China and it set off a search for alternative versions of “people’s rule” (minzhu, the literal translation for “democracy”). Liberals accepted that it would take time. Sun Yat-sen articulated a path to democracy through autocratic political tutelage led by himself and his party. This was Sun’s pedagogical state that was taken up with enthusiasm by both Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong. This was the “other side” to Sun’s new flag for the Republic—the blue and white ensign of the Guomindang on the flag signaled that the Republic would be led by Sun’s party, a party above petty political competition in elections. Anarchists sought to empower ordinary people through their place of work—farm or factory—without the trappings of repressive state structures or formalities of liberal democracy. The new Communist Party took this “guided democracy” further, declaring democracy to be class-based, for the benefit of a specific economic class, the workers or proletariat, in Karl Marx’s model of political economy, and led by its representative, a Bolshevik party, in Lenin’s model. They fought for democracy for the proletariat and not for the capitalists or militarists, though pragmatic Communists allowed that “bourgeois democracy” could be a historical stage on the way to socialism and communism. In Yan’an, they came to call this “democratic centralism.” In any event, the awakened elite, the Party, would lead the common people though a pedagogical state in which the people would be pupils to be educated, guided, and mobilized for their own good. In China’s age of extremes only a tightly organized Party with a strong army stood a chance of implementing their form of democracy.

China in the 1930s

The middle decades of China’s long twentieth century were China’s age of extremes.1 The loss of the monarchy, the rise of warlords, the challenge of Western wealth and power, rural immiseration and urban attractions, changing public roles for men and women—these changes brought the crisis home to intellectuals quite literally. Their livelihoods and their persons were increasingly endangered as local politics devolved from the formal trappings of the Republic to the de facto reality of warlord administrations across China. The violence that we saw strike Ye Chongzhi’s family in Tianjin in 1911 was a harbinger of the times. These militarists vied for national prominence and so there was an ongoing series of small wars that were, nevertheless, devastating to the populations affected. By 1920 China’s intellectuals were disenfranchised—the state exams had ended in 1905, the dynasty and hence the employment they had grown up to expect died in 1911, employment in the Republic became service to warlords, alternative employment in the new universities or media (mostly newspapers and magazines in the treaty ports and main cities) was uncertain, and the social role of the educated mostly became confused—what were the sons of scholar-officials to do to “save China” now that their traditional roles had evaporated? Were women to enter the public realm, like foreign missionary wives and YWCA leaders? National disarray had become personal dislocation. It is thus not surprising that intellectuals—now properly intellectuals in the modern sense of alienated elites—turned to revolution. From the 1920s until the 1970s revolution dominated public life in China. Not everyone was a revolutionary, to be sure, and there were alternative and incompatible revolutionary solutions on offer, not to mention those who fought against the revolutions of others, but everyone had 1

Eric Hobsbawm’s seminal characterization of the twentieth century, The Age of Extremes: A History of the World, 1914–1991 (New York: Pantheon, 1994), is applied to intellectual questions in Willie Thompson, Ideologies in the Age of Extremes: Liberalism, Conservatism, Communism, Fascism 1914–1991 (New York: Pluto Press, 2011).

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to cope with revolution. Revolution began with the abortive republican revolution of 1911 which succeeded in toppling the Qing Dynasty but failed to install a stable alternative. Cultural revolution, the effort to renovate the culture of China’s people came next in the New Culture Movement, with a fundamental questioning of Confucianism and even some outright iconoclasm and anti-Confucianism in the 1910s and 1920s. A slew of foreign and revived ideologies competed for the prize of revolutionary ideology—social Darwinism, anarchism, constitutionalism, liberalism, Marxism, Christianity, renewed Buddhist ideas, and even (in response) a revived populist Confucianism. In the end it was two Chinese syntheses of socialism that took the day. First and most fundamentally it was the ideology of Sun Yat-sen, now known as Sunism but then most commonly known by his key statement of principles, the “Three People’s Principles” (sanminzhuyi). By the early 1920s Sun had knit together a reconstituted revolutionary party, the Nationalist Party (Guomindang) and a compelling revolutionary ideology built around those Three People’s Principles: nationalism, socialism, and people’s livelihood.2 After Sun’s death in 1925 Chiang Kai-shek carried on his mission. He re-established the Republic of China in Nanjing by 1928 and aimed to build a developmental state to modernize China through state capitalism. Thus Chiang’s China was no democracy but something closer to the social corporatism seen in Latin America at mid-century. Those unfriendly to the regime have described it as fascist, and certainly for a time in the 1930s there were fascist elements of militarism and a leadership cult. The second Chinese synthesis of socialism was the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the Guomindang’s erstwhile junior partner from the 1920s, whom Chiang Kai-shek attempted to annihilate in 1927. Chinese communism did not begin with Mao but it rose to national power as Maoism in the 1940s. Along the way, from its early days in the late 1910s, adherents to Marxism and Marxism–Leninism, and then the Soviet Bolshevik model, argued and divided forces. There were anarchists who eschewed the violence of Leninism in favor of collectivism and public education. There were moderate or latitudinarian Marxists who espoused Marx’s philosophy more explicitly but embraced “modern culture” and intellectual diversity; they became known either as academic Marxists (many within the Guomindang) or, later, as the Chinese 2

There are numerous biographies and studies of Sun Yat-sen, including Harold Schiffrin, Sun Yat-sen: Reluctant Revolutionary (Boston: Little and Brown, 1980); Fitzgerald, Awakening China; Marie-Claire Bergère, Sun Yat-sen, trans. Janet Lloyd (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1998).

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opposition within communism, the Trotskyites. The core of what became Maoism was formed by the Bolshevik leadership of the CCP that survived the 1927 purge by the Guomindang and literally took to the hills—forming rural military soviets, first in southeast China, then, after the Long March (1935–6) in northwest China. Thus did a quintessentially urban revolution predicated on the technical skills and organization of an industrial proletariat become a rural insurgency built on the rage and loyalty of dispossessed farmers who had become an agricultural lumpenproletariat. We will see the details of this revolution and the nation-building that emerged out of it in Chapter 3. Intellectual life reflected these social and political changes. Beneath the fight between the two Leninist parties, three social revolutions were under way: the shift from extended families under one roof to the nuclear family, the public certification of professional technical elites, and the general acceptance of popular legitimacy in politics. “The people” (renmin)—active citizens, of a sort—moved from intellectual essays to popular language. The people were here to stay in Chinese political debates. However, as we have seen, the people were generally seen as in need of education and guidance before they could be expected to exercise democratic rights appropriately. The establishment of the intellectual as a social role, the flowering of zhishifenzi as public figures, and the emergence of professional identities were fully established by the 1930s. Nonetheless, these roles faced a rising challenge from the cadre role in each of the two Leninist parties. Educated Chinese resisted the cadre role for most of the 1930s, but cadres would come to dominate intellectual life from the 1940s. What drove the change was war. As Eric Hobsbawm has noted for the twentieth century in general, so too for China: “Revolution was the child of twentieth-century war.”3 Social violence brought revolutionary parties to the fore and they built themselves on the loyal cadres—men and women of administrative and intellectual ability willing to subordinate individual interest and freedom in the service of a collective effort in a rigidly hierarchical organization. Two answers to the question of this ideological moment dominated mid-century China: nationalism and Leninism. The growing depredations of the Japanese Imperial Army—first taking Manchuria in 1931, then menacing China until invading in earnest in 1937—cemented a vigorous Chinese nationalism across society. Not only did political and intellectual leaders inveigh against Japanese imperialism, but also

3

Hobsbawn, The Age of Extremes, p. 54.

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ordinary urbanites and rural elites joined in demonstrations and boycotts to show their anger on behalf of China. Popular nationalism was born in violence. So, too, was the Leninist response. Kenneth Jowitt has usefully described what Leninism offered societies experiencing “national dependency.”4 He posits that when traditional societies have faced threats or actual domination by a powerful, modern society, resulting in political, cultural, and economic “national dependency,” Leninism in the form of the militant and tight-knit Bolshevik party has often been more successful than alternative ideologies in organizing the efforts of traditional societies to throw off intruders and to begin to modernize. The key to the Leninist response is the Bolshevik-style party—a peculiar organization that combines the attributes of charismatic rule, which can speak to and mobilize traditional elements (particularly the peasants), and attributes of modern rule based on norms of achievement, which can promote the modernization of industry and the rationalization of state administration. The key legitimating principle of the Leninist response is not the views of a single leader, but the “correct line” determined by a collective leadership, which, theoretically, transcends individual failings, including mortality. Jowitt’s model is based on his research on Romania, but clearly offers an explanation for the rise of the Soviet Union. It also helps us understand the rise of both the Guomindang and the CCP— though in the Chinese case the “thought” of the supreme leader trumped collective leadership (until relative peace returned in the 1970s).5 Again, what drove these changes was war, endemic violence. Fifty years earlier, Japan had faced similar “national dependency,” but its response was an authoritarian developmental state that did not create a one-party state but rather a conservative constitutional monarchy. A key difference between Japan of the 1880s and China of the 1930s was that Japan was not subject to foreign military invasion or large-scale domestic military competition. Liberal democracy was clearly understood and valued by a number of Chinese intellectuals from Hu Shi to Luo Longji, but proponents could not find a solution for the problem of power, specifically military power in a time of unrest and warfare. Meanwhile, opponents on the left and the right argued in various ways why liberalism was not yet, or would never be, suitable to Chinese conditions. 4 5

Although first published in 1978, the most handy version is Kenneth Jowitt, New World Disorder: The Leninist Extinction (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), pp. 1–50. My own research on the Mao period found Jowitt’s “Leninist response” to be a helpful lens through which to understand Chinese political and intellectual life. See Timothy Cheek, Propaganda and Culture in Mao’s China: Deng Tuo and the Intelligentsia (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997).

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The rise of nationalism and Leninism rode on top of two fundamental revolutions in intellectual and cultural life that seem less dramatic but have endured: vernacular language and the primacy of science. The first was the victory of baihua (the vernacular) and guohua (national language) over wenyan (literary Chinese) in public expression and intellectual work. The second comprehensive revolution was the broad-based acceptance of the superiority of natural-science methodology and the wonders of technology. Even neo-traditional advocates of a new Confucianism, such as Liang Shuming, embraced science. As Chinese debated which road to take and competed for leadership, all sides accepted the vernacular language and the primacy of the natural sciences and technology. The tools of China’s intellectuals had already changed fundamentally from the 1890s—how they talked and what they thought best explained the world. These fundamental changes, with few dissenters, were in place by the mid-1930s and would continue to shape what intellectuals have done in China ever since.

3

Rejuvenation Organizing China (1936–1956)

Fig. 3. Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong, Chongqing, August 1945

On August 28, 1945, Mao Zedong flew from the Communists’ headquarters in Yan’an to Chongqing, the Nationalists’ wartime capital. The Japanese had been defeated, their emperor had announced their surrender on August 15, and Japanese armies in China were already surrendering to local forces. With Mao on the flight was an American. Mao and Patrick J. Hurley took off from a dusty airfield outside Yan’an in the arid loess hill country north of Xi’an in Shaanxi province. They landed in Chongqing, the bombed-out wartime capital of the Nationalists in the well-watered hills above the upper Yangzi river in Sichuan. This drama was played out in the interior heartland of China, and yet there were the Americans in the background. Hurley, the American ambassador to 113

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China, was the guarantor of the negotiations between the Nationalists and the Communists. This photograph during the Chongqing negotiations captures the realities of China in the decades from 1936 to 1956: the terrible war with Japan and the costs of fighting it; the enduring enmity between the Nationalists and the Communists, with neither being able to eradicate the other; and the looming presence of America, first as ally against Japan, backstop for Chiang, and by the late 1940s implacable enemy of “the Reds.” This meeting was important because Chiang and Mao were the two contenders for leading a new, powerful total state that had grown in forges of total war. Both the Nationalists and the Communists had built a propaganda state and the fight was on to see which one would rule China. Not since the “Literary Inquisition” of the Qianlong Emperor in the Qing Dynasty during the eighteenth century had political leaders so directly set the agenda for China’s intellectuals. The two Leninist party-states offered competing ideologies and opportunities for intellectual participation in this new ideological moment of nation-building designed to rejuvenate China, but they demanded absolute loyalty and brooked no criticism. Between these poles China’s liberals tried to find a place and a voice to offer a “third road.”

Voices from the 1940s: three roads [ L I A N G S H U M I N G ] : POLITIC AL PR OGRAM OF THE L E A G U E O F C HI N E S E D E M O C R A T I C P O L I T I C A L G R O U P S ( 19 41 ) 1. To resist Japan to the end; to recover all lost territory and sovereignty; to oppose all compromise [with the Japanese]. 2. To put the democratic spirit into practice by ending one-party rule; to establish an [interim] organ, representative of all parties and groups, for the discussion of national affairs until a constitution is implemented. 3. To strengthen internal unity by fundamentally settling all current points of disagreement in order to normalize their [the diverse parties’ and groups’] relations. 4. To supervise and help the Guomindang in thoroughly carrying out the “Outline of National Resistance and Reconstruction.” 5. To establish actual national unity, and oppose local separatism, but also to define suitably the jurisdiction of the central and local governments. 6. To oppose all party organizations within the armed forces and the use of armed forces in inter-party struggles. The army belongs to the nation and the military personnel should be loyal to the nation . . .1

1

The league’s political program was published in the October 1, 1941, issue of its official newspaper, Guangming bao (Light) (Hong Kong), trans. in Alitto, The Last Confucian, p. 309.

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(cont.) WEN J IZE (19 14 –9 9) : D I A R Y O F A S T R U G G L E (1 94 2) Monday, June 1 Today, the central theme of the meeting progressed from eradicating extreme democratic tendencies to a discussion of Wang Shiwei’s thought. The majority of the fifteen speeches in the day concentrated on this issue. The third speech was given by Li Yan. First, he gave some statistics: many of our Institute’s researchers more or less sympathized with Wang Shiwei when they first read “Wild Lilies.” Even those who disliked this essay did not realize the fundamental mistake of the author’s position. But over two months of studying rectification documents, and, moreover, attending the meetings convened by the Central Committee Propaganda Department, studying [Mao Zedong’s] “Combat Liberalism” and “On Egalitarianism,” [Liu Shaoqi’s] “How to be a Good Communist Party Member” and other documents and the debates on “Wild Lilies” and “Politicians, Artists” have clearly enabled everybody to know the seriousness of the errors in thought and method contained in “Wild Lilies.” (How necessary is thought reform! How important are the rectification documents!) Li Yan went on to report on the process of the six talks held between Wang and the party committee. Wang did not admit his mistakes until now. In order to “cure the illness to save the patient,” we must completely expose Wang’s mistakes and carry out a serious ideological struggle against him.2 WEN Y IDUO (1899 – 19 46 ): T H E P O E T’S FA R E W E L L (1 94 6) A few days ago, as we are all aware, one of the most despicable and shameful events of history occurred here in Kunming. What crime did Mr. Li Gongpu commit that would cause him to be murdered in such a vicious way? He merely used his pen to write a few articles, he used his mouth to speak out, and what he said and wrote was nothing more than what any Chinese with a conscience would say. We all have pens and mouths. If there is a reason for it, why not speak out? Why should people be beaten, killed, or, even worse, killed in a devious way? [Applause] Are there any special agents [Guomindang spies] here today? Stand up! If you are men, stand up! Come forward and speak! Why did you kill Mr. Li? [Enthusiastic applause] You kill people but refuse to admit it and even circulate false rumors that the murder happened because of some sexual scandal or as the result of Communists killing other Communists. Shameless! Shameless! [Applause] This is the shamelessness of the Guomindang but the glory belongs to Mr. Li. Mr. Li participated in Kunming’s democratic movement for a number of years. Now he has returned to Kunming and sacrificed his own life. This is Mr. Li’s glory; it is the glory of the people of Kunming!3

2

3

Wen Jize, “Douzheng riji,” Jiefang ribao (Liberation Daily) (Yan’an), June 28 and 29, 1942, trans. in Tony Saich, ed., The Rise to Power of the Chinese Communist Party (Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 1996), p. 1115. Wen Yiduo, “Zuihou yici de jianghua” (The Last Speech), given at Yunnan University in Kunming on July 15, 1946 (Wen was shot by government agents shortly after the speech), trans. in Cheng and Lestz, The Search for Modern China, p. 337.

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The ideological moment: building China Revolution had brought new regimes to power—the Nationalist state officially based in Nanjing in 1928 and a series of Communist soviets, first in the mountains of southeast China (Jiangxi) and then in the northwest (Yan’an) and across north China. In the years after 1935 each was in the position to implement its revolutionary goals and each set about rejuvenating China through nation-building in the areas they controlled. All were fundamentally transformed by the experience of total war that began with Japan’s full-scale invasion in July 1937. In all, there were three paths to this rejuvenation at midcentury: Sunism, Communism, and the “Third Road” of liberalism. The Guomindang Nationalists pushed the first under Chiang Kaishek; the Communists, under Mao Zedong by 1942, enforced the second; and the “Third Road” was pursued by various liberal intellectuals through small political parties like the Democratic League. All three had their intellectuals. Hu Shi, perhaps China’s most famous intellectual during these years, came to serve the Nationalists, even as China’s ambassador to the US during the war, though he pushed the GMD dictatorship towards liberal democracy. Deng Tuo, a journalist and theorist for the CCP, came to define the role of the intellectual cadre. Older intellectuals, such as Liang Shuming, and younger scholars, like Wu Han, tried to serve China through the Democratic League. After the war, a generation of patriotic Chinese intellectuals trained and living overseas chose to return, largely to serve the new society under the CCP and soon its new state, the People’s Republic of China. Amongst these returnees were the historian Zhou Yiliang and the rocket scientist Qian Xuesen. The question that defined this ideological moment was, how to build the New China? The answers that China’s intellectuals and political leaders offered all addressed national construction. Nation-building seeks to strengthen the administration of the state and make coherent the social life and public culture of a polity. It has been the enduring project of twentieth-century China and was the dominant ideological moment at mid-century and again at its end. The nation was the solution that revolution came up with. The Nationalists and the Communists each had their own version. For both regimes, the single strongest shaping force of this ideological moment was war, total war—the devastating invasion of the Japanese Imperial Army in 1937 and the eight years known in China as the Anti-Japanese War, to which the Chinese civil war was a heartbreaking coda. The dark side of each regime came to the fore in response to the years of unrelenting violence. In response to these years of violence, the form of the nation offered to China and its intellectuals was the party-state. This was a much more

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muscular, militarized, and intrusive form of modern governance that was unprecedented in Chinese history. It was much bigger—controlling not only army and police but also major industrial enterprises and much of the media—than all previous Chinese administrations and it was more demanding. It set out to manage society in the name of rejuvenating China. For that project the party-state needed intellectuals. As Matthew Johnson has argued, “Both parties needed more, and more loyal, intellectuals not only to mediate between state and society but also to help with the ‘socialization’ of politics through state ownership of large enterprises, community policing, resource management, and the creation of new welfare systems.”4 The challenge of the day was how to make this giant edifice work, work well, and work toward goals that could inspire China’s thinkers and writers. The midcentury party-states offered an end to the alienation from the halls of power felt so passionately by Liang Qichao and his successors since the turn of the century. At the same time, these vigorous new party-states enforced participation and closed off alternative public activities for intellectuals in ways that were unlike life under the Qing. Politically active intellectuals got what they wished for: service in a state that valued their contributions. But it was a deal with the devil that came with severe constraints that began with the lives of Chen Bulei under the GMD and Wang Shiwei under the CCP but that framed the “price of engagement” for most intellectuals in this ideological moment of rejuvenation. By 1945 both China as a nation under the Nationalists and the Communist Party under Mao Zedong had survived. In August and September 1945 a victorious Nationalist government accepted the surrender of Japanese forces in China. Earlier, in April 1945, the Communist Party had held its Seventh Party Congress in Yan’an, celebrating its survival and growth and consolidating the power of Mao. That same year, professors in China’s famous Southwest United University began returning from Yunnan to their home universities in Beijing and other areas that had been occupied by the Japanese. Many of them belonged to one or another of the small democratic parties. In truth, however, there were two Chinas in 1945, and there were two contenders for national leadership: Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek and his Nationalist Party government in southern China, as well as all the main cities around China, and Chairman Mao Zedong and his Chinese 4

Personal communication; and Matthew Johnson, “International and Wartime Origins of the Propaganda State: The Motion Picture Industrty in China, 1897–1955,” PhD dissertation, University of California, San Diego, 2008.

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Communist Party government in a dozen “revolutionary base area” administrations across rural north and central China, and soon Manchuria. Both had armies at their command and both conformed to the new politics of ideological leadership. Chiang had staked his claim as the modern version of a sage leader in his immensely popular 1943 book China’s Destiny.5 Sun Yat-sen was the spiritual father of the Nationalist revolution, the Guomindang was his church, and Chiang was now the chief prophet. The Three People’s Principles, and related writings of Dr. Sun, were the public creed of the regime. Chiang had much to bring to the table. He had endured, and contributed to victory in, the AntiJapanese War; he had achieved the historic mission of ending unequal treaties with Britain and the US in January 1943 and had established China as a “world power” that met in conclave with the US, Britain, and the Soviet Union; and he had the political and economic support of the United States. Mao Zedong staked his claim on his writings, many from the Yan’an Rectification Movement, that were collected in the Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung in 1944.6 Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Stalin were the great gods of communism, the Communist Party was their church, and Mao was the Chinese prophet of this international liberation of working peoples. Mao Zedong had much to offer China’s public in general and intellectuals in particular. While the truth on the ground was darker, the Communists were widely credited with major contributions to the defeat of the Japanese, the behavior of their army was seen as enlightened while still being able to keep local peace, and their local administration contrasted as beneficent in comparison with the corrupt local GMD bullies. Mao’s ideas were much more inspirational to youth than Chiang’s, and he had the political support of the Soviet Union. The liberals had much intellectual power, the support of US and European governments, and popular support in the cities. But the liberals did not have an organization to match either Bolshevik party, nor did they have an army. They were the “third force,” the Democratic League (disbanded in 1947) and smaller democratic parties based in the cities and populated by professionals, academics, and intellectuals.

5

6

Jiang Zhongzhen (Chiang Kai-shek), Zhongguo zhi mingyun (China’s Destiny) (Chongqing: Zhengzhong shuju, March 1943); authorized English translation by Wang Chung-hui, is Chiang Kai-shek, China’s Destiny (New York: Macmillan, 1947) includes an introduction by Lin Yu-tang. Mao Zedong xuanji (n.p.: Jin Cha Ji shudian, 1944). Details on Mao’s collected writings in Timothy Cheek, “Textually Speaking: An Assessment of Newly Available Mao Texts,” in Roderick MacFarquhar, Timothy Cheek, and Eugene Wu, eds., The Secret Speeches of Chairman Mao (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Council on East Asian Studies, 1989), pp. 83–4.

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As China’s cosmopolitan elite, many liberals had trained in America and Europe, and now led major universities, government research labs, businesses, and media. They sought to bring modern society and liberal democratic politics to China. They took the Republic of China at its word and formed political parties and militated for an end to Sun Yat-sen’s “political tutelage” and the installation of true constitutional government with popular elections. These intellectuals and professionals saw the road to rejuvenation and nation-building through liberalism and democratic politics. Both Chiang and Mao made overtures to the liberals, since they had considerable public credibility, especially among the educated urban populations key to their modernization drives. Yet both the Nationalists and the Communists were not above controlling, bullying, and on occasion killing intellectuals who seriously got in the way of their party plans. By 1949 liberals would be faced with a forced choice—go with Chiang to Taiwan, stay in China with the Communists, or abandon China for the life of an overseas Chinese.

War and industrialization The total war of the previous seven years, and endemic fighting for the decades before that, had fundamentally shaped China’s contending states. Full-scale war had put an end to the revolutionary efforts of the Nationalist Party.7 During the Nanjing decade (1928–37) Chiang Kaishek’s new government had tried to build a modern nation-state, had struggled to improve public morality in the New Life Movement, and pushed to overturn the unequal treaties. The New Life Movement was launched in February 1934 to revive national morality to make China and the Chinese modern but with Confucian characteristics. Chiang started with a hygiene campaign, but the whole movement soon degenerated into a farce, seen by many as a poor copy of the fascist youth organizations in Europe.8 However, as Wennan Liu argues, Chiang saw the New Life Movement as the fulfillment of “political tutelage” of the people promised by Sun Yat-sen to prepare them to be modern, 7

8

Hans J. van de Ven, War and Nationalism in China, 1925–1945 (London: Routledge, 2003), and Rana Mitter, China’s War with Japan, 1937–1945: The Struggle for Survival (London: Allen Lane, 2013), published in the US as Forgotten Ally: China’s World War II, 1937–1945 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013). Wennan Liu, “Redefining the Moral and Legal Roles of the State in Everyday Life: The New Life Movement in China in the Mid-1930s,” Cross-Currents: East Asian History and Culture Review, e-journal, No. 7 (June 2013), pp. 30–59. Liu provides a thoughtful review of previous studies that saw the movement as fascist and newer ones that see it as a predictable political technology of modernization, pp. 31–2.

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democratic citizens. Chiang’s decision to use state power to enforce the campaign did not succeed but it reflects the same effort to enforce the “renovation of the people” that Liang Qichao’s generation had advocated. Meanwhile, Nationalist efforts to build sound local and central administration collapsed in the face of the Japanese invasion. Revolution, however, proceeded apace in the CCP-controlled areas. Ironically, the Anti-Japanese War (which we know as World War II) had given the Communists their first period of sustained territorial control in which to implement their social and political revolution.9 During their time in the northwest, soon known as the Yan’an period after the CCP capital in a Shaanxi market town after 1935 until 1947, the CCP opted for moderate rent reform in order to bring “enlightened gentry” on board. This was because of the renewed United Front between the CCP and the Nationalist government negotiated in early 1937. Nonetheless, the party in general and its emerging supreme leader, Mao Zedong, in particular used this window of relative stability to articulate and train a radically Bolshevik political system built around a robust party army that was, in fact, more solicitous to the farming population than the Nationalist or the Japanese armies had been, but was completely dictatorial in its politics. It was effective in bringing a new order to Communist areas but it demanded total commitment and obedience to Party leadership. The Rectification Campaign of 1942–4 succeeded where Chiang’s New Life Movement failed; it successfully married a new public morality with Party discipline and military control within the CCP’s rural “base areas.”10 Chiang’s New Life Movement may not have succeeded, but the integrated modern state his regime built was impressive and would be taken over by the Communists after their military victory in 1949. The role of “total war” on modernization is a theme not limited to China. Yasushi Yamanouchi and colleagues look at the impact of total war during the same years in Japan. They conclude that in this era not only Japan but Germany, the US, and other advanced industrial nations formed “system societies” characterized by rationalization, mobilization, and high levels of social integration and control. Yamanouchi concludes that through war there was a “shift from a class society . . . to a system society.” Indeed, this conclusion for Japan applies as well to China: that “rather 9 10

Mark Selden, China in Revolution: The Yenan Way Revisited (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1995). Selden, China in Revolution; David Apter and Tony Saich, Revolutionary Discourse in Mao’s Republic (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994); and Tony Saich and Hans J. van de Ven, eds., New Perspectives on the Chinese Communist Revolution (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1995), particularly essays in Part II.

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than the postwar reforms, it was the wartime mobilization system that was responsible for creating the configuration of labor power that was the main pillar of accelerated postwar growth.”11 Intellectual labor was key to the modernizing and mobilizing goals of China’s party-states and they set about recruiting and controlling their intellectuals. Nonetheless, not all intellectuals were dragooned into either partystate or marooned in the ineffectual democratic parties. During the war a number of Chinese intellectuals remained in Japanese-controlled cities, such as Beijing, and after 1941 all of Shanghai. Some simply tried to opt out of politics, as in the famous case of Lu Xun’s talented and scholarly brother, Zhou Zuoren, who chose to remain in Beijing with his Japanese wife in order to care for his students who could not flee to the Nationalist areas in the south. Others had little choice and bemoaned their unenviable circumstances under the rule of the Japanese or a Chinese puppet regime, while trying to carry on with their professional and literary efforts. However, there were intellectuals who actively chose to collaborate either with the Japanese forces or with Chinese collaborationist regimes, particularly the Japanese-sponsored version of the Republic of China led by Wang Jingwei between 1940 and 1944.12 Thoroughly denounced in the postwar years, it is difficult to recapture the reasons why some reasonable people might have collaborated with the Japanese. One major reason was a belief in pan-Asianism, inflected by a sense that the Japanese were the only Asian power capable of booting out the Europeans and suppressing local violence in China. The pan-Asian ideology made much of traditional Chinese political philosophy, describing its approach to governance as the community-oriented Kingly Way (wang dao) made famous by Confucius.13 As we will again see in the case of those who chose to serve the ultra-leftist policies of the Cultural Revolution in the 1970s, we must strive to remember the context: these intellectuals had little reason to believe that the new order (in the 1940s

11

12

13

Yasushi Yamanouchi, J. Victor Koschmann, and Ryuichi Narita, eds., Total War and “Modernization” (Ithaca, NY: Cornell East Asian Series, 1998), pp. xiii and 25. For the Chinese case, see William Kirby, “Continuity and Change in Modern China: Economic Planning on the Mainland and on Taiwan, 1943–1958,” Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs, No. 24 (July 1990), pp. 121–41. Poshek Fu, Passivity, Resistance, and Collaboration: Intellectual Choices in Occupied Shanghai, 1937–1945 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1993); and Timothy Brook, Collaboration: Japanese Agents and Local Elites in Wartime China (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005). Sven Saaler and Chirstopher W.A. Szpilman, “Pan-Asianism as an Ideal of Asian Identity and Solidarity, 1850–Present,” Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, Vol. 9, No. 1, April 25, 2011 (available at: http://www.japanfocus.org/-Sven-Saaler/3519).

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under the Japanese) would not endure. Service to the latest regime to take the reins of government was a practical choice. The civil war between 1946 and 1949 forced the hand of all involved, including China’s liberals. There was no third option, though the liberals tried. Liang Shuming joined Westernized liberals in forming what became the Democratic League in 1941. Whether Westernizing or neotraditional, these third-road intellectuals sought solutions for China, a road for China’s nation-building that was independent of the two warring Leninist parties and their two -isms. They hoped for a more limited republican state that would keep the peace and build the roads, but leave social space for individuals and communities to address the needs of local order, community revival, and cultural resurgence and public education. One thing that the GMD and CCP agreed on was that this third option was not acceptable. Both proffered their version of Sun Yat-sen’s pedagogical state that would fulfill the aspiration of traditional Chinese statecraft to “transform the people through the rites.” They differed only in the rigor of their ideology and their ability to enforce it. By the end of 1949 the Nationalists had been defeated and had retreated to the island of Taiwan. The CCP now faced the greater challenge of nation-building in China proper—some 400 million people and the huge territory of the defunct Qing empire (some 10 million square kilometers of territory, about the size of the US with Alaska or slightly smaller than the EU with Greenland), and the terrible residue of a decade of total war. The CCP administrative apparatus was disciplined and coherent after application of the Yan’an Rectification model of education and purges throughout the CCP-administered areas in the 1940s. Thus, in the wake of the PLA, CCP cadres were able to implement land reform. Landlords were shot, and, more than that, CCP cadres mobilized local villagers to try, sentence, and execute their former landlords on the theory that enacting the revolution would mobilize the masses for the next stages of the revolutionary project. Land reform also aimed to achieve the unity of intellectuals and peasants that Liang Shuming had attempted, and to some degree it achieved this utopian goal, at first.14

14

The ideal image is captured in the report of an American observer in the CCP base areas in the late 1940s: William Hinton, Fanshen: A Documentary of Revolution in a Chinese Village (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997; first published in 1966); and the novel by Yuan-tsung Chen, The Dragon’s Village (New York: Pantheon, 1980). One actual experience from Chinese villagers is reported in Friedman, Pickowicz, and Selden, with Johnson, Chinese Village, Socialist State.

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The early 1950s were a fulfillment of the plans of both governments from the 1940s: stabilization of society and modernization of industry, commerce, and culture. Intellectuals served, or endured, both Chiang’s and Mao’s version of this. On Taiwan, the Nationalists came as veritable invaders, speaking a different version of Chinese (Mandarin) among the Taiwanese-speaking locals who had, for the past fifty years, been subjects of the Japanese empire. Thus the GMD state was not a natural or a particularly welcomed political class in Taiwan. Tensions quickly boiled over on February 28, 1947, in what became known as the “2-28 incident” (Er-er-ba shijian) when a tussle in a Taipei market between a mainland soldier and a Taiwanese shopkeeper blew up into a series of a bloody confrontations between the two communities. The repression of Taiwanese elites over the next few years is still known in Taiwan as the White Terror of the Nationalists. Through such repression the GMD solidified its control of Taiwan.15 Intellectuals who fled the mainland with the GMD forces were painfully aware of their exile; some mourned, some blamed, all looked for explanations for the defeat and solutions to be followed.16 The CCP forces were no more welcome in the entrepôts of Shanghai and Guangzhou than the GMD was in Taiwan. The Communist cadres, fresh from years of rural insurrection and village administration in north China, were culturally alien to the commercial and international culture of China’s main cities, and generally did not speak the local dialects of southern China.17 Like Chiang’s forces, Mao’s set about neutralizing competitors and laying down the law. Soon political campaigns were extended to the cities to “bring in” intellectuals, curb government corruption, and corral the bourgeoisie (most notably in the “Three Antis” and “Five Antis” campaigns of 1951–3).18 Barely six months into their administration, the Communist government was confronted by war with 15

16 17

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Murray A. Rubinstein, Taiwan: A New History (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2006); and Sylvia Li-chun Lin, Representing Atrocity in Taiwan: The 2/28 Incident and Terror in Fiction and Film (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007). Bruce Dickson, “The Lessons of Defeat: The Reorganization of the Kuomintang on Taiwan, 1950–52,” China Quarterly, No. 133 (March 1993), pp. 56–84. Zhidong Hao, Whither Taiwan and Mainland China: National Identity, the State, and Intellectuals (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2010). A. Doak Barnett, China on the Eve of Communist Takeover (New York: Praeger, 1963); Ezra F. Vogel, Canton under Communism: Programs and Politics in a Provincial Capital, 1949–1968 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1969); and Jeremy Brown and Paul G. Pickowicz, eds., The Dilemmas of Victory: The Early Years of the People’s Republic of China (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007). Brown and Pickowicz, The Dilemmas of Victory, Part I; and Julia Strauss, “Paternalist Terror: The Campaign to Suppress Counterrevolution and Regime Consolidation in the People’s Republic of China, 1950–1953,” Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. 44, No. 1 (January 2002), pp. 80–105.

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America in the Korean peninsula. It was a bloody fight, which China entered in 1950, but ended with an armistice confirming the two Koreas in 1953. By 1955, the Communists had largely succeeded, despite the draining challenge of confronting US military forces on the Korean peninsula and harrying from Chiang Kai-shek’s residual forces and agents. In 1956, the CCP held its first major meeting since 1945, the Eighth Party Congress, and could not be blamed for feeling it had succeeded. Intellectuals remaining in China were not uniform: some stayed on only reluctantly, accepting that the CCP was the only practical alternative with which to work (but certainly not to join); some were willing to go along, join, and talk the talk, but their interests really lay elsewhere; but some were truly inspired, galvanized, and keen to make themselves anew and lead in the construction of New China with its new politics, new science, and new culture. After decades of marginalization and chaos, here was a chance to contribute to China’s rejuvenation. However, both avenues—service to the Guomindang state or to the Communist revolution—carried great peril for China’s intellectuals. While the corruption and repression of dissent under the Guomindang only got worse after the defeat of the Japanese in 1945 and the return of the Nationalists to their capital in Nanjing,19 service to the Communists was no idyll. Mao had consolidated his power in the Rectification Movement of 1942–4. This turned out to be a fateful development for intellectuals for several reasons. The campaign combined “political study” (closer to state-run religious conversion classes that produced “exegetical bonding” among the faithful) with authoritarian administration and uncompromising enforcement of Party policy.20 While reactionary forces were exterminated, so too was intellectual diversity and dissent. Modernization was a key goal of both revolutionary parties. Despite their differences in politics and policies, both the Nationalists and the Communists embraced the idea of society as something that could be managed. These years saw a shift in the object of revolution from the people to society, and in agents from independent intellectuals to integrated party-states that managed intellectual cadres. If in the 1900s Liang Qichao’s generation had discovered a new people for China and how to

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A rich account of intellectual experience during these years is given in John Israel, Lianda: A Chinese University in War and Revolution (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999). The classic dualism of the Yan’an Rectification Movement (idealism and repression) are captured in Mark Selden, The Yenan Way in Revolutionary China (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1971); and Goldman, Literary Dissent in Communist China. A more recent account that includes interviews with survivors of the rectification campaign that reflect the “exegetical bonding” created from the intense study sessions is given by Apter and Saich, Revolutionary Discourse in Mao’s Republic.

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use modern literature to awaken them into action, the architects of the party-state in the 1930s from Chen Lifu in the GMD to Chen Boda in the CCP had discovered society as an object of management, mobilization, and control, and they learned how to harness social science to serve state needs.21

China’s propaganda states The Nationalists and Communists provided the dominant frame for intellectual participation in public life in the middle decades of the twentieth century. Both were Bolshevik parties borrowed from the Soviet Union and both openly claimed the heritage of Sun Yat-sen’s reformed Nationalist Party from the early 1920s and its role as an enlightened vanguard that would lead China to glory under their “political tutelage.” These were China’s propaganda states, not unlike German and Italian efforts. These systems required awakened functionaries, elite staff endowed with Sun Yat-sen’s “foreknowledge.” The Nationalists under Chiang Kai-shek had begun the “partification” of universities and major institutions as part of this tutelage by the early 1930s. Part of their story is the failure of this effort. The most influential intellectuals, like Hu Shi, were prevailed upon to take up office (sometimes), but few “converted” to the disciplined role of an intellectual cadre for Chiang Kai-shek. The Communists in general, and Mao Zedong in particular, succeeded in creating China’s propaganda state. Beginning in the 1940s, the Communists brought this system to life through rectification campaigns designed to train, discipline, and mobilize their cadres and local populations in the service of social revolution and national wealth and power. Chinese intellectuals were a key group—among workers, peasants, and soldiers—to be transformed into cadres. This campaign style is also significant because it set the style of politics for the People’s Republic of China—mass activism, led by the party-state, using straw men as “negative examples” to mobilize the public and to justify continued dictatorship of the proletariat (one-party rule). This model would continue in the PRC under Mao, reaching a crescendo in the Cultural Revolution (1966–9). Nonetheless, from the start, there was internal dissent within the Communist movement and even within the Maoist camp. In this chapter we will see the cases of Ding Ling and Wang Shiwei, and there would 21

Yung-chen Chiang, Social Engineering and the Social Sciences in China, documents the development of social-science approaches to society in the 1920s and 1930s and how this knowledge began to be used by state actors.

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continue to be internal debates all through the Mao period and into the post-Mao period. There was dissent within the Guomindang and across Nationalist society as well, and some, like Li Gongpu and Wen Yiduo, got shot for their temerity. Many of the most daring, the most brave, and the most tragic of China’s intellectuals took it upon themselves to speak truth to power in this most direct and dangerous manner. This history of Chinese dissent against these two revolutionary regimes is an important part of our story, a tragedy with inspiring examples of intellectual integrity and personal fortitude.

Propaganda: the directed public sphere of the party-state By the 1940s the print communism of the propaganda state came to replace the print capitalism of earlier years as the defining institution of China’s public sphere. The Communist and Nationalist parties took as their model the propaganda system first outlined by Lenin in his 1902 pamphlet What Is to Be Done?, and implemented in the new Soviet Union in the early 1920s under Lunacharsky’s “Commissariat of Enlightenment.” This is the system Peter Kenez calls “the propaganda state.” Kenez’s picture of the Soviet information system gives a vivid sense of the goals of print communism to which both parties aspired and which were achieved by the CCP by the 1940s: The newspaper was the blood-circulation system of the body politic: it carried essential information everywhere rapidly . . . The average citizen learned what were the legitimate public issues as defined by the leaders and learned the verbiage of political discourse. For the activist and for the Party functionary, reading the newspaper diligently was even more important. They found out how they had to act in small and large matters and learned how to discuss political and even nonpolitical issues with their fellow citizens.22

The CCP borrowed more than a media system from the Soviets. It created its own version of the Bolsheviks’ propaganda state. Peter Kenez calls this a state-dominated polity that co-ordinates the education of cadres, the development of political language, the politicization of everlarger segments of life, and the substitution of “voluntary” state-controlled 22

Peter Kenez, Birth of the Propaganda State: Soviet Methods of Mass Mobilization, 1917–1929 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), p. 224. “Print communism” as a parallel to “print capitalism” (such as we discussed in Chapter 1) was coined by Christopher Reed in “Advancing the (Gutenberg) Revolution: The Origins and Development of Chinese Print Communism, 1921–1947,” in Cynthia Brokaw and Christopher A. Reed, eds., From Woodblocks to the Internet: Chinese Publishing and Print Culture in Transition, circa 1800 to 2008 (Leiden: Brill, 2010), pp. 275–311.

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societies for independent organizations.23 Propaganda was not only a total media system; it was a political project. In China propaganda provided the concrete application of what came to be known as Maoist leadership methods in political campaigns (yundong). Party propaganda in newspapers and other media was meant to be a major example of the “from the masses, to the masses” function of Party leadership in which Party representatives go down among the common folk, discover their problems and needs, go back and synthesize those particular problems with the insights of their ideology and finally return to the masses to publicize the party’s insights among the people in such a way as to make them take on such formulations as their own values.24 This was seen as transforming the masses through education (jiaohua). It fulfilled the dream of Sun Yat-sen’s pedagogical state. However, the Nationalists destroyed the local infrastructure of its own Party organization as a part of their purge of leftists after their break with the Communists.25 By the late 1930s it was only the CCP that was effectively developing the institutional capacity to bring a full propaganda state into being. Propaganda was part of elite training and monitoring of CCP cadres, part of the “rectification” (zhengdun zuofeng) of cadres. Study sessions have been part of both cadre training and policy implementation in this model. From the late 1930s, propaganda writings, as well as official Party publications, have been read and discussed in orchestrated study sessions for cadres and local leaders, including intellectuals.26 Rectification, when it works—as it did in the 1940s—is the organizational system to back up the ideological pronouncements that the Chinese Communist Party produces. Propaganda, then, is central to a system that underwrites CCP legitimacy, provides practical political feedback on current policy, and informs their cadre training and discipline system.

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Kenez, Birth of the Propaganda State, pp. 12–3 and Chapter 10. The classic formulation is in “Some Questions Concerning Methods of Leadership,” issued by the CCP Central Committee, and included in the Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung, Vol. III (Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1975). Bradley K. Geisart, Radicalism and Its Demise: The Chinese Nationalist Party, Factionalism, and Local Elites in Jiangsu Province, 1924–1931 (Ann Arbor: Center for Chinese Studies, University of Michigan, 2001). The Yan’an experience is detailed in Apter and Saich, Mao’s Republic; and Frederick C. Teiwes, Politics and Purges in China: Rectification and the Decline of Party Norms (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1979), pp. 30–57. For the 1950s: Franz Schurmann, Ideology & Organization in Communist China (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966), pp. 60–1. The classic book on these “study sessions” is Martin K. Whyte, Small Groups and Political Rituals in China (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974).

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The propaganda state institutionalized this system in the danwei or work unit—a self-contained, full-service organization. For example, a Communist newspaper—be it Yan’an’s Liberation Daily or a paper in the war-torn hinterland, such as the Jin Cha Ji Daily—was just such an all-embracing danwei. In addition to strong Party control of professional activities and personnel matters, each newspaper provided housing, health care, social services, education of children, and even approved marriage proposals. The weight of such unified social services was to make the work unit’s members dependent on the leadership of their danwei for most aspects of their lives; this centrally controlled welfare promoted compliance, if not enthusiasm.27 We shall see the workings of the CCP’s early propaganda state in the life of Deng Tuo and his colleagues, later in this chapter. The information system of the Chinese propaganda state corresponds in many ways to what Jürgen Habermas calls the “public sphere” in European societies. This comparison is important not only for making the Chinese experience more comparable with other examples but also for highlighting the differences that shape intellectual service in China. The key difference in the European example, of course, is that Habermas sees the public sphere as independent of state power. Indeed, it is unlikely that Habermas or his colleagues would call China’s information system under Mao any sort of “public sphere” with any sort of “civil society.” I use his terms because scholars (both Chinese and Western) interested in contemporary China use “public sphere” all the time to describe the public arena in China. But I think China does not conform to the Habermasian model because the public arena in Mao’s time, and even to a large degree today, is not composed of independent intellectuals free from both state power and communal ties in the sense that Habermas uses “public sphere.” Yet China had a public arena under both the Nationalists and the Communists. The Party aspired to control, and in the high Mao period pretty much did control, all public (and much private) expression. It has always sought to lead press, propaganda, public discussion, and popular mores in order to pass on the enlightenment of ideological leaders and enlightened cadres. So China had a public sphere in which individual ideas and values were made public, but compared with the Habermasian version it was a directed public sphere. 27

Patricia Stranahan, Molding the Medium: The Chinese Communist Party and the Liberation Daily (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1990); Cheek, Propaganda and Culture in Mao’s China, Chapter 2. On danwei, see Andrew Walder, Communist Neo-traditionalism: Work and Authority in Chinese Society (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986); and Lü Xiaobo and Elizabeth J. Perry, eds., Danwei: The Changing Chinese Workplace in Historical and Comparative Perspective (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1997).

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China’s propaganda state used the propaganda system as this “directed public sphere” in which the Party directly managed the public arena and controlled public associations of “civil society.”28 The concept of “directed” comes from Victor Serge’s description of “directed culture” in Stalin’s Soviet Union, in which the state controls the arts, ethics, and ideas “for the good of the people.” Miklós Haraszti has shown the appeal of directed culture for intellectuals under state socialism in Hungary. In his ironic novel The Velvet Prison, Harazsti’s cynical censor concludes, “Socialism, contrary to appearances, does not suppress the artists’ Nietzschean desires but satisfies them . . . The state prevents my art from becoming a commodity, and it guarantees my status as a teacher of the nation.”29 The propaganda system in China under the CCP came to include the arts and universities, as well as the media. Writers, professors, researchers, as well as journalists—indeed, all professions—were incorporated into the propaganda and education system under the direct management of the Propaganda Department of the CCP.30 In Mao’s China there was no other public space for intellectuals.

Intellectual cadres: servants of the propaganda state The examination elite of Confucian scholar-officials passes in these decades, and the social space previously occupied by that group comes to be occupied by three alternatives, one of which attempted to maintain the integrated and holistic role of the scholar-official, and two of which represented real innovations in the public life of China: the cadre, the professional, and the intellectual as independent writer and commentator. The professional and the independent intellectual were important developments in these decades, but the cadre role came to dominate intellectual options by 1950. Professional organizations (including universities) and the media increasingly came under the control of one of China’s party-states. The cadre, and in particular the intellectual cadre, serving either of the new Leninist party-states, the Nationalists or the Communists, combined the role of certified state administrator with a

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Analyzed in Timothy Cheek, “From Market to Democracy in China: Gaps in the Civil Society Model,” in Juan D. Lindau and Timothy Cheek, eds., Market Economics and Political Change: Comparing China and Mexico (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1998), pp. 236–45. See Miklós Haraszti, The Velvet Prison: Artists under State Socialism (New York: Basic Books, 1987), pp. 6 ff.; quote at pp. 24, 94. The xuanjiao xitong is described in Kenneth Lieberthal, Governing China: From Revolution through Reform (New York: W.W. Norton, 1995), pp. 198–208.

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person of moral training and literacy. However, the role of cadre was both more comprehensive, including low-level functionaries such as clerks and police who had fallen outside the Qing administrative system, and more diversified, including incumbents who did not consider themselves to be scholars or intellectuals. The struggles of intellectuals to cope with their reintegration into a new state system defines the intellectual history of the second half of China’s long twentieth century. These were China’s establishment intellectuals. They were modern-day scholar-officials in Leninist regimes who traveled in the most influential of China’s metropolitan cultural and political circles. They were at the same time both high-level intellectuals and high-level cadres. Their senior positions in the party-state made them high-level cadres. Their commitments to high and general intellectual culture; their engagement in intellectual activities that define the “ultimate” or the ideal (issues inseparable from political authority); and their affirmation and acceptance of, and service to, the ruling authorities make them fit Edward Shils’s definition of intellectuals.31 What makes China’s establishment intellectuals different from similarly placed elites in other political systems is the system they served and the traditions from which they drew. China’s version of establishment intellectuals could only exist in a system in which political control of culture is widely perceived as legitimate. Such was the CCP’s propaganda state. The traditions that both state and intellectual drew from included both an idealized version of the Chinese tradition of the scholar-officials (shi) who had served and in turn been certified by the Chinese dynasties through the Confucian examination system, and also the elitism and social-engineering goals of Leninism.32 Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist party-state embraced the same traditions and ambitions but was less successful in gaining popular support for its efforts to control culture. Thus Chen Bulei, whom we will meet shortly as Chiang’s private secretary, was an exception to the rule of a more secular, professional role of intellectuals under the Nationalists. Deng Tuo, the cultured propagandist, became but one of generations of intellectuals—elite and ordinary—who served China’s propaganda state under Mao and his successors. China’s establishment intellectuals under Mao became the ideal version of the intellectual cadre. 31 32

Edward Shils, “Intellectuals,” in David Sills, ed., International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences (New York: Macmillan, 1968), Vol. VII, pp. 413–14. Defined in Hamrin and Cheek, China’s Establishment Intellectuals, p. 4. The version of the scholar-official tradition was “idealized” because that image of state service as the main form of public service neglected the reality that most Qing-period intellectuals were not in service to the state (as those jobs were severely limited) but engaged in other cultural and administrative work in local society.

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A defining feature of China’s propaganda states has been the interpenetration of the party-state and the intellectual. This was not a one-way street in which a distant “organization” dictated to passive intellectuals. In practice, intellectuals were an important part of the party-state, often among its leadership. It is hard to think of Mao as an intellectual, despite his huge corpus of theoretical writings, because he has been the enemy of free-speaking intellectuals. However, by any reasonable definition he was an intellectual. More so, Mao provided the justification for a priestly function for intellectual cadres that recaptured some of the traditional élan of the Confucian examination elite. That is, Mao served as “the local intellectual cadre writ large” just as the Pope is the local parish priest writ large, or the emperor of the Qing was the great sage model for the local Confucian county magistrate or lineage patriarch.33 Those who served and who enforced Maoism—including the disciplining and purging of dissenters—included similar, if less famous, intellectuals. This reminds us that, as Susanne Weigelin-Schwiedrzik has pointed out, “in China, conflicts we normally regard as being conflicts between the Party and intellectuals are conflicts amongst intellectuals.”34 Finally, the revolutionary propaganda state offered intellectuals a way to overcome their bourgeois status in the Marxist worldview by becoming revolutionary intellectuals. Just as seeing China in terms of Lenin’s world revolution redeemed the failed empire and Republic by making China the vanguard of the oppressed world that would lead the overthrow of capitalism and the liberation of workers everywhere, so too did the Party offer to redeem intellectuals from being lackeys of the capitalist class by making them revolutionary servants to the historical force that would lead China in its global emancipatory project. The Party was always ambivalent about intellectuals—ideologically because of the link between China’s intellectuals and the bourgeois world of treaty port cities and Western-style universities and practically because intellectuals criticized Party errors and could, and did, offer competing proposals, ideas, or interpretations of Marxism that challenged current Party leaders. In China’s propaganda states, the way to stay safe and gain influence was to position oneself as a revolutionary, as an intellectual loyal to the revolutionary ideology of the Party. This required discipline and limited intellectual freedom, but it offered China’s marginalized intellectuals of the 1930s and 1940s three appealing roles, a functional role as organizational leaders of society, an emotional role as heroes saving China, and

33 34

Sun Yat-sen attempted this same role with less success; see Fitzgerald, Awakening China. Quoted in Hamrin and Cheek, China’s Establishment Intellectuals, p. 20.

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a cultural role as sophisticates or culture-bearers preserving and perfecting China’s great cultural heritage.35 The perils of state service: Hu Shi, Chen Bulei, and Wu Han The propaganda state never took hold fully under Chiang Kai-shek. Many of China’s liberals tried to serve Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist government as independently certified intellectuals, such as Hu Shi. Those who did serve as establishment intellectuals in the Guomindang, such as Chen Bulei, faced severe frustrations, and other liberals, such as Wu Han, were wooed successfully by Mao’s Communist Party in the 1940s. Hu Shi, China’s most noted liberal, whom we met in Chapter 2, ultimately chose the Nationalists, serving as Chiang Kai-shek’s ambassador to Washington during much of the Anti-Japanese War. Yet Hu Shi’s relations with the Nationalist government were mixed. He worked mostly in academic institutions, and he ended up living much of the 1940s and most of the 1950s in America. Hu Shi embraced the twin identities that had emerged for many of China’s thinkers and writers by the 1930s, as an independent intellectual and as a professional. As a professional, Hu Shi had status and income as a degree-holding professor (with a PhD from Columbia University) employed by modern universities in China. He served as chancellor of Peking University between 1946 and 1948 and later as president of Academia Sinica in Taiwan from 1957 until his death in 1962. As an intellectual, from as early as 1917 Hu Shi published in the new magazines and newspapers of the May Fourth era to push for the vernacular language over the literary language and to advocate the liberal pragmatism of his teacher at Columbia University, John Dewey. Hu Shi’s biography highlights a central feature of Chinese liberalism in the first half of the century: its explicit link to Western ideas and civilization. Hu Shi, Ding Wenjiang, and a host of other liberals such as Luo Longji, were characterized in the press as “total Westernizers,” though in fact they saw their liberalism as part of a universal civilization, of which Western and Chinese features were but concrete examples. They were as they saw themselves, cosmopolitan. The cosmopolitanism of Hu Shi and fellow liberals, however, was distinctly shaped by their social experience. This was the premier generation of “returned students,” Chinese intellectuals who had studied in 35

Leaders, heroes, and sophisticates are the three variables in Hyung-yok Ip’s fine study, Intellectuals in Revolutionary China, 1921–1949 (London: Routledge, 2005).

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Europe and America and obtained advanced degrees there in all areas, but particularly the natural sciences, political science, and history. While most Chinese students who had studied overseas at the turn of the century had gone to Japan, after the US converted its Boxer Indemnity Funds in 1908 to scholarships for Chinese students to study in America most of the intellectual leaders of the next generation studied in the West. Prominent liberal intellectuals from the 1930s onward were modern professionals, generally professors at the new universities or researchers at major state research centers. Virtually all had studied in the West or studied under Western-trained teachers. They lived a modern, westernized lifestyle in the cities: wearing what they considered “modern” clothing but that most other Chinese considered “Western” suits; living in nuclear families; enjoying the cinemas, restaurants, and other amenities of modern life in Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and other metropolises. They were an important part of China’s metropolitan elite, potentially the new mandarins of China. But not quite. The role of the cadre, particularly the intellectual cadre required by both the Nationalists and the Communists, was anathema to the liberals who saw themselves as lettered experts and expected government to be mostly about administration constrained by a constitution and a legal regime geared to mediating disputes and protecting individual liberties. Hu Shi and his colleagues were indisputably experts, but their hopes for a liberal democratic political order were disappointed. There were other cosmopolitans in China, as well. As we have seen, Liang Shuming was completely open to the natural sciences and technological development that had come from the West, also seeing “modern science” as something universal and not limited to this or that culture. However, Liang’s openness to the broader world was founded on different assumptions about self and society. Conservatives like Liang, and even some Westernized liberals like Ding Wenjiang, talked in terms of communities rather than of individuals, seeing the individual as defined by and therefore inseparable from their community. For them, liberal democracy seemed inappropriate in China, at least under present conditions, maybe always. For Ding Wenjiang, the UK-trained geologist, the Chinese people were just not educated enough to play the role of responsible citizens in a democratic system with elections. So Ding agreed in the 1930s debates over “democracy versus dictatorship” that an enlightened dictatorship was what China needed, for the time being. Ding was critical of the newly established Nationalist regime of Chiang Kai-shek in Nanjing not for its dictatorial ways, but for its pathetic inefficiency and incompetence. He wanted the Nationalists to employ, and empower, more experts—like himself. Liang Shuming wanted science and

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technological progress for China’s villages in his Rural Reconstruction Movement, but he found the individualism at the heart of liberalism incongruent with Chinese culture and village communities. He favored a critical reapplication of Confucian community-oriented “compacts” to promote good government at the local level. Liang’s criticism of the Nationalists was that they were urban and outsiders to village China. The central state should stay out of the way and let local society govern itself. While the liberals, with their fierce independence, sought to serve the public good through criticism and education, others took up service to the regimes because they believed in the goals of their leaders. Hu Shi served the Nationalists reluctantly and only intermittently. Others, however, served the Nationalists and Chiang Kai-shek more enthusiastically. None more so than his private secretary and ghostwriter, Chen Bulei. Chen Bulei (1890–1948) was a classic New Culture intellectual and a mid-level modern intellectual. Not of the stature of a Hu Shi or a Li Dazhao, Chen was an accomplished scholar, editor, and journalist. His biography in many ways is representative of the greater number of modern intellectuals in Republican China. Born in the southeastern province of Zhejiang, just south of Shanghai, Chen Bulei attended modern primary and high schools and graduated from Zhejiang University in Hangzhou in 1911. He became a journalist in Shanghai and joined Sun Yat-sen’s Revolutionary Alliance in March 1912. By the 1920s, after a stint of schoolteaching back in Zhejiang, Chen was an established editor at the Commercial Press in Shanghai, editing its edition of Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (in Chinese), serving as an editor of Commercial News (Shang bao), and publishing as a noted political commentator in the paper, under the pen name Chen Weilei.36 He joined the Guomindang in 1927 and served in various administrative posts, including deputy director in the Central Propaganda Department. From 1935 Chen Bulei served as private secretary and speechwriter for Chiang Kai-shek. Chen Bulei exemplifies the challenges of state service for intellectuals in China’s Republic. After years of dispiriting warlord rule, completion of the Northern Expedition in 1927 and its nationalist revolution offered the prospect of a real national revolution and a government worth serving. Although Chen was a successful journalist in Shanghai and embraced the professional identity of an independent intellectual, clearly

36

A fine literary study of Chen Bulei and his suicide is Dahpon D. Ho, “Night Thoughts of a Hungry Ghostwriter: Chen Bulei and the Life of Service in Republican China,” Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, Vol. 19, No. 1 (Spring 2007), pp. 1–59.

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part of him hankered to get beyond the world of words, to make a difference and to belong to something bigger than himself. He passed on the Communists when they came calling in 1925; class struggle did not seem right to Chen. When Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek sent feelers two years later, Chen’s newspaper had disappointed him (by cozying up to the local warlord, Sun Chuanfang). A personal meeting with Chiang clinched it. Indeed, Chen’s two decades of service to the Nationalist Party was really personal service to Chiang Kai-shek, a leader he deeply admired and for whom he felt great loyalty. Chen wrote brilliantly as Chiang’s speechwriter, ghostwriting, for example, “Chiang’s” famous account of his December 1936 capture in Xi’an that led to the second United Front with the Communists, Fortnight in Sian (the English edition of which gained praise from the American ambassador to China, J. Leighton Stuart, for Chiang’s “elemental sincerity”). However, Chen Bulei experienced service to his great leader as an unreconcilable tension between his identity as a professional journalist and his service to the party. In the end, it wore him down. In his suicide note in November 1948, Chen wrote, “Ever since I left journalism, I have not been free to use my pen to express my own words. In truth, I am nothing more than a scribe, at most a secretary.”37 And yet those who worked within the Nationalist Party in the 1940s conceded that Chen Bulei, as the Grand Secretary in Chiang’s cabinet, was a powerful gatekeeper and a major influence on the Generalissimo. In Chen’s case, he could not reconcile identity and service. However, as the biographer of his suicide, Daphon Ho, notes, Chen “sheds light on the mundane world of functionaries . . . probably closer to the experience of most literate Chinese who served the multitude of parties, factions, warlords, or governments through the decades of war and revolution.”38 Liberals turned to the Communist Party, as well. The case of Wu Han (1909–69) shows both the attraction of state service under the Communists for a Chinese liberal and the personal charisma of Mao Zedong for some intellectuals. Wu Han was a liberal historian, a noted specialist on the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) and a wunderkind professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing. He was one of the few leading liberals who had not trained abroad, having studied at Tsinghua University. During the war Wu Han taught at Southwest United University in Kunming, Yunnan province, where several major universities had removed themselves safely away from the Japanese. There he wrote one of his most famous studies, a biography of the Ming Dynasty’s famous and dictatorial founding 37 38

Chen Bulei, quoted in Ho, “Night Thoughts,” p. 22. Ho, “Night Thoughts,” p. 48.

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emperor, Zhu Yuanzhang, published in 1943. The biography was widely recognized as an attack on the dictatorial ways of the current “founding emperor” of the Republic, Chiang Kai-shek. After the war, Tsinghua University and Wu Han returned to Beijing.39 Wu became a leading member of the Democratic League, the effort by liberals to form a “third road” in Chinese politics. His criticisms of the Nationalists and his apparent sympathies for the Communists got Wu Han on the Nationalists’ black list. He just managed to escape arrest by fleeing south when police swept Beijing’s university campuses in August 1948. He aimed for Hong Kong to regroup with Democratic league members there, but on the way in Shanghai, Wu Han was approached by his senior colleagues in the league and asked to carry a letter to the Communist authorities in their “liberated area” in the Hebei city of Shijiazhuang about 170 miles southwest of Beijing. Wu Han agreed and by November, and by a circuitous route, he was in the Communist area with some fifty-five other league and independent democratic figures invited by the CCP to talk about China’s future. As was the case with Chen Bulei and Chiang Kai-shek in 1927, so it was for Wu Han in 1948 that two personal meetings with Mao Zedong convinced him that he wanted to serve. “Wu Han left the sessions with Mao exhilarated by the charismatic leader,” writes his biographer, Mary Mazur, “and inspired to study Lenin’s and Mao’s writings.”40 It was a case of loyalty to a leader and a revolution that seemed to Wu Han to be worthy. It was also a case that Mao had flattered Wu Han, asking for and reading the new edition of Wu’s biography on Zhu Yuanzhang and discussing points of interpretation. Mao called on Wu Han’s sense of loyalty to the cause of saving China but also offered him a respected role as an intellectual leader and teacher of the people. Wu Han was so impressed he immediately wrote to Mao asking to join the Party. But the Party had other plans for Wu Han. Those plans were the United Front, a branch organization of the CCP that made common cause with non-Party political figures, a mechanism for finding temporary alliances with other classes and parties. The United Front was also the official name of the co-operation between the Nationalists and the Communists, but that had fallen apart as early as 1941 and they were now in the midst of a bitter civil war. In the 1940s the United Front became the CCP’s way to work with non-Party intellectuals and business figures. The great power of the United Front was precisely its ability to 39 40

Material on Wu Han comes from the excellent biography by Mary G. Mazur, Wu Han, Historian: Son of China’s Times (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2009). Mazur, Wu Han, p. 347.

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attract China’s liberals.41 The Nationalists were failing at this miserably, having just assassinated leading liberal intellectual Li Gongpu and the poet Wen Yiduo in July 1946, and rounding up other members of the Democratic League in summer 1948. The CCP used the United Front to give such liberals a place in their new government, without requiring them to join the Party, and at the same time the policy supporting the United Front explained to CCP cadres why they should co-operate, indeed respect, these representatives of the bourgeoisie. Wu Han was asked to serve the party that had attracted his loyalty as a leader of the Democratic League, but not as a Communist Party member. This Wu Han did, serving as chair of the league’s Beijing branch from 1949 until 1966. In the new PRC Wu Han became vice mayor of Beijing, was active in the confidential meetings of the city’s Party committee, and received classified documents, though publicly he was a league official and served as such in the municipal government under the auspices of the United Front. Privately, Wu Han was known amongst Party leaders as a “key Party member outside of the Party.”42 Wu Han was finally allowed to join the CCP in March of 1957, though even then his membership was kept secret (until all was revealed in the Cultural Revolution). Wu Han’s service was not nearly as tortured as Chen Bulei’s. Wu Han continued his professional identity as academic historian and served as a high-ranking public official of some considerable prestige. It was not, however, a service without tribulations. Wu Han had to cope with the many political campaigns of the 1950s and 1960s. He weathered the earlier ones pretty well, managing to avoid having to denounce his old teacher, Hu Shi, during the campaign against the famous liberal that began in December 1954. When the Anti-Rightist Movement came in the summer of 1957, however, Wu Han was an enthusiastic participant and willingly criticized his old league comrades, Zhang Bojun and Luo Longji, in part to preserve the league for another day. Wu Han’s fate in Mao’s next revolution awaits our next chapter, but by 1957 Wu Han could say that he had balanced intellectual integrity and political service as a liberal. But if he had joined the CCP by then, how could he say that? A careful reading of Wu Han’s many writings since 1949, according to Mazur,

41

42

The United Front of 1948–53 was not concerned with co-operation with the Guomindang, but rather with co-opting non-Communist intellectuals and professionals. This policy is carefully analyzed in Mary G. Mazur, “The United Front Redefined for the Party-State: A Case Study of Transition and Legitimation,” in Timothy Cheek and Tony Saich, eds., New Perspectives on State Socialism in China (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1997), pp. 51–75. Israel, Lianda, passim. Mazur, Wu Han, p. 377.

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does not substantiate characterizing him as having adopted Communist ideology across the board . . . He was selectively influenced by Marxism–Leninism and Mao Zedong’s thought in thinking about China . . . Wu was loyal to Communism as he chose to understand it, not because the powerful central authority decreed it.43

The intellectual cadre: Deng Tuo and Wang Shiwei The role of the intellectual cadre faltered under the Nationalists and failed to draw many liberals to Chiang Kai-shek’s vision of a New China. The Communists, however, were much more successful in attracting a range of intellectuals into service. Some, like Wu Han, served largely on their own terms, at least at first. Some found Marxism–Leninism a compelling explanation for what was wrong with China, what had to be done, and what they personally could do that would make a difference. Deng Tuo (1911–66), who served the Party for some thirty-five years as a journalist, propagandist, and theorist, like Chen Bulei reflects the lives of the less-than-famous intellectuals who chose to serve one of the two Bolshevik parties at mid-century. Unlike Chen Bulei, Deng Tuo found his service to the CCP as an intellectual cadre to be not only satisfying, but also an honorable vocation.44 Deng Tuo’s career reflects the “deal” offered to intellectuals by the CCP. Born in 1911 in Fuzhou, Fujian, just across the straits from Taiwan, Deng Tuo was the fifth son of a retired Qing district magistrate (and thus also a degree holder). It was not a wealthy family, but prosperous enough and highly cultured. Elder brothers studied at universities and came to serve the Nationalist government. Deng himself was rigorously trained in the traditional arts, particularly calligraphy and classical poetry, skills in which he excelled all his life. His father’s traditional Confucian erudition, however, did not conflict with new ideas. Deng Tuo read New Youth and other iconoclastic May Fourth journals at home, at his father’s urging. This provided Deng a sound grounding in the high culture and arts of China and a faith that Chinese identity was compatible with new ideas. He was schooled in the new middle schools of the 1920s and saw first-hand what happens when the local warlord takes over. Thus radicalized, the young Deng Tuo went to university in Shanghai to make revolution. Deng Tuo joined the CCP in Shanghai at a singularly inauspicious moment, 1930. Only a rump of the Party really functioned in Shanghai after the brutal purge by the Nationalists in 1927, even though the formal 43 44

Mazur, Wu Han, p. 393 (italics in Mazur’s original). Material on Deng Tuo comes from Cheek, Propaganda and Culture in Mao’s China.

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leadership hung on to this urban perch before decamping in 1931 to the Jiangxi Soviet in the hinterland. Deng served the Party as a street propagandist and organizer of demonstrations. He was promptly arrested by Nationalist authorities. It took his father some eight months to get his son out of jail, and not before he had been tortured and seen comrades executed for their political views. The young Deng returned to his home in Fuzhou and then a few years later moved to Henan University in Kaifeng, where he took a degree in economics in 1937. During these years he abandoned street demonstrations for his beloved scholarship, but he did not abandon his Marxism. However, he did lose organizational contact with the Party (as was often the case in the 1930s as the Nationalists intensified their repression of radicals). Nonetheless, Deng’s faith in Marxism–Leninism was formed in these years of study, particularly through his research into Chinese social history. He published a half-dozen solid articles in major journals and a major historical monograph, A History of Famine Relief in China (1937), that is still used by scholars today. Deng’s historical studies adopt the perspective of historical materialism and draw more from Engels’s economic determinism of class and modes of production than from Lenin’s ideas of mobilizing the proletariat. The vision of social revolution, however, captured his imagination. In 1933, in a debate with a much more senior scholar, Zhang Dongsun, the young Marxist declared that the society of the future will be entirely different from the present, that humanity will be able to control the natural world and moreover eliminate the natural character of society, that the development of history will be completely subject to human prescription, that people’s will shall be completely free. Then human society will make unprecedented advances, developing humanity to the highest level of culture . . .45

To serve this revolution was, indeed, a heroic calling. The Japanese invasion in 1937 provided Deng Tuo the opportunity to take up that calling. He fled to the countryside of north China, where the Communists were setting up a base area that became known as the Jin Cha Ji Border Region (for the single-character names of the three provinces along whose borders the area was founded, Shanxi, Chahar, and Hebei). There the young radical intellectual reconnected with the Party and found the opportunity to use his writing skills to help organize the revolution in one place. He became a leading propagandist in this rural base and edited its newspaper. He also became the research adviser to its 45

Deng Yunte (Deng Tuo), “Xinshi luoji haishi weiwu bianzhengfa?” (Formal Logic or Dialectical Materialism?), Xin Zhonghua, Vol. 1, No. 23 (December 1933), p. 56, quoted in Cheek, Propaganda and Culture, p. 42.

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military leader, Nie Rongzhen, and later its Party chief, Peng Zhen. Deng served in this rural base area throughout the Anti-Japanese War. During most of these years, the border region, as a “base behind enemy lines,” was subject to repeated and brutal attacks by the Japanese army. Yet these were perhaps Deng Tuo’s happiest years and certainly among his most productive. There is a strange freedom in adversity, where goals are clear and a sense of historic purpose justifies effort and sacrifice. The administrative system that Deng served in the Jin Cha Ji Base Area was the party-state of the CCP that was made famous in just a few years under Mao in Yan’an. It was an integrated system of organizations all interpenetrated by Party cadres to ensure that each moving part followed the ideological and administrative policies of the Party. It was the propaganda state of Bolshevism and Deng Tuo loved it. Writing in the summer of 1938 as editor of the border region’s newspaper, Resistance News, Deng reflected, Of course, the production of Resistance News has its mission. It must become the propagandizer and organizer of the border region’s mass resistance and salvation movement, it must represent the needs of the broad masses, reflect and pass on the real conditions and experiences of the broad masses’ struggle, promote various aspects of work, and educate the masses themselves.

This comprehensive role of Party leadership would be enshrined by Mao Zedong in the 1940s as the “from the masses, to the masses” cycle of leadership. The moral idealism is palpable. “At the same time,” the young editor admonishes, the paper progresses through this service work. “It is the paper of the masses; it gives impetus to others, and at the same time it also gets impetus from others. It teaches others, and at the same time is taught by others.”46 Here Deng Tuo echoes the sage-like vocation and anticipation of the reunification of the intellectual and the countryside that we saw Liang Shuming claim in 1934, albeit in service of a different ideology. The dark side of this utopian vision is the constraint on intellectual freedom that the Party put upon its functionaries, including intellectual cadres. This had been an endemic problem for both the Nationalists and the Communists, and we shall see shortly the ugly side of this repression in Yan’an in the case of Wang Shiwei. However, it is important to note that it was not always the case, nor was it for all intellectuals. Deng Tuo’s 1939 lecture and article on literature and art prefigures themes in Mao’s

46

Yin Zhou (Deng Tuo), “Kangdi bao wushiqi de huigu yu zhanwang” (Review and Prospects of Resistance News upon Its 50th Issue), Kangdi bao, June 27, 1938, p. 1, quoted in Cheek, Propaganda and Culture, p. 86.

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famous “Yan’an Talks” that laid down the Party line for intellectuals in 1942. Before Mao spelled it out, Deng agreed that Party intellectuals had to use the language of the common people, or “national forms,” to communicate their ideas and to mobilize “the masses.” But for Deng this was not a matter of dumbing down for peasants, rather “best is to raise the cultural level of the masses in the midst of developing the real mass literary and artistic movement.” Deng did not find popularization work to be a burden because he held a two-track policy for elite and popular culture. In Jin Cha Ji both policies could carry on side by side. Indeed, Deng Tuo joined Nie Rongzhen and other notables in a highly traditional “Yan-Zhao Poetry Society” in 1943, enjoying the exchange of refined classical-style poetry that was beyond most university students, not to mention farmers.47 Deng prospered intellectually, turning his skills to building up the culture of his area, helping to implement a new administration, and enjoying some moments of China’s grand culture. This was the Chinese Marxist revolution for Deng Tuo. Not so for others. In Yan’an other young radical intellectuals had also gathered in the wake of the Japanese occupation of China’s major eastern cities in 1937 and 1938. These left-wing writers brought with them another sort of cosmopolitanism—international, European-oriented Marxism in the form of literary modernism. Key amongst this group was Ding Ling, whom we met in the last chapter inhabiting the garrets of Shanghai and the pages of May Fourth literary journals. By 1941 Ding Ling was head of the local women’s organization and a leader of the literary scene in Yan’an. She was editor of the literary page of Yan’an’s major newspaper, Liberation Daily. She gave voice to the frustrations of these independent urban intellectuals in her own essays and by publishing their complaints, as they coped with both greater Party discipline and the considerable discomforts of rural life in this poverty-stricken backwater in northwestern China. Ding Ling called for the revival of zawen (the “polemical essay”) in a Liberation Daily article in October 1941. “I think it would do us most good if we emulate his [Lu Xun’s] steadfastness in facing the truth, his courage to speak out for the sake of truth, and his fearlessness. This age of ours still needs zawen, a weapon that we should never lay down.”48 Mao Zedong famously decreed “the line” for revolutionary intellectuals in his “Talks at the Yan’an Conference on Literature and Art” in May 1942. Mao’s themes are now familiar—literature must serve the 47 48

Cheek, Propaganda and Culture, pp. 95–8. Ding Ling, “Women xuyao zawen” (We Need Zawen), Jiefang ribao, October 23, 1941, p. 4.

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workers, peasants, and soldiers; content should be Party-directed; and form should suit elementary readers’ needs. Public criticism is not welcome, because “[i]f we treat comrades with the ruthless methods required against the enemy, then we are identifying ourselves with the enemy.” Mao is exclusive. An act of criticism without Party permission is an act of heresy. Proletarian art, Mao holds, must be subject to the will of the proletariat, especially its leader, the Party. Any other view is the same as the Trotskyite formula, “politics—Marxist, art—bourgeois.”49 This was Mao’s, and the Party’s, response to Ding Ling and her fellow literary critics. The challenge by leftist intellectuals had been mounted in the main ideological institutions of Yan’an—the Party newspaper, Liberation Daily, and the Central Research Institute of the CCP. They were having an impact. That February, Mao had launched the study campaign (and purge) known as Rectification to improve Party ideology, clean up corruption, sideline competitors, and get the administration of this poor and marginalized area sorted out. Some left-wing theorists took Mao at his word to “rectify our Party’s work style” to criticize shortcomings in the CCP administration and to put themselves up as revolutionary artists and intellectuals, as “the conscience of the people.” Ding Ling called out the gender double standard in Yan’an in which women were damned as “hussies” if they did (join in public affairs) and damned as “backward” if they didn’t (and stayed at home to raise children). But it was the cantankerous theorist and translator Wang Shiwei (1906–47), who came to represent this cosmopolitan vision of Chinese socialism in Yan’an. Wang is famous for his critical essay, a zawen satirical piece in the style of everyone’s hero (in Yan’an), Lu Xun, titled, “Wild Lilies.” It lampooned the privileged food and clothing of the revolutionary elite that belied propaganda about Yan’an’s egalitarian life. Wang had, in fact, outlined his approach to two main issues— language and authority—earlier. In 1941 Wang tussled with a colleague (Chen Boda) over national forms of literature—a core issue in Chinese Marxism in the 1930s and 1940s: how to mobilize China’s population with a vision that the intellectuals had learned via awkward translation.50 It was a bit like figuring out how to inspire North American workers to go on strike using only translations of Michel 49

50

Mao, in the original text as translated by Bonnie McDougall, Mao Zedong’s “Talks at the Yan’an Conference on Literature and Art” (Ann Arbor: Center for Chinese Studies, University of Michigan, 1980), pp. 80–1, 75; this translation is available in Stuart R. Schram and Timothy Cheek, eds., Mao’s Road to Power: Revolutionary Writings, 1912–1949, Vol. VIII, 1942–August 1945 (London: Routledge, 2015), pp. 102–32, quotations from pp. 127, 121. The debate around “national forms of literature” is well covered in David Holm, Art & Ideology in Revolutionary China (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991).

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Foucault. Mao favored casting revolutionary ideas in Chinese folk symbols and idioms. Wang, however, was adamant: form was inseparable from content, and modern equaled Western: For example, if the communication tools of modern culture—automobiles, trains, steamboats, airplanes . . . are separated from form, what content can they possibly have? “Old national forms” would have to be carts, sedan chairs, junks, paper kites, sickles, hoes, and such! But how can the essential content of this modern culture—speed, carrying power, precision, efficiency, etc.—be combined with the “old national forms”?51

In Wang’s view, the new revolutionary consciousness from Europe and the Soviet Union also needed new foreign forms. Yet he felt the Chinese could make them their own. “I believe that whenever a people (minzu) are able in their own way to master something and make it serve them, then essentially it has already become ‘national,’ no matter if it came from outside or was originally possessed (today it’s an import, tomorrow it’s our own).”52 This openness to foreign or external ideas is a fundamental criterion for any cosmopolitan stand. In early 1942, Wang made clear his view on the second issue, authority: the role of the individual, especially the role of the revolutionary artist, under socialism. In a theory essay titled “Politicians, Artists,” Wang proposes a vital, independent, and useful role for Communist writers and artists as society’s caring but relentless critics of evil. He sets up revolutionary artists as the active loyal opposition, the public censor, the ombudsman of revolutionary society itself. Wang insists that the artist alone can maintain a grasp on morality and provide the spiritual inspiration to supplement the military revolution and to check its abuses. Wang borrows Stalin’s term and designates artists “engineers of the soul,” limiting the job to himself and fellow left-wing writers.53 This was in utter contravention of Mao’s vision of rectification. It was ideological insubordination. Mao Zedong won this round. Wang Shiwei was purged and made a negative example for the edification of other left-wing writers (as we saw

51

52 53

This quote from Wang Shiwei is drawn from later denunciations of his writings; the context is discussed in Timothy Cheek, “The Fading of ‘Wild Lilies’: Wang Shiwei and Mao Zedong’s Yan’an Talks in the First CPC Rectification Movement,” Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs, No. 11 (January 1984), pp. 25–58, at 29. See Cheek, “The Fading of ‘Wild Lilies’,” p. 31. Wang Shiwei, “Zhengzhijia, yishujia,” and other texts by Wang are available in Wang Shiwei wencun (Collection of Wang Shiwei’s Writings) (Shanghai: Shanghai shudian, 1998). I have translated Wang’s essay in Dai Qing, Wang Shiwei and “Wild Lilies”: Rectification and Purges in the Chinese Communist Party, 1942–1944 (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1994), pp. 90–3.

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in the voices selection at the start of this chapter).54 Ding Ling caved in, performed a public self-criticism in June 1942, criticized the unrepentant Wang, and then dutifully went off to the villages to reform herself. This was a case of “manufactured dissent” common to Stalinist regimes in which a loyal critic is transformed by the authorities into an implacable opponent.55 The key difference with Maoism at this time was that there was a way out—groveling self-criticism would save your life, and in the case of many, including Ding Ling, ultimately get you back into the good graces of the Party. It is worth noting, nonetheless, that this was a fight internal to Chinese socialism; Wang Shiwei was not a liberal democrat. In many ways Wang’s “Politicians, Artists” brings to mind John Milton’s Areopagitica (1644). Both authors served a revolution fueled by high ideals, only to find a shocking intolerance when their new leaders took power; both argue the right and necessity for a more free press and betray a priestly self-importance as artists; yet both men’s call for freedom of public expression diverted from liberalism in the name of activist or localist needs. There were excluded classes: Papists for Milton, nonleftists for Wang. The contrast between Deng Tuo and Wang Shiwei in the CCP during the war years is instructive. The invidious political distinction between “national forms” of folk culture and elite literature in revolutionary society that exercised Wang Shiwei and writers in Yan’an did not arise when the content of elite literature was, as in Deng Tuo’s case, not May Fourth European models but Chinese literati arts. The problems of leftwing writers which have served to set the impression for Western scholars on intellectual–CCP relations are highlighted by this contrast between the Yan’an left-wing writers and the Yan-Zhao Poetry Society of Deng Tuo and his Jin Cha Ji colleagues. The left-wing writers were generally out of power, offered a competing strategy for the rectification movement, were unable to harmonize their elite pastimes with popularization work among the peasantry, and were small in number even among the tiny class of the educated elite. On the other hand, establishment intellectuals like Deng Tuo were in positions of influence, abided by the tenets of Yan’an rectification policy, were comfortable with the peasant population, were much more numerous, and maintained friendly relations with the military and political leadership. Equally, Deng Tuo’s 54 55

The centrality of this campaign model for intellectual life in the PRC, of which Mr. Wang was an unfortunate early example, is demonstrated in Teiwes, Politics and Purges. Tom Fisher distinguishes commentary that was legal at the time of publication in China but retrospectively designated “dissent” from examples of “permitted dissent” in the Soviet thaw of the 1950s, in “Wu Han: The ‘Upright Official’ as a Model in the Humanities,” in Hamrin and Cheek, China’s Establishment Intellectuals, pp. 183–4.

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two-track approach to culture was unlike that of the “cog and screw” artists in Yan’an who produced the yang’ge folk propaganda dramas that Wang Shiwei so detested.56 Establishment intellectuals like Deng Tuo carried considerable cultural authority and respect in the eyes of Party and military leaders for their artistic and scholarly skills. Deng Tuo used this cultural authority to carve out a “culture-bearer” role that combined something of the moral autonomy of the left-wing critical writers and the loyalty of the yang’ge dramatists. It was a powerful and attractive role and Deng Tuo dedicated his life to it. Deng Tuo entered Beijing and the life of the establishment in the People’s Republic of China in 1949. He was the founding editor of People’s Daily, the Party’s paper, the Pravda of China. This was the peak of Deng Tuo’s career, rounded out by appointments in the Beijing municipal government as head of propaganda, and formal positions such as head of the Chinese Journalists Association. He lectured at universities not only on ideological reform but also on land reform based on his work in Jin Cha Ji and earlier historical research. Within a few years he was living in a pleasant traditional courtyard house, able to bring his aging father up from Fuzhou. He returned to his beloved Chinese arts and became a notable art collector and connoisseur. He was married and his children were healthy. It was a good life. And it was a busy life. Official service for Deng Tuo was mostly in journalism and Party theory. Looking at his official world of propaganda articles and People’s Daily editorials compared to his private life of elite cultural interests might seem a contradiction, but as we have seen from his life in the 1940s, Deng Tuo and those around him maintained a comfort with both popular and elite culture, and with both Chinese and cosmopolitan influences. This all rested in a profound belief in the ideology and fundamental faith in Mao Zedong. In the early 1950s this worked well enough for establishment intellectuals like Deng Tuo who believed in socialism. However, Maoism had two sides. The distinction between rational and emotive versions of Maoism will help us to understand not only the tribulations that would arise in intellectual service to the Party beginning in the late 1950s, but also the growing split within the entire Party that would explode and involve everyone in the 1960s. Deng Tuo was no more free of ideological commitments than any other actor in politics, and he subscribed to Marxism–Leninism–Mao Zedong Thought, Maoism. In 1944 Deng Tuo had been the editor of the first official Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung. Unlike Wu Han, Deng Tuo did not

56

On yang’ge dramas, see Holm, Art & Ideology in Revolutionary China.

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take what suited him; he understood and accepted the whole ideological system. Deng insisted that ideology and ideological remolding (thought reform), tenets from the Yan’an Rectification Movement, were primary in public work. What emerges from Deng Tuo’s theoretical writings in the mid-1950s, however, is that ideological remolding is a real but complicated process that must be handled in a nuanced and humane manner. It was for Deng a product of rational reflection, not emotional conversion. In this, Deng reflected the organizational leadership of the Party. Other Party intellectuals—such as Sun Yefang, the economist, and Jian Bozan, the historian—pursued their new duties with a similar mix of professional skill and moral commitment to the new order. Deng’s own work at People’s Daily reflected that commitment. Editorials in People’s Daily were notoriously dull. For Deng Tuo, this was not good enough; propaganda was too important for China’s future to be done badly. In 1955 Deng lectured the paper’s editors and journalists: The most common structure for a formulaic editorial cannot but begin with a discourse on current conditions, followed by a presentation of good examples and a criticism of a few bad examples. And then, the subjective causes of each. Toss in a few lessons from experience, and repeat a few generalities on advancing our work, which everyone already knows anyway. Finish up with a few sentences on how under the leadership of the Party this task will be completely achieved. Frankly, this kind of formula makes people vomit.57

Whether on such practical matters or on ideological questions, Deng spoke for the transformational bureaucrats of New China, serving up a very orderly, indeed rather bureaucratic, administration. He sought to regularize and tame the powerful forces that the rectification process unleashed both within the individual and in society. Mao Zedong Thought, propaganda, ideological remolding, and Party dictatorship were not problems for Deng Tuo; they were the tools of his trade. Deng Tuo’s approach did not admit to the possibility of differences between the party committees that provided rational administration and the Party leader who inspired them all. Thus he saw no need for political institutions independent of the Party and never suggested them. Deng Tuo saw himself as a culture-bearer rather than as a cog in the revolution. He embraced a bureaucratic Maoist vision of a scientific, rational, and ordered social revolution based on a complex ideology best ministered by elites such as himself. Deng Tuo accepted Mao’s cultural populism but did not accept Mao’s inherent anti-intellectualism. It was

57

Deng Tuo, “Guanyu baozhi shelun” (On Newspaper Editorials) (1955), quoted in Cheek, Propaganda and Culture, p. 145.

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one thing to have a common touch, but another altogether to denigrate learning. Deng Tuo was a scholar and he was proud. In 1955 he had no reasonable expectation to think that his world would soon blow up. During these same years, a new generation came of age while the Hu Shis and Deng Tuos were in the midst of their careers. In the 1940s, Yue Daiyun, a schoolgirl in the embattled southwest, found in the CCP a salvation she felt she would never otherwise have found—especially with the corrupt Guomindang government she had watched plunder her hometown in Guizhou province during the Anti-Japanese War. She struggled to study and to attend the 1948 university exams in Chongqing, Sichuan province. She passed, was admitted to Peking University, and with help from American missionaries and distant relatives she got herself to Beijing. Too young to participate significantly in the revolution, she appreciated it and joined student radicals in the CCP underground.58 The CCP was her hope and her pathway to success. Slightly older than Yue, Wang Ruoshui was active in the CCP in the 1940s and joined the staff of People’s Daily as a junior editor. Both Wang and Yue felt they rode the crest of a wonderful historical wave propelling themselves and China into a new era. Wang also had studied at Peking University, leaving just as Yue arrived in 1948. Wang went to the nearby CCP base areas and became active in CCP journalism.59 Wang’s work was in the theoretical department—studying and applying Marxism– Leninism–Mao Zedong Thought—and in time he would catch the eye of the editor, Deng Tuo, and even Mao. For this young intellectual, Maoism and the Party that implemented it promised to end the corruption and poverty of the Guomindang government.

Western-trained scholars and patriotic returnees: Zhou Yiliang and Qian Xuesen An important part of this ideological moment at mid-century was the existence of a significant number of Chinese intellectuals with advanced training in North America and Europe willing to return home to build this New China. This patriotic return spanned the 1949 divide and

58

59

Details of Yue Daiyun’s life from Yue Daiyun and Carolyn Wakeman, To the Storm: The Odyssey of a Revolutionary Chinese Woman (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985). David A. Kelly, “The Emergence of Humanism: Wang Ruoshui and the Critique of Socialist Alienation,” in Goldman, Cheek, and Hamrin, China’s Intellectuals and the State, pp. 159–82, and Kelly’s introduction and bibliographic note to his translations of Wang’s essays in Chinese Studies in Philosophy, Vol. 16, No. 3 (1985).

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included those who came to serve the Nationalists and those who came to serve the new society under the CCP. Chinese students had been studying abroad in significant numbers since the late nineteenth century, and older reformist and revolutionary leaders, such as Liang Qichao, Zhang Binglin, and Qiu Jin, had spent time in Japan around 1900. In the twentieth century, more students studied in Europe and America. Numbers are hard to come by but one estimate figures that 150,000 Chinese students had studied abroad by 1949.60 There were, in addition, long-standing communities of Chinese in Southeast Asia, in the settler colonies of North America and Australasia (as we saw in Liang Qichao’s 1900 visit to Australia), and in Europe. By the late nineteenth century, the Qing Dynasty had acknowledged these communities as “overseas Chinese” (huaqiao). The linkages between these sojourning and settling Chinese communities and their native districts remained strong in most cases.61 In the 1940s and 1950s some 300,000 overseas Chinese were convinced or volunteered to come “back” to China to serve, though the number of well-trained intellectuals who returned would most likely have been only in the hundreds.62 Such overseas Chinese scholars were part of a larger migration of Chinese of various social circles, particularly from Southeast Asia, who became “returnees” (guiqiao) to China in part because of anti-Chinese discrimination in the new states, such as Indonesia.63 Some Chinese, such as the medical doctor Ng Leen-tuck (Wu Lien-teh, 1879–1960), performed a sort of reverse international service: born in Penang, in the Malay states (colony of the British at the time), Ng trained at the University of Cambridge and set out on a career in Malaya. Discrimination under the British frustrated his career, so he took up an offer from Yuan Shikai in 1910 to figure out what the epidemic ravaging Harbin in northeast China was. Ng did; it was the pneumonic plague, which he succeeded in controlling. He went on to serve with distinction 60 61

62

63

Zhang Yufa, “Returned Chinese Students from America and the Chinese Leadership,” Chinese Studies in History (New York), Vol. 35, No. 3 (Spring 2002), p. 52. Gungwu Wang, The Chinese Overseas: From Earthbound China to the Quest for Autonomy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002); and Philip A. Kuhn, Chinese amongst Others: Emigration in Modern Times (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2009). Stephen Fitzgerald, China and the Overseas Chinese: A Study of Peking’s Changing Policy 1949–1970 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970); and Michael Godley, “The Sojourners: Returned Overseas Chinese in the People’s Republic of China,” Pacific Affairs, Vol. 62, No. 3 (1989), pp. 330–52. Glen Peterson, Overseas Chinese in the People’s Republic of China (London: Routledge, 2012). Wang Cangbai, “Guiqiao: Returnees as a Policy Subject in China,” Newsletter of the International Institute of Asian Studies (IIAS), No. 50 (2009), p. 7, notes that some halfmillion Indonesian huaqiao students, petty shopkeepers, traders, and laborers returnmigrated to China in the 1950s and 1960s for these reasons.

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in the new Republic as the first president of the Chinese Medical Association and director of the National Quarantine Service (1931–7). He is credited with building up medicine as a modern profession in China. The book History of Chinese Medicine, which Ng and his colleague Wang Jimin published in English in 1932, is considered a milestone in the profession’s development. Ng’s career reflects, as David Luesink has shown, his “strong position in transnational networks of European, Japanese and American medicine.”64 Yet his career was cut short by the Japanese invasion and he returned to Penang, where he lived and worked until his death in 1960. Ng served China for some twenty-five years, but clearly his life and identity were not restricted to China. There is a continuum between Chinese students who took advanced degrees in Western countries as part of a career path in China and those who established careers in the US or Europe for a decade or more, giving every indication of having made their life in their adopted country, and then chose to return to help build the New China of either the Nationalists or the Communists. Hu Shi, James Yen, and Ding Wenjiang had all studied abroad, and Hu Shi ended up spending considerable time in America during his service as ambassador during the war and again after 1949. Liang Sicheng (1901–72), the son of Liang Qichao, was somewhere between a short-term overseas student and a returning overseas Chinese. He was born in Japan when his father was in exile there. Trained in the classics by his father, Liang Sicheng entered Tsinghua Preparatory (later University) in 1915 and in 1924 he studied architecture at the University of Pennsylvania. He became China’s most noted modern architect, bringing the U Penn curriculum first to Northeastern University in Liaoning province in 1928 and then to Tsinghua University in 1946. He continued to serve under the PRC, though he had to make a public self-confession of his ideological failings in 1956. He both endured and prospered, becoming a Party member in the late 1950s. His later fate in the Cultural Revolution sadly followed that of too many of China’s intellectuals—mass criticism, purge, incarceration, and in Liang’s case an early death in 1972. One of China’s premier historians of the twentieth century, Zhou Yiliang (1913–2001) was a Western-trained scholar like Hu Shi, with eight years of training in America. Zhou returned in 1946 with his Harvard PhD to serve China under the Nationalists at the missionary university, Yenching University. But unlike Hu Shi, Zhou Yiliang stayed 64

David Luesink, “The History of Chinese Medicine: Empires, Transnationalism and Medicine in China, 1908–1937,” in Iris Boroway, ed., Uneasy Encounters: The Politics of Medicine and Health in China, 1900–1937 (New York: Peter Lang, 2009), pp. 149–50.

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on to serve under the Communists, as a professor of ancient and medieval Chinese history first at Qinghua and then at Peking University.65 He made considerable contributions to historical studies in China, but also became completely tied up in CCP politics in ways that reflect the perils of intellectual service under the CCP and brought him criticism in later years. Although Zhou had taken out permanent-residence status in America in 1945, he returned to China in 1946 to take up a promised position in Beijing.66 The most important politics he discovered there was academic politics. His welcome at Yenching University was cool because, as continues to be the case with “returnees” in China today, he had been away for years and was not up to date on department politics. His benefactor, William Hong (Hong Ye, 1893–1980), who had been in charge of the Harvard–Yenching exchange that sponsored Zhou’s studies at Harvard in the late 1930s, had by then left for Hawaii. Thus the young Zhou Yiliang did not have a patron and was treated poorly, offered only a low position and poor housing. He quickly took up an offer at Tsinghua University in the summer of 1947, for better conditions and to be closer to his teacher, the famous scholar Chen Yinke (1890–1969). Zhou Yiliang experienced the Guomindang police sweep of Beijing universities in summer 1948 that had nearly netted Wu Han, and it disgusted him. But until 1949, Zhou kept his head down and focused on his academic work. In fact, he was in academic correspondence with Hu Shi on historiographical questions. On political issues, Zhou was “middle-ofthe-road.” The final days of Nationalist rule in Beijing were tense, and food was scarce, but in all the transition to CCP rule was smooth. In September 1949, hearing Mao say “The Chinese people have stood up,” Zhou recalled, “We were all very excited.”67 The new regime brought an end to the insecurity, violence, and turmoil of recent years. The Party quickly extended its cadres into all sectors of society, though it had to work with existing personnel in academies, businesses, and local government. Thus the Party’s second order of business was to set about transforming those “residual elites” into members of the new society. Of particular concern to the Party were the educators, particularly high-level intellectuals at the major universities. 65 66 67

Zhou Yiliang, Just a Scholar: The Memoirs of Zhou Yiliang (1913–2001), trans. Joshua A. Fogel (Leiden: Brill, 2014). Zhou, Just a Scholar, p. 56. Zhou, Just a Scholar, p. 62. Zhou misremembers hearing Mao say this “from Tian’anmen Square” at the announcement of the new PRC on October 1, while in fact Mao said these famous words earlier in September at the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and they were published in People’s Daily on September 22, 1949.

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Party-led thought reform of intellectuals in Beijing began almost immediately. Zhou Yiliang joined in enthusiastically. Zhou’s thought reform was undertaken in part by joining land-reform activities for professors. In autumn 1950 he joined a team sent to Sichuan for six months to participate in land reform. “Our unit’s primary task was to study en route to Sichuan and then to recapitulate the intellectual gains made after land reform was completed.” When he returned to Beijing in the spring of 1951, he heard Premier Zhou Enlai’s report on the thought reform of intellectuals. “Premier Zhou pointed out that, aside from passing through a number of barriers (such as those of the family), intellectuals would have to transform their stance and thinking through study, which was their basic profession. This was quite inspirational to me.”68 Zhou Yiliang became a successful member of the PRC’s new academic establishment, moving over to Peking University’s Department of History. He worked to revise the curriculum to fit the pedagogical model of the Soviet Union’s university system. Politics returned in the national criticism campaign denouncing Hu Shi from late 1954. Zhou Yiliang showed little hesitation about joining in, declaring Hu a war criminal, “an accomplice of the Guomindang reactionaries,” and “an intellectual comprador representing the interests of the capitalists.”69 In addition, he criticized his old teacher, Chen Yinke. He even condemned John King Fairbank, America’s leading China scholar at Harvard, who had lived and worked in China over the past twenty years, as a spy for American imperialism.70 In 1956 Party authorities in an internal report decided that Zhou Yiliang was among that happy group of Peking University professors who were less influenced by the old society, are quick in absorbing new ideas after liberation, and have achieved conspicuous progress in their political thought. They actively study Marxist theory, Soviet experience, and consciously participate in academic and ideological criticism . . . They have delivered applications for joining the party and thus can be treated as the recipients of political training.71

68 69

70 71

Zhou, Just a Scholar, p. 62. Zhou Yiliang, “Pipan Hu Shi fandong de lishi guan” (Criticism of Hu Shi’s Reactionary View of History), in Zhongguo zuojia xiehui Shanghai fenhui, ed., Hu Shi sixiang pipan ziliao jikan (Collection of Criticism of Hu Shi’s Thought) (Shanghai: Xin wenyi chubanshe, 1955), p. 201, cited in Wang Ning, “Lying Prostrate before Chairman Mao: Western-Trained Intellectuals and the State in 1950s China,” manuscript article, 2013, p. 17. Wang Ning, “Lying Prostrate,” p. 17. Ministry of Higher Education, “Report on the Thought Reform of the Peking University Professors,” January 11, 1956, cited in Wang Ning, “Lying Prostrate,” pp. 14–15.

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Zhou Yiliang’s application to join the CCP was approved in 1956. Zhou was trusted. He was sent to represent the scholarship of New China in Leiden in 1955 and again in Paris in 1956.72 Why did Zhou Yiliang, a brilliant scholar and family man, participate in forced political campaigns that required him to denounce teachers, old friends, and, indeed, anyone at whom the Party pointed? Wang Ning makes a sensitive analysis of Zhou’s choices, emphasizing two points. First, Zhou’s own diary, as well as his public writings, reflect a sincere belief that the CCP’s revolution had saved China’s working masses from misery. Second, Zhou felt guilt for his privileged, gentry background. In his memoir, Zhou himself recalls that “after the liberation, I developed a deep sense of ‘sin’—I came from a family of the exploiting class, and stayed abroad during the national Anti-Japanese War, thus I felt guilty when facing the people.” Wang Ning concludes, “Such activism was a natural development of his self-interrogation, his own way to redeem his ‘sin,’ to prove himself as a ‘revolutionary intellectual’ with adequate political consciousness.”73 Zhou Yiliang’s life in China’s academic establishment reflects the price of intellectual engagement in this ideological moment. Unfortunately, the cost would only go up in the next period, that of revolution. From 1957, political campaigns would became incessant. Even the original plan to learn from the Soviet Union, Zhou recalls, was thrown into chaos and could not be implemented as designed.74 After 1957, Zhou stopped putting any of his political opinions into his diary, and he rarely disclosed his real feelings even to family members.75 In the mid-1950s the CCP made a concerted effort to recruit Chinese scholars and scientists to “serve the motherland.” One unlikely recruit was a noted American rocket scientist who had been born in China. Qian Xuesen (1911–2009) returned to China only at the end of this period, in 1955, but his story was shaped by the Cold War from the late 1940s that drove him from his adopted country, the United States, back to the land of his birth. He served loyally and successfully in science, becoming the father of China’s ballistic missile and space programs. In the US Qian was known as H.S. Tien, a brilliant rocket scientist at CalTech. He had been born to a teacher’s family in 1911, studied in the new schools, and graduated from Shanghai Jiaotong University in 1934, majoring in 72 73 74 75

Zhou, Just a Scholar, p. 70. In all, Zhou was sent on six international trips between 1955 and 1965, the last four being to Pakistan and Africa. Wang Ning, “Lying Prostrate,” p. 18, quoting Zhou’s memoir; Fogel provides a slightly different translation in Zhou, Just a Scholar, p. 67. Zhou, Just a Scholar, p. 63. Wang Ning, “Lying Prostrate,” p. 21. Zhou Yiliang, Zhuanshi hun zayi (Memoirs of the Diamond Wedding) (Beijing: Shenghuo, dushi, xinzhi Sanlian shudian, 2002), p. 120.

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mechanical engineering. Like Hu Shi and many others among China’s intellectual leaders in the twentieth century, Qian Xuesen received a Boxer Indemnity Scholarship to study in America. In 1935 he went to MIT. After receiving his MA, he took up PhD study at CalTech, where he stayed for the rest of his American career. He served in the war in the US Army and was an adviser on ballistics to the US Air Force after the war. He was having a brilliant career. Back in Shanghai in 1947, he married Jiang Ying, the daughter of Jiang Baili, a senior military theorist for the Nationalists. Qian and his wife settled in America. He applied for US citizenship in 1949. Qian Xuesen, veteran and scientific adviser to the US military with a high security clearance, provides one of the ironic stories of the Cold War. Having chosen and served America, he was driven out of the country and into the hands of the Chinese Communists by the FBI and other American security services at the height of the McCarthy period.76 His security clearance was revoked in June 1950. It became clear that he could no longer do his work at CalTech, so he announced he had no choice but to return to China, now under the rule of Mao Zedong and the Communists. Qian was promptly arrested and incarcerated at a US naval facility under suspicion of being a Communist. Over the next five years he was held in custody of one sort or another, including house arrest, and could not work. His American colleagues came to his defense, and CalTech provided him a lawyer. In the end, the best they could get was permission for Qian Xuesen and his family to leave the US. Chinese authorities welcomed this internationally recognized rocket scientist home with open arms. Qian reciprocated and understandably vented his spleen. Right after returning to China, Qian Xuesen gave an interview announcing, “the persecution the U.S. government committed against me has made me see clearly the fascist color of the U.S. today,” and “it is difficult for upright persons to live in the U.S.”77 The rest of Qian’s story to 1956 is important for being unremarkable. He did his work. He led the development of China’s rocket program and he prospered. Having come home in 1955 both with an international reputation in a strategic scientific field and being willing to make the appropriate declarations of support, Qian Xuesen did not have to go through the thought-reform sessions and public confessions that Zhou Yiliang and other leading intellectuals from the old regime or from abroad endured. These must have been golden years for Qian Xuesen as a respected, 76 77

Covered in Iris Chang, Thread of the Silkworm (New York: Basic Books, 1996). Guangming ribao (Guangming Daily), November 2, 1955, cited in Wang Ning, “Lying Prostrate,” p. 23.

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influential researcher with the full support of his government. He joined the CCP in 1958. The price of engagement would come for Qian, as it did for Deng Tuo, Wu Han, and Zhou Yiliang, but in Qian’s case, a combination of impeccable political loyalty (including an unflinching willingness to criticize other intellectuals and scientists publicly) and the strategic nature of his contributions to military science kept him from the worst of Mao’s revolutions in the decades ahead. We shall see in the next chapter what became of Qian’s broader role in science and politics. In the 1940s, the Democratic League, first established in 1941 and taking on its current name in 1944, offered a real democratic opposition, trying also to get the Nationalists and Communists to negotiate, but plumping for constitutional government along democratic lines. It was a coalition of parties and groups, and noted for the participation of metropolitan intellectuals. We have seen Liang Shuming help set it up, Zhang Junmai (Carson Chang) take a lead, and Wu Han become active in it and lead its Beijing section after 1949. Zhou Yiliang had joined in 1952. The league was outlawed by the Nationalists in 1947, though its members (like Wu Han) continued out of public light. In 1949 the leadership of the league went over to full support of the CCP and took on the role of one of China’s “satellite parties” supporting CCP rule under the auspices of the Party’s United Front Work Department.78 As such, the league and related small parties offered a way for China’s intellectuals to participate in political life outside the cadre role in either the Nationalist or Communist parties. The league carried the hopes of liberalism in China. Its subordination to the CCP reflects the failure of liberalism to take root as a political movement in China. Many reasons have been given for this inability of liberalism to maintain a role in China’s public arena—from cultural norms that find pandering to voters’ interests distasteful for self-respecting leaders, to an authoritarian political culture, to a lack of a sufficient civil society to support democratic politics—but two stand out in our story. The first is the unwillingness of many intellectuals to get involved in formal political organization. There were good reasons for this—as we saw in the case of the provincial scholar-official turned businessman Ye Chongzhi in Tianjin in 1911. Political service in these years was mortally dangerous work. Second, the two Bolshevik parties exercised unrestrained brutality in suppressing any competition, failing only to annihilate each other. China 78

See Roger B. Jeans, ed., Roads Not Taken: The Struggle of Opposition Parties in TwentiethCentury China (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1992); and James Seymour, China’s Satellite Parties (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1987).

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was a revolutionary society for more reasons than simply the presence of revolutionary theorists and agitators. China was not immune to global forces that Hobsbawm describes as the age of extremes. The collapse of the imperial order of the Qing, the cultural challenge of Western science and democracy, the huge population relative to the machinery of government in the first half of the twentieth century, and decades of total war militated against the social trust, intellectual confidence, and public order needed to support effective liberal democracy. In the end, it was the Chinese Communist Party that could restore order, instill confidence, and in the early 1950s encourage at least predictable social expectations, if not actual trust. But the price was an authoritarian administration with an intrusive messianic ideology that demanded not only compliance but active endorsement. Liberal, leftist, or apolitical, the great bulk of China’s intellectuals—as is the case in other societies—were neither famous nor influential. The new society enforced by the CCP from 1949 gave ordinary intellectuals a new social role. The upside was to be loyal teachers of the nation, following the lead and content of Party propaganda, but the downside was to play the negative example for the rest of the population of what not to be. The CCP was ambivalent about intellectuals. Party leaders, mostly intellectuals themselves, were quick to define themselves as revolutionary intellectuals to distance themselves from the capitalist social base of most modern intellectuals. Eddy U has opened the research of ordinary intellectuals in the Mao period through archival work on Shanghai’s highschool teachers. He makes the case for the “reification of intellectuals”; that is, the creation and hardening of a social role for educated people as a problematic social category reflecting those long-term anxieties in the Party. Their position as zhishifenzi, the term that came into use in the 1920s to describe modern thinkers, writers, and academics, became a registered social status confirmed by the state on their identity cards. He traces the formation of this social status through precisely the thoughtreform movements of the early 1950s that Zhou Yiliang and other prominent intellectuals went through. Eddy U’s point is a good one: not only was a certain political attitude (loyalty to the Party) affirmed, but also the identity, as well as the status, of intellectuals as important but requiring Party supervision was created.79 While this new social identity

79

Eddy U, “The Making of Zhishifenzi: The Critical Impact of the Registration of Unemployed Intellectuals in the Early PRC,” China Quarterly, No. 173 (2003), pp. 100–21; and Eddy U, “The Making of Chinese Intellectuals: Representations and Organization in the Thought Reform Campaign,” China Quarterly, No. 192 (2007), pp. 971–89.

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offered a role for intellectuals in Mao’s China, it left them vulnerable to attack as carriers of feudal habits, reactionary ideas, or, worse, counterrevolutionary aspirations. Already severely disciplined in the early 1950s, intellectuals would come under wholesale attack in Mao’s revolutions.

Enduring ideas in the 1940s The people by 1945 were firmly the renmin, invoking the popular masses, but including elites. The people were more often conceived in Nationalist writings as citizens (gongmin, public people, or guomin, people of the nation). Whether in Sunism or Communist ideology (and, by the 1940s, Maoism), or in liberalism, the people were seen as the source of political legitimacy. Claims to Heaven (tianming) or dynastic heritage were a thing of the past. The people were collectively the Chinese nation (minzu). However, the people were also seen as the object of necessary acts of cultural and political improvement before they could properly exercise their political identity, and so in the meantime revolutionaries and liberals, almost entirely made up of intellectuals, took it upon themselves to improve the people. Sunism under Chiang Kai-shek continued its policy of “political tutelage” and attempted, with little success, to educate the people in the New Life Movement started in the mid-1930s. The liberals endeavored to educate the people in how to be modern, scientific, and Chinese, from Liang Shuming’s and James Yen’s continuing efforts at rural uplift to Hu Shi’s and Wu Han’s efforts to raise the cultural level of students. For the Communists, the people were defined by Marxist categories, or more broadly as the oppressed versus the oppressors. Proletarian was the prized category of “the people,” though peasants and progressive intellectuals and merchants could be their assistants. All, of course, came under the “leadership” of the voice of the proletariat, the CCP. Finally, “the people” continued to be thought of and talked about in these years as a community rather than as individuals. Both party-states focused more on society than on individuals in their efforts to manage their rejuvenation of China. The only exception was some liberals, like Hu Shi, who focused on the role of the individual in science, as well as in politics. Chinese identity in these years was primarily tied to nationalism and defined as “not foreign” and especially not Western. The Nationalists embraced Sun Yat-sen’s five-ethnicity model of Zhonghua (Han, Manchu, Mongol, Tibetan, and Muslim or Hui). Still, the presumption of assimilation toward Han cultural norms that we saw from the first

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articulations of Zhonghua by Zhang Binglin in 1907 endured. For the CCP, Chinese increasingly became a political identity, though it carried on in unarticulated form the assumptions of the Five Nationalities Unity and Han superiority of Sunism. Two versions of Chinese identity came to the fore. One was essentially urban and modern (claiming Chinese as already modern or as working hard to modernize Chinese culture and citizens with selective imports of science and hygienic habits). The other China was defined as rural and pure.80 The second was embraced particularly by Liang Shuming and Mao Zedong, an unlikely affinity between a non-Party Confucian liberal and China’s leading Marxist–Leninist. These two images of China and Chinese as refined, educated, and urban on the one hand, and as unpretentious, pure, and practical on the other, have endured down to today. For some, as in the case of Deng Tuo, the two images were compatible; for others, like Wang Shiwei, they were not. Democracy (minzhu) was not the sole possession of liberals during these years. Liberals like Hu Shi, Zou Taofen, and Luo Longji held out for parliamentary democracy and rule of law, but they were unable to find ways to convince the Nationalists or Communists to share power, nor were they inclined or able to fight them. Writing for concerned Americans in the 1940s, the China journalist Theodore White despondently concluded that if these liberals “were well organized, they could guarantee peace. But they are not. They lack an army, a political machine, roots in any social class. Only the spread of education and industry can create enough men of the modern world to give them a broad social base.”81 This was the same hope Hu Shi had raised for his education-based version of “revolution” in 1929. Two decades of near constant warfare had stymied those efforts. The Nationalists maintained that political tutelage was as democratic as one could have it until the people were more educated in political life. Thus they embraced democracy as a long-term goal. The Communists moved from Mao’s “New Democracy” (a United Front of equal parties, albeit under the “leadership” of the CCP) in 1940 to the “Democratic Dictatorship” of Mao’s famous essay of August 1949 on the eve of victory: a much less capacious United Front in which the proletariat (i.e. the Party) offered the democracy of participation to “the people” but exercised dictatorship over their enemies—defined as oppressors of various 80 81

Another version of this divide is evocatively captured at mid-century by a sensitive foreign observer, Graham Peck, Two Kinds of Time (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1950). Theodore H. White and Annalee Jacoby, Thunder Out of China (New York: William Sloane Associates, Inc., 1946), p. 313. Also Jeans, Roads Not Taken.

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sorts, but particularly landlords, capitalists, and leading officials of the Nationalist government. Everyone talked about democracy; it had become a generally accepted value. But our three major actors—the Nationalists, the liberal intellectuals, and the Communists—had significantly different ideas of democracy: political tutelage, democracy now for the educated, and democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and their Party.

China in the 1950s

The Cold War had cemented “two Chinas” by the mid-1950s, with the Republic of China under Chiang Kai-shek on Taiwan under the American security umbrella and the People’s Republic of China under Mao Zedong “leaning to one side” in the socialist camp under the leadership of the Soviet Union. Each claimed to be the government of all China and considered the other government to be illegitimate. Westerners thought in terms of “Free China” on Taiwan and “Red China” behind the Bamboo Curtain. PRC citizens learned about the liberation of working peoples in the socialist world and the oppression of workers in capitalist countries. Americans and Europeans were largely cut off from China and believed that China was “cut off from the world.” China, however, was an active member of the socialist community, with extensive contact with the Soviet Union—which in the 1950s served as the big brother with aid and technology, and as the model of state socialism to follow—and regular exchanges with Eastern European countries, some of the new Southeast Asian countries, and soon with the new African nations. China may not have been “cut off from the world,” but it was excluded from the world of America, Europe, and Japan. Thus China’s intellectuals engaged primarily with colleagues in the socialist bloc led by the Soviet Union well into the 1970s. Meanwhile, a quiet relationship with overseas Chinese, particularly those living in Southeast Asia, continued, with hundreds of thousands returning to China during the decade. The majority of Chinese living in the PRC thus were encouraged to learn from Elder Brother Soviet Union, and intellectuals like Deng Tuo, Jian Bozan, Sun Yefang, and others traveled predominantly to conferences in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. PRC intellectuals did attend some European meetings, as did Jian Bozan and Zhou Yiliang in the 1950s, but they were very constrained in their contacts with “bourgeois scholars.” In all, PRC intellectuals in one way or another busied themselves in trying to build a Chinese road in their particular area of expertise. Meanwhile, intellectuals in Taiwan wrestled with the failures of their 159

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Republic, bemoaned their exile on the island, and began a tortuous relationship with the local residents, the Taiwanese, who did not understand the northern dialects of these interlopers, generally preferred to speak Japanese (since the island had been part of the Japanese Empire until 1945), and considered the Guomindang government to be a dictatorial and rapacious new master. This was a time of profound self-confidence for many in China and of high reputation for the Chinese Communist Party. The CCP had, indeed, reunified the country, brought economic and social order— particularly by controlling rampant inflation—that had eluded the Nationalists, and even expelled the Western powers in a visceral (if, after the treaty renegotiations of 1943, unnecessary) manner. Overseas Chinese were attracted to “come home” to join in building New China. At the same time, China tried to break out of the two worlds of the US or Soviet camps by supporting India’s efforts at creating a Non-Aligned Movement of new states in Asia and Africa. This was the age of the Bandung Conference, the meeting in Indonesia in 1955 where Zhou Enlai endorsed the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence (mutual respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty, mutual nonaggression, noninterference in each other’s internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence). This aimed to give China an independent role in Asia and Africa. The 1950s saw the birth of the propaganda state in China in a manner similar to the experience of the Soviet Union in the 1920s. The CCP before 1949 and the PRC from then onward put its Chinese adaptation of the Soviet model of a one-party state into practice. This achieved the goals of Sun Yat-sen’s “political tutelage,” or pedagogical state, albeit with significantly different content. The propaganda state of the CCP, through domination of the army and police and intrusive political campaigns and thought reform, ran on the software of Maoism and the hardware of the directed public sphere. Mao Zedong Thought was extremely important and, for many, a matter of sincere belief in the 1940s and 1950s, though the travails of the Cultural Revolution would greatly diminish its authority. The institutions of the propaganda state and the centralized control of information in the propaganda and education system, including censoring local and foreign speakers, the ideological training and disciplining of functionaries, and the attack on any perceived independent social groups, were developed in the 1950s and have long since outlived the passing of personal belief in Maoism. In the 1950s this saw the instantiation of an ideological public sphere, in both Taiwan and mainland China. There were illegal thoughts in both societies which, if expressed in public, would bring about the arrest

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and incarceration of the offender. However, the weight of ideological conformity was much greater in the PRC. Simple silence would do in Nationalist Taiwan. Anything less than active endorsement of CCP policy was suspect in the PRC, especially among social elites and intellectuals. In addition, all thought had to be expressed in terms of the ideology. In China this meant in terms of the categories of Marxism– Leninism and with the vocabulary of Maoism. At the same time that intellectual life by 1956 had been truncated and disciplined by Party ideology in China, women’s role and status, and public discourse about women, had improved markedly. One of the first laws of the new PRC was a relatively progressive Marriage Law of 1950 that put women’s rights into law and outlawed several traditional practices, such as forced marriages and sale of child brides, and stipulated new rights for women, such as inheritance, divorce, and child care (though enforcement was partial at best). In the public sphere the new ideology proclaimed the juridical as well as essential equality of women and men and much propaganda and some hiring practices began to increase the role of women in public life. The CCP finally gave a head count of the number of intellectuals. In a speech that effectively kicked off the Hundred Flowers Movement in January 1956, Premier Zhou Enlai had estimated that there were but 3,840,00 intellectuals out of a general population of close to 600 million. Of these, Zhou admitted, there were only about 100,000 “higher intellectuals.” A year later, in March 1957, Mao elaborated, agreeing to the 100,000 figure for higher intellectuals but suggesting a larger number of intellectuals—5 million, or nearly one percent of the population. Mao’s definition was, in fact, much broader, “including elementary-school teachers, teaching personnel, and some administrative personnel, some in the PLA, commercial banking personnel, engineering and technical personnel”—what we would generally consider both intellectuals and professionals (or technical intelligentsia).1 Urban culture and the modern identities of intellectuals and professionals had taken root by the 1950s, enriched by a formal sense of the expert. Professional associations begun in the 1910s had developed. They continued in Taiwan, albeit subject to close supervision by the Guomindang. In the PRC, the competing identity and social role of intellectuals as zhishifenzi ganbu, the intellectual cadre, soon overtook and subsumed professional identities. This new class of servants of the 1

Zhou’s report is translated in Communist China, 1955–1959: Policy Documents with Analysis (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1962), pp. 128–44. Mao’s comments are translated in MacFarquhar, Cheek and Wu, Secret Speeches, p. 225.

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state subordinated professional norms and organizations to the goals and management of the party-state. There were engineers, doctors, and professors in China, but they were first and foremost “servants of the people,” administered by government departments or “mass organizations” managed by the Party. While life as intellectual cadres limited the independence and authority of professional identity and associations, it offered intellectuals in return a direct role in improving China.

4

Revolutionary revival Overthrowing the lords of nation-building (1957–1976)

Fig. 4. “Study the revolutionary spirit of Daqing, hold high the great red banner of Mao Zedong Thought, struggle for the realization of the third Five Year Plan!”, 1966 (Xuexi Daqing geming jingshen, gaoju Mao Zedong sixiang weida hong qi, wei shixian disan’ge wunian jihua er fendou!”) (Beijing: Renmin meishu chubanshe, April 1966).

Today there are two atom bombs in the world. One is the material atom bomb. One is the spiritual atom bomb. The material atom bomb is a mighty force, but the spiritual atom bomb is an even greater mighty force. This spiritual atom bomb is nothing other than the political consciousness and courage of men. National Day Editorial, Liberation Army Daily, October 1, 1960

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Revolutionary revival: overthrowing (1957–1976) The Eastern Wood’s discussions followed the Master of Guishan In all things showing concern between Heaven and Earth None can say writers chatter emptily When blood stains where their heads rolled. Deng Tuo, Guangming Daily, September 7, 1960

These two voices from the early 1960s reflect the divergent responses of China’s political leaders to the first phase of Mao’s later revolutions that had rocked the late 1950s—the Hundred Flowers criticisms followed by the Anti-Rightist Movement and the Great Leap Forward. The years between 1960 and 1962 in particular constituted a pause between two revolutionary high tides. The Cultural Revolution of 1966–9 would really begin in the countryside as the Four Clean-Ups campaign in 1964 and would endure an extended afterlife in the 1970s until Mao’s death in 1976. Lin Biao was the defense minister from 1959, and the Liberation Army Daily editorial in 1960 was simply publicizing themes that Lin Biao had proclaimed at a key military conference that March. Lin Biao became the greatest proponent of the faith Maoist response to the challenges that the Party confronted in the face of the great famine that was caused by the Party’s Great Leap Forward. Deng Tuo was a Party stalwart, head of propaganda for the Beijing Municipal Party Committee, and here represents the bureaucratic Maoist response to the disaster. Lin Biao’s answer was the “spiritual atom bomb” of Mao Zedong’s ideas, more revolutionary ideology. Deng Tuo’s answer was spiritual guidance from moral exemplars, more wisdom from China’s long tradition of scholar-officials willing to face traitors and risk martyrdom, here invoking the example of Confucian martyrs from Eastern Wood Academy in the Ming Dynasty. Both voices appeared in the highly controlled propaganda outlets of the Party—they were part of an internal debate in Chinese communism. The propaganda poster from April 1966, just on the eve of the Cultural Revolution, could serve either view: in Lin Biao’s reading it is all about holding high “the great red banner of Mao Zedong Thought.” For Deng Tuo it lionizes the collective effort of workers, peasants, and intellectuals to fulfil the plan. Both readings sought to address the problems of state-building in the model of the Soviet Union.

Voices from the late 1950s and the 1960s WAN G MENG (b. 1 934): SE LF-CRITICISM F OR WRITING “N EW Y OU NG M AN AT TH E ORGANIZ ATI ON DEPARTMENT ” (1 95 7) I had too much confidence in my own aesthetic sensibilities. In relying on these sensibilities, I believed that I could manage a faithful and daring portrayal of a variety of characters and contradictions in life. I felt that this was the best thing I could do for readers . . . I thought it better courageously to portray the truth and allow readers to arrive at their own conclusions. Although the

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(cont.) argument I have presented may be reasonable, it led to certain mistaken ideas on my part. I believed that a realistic presentation of life in my work would necessarily give my writing a socialist spirit. I felt that my artistic appreciation of reality could serve to replace the proletarian viewpoint and approach. It seemed to me that these things were necessary only when writing political essays; they seemed of little use in writing fiction. I supposed that in simply depicting life as it is I was educating readers. Actually, I had relinquished my role of commenting on life and educating the masses.1 “L ONG LIV E TH E REV OLUTIONARY REBEL S PIRIT O F T H E PR O L E T A R I A T ” (1 96 6) Revolution is rebellion, and rebelling is the soul of Mao Zedong’s Thought. Daring to think, to speak, to act, to break through, and to make revolution—in a word, daring to rebel—is the most fundamental and most precious quality of proletarian revolutionaries; it is fundamental to the party spirit of the party and the proletariat! Not to rebel is revisionism, pure and simple! Revisionism has been in control of our school for seventeen years. If today we do not rise up in rebellion, when will we? . . . You say we are too crude? Crude is just what we want to be. How can we be soft and clinging towards revisionism or go in for great moderation? To be moderate toward the enemy is to be cruel to the revolution! You say we are going too far? Frankly, your “don’t go too far” is reformism, it is “peaceful transition.” And this is what your daydreams are about! Well, we are going to strike you down to the earth and keep you down! . . . We must do this to the present revisionist middle school attached to Qinghua University. Create a big rebellion, rebel to the end! We are bent on creating a tremendous proletarian uproar, and on carving out a new proletarian world! Long live the revolutionary rebel spirit of the proletariat!2

The ideological moment: making socialism work By the mid-1950s China’s intellectuals were completely beholden to the party-state. A series of ideological rectification campaigns among intellectuals, professionals, and even the remaining business leaders had 1

2

Wang Meng, “Guanyu ‘Zuzhibu xinlaide qingnian ren’” (On “The New Man in the Organization Department”), Renmin ribao (People’s Daily), May 8, 1957, trans. in Hualing Nieh, Literature of the Hundred Flowers, Vol. II, Poetry and Fiction (Bloomington, IN: University of Indiana Press, 1981), pp. 515–16. Reported by the New China News Agency, November 11, 1966, quoting from Hong Qi (Red Flag), the official theory journal of the CCP. Translation from Patricia Buckley Ebrey, ed., Chinese Civilization: A Sourcebook, 2nd edn. (New York: The Free Press, 1993), p. 450.

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seen to that.3 To function, to contribute, one had to be orthodox—talk the talk, walk the walk. The talk was Mao Zedong Thought, the walk was thought reform, mass campaigns, and service as intellectual cadres. A few of the liberal intellectuals who had, with whatever mix of hopes and doubts, stayed on under the new Communist administration had not fully digested this reality. Thus, when Mao called on intellectuals to criticize the Party in 1956, and again with considerable charm in spring 1957, some could not resist. They quickly discovered the error of their ways. Those who criticized, including idealistic young Communist Party members, as well as those who were unlucky, irritating, or had alienated their local Party leader, became “rightists,” a truly despised political caste subject to ruined careers, surveillance, and prison. The message was clear: Speak Party Talk. Not speaking was no longer an option. Now that the CCP was securely in charge, the key question of this ideological moment was: how to make socialism work. Socialism since 1949 had been socialist construction on the model of the Soviet Union—with a focus on industry, engineers, and cities. But there were problems with this form of socialism in China. It was bureaucratic, overly centralized, had produced a new privileged elite, did not ring true to the CCP’s rural experience, and had created a dulling orthodoxy in literary and artistic realms and stirring unrest among workers and peasants who wanted more of the promised fruits of socialism. The Soviet advisers, as well, were irritatingly arrogant and some were outright racist. The answer to these problems of nation-building was revolution, more, better, and faster. For Mao, this entailed overturning the nation-building edifice that the CCP had modeled on the Soviet Union. The first seven years of the PRC had loudly and largely followed the Soviet model of industrialization. Now the question was, what should be China’s path? That was the question Mao put to China’s intellectuals quite directly in 1956 and 1957. It was followed by the Great Leap Forward, an ambitious economic campaign that ended in disaster. By the mid-1960s the world had changed for everyone in China and Mao sought more extreme solutions to save the revolution from the “revisionism” of his colleagues so bent on predictable nationbuilding. For Mao, that revisionist path would lead to the restoration of the oppression of working people whom he had dedicated his life to liberating. He was old, his reputation was tarnished, and he wondered if his colleagues still believed in him, but he was experienced and a 3

Teiwes, Politics and Purges in China; Strauss, “Paternalist Terror”; Eddy U, “The Making of Zhishifenzi.”

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brilliant tactician, and two decades of the Mao cult had given him immense power among China’s masses. His colleagues might see behind the curtain, but for China’s 600 million Mao was the Great Oz. He called them, and they responded. China’s intellectuals rode this political roller coaster. Some latched on with gusto, taking Lin Biao’s lead and running with it. From Shanghai, Zhang Chunqiao would rise from a provincial propaganda cadre to the peaks of political power in Beijing by providing perhaps the most intelligent and articulate exposition of the radical Maoist perspective. By the 1970s Zhang was one of the top four leaders later known as the “Gang of Four.” He was not alone but led a generation of younger hopefuls and older “outs” for whom the turmoil of the Cultural Revolution was not only inspiring but a terrific avenue for career advancement. Others resisted and endured, if they could. New China’s elite of socialist intellectuals traversed these two revolutionary high tides as best they could; some, like Luo Longji and Ding Ling, fell in the first wave of the Anti-Rightist Movement, others in the second wave. Deng Tuo became the first top Party intellectual to die in the Cultural Revolution in 1966, and Wu Han died in 1969. Many endured, but not without terrible hardship. Yang Jiang, a talented writer and wife of Qian Zhongshu, one of China’s most famous novelists, records their odyssey through Cultural Revolution re-education camps. Ding Ling fared likewise, as did academics like Yue Daiyun. Some survived by keeping their heads down, learning from the peasants, and accepting modest jobs. Others were called to serve the new revolution and found it hard to say no. Zhou Yiliang continued his political orthodoxy through its abrupt changes. Tang Yijie, a respected Peking University philosophy professor and husband of Yue Daiyun, reluctantly joined Zhou Yiliang in a political writing group, called Liangxiao, to provide scholarly authority to radical policies in the early 1970s. Meanwhile, China’s students emerged as the front-line troops of the Cultural Revolution as Red Guards. From stern, Soviet-style schools, these youngsters drank up Mao’s words, hit the streets in 1966 to answer his call to make revolution, and accepted being sent to the countryside in 1969 “to learn from the peasants.” Some embraced the radical ideology only to find their beliefs betrayed; others started out dubious but compliant. Some died, most suffered, all were transformed. Mao’s clarion call to youth was “It is right to rebel.” Different intellectual youths found different paths into the 1970s through their rebellion. Some, like the Li Yizhe group, put Maoist language to work as a critique of the Maoist system itself.

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Revolution to change your soul It had begun so well. By September 1956 the CCP could hold its Eighth Party Congress in an atmosphere of success.4 Yet the new PRC government was feeling the pains of office. In addition, Khrushchev’s denunciation of Stalin—communism’s revered leader—in his 1956 secret speech scandalized CCP leaders, and unrest in Poland and Hungary that year unnerved them. In 1956 Mao revived the Rectification Movement approach of self-criticism and mutual criticism to address these challenges, but extended rectification beyond the Party to the educated public, inviting intellectuals and professionals to “let a hundred flowers bloom and let a hundred schools of thought contend” and to criticize the shortcomings of the ruling CCP. This was an unprecedented act for a ruling Communist Party. In “On the Correct Handling of Contradictions among the People,” a long and shocking speech he gave in February 1957, Mao sought to lay the theoretical basis for limited—but real—public criticism and dissent under a ruling Communist Party.5 Tape recordings of Mao’s speech were played to provincial leaders and intellectuals around the country. By defending loyal opposition to Party bureaucratism and abuses of power as “contradictions among the people,” in contrast to “contradictions with the enemy,” Mao went further than even the most daring of the Eastern European regimes in the de-Stalinization of 1956. The Party elite were appalled. They stalled, they dithered, they tried to dissuade the Chairman. Mao got his way. The rectification was formally announced in late April 1957. However, having goaded his Stalinist bureaucracy into doing the unthinkable—soliciting public criticisms from ordinary citizens and, worse, intellectuals—this promising opening to socialism with a human face was ruined by Mao’s own dictatorial style and petulance. When the invited criticisms arrived in May of 1957 they were not to Mao’s liking, and so he turned about-face and declared the critics to be counterrevolutionary rightists. The text of “On the Correct Handling” was significantly rewritten before official publication in June to make Mao look good and

4

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Roderick MacFarquhar, Origins of the Cultural Revolution, Vol. I, Contradictions among the People, 1956–1957 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1974). While some still view the early 1950s as a “golden age” of CCP rule, there were profound tensions, from the early mass campaigns (the Three Antis and Five Antis), war in Korea against the US, the violent side of land reform, and intellectual repression. The current view is a more balanced one of successes and tensions. See Brown and Pickowicz, The Dilemmas of Victory. See Mao’s “speaking notes” (jianghua gao) trans. in MacFarquhar, Cheek, and Wu, Secret Speeches, pp. 131–89.

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to ratchet back permissible discussion to the restricted scope familiar to other socialist societies. It was a failed experiment that cost the lives and careers of half a million intellectuals and Party members.6 The next decade was a grim one for China, marked by revolutionary fervor and terrible suffering. The “Hundred Flowers” rectification of 1957 was followed by a harsh nationwide purge, the Anti-Rightist Movement. This not only silenced independent critics but terrorized professionals who saw the potential dangers of contradicting their local Party leaders. Next, Mao promoted an ambitious economic development strategy, the Great Leap Forward (1958–60), that was disastrously flawed and ruthlessly implemented. The Party was fully behind Mao on this campaign, and Liu Shaoqi, second only to Mao, inaugurated his rise to the presidency of China by initiating the Leap. Not only were the aspirations that Mao and his colleagues encouraged unrealistic—huge increases in grain and steel production—but local leaders competed to outdo even those targets in order to show their loyalty to Mao. The intellectuals and scientists were not about to speak up. Nearly every professional had a colleague languishing in “reform through labor” from the Anti-Rightist Movement. Other intellectuals, such as Qian Xuesen, continued to work in scientific and economic institutions throughout the Leap. The Great Leap contributed to at least 30 million deaths—mostly attributable to avoidable famine—by 1961. This has to be the single greatest crime of Mao’s rule of China. A retrenchment in the early 1960s brought an end to the famine and began the economic recovery.7 Intellectuals were invited to help and to bring lost vibrancy back to cultural life. Mao was not satisfied. He initiated a final effort at total revolution: the Cultural Revolution. It was designed to protect China from the dire threat of revisionism that Mao saw in the Soviet Union under Khrushchev. In fact, China and the Soviet Union had fallen into an ideological split in 1960 that culminated in national confrontation and fighting along their border in 1969. Now, at Mao’s behest, the Party revived the thought reform and rural orientation of the Yan’an period. Mao declared student radicals to be “Red Guards” in 1966 and called on them to “bombard the headquarters” of revisionist Party leaders. Fervent adulation of every utterance by Mao, represented in the “Little Red Book,” Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong, became the toolkit of the Red Guards. In all, some

6 7

MacFarquhar, Origins of the Cultural Revolution, Vol. I; and MacFarquhar, Cheek, and Wu, Secret Speeches. On the politics of the Great Leap, see Roderick MacFarquhar, The Origins of the Cultural Revolution, Vol. II, The Great Leap Forward, 1958–1960 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983).

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4.4 billion books and pamphlets of Mao material were published in the ten years between 1966 and 1976.8 The social results were catastrophic—Red Guard youth gangs terrorized communities under Mao’s slogan “To rebel is justified,” colleagues denounced each other as counterrevolutionaries, universities were closed to send students and faculty to the countryside “to learn from the peasants,” and individuals were subject to endless “thought investigations.”9 To the degree that the populace in China participated in this self-subjugation, the Cultural Revolution even outpaced Stalin’s Russia as the closest realization of Orwellian dystopia.10 Mao allowed this to happen and saw the suffering as a necessary cost of resisting “revisionism.”11 The Cultural Revolution was declared “a victory” at the Ninth Party Congress in April 1969, but the policies carried on into the 1970s. The Red Guard student gangs were suppressed by bringing in PLA troops to the universities. A rustication program was announced whereby the youth would go to the countryside “to learn from the peasants.” Although some went willingly, nonparticipation was not an option. It got the gangs off the street, but subjected unprotected teenagers to the depredations of rural men in patriarchal villages who reckoned there would be no repercussions for abusing young people who lacked kinship support in the village. Most of the students who went to the countryside in the late 1960s could not get back to their families or the cities for almost a decade. While this was a wrenching experience, the rusticated youth (known as zhiqing, or “educated youth”) played a historical role in reconnecting intellectuals with the countryside. In an ironic way, Mao succeeded in revolutionizing the youth of the 1960s, but not quite in the way he had hoped. They learned that “To rebel is justified” and they learned that the peasants were oppressed. But they also learned that it was the Communist Party itself that oppressed rural communities and that it was, indeed, possible to rebel against the Communist Party.12

8

9 10

11 12

Daniel Leese, Mao Cult: Rhetoric and Ritual in China’s Cultural Revolution (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013); and Alexander C. Cook, ed., Mao’s Little Red Book: A Global History (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014). Roderick MacFarquhar and Michael Schoenhals, Mao’s Last Revolution (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005). This self-subjugation is poignantly portrayed in post-Mao PRC films, such as Chen Kaige’s Farewell My Concubine (1993), Tian Zhuangzhuang’s The Blue Kite (1993), and Zhang Yimou’s To Live (1994)—all widely available internationally with English subtitles. See MacFarquhar and Schoenhals, Mao’s Last Revolution. Michel Bonnin, The Lost Generation: The Rustification of China’s Educated Youth (1968–1980), trans. Krystyna Horoko (Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 2013). Bonnin’s original French edition was published in 2004.

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That spirit would inform the next ideological moment from the mid1970s when some of those rusticated youth made it back to the cities. Late 1968 through the early 1970s was probably the most gruesome period of the Cultural Revolution, particularly for intellectuals. The “Cleanse the Class Ranks Campaign” that the PLA brought to the schools, offices, and factories as the Red Guards were sent packing to the villages was nothing short of organized terror.13 The violence was neither random nor mass, but operated through “revolutionary committees” set up to settle the scores of previous years in the name of Mao Zedong Thought. Intellectuals particularly had to tread carefully. One word out of line, one thoughtless comment, could be the ticket to persecution. While the Red Guard period had roiled through wild public accusations like the Salem witch trials, the Cleanse the Class Ranks Campaign operated more like the Spanish Inquisition in pseudo-legal proceedings. The pressure was increased when Mao’s new “closest comrade in arms” and designated successor, Lin Biao, died in September 1971, reportedly fleeing to the Soviet Union and accused of trying to assassinate Mao. Nobody knew what to believe anymore, and many intellectuals date their doubts about Mao and the Party to the fall of Lin Biao. The posthumous purge of Lin Biao brought another campaign-style purge through the system, including strange campaigns against Confucius and denunciations of the traditional Chinese adventure novel Water Margin. Mao’s final revolution, after decades of angry confrontation with “American imperialism,” was to spring a rapprochement with US president Richard Nixon in 1972 in order to outmaneuver the Soviet Union. However turbulent the Cultural Revolution had been and no matter how terrorizing the Cleanse the Class Ranks Campaign, the government continued to work. In fact, the PRC replaced Taiwan as “China” in the United Nations in 1971. It is easy to forget this basic success of the CCP over these years of political campaigns and intermittent turmoil. Mao’s China was often harsh and capricious, it was hell for many intellectuals, and it was deeply unfair to rural Chinese, but it was not a failed state. On the contrary, it built up basic education and public health, continued the initial industrialization, and provided the basis for the economic takeoff that would emerge after Mao. China’s intellectuals contributed to these efforts as scholars and cadres. This administrative pragmatism softened the already faltering chiliastic rituals of the Cultural Revolution and left 13

MacFarquhar and Schoenhals, Mao’s Last Revolution, pp. 253–72. For a vivid case study, see Yang Kuisong, “Where Do ‘Bad Elements’ Come from?”, in Jeremy Brown and Matthew D. Johnson, eds., Maoism at the Grassroots: Everyday Life in China’s Era of High Socialism (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2015), pp. 19–50.

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China, and China’s intellectuals, tired and dispirited, but still standing at the time of Mao’s death. The last gasp of Chinese liberalism: Luo Longji Mao’s revolutions were fundamentally intended to shake up the status quo, energize the ordinary citizen, and bring his vision of a new and better society to life, now. Mao’s first attempt was to call upon China’s recently reformed intellectuals to speak up and point out the faults of the new Party bureaucracy. This prompted what turned out to be the last gasp of Chinese liberalism from leaders in the Democratic League. What Mao got in the Hundred Flowers Movement was not tactical criticism on the implementation of socialism, but rather strategic proposals to go beyond socialism. We know the result: Mao back-pedaled and the sorts of criticism he had invited in February 1957 became political crimes by that summer. However, it is important to remember that many intellectuals felt that, since Mao of all people had called for serious criticisms of the shortcomings of the CCP, the 1957 campaign would not be like the previous ones. The older generation knew better, but as we shall see later in this chapter, even young Party members like Yue Daiyun and Fang Lizhi answered Mao’s call. The spring of 1957 saw a flowering of independent criticism, much of it offered as ways to improve the Party, but some of it suggesting that the need for one-party rule had passed and that China had now progressed to a point where the coalition government the CCP had proposed in 1945 could be implemented through real multiparty politics. Mao had made a compelling case for open criticism in his “On the Correct Handling of Contradictions among the People” in February 1957. Tape recordings of this seminal pronouncement from the Chairman were played around the country that spring. Mao acknowledged problems within socialism and declared that there were “contradictions among the people,” which required people to criticize the Communist Party for its own good and to avoid the example of revolts against the Communists in Hungary. “We propose this year and next,” said Mao, “to carry out a great investigation, an overall investigation, a summing up of experience.” This comprehensive assessment of Party policy and governance, however, was not to be led by the CCP, Mao declared, but by the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Congress (CPPCC).14 China’s leading intellectuals, some invited to hear Mao’s talk in Beijing and many others who 14

Mao Zedong, “On the Correct Handling of Contradictions among the People (Speaking Notes),” trans. in MacFarquhar, Cheek, and Wu, Secret Speeches, p. 145.

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heard the tape recordings in the weeks to follow, took note and were excited. Xu Zhucheng, the editor of the newly revived intellectual newspaper Wenhui bao (Literary Gazette) in Shanghai, was recalled to Beijing in early March of 1957 with a large delegation to hear the tapes of Mao’s “Contradictions” speech. Xu and his colleagues were moved by Mao’s entreaties. Xu recalls his excitement at the time when Mao led them to believe that harsh class struggle was over, that non-Party people could help in this rectification campaign and that rectification—of intellectuals as well as of Party cadres—in this campaign should be as gentle as spring rain. They shared few of the worries of the higher Party cadres like Deng Tuo; they thought a new day was dawning.15 Seasoned political liberals like Luo Longji spoke up. As ever, China’s university students were keen to continue the grand tradition of student political activism. Articles and campus rallies and speeches sprouted like the veritable hundred flowers in May 1957. Luo Longji (1898–1965) was co-chair of the Democratic League and on the Standing Committee of the CPPCC that Mao had encouraged “to take charge.” Luo was another Qinghua graduate who had obtained advanced degrees abroad (at the University of Wisconsin and Columbia University, in political science) and had returned to China in the late 1920s, joining Hu Shi in publishing articles on political issues, including a famous article on human rights criticizing Chiang Kai-shek’s government. Luo was one of the founders of the Democratic League in 1941, and in 1947 was, with Zhang Bojun, a cochair of the league. There was hardly a more notable Chinese liberal in the United Front. In March 1957 Luo spoke to a session of the CPPCC, and, while cautious, he outlined his concerns: “At present, what still constitutes the problems relating to the intellectuals?” Luo then lists the underemployment of well-trained intellectuals, with philosophy PhDs working in libraries and lawyers working as clerks, scientists teaching languages, and “students of mechanical engineering who teach history at middle schools.” Training is at risk, as well, says Luo. “More weight has been attached to political standing than academic attainment,” laments Luo; “Party and Youth League members have been graded higher than nonParty personnel.” Luo was careful to soften his complaints by noting the anecdotal and “one-sided” nature of the complaints, but clearly he thought such issues should be on the agenda for the upcoming rectification.16 15

16

Xu Zhucheng, “Yangmo qinli ji” (A Personal Diary of an Open Plot), Zhongguo zhichun (China Spring) (New York), No. 55 (1987), pp. 23 ff., and Cheek, Propaganda and Culture, pp. 175–6. Luo’s comments cited here come from translations in Roderick MacFarquhar, The Hundred Flowers Campaign and the Chinese Intellectuals (New York: Praeger, 1960), pp. 20 and 42–3.

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As the blooming and contending grew that spring, Luo spoke more forcefully at a forum of democratic parties (the eight subordinate “satellite parties” allowed to operate under the CCP’s United Front Work Department) on May 10. A newspaper report from those heady days has Luo focusing on two organizational questions: recruitment and education. According to Luo, if there is to be “long-term coexistence” of the CCP and the democratic parties which formed the prerequisite for the mutual supervision for which Mao was calling, then the democratic parties should be allowed to recruit among the youth, or at least among students; currently the CCP only allowed them to recruit among “old-style intellectuals” trained in the West before 1949. There was no future in that, Luo concluded. Luo was also concerned about how schools were being run by CCP committees. If the participation of democratic parties and groups in the government was part of the people’s democratic dictatorship in China, then the “superstructure” of the education system should reflect the “base” of the political order. That would mean that the democratic parties should have a role in running the schools as well. Ding Ling, the repentant critic from Yan’an who outlived Wang Shiwei, came to grief in the Anti-Rightist Movement. Her fall signaled not an end to liberalism per se, as she was a loyal Party member, but certainly an end to liberal or latitudinarian approaches to literature under socialism. After her prizewinning novel The Sun Shines over the Sanggang River in 1948, Ding Ling had not published much fiction, but she was active in Party literary associations and a leader amongst writers in the new PRC. However, she was caught up in a factional squabble with Zhou Yang, who had become the literary czar for the Party by the mid-1950s. Although quiet during most of the Hundred Flowers, Ding Ling apparently took heart from the broad criticisms of May 1957 to mount a counterattack on her bureaucratic rivals in the Central Literary Institute in Beijing. She failed, and the price of defeat was heavy: Ding Ling became the poster child for the Anti-Rightist Movement and a negative example of insubordination to Party directives. By early 1958, Party writers had dug up the 1942 case of Wang Shiwei and his defiance of the Party in Yan’an. Even though Ding Ling had ultimately abandoned him and joined the Party in criticizing Wang back then, in 1958 they painted her as an unreformed member of his “evil clique.” Ding Ling was purged most likely because she lost a factional battle, but Ding Ling’s approach to literature was more open than Zhou Yang’s. Merle Goldman summarized the real challenge of Ding Ling and her colleagues to the Party: “They continued to regard themselves as special people who need not conform to the

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demands of the organization.”17 In this, they did, indeed, continue the spirit of Wang Shiwei.

Mobilizing the left: Zhang Chunqiao and Yao Wenyuan For Mao’s revolutionary revival to have political and social effect, he needed an army of writers and thinkers to articulate his concerns, make the case, and propagandize these ideas among the general public. Zhang Chunqiao (1917–2005) was one such Maoist intellectual. Zhang Chunqiao was a journalist and propagandist throughout his career, beginning with the Shandong Nationalist Daily News in 1932. He was active in leftist circles in Shanghai until he went to the Communist-controlled areas of northwest China after the start of the Anti-Japanese War in 1937. He had joined the CCP in 1936 and worked in the base areas during the war. In 1950 Zhang went with the Communist forces to Shanghai, rising in the municipal Party committee. He even joined the journalists’ delegation headed by Deng Tuo that visited the Soviet Union “to learn from Pravda” in early 1954. Zhang is most famous for two essays, the first written in 1958 in support of Mao’s radical Great Leap Forward, titled “Eradicate the Ideology of Bourgeois Rights.” Zhang’s essay advocated the abolition of material incentives (that is, direct remuneration for work) and the establishment of an egalitarian supply system, “according to each person’s needs.” This was the Great Leap’s path to communism now. Mao Zedong personally pushed to have Zhang’s essay reprinted in People’s Daily. Some twenty years later as a leading member of the Politburo, Zhang articulated the policies of the ultra-left faction around Madame Mao, Jiang Qing. Zhang’s other essay, the encyclical, “On Exercising All-Round Dictatorship over the Bourgeoisie,” was published in all the major journals and newspapers in April 1975. Zhang sought to mobilize the masses, or at least the left within the Party, to embrace the anticommercial goals of Mao’s Great Leap and to revive the “supply system” of the revolutionary period in the 1930s and 1940s when China’s Red Army was paid in kind and not in cash and when officers and men were treated much more equally. The core value endorsed in Zhang’s 1958 article is an egalitarianism bordering on equalitarianism, in which differences in pay and perquisites are seen as a source of bourgeois rights ideology. In contrast, says Zhang, when the Party and the army practiced the supply system they conquered the Japanese and Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists.“Before long, however,” 17

Goldman, Literary Dissent in Communist China, p. 224.

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he laments, “this kind of system was attacked by the ideology of bourgeois rights. The core of the ideology of bourgeois rights is the wage system . . . They say scornfully that [the supply system] is a ‘village style’ and a ‘bad guerrilla habit’.” And such disdain for the Party’s modest beginnings has combined with the practical objections put forward by these sneaky advocates of bourgeois rights: “The most basic argument that people use against the supply system is precisely that the supply system cannot stimulate productive activity. According to their theory, it is precisely the Economists [that is, the reformists] who stress the ‘principle of material incentive.’” Zhang holds up the alternative, announcing that “Shanghai’s workers, as a result of free airing of their views, incisively pointed out this kind of theory means ‘money in command’ and not politics in command.” “But,” declares Zhang, “should not management involve politics, ideology, and ethics to strengthen Communist education, in order to carry out a struggle to thoroughly do away with bourgeois rights?”18 Zhang reinforces this wisdom of the workers with a canonical citation of Karl Marx praising the egalitarian ways of the Paris Commune and concludes, The practice of the last several years has proven that the attack on the “supply system,” the “rural work style,” and “bad guerrilla habits,” is in fact the bourgeoisie’s attempt to protect the bourgeois right of inequality, to attack the proletarian revolutionary tradition, and to attack the Communist principles for the correct handling of the relations among working people.

The solution, according to Zhang, the ambitious provincial establishment intellectual, is to follow rigorously Mao Zedong’s new Great Leap Forward. By embracing Mao’s newest policies, which were at odds with established leadership more concerned with rational economic management (as well as their own power, position, and perquisites), Zhang gave voice to a path to promotion for younger and regional elites. They could not hope to compete with their seniors in terms of position, revolutionary experience, or even professional competence, and it was becoming clear that the new mandarins of the CCP had no intentions of retiring to let the revolution’s “newborn things” have their day in the sun. If Zhang Chunqiao and a whole cadre of regional leaders, along with their juniors just graduating from school and looking for work, were to get ahead any time soon, they would have to hitch their wagons to Mao’s Great Leap. They did so with gusto. Zhang’s radical posturing would not have mattered if it had not found resonance in wider social circles. His radical Maoism, and 18

Zhang Chunqiao, “Pochu zichanjieji faquan sixiang” (Eradicate the Ideology of Bourgeois Rights), Renmin ribao (People’s Daily), October 13, 1958.

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that of his compatriots, like Yao Wenyuan (1932–2005), a younger radical writer in Shanghai, and Chen Boda, an older theorist who had served as Mao’s secretary in Yan’an, gave voice and opportunity to two important social groups that picked up these ideas and ran with them. The first to embrace these new ideas as a way to move ahead in the world were regional Party officials looking to get ahead by catching the eye of Mao or his radical supporters at the center. Provincial leaders, such as Wu Zhipu, first Party secretary of Henan province, embraced Mao’s calls for “greater, faster, better, and more economical” development in the early months of 1958. According to Roderick MacFarquhar, Wu’s plan to achieve the goals of the new program’s twelve-year target in one year—including raising grain yields by more than 100 percent and wiping out sparrows and flies as part of the Four Pests campaign— illustrated that he and Henan’s leaders “were in the grip of mounting great leap fervor.” And Mao was impressed. In August 1958 at the Beidaihe Conference of Party leaders, Mao endorsed Wu Zhipu’s radical plans, including a massive increase in collectivization in the countryside. On August 17 People’s Daily lauded Wu Zhipu’s leadership and declared, “People’s Communes Are Good!”19 Rural communes combined countylevel clusters of villages into one collective accounting unit, effectively taking away the land the peasants had been awarded in land reform not ten years before. Mao had utopian visions for this change that he shared with Party leaders at Beidaihe and they echoed the romanticism of Zhang Chunqiao’s 1958 championing of a nonmonetary economy. But Mao wanted more out of the commune movement: Villages will become small cities where the majority of philosophers and scientists will be assigned. Every large commune will have highways constructed, wider roads of cement or asphalt, with no trees planted alongside so that airplanes can land—they will be airports.20

We can see that something of the utopian vision of the “Grand Unity” (datong) revived by Kang Youwei in the 1890s and pursued by Liang Shuming in the 1930s lived on in Mao’s idealization of the communes. The key difference was that Mao was in charge of China; he, and willing local officials like Wu Zhipu, forced the ideal upon China’s people. The second group to support Mao’s and Zhang’s utopian goals were the intellectuals, particularly establishment intellectuals. Some scientists supported the wild claims for increased production. Qian Xuesen, the

19 20

MacFarquhar, Origins of the Cultural Revolution, Vol. II, pp. 42 (quote) and 81. Mao Zedong, “Talks at the Beidaihe Conference, August 1958,” trans. in MacFarquhar, Cheek, and Wu, Secret Speeches, pp. 397–441, quote from p. 430.

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rocket scientist who returned to China from America in 1955, entered the public arena with a June 1958 article supporting the Leap’s claims: “We only need necessary water conservation, manure, and labor for the yield of the fields to rise ceaselessly.” As Wang Ning notes, “Mao told his secretary that he was convinced of the possibility of the high crop yield because even the ‘great scientist’ Qian Xuesen believed it to be so.”21 Chinese scientists generally stayed out of the public arena, but when they chimed in, their influence, for better or for worse, could be great even under Mao.22 Even seasoned Party intellectuals like Deng Tuo succumbed to the euphoria. In fact, he was one of the first to use the term for the campaign in a February 1958 article in People’s Daily, “A Great Leap Forward in Thought and Work Style.” In it Deng held up a group of Great Leapers in Hong’an county, Hubei province, as models to emulate. They excelled, Deng wrote, “at discovering amongst the masses new people, new creations, new discipline and at studying and producing the new ideology and work style of the new situation.”23 One could look back, with regret, at Deng Tuo’s own criticism of formulaic writing that he had offered in 1955. In fact, here we see the price of political engagement for establishment intellectuals in a Leninist regime. To be fair, most intellectuals did not support the Leap but were too cowed by the recent Anti-Rightist Movement and too dependent for their livelihood on local Party secretaries to speak up. The heady politics of Mao’s later revolutions were all some younger intellectuals had known. When Mao confronted Deng Tuo as editor of People’s Daily in 1957 for not publishing Mao’s recent speeches, the Chairman praised one of Deng’s junior editors at the paper, Wang Ruoshui (1926–2002). Wang, whom we met briefly as a student and young journalist in the previous ideological moment, had prospered during these years of revived revolutionary agitation. He loyally criticized “bourgeois” intellectuals such as Hu Shi and Hu Feng and supported Party policies. He was sent to the countryside to learn from the peasants in the late 1950s, but returned in good form. He joined the criticism of 21

22

23

Qian Xuesen, “Zhanwang shinian: Nongye fazhan gangyao shixian yihou” (Perspectives for Ten Years: Achieving the Agriculture Development Program in the Future), Kexue dazhong (Science for the Masses), No. 6 (June 1958), pp. 228–30; Wang Ning, “Lying Prostrate,” pp. 21–2. The best studies of Chinese scientists as public intellectuals in China remains H. Lyman Miller, Science and Dissent in Post-Mao China: The Politics of Knowledge (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1996); James H. Williams, “Fang Lizhi’s Expanding Universe,” China Quarterly, No. 123 (September 1990), pp. 459–84; and Williams, “Fang Lizhi’s Big Bang: A Physicist and the State in China,” Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences, Vol. 30, No. 1 (1999), esp. pp. 53–66. Deng Tuo, quoted in Cheek, Propaganda and Culture, pp. 188–9.

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the establishment leaders of the CCP Central Party School, contributing major articles in the campaign to criticize the “old-style materialism” of its director, Yang Xianzhen, in 1960, and supporting Mao’s dictum, “The subjective can be transformed into the objective.”24 This is the philosophical basis of Mao’s volunteerism, in which mind, especially the well-directed revolutionary mind, reigns over matter. This work put Wang on the “leftist” side of the Party divide in this period of renewed revolution. He caught Mao’s eye in 1963 with his essay “The Philosophy of the Table” and became trusted for his work in Marxist theory and epistemology, and his attacks on liberal thought. Wang’s problem in these radical years was that he found himself on the side of the revolutionary radicals whose policies led directly to continued political repression. While not guilty of the notorious excesses of the decade, this affiliation would haunt him in the post-Mao period. Zhang Chunqiao was among those who took Mao’s call for radical policies as a ticket to advancement. As radical policies and the certification of the Red Guard movement came down from Beijing in the summer of 1966, Shanghai’s incumbent leadership, led by Shanghai Mayor Cao Diqiu, tried to cope. Zhang Chunqiao proved adept at harnessing worker unrest—stemming precisely from the retrenchment policies the Party had followed to recover from the economic disaster of the Leap. Peasant workers had been brought in to economize in production and to siphon some of the industrial wages to the suffering rural population. But this introduced worrying cheap labor in competition with full-time workers and they were not happy. The new radical rhetoric of the emerging Cultural Revolution gave a political vocabulary to their economic grievances and political permission to criticize the local Party leaders. Zhang Chunqiao’s talent was to ride that wave and lead the workers’ rebellion against the Shanghai Party Committee that became the January Revolution of 1967. It installed, with himself in the new leadership group, a “commune” modeled on the Marxist ideal of the Paris Commune of 1871.25 The commune was replaced by a revolutionary committee. The anarchy was stopped, and the potentially suicidal attacks on all Party cadres halted—all credited to Zhang’s leadership. This successful “Cleanse the Class Ranks” in China’s most important commercial and industrial city emphatically got the attention of

24 25

Wang Ruoshui, cited in Carol Lee Hamrin, “Yang Xianzhen: Upholding Orthodox Leninist Theory,” in Hamrin and Cheek, China’s Establishment Intellectuals, pp. 72–3. Andrew Walder, Chang Ch’un-ch’iao and Shanghai’s January Revolution (Ann Arbor: Michigan Papers in Chinese Studies, University of Michigan, 1977).

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Chairman Mao and the Cultural Revolution Group. Zhang Chunqiao was “helicoptered up” to national leadership. The most prominent intellectual work of the Cultural Revolution was “mass criticism.” This was supposedly bottom-up criticism from the working classes, expressed in earthy and pungent form in “big-character posters” denouncing the abuses of current Party or government leaders, locally and nationally, who had taken the capitalist road and disgraced Mao Zedong Thought. In fact, mass criticism was a highly orchestrated affair. Local cadres inclined to support the radical perspective organized choreographed “struggle sessions” in which the chosen targets were howled down, humiliated, and given the chance to confess, but in any event were shipped off to re-education through labor, “supervision of the masses” (generally in poor and remote regions), or simply jailed. An unlucky few were executed. The script for these struggle sessions came from the long denunciations penned by Party intellectuals and published in People’s Daily and other major Party publications, as well as Red Guard broadsheets. The first wave of such critical articles came out of the Shanghai propaganda establishment of Zhang Chunqiao. The most famous critique was Yao Wenyuan’s denunciation of the historian Wu Han, whom we met as the closet party member and Democratic League leader in the Beijing administration in the previous ideological moment. Yao tore into a historical drama Wu Han had written in 1960, “Hai Rui Dismissed from Office,” claiming that the historical protagonist, an upright Ming official who lost his life denouncing government corruption, was a stand-in for the disgraced defense minister, Marshal Peng Dehuai. If true, this made Wu Han’s play an act of lese-majesty. When Yao’s article came out in the fall of 1965, the Beijing administration, led by its chief propaganda official, Deng Tuo, pushed back hard, rebutting Yao’s claims as specious and incoherent. Unfortunately, Mao Zedong liked the article and it became the prototype for Cultural Revolution attacks on intellectuals and leaders.26 Yao Wenyuan’s attack on Wu Han is a model of the “textual analysis” mode of public argument that is a hallmark of the Cultural Revolution, and that finds rhetorical echoes in the post-Mao period and even today. By May 1966, Yao had trained his sights on Deng Tuo himself. Yao denounced Deng Tuo, still a top leader in the Beijing Party administration, as “the black hand” of an evil anti-Party clique, the Three Family Village.27 In truth, “Three Family Village” was the name of an essay 26 27

Tom Fisher, “‘The Play’s the Thing’: Wu Han and Hai Rui Revisited,” Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs, No. 7 (January 1982), pp. 1–35. Drawn from Cheek, Propaganda and Culture, pp. 286 ff.

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column published between 1961 and 1964 in the Beijing Party theory journal, Frontline, authored by three leading establishment intellectuals: Deng Tuo, Wu Han, and Liao Mosha. The articles were well-written short essays in the zawen style that Ding Ling had endorsed in Yan’an. Yet these zawen were far less pointed and critical than Lu Xun’s or Wang Shiwei’s had been. They mostly offered lessons from China’s glorious past that might be useful to thoughtful Party cadres or aspiring cadres at school. However, there were a handful of essays that mocked the excesses of the Great Leap Forward and even one or two that any knowledgeable reader would recognize as pokes at Mao Zedong himself. Yao Wenyuan revisited these articles in 1966, outing the authors who had used an obscure pen name, and declared these in-house comments and criticisms nothing less than an anti-Party plot of the most diabolical sort. If articles in the Party theory journal were counterrevolutionary, then the revolution must surely be in danger. Yao Wenyuan’s logic strains credibility. In general, he indulges in quotations out of context and anachronistic value judgments—i.e. castigating Deng Tuo and his colleagues for advancing opinions with which Mao disagreed in 1966 but which had been Party policy and had been embraced by Mao in 1961. Yet there were some underlying values in Yao’s attacks that rang true to his readers. Yao equates interest in foreign culture or praise of any past figure (both of which the Three Family Village essays reflect) with the desire to “restore capitalism.” He implies that the latter is superstitious ancestor worship of “great Bodhisattvas,” “feudal diehards,” and “geomancers.” When Deng Tuo offers advice from ancient Chinese sources in “Love and Respect Labor Power,” Yao rejects any possibility that the ancients of the “feudal period” could teach socialists any objective laws about society. He sums up Deng’s essay by asking, “Was this not clearly co-ordinated with the venomous attacks of US imperialism and modern revisionism [the Soviet Union]?” To doubt is to sin. Yao thus draws on the underlying values of the day that were critical of “feudal” tradition in China and of meddling from the Soviet Union and America. Yao’s attack on Deng Tuo was co-ordinated with a long “textual analysis” by Lin Jie published on May 9, 1966, in People’s Daily, calling Deng Tuo’s zawen essays from the early 1960s “Anti-Party and AntiSocialist Black Talk.” Lin Jie’s compilation seeks to delegitimize Deng Tuo’s claim to political authority on the basis of elite cultural abilities (a major theme in Deng’s zawen). One of Deng’s essays that Lin Jie singles out for criticism is a 1963 piece on the early Qing poet and painter Zheng Banqiao. The typeface, in the selection below, tries to capture the astonishing range of fonts used in People’s Daily that day:

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III. COMPLAINING ABOUT INJUSTICE TO THE RIGHT OPPORTUNISTS WHO WERE DISMISSED FROM OFFICE, PRAISING THEIR ANTI-PARTY “BACKBONE,” AND ENCOURAGING THEM TO STAGE A COME BACK [Quotation from Deng’s essay] “. . . the most important point, I think, is to grasp the spirit of the ‘Banqiao Style’.” What is this spirit of the “Banqiao Style”? I think it is to be one’s own master in all respects and refuse to be a slave! “Banqiao said, ‘Those who write should write essays of masters, not essays of slaves.’ This is a very important remark. As a constant reminder to himself to carry this out, he specially carved a seal with ‘Zheng is Master of the House.’ His meaning was, in everything he did, he always was his own master and blazed his own trail.” (“Zheng Banqiao and the ‘Banqiao Style’,” Guangming Daily, November 21, 1963) COMMENT: . . . DENG TUO POINTS OUT AS A CROWNING TOUCH THAT THE SPIRIT OF THE “BANQIAO STYLE” CONSISTS IN “BEING ONE’S OWN MASTER AND REFUSING TO BE A SLAVE.” AND HE CALLS ON PEOPLE TO GRASP THIS SPIRIT AND SERIOUSLY LEARN FROM IT SO AS TO “BLAZE A TRAIL FOR THEMSELVES.” HOW CUNNING AND VENOMOUS! ISN’T DENG TUO CALLING ON PEOPLE TO OPPOSE THE LEADERSHIP OF THE PARTY? THE WIDE ROAD OF SOCIALISM LIES BRIGHT BEFORE US, AND YET DENG TUO CALLS ON PEOPLE TO “BLAZE TRAILS FOR THEMSELVES.” WHAT IS THIS TRAIL IF NOT THE DARK PATH LEADING TO THE RESTORATION OF CAPITALISM?28

What is astonishing about this and other textual analyses of the Cultural Revolution is that the radical critics quote large sections, and sometimes reprint whole essays, from the writings of their objects of struggle. In this article, Deng Tuo’s words outweigh Lin Jie’s by a ratio of five to one. Such Party textual analyses employ three rhetorical devices: a black-andwhite dichotomy (for us or against us); plausible but erroneous lines of argument, usually based on citations out of context; and, finally, cheap shots, slurs, and crude puns. These essays quote so much of their victims’ writings that such textual analyses can be, and have been, used by later scholars as fairly reliable sources of what the victims said.29 In most cases, from Wang Shiwei in the 1940s to Deng Tuo in the 1960s to Fang Lizhi (who was purged in the 1980s), the quotes are accurate even if placed out of context and with a hostile commentary. The authors of 28

29

Lin Jie et al., “Deng Tuo de ‘Yanshan yehua’ shi fandang fanshehuizhuyi de heihua” (Deng Tuo’s Evening Chats at Yanshan is Anti-party and Antisocialist Double-Talk), Renmin ribao, May 9, 1966, trans. in Cheek, Propaganda and Culture, p. 289. This was the case with Wang Shiwei’s writings from the 1940s. On this and further examples, see Cheek, Propaganda and Culture, p. 304.

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such textual analyses see the reprinting of the original text as part of the legitimacy of their rebuttal—contributing to their “facticity.” The intellectual production of the Cultural Revolution was often marred by dogmatic repetition, but its volume was massive. There were, in truth, two public spheres by the onset of the Cultural Revolution itself in 1966. The formal public was defined by the propaganda state in which the modest variety of newspapers and magazines at the national level was whittled down to “the three papers and one magazine”—People’s Daily, Guangming Daily, and Liberation Army Daily, and the Party theory journal Red Flag. Although there remained regional newspapers and specialist journals, public affairs were dominated by these four national periodicals and all others took their cue, and for safety’s sake generally opted to reprint most of the articles, from them. Literature and culture were defined by the “Model Operas” championed by Jiang Qing, such as Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy or The Red Brigade of Women, and novels, stories, films, and colorful print posters of this period echoed the primary-color moral narrative of the Maoist revolution, of proletarianminded workers, peasants, and soldiers resolutely combating slinking landlords, putrid capitalists, and craven intellectuals.30 All of which was followed by a rousing chorus of “The East Is Red.” This Maoist oneworld of culture followed the same pattern of revolutionary peaks in the Great Leap and the Cultural Revolution. Thus cultural production during the Great Leap and during the Cultural Revolution was similar, while publications between 1960 and 1964 reflected more diversity and even traditional themes, as we saw in Deng Tuo’s poem in classical meter with traditional imagery that was published in Guangming Daily in 1960. The revolutionary romanticism that dominated the arts in these years began with the Yang’ge folk dramas in the Yan’an years during the AntiJapanese War. This is why Zhang Chunqiao’s evocation of antibourgeois revolutionary politics claims the heritage of Yan’an. First in the Great Leap and then more broadly in the Cultural Revolution, Mao forced the Yan’an model as the only legitimate form of cultural expression in China. It did not last, but it has had a lasting impact. There was a parallel public sphere that was born out of the suffering of the Great Leap and grew in the chaos of the Red Guard years (mid-1966 to early 1968), during which the discipline of the propaganda state began

30

Excellent studies on the literature of this period are in Bonnie S. McDougall, ed., Popular Chinese Literature and the Performing Arts in the People’s Republic of China, 1949–1976 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984); and Richard King, Milestones on a Golden Road: Writing for Chinese Socialism, 1945–1980 (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2013).

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to break down.31 Local cultural organizations attempted to earn money by catering to popular tastes for traditional themes or Hong Kong movies, and radical youth also made use of these local gaps in the propaganda state. Mao had authorized Red Guard youth to “bombard the headquarters” in order to root out capitalist-roaders in the Party. This they did with gusto and violence, but they also unearthed a trove of official documents and unpublished transcripts of Mao’s talks that had been kept from public view. These they published in a rash of informal broadsheets, newspapers, and book-length volumes that they passed around during their nationwide “exchange of revolutionary experiences” (aided by Mao’s policy to give Red Guards free travel on China’s train system). These Red Guard publications, many being denunciatory screeds, such as “Liu Shaoqi’s Anti-Party, Anti-People, Counterrevolutionary Towering Crimes,” “True Record of the Heinous Deeds of XXX,” and others, comprising unedited reprints of Mao transcripts, such as Long Live Mao Zedong Thought (of which over two dozen different volumes survive), modelled themselves on the textual analyses of Yao Wenyuan and others in the national press. However, since Mao had thrown doubt on the political reliability of their elders, the Red Guards were not subject to Party supervision in these publications.32 It was revolution out of bounds. Most of the material is a deadening rehash of the already shrill national press, and some reflects pathetic factional squabbling in which the most petty slurs are made through revolutionary invective.33 Others, as we shall see in the case of the Li Yizhe writing group, came in time to express independent thought and impressive analytical skill as by the 1970s some Red Guards tried to make sense of the years of violence. The last campaign of any real size in Mao’s final years was the “Criticize Lin Biao, Criticize Confucius” campaign of 1973 and 1974. While a pale imitation of the roiling and passionate campaigns of the 1960s, this bizarre episode as a latter-day reprise of the spirit of the Cultural Revolution was important for several reasons. First, the textual analysis 31

32

33

Matthew Johnson documents the fracture of the propaganda state at the local level beginning in 1960 in “Beneath the Propaganda State: Grassroots Cultural Institutions and Involution in Shanghai, 1949–1965,” in Brown and Johnson, Maoism at the Grassroots, pp. 199–229. Red Guard publications have been collected, particularly at the Universities Services Centre, Chinese University of Hong Kong, and in the twenty-volume reprint set, New Collection of Red Guard Publications, comp. Yongyi Song (Washington, DC: Center for Chinese Research Materials, Association of Research Libraries, 2005) which comes to some 22,505 pages. A flavor of these documents is given in the documentary reader Michael Schoenhals, ed., China’s Cultural Revolution, 1966–1969: Not a Dinner Party (Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 1996).

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style had the ironic effect of introducing the works of Confucius to a generation of young Chinese who had not been exposed systematically to Confucian teachings.34 While the “factiticy” of quoting large amounts of one’s object of criticism may have helped convince readers in the polarized atmosphere of the Anti-Japanese War or may even have swayed youth in 1966, by the mid-1970s most people were simply tired of the effort and could no longer see a connection between the strident claims of these criticisms and their own harried lives. If the impact had waned, the Party’s faith in textual analyses had not dimmed. We will see this mode of public “debate” repeated against future enemies of the state, right down to Party criticisms of Liu Xiaobo in the 2010s. Significantly, the anti-Confucius campaign involved a number of highlevel intellectuals writing articles on behalf of the Party’s radical leadership. Amongst these was the infamous Liangxiao (Two Schools) writing group in Beijing that included both Zhou Yiliang and Yue Daiyun’s husband, Tang Yijie, and was headed by the famous philosopher Feng Youlan.35 This case serves to remind us that people at the time had no way of knowing that the radical politics from the Cultural Revolution were almost over, and that its policies would be vilified and its leadership jailed a few years hence. Zhou Yiliang and Tang Yijie arguably made a rational choice to serve their government, if for different reasons. The writing group existed for nearly three years, from late 1973 until October 1976. Thus it was put together before Mao launched the “Criticize Lin Biao, Criticize Confucius” campaign, but clearly Jiang Qing knew how to prepare. Zhou Yiliang recalls that he and Tang Yijie spoke at a rally convened at the Capital Indoor Stadium in Beijing on January 25, 1974, to explain the link between Lin Biao and Confucius. Zhou joined the writing group “soon thereafter.”36 They were housed in Langrun Mansions on the Peking University campus, with guards out front and a mandate to work in secret. The group provided the brain power for the campaign, as well as serving as a reference service for Jiang Qing and top 34 35

36

John Bryant Starr, Continuing the Revolution: The Political Thought of Mao (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1979), p. 297. MacFarquhar and Schoenhals give a good sense of the role of Liangxiao during the “Criticize Lin Biao, Criticize Confucius” campaign, in Mao’s Last Revolution, pp. 366–73. More details about Liangxiao and Zhou Yiliang’s participation are given in Zhou, Just a Scholar, pp. 94–162, and an appendix by Song Bainian, pp. 163–73. The group came to employ some thirty professors predominantly from two universities: Beijing and Qinghua. From this it got its name, “Great Criticism Group of Peking University and Qinghua University” or “Two Schools” (Liangxiao) for short. See Zhou, Just a Scholar, p. 94. The group published under a collective pen name, Liangxiao 粱效, a homophone for “two schools” 两校. Tang Yijie, according to his wife Yue Daiyun (discussed below), apparently was already in the writing group in late 1973.

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leaders to explain Mao’s increasingly obscure historical references. The politics of the campaign were straightforward: to use criticism of Confucius to finish discrediting Lin Biao after his fall from grace and to attack the Party survivors and recently rehabilitated moderate cadres by trying to undermine their leader, Premier Zhou Enlai.37 The campaign only came to an end with the death of Mao, the purge of Jiang Qing and the radicals (who then became the “Gang of Four”), and the arrest of the Liangxiao professors in October 1976. Zhou Yiliang joined the group, he recalls, out of conviction. He had been politically active in the Cultural Revolution in Beijing from the start in 1966, only making the mistake of supporting the “wrong” Red Guard faction that fell out with the “queen of Peking University,” Nie Yuanzi. He had been struggled against, evicted from his house, and placed in labor reform, but by the end of 1968, when Mao suppressed the Red Guards, Zhou was back on campus and soon back in his own house. He continued to join other professors in “learning from the masses” by working in factories and even the famous Mentougou coal mines outside Beijing. Thus, when the Liangxiao writing group came along it was not simply a case of joining or going to jail. Zhou himself offers this defense in his memoir: As I understood it, the campaign to criticize Confucius and Lin Biao was right and the campaign in favor of Legalism and opposed to Confucianism was as well; both were set in motion by Chairman Mao, and she [Jiang Qing] was merely implementing them. By affirming Legalist thinkers, we thereby were admitting that mid-level and small landlords had a certain amount of progressiveness. By studying the writings of the Legalists and drawing the interests of the masses into these ancient texts, these tendencies were in step with my own thinking, and I thus had a clear conscience.38

The “Criticize Lin Biao, Criticize Confucius” campaign is important for its contribution to the demise of faith Maoism. Combined with the astonishing reversal in foreign policy occasioned by Mao’s rapprochement with Nixon and the United States, this fatuous and unbelievable campaign set off more widespread dismay and soul-searching among China’s intellectuals. If both of Mao’s chosen successors (Liu Shaoqi and Lin Biao) turned out to be not only traitors but traitors since the day they were born; if, after thirty years of denouncing America as the primary enemy and modeling the revolution after the Soviet Union, now the Chinese were to curse the Soviet Union and make nice to Meidi

37 38

MacFarquhar and Schoenhals, Mao’s Last Revolution, pp. 371–2. Zhou, Just a Scholar, p. 97.

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(shorthand for the “American imperialists”), what were they supposed to believe? We shall see that among the Red Guard survivors the Li Yizhe group pursued these doubts, and that among scientists Fang Lizhi came to the conclusion that he could no longer trust the Party. In this context of factional gridlock, popular doubt, and ideological uncertainty, Zhang Chunqiao, at the peak of his Party career on the Standing Committee of the CCP Central Committee Politburo, made what would be the last major defense of radical faith Maoism in January 1975. In “Exercising All-Round Dictatorship over the Bourgeoisie,” Zhang makes his case for continuing the politics of the Cultural Revolution. “Politics is the concentrated expression of economics,” Zhang declares, “and whether the ideological and political line is correct or incorrect, and which class holds the leadership, decides which class owns those factories in actual fact.” He cites Lenin by chapter and verse on the need to exercise dictatorship: Historically, every major change in the system of ownership, be it the replacement of slavery by the feudal system or of feudalism by capitalism, was invariably preceded by the seizure of political power, which was then used to effect large-scale change in the system of ownership and to consolidate and develop the new system.39

Zhang then makes his case for defining who the enemy is: his competitors inside the CCP: These people generally have a good class background; almost all of them were brought up under the red flag; they have joined the Communist Party organizationally, received college training and become so-called red experts. However, they are new poisonous weeds engendered by the old soil of capitalism. They have betrayed their own class, usurped Party and state power, restored capitalism, become chieftains of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie over the proletariat . . .

Here Zhang lays out in stark terms Mao’s own philosophically idealist rendering of Marxism in which “proletarian” and “bourgeois” become political attitudes rather than aspects of economic class. How did good Party cadres become agents of bourgeois restorationism? By adopting incorrect thought, declares Zhang. The unfortunates have betrayed their class by doing “exactly what Khrushchev and Brezhnev have done . . . [putting] forward the revisionist programme of ‘the state of the whole people’ and ‘party of the entire people’.”40 What is to be done? Zhang outlines his mission: 39

40

Chang Ch’un-ch’iao (Zhang Chunqiao), “On Exercising All-Round Dictatorship over the Bourgeoisie,” Hong Qi, No. 4 (1975), and translated by Foreign Languages Press in Beijing in a pamphlet in the same year. It is worth noting that this “error” was adopted by the CCP under Jiang Zemin’s “Three Represents” at the Sixteenth Party Congress in 2002. The Three Represents have the

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So long as the few hundred members of our Party Central Committee and the several thousand senior cadres take the lead and join the vast numbers of other cadres and the masses in reading and studying assiduously, carrying on the investigation and analysis and summing up experience, we can certainly translate Chairman Mao’s call [to exercise dictatorship over the bourgeoisie] into reality.

Zhang had, after all, “applied” Mao’s revolutionary ideology successfully to corral his competitors in Shanghai in 1967. This time, however, it did not work. Zhang Chunqiao spoke cogently and had, for the moment, the bully pulpit of position and dominance in the propaganda system. But the game was over; by 1975 there was no more power, no belief, in these mantras of the Cultural Revolution. The events following Zhou Enlai’s death in January 1976 trace the unraveling of Mao’s radical revolutionary model. The radicals were able to limit mourning for Zhou, and the state funeral on January 15 was a relatively modest affair. Soon, Deng Xiaoping, who had only returned to office in 1974 (at Mao’s urging), was once again purged. The public was restrained from any demonstration on Zhou’s behalf. In fact, by March 1976 the Shanghai paper Wenhui bao boldly declared that Zhou Enlai had been none other than “the capitalist inside the Party who wanted to help the unrepentant capitalist-roader (i.e. Deng Xiaoping) regain his power.” It was all too much for intellectuals and ordinary urbanites. The approach of the Qingming festival to honor ancestors on April 5 provided the opportunity for what appears to have been an unco-ordinated grassroots demonstration of support for Zhou Enlai and criticism of the politics of the Cultural Revolution. Similar events occurred in a half-dozen major cities across the country. It may not have been orchestrated, but it was not unplanned. Testimony of participants confirms that work units in Beijing were working on memorial wreaths for weeks before “spontaneously” laying them at the Monument to the People’s Heroes on Tiananmen Square in April. Crowds ultimately grew to hundreds of thousands. Tiananmen Square was a “holy site” for the Chinese revolution, where the May Fourth students demonstrated in 1919 and several times thereafter, the place where Mao Zedong declared the People’s Republic in 1949 and oversaw the Red Guard mass marches in 1966. The radical leadership was not amused and the presumed leaders on the square were arrested. The “April 5th Movement” was formally declared a “counterrevolutionary incident.” Party representing advanced productive forces, advanced culture, and the fundamental interests of the whole people.

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Records of survival and loss: Yang Jiang and Yue Daiyun Unlike Zhang Chunqiao and Zhou Yiliang, most Chinese intellectuals, whether in the Party or not, spent most of these years trying to survive Mao’s revolutions, if they could. Their stories reflect the terrible price almost all intellectuals paid for their engagement in the CCP’s continuing revolutions (and we have seen that Zhou Yiliang’s enthusiastic participation did not spare him time in labor camps). Yang Jiang (1911–), a noted playwright and translator, and wife of Qian Zhongshu, a famous scholar, critic, and author of the novel Fortress Besieged (1948), captured this experience in her minimalist evocation of life in a cadre camp in the early 1970s. Likewise, the younger English professor at Peking University, Yue Daiyun, herself a loyal Party member whom we saw fall in the Anti-Rightist Movement in 1958, has produced a vivid memoir that gives access to the struggles of “ordinary” professors and their families to navigate these years. These records evoke the “everyday history” of intellectual life—not only the terrible high tides of campaigns, but also the grinding chores of daily life in the danwei or work units of China’s intellectual establishment, the universities and research institutes, as well as the sustaining minutiae of human kindness in that drab collective life. During the Cultural Revolution intellectuals were indeed a despised category, the “Stinking Ninth” on the list of enemies of the state.41 This period saw an inversion of the Mencian rule that had dominated Confucian ideology for centuries—in which “those who work with their minds rule those who work with their hands.” In Mao’s later revolutions the denigration of specialized knowledge and intellectuals was matched by a valorizing of the working class. The effort did not stick, as the relatively high social status of intellectuals and experts returned in the post-Mao period along with a fall in the status of workers, but the revolutionary effort had profound results during the 1950s, 1960s, and early 1970s. This was the low point in the lives of modern China’s intellectuals. Yang Jiang and Qian Zhongshu (1910–98) were talented literary intellectuals, children of scholarly families. Trained at Tsinghua University and then Oxford and the Sorbonne in the 1930s, the pair taught, wrote, and translated in China from 1938. During the Anti-Japanese War they were in Shanghai, and Yang was prevailed upon to write some comedies. She wrote four that both were popular and won critical acclaim, and the income helped pay the bills. In the 1950s they settled into the humanities section of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (which later became the 41

“Intellectuals” were chou lao jiu after landlords, rich peasants, counterrevolutionaries, bad elements, Rightists, renegades, enemy agents, and capitalist-roaders.

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Chinese Academy of Social Sciences) in Beijing. Yang was in the Institute for Foreign Literature and her major project was a full translation of Don Quixote from the Spanish. Qian became involved in the delicate task of translating Mao into English. Neither was a Party member. Among the cosmopolitan intellectual elite of Mao’s China, Yang Jiang and Qian Zhongshu’s talents were squandered for much of this ideological moment. Unlike most of the other intellectuals we have met, they were not interested in politics, or at least not interested in participating in political debate. Their contribution was meant to be their scholarship, their translations, their teaching. But under Mao’s revolutions they had no choice; politics came to them and to their institute. Yang Jiang’s 1981 memoir, A Cadre School Life in Six Chapters, is notable for its understated documentation of the devastation of this second phase of the Cultural Revolution, not the chaotic violence of the Red Guard years from 1966 to 1968, but rather the grinding waste of the organized politics of the Cleanse the Class Ranks Campaign and the general policy of “learn from the peasants.”42 Yang Jiang’s story is valuable precisely because she and her husband were not politically active intellectuals, but were active in the public cultural life of China. They became accidental critics of the system when Yang Jiang wrote this record of life in a rural Henan cadre school (labor camp) to which all of the staff of her research unit were sent in 1969. While the two years’ forced residence in the countryside was a wrenching change, much of the quotidian life of intellectuals working in China’s university and research system during the Mao years comes through in Yang’s story. In 1969 political study meetings were part of daily life for researchers. Time was divided between political study meetings and daily chores. Every day we would line up for our midday meal in our respective institute canteens. You could never get out of the line with a meal in anything under half an hour . . . There wasn’t much to eat in restaurants either, and you still had to queue up for everything, but at least we [Jiang and her husband Qian] were together and could talk to each other while we waited.

News came amid the daily grind, as well. “After we had pushed and shoved our way onto the bus [Qian] finally said, ‘I’ve been put in the 42

Yang Jiang’s Ganxiao liuji (Beijing: Sanlian shudian, 1981) has been translated no less than three times: by Geremie Barmé as A Cadre School Life in Six Chapters (Hong Kong: Joint Publishing Co., 1982); by Howard Goldblatt as Six Chapters from My Life “Downunder” (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1984); and by Djang Chu as Six Chapters of Life in a Cadre School (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1986). I quote from Barmé’s translation, pp. 16, 21.

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advanced party that’s being sent down on the 11th’.” The time had come to go to cadre school. These were officially known as the May 7th Cadre Schools from the date Mao endorsed the idea of re-educating intellectuals and government cadres by making them live in the countryside and learn from the peasants. If much of the scholars’ time was consumed by political study and the grind of communal dining and crowded transit, all of their time in the countryside was wasted in a series of activities that, nonetheless, introduced the intellectuals to poverty, the resentment of local farmers whose land had been requisitioned for the purpose without compensation, and the grinding humiliation of petty dictators among their “class supervisors.” Yang Jiang relates these vicissitudes in sparse images and mild prose that gives a chilling edge to a system that did not even achieve something of its purported goals. The inmates’ activities are entirely consumed by the struggle for survival. They were not, for the most part, subject to harassment or beatings, and were not subject to interrogation since they had done nothing wrong, other than to be “Stinking Ninth,” intellectuals. The mortifications came in waves. On the day that the Foreign Literature Institute of the Academy left Beijing railway station for its “glorious study” in the countryside, cymbals and drums played for the scholars as they marched in. “Our old colleague and mentor, Yu Pingbo [one of China’s most eminent scholars] and his wife were at the head of the columns. Seeing this seventy-year-old scholar lining up as though he was in kindergarten I felt sick at heart; I had seen enough and turned away.” Meanwhile, back at the institute, We were made to do political study all day every day, so much so that even the “worker teachers” assigned to reeducate us became bored. One of them, in his early twenties, grumbled, “Standing all day long in front of a blazing steel furnace never bothered me, but now my head aches, my back aches—all this sitting around is killing me.”

Yang concludes dryly, “It seemed that tempering hardened intellectuals was far more demanding than tempering steel. Learning how to be occupied by doing nothing was also quite an art.” Yang Jiang’s life, as well as her prose, reflects a quiet dignity. With the end of the Cultural Revolution, she and Qian Zhongshu resumed their writing and translating. In addition to Six Chapters, Yang also wrote one novel, Baptism (Xizao), published in 1987, that explores the pretensions and foibles of intellectuals in a fictional literary institute going through the thought reform campaign of 1951, the Three Antis, that required public self-examination or “washing.” Once again, Yang Jiang captures

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the subtle tones of social life, intellectual struggle, and the pointlessness of the politics she observed in her world. While Yang Jiang and Qian Zhongshu were not primarily political intellectuals, their lives intersected powerfully with Mao’s later revolutions. They are among the few who have succeeded in creating a literature that can speak to both Chinese readers and those from other cultures. As the translators of Baptism conclude, “Their lives and careers spanned China’s twentieth century, just as their works span Chinese and world culture.”43 They are an example of what China’s intellectuals could produce out of this terrible ideological moment. Their wasted years count as another price for service as establishment intellectuals in Mao’s continuing revolutions. By the mid-1950s, Yue Daiyun had a brilliant career as a promising young literature professor at Peking University: Party branch leader in her department; married to a prominent philosophy professor, Tang Yijie, with two children; and living in a pleasant house on campus. Yue loyally supported the revolution in which she believed, moved cautiously through the Hundred Flowers agitations, and served with her branch committee in designating Rightists in the ensuing Anti-Rightist Movement. Her life was turned upside down when she, herself, was pegged as a Rightist in a resurgence of the campaign in 1958 for some mild comments she had raised the previous year.44 She survived the poor village she was sent to “to be supervised and reformed by the peasants” during the famine of the Great Leap, and endured life as a second-class citizen in the 1960s, until the Cultural Revolution got both herself and her husband sent to the rural areas of Jiangxi province until 1971. Like Zhou Yiliang, Yue and Tang were back on campus in the early 1970s, but were in need of showing their loyalty. Thus, when her husband was invited to join the writing group, Liangxiao, to help criticize the recently deposed Lin Biao, Yue recalls, I was pleased that he was considered one of the most academically learned and politically sophisticated members of the faculty. I naturally hoped that his appointment to such a distinguished group might help erase the stigma of his former “black gang” label and the shadow that both of our past histories had cast on our children’s future.45

43 44 45

Judith M. Armory and Yaohua Shi, “Translators, Introduction,” in Jiang Yang, Baptism (Hong Kong: University of Hong Kong Press, 2007), p. vii. Yue and Wakeman, To the Storm. Yue and Wakeman, To the Storm, p. 323. Yue’s account differs slightly from Zhou Yiliang’s: apparently the writing group started in late 1973 and the housing was much more luxurious than Zhou implies.

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Both Yue and Tang were Party members, so politics was part of their chosen life. After years of turmoil and trouble for each of them, Tang Yijie’s appointment to this elite writing group with top-level support provided considerable pleasures of service: [T]he scholars enjoyed unusual privileges. Each was assigned a private room . . . Moreover, they were all given, in addition to their regular meals, a daily stipend to purchase special foods like fish and eggs, items still in limited supply for the general public . . . Thus ensured of physical comfort and freed from interruptions, they could devote their energies with total concentration to the task at hand.

Along with creature comforts came political access and influence. The Liangxiao scholars were given access to all sorts of restricted materials, and even a field visit to Lin Biao’s opulent Beijing residence, Maojiawan (to gather evidence against him). This kind of access to inside information in a society dominated by secrecy contributed crucially to Liangxiao’s prestige and ensured that the pieces they wrote, collective efforts often published in People’s Daily or Red Flag and signed with one of the group’s pen names, were automatically accepted as definitive.46

What could be more satisfying for a revolutionary scholar? Yue Daiyun’s memoir, cowritten with Carolyn Wakeman, provides a vivid picture of a significant regional intellectual in Mao’s later revolutions. More so, it is a story of an intellectual family. One of the ironic social consequences of Mao’s revolutions during the PRC was the strengthening of the bonds of the nuclear family—husband, wife, and children.47 Yue’s account of the 1970s contrasts with Yang Jiang’s spare record of life in a grueling rural cadre camp. Aside from the perks for the writing group, the family—now with a daughter in her early twenties and a son in high school—lived moderately on the university campus. Yue’s concerns frequently turn to the children. Her main concern in early 1975 was not her husband’s political affiliations, but the safety of their daughter, who had been rusticated to Heilongjiang. Yue had heard about the abuse, especially of women, in these outposts and that favors from parents were an alternative to sexual predation for getting their children home again: As news of these practices spread, many parents, like me, became obsessed with securing the safe return of their children, giving gifts if necessary and paying frantic calls on anyone who had some connection to the leaders on the communes and military farms where the educated youths had been living since 1969.48 46 47 48

Yue and Wakeman, To the Storm, pp. 323 and 326. This is the theme of the third part of Esherick’s family history, Ancestral Leaves, pp. 223–316. Yue and Wakeman, To the Storm, p. 329.

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Yue’s remarkably frank reminiscence reflects the understandable concerns of a mother willing to “game the system” to save her child: I became terribly worried about what might befall Tang Dan. But with a rightist for a mother I knew she had no chance to be recommended for university education. The only way for her to return to Beijing was either for Tang Shuang [Yue’s son] to join the army, thus leaving me with no children at home, legitimizing my request for my daughter’s help, or for Tang Dan to be declared physically unfit to remain on the military farm. Further thought made me decide to pursue the latter option. The army might well not admit Tang Shuang because of my classification as politically unreliable, nor could I ask him to give up his middle-school education for his sister.

Such considerations, and being reduced to humiliating pleading and petty bribery, were hardly the revolution that had inspired Yue Daiyun when she arrived at Peking University in 1948. Neither was the tortured scholarship Tang Yijie contributed to Liangxiao the glorious resurgence of Chinese civilization under socialism that had inspired him. Yue and Tang were paying their price for engagement in Mao’s revolutions. But the full bill was not yet in. In 1976, Jiang Qing, the patron of Liangxiao, was purged following Mao’s death in September. Tang Yijie was immediately arrested as an ultra-leftist. After six weeks of interrogation Tang was allowed a short visit home. “After a moment of awkward silence,” Yue recalls, “he spoke in an anguished tone: ‘It’s terrible to think that you have been condemned as an ultra-rightist and now I am supposed to be an ultra-leftist. What will happen to our children?’”49 Two years later, after repeated interrogations, confessions, and even a mass rally against Liangxiao in downtown Beijing, Tang Yijie was exonerated and reinstated as a professor. The post-Mao period had finally begun for the family. In 1978, Yue Daiyun’s conviction as a rightist was overturned, and she was offered the opportunity to rejoin the CCP. “After the mistakes of people like Lin Biao had been revealed, their corruption and distance from the people unveiled, I had grown discouraged about the Party’s policies and skeptical about its leaders.” Yue hesitated, But I still could not forget all those who had died for its cause, sacrificing their lives for the ideals of Liberation. Surely the hardships, the losses suffered together, would not be redeemed unless we strove to keep that flame alive. I would join in the efforts to rebuild the Party,

49

Yue and Wakeman, To the Storm, p. 362.

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Yue concluded, “convinced that whatever its past mistakes, it alone could lead China forward. I was far less confident of success than in 1949 and far less certain that I could contribute, but I knew that I had to try.”50 Yang Jiang, Qian Zhongshu, Yue Daiyun, and Tang Yijie survived. Many others did not. The Cultural Revolution, in addition to the many killings for which it is justifiably notorious, saw a number of intellectuals commit suicide. Deng Tuo was one of the first. When Yao Wenyuan’s and others’ denunciations of him appeared in the national press at the beginning of May 1966, Deng knew from his years in many campaigns that his purge was a fait accompli. Within two weeks he was dead. His suicide on the evening of May 17 by an overdose of sleeping tablets was a poignant and tragic final statement of a loyal servant made in protest to what he considered to be unjust charges. His endurance at an end, Deng made the most of his death, which clearly recalled the archetypal political suicide in Chinese history, that of the loyal minister Qu Yuan in the third century BCE. Deng wrote two last messages, one to his family and one to his colleagues in the Beijing CCP. He declared his loyalty to the Party and Chairman Mao, denounced his detractors with chapter and verse, and said goodbye.51 Deng Tuo was servant to the revolution, but he was a scholar and he was proud. He also knew his history: martyrs’ ghosts haunt the halls of power. The Cultural Revolution elite went to lengths to hide news of his death, which was only revealed in the post-Mao period. Deng Tuo was the first Cultural Revolution suicide among establishment intellectuals, but not the last. Jian Bozan, Peking University’s senior Marxist historian, and his wife, likewise under attack, committed suicide together on December 18, 1968. Wu Han, who wrote with Deng Tuo and had served as the “Party member outside the Party” in Beijing as the leader of the Democratic League, was also attacked, struggled against, and left to languish in prison, where he died on October 10, 1969. The price of intellectual service in these years was appalling. Deng Tuo knew his limits; others were not given a choice. Yue Daiyun marshaled a much-chastened and tempered faith in the Party, willing to try again. Fang Lizhi (1936–2012), a talented scientist who had tripped up in the Hundred Flowers Movement as well, had no such doubts. Fang was a respected physicist, identifying strongly as a man of science, and he saw no reason to put up with what he considered ideological poppycock and political despotism. Fang Lizhi was a product of New China’s educational system. Born to the family of a postal clerk in Beijing in 1936, Fang joined the Communist underground in the late 1940s and entered 50 51

Yue and Wakeman, To the Storm, pp. 385–7. Cheek, Propaganda and Culture, p. 283.

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Peking University’s Department of Physics in 1952. His general biography continued to parallel Yue Daiyun’s (who was in Peking University’s literature department) into the Hundred Flowers Movement. He too joined the Party while a student, and he too spoke up in the campaign and was purged. Unlike Yue, and in part because he was by then in the Academy of Sciences and a scientist rather than a humanities scholar at a university, Fang was not sent to a labor camp. However, he was struck from the Party and removed from the classified research on nuclear physics in which he had been engaged since graduation in 1956.52 Fang Lizhi’s experience over the next twenty years of Mao’s later revolutions highlights the similarities and differences in the treatment of scientists and humanist intellectuals in Mao’s China. In fact, Fang went through the same trials as Yang Jiang and Yue Daiyun—some respite in the early 1960s (during which Fang married and started a family), keeping a low profile during the Red Guard phase of the Cultural Revolution, but netted in the Cleanse the Class Ranks Campaign in 1969 and sent to a May 7th Cadre School to do labor (in his case making bricks for the new campus of his employer, Chinese University of Science and Technology). Fang had managed to become one of the most widely published Chinese researchers in theoretical physics in the early 1960s. Like Yang Jiang’s and Qian Zhongshu’s labor, Fang’s stint of physical toil was not simply a waste of professional talent; it was meant to raise his political consciousness. Indeed, Fang’s cadre school assignment also included, like Zhou Yiliang’s, a stint working as a miner in a coal mine. Their responses to this experience provide a telling contrast. Zhou Yiliang, the son of a wealthy family who, in fact, had been large stockholders of a major coal mine before 1949, felt guilt when confronted by the suffering of the miners in 1969, reflecting that “for many years we had eaten food exploited from the coal miners,” and that by right he should taste their suffering now for his ideological growth.53 Fang, the son of a petty intellectual and product of CCP-controlled universities, had no such compunctions. He was appalled. This was a political epiphany for Fang, writes his intellectual biographer, James Williams; Fang up to that point had retained hope that the Party’s policies were at least benefiting the majority of peasants and workers. According to his memoirs, Fang’s time in the coal mine forced him to conclude that the Party had flat-out failed to serve the interests of the workers and peasants. Fang dates the break in his allegiance to Mao, the Communist Party, and Marxism to 52 53

Details on Fang’s life come from Williams, “Fang Lizhi’s Expanding Universe,” pp. 459–84. Zhou, Just a Scholar, pp. 93–4.

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this time in the coal mine. He turned to science and in particular Soviet physicist Lev Landau’s text on classical field theory. As Fang later described it, “during those months Landau’s book became my . . . only sustenance. When night fell and I lay under the mosquito netting exhausted from the day’s labor, my soul would roam the expanding universe . . . It was from this time that I fell in love with astrophysics.”54 But science, even theoretical physics, could not remain outside politics in this ideological moment. In 1972, the government brought scientists and other top intellectuals back from the camps to resume professional work. In December 1972, Fang Lizhi became the first Chinese physicist to publish a research article on modern cosmology, and specifically the Big Bang theory. This highly technical article met with a furious response from leading theoretical circles of the Party. Fang and his co-authors had broken a long-standing taboo by introducing the Big Bang theory to the Chinese physics world. Insofar as the Big Bang contradicted Engels’s declaration in the nineteenth century that the universe must be infinite in space and time, Fang’s paper was tantamount to heresy against Marxism. This was because, according to Party theorists, the finite universe posited in Big Bang theory left room for a divine creator, and thus represented philosophical idealism that contradicted Engels’s canonical dialectical materialism. From 1973 until Mao’s death, the Shanghai Cultural Revolution Group under Yao Wenyuan pilloried Fang and his colleagues for promoting capitalist metaphysics. At least thirty articles criticizing the Big Bang theory in general and Fang’s paper in particular were published by the Maoist left in the national news media (including People’s Daily) and in academic journals.55 As was the case with Beijing’s literary writing group, Liangxiao, the death of Mao brought an end to the Shanghai science group and its ultra-leftist critique in science, as well. Fang Lizhi returned to the labs in 1978 and his post-Mao career blossomed. He was reinstated as a Party member and accorded a coveted senior rank. However, his engagement with Mao’s revolutions had left him deeply politicized in a way that the Party would soon find uncongenial. “Science for Fang had become an independent basis,” writes Williams, “from which to question the intellectual and political authority of the Party, and the source of a value system that compels him to ‘call attention to injustice and irrationality,’ and to advocate ‘science,

54 55

Fang Lizhi, Memoirs of Fang Lizhi (1991, unpublished), quoted in Williams, “Fang Lizhi’s Big Bang,” pp. 70–1. Williams, “Fang Lizhi’s Big Bang.”

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reason, and democracy.’”56 The life of Fang Lizhi demonstrates the re-separation of science from political ideology that we saw forged in the revolutionary ideological moment of the 1920s. For Fang, and increasing numbers of Chinese intellectuals, Marxism–Leninism–Mao Zedong Thought was no longer a science; at best it could serve as a political platform, at worst it was just mummery.

Rumblings among the Red Guards: Li Yizhe and youth criticism The generations that came of age in this ideological moment of revived revolutionary commitment fell into two major groups: the elders, such as Yue Daiyun and Fang Lizhi, who were just finishing their university training and beginning their careers as the Hundred Flowers and AntiRightist movements exploded in the late 1950s, and the generation a decade later that was in school or recently graduated when Mao’s Cultural Revolution took the country by storm in the summer of 1966. They became the Red Guards. Guided by Mao, and particularly the “Little Red Book,” Quotations from Chairman Mao, and the propaganda of the radical elite around Zhang Chunqiao, Yao Wenyuan, and Madame Mao (Jiang Qing), these youths took Mao seriously. While there were, no doubt, those who used the new emphasis on Mao’s writings cynically to pursue their own agendas, the tragedy of the Cultural Revolution is perhaps how sincerely most young people took to heart Mao’s calls—“To Rebel Is Justified,” “Bombard the Headquarters,” “Oppose the Four Olds,” and other dicta—and tried to implement them. The social results were devastating, first with general turmoil and violence on the streets and on the campuses in 1966 and 1967, and then with the inquisitional purges and labor camps of 1969–72. The personal results were traumatic. While their parents labored away in May 7th Cadre Schools, students were sent “Up to the Mountains and Down to the Countryside” in a massive rustication movement starting in 1968.57 Literally millions of “educated youth” were transferred to remote rural state farms and villages, some for as long as ten years. The initial violence of the Red Guard heyday, followed by grinding labor in perilous circumstances (for undefended young people), and a desperate struggle to get back to the city defined the Cultural Revolution generation of “educated youth” (zhiqing). As we will see below, a wall 56 57

Williams, citing Fang, in “Fang Lizhi’s Expanding Universe,” p. 460. Thomas Bernstein, Up to the Mountains and Down to the Villages: The Transfer of Youth from Urban to Rural China (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1977).

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poster put up in Guangzhou in 1974 under the pen name of Li Yizhe serves as a representative example of the shape of political participation of younger intellectuals that emerged from the Mao years in general and the Cultural Revolution in particular. But it is only the most public of a broad range of personal experiences that shaped this generation and formulated the core question of the ideological moment of reform to follow: how to fix the Maoist system? To understand this youth— students and young intellectuals—we begin not with Red Guards, but with the Hundred Flowers Movement in 1957, as this saw not only the last gasp of China’s liberals from the 1940s but also the quick extinguishing of youthful liberalism in the case of Lin Xiling. Next we get a sense of the personal experience of a young intellectual as a Red Guard from the memoirs of Rae Yang and the political efforts of the 1960s student radicals. The Li Yizhe response to the fall of Lin Biao after 1971 offers an auto-critique of radical politics in which Maoist language was turned upon Maoism. Finally, we will meet a few names who went on to become public intellectuals in the future, in the shape of Qin Hui and Zhang Rong (Jung Chang). If Luo Longji and senior liberal intellectuals tried to use Mao’s arguments to push for a limited expansion of political participation in 1957, some university students were not so constrained in either their complaints or their demands. Lin Xiling (1935–2009) was a law student at Renmin University in Beijing and became a major student activist in the Hundred Flowers. She had joined the PLA in 1949 shortly before the CCP’s victory but had been demobilized in 1952 and gone to university. Her criticisms of the CCP were radical. “The problem is that the Party has taken the place of the government,” Lin declared. “We have no judicial system; the judge’s verdict is final.” Lin’s goal was socialism, and to achieve it things were going to have to change. “Genuine socialism should be democratic, but ours is undemocratic. I venture to say our society is a socialist one created on a feudal foundation; it is not typical socialism, and we must struggle for genuine socialism.” But how can we do this? Lin wondered: When you disagree with the leadership you are opposed to the leadership; to be opposed to the leadership is to be opposed to the organization; to be opposed to the organization is to be anti-Party; to be anti-Party is to be opposed to the people; to be opposed to the people is counterrevolutionary. Applying this formula in rendering a verdict is nothing but the method of Stalin.58 58

Lin Xiling, quoted in Dennis J. Doolin, Communist China: The Politics of Student Opposition (Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 1964), pp. 38, 27, and 41. The texts by Lin Xiling that Doolin translates are from “textual-analysis” collections

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The criticisms came to an end in the Anti-Rightist Movement. The nationwide campaign vilified Luo Longji, Lin Xiling, and other speakers old and young from the blooming and contending, and, as we saw in the cases of Yue Daiyun and Fang Lizhi, also tormented loyal Party intellectuals who had offered critical suggestions in confidence within Party committees. Understandably, youth activism was muted in the following years. There is one way in which the youth rebellion of the 1960s in China was similar to that in America and Europe: young people raised in quite strict, hierarchical, and controlling schools were thrilled to be “given permission” to express themselves without restraint. However, the differences outweigh any such similarities, because instead of a cultural movement in stable societies (that soon incorporated many of the social challenges of “the counterculture” through the market mechanism), in China the ecstatic release was political and came as the result of the breakdown of ordered governance. The Red Guards were a product of brewing social tensions in China in 1965 ignited by political struggle at the highest levels. When Mao authorized public attacks on Party leaders for “revisionism” and “following the capitalist road,” students responded with enthusiasm. The first group to call themselves Red Guards (hong weibing) were students at the middle school attached to Qinghua University who signed a bigcharacter poster on May 25, 1966 (see “Voices” at the start of this chapter). University students quickly took the lead and by summer 1966 there were massive marches of Red Guards in Beijing and violent confrontations on campuses, and soon in all work units, across China.59 Mao welcomed the Red Guards to a huge public demonstration—the first of eight such rallies—on Tiananmen Square on August 18, 1966. By September, Red Flag, the official theory journal of the CCP, enthused, In the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, which was personally started and is being personally led by Chairman Mao, the Red Guards have resolutely carried out courageous and stubborn struggles against those in authority who take the capitalist road and against all ghosts and monsters, and they have become the path breakers in the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.60

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published by the CCP, similar to those produced concerning Wang Shiwei in the 1940s and Deng Tuo and other objects of criticism in the Cultural Revolution, and other objects of Party ire ever since. There are numerous studies of the Red Guards. The best overview in broader context is Maurice Meisner, Mao’s China: A History of the People’s Republic since 1949 (New York: The Free Press, 1986). An excellent recent sociological study is Andrew Walder, A Fractured Rebellion: The Beijing Red Guard Movement (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009). Hong Qi, No. 12 (1966), trans. in Schoenhals, China’s Cultural Revolution, p. 44.

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Rae Yang, then a secondary-school student at the prestigious 101 Middle School attached to Peking University, felt her world open up, but her sights did not extend very far. When the Cultural Revolution broke out in late May 1966, I felt like the legendary monkey king Sun Wukong freed from the dungeon that had held him under a huge mountain for five hundred years. It was Chairman Mao who set us free by allowing us to rebel against authorities. As a student, the first authority I wanted to rebel against was Teacher Lin, our homeroom teacher.

In fact, memoirs from other former Red Guards, as well as the accessible records, reflect the local, prosaic, even petty focus of much Red Guard agitation—against their teachers, against local bureaucrats, and ultimately against different factions amongst themselves. Nonetheless, the emotional experience was real enough for many students. Rae Yang was one among the approximately one million students who gathered on Tiananmen Square on August 18 for that first Red Guard rally. When Mao appeared, The square turned into a jubilant ocean. Everybody was shouting “Long Live Chairman Mao!” Around me girls were crying; boys were crying too. With hot tears streaming down my face, I could not see Chairman Mao clearly . . . He walked over to the corner of Tiananmen (up on the rostrum) and waved at us. Now I could see him clearly. He was wearing a green army uniform and a red armband, just like all of us. My blood was boiling inside me. I jumped and shouted and cried in unison with a million people in the square. At that moment, I forgot myself; all barriers that existed between me and others broke down. I felt like a drop of water that finally joined the mighty raging ocean. I would never be lonely again.61

Amongst the first social tasks that Mao set for the Red Guards, aside from attacking authorities in their own schools, was to attack the “Four Olds” (old customs, old culture, old habits, old ideas). Student demonstrations soon devolved into roaming gangs pulling down any ornament or sign that looked “old,” with particular damage to Buddhist temples and historic buildings. In Shanghai, the call transformed into an attack on foreign influences and even stylish clothing and haircuts.62 By early 1967, the central leadership in Beijing moved to control the Red Guards, but it took the best part of a year and the direct engagement of PLA units

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Rae Yang, Spider Eaters: A Memoir (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997), pp. 117, 122–3. Images and thoughtful reflections of the emotional intensity of the Cultural Revolution experience are powerfully captured in Morning Sun, a documentary produced by the Long Bow Group in Boston, MA in 2003. Their website provides excellent multimedia material at www.morningsun.org. Vivid examples are translated in Schoenhals, China’s Cultural Revolution.

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to suppress the best-armed of the Red Guards around the country. In December 1968 Mao Zedong declared that students and youth should go to the countryside to learn from the peasants. While periodic campaigns to get urban youth to serve the rural areas had been run since the mid-1950s, the rustication of the Red Guards in 1969 was the largest and it created the generation of educated youth who perforce reconnected with China’s vast countryside. There was little intellectual activity for youth during these years. Like their elders in the May 7th Cadre Schools, sent-down youths were mostly busy working and surviving in a harsh new environment where local farmers only felt put upon to have to feed city slickers with few relevant skills.63 Not all Red Guards were rusticated. Some had so angered local authorities that they were simply jailed in 1968. One such activist was Li Zhengtian (b. 1944), son of a Guangdong military officer and in 1966 on the verge of graduating from the Guangzhou Fine Arts Institute. Li was active in the Red Headquarters Call-to-Arms Combat Group, noted for its militant political rhetoric but not for its abilities in armed struggle. Li Zhengtian was detained in August 1968 and remained in jail until 1972. Clearly Li’s incarceration was different from that of Yang Jiang and fellow senior intellectuals. Li was able to write a long essay exploring the reasons for the failures of the Cultural Revolution and to smuggle these writings out of prison. After Lin Biao’s fall in September 1971 Li Zhengtian focused his analysis on the “Lin Biao system,” thereby casting his critique of state power in terms of the most recent CCP campaign. Released in the general amnesty of 1972, Li found temporary work in the library of his former school. There he completed in 1973 the first draft of what would become Li Yizhe’s famous wall poster, “On Socialist Democracy and the Legal System.”64 Li Zhengtian distributed his first draft amongst friends, holding a few meetings to discuss it. While some thirty colleagues signed a more cautious revised version in September 1973, further conversations produced a more pointed document, and when Li decided the time had come to send it to Beijing for the expected convening of the Fourth National People’s Congress (which was finally held only in January 63

64

Dozens of reminiscences include these experiences, such as Yang, Spider Eaters. Jeremy Brown captures the structural reasons for the urban–rural divide in Mao’s China and the ensuing tensions when city folk were sent to the villages in City versus Countryside in Mao’s China: Negotiating the Divide (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012), esp. Chapter 6. Material on the Li Yizhe group, as well as translations of their main writings, are drawn from Anita Chan, Stanley Rosen, and Jonathan Unger, eds., On Socialist Democracy and the Chinese Legal System: The Li Yizhe Debates (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1985).

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1975), only three were willing to sign: Li himself, Chen Yiyang (b. 1948?), and Wang Xizhe (b. 1949), forming the joint pen name, Li Yizhe. The letter was intercepted in transit and turned over to the Guangdong authorities for handling. The Guangdong critics were not the only ones. There were similar efforts to criticize the failures of the Cultural Revolution in Beijing, Chengdu in the southwest, and Changchun in the northeast.65 While the Beijing critics limited themselves to an underground salon, the other two went public and were duly crushed. The Guangdong group differed in two important respects: first, they cast their political criticism in carefully modulated language—blaming not the CCP or Mao, but rather the “Lin Biao system”—and second, they stumbled upon official backing. Their intercepted letter to Beijing was turned over to Zhao Ziyang, the recently reinstated Party secretary of Guangdong, who would survive to become prime minister and a reformist general secretary in the 1980s. Instead of arresting the Li Yizhe group, Zhao had their manifesto circulated within Party channels for comment and met with the young men through the summer of 1974. Li Yizhe and Zhao Ziyang reflect a model that would be repeated in the years ahead: reformist officials and canny critics would find a common ground to help each other achieve something of their shared goals. In this case, Zhao found Li Yizhe’s criticisms of ultra-leftist policies useful in his struggles to get rid of the remaining leftists in his administration. Since Mao had once again approved big-character posters in May 1974, there emerged a new poster campaign in Guangzhou, with Li Yizhe as one of the most prominent and influential participants. Events came to a head that September when a crowd of over 100,000 factory workers and youths climbed Baiyun Mountain in Guangzhou, ostensibly to honor their ancestors for the mid-autumn festival, but in fact to protest against cadre privilege and bureaucratism.66 In this context, the third and famous version of the Li Yizhe manifesto was posted as a long wall poster on Guangzhou’s Beijing Road on November 10, 1974. The poster included a “preface,” largely drafted by Wang Xizhe, a comrade from the same Red Guard group as Li Zhengtian. Wang had managed to get back from the countryside early, in 1969, and became a boiler worker at a cod liver oil factory. The poster was careful to note the positive achievements of the Cultural Revolution, but quickly got to the point: However, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution has not completed its task because it has not enabled the popular masses to grasp tightly the weapon of the 65 66

MacFarquhar and Schoenhals, Mao’s Last Revolution, pp. 349–52. This protest is vividly depicted in B. Michael Frolic, Mao’s People (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980), pp. 257–65.

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broad people’s democratic dictatorship. In the summer of 1968, the rule of law under socialism “suddenly did not operate,” and what operated in its stead was “political power is the power to suppress.” Across the length and breadth of the land, everywhere there were arrests, everywhere there was suppression and imprisonment of the innocent. Where had socialist legality gone? It was said that it was no longer of any use because it pertained to the old constitution and the new People’s Congress was still pending. It was a time of sheer lawlessness! This was a rehearsal for socialist–fascism in our country, and Lin Biao was the rehearsal’s chief director.67

The Li Yizhe writers were referring to the brutality of the Cleanse the Class Ranks Campaign that ran into 1971, but their focus was on the present: “The downfall of Lin Biao did not mean the end of his system.” Carefully noting key texts from Mao and decisions of leading Party and government meetings, the manifesto uses Maoist language of the Cultural Revolution to unpick its assumptions and make the case for socialist legality—something Mao had not been promoting. Lin Biao may have been overthrown, they acknowledge, But in many cases, among many of the genuine revolutionaries who launched a fight against the Lin Biao system, the executed remain executed, and the imprisoned are still in jail, the dismissed officials are still dismissed . . . People are not fools! . . . They demand democracy, demand socialist legality, and revolutionary and personal rights that protect the popular masses.68

It is easy to see the themes of common interest with Zhao Ziyang and the reinstated Party leadership of Guangdong, particularly the issue of “dismissed officials.” However, the Li Yizhe claims for democracy were more than they could let pass. As in the case of Liangxiao and the Shanghai science group, the Guangzhou authorities organized a writing group, Xuan Jiwen (literally, “Propaganda Collective Essay”), accusing Li Yizhe of ulterior motives by raising “democracy” to challenge the leadership of the Party and thereby to subvert the revolution. However, instead of leading to the “merciless struggle” that such government reprisals had spawned in previous years, Li Zhengtian and the Li Yizhe group were subjected to a series of mass meetings that served more to popularize their views than to refute them. They were allowed to answer their accusers, given time to finish their points. Li Zhengtian, who did most of the talking at these meetings, was provided a chair, drinking water, and even a microphone. He is reported to have made an impressive performance, being well versed in Marxism–Leninism and Mao quotes. As their 67 68

Li Yizhe, “On Socialist Democracy and the Legal System,” trans. in Chan, Rosen, and Unger, On Socialist Democracy, p. 63. Li Yizhe, “On Socialist Democracy and the Legal System,” p. 71.

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translators conclude, “The Li Yizhe group had been the beneficiaries of a high-level political ploy.” Zhao Ziyang had found enough of what they said useful in discrediting the ultra-leftists still in power in Guangzhou and Beijing. As is often the case with political backing, it was fickle. Having had the benefit of Li Yizhe’s critique, Zhao Ziyang left them to their fate with the local Guangzhou municipal leadership under Jiao Linyi—whom they had criticized. Li Zhengtian was assigned to a rock quarry in northern Guangdong and the other two were exiled to the countryside. Ironically, in the immediate post-Mao period they were rounded up and imprisoned in March 1977 and not rehabilitated until early 1979. Li Zhengtian and Wang Xizhe are examples of Red Guards and the sent-down generation of students who spoke up during the later years of Mao’s revolutions. Others would only come to the fore in the next ideological moment of reform. One example is Qin Hui. He was born in 1953 in southwest China. He was five to ten years younger than the Li Yizhe group. He was an ordinary sent-down youth like millions of others in the later Cultural Revolution.69 He was born to schoolteachers in Nanning, the capital of the southwestern province of Guangxi. The Cultural Revolution hit town just as he graduated from primary school. Qin Hui managed to survive. As a very young Red Guard in the Cultural Revolution, he was in one of the “dissident” groups that did not favor the violent tactics of others. In 1969, he was sent to a poor mountain village near the Yunnan border, where he worked as a farmer for nine years. He studied, avoided trouble, and managed to pass the famous first university entrance exams offered in 1977 after the Cultural Revolution.70 He got into Lanzhou University in the northwestern province of Gansu in 1978. The lesson that Qin Hui took from the Cultural Revolution was the utter failure of such “glorious” mass movements to serve the needs of China’s poor rural majority. After 1978, Qin Hui emerged as a noted historian and public intellectual focused precisely on agricultural history and rural issues—but not quite in the manner Mao had planned. 69

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Qin Hui gives an account of his life in “Dividing the Big Family Assets,” originally published in New Left Review, No. 20 (2003), and included in the anthology Chaohua Wang, ed., One China, Many Paths (London: Verso, 2003), pp. 128–59; David Kelly gives further information in his introduction to his translations of Qin Hui’s essays “The Mystery of the Chinese Economy, Part 1: Selections from the Writings of Qin Hui,” Chinese Economy (New York), Vol. 38, No. 4 (2005), pp. 3–11. This makes Qin Hui a member of the lao sanjie or “old three classes” of high-school students who graduated in 1966, 1967, and 1968 when China’s universities were closed during the Cultural Revolution. The 1977 exams were their first, and only, chance to get into university and the competition was so intense that those who succeeded are honored for their talent and tenacity.

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An ironic example of the unintended consequences of Mao’s efforts to revolutionize the youth of the 1960s is Zhang Rong (b. 1952, known to English readers as Jung Chang). Zhang Rong was born to an elite Party family in Sichuan province and enjoyed a sheltered and comfortable life in the 1950s and early 1960s. The Party provided her family with housing in a guarded, walled compound, a maid and chauffeur, and a nanny for the five kids. When the Cultural Revolution came, Zhang Rong joined the Red Guards at age fourteen. She recalls that she was keen to do so and was “thrilled by my red arm band.”71 In this she was no different from Rae Yang’s and millions of other young Red Guards. Zhang Rong’s writing is less forthcoming about what she did in the Red Guards than Rae Yang’s, but it is hard to believe that she was not required to participate in some aspects of mass criticism. Meanwhile, her comfortable home life came to a crushing end when her father was denounced. He was publicly humiliated and imprisoned. Like so many others, Zhang Rong was rusticated and spent a number of years in villages working as a barefoot doctor, laborer, and electrician. Thus Zhang Rong is a zhiqing or “educated youth” sent down to the villages in the Cultural Revolution. She is only unusual in that her hard work and personal connections got her into university in England at a very early stage, in 1978, when only children of families with good connections were able to go abroad to study. She did well and has become an author writing in English on China, most notably a memoir of three generations of women in her family, Wild Swans (1991). The influence of the Mao years on Zhang Rong is most evident in the sensational biography of Mao that she and her husband, Jon Halliday, published in English in 2005. It is unrelentingly negative and reflects the mode of “mass criticism” and “textual analysis” of Yao Wenyuan and Lin Jie that Red Guards read and copied during the Cultural Revolution.72 While this approach has made their biography of Mao unsatisfactory for a number of scholars,73 Zhang Rong’s experience and anger are important. She reflects the dashed hopes and frustrations of an entire generation of youth who believed in Mao, answered his calls to revolution, and was ruthlessly used in the process.

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Jung Chang, Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1991), p. 378. Timothy Cheek, “The New Number One Counter-revolutionary Inside the Party: Academic Biography as Mass Criticism,” China Journal, No. 55 (January 2006), pp. 109–18. Gregor Benton and Lin Chun, eds., Was Mao Really a Monster? The Academic Response to Chang and Halliday’s “Mao: The Unknown Story” (London: Routledge, 2009).

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Rural and regional intellectuals Rural intellectuals have always been present in Chinese history but they have been hard to track. They have generally not been active at a metropolitan or national level. Similarly, regional intellectuals have been easy to miss, as their intellectual work has tended to be more practical (organizing local citizens) than theoretical. In modern Chinese history, rural and regional intellectuals generally appear in the historical record when they get the attention of the state—as rebels, as victims of purges or campaigns, or when they serve as poster children for a favored policy. More recently, some stories of rural intellectuals have emerged in the post-Mao period as general social stability and the relaxing of political controls have allowed historians to engage rural intellectuals either through direct interviews or by gaining access to local records. This means that our richest information on local life only opens up for the Mao period.74 In the nineteenth century, rural intellectuals emerged mostly as either rebels or new entrants into the scholar-official stream—as opponents or new members of the established system. In early 1842 a local scholar (a shengyuan or exam graduate of the lowest level), Zhong Renjie, led enraged farmers and gentry in rural Hubei in a lawsuit against oppressive local surtaxes. One thing led to another and Zhong ended up leading a violent revolt against local officials. This “rebellion” was quickly crushed by the Qing authorities but Philip Kuhn concludes that Zhong’s efforts reflected “one way community leaders interposed themselves between the village and the district seat” to protect locals from official extortion.75 Zhong Renjie was not an intellectual in the modern sense but he filled the same social space that local teachers and professionals would occupy in the twentieth century. Rural agitation was also seen in White Lotus Buddhist rebellions and “secret society” uprisings by one or another of China’s rural redemptive societies.76 All of these very local agitations were led by people we would today call rural intellectuals. By the 1920s these local activists would blend in with rural insurgencies of modern revolutionaries, both Nationalist and Communist, but after 1930 real 74

75 76

While not focused on intellectuals, this new approach shows what new perspectives on them can be learned. See the studies in Brown and Pickowicz, The Dilemmas of Victory; and Brown and Johnson, Maoism at the Grassroots. Philip A. Kuhn, Rebellion and Its Enemies in Late Imperial China: Militarization and Social Structure, 1796–1864 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980), pp. 98–9. David Ownby, “Redemptive Societies in China’s Long Twentieth Century,” in Vincent Goossaert, Jan Kiely, and John Lagerwey, eds., Modern Chinese Religion: 1850 to the Present (Leiden: Brill, forthcoming).

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rural agitation was either liberal (as we have seen with James Yen or Liang Shuming) or Communist. We have seen rural intellectuals emerge on the regional and national scene. Recall the Ye family in Tianjin around the turn of the twentieth century, whose family genealogy extolled the glories of modern life in that treaty port city. That clan, chronicled in English by Joseph Esherick, brings to life the social history of provincial intellectuals from the 1850s to the 1980s as they engaged the challenges and changes of modernization. They were, however, already an elite family, albeit a local elite, with members serving as high provincial officials in central and north China in the Qing Dynasty.77 We have also seen how Zhou Shuren, a provincial intellectual from Zhejiang in southeast China, moved from a local schoolteacher to a national figure in the 1910s, becoming the famous writer Lu Xun. Similarly, Yan Yangchu, the son of a Sichuanese traditional medical doctor, moved into national circles through the Christian missionary movement to become James Yen, the leader of the Mass Education Movement in the 1920s and 1930s. Both men benefited, as well, from study abroad: Lu Xun in Japan and James Yen in America. In recent years the focus on social history and history of religion has begun to open our view of rural and regional life. Li Yujie (1901–94) offers an example of local intellectuals and religion in the twentieth century that confounds many of the major narratives of modern Chinese history. He was a religious practitioner and an organizer of a folk Buddhist redemptive society who moved easily in the modern world. His life reflects the religious realities and cultural mixing in local society during the middle decades of the century. As David Ownby notes, “even as he took on many of the characteristics of a traditional holy man, [Li] also joined the Nationalist Party, wrote the country’s first tax code, and championed the causes of democracy and press freedom as an independent journalist and publisher.”78 Li Yujie’s career took him from the life of the regional elite in Suzhou, to a four-year retreat on a sacred mountain in north China in the 1930s, to service to the Guomindang both in Shanghai and, after 1949, in Taipei. He founded a new offshoot of 77 78

Esherick, Ancestral Leaves. David Ownby, “Sainthood, Science, and Politics: The Case of Li Yujie, Founder of the Tiandijiao,” in David Ownby, Vincent Goossaert, and Zhe Ji, eds., Saint-Making in Modern and Contemporary China (forthcoming), ms., pp. 40–1; and David A. Palmer, “Dao and Nation: Li Yujie–May Fourth Activist, Daoist Cultivator, and Redemptive Society Patriarch in Mainland China and Taiwan,” in David A. Palmer and Liu Xun, eds., Daoism in the Twentieth Century: Between Eternity and Modernity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012), pp. 173–95.

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China’s rich tradition of redemptive societies, the Tiandihui, in Taiwan in 1980. He mixed religion and modern politics and journalism without any sense of contradiction. If we see a contradiction, it is in our eyes and not in his or those of his followers. Geng Xiufeng (1913–) offers a glimpse of a genuine peasant intellectual who emerges due to the changed conditions of research in the postMao period. A local activist and basic-level cadre in a north China village in Hebei province, Geng was born to a moderately prosperous “middle peasant” family. He was already organizing local farmers into agricultural co-operatives in 1943. Like most Chinese intellectuals in the first half of the century, Geng was motivated by a profound sense of humiliation and shame at China’s sorry state—a view he learned in primary school (reading the textbooks that Peter Zarrow’s work has also brought to light).79 Like Sun Yat-sen, Geng came to believe that China was “a loose sheet of sand,” disorganized and going nowhere. Geng’s solution was a non-Marxist form of co-operative agriculture, or what he called “land partnership groups” (tudi hezuo zu). He made his peace with the Communists and worked as a local cadre in the 1950s and 1960s, enduring the catastrophe of the Great Leap Forward and driving his superiors mad by insisting on sending a letter to higher authorities detailing the suffering in 1960. He was a long-standing member of his rural community and educated, so he was not viewed as a dissident but more of a nuisance by local officials. He retired before the Cultural Revolution. During retirement he wrote a long memoir that came into the hands of a foreign scholar in the 1980s. Geng’s memoir is a fascinating mix of the modern—using categories such as nationalism, socialism, and democracy—and the old-fashioned. Paul Pickowicz describes Geng as a “natural” local elite who “unflinchingly assumes the paternalistic posture of late imperial village elites . . . taking the side of the peasantry when the economic interests of rural people clashed with the interests of insensitive centralizers.”80 Other rural intellectuals did not fare as well. During the Hundred Flowers Movement in the Mao period local intellectuals ran afoul of the state just as university professors such as Yue Daiyun and Fang Lizhi did. Today records of their demise from local Party archives, as well as new memoirs, serve as a window, however clouded, into their thinking 79

80

Paul Pickowicz, “Memories of Revolution and Collectivization in China: The Unauthorized Reminiscences of a Rural Intellectual,” in Rubie S. Watson, ed., Memory, History, and Opposition under State Socialism (Santa Fe, NM: School of American Research Press, 1994), pp. 127–47; and Zarrow, “Discipline and Narrative.” For patriotic textbooks of the Republican period, see Chapter 2 above. Pickowicz, “Memories of Revolution,” p. 142.

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and activities. At the end of 1957 Lu Jinfu, a twenty-nine-year-old editor of the local newspaper in Tongbai county, Henan, apparently could not hold back his criticisms, despite the obvious example of national intellectuals having been purged for offering similar criticisms during the previous summer. Lu spoke up in a Party-organized criticism meeting, saying, Development plans for mountainous areas began with a great bang only to peter out to a mere whimper. The measures did not suit local conditions. Whatever the leaders say goes . . . It’s all a mess . . . As for irrigation, the leaders must study the issue and not just say big words that cannot be put into practice.81

Lu was duly purged as a Rightist. Published memoirs of rural intellectuals are also appearing in regional journals in China. Ye Fangying, a primary-school principal in a Guangdong village in south China in the 1950s, recalls his experience in the same campaign. Ye was sympathetic to the views of national liberals of the day, such as Luo Longji, but he was more cautious than Lu in Hebei. In the end, however, Ye was encouraged to think that his criticisms would be welcomed by his local Party. His criticisms of the Party were similar to Lu’s and his fate was the same. He criticized co-operativization as “making saplings grow by pulling on them” and the agricultural tax as “killing the hen for eggs.”82 He, too, was purged as a Rightist. In these years, intellectuals were integrated into national politics in a way never before seen in China— the purges went from Beijing all the way to villages across the country. “When we speak of intellectuals in late 1950s China who were willing to sacrifice themselves and serve the country,” Cao Shuji concludes, “we must include this group of ordinary and inconspicuous rural intellectuals.”83 In the Mao period, rural society brought rural intellectuals and some urban intellectuals together in the famous rustication movements of the 1960s and 1970s. The view we get of rural intellectuals—either native or transplanted—during these years comes to us from propaganda at the time and memoirs since. The picture of such rural intellectuals is richly diverse, including the independent-minded agricultural co-operativist Geng Xiufeng, whom we met above. The transplanted intellectuals were largely sent-down youth, the zhiqing who would become a force in national intellectual life in the next ideological moment. This was the 81 82

83

Cao Shuji, “An Overt Conspiracy: Creating Rightists in Rural Henan, 1957–1958,” in Brown and Johnson, Maoism at the Grassroots, p. 86. Ye Fangying, “Wo jia chule liangge youpai” (My Family Produced Two Rightists), Huanghe (Yellow River), Vol. 2, No. 78 (1999), pp. 66–76, quote from pp. 71–2, as cited in Cao, “An Overt Conspiracy,” p. 92. Cao, “An Overt Conspiracy,” p. 96.

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time of their forming experience. Most materials on zhiqing emphasize the stories of hardship experienced by urban youth transferred to rural communities. However, as Sigrid Schmalzer shows, such “educated youth” in the countryside included a “far greater number of rural educated youth who ‘returned’ to the villages after graduating from urban secondary schools.”84 One key motivation for many youths in the countryside was science—the ability to apply advanced science and technology to improve the lives of rural people. A network of scientific extension stations gave such educated youths the chance to “do science” and participate in challenging experiments in an environment of political praise. At the same time, Maoist politics provided opportunities for provincial intellectuals. Yuan Longping (1930–) was just such a local intellectual with an agricultural focus. Although born in Beijing, his family moved around central China and he started his career at an agricultural school in Anjiang in the central province of Hunan. Cultural Revolution emphasis on combining the emerging Green Revolution with the Red Revolution of the CCP gave Yuan a chance to gain national prominence and, in turn, provided the central government with a homespun hero now famous in China for developing high-yield hybrid rice through boot-strapping “local” Chinese know-how combined with international science.85 Yuan Longping is the “peasant intellectual” who showed that agricultural science, social revolution, and Chinese ingenuity could go together. The actual experience, of course, was more mixed, but Yuan’s case emphatically tracks the energy of rural and regional intellectuals during the Mao period.

Enduring ideas, 1965 The people in these years were explicitly a political category and a subset of citizens. Essentially this meant workers, peasants, and soldiers, and their revolutionary leaders with CCP status. Public language continued to speak about the people, renmin, or the masses, qunzhong, in collective, rather than individual, terms. The people were certain politically sanctioned groups. The Cultural Revolution invocation of the nine categories of non-people, of which intellectuals became the “Stinking Ninth” (chou lao jiu), gave a frighteningly broad list of such non-people in revolutionary China: landlords, rich peasants, counterrevolutionaries, bad elements, Rightists, renegades, enemy agents, capitalist-roaders, and finally 84 85

Sigrid Schmalzer, Red Revolution, Green Revolution: Scientific Farming in Socialist China (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2016), p. 19, original emphasis. Schmalzer, Green Revolution, Red Revolution, Chapter 4.

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intellectuals. However, there was pushback from intellectuals and Party moderates. Even Party stalwarts, like Deng Tuo, insisted that elite Chinese from the “feudal period” counted among “the people,” and the Red Guard critics like the Li Yizhe group and soon Qin Hui argued that the common people had an identity and a dignity separate from political categories. Chinese became conflated with “Redness” in the Mao years. What was revolutionary in China was properly “Chinese” in Maoist rhetoric. Feudal or old culture, even from China, was suspect. Foreign influences, unless certified by revolutionary (and, before 1960, Soviet) pedigree were suspect. To be Chinese was to be revolutionary. This public talk coexisted both with scholarly appreciation of Chinese history and cultural traditions and with private lives of families that accepted broader, less political, criteria. Nonetheless, the East–West dichotomy of previous ideological moments transformed into a socialist-versuscapitalist world contrast, and, following the disillusionment with the Soviet Union, into a contrast of revolutionary versus reactionary or revisionist. Under high Maoism, Chinese characteristics followed the political definition of “the people”—the culture of working people, both industrial workers and peasants, plus the revolutionary traditions of the Party. And yet Party leaders, and particularly Mao himself, gloried in the traditional Confucian high arts of calligraphy and classical poetry. The most telling sign of this uneasy mix of revolutionary and vernacular senses of Chinese identity is the penchant for Chinese Marxist leaders to make public displays of their handwriting. Additionally, the most radical of the Cultural Revolution propaganda posters would give the dates of their publication in traditional Chinese numerals and not Arabic numerals—suggesting that the truly revolutionary was Chinese and not international. Democracy was what the Party said it was—service to “the people” under the guidance of the Party. This was the age of “great democracy”(da minzhu) expressed in mass rallies, marches, and mass criticism. The big-character posters (dazibao) made famous by the Red Guards in the Cultural Revolution itself had been an active part of democracy in these revolutionary years since the Hundred Flowers Movement in spring 1957 when a broader range of views, including political liberalism, briefly found expression in such handwritten posters on the walls of university campuses across China. These were the Four Big Freedoms of Mao’s “great democracy” (or si da—speaking out freely, airing one’s views freely, writing big-character posters, and holding great debates). They were endorsed by Mao in early 1957 and again in the Cultural Revolution, and were even included in the Constitution of the PRC

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in 1975.86 However, from the advent of the Anti-Rightist Movement in the summer of 1957, such democratic expressions sang only one tune with impunity and that was Mao Zedong Thought. Nevertheless, as we have seen, significantly different policies and interests could be expressed in the “key of Mao”—from the faith Maoism confessed by Lin Biao and the bureaucratic Maoism professed by Deng Tuo, to the bitter factional mud-slinging of Red Guard factions, to the defiant criticism of the “Lin Biao system” and ultimately of the Maoist system itself by the Li Yizhe writing group beginning in 1973, as well as in arcane debates in natural dialectics taken on by Fang Lizhi. The Party has consistently maintained that democracy is democratic centralism, a version of Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-shek’s guided democracy under “political tutelage.” Nonetheless, one unanticipated outcome of Mao’s radical experiment of throwing millions of teenagers into the vast countryside of China was to develop a few ex-Red Guards amongst this “sent-down generation” who decided that democracy belongs to the people and the people are everyone who lives in China, not certain classes or ethnicities. The Cultural Revolution taught some that democracy had to include all citizens, but it did not teach them how to make it work.

86

What translates as “freely” is da, literally “big” or “great,” hence the si da are known as the “four freedoms of Great Democracy” under Mao. Henry Yuhuai He, Dictionary of the Political Thought of the People’s Republic of China (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2001), pp. 437–8.

China in the 1970s

When Mao died on September 9, 1976, China was struck with grief. It was a mixed grief, combining the memory both of Mao’s great contributions to the establishment of the nation, to the application of socialist goals, and to the realization of economic progress, and his cruel persecution of intellectuals, his abandonment of the peasants, his ruinous mass campaigns, and the arbitrary dictatorship of his later years. When Mao was born, China was a failing, backward empire, the playground for Chinese warlords and competing foreign interests. When he died it was a respected (or feared) nation on the world scene—a nuclear power with a permanent seat on the UN Security Council and basically able to feed its huge population and to run a modern, if undynamic, economy. The price of this success had been high, and China’s leadership was riven by factional competition. Most people were simply grateful for the conclusion of the endless political campaigns and tried to find their way back to normal lives. China’s intellectuals began to shift from a defensive posture, returning to their old work units to claim their jobs from before the Cultural Revolution. They also began the awful process of making sense of the previous twenty years. The turmoil of Mao’s revolutions over the last two decades left China as a society experiencing post-traumatic stress that tragically (unlike the war years at mid-century) had been entirely self-inflicted. As such, the key change by 1976 was a profound self-doubt: how could we have done this to ourselves? This would underwrite the resurgence of a May Fourth-style comprehensive critique of Chinese culture in the 1980s. The self-doubt extended to the CCP itself, reflected in a brittle defense of Party dignity and the norms of Leninism on the one hand, and in a challenging auto-critique by Party intellectuals exploring the “alienation” of the Party from true revolutionary service on the other. All sides agreed on one thing about the Cultural Revolution: never again. How to avoid a resurgence of the radical campaigns, however, would become a matter of considerable disagreement. Mao’s later revolutions had forever changed the rules of the game in public life. Clearly, 214

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the Party was not infallible. Mao had shown that it was possible, although dangerous, to find fault with the Party. Yet not having the Party seemed inconceivable to most, in part out of a pragmatic desire to keep order and due to a painful self-doubt about the Chinese character that had brought the recent tragedies upon themselves. Amongst intellectuals the ghost of elitism endured— “the people” were not ready for full democracy, yet. Mao had taught a new generation that public demonstrations can be revolutionary and can change the way things work. He taught youth that they sometimes see the truth better than their elders. He challenged them to serve China by overturning unjust systems and policies. Mao taught them to follow his every word. All these lessons stuck, except the last one. The political script for Tiananmen 1989 was already written in 1976. At the same time, across Chinese society there was a terrible fear of luan, of chaos, like that seen in the Cultural Revolution. Writers and thinkers, as well as political leaders, found themselves focusing on how to avoid chaos while reforming the Party and the social system to prevent any recurrence of the Cultural Revolution. There were terrible anxieties about Mao and the Cultural Revolution. Clearly he made mistakes, but were his revolutions a sham? Surely not. Urban intellectuals turned to the questions the Li Yizhe group had raised about “the system.” They started by searching for a “better Marxism,” finding helpful newly published writings from the young Marx and from Eastern European thinkers. Liberalism was crushed as a political force and the professions fully subjugated to the party-state. To speak in public, unlike in 1945 or even 1955, one could only speak in the terminology of the Party, using Maoist vocabulary. Even though writers like the Li Yizhe group could mount a trenchant critique of the Maoist system in Maoist language, the orthodoxy still limited analysis and expression. Although scientists and some technical professions retained a corporate existence, all important decisions had to be made “under the leadership of the Party.” And, as we have seen, not even theoretical physics was immune at times to direct political interference. The role of the intellectual cadre and the establishment intellectual was consolidated in these years as a substitute for professional independence. Nonetheless, the system began to show cracks as the outrages of the Great Leap and the Cultural Revolution made a mockery of official science, literature, and philosophy in the output of the politically tainted writing groups such as Liangxiao. The attacks on the “culture-bearer” status of elite intellectuals like Deng Tuo and Wu Han diminished the prestige of the intellectual cadre. Yet intellectuals still had opportunities

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to participate and to shape policy. The most famous example is China’s one-child policy to control population growth, started in the late Mao period but hardened during the Deng Xiaoping era. This pervasive and controversial exercise in governing China’s population was quite literally formulated by missile scientists.1 An important subsection of the intelligentsia was formed in the experience of the “educated youth” sent down to the countryside in 1968–9. These zhiqing had confronted the brutal realities of rural life in deeply personal ways. Some returned to their former lives in the cities determined to find justice for the rural poor, others returned convinced of the necessity to keep the teeming masses under control. But all returned changed and re-connected to China’s rural realities more strongly than were their parents. The second attribute of the zhiqing generation is their alienation from the Party, from the orthodox world (most lost their chance to get a higher education and good jobs), and their resulting critical perspective on contemporary China. Many of China’s radical thinkers and avant-garde writers in the 1980s and 1990s would emerge from the zhiqing. 1

Susan Greenhalgh and Edwin A. Winckler, Governing China’s Population: From Leninist to Neoliberal Biopolitics (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2005).

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Reviving reform Correcting revolutionary errors (1976–1995)

Fig. 5. Raising a banner which reads “Lift Martial Law and Protect the Capital,” journalists from the Communist Party’s official newspaper, People’s Daily, march with a copy of the masthead of their paper in Beijing, May 22, 1989

Wang Ruoshui begged to differ with his colleagues at a dinner in a Fuzhou hotel on the southeast coast in May 1986. They were there to honor the memory of Deng Tuo, a mentor to Wang and several other Party intellectuals and journalists present, including Hu Jiwei, a leader now in the National People’s Congress, and Li Zhuang, current editor of People’s Daily. The disagreement was over who should be counted as an intellectual. A foreign scholar had proposed a “value-neutral” definition that would include Deng 217

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Tuo but also his tormentors in the Cultural Revolution, such as the radical Zhang Chunqiao. Hu Jiwei demurred: “How can we put a villain like Zhang in the same category as Old Deng?” Wang disagreed, citing the norms of international social science. While the conversation amongst old comrades was congenial, his colleagues were not convinced. For this generation of establishment intellectuals the first job was to reform the Party so the political turmoil that had dragged them down in the Cultural Revolution could never happen again. Bringing back the best men and women of their generation from the “old regime” was their first act. Six months later Fang Lizhi, reinstated at the University of Science and Technology now as a vice chancellor, was in Shanghai chatting with students from Jiaotong University. They had come to hear his lecture on democracy and the responsibility of intellectuals. They knew Fang advocated democracy on the Western model. They were worried, wasn’t capitalism bad? “Actually,” replied Fang, “we’re finding that many of our old beliefs about capitalism no longer apply.” He invoked the experience of a colleague currently studying in Sweden who took to reading Lenin’s work on corruption and decline of imperialism. In all honesty, concluded Fang, he had to wonder, which system is in decline today? He called on the students to help China change and make their universities the vanguard of democratization by embracing the “spirit of science, democracy, creativity, and independence.” The model for democracy, Fang concluded, was science. The Party leadership set the reform agenda. Zhang Chunqiao, Jiang Qing, and the radical leadership were ousted shortly after Mao’s death; the Party set about self-healing through rehabilitation of cadres who had been purged in the Cultural Revolution, and this included intellectual cadres. Fang Lizhi returned to his university; Yue Daiyun worried about the fate of her husband, Tang Yijie, who had served in the writing group of the disgraced radical leaders. At the same time, the society that had been both strictly repressed under ubiquitous Party “leadership” and left to the depredations of social violence and a resurgence of local toughs explored what the end of forced political campaigns might look like. Everyone (bar a few radicals) was glad to see the end of the Cultural Revolution, but after that interests diverged. Party leaders wanted to “go back” to the pre-Cultural Revolution order, with modifications based on experience. The floodgates of intellectual reform were opened, with scathing accounts of the Cultural Revolution and renewed criticisms of Chinese cultural limitations. Wang Ruoshui, now an editor at People’s Daily, broached the unnameable: the alienation of the socialist state from the people. Others joined in. Fang Lizhi re-emerged as a strident advocate of democracy and professional

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autonomy. Calls for even greater political reform percolated up through a series of important think tanks advising top leaders. Universities revived, some scholars were able to travel abroad, and a small cohort of foreign students returned to China. Criticism began to get close to the bone with “scar literature” denunciations of the Cultural Revolution that strayed from the officially designated culprits (Jiang Qing, et al.), implying something was wrong with the CCP. All this came to a head in the demonstrations of spring 1989 and the repression of June 4. It would be a trauma for all concerned—the protesters, the intellectuals, the Party, and the Western nations that were appalled and imposed sanctions on China. In the photo above, the alienation of the Party’s own propagandists is clear—editors of People’s Daily were demonstrating in support of the students and against the recent Party declaration of martial law (Wang Ruoshui is holding the banner, sixth figure from the left). Tiananmen was a crisis for the Party and the intellectuals. Nonetheless, Deng Xiaoping, who had called in the tanks on Tiananmen in 1989, would go to Shenzhen in southern China in 1992 to declare that economic reform and opening to the world are here to stay; so, too, he insisted, is the CCP. Throughout, China’s working people showed their face as never before, reflected in the spontaneous demonstrations by Beijing workers in support of the students in 1989. The people—the object of a century of Chinese intellectual activism since Liang Qichao’s call for new citizens, Liang Shuming’s invocation of noble village yeomen, or Cultural Revolution propaganda on stalwart revolutionaries—began to appear in their own right and it was no longer clear in the 1990s if intellectuals could speak on their behalf.

Voices from the late 1970s and the 1980s WEI JI NGSH ENG (b. 1 95 0): “ T H E F I F TH MODERNIZATIO N” (1 97 8) What is true democracy? It is when people, acting on their own will, have the right to choose representatives to manage affairs on the people’s behalf and in accordance with the interests of the people. This alone can be called democracy. Furthermore, the people must have the power to replace these representatives at any time in order to keep them from abusing their power to oppress the people. Is this actually possible? The citizens of Europe and the United States enjoy precisely this kind of democracy and can run people like Nixon, de Gaulle, and Tanaka out of office when they wish and can even reinstate them if they so desire. No one can interfere with their democratic rights. In China, however, if a person even comments on the “great helmsman” or the “Great Man peerless in history,” Mao Zedong, who is already dead, the mighty prison gates and all kinds of unimaginable misfortunes await him. If we compare the socialist system

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(cont.) of “democratic centralism” with the “exploiting class democracy” of capitalism, the difference is as clear as night and day.1 JIN GUANT AO (b 19 47 ): B E H I N D T H E P H E N O M E N A O F H I S T O R Y (1 98 3) Why has Chinese feudalism persisted for more than two thousand years? This is an endlessly perplexing question, and one which has become all the more pressing at this time of renewed interest in Chinese history and of intense soul-searching at a time when China stands once more at the crossroads of history. In 1973 our group of young intellectuals began probing into the causes for the perpetuation of Chinese feudalism. Previous studies of Chinese history and society were all based on single-factor analysis. Some were extremely plausible and commendable. But single-factor analysis at best offered a static, partial truth, only exposing a few isolated bones of the buried dragon. History is a living whole. Historical facts are interrelated and interact. The key lies in finding a methodology which can penetrate and illuminate the living wholeness of history, integrating economics, politics and ideology. We were excited to discover cybernetics, information theory and systems theory . . .2 STATEMENT BY STUDEN T H UNGER S TRI K ERS ON TIA NA NMEN SQ U ARE , M AY 1 3, 19 89 We commence our hunger strike in the lovely May sunshine. In the full bloom of youth, however, we leave beautiful things behind, but with great reluctance. Yet the condition of our country is one of rampant inflation, economic speculation by officials, extreme authoritarian rule, serious bureaucratic corruption, a drain of products and people to other countries, social confusion, and an increase in the number of criminal acts. It is a crucial moment for the country and its people. All compatriots with a conscience, please heed our call: The country is our country. The people are our people. If we do not cry out, who will? If we do not take action, who will? . . .3 1

2

3

This is from the text of the “big-character poster” Wei Jingsheng posted on Beijing’s Democracy Wall, December 5, 1978, in Wei Jingsheng, The Courage to Stand Alone, trans. Kristina M. Torgeson (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1998). Jin Guantao, Zai lishi biaoxiang de beihou (Chengdu: Sichuan renmin chubanshe, 1983), trans. in Geremie Barmé and John Minford, eds., Seeds of Fire: Chinese Voices of Conscience (New York: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 1989), p. 130. Taken from Mok Chiu Yu and J. Frank Harrison, eds., Voices from Tiananmen Square: Beijing Spring and the Democracy Movement (Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1990), pp. 95–6.

The ideological moment: reforming the revolution

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The ideological moment: reforming the revolution The Cultural Revolution was shattering not only to intellectuals in China, but also to the Party leadership. As soon as the radical leadership was purged in October 1976, the process of undoing the excesses of Mao’s last revolutions, while not quite admitting it, began in earnest. A new ideological moment emerged for Party leaders and intellectuals alike with a new key question: how to reform China’s socialist system so that, first, the Cultural Revolution could never happen again and, second, the Party and socialism could avoid the sclerosis of state socialism in the Soviet Union and bring the prosperity and cultural richness that seemed so apparent in Japan, America, and Europe. It was clear that China was far behind the West. Debates focused on reform: what to reform? How to reform? How much reform was enough? In 1974 Li Yizhe had voiced something of the demands of an angry youth wanting “socialist democracy” and Deng Xiaoping had returned to the top leadership to restore Party order. Now older scholars returned to public life and younger ones started their careers in the revived university system. This brought forth a resurgence of the May Fourth critique of the faults of Chinese culture. Throughout the next years one factor dominated the public role of China’s thinkers and writers—the astonishing resilience of the intellectual cadre role. While signs of professional autonomy emerged and a few notable intellectuals purposively avoided becoming entangled with the party-state, most of China’s intellectuals, including the students of the famous Tiananmen demonstrations of 1989, operated within both the assumptions of the broadly Marxist ideology and the expectations of cadre service—they simply argued for a greater or lesser change in the terms of engagement, mostly pushing for more individual autonomy and protection from arbitrary political repression. They did this for very sensible reasons: the Party dominated society in general and the lives of intellectuals in particular. The directed public sphere of the propaganda state still controlled all effective avenues of public life. As well, the work unit system which housed, fed, and cared for employees—as well as the state allocation of jobs for new graduates— was still in effect. We turn first to the Party faithful. The leadership set about reinstating Leninist norms and rehabilitating loyal cadres purged over previous decades. Under these conditions, reformist Party intellectuals sought to address deeper causes for the excesses of Mao’s later revolutions. This was the “humanistic Marxism” of Wang Ruoshui and other Party theorists leading to the early 1980s debates on alienation under socialism. Reformist Party journalists like Liu Binyan, one of the rehabilitated, used

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“reportage” stories in the press to document the recent abuses of the Cultural Revolution and to advocate Party reforms. Amongst the establishment intellectuals who pushed reform the furthest were survivors of the Cultural Revolution who wanted democratization of the Party now, and of the entire country as soon as possible. Fang Lizhi, the astrophysicist we saw struggling with ideological control of science, became one of the earliest and most articulate speakers for democratization from the ranks of the establishment. Academics like Li Zehou used the philosophy of Immanuel Kant and even classical Chinese aesthetics to break the monopoly of Marxist–Leninist ideology. In literature, “scar” literature exposed the outrages of the Cultural Revolution on an individual level. Older writers like Wang Ruowang carried on the critique of Party excess where Wang Shiwei and Ding Ling had left off. Writers of the 1950s, also purged and rehabilitated, chimed in with stronger stuff: Bai Hua’s film script, Bitter Love, in 1981 outraged Party elders and thrilled rank-and-file survivors. By 1989 parts of the Party establishment had gone rogue. Qin Benli, editor of Shanghai’s World Economic Herald and responsible for vetting material, began to publish news not cleared by the higher authorities. The newest generation of youth, coming into university in 1978, and popular culture, now somewhat freed from total direction by the Party, created a third group of voices. Political agitation between 1979 and 1981 flowered but was quickly suppressed. The 1978–9 Democracy Wall movement and related publications in Beijing, and the first tentative public elections in 1980 for some local district People’s Congress seats in Beijing, both came to an early end. Steering clear of overt politics, most young intellectuals let loose a “culture craze” in the mid-1980s that sought to explore and explain the cultural roots of China’s problems. They did this through a series of books and through television and film, most notably the controversial 1988 television series River Elegy and new films that explored the dark side of Chinese history, and through new fiction that retold twentieth-century Chinese history from the perspective of individual experience and social tragedy. By the early 1990s, and despite the crackdown on Tiananmen, it was clear that these voices were losing interest in Party-led reform; they wanted something more. From Party revival to market socialism The post-Mao reforms can be viewed in two periods, before and after the trauma of Tiananmen in 1989 and the infamous June 4 massacre of students and demonstrators. Before was a time of hopeful, even idealistic, reform. Political reform was in the air and establishment intellectuals

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led the debates. After Tiananmen was a time of serious economic reform but no longer were there grand hopes among intellectuals. Many then instead turned to the new universities and professional identities. Most of China’s establishment intellectuals would become disestablished through the 1990s. The Chinese Communist Party’s first twenty years of reform, from the 1970s to the early 1990s, shaped the political world in which China’s intellectuals operated. The CCP’s initial reform policies were announced at the Third Plenum of the Eleventh Central Committee in December 1978. The Party and its top institutions—the Party Congress, the Plenums of its Central Committee, its Politburo and Standing Committee—set government policy in China. The Third Plenum set Deng Xiaoping’s reform goals. First, it made economic modernization the central goal of Party work. Second, it began to address the wounds of the Cultural Revolution by reversing verdicts on Party cadres who had been purged by Mao. Third, the plenum approved experimentation with market forces, beginning the transformation of the planned economy. The slogans from that time emphasized “practice”—“practice is the sole criterion of truth”— and “liberation of thought,” and most importantly, “seek truth from facts.” Reform policies were implemented over the next few years in a series of administrative changes designed to decentralize power to the provinces; “open” China to the world and to the market; and to extricate the CCP from daily management of farming, factories, and business. The issue of democracy became one of the first challenges to the leadership, rising up from the unanticipated consequences of reform. In 1978 the “Democracy Wall” in Beijing caught worldwide attention. Could “Communist China” be going democratic already? For some heady weeks in the fall of 1978 Beijing residents could stroll down to the Xidan district and read astonishing posters pasted on this wall that talked about the (until recently) unmentionable: the abuses of the Cultural Revolution. These were the same “big-character posters” that Red Guards had used in the Cultural Revolution to denounce “capitalistroaders” and “Soviet revisionists” inside the Party, but now this form of Maoist “great democracy” was turned on the abuses and suffering of the Cultural Revolution and pointedly called upon the CCP to make amends. The Party had announced the revival of the Four Modernizations in the economy. “Democracy,” declared a wall poster by an electrician at the Beijing Zoo, Wei Jingsheng (b. 1950), “is the fifth modernization!” China seemed, in the words of one international journalist, to be “coming alive.”4

4

Roger Garside, Coming Alive: China after Mao (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1981).

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During his visit to the US in early 1979 to celebrate recognition of China by the world’s dominant economy and power, Deng Xiaoping let the press wonder about Democracy Wall. Domestically, the revelations of abuses of power by the radical leadership also served to discredit the remaining leaders in the CCP who were closely associated with the Cultural Revolution and who were standing in the way of Deng’s reforms. America had recognized China at the end of 1978. By March 1979 the leaders of Democracy Wall (most notably Wei Jingsheng) were arrested. Public advocacy of political democracy of the liberal or parliamentary sort came to an end then, as the Four Cardinal Principles announced by Deng Xiaoping in March 1979 (which insisted that all public acts should uphold socialism and support Party leadership) became the new law.5 It became clear from this example that Deng Xiaoping’s tolerance of political free speech was tactical rather than substantive. Like Zhao Ziyang’s toleration of the Li Yizhe group in Guangzhou in 1974, the deal was short-lived and did not end well for the intellectuals involved. In October 1979 Wei Jingsheng was tried and imprisoned. In winter 1979, Democracy Wall was unceremoniously moved to a small park in western Beijing and those who wished to put up posters had to register their name and address with the authorities. It became clear that the Party could and would shut down inconvenient public speech or assembly, with force. Intellectual agitation for change moved to the safer channels of the Party press, think tanks, and universities. Resistance to reform inside the Party coalesced around a leadership fight against Deng’s presumed successor, General Secretary Hu Yaobang. Demonstrations by students in December 1986, which Hu failed to suppress with sufficient vigor, frightened the Party elite and provided the opportunity to eclipse Hu Yaobang in January 1987 and to slow down reform. This success for the Party traditionalists also saw the public “Anti-Bourgeois Liberalization” campaign that, amongst other things, expelled Liu Binyan, Fang Lizhi, and Wang Ruowang. Hu Yaobang was criticized and purged. However, unlike the practice of earlier years, Hu was not demonized, humiliated, and imprisoned (or killed). In fact, he maintained his Party membership and comfortable living situation, but he was politically neutralized. In his stead, Deng Xiaoping moved the 5

For an account of Wei Jingsheng’s efforts that places him in a narrative that emphasizes dissidents and democrats in China, see John Gittings, The Changing Face of China: From Mao to Market (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), pp. 140–63. The sige jiben yuanze are still in force in China today: keep to the socialist road, uphold the people’s democratic dictatorship, uphold the leadership of the Communist Party, and uphold Mao Zedong Thought and Marxism–Leninism. See He, Dictionary, p. 435.

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premier, Zhao Ziyang, to become the new Party leader (general secretary). The tensions between Party traditionalists and Party reformers did not lessen; they increased. While Zhao Ziyang was a reformer, his successor as premier (at the top of the NPC and state government structure) was Li Peng, a Party conservative. Deng Xiaoping was playing his balancing act. The compromise did not hold, mostly because the social consequences of reform sharpened. On the one hand, Party traditionalists were increasingly worried that the Party was losing control of changes in society. Ideology and what intellectuals wrote mattered to leaders such as Party elder Peng Zhen and Propaganda Department director Deng Liqun. And they did not like what they saw, nor what they heard from China’s intellectuals. Throughout the 1980s the Party leadership would struggle and the intellectuals would debate. Resentment among the general public turned to outrage in the face of inflation that cut into the daily lives of urban residents who still lived on fixed work unit (danwei) incomes. The events of 1989, centering on the Tiananmen demonstrations and their violent repression, divide our story, but not this ideological moment. The question in 1992 remained the same: how to reform socialism? Liu Binyan and Wang Ruoshui: reforming propaganda and theory Propaganda and theory are two of the mainstays of the propaganda state. In the post-Mao period, establishment intellectuals set out to reform these basic tools of Party rule. Liu Binyan (1925–2005) was an establishment intellectual for whom the experience of the Anti-Rightist Movement and the Cultural Revolution demanded that he push Party reform further than simply as a return to the status quo of the early 1960s. Liu’s biography from 1957 parallels the lives of many other Party intellectuals. He spoke up in the Hundred Flowers Movement, publishing a notable critique of Party journalism, “The Inside Story of Our Paper”; was made a Rightist; and spent most of the next two decades in labor camps. Rehabilitated in 1978, Liu was readmitted to the Party. Like Yue Daiyun, Liu still believed. But he also believed that the Party needed to make big changes. His most famous writing in China is his 1979 reportage (baogaowenxue)—a genre that combines investigative reporting and imaginative narration. He published “People or Monsters?” as a novellalength report on local corruption in Heilongjiang province. It recounts the results of his interviews, trolling through county archives, piecing together information. The story of Wang Shouxin, a corrupt local official

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in a distant county of that northeastern province, riveted readers around China because Liu Binyan had put into print, and in a major establishment journal, People’s Literature, what they all recognized from their own experience. The power of “People or Monsters?” lay in putting their experience of Cultural Revolution corruption in black and white. One of Liu’s observations became famous nationwide: “The Communist Party regulated everything, but would not regulate the Communist Party.”6 Liu Binyan made his clarion call for reform in 1979 at the Fourth Congress of Chinese Literature and Artists in Beijing. This state-run national association of writers and artists reminds us that writers like Liu Binyan were intellectual cadres. Liu sought to address the need for reform through his professional work, in this case propaganda and journalism.7 Liu’s speech was a rousing call to criticize the Party to make it better serve the people. His title is “Listen Carefully to the Voice of the People.” This speech is, indeed, emblematic of Chinese intellectuals’ engagement with Marxism and the Party because so many of Liu’s themes echo those of the establishment intellectuals we have met in our story so far. Liu reflects the success of Mao’s efforts to get intellectuals back into touch with the common people. “Fate brought us into intimate contact with the lowest levels of the laboring masses; our joys and worries became for a time the same as their own. Our hopes were no different from theirs.” And yet what Liu draws from going deeply among the masses sounds more like Wang Shiwei’s revolutionary artist: “This experience allowed us to see, to hear, and to feel for ourselves things that others have been unable to see, hear, or feel.”8 Yet Liu is confident that if writers had been allowed to speak the truth of their experiences “they would have helped the Party to see its mistakes while there was still time to make changes.” The problem, Liu declares, is that writers have not, in general, been permitted to write freely. The Gang of Four carries the blame for muzzling writers, but, like Li Yizhe, Liu notes that the Gang’s “residual perniciousness” persists; “it has its social base.” The problem is in the Party and it is not only “evil” players like the Gang of Four. Too many comrades, says Liu, fall into protecting bad people. “Superficially they are all Communist Party members or Party cadres; but every action they take serves only their vested interests and comes only from their own habits of thought.” This brings to mind Liu’s opposite (politically), 6 7 8

Liu Binyan, “People or Monsters?”, in Liu Binyan, People or Monsters? and Other Stories and Reportage from China after Mao (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1983), p. 43. We saw in Chapter 3 that Liu’s mentor, Deng Tuo, spelled out the Party approach to journalism as a tool of an integrated propaganda program of the Party. Liu Binyan, “Listen Carefully to the Voice of the People,” in People or Monsters?, p. 2; later quotes from pp. 4, 109.

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Zhang Chunqiao, who had declared during Mao’s revolutions that many cadres born and raised under the Party were really bourgeois Rightists. The difference, of course, is the content: Liu sees material corruption, while Zhang saw ideological heresy, but both admit that Party membership is no sure guarantee of good behavior. Zhang promoted Mao Zedong Thought, and Liu offers investigative journalism. The reform journalism that Liu Binyan advocated in turn brings to mind Deng Tuo’s ideal for Party journalism in 1937: as a guide to the people. “Supply them with scripts,” says Liu. “But before we provide answers, we first must learn. We must understand more about social life than the average person does.” To do this Liu re-embraces the faith of Chinese intellectuals across the twentieth century: to speak for the people. “Our readers,” Liu affirms, “need writers who will serve as speakers for the people, writers who will answer their questions and express their demands by confronting the major issues of the day.” This sounds very much like investigative reporting in Europe or America, but a key difference is the final audience. Since power resides in the Party and not the electorate, the purpose of Liu’s work, of these scripts for the people, is to influence the Party. “Without the supervision of the people, a good person will turn bad,” Liu declares, “and an honest official will turn corrupt.” In 1979, with Deng Xiaoping promising “openness and reform,” Liu Binyan dared to hope that a reformed Party journalism could play this regulatory role. We met Wang Ruoshui earlier as a radical student in the 1940s and a rising leftist who caught Mao’s eye in the 1960s. Wang became an intellectual cadre in the Communist system. He had prospered during the early years of the PRC and survived the Cultural Revolution. Wang Ruoshui’s role in our story is his work in the post-Mao period. He was a government servant and a teacher of the people in the Communist system. He was not a fiction writer like Ding Ling, but a theorist, more in the mold of his mentor at People’s Daily, Deng Tuo. He represents the efforts of establishment intellectuals, or intellectual cadres, to reform Maoism, to correct the errors of Mao’s policies from the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. As a guilty member of the generation that partially supported and partially endured the Cultural Revolution, Wang was among those who sought to set things right in the years after Mao died. By the early 1980s, Wang was famous as the voice for “socialist humanism.” Wang offered his suggestions not in big-character posters on Beijing’s streets but in the establishment media of the Party—People’s Daily and Guangming Daily, as well as Party theory journals. These orthodox channels frightened the Party much less than public posters. Indeed, various Party leaders hurried to gather together their own think tanks

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and scholars to “research” their policy preferences. In the early 1980s reform intellectuals backed by one or another Party leader pushed for a latitudinarian interpretation of Maoism that focused on the need to protect individual and collective rights against the abuses of those in power.9 The language was that of the young Marx and the Marxist conception of alienation. Beyond the intricacies of Marxist theory (rendered into Chinese philosophical vocabulary), the bottom line of advocates of Marxist humanism was to push for some form of accountability and to strengthen the norms of inner-Party democracy. The debate over alienation and Marxist humanism raged in the official press in 1983 and 1984. Some even dared to suggest popular elections, at least at the grassroots level. This brought on official repression in a warmedover political campaign, the Campaign against Spiritual Pollution in 1983 and again in 1987, as the “Anti-Bourgeois Liberalization” campaign. These were more than the purge of irritating or inconvenient intellectuals. These theorists were not dissidents, they were Party members and in positions of influence. Many were employed, supported, and protected by the Party’s reformist general secretary, Hu Yaobang, and, to a lesser degree, the head of the state administration, Premier Zhao Ziyang. These debates were the public face of inner-Party divisions over the nature and directions of reform: was the state plan to remain? Were markets to take over? What would be the role of the CCP? Of Maoism? These debates were also national in character. The public sphere of the propaganda state was still in operation, and all publications had to clear the CCP Propaganda Department. The press, radio, and very soon television were centrally controlled and heavily censored. The major newspapers were limited in number and their content carefully controlled. However, People’s Daily, Guangming Daily, and Liberation Daily were available more or less for free everywhere, nationwide. As the central leadership experimented and argued over reform, these tools of propaganda became avenues for public discussion that was much livelier and more varied than had been the case under Mao. In short, if an intellectual or policy adviser, such at Wang Ruoshui, could get an article on Marxist alienation into People’s Daily (as he did), then not only intellectuals and professionals across China could read it, but also workers and farmers and cadres in the villages. This was not a free public sphere, but it was a coherent national public space. While the proposals and suggestions that survived the censors’ pen were incremental rather than revolutionary, they reached the broadest possible audience and built 9

Goldman, Cheek, and Hamrin, China’s Intellectuals and the State; and Brugger and Kelly, Chinese Marxism in the Post-Mao Era.

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a public presumption that reform was good and necessary and required being open to taking chances. The increased press latitude since the late 1990s, we shall see in the next chapter, has come at the cost of a Balkanization of the public sphere in China—today there is no media outlet that is truly national in the same sense. In the 1980s there was still the one national public sphere of the Propaganda Department. Wang’s signal service was to provide the political platform for the most daring ideological reforms of the post-Mao period, reforms that promised to create “communism with a human face.” Since he was a theorist for the Party, Wang wrote theory, but it was theory for a general reader (including Party leaders), not professional philosophers. The key term in Wang’s reformist Marxist analysis was “alienation.” In Marxist theory this is the “alienation” of labor that workers experience under capitalism— commonly referred to as “exploitation”—that drives their struggle for socialist revolution. Under Stalin and Mao, the Communists declared that this alienation was a thing of the past under the glorious rule of the Party. Wang spoke for a generation of Party theorists who survived the Cultural Revolution and they disagreed. Wang wrote, In the past, we did many stupid things in economic construction due to our lack of experience . . . and in the end we ate our own bitter fruit; this is alienation in the economic realm . . . [T]he people’s servants sometimes made indiscriminate use of the power conferred on them by the people, and turned into their masters; this is alienation in the political realm, also called the alienation of power. As for alienation in the intellectual realm, the classic example is the personality cult . . .10

Wang’s critique of the “personality cult,” of course, pointed to Mao. Wang saw the personality cult as the willing transfer to the leader of powers and dignities that rightfully belonged to “the people.” Referring to the Cultural Revolution adoration of Mao, Wang confessed, “Many people, including myself, also propagated the superstition, out of adoration, totally out of adoration then.”11 Wang Ruoshui was no dissident at this time. He was part of what Peter Ludz calls the “counter-elite,” inhouse critics within the Communist parties of Eastern Europe in the 1980s.12 Indeed, as David Kelly notes, Wang Ruoshui and his colleagues were aware of developments in Eastern Europe and cited their writings.13 We often think of communism as monolithic, but this was not.

10 11 12 13

Wang Ruoshui, “Tantan yihua wenti,” Xinwen zhanxian, No. 9 (1980), quoted in Kelly, “The Emergence of Marxism,” p. 173. Wang Ruoshui, “Tantan yihua wenti,” p. 167. Peter C. Ludz, The Changing Party Elite in East Germany (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1972), p. 62. Kelly, “The Emergence of Humanism,” pp. 159–82.

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Intellectual life in the 1980s may not have been monolithic but it was not free. Wang Ruoshui was criticized in 1983 and lost his job at People’s Daily, and though he was not jailed he was finally expelled from the Party in 1987—all for these writings. This was a fight between reform Communism and “conservative” or orthodox Communists that came to a head in Tiananmen Square in 1989. In short, the reformists lost. Wang Ruoshui was silenced and other critical establishment intellectuals like Liu Binyan and Fang Lizhi had to flee or were exiled to the West, to live out the rest of their lives in exile.14 Yet the Party, still under Deng Xiaoping, took on board some of the ideas of this counter-elite.

Fang Lizhi’s science and democracy and Li Zehou’s academic assault on orthodoxy The reforms that Wang Ruoshui tried to develop in theory and Liu Binyan modeled in propaganda work (Party journalism) were echoed in scientific fields. Some, like Qian Xuesen, the patriotic rocket scientist, were content to be quite orthodox, sounding vaguely reformist when that was the line, and stepping up as loyally radical when that was required— just so long as they could continue doing what they had been doing professionally and enjoying the privileges of service. Others, like some of the members of the Ye family chronicled by Joseph Esherick, simply sought to recover, return to professional work, and, more or less, pick up their lives where they had left off in 1966 when the Red Guards had come crashing in.15 However, some took the cultural fervor and shifting definitions of reform of the 1980s as an opportunity to press for more. No one was more important for connecting science and democracy than Fang Lizhi (1936–2012). We followed Fang’s earlier life in Mao’s revolutions of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s and saw that based on his experiences in the Cultural Revolution Fang had lost faith in Marxism, the science of society, and in the Party, the scientific vanguard. He had come to embrace the search for truth in the scientific method of the natural sciences and the open exchange and peer review of international professional scientific associations as a better path to good governance as well as to sound science. In this, Fang Lizhi was one vector in Chinese society bringing 14

15

Wang Ruoshui continued to live in Beijing, though under surveillance. He visited Harvard in 1992–3 and returned to Boston with his wife in 2001. He was already very ill and died in Boston in January 2002. For details on and writings by Wang, see www. wangruoshui.net, accessed June 25, 2015. Esherick, Ancestral Leaves, Part III.

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back the submerged developments of China in the Republic between the 1910s and 1940s—the growth of professions separate from the state (and thus an identity separate from the intellectual cadre) and the separation of science from politics. In this, Fang produced a fundamental challenge to the ideology (Maoism) and organization (Party rule) of China in the 1980s. What is particularly interesting about Fang’s promotion of democracy is that he neither picked up the threads of Chinese liberalism nor cited Jefferson, The Federalist Papers, or Friedrich Hayek; rather, he developed his propositions on first principles (scientific method) and laboratory testing (his sorry experiences in the recent twenty-five years), insights that he later found confirmed in his first travels to Europe. Returned to professional work and, he hoped, relieved of ideological criticism, Fang continued and expanded his research work in cosmology. Like Liu Binyan’s, Fang’s Party membership had been restored in 1978. His work was well respected internationally and he traveled a number of times beginning in 1979, particularly to Italy and elsewhere in Europe, home of his heroes, Copernicus, Galileo, and Bruno. Writing on his return to China in October 1979 in Beijing Science and Technology News, Fang spoke forthrightly on behalf of his profession and with broader overtones. Italy reminded him, Fang begins, of “the cultural traditions and habits of the mind that govern research work.” Invoking the troubles that Galileo and Bruno faced (Bruno was burned at the stake for his views by the Church), Fang reflects, “the great storm whose fury broke the stranglehold of medieval religion and made science into what it is today occurred in Italy . . . In those days people insistent on the truth faced mutilation, incarceration, and ultimately the Fire.” Fang’s topic is science, but his point is broader: “Freedom of thought is the friend of science, and any kind of deity, pseudo-deity, or spokesman for a deity is the mortal enemy of science.”16 Fang quickly turns back to China: If we are only enamored with the concrete results of scientific research and don’t seek to understand the conditions under which those results are produced, such as the spirit guiding the research and the philosophy inspiring it, then our understanding will be very skewed . . . We can bridge material gaps with purchases and acquisitions, but not so with shortcomings in cultural traditions, scientific attitudes, and philosophical approaches.

16

Fang Lizhi, “A Hat, a Forbidden Zone, a Question,” trans. James Williams, “The Expanding Universe of Fang Lizhi: Astrophysics and Ideology in People’s China,” Chinese Studies in Philosophy, Vol. 19, No. 4 (Summer 1988), pp. 29–31. Also Fang Lizhi, Bringing Down the Great Wall: Writings on Science, Culture, and Democracy in China (New York: Knopf, 1991), pp. 56–9.

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Here Fang joins the chorus of thinkers and writers in the 1980s who returned to a May Fourth auto-critique of Chinese culture, such as we will see in the television series River Elegy. Fang’s solution is likewise open to Western models: “What we need most of all would seem to be humility; that is, the humility to learn from others.” However, while Fang’s goals conform to those of his younger compatriots in the “culture craze” of the 1980s and their critique of Chinese culture, in form his approach bears a striking resemblance to the work of Wang Ruoshui on Marxist humanism, even if his content is decidedly non-Marxist. Like Wang, Fang, too, is looking for correct thought, for a “guiding spirit” and “philosophy” to guide his work, but in his case Fang draws from international natural-science methods and practices. Once again a Party member, Fang knew full well that to work in China he was going to have to deal with the Party. A year after his trip to Europe Fang spoke to a national conference on “the science of science” held at his university in Hefei, Anhui, in 1980. In the speech he criticizes the canonization of Europe’s scientific developments in the nineteenth century as the “three great discoveries” lauded by Engels to prove the dialectical laws of nature (i.e. the conservation laws of physics, biological cells, and biological evolution). These are not scientific method, Fang reminds his listeners; they are products. Fang does not beat around the bush: “There is a crisis of faith in Marxism . . . because Marxism has become fossilized. It is composed of obsolete conclusions that have led to failure.” His conclusion is startling for so early in the post-Mao period: “Therefore, the emancipation of our thought means a search for new theories, not the so-called restoration of Marxism’s original face.” The task today, he says, is “to develop and reconstruct Marxism by taking a scientific look at the future.”17 Reflecting on Fang’s years of political persecution and the mass-style criticism to which his papers on cosmology were subjected in the 1970s, James Williams concludes that Fang was “a scientist forced by circumstances to think carefully about science, Chinese society, and the relationship between the two.”18 By 1986 Fang was even more forceful on what the relationship was and what Chinese, and especially intellectuals and students, should do about it. Speaking at Jiaotong University in Shanghai in November 1986, Fang delivered what would become his most famous speech, one that was considered a call to arms for the student movement that exploded the 17 18

Fang Lizhi, “To Enter the Future, We Must Cast off Old Ways of Thinking,” trans. in Williams, “The Expanding Universe of Fang Lizhi,” pp. 32–3. Fang Lizhi, “To Enter the Future, We Must Cast off Old Ways of Thinking,” trans. in Williams, “The Expanding Universe of Fang Lizhi,” p. 4.

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next month. It led to Fang’s expulsion from the Party in January 1987 and his transfer to research work at the Beijing Observatory—away from students and under the watchful eye of the leadership. Even for the heady days of reform in 1986, Fang’s lecture is dramatic in the force of his criticisms of the Party.19 “Why is China so backward?” he challenges the students. He gives the May Fourth answer: because China’s culture is feudal and backward. The solution? “I personally agree with the ‘complete Westernizers’.” By this he means “complete openness, the removal of restrictions in every sphere.” He gives examples of openness, such as Japan, which has prospered over the past thirty years, and examples of closed control, such as East Germany, which has not prospered compared to West Germany. Fang concludes forthrightly, “orthodox socialism from Marx to Lenin to Stalin to Mao Zedong has been a failure.” Yet there is good socialism: Sweden. They have a large degree of public ownership and the gap between rich and poor, he reckons, is relatively small there. Fang’s conclusion is that “we need to look at what other people are doing . . . Isn’t ‘practice the sole criterion of truth’?” As in science, so students should do in society, and bravely observe everything and strictly assess what works and what does not. Thus Fang recommends going abroad. His trips abroad, he admits, have awoken him to the fundamental flaws of China’s system. A key theme of Fang’s talk on democracy is the role of students and intellectuals. “If you want to understand democracy,” Fang advises, “look at how people understand it in developed countries.” What you will find, according to Fang, is that the root of democracy is “the rights of each individual.” What absolutely infuriates Fang is the Party’s talk of “extending democracy” to the people through “loosening up.” To Fang this top-down approach is the opposite of democracy. Fang implores the students to stand up for themselves and for the good of China: “The most crucial thing of all is to have a democratic mentality and a democratic spirit.” He wants the students to apply the scientific attitude—one we saw coined by Hu Shi in the 1920s as “diligently hypothesize, carefully verify.” But now Fang Lizhi extends his model from science to society, holding up European universities as bastions of intellectual freedom preserved both from government meddling and from pressures from big business. This is the environment that intellectuals need to do their work. “The intellectual realm must be independent and have its own values.” Fang now applies the model of professional selfmanagement to the role of public intellectuals. This is a frontal attack 19

Fang Lizhi, “Democracy, Reform, and Modernization,” in Fang Lizhi, Bringing Down the Great Wall, pp. 157–88.

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on the intellectual cadre role. To those used to deference to the Party, Fang amazingly mocks the leading theorist of the Party and a senior leader in 1986, Hu Qiaomu, saying, sure you can debate with us about physics, “but if you don’t know physics, then step aside!” Fang is insistent: “We must refuse to cater to power. Only when we do this will Chinese intellectuals be transformed into genuine intellectuals.”20 One can only imagine the effect of this tonic on students frustrated with the emerging tensions and contradictions of life under reform— inflation, seeing “connected” students get plum jobs and scholarships to study overseas, discovering that crude street peddlers were earning more money than intellectuals. Fang’s was a clarion call to the vocation of the intellectual as the conscience of society, the defenders of truth. While not as direct as Liu Binyan in claiming to speak “for the people,” Fang is certain that the students need to get the ball rolling, to awaken first, then younger intellectuals, then older intellectuals, then all of society. Heady stuff, but we can sense limits in what Fang proposes. At the end of his rousing challenge, Fang concludes, “And if there is no change, the country would have to get rid of the Party.” This is still a call, albeit a radical, even rude, bitterly critical call to improve the Party. And if the Party can’t muster the energy to start its new exercise regime, the students can be its exercise coaches. Meanwhile, in the research institutes, academic philosophers returned to their libraries, offices, and classrooms. One self-described introvert and loner, Li Zehou (b. 1930) nonetheless became a main voice of the “culture craze” of the 1980s and the object of official criticism for his “bourgeois liberalism” after 1989. Li was born to a struggling middleclass family and raised in Changsha, Hunan province. Early in the 1950s Li entered Peking University, graduated in 1954, and thereafter has worked at the Institute of Philosophy at what has become the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Like other figures of his generation he was an intellectual cadre and an establishment intellectual in both Mao’s China and in this ideological moment of reform. Since the 1950s Li Zehou has written on aesthetics and the history of Chinese art, literature, and philosophy. Most of his works are scholarly and theoretical, and yet for a time these writings captured national attention. This was precisely during the time of the “socialist humanism” debate in which Wang Ruoshui participated.

20

In the crackdown after Tiananmen Fang’s efforts ultimately brought him to a year in the American embassy and then exile; he lived out the remainder of his life as a productive astrophysicist in Arizona.

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Li Zehou became famous—or, in the eyes of the Party hardliners, infamous—for three ideas: subjectivity; a recasting of the May Fourth legacy as “national salvation over enlightenment”; and a new cosmopolitanism cast as “Western substance, Chinese application.” Li Zehou addressed the first topic, human subjectivity, through a weighty 400page tome on Immanuel Kant. Entitled A Critique of Critical Philosophy: An Assessment of Kant and first published in Beijing in 1979, Li’s study is a far-ranging philosophical treatise engaging that seminal European philosopher from both a Chinese and a Marxist perspective.21 What struck the emerging new public of university students in the post-Mao era, as well as Li’s colleagues and Party minders, was that Li was grounding Kantian aesthetics in a materialist analysis that gave agency to the individual through the mechanism of labor as art with the goal of creating beauty. This immediately rang bells in his audience because these were issues dear to Maoism—who was the subject of history, “people” as a group or as individuals (both as topic and as agent)? Did human thought drive history, and where did that thought come from? What was the purpose of history, then? Li Zehou answered these questions through a novel recasting of human subjectivity as “subjectality” (zhutixing), or embodied intelligence. It soon became clear that the purpose of Li’s philosophical work was, indeed, political. By grounding Kant’s ideas of human reasoning in a materialist interpretation of the origins of human intelligence, Li sought to correct the vulgar materialist views of the Cultural Revolution that simplified consciousness to class status. Though his reasoning was complex, the implications were clear (and he spelled them out in later writings). Li has described his basic approach: And for me the foundation of human existence, and also the difference between human beings and other animal species, is not explained by consciousness or language, but by the universal, necessary practice of making and using tools. Tools are artificial extensions of human limbs; thus the human being, together with these tools, forms a supra-biological body, and its activity becomes suprabiological behavior. It is precisely this kind of behavior that constitutes the basis of humankind’s supra-biological existence. Therefore I call this making and using of tools the “primary practice” of human beings.22

Li’s writings on aesthetics go on to extend such “tool making” to the creative processes of art, particularly the joyful, sensuous role of music. Li Zehou was invoking the authority of Immanuel Kant in the familiar 21 22

Li Zehou, Pipan zhexue de pipan: Kangde shuping (Beijing: Renmin chubanshe, 1979). Li Zehou, “Subjectivity and ‘Subjectality’: A Response,” Philosophy East & West, Vol. 49, No. 2 (April 1999), pp. 174–5.

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Marxist language of socialist China to propose that the joyful creations of individuals are the motor force of history, and not class struggle. Woei Lien Chong, a major anglophone interpreter of Li’s highly theoretical writings, calls this Li Zehou’s “aesthetic Marxism.”23 Li’s second notable thesis was that the emancipatory goals of personal and intellectual enlightenment of China’s May Fourth period in the 1910s and 1920s were suppressed by the focus on national salvation in the 1930s and 1940s. This became known as the “national salvation over enlightenment” thesis. Of course, this reading by Li of the history of those years neither is unreasonable, nor was it unwelcome in the renewed critical conversations of the “culture craze” in the 1980s. In his 1987 study of modern Chinese intellectual history Li devotes a chapter to this topic. He traces the development of enlightenment thought in the early 1900s. Consistent with his philosophical approach, Li finds that changing behavior patterns from everyday life drive conceptual changes—from women cutting their hair and resisting arranged marriages to conceptualizing a criticism of Confucian patriarchy.24 Li goes on to parse the Chinese term for democracy, minzhu, to point out that minzhu does not mean the same thing as “democracy” in the West: Traditionally, minzhu in China meant “to take responsibility on behalf of the people” (wei renmin zuo zhu), not that the people were in charge . . . Mistaking the idea of “the people taking charge” for that of “taking responsibility on behalf of the people” is to confuse the ancient and the modern.

Here Li is very much in the mode of May Fourth Chinese thought—old is bad, new is good. And Li’s reasoning continues his historicalmaterialist approach: “The free democracy of the modern age, like Marxism, is the fruit that gradually matured upon the foundation of large-scale industrial production.” He likewise deconstructs Chinese ideas and offers clarifications of the Western meanings, of both “liberalism” (it only works with laws) and “freedom” (likewise properly bounded by law). However, Li’s historical perspective is clear in his long chapter 23

24

Woei Lien Chong, “History as the Realization of Beauty: Li Zehou’s Aesthetic Marxism,” Contemporary Chinese Thought, Vol. 31, No. 2 (Winter 1999–2000), p. 9. Li’s work is available in English in Li Zehou, The Path of Beauty (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994); and Zehou Li and Jane Cauvel, Four Essays on Aesthetics: Toward a Global View (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2006). Interestingly, and reflecting the greater engagement with Western scholarship by the mid-1980s, Li Zehou uses an American sinologist, the great Joseph Levenson, as a negative example of a one-sidedly “conceptual” interpretation of the rise of enlightenment thought in China. Li Zehou, Zhongguo xiandai sixiang shi lun (Beijing: Dongfang chubanshe, 1987), pp. 7–49, with the example of women on pp. 19–20.

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on the rise of national-salvation ideology over these enlightenment ideals. China in the 1930s was a violent place, and the people he quotes in his history bemoan the hopelessness of anarchist co-operatives, patient scientific research, or peaceful social change in the face of warlords and armies. “Today we are no longer in the warring years,” concludes Li, “when absolute obedience to the commander-in-chief was emphasized, but are in an era of construction in which socialist democracy confronts us with an urgent timetable.”25 Li Zehou’s answer to this historical problem—of bringing enlightenment out from under the thumb of national-salvation ideology—invokes his third idea, a new cosmopolitanism. Li immediately follows his point about the role of large-scale production in creating the social basis for Western democracy with this declaration: This [modern democracy] has nothing to do with China, since it was imported from the West. But once imported, how to combine it with China’s original collectivist attitude in regard to the importance of the people in order to develop it further, is an issue that requires our attention both in theory and in practice.

Li does not leave his readers with such a vague admonition. His cosmopolitan stand and materialist approach come together in his concrete recommendation: In this area, the Western capitalist societies have accumulated centuries of experience in regard to political–legal theory and practice, such as the separation of the three powers, the independence of the courts, the parliamentary system, and so forth, which we should regard as the common assets of humanity worthy of emulation. The idea that the improvement and reform of the political–legal system can be replaced by the resolution of ideological issues via the preaching of morality is not in agreement with the basic principles of the materialist view of history.26

This is the heart of Li Zehou’s “Western substance, Chinese application” thesis, which forms the last chapter of Li’s history. For his Chinese readers, Li was inverting a famous thesis of a conservative Confucian reformer, Zhang Zhidong, of a century earlier. Zhang had proposed in Exhortation to Study in 1898 that Qing reformers take Western technology as the application or tool to serve a Chinese essence or substance, sometimes rendered as “Chinese learning for the fundamental principles, Western learning for practical application.”

25 26

Li, Xiandai sixiang, pp. 25–6, and quote from p. 45. Quote is also translated (slightly differently) in Chong, Contemporary Chinese Thought, pp. 40–1. Li, Xiandai sixiang, pp. 45–6; trans. in Chong, Contemporary Chinese Thought, pp. 41–2.

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Zhang was looking to use some Western technology and institutional innovations to buttress the Confucian order of his dynasty. By turning this slogan on its head, Li Zehou cleverly implies that Maoist denigration of “bourgeois” Western accomplishments, including liberal democracy, has been a xenophobic and atavistic stand closer to those old Confucians in the late Qing than to true, modern, Marxism. To emphasize “Western substance” in this way, he makes clear, is not to denigrate Chinese culture. Rather it is to improve it. After all, Li notes, Marxism is one part of Western learning. Furthermore, “‘Chinese application’ includes the application not only of ‘Western substance’ in China but also of traditional Chinese culture, and ‘Chinese learning’ should be the path and manner of realizing ‘Western substance’ (i.e., modernization).” Li gives an example that brings his history and his politics back to aesthetics: As China has no religious traditions, such as Christianity [which Li had invoked as providing a moral restraint on capitalism in the West], will it be possible to take aesthetics from our own traditional culture and turn it into the highest pursuit of human existence? Is this not precisely what “Western substance and Chinese application” is all about?27

Li Zehou not only had a readership in the 1980s and early 1990s; he also had critics. Liu Xiaobo (b. 1955), a young and iconoclastic literary critic (who twenty-five years later won the Nobel Peace Prize), made his name denouncing Li Zehou in 1988 for lacking the requisite absolute skepticism and courage to make the necessary break with tradition. In fact, Liu Xiaobo finds Li disappointingly full of compromise, “cheap idealism,” and “false optimism.” Whatever the merits of Liu Xiaobo’s critique, even Li Zehou acknowledged that his work did not really address the mood of anger, dissatisfaction, and frustration among the younger generation of the 1980s. This highlights generational divisions within China’s intellectuals. Li Zehou was still speaking to older intellectuals and Party leaders, while Liu Xiaobo and many colleagues were both more impatient and less interested in talking primarily to the Party. A more influential critic at the time was Gan Yang (b. 1952), one of the young leaders of the “culture craze” we will meet below. Gan Yang criticized Li Zehou for his philosophical monism, for seeking a holistic or comprehensive answer to the problems of a diverse and complex world, and for believing that there can be a perfect stage of human society. Finally, Gan Yang finds Li Zehou far too closely integrated into the power structures of China’s 27

Li, Xiandai sixiang, pp. 331–41; trans. in Chong, Contemporary Chinese Thought, pp. 32–8, quotes from p. 35.

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highly imperfect society.28 Both Liu Xiaobo and Gan Yang point to what a third critic, Gu Xin, names: Li Zehou still believes in Marxism. Gu Xin reads Li Zehou to say that material production is still the motive force of history and thus concludes that Li’s aesthetics is but a twist on the Hegelian–Marxist dialectic that really does not take one very far from the worrisome ideology of the CCP.29 In fact, Li Zehou agrees that he is Marxist, or post-Marxist. This is part of what made him important during this ideological moment, as he spoke the language of the day and took it to a new place—finding in Marxist language that what was congenial to the assumptions and style of the CCP compelling arguments for an emphasis on the rights of individuals, law, and democratic institutions. No wonder Li was denounced in People’s Daily in May 1991. While subject to public criticism, removed from teaching, and with his publications withdrawn from circulation, Li Zehou was not jailed. With the return to a more limited reform in 1992 he was allowed to visit America to teach (at Colorado College). Li Zehou has lived in Colorado ever since, returning to China from time to time without incident. Though different in their style and their fates, Fang Lizhi and Li Zehou reflected the profound challenge to Maoism that came out of some of the best minds among establishment intellectuals during this ideological moment of reform. Fang took up Einstein’s relativity and modern scientific empirical method to hammer the dated conceptions of a bounded universe in Engels and the ex cathedra authority of the Party. Li Zehou used Kant’s aesthetics to put the individual agent back into history by humanizing the Hegelian–Marxist dialectic and thereby removing the need for an authoritarian vanguard party of some supra-individual History. Together they gutted Maoism’s claim to scientific and philosophical legitimacy. Students: from culture craze to Tiananmen 1989 The new generation of university students around 1980 populated the emerging popular culture and created a third group of intellectual voices in this ideological moment of reform. These young intellectuals led a loose “culture craze” in the mid-1980s that sought to explore and discuss 28

29

Liu Xiaobo’s and Gan Yang’s criticisms are carefully reviewed in Lin Min, “The Search for Modernity: Chinese Intellectual Discourse and Society, 1978–1988: The Case of Li Zehou,” China Quarterly, No. 132 (December 1992), pp. 994–5. Gu Xin, “Subjectivity, Modernity, and Chinese Hegelian Marxism: A Study of Li Zehou’s Philosophical Ideas from a Comparative Perspective,” Philosophy East & West, Vol. 46, No. 2 (April 1996), pp. 208–9.

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the cultural roots of China’s problems. While popular in the sense of nongovernmental, these groups of intellectuals were largely speaking to themselves, and to Party sponsors behind the scenes. The new mood reached the mass media in part through the book series published by these groups, which turned out to sell quite well, and through television and film, most notably the controversial 1988 television series River Elegy and new films like Chen Kaige’s (b. 1952) Yellow Earth in 1984 and Zhang Yimou’s Red Sorghum in 1987. These films drew from the developing mood of critical fiction (Zhang Yimou’s film is based on Mo Yan’s 1986 novel). Writers such as Su Tong (b. 1963), Yu Hua (b. 1960), and Mo Yan (b. 1955) probed the psychology of their generation’s experiences through the Cultural Revolution. Their popular novels, like Mo Yan’s Red Sorghum, were made into movies in China.30 Together they retell the story of China’s revolution in dark and complicated terms, focusing on individuals, families, and ironic twists of fate rather than the drama of class struggle and the “shining road” of socialism. Su Tong’s and Yu Hua’s short stories offer a voice for the children who grew up when the Cultural Revolution came to their town. Their stories will remind English readers more of Lord of the Flies than of Tom Sawyer or Catcher in the Rye.31 Su Tong’s 1990 novel that became the film Raise High the Red Lantern takes the critique of Chinese culture to gender politics in the story of four concubines in an unnamed (but modern) time that focuses on culture and gender oppression rather than on national politics. Meanwhile, Wang Shuo (b. 1958), most famous for Playing for Thrills (1989), scandalized the reading public with irreverent and pugnacious stories of working-class life, introducing “hooligan literature.”32 This was the backdrop of youth and popular culture when a series of events would catapult a million students into Tiananmen Square in defiance of the Party in spring 1989. The “culture craze” bubbled up from 1980, came into its own by middecade, and dominated the intellectual public sphere from 1987 until Tiananmen. This was the “new May Fourth” and a self-conscious return to many of the themes, and the writers, of the 1910s and 1920s. The craze was not led by senior Party intellectuals, such as Wang Ruoshui, Fang Lizhi, or Li Zehou, but rather by a collection of younger scholars. 30 31

32

Paul Clark, Reinventing China: A Generation and Its Films (Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 2006). Hua Li, Contemporary Chinese Fiction by Su Tong and Yu Hua: Coming of Age in Troubled Times (Leiden: Brill, 2011). Li makes a sensitive comparison of Su Tong’s work, in particular, with J.D. Salinger’s novel. Wang Shuo, Playing for Thrills, trans. Howard Goldblatt (New York: Penguin Books, 1998).

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These were the hardiest and brightest of the zhiqing, the sent-down youth of the Cultural Revolution, mostly in their thirties, who had clawed their way back to the cities and universities. Several developments shaped their public work. As Chen Fong-ching and Jin Guantao have chronicled, the experiences of these sent-down youth of Mao’s revolution had taught the future leaders of this culture craze to disregard prevailing rules within the Party bureaucracy and to think for themselves. Despite their years of doing labor in the countryside, they still felt special for being selected by Mao then and for passing the extremely competitive first round of university exams in 1977. They bore a sense of responsibility toward China that would have been familiar to Liu Binyan.33 The failure of direct political agitation during the Democracy Wall movement prompted them to seek a safer avenue for public intellectual engagement. The “scar literature” and “exposé literature” of the late 1970s, on the other hand, had flourished alongside the investigative reporting of Liu Binyan, even though detailing the abuses of the Cultural Revolution. Stories like Bai Hua’s screenplay Bitter Love, and the last-minute banning of the film version (after previewing by Party elites), put the story of the frustrated patriotism of an artist and his daughter’s question on the public mind: “You love your country, but does your state love you?”34 “It indicated” to the students, write Chen and Jin, “that so long as the cultural activity in question was nonpolitical in nature and within legal bounds, the party would be likely to tolerate . . . up to a certain point.”35 The young intellectuals formed editorial boards to publish book series. Three were particularly notable. The Toward the Future book series was edited by Bao Zunxin and Jin Guantao. They had backgrounds in the natural sciences and were organized around a group of intellectuals on the journal Dialectics of Nature (the same journal in which Fang Lizhi published his cosmology research). Toward the Future took a distinctly scientific perspective, popularizing cybernetics and the new sciences of society. The Academy of Chinese Culture was headed by Tang Yijie (Yue Daiyun’s husband, who had earlier become involved with the radical left writing group Liangxiao) and other senior figures, including

33

34

35

Chen Fong-ching and Jin Guantao, From Youthful Manuscripts to River Elegy: The Chinese Popular Cultural Movement and Political Transformation, 1979–1989 (Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 1997). Bai Hua’s switch from “country” (zuguo) to “state” (guojia) suggests a distinction between the nation and the party-state that the authorities did not appreciate. The Bai Hua case is well covered in Richard Kraus, “Bai Hua: The Political Authority of a Writer,” in Hamrin and Cheek, China’s Establishment Intellectuals, pp. 185–211. A good summary is given in Chen Fong-ching, “The Popular Cultural Movement of the 1980s,” in Davies, Voicing Concerns, pp. 71–86, quote at p. 74.

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honorary roles for none other than the famed new Confucian reformer from the 1930s, Liang Shuming. Nonetheless, it was filled with young professors from Peking University’s Philosophy Department. They organized influential lectures in Beijing and courses on Confucian culture. The third group published a book series called Culture: China and the World under a loose editorial group that was headed by Gan Yang. This group was grounded in the study of Western philosophy and specialized in translating classics of Western philosophy, humanities, and social sciences. Chen and Jin note two important institutional factors in this intellectual publicity. First, the young scholars had to rely on openminded Party patrons to get access to publishers and permission to get titles past the censors. Personal contacts were key. Second, each editorial board (or, in the case of the academy, conference and long-distancecourse planners) had to affiliate with a state institution. Working within these establishment constraints, the lectures organized by the academy were, by reports, electrifying to students. The three book series sold well, too. Even titles like translations of Heidegger’s Time and Being and Sartre’s Being and Nothingness sold between 50,000 and 150,000 copies within a year. Clearly there was an audience among urban university youth. The culture craze moved from intellectual circles to mass media with the six-part television series River Elegy, produced and aired in 1988. It provoked a swift official response, but in the heady days of early 1989 there was a public debate in a number of newspapers. River Elegy was produced by a half-dozen zhiqing intellectuals but is most associated with its lead writer, Su Xiaokang (b. 1949). From Hangzhou in southeastern China, Su is the son of a high-ranking cadre in the Party official press (first in Hangzhou and then at Red Flag in Beijing). When the Cultural Revolution came, Su Xiaokang joined a radical Red Guard faction and survived the chaos, and by the late 1970s he was a reporter at the Henan Daily. Like Liu Binyan, Su turned to “reportage” and investigative reporting. He trained at the Beijing College of Broadcasting, where he settled to teach in 1987. From there he continued to publish and then joined the team writing River Elegy. Su gave voice to the youthful anger we saw in the relatively decorous criticisms of Li Zehou by Liu Xiaobo and other young scholars. In January 1988 Su wrote on “A Sense of Mission”: Although we have come to our senses a little late, at least we are no longer continuing in ignorance. Their awakening has made Chinese so upset as to stamp their feet, to want to settle accounts with their ancestors, to find fault, and to get mad at any trivial event—to tell the truth, for an ancient people whose vitality has declined so badly, to dare to get mad, to dare to laugh and to scold, to dare to look our ancestors in the eye, is a good thing. It’s a pity that in this past century there have been too few people daring to laugh and scold like Lu Xun.

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Ding Ling had invoked Lu Xun’s pungent zawen critical essays in 1941, now some four decades later Su Xiaokang reverts to Lu Xun’s dire image of the “Iron House” from the early 1920s, but at least seems to think there is some purpose in having “awakened.” Su set out to deliver that message to the masses of television viewers in China in River Elegy. By one estimate, there were 112 million television sets in China in 1987 reaching a total viewing audience of 600 million.36 River Elegy condemned China’s traditional civilization—as symbolized by the Yellow River, the Great Wall, and the dragon—for stifling China’s creativity. The series had vivid imagery that conveyed the sense that China, like the Yellow River, once at the forefront of civilization, had dried up because of its emphasis on stability, isolation, and conservatism. By contrast, it showed flowing blue seas as symbolizing the exploring, open culture of the West and Japan. The programs also used documentary footage from the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. According to Geremie Barmé and Linda Jaivin, the juxtaposition of images and statements created a subtext equating Maoist–Stalinist orthodoxy with state Confucianism and traditional culture—and both were disasters. The solution to China’s problems, it suggested, was to abandon this “yellow earth” and embrace the “blue world” of the sea, commerce, and contact with the outside world. According to CCTV statistics, over 200 million people watched the series.37 Television was not the only new resource open to intellectuals in the late 1980s. The beginnings of independent organizations emerged, weakening the model of the intellectual cadre. A notable example is Chen Ziming (1950–2014), who emerged from the Cultural Revolution without incarceration only to be jailed for criticizing Jiang Qing in 1975. Nonetheless, Chen participated in the 1976 Tiananmen demonstrations known as the April 5th Movement. He published in Beijing Spring of 1979 but went to university in chemistry, finishing his training at the Biophysics Institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Throughout, Chen stayed politically engaged and he tried to interest his university and political leaders in reform. He was rebuffed and for his pains they punished him by not giving him a good job placement. Chen was unable to find suitable work and became one of the first disestablished intellectuals, an accidental intellectual entrepreneur. In 1985 Chen and his wife,

36

37

Su Xiaokang et al., Deathsong of a River: A Reader’s Guide to the Chinese TV Series Heshang (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University East Asia Program, 1991), p. 30, quoting from Su Xiaokang in Qiushi, No. 2 (1988), p. 40. Geremie Barmé and Linda Jaivin, eds., New Ghosts, Old Dreams: Chinese Rebel Voices (New York: Times Books, 1992), p. 140.

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Wang Zhihong, set up two private correspondence schools that taught business skills to administrators. It was successful and lucrative. In the fall of 1986, Chen established the Beijing Social and Economic Sciences Research Institute, the first nonofficial political think tank in Beijing. In 1988, Chen and Wang bought a trade magazine, Economic Weekly, which nonetheless came with official registration—giving them a legal outlet for publishing. With their long-time colleague, Wang Juntao, Chen and Wang Zhihong turned the pedestrian magazine into a forum on a broad range of topics that, Merle Goldman notes, “soon rivaled the highly regarded semi-official World Economic Herald” in Shanghai.38 Chen and Wang were in the big leagues. While they were nonestablishment, they nonetheless sought to publish establishment intellectuals working for reformist think tanks to get the ear of Party reformers. Nonetheless, Chen Ziming’s independent think tank and magazine were a first for Chinese intellectuals since the demise of liberal organizations and the nationalization of their periodicals in the early 1950s.

Tiananmen 1989 and after: hope, repression, and a return to reform The efforts of China’s intellectuals to address the challenge of post-Mao reforms were part and parcel of the political and social tensions that led to and defined the Tiananmen demonstrations and military repression. Contingent events shaped what happened—the fateful coming together of Hu Yaobang’s death on April 15, 1989, the opportune practice of public funerals for leaders plus the customary spring Qingming festival to honor the dead, and the arrival of international television crews in May to record the Gorbachev visit. Together these provided the spark to inflame the social resentments over Party corruption and the insecurities from the changing economy. Deadlock among the Party leadership over how to handle the demonstrations let this conflagration become a prairie fire. This invoked the post-Mao Party’s prime directive: never tolerate luan (the social chaos of the Cultural Revolution). At great cost to his own ambitions for reform, which he knew required stable and open foreign relations, Deng Xiaoping would order a merciless repression of the public demonstrations and hunt down and punish anyone associated with them.

38

Merle Goldman, Sowing the Seeds of Democracy in China: Political Reform in the Deng Xiaoping Era (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994), pp. 339 ff., quotation at p. 340.

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The students who came to represent the protests on Tiananmen in 1989 were even younger than the “culture craze” intellectuals, and they took their cue from the daring criticisms of their elders. Student leaders emerged quickly in the massive demonstrations, but this was a social movement unplanned and spiraling out of any one group’s control. Students from Peking University and other major universities in Beijing (and soon in other major cities across China) took advantage of the funeral of Hu Yaobang to gather and to protest current problems, just as their elders had a dozen years earlier in the April 5th Movement of 1976. Added to the complaints of the 1986 student demonstrations over corruption and the unfair privileges of high cadre children were added broad social anxieties about inflation. Life was getting harder for ordinary urban residents and they supported the students’ efforts to call the government to account. As the government dithered and then on May 19th declared martial law, urban society resisted. Elders wrote public letters in support of the students, taxicab drivers brought them food and supplies. Workers delivered supplies by motorcycle. Ordinary people came out to join the demonstrations for “democracy.” The students called a hunger strike, they delivered a petition to the top leadership, they even scolded Party leaders on television when the leadership tried to negotiate with them.39 While the students articulated broadly felt concerns of urban Chinese, they were young, completely sure of themselves, and hotheaded. The presence of foreign media for Gorbachev’s historic visit to Beijing in May 1989 (healing the Sino-Soviet rift) put all this on international television. Westerners were electrified. Chinese urbanites around the country were thrilled and hit the streets as well. China’s elder intellectuals were worried; they knew what was coming and they increasingly counseled caution. The young rebels brushed their concerns aside. The Party leaders saw new Red Guards and they were not about to countenance such luan. The popular protests talked about “democracy,” famously building a statue of the Goddess of Democracy, but the movement reflected only a vague idea about what this was and how it was to be achieved. Wang Dan (b. 1969), one of the student leaders, had a clear sense of the Solidarity movement in Poland and saw independent unions of students as a key step toward this democracy. Yet the impromptu student associations

39

The history of the Tiananmen demonstrations is vividly captured in the documentary Gate of Heavenly Peace, by the Long Bow Group (1995); and the associated website “The Gate of Heavenly Peace” (at tsquare.tv). An early account of these events is given in Tony Saich, ed., The Chinese People’s Movement: Perspectives on Spring 1989 (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1990).

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were riven by factionalism and an unfortunate tendency to re-create the Leninist chain of command within student organizations. Still, the students had a sense of their historic role as inheritors of the May Fourth Movement and as intellectuals. They demanded the right to speak up. Wang Dan wrote on April 5, In the current movement for a New Enlightenment in China, the intellectual elite must place first priority on freedom of speech and have the courage to criticize injustice, including unjust decision making and actions by the party and the government. For the only social role intellectuals have is to speak out, and if we lose our freedom of speech and are unable to aid the progress of China’s democratization or take an independent critical stance, we will continue to be expendable dependants on the party and the government, and our fate will be no better than it has been for the last forty years.40

The emerging student leaders showed their youth. Wu’er Kaixi, the student who brashly confronted Party leaders on television, also strutted around Tiananmen like a big shot. Chai Ling, one of the few women leaders, likewise came to see herself as a martyr, leading students in an oath to sacrifice themselves for China as the confrontation with the authorities reached its climax on June 3 (though she managed to escape the violence unsacrificed). They had media attention that probably would have turned the head of anyone and for a moment they were the darlings of Beijing. However, they were too young to have the skills to navigate a national movement with high stakes. They ridiculed their elders who warned them that the Party would strike back, and hard. They rebuffed overtures from entrepreneurs (independent street merchants, or getihu) and newly formed autonomous workers’ unions in Beijing to join forces.41 From inside Zhongnanhai this all looked like a resurgence of the Red Guard terror that had struck down Deng Xiaoping’s generation twenty years earlier. This time the youth did not have Mao Zedong behind them. On June 4 the troops went in and cleared the square. The world was aghast at what appeared to be the needless brutality of the repression in June 1989. Why use tanks and armored troop carriers to gun down unarmed student demonstrators?42 China has justifiably been denounced for this state violence. For the historian, the question is, why did they do it? Why did Deng imperil his own reforms by this brutal show 40 41

42

Wang Dan, “On Freedom of Speech,” trans. in Barmé and Jaivin, New Ghosts, Old Dreams, p. 32. Elizabeth J. Perry, “Casting a Chinese ‘Democracy’ Movement: The Roles of Students, Workers, and Entrepreneurs,” in Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom and Elizabeth J. Perry, eds., Popular Protest and Political Culture in Modern China (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1994), pp. 74–92. Brook, Quelling the People.

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of power? First, the political threat of the students was very real. It was a threat to Party legitimacy because of the issue and the advocates. The issue is the Achilles heel of the CCP—corruption among Party officials. Already in the 1980s, there was popular resentment about the perquisites and personal enrichment of Party functionaries. It was so patently unfair. The students’ charges of unfairness echoed resoundingly among the urban population in Beijing and other major cities—similar instances of garnering of economic benefits for themselves were rampant among local officials across the country. To make matters worse, the advocates, the students, were inheritors of the disproportionate respect in Chinese political culture for the educated, from the Qing through the Mao years.43 Scholars carry social capital in China. The students knew it; the Party feared it; the urban population believed it. It was a serious contest for public legitimacy. Guns were easier for the Party to handle. Given that the Party was already on shaky ground with the public as the implications of Deng’s de-Maoification program were still working out and given the serious divisions within the Party leadership over how much reform was enough, this frontal assault on the Party’s claim that it was the only possible legitimate public voice of China and that Deng Xiaoping had the “correct line” for the Party was very threatening indeed. What made the threat intolerable was the prospect of an alliance between the student demonstrators and workers. Informal (and officially illegal) workers’ unions were beginning to appear in spring 1989 and they began to support the student demonstrations logistically. To the Party leadership this smelled of a Polish-style Solidarity movement. More so, the cardinal rule of CCP power has been never to tolerate alternative forms of political organization—never let the other side organize. It was the prospect of an alliance between radical students and workers that was intolerable for Deng Xiaoping. This was for the simple and obvious reason that it was precisely as a union of radical students and working Chinese that the Chinese Communist Party itself had come to power. Added to this deep lesson was the more recent lesson of the Cultural Revolution: student demonstrations had led to luan in socialist China. The organizational side of the Tiananmen demonstrations, combined with scholarly status and the ideological challenge of “fairness” (gongping), made these teenage activists and their new labor union friends a threat in the eyes of the CCP leadership that had to be exterminated.

43

This respect explains why Chiang Kai–shek and Mao bothered to persecute critical intellectuals—such intellectuals’ ideas mattered politically and so had to be controlled.

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By July 1989 it looked like economic reform was dead in China. The Party mounted yet another propaganda campaign, this time denouncing a second “Counterrevolutionary Incident in Tiananmen Square”; hounded and arrested the student leaders and related intellectuals; and reimposed strong Party control in all areas. The reaction of other nations, particularly in the Western world, isolated China as sanctions were imposed in response to the carnage all had seen on television. For a moment it looked as if China would return to the isolation and radical policies of the 1960s. However, it soon emerged that as far as reform was concerned it was too late to turn back. While the unintended consequences of reform made trouble for Deng Xiaoping’s plan of economic openness without political liberalization, the social forces released by the reforms, and in particular the creation of a broader economic elite that derives its wealth from market activity, along with varying degrees of privilege within the Party, guaranteed the continuation of those plans. In addition to a tiny new tycoon class, Deng’s reforms were creating a middle class that would not accept a return to the frightening politics and strict government supervision of the Mao era. Deng Xiaoping made grand use of his charismatic power in 1992 to cement his reform plan and mobilize this new social base. Deng’s “Southern Tour” to the special economic zones in south China, and particularly Shenzhen—next to Hong Kong—made it politically impossible for his third successor, General Secretary Jiang Zemin, to turn back. Deng, the last charismatic leader from Mao’s revolution, put his authority on the line and his policy in every newspaper: reform and opening is good. In a clear message to Party traditionalists, Deng announced that it was now “leftists” who opposed further reform, and not “Rightists” such as the students of Tiananmen, who presented the greatest challenge for China. The Fourteenth Party Congress in October 1992 relaunched reform. The post-Tiananmen retrenchment was over. At the Congress, Jiang Zemin used Deng’s authority as a font of Party ideology to certify Deng’s theory of “building socialism with Chinese characteristics,” which amounted to a mix of capitalist economic relations under Party political control. Further economic reforms were ratified at the congress under the slogan of a “socialist market economy.” The state media captured both the policy change and the continuity of political language in China. Geremie Barmé notes the resurgence of the intolerant language of the Cultural Revolution—even among the official supporters of reform and opening. He gives the example of a 1992 book that is critical of old-style leftism in the Party. The preface praises Deng Xiaoping’s famous “Southern Tour” that supported continued reform, but the preface’s style reflects the continued force of Maoist moral extremism even as it criticizes “left” resistance to Deng’s economic reforms:

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At the crucial moment when the powers of extreme “leftism” and their in-house theoreticians, swollen with arrogance, had set their sights on striking out wantonly against reform, Comrade Deng Xiaoping resolutely toured the south. He issued speeches in which he stated categorically: “We must guard against rightism, but more important, we must prevent ‘leftism’!” One simple sentence, but each word bears the weight of greatness . . . Oh, how fortunate the reforms! How blessed are our people!44

Deng Xiaoping’s “Southern Tour” marked the watershed for reform China. From then on the forces released by the economic and administrative reforms taken by the CCP built a momentum that has continued ever since. This was economic reform, as well as a lessening of Party control of daily life, but it was also a firm recommitment to Party dominance in political life.

The post-Tiananmen intellectual establishment A window on the intellectual world in China that emerged in the year after the Tiananmen incident is the pronouncements that establishment intellectuals of the day made in 1990. These reveal a continuity of many of the features of the old deal between intellectuals and the state, but also shed light on the problematic and enduring tensions in that service. A year after the violent repression of June 1989, three leading Party intellectuals appeared in a major interview in the national paper Guangming Daily.45 Su Shuangbi, an editor of Qiushi (Seeking Truth), the Party’s theory journal that replaced Red Flag in 1988, and the theorists Ru Xin and Xing Bensi (all proponents of fundamental reform in the 1980s), re-emerged to discuss “Continuing the Policy of Letting a Hundred Flowers Bloom and a Hundred Schools of Thought Contend.” The life histories of these three intellectuals, as well as the ideas and issues they raise, can help us understand how and why the “priestly” role of administrative generalists (in the model of Deng Tuo or Wang Ruoshui) rather than the secular role of professionals (as advocated, unsuccessfully, by earlier liberals such as Hu Shi) was able to attract these thoughtful men to continue to “fix Marxism” even after the crisis of Tiananmen. Su Shuangbi was a student of Wu Han, whom we met as the notable historian, leader of the Democratic League, and Beijing official in the 1950s until the Cultural Revolution. In the post-Mao period Su was a 44 45

Zhao Shilin, Fang “zuo” beiwanglu (Against the “Left” Memorandum) (Taiyuan: Shuhai chubanshe, 1992), trans. in Barmé, In the Red, p. 334. Trans. in Foreign Broadcast Information Service: China (FBIS-CHI), 90–134, July 12, 1990, pp. 25–9.

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speaker for rehabilitating his mentor (and similar colleagues) and attacking their critics, the Gang of Four.46 Su was a product of the 1950s generation, and like Yue Daiyun he felt the Party gave him, a working-class kid, the chance for an education and advancement. Like Xing and Ru, Su’s public announcements on reform over the 1980s swung back and forth, following the shift in central Party pronouncements. Thus, in spring 1986, during the heyday of Hu Yaobang, the liberal general secretary, Su was speculating—under the very same rubric of the “Hundred Flowers”—that Marxism would have to be modified and the system opened for total reform, and that non-Marxist views should not be attacked as anti-Marxist.47 Ru Xin, director of the Institute of Philosophy at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences since 1983, more closely followed the career pattern of Wang Ruoshui, People’s Daily theorist, both of them favoring the idea of Marxist humanism at least up to the mid-1980s.48 Unlike Wang Ruoshui, however, Ru Xin could not bring himself to risk a break with the establishment, and so he turned on Wang in the Anti-Bourgeois Liberalization Campaign of 1987, making the classic rectification “self-criticism and mutual criticism.” Xing Bensi, who served on Qiushi magazine with Su and Ru, fell somewhere between Su’s apparent acceptance of the Party line and Ru Xin’s apostate humanism.49 All three strike a similar tone in a June 1990 Guangming Daily interview.50 The question of the day is, says Su for the group, “How should China build socialism?” Ideology is an important arena in that effort, and the three men address the question on many intellectuals’ minds: “How should we provide correct guidance for the struggle in the ideological field?” That is, what are the rules of the game now? The overt answers are not encouraging: the words of Deng Xiaoping, enunciated by Party resolutions and the new, post-Tiananmen general secretary, Jiang Zemin, provide the guidelines. Early in the interview the three denounce both the “Leftist” errors of (unnamed) earlier periods and the “rightist” errors of bourgeois liberalization. On second reading, however, the interview is not so depressing. These men were participating in the negotiation of a revised deal

46 47

48 49 50

See, for example, his collection of essays, Su Shuangbi, Jieji douzheng yu lishi kexue (Class Struggle and Historical Science) (Shanghai: Shanghai renmin chubanshe, 1982). Su Shuangbi, “Guangyu kaizhan ‘baihua zhengming’ de jige wen” (Several Questions on the Promotion of “A Hundred Schools Contend”), Guangming ribao, April 30, 1986, p. 3, trans. in FBIS-CHI, May 19, 1986, pp. K7–K11. Brugger and Kelly, Chinese Marxism in the Post-Mao Era, pp. 139–40. Xing Bensi was still living in 2013, having served as both editor of Qiushi and vice president of the Central Party School. Quotations taken from translation in FBIS-CHI, 90–134, July 12, 1990, pp. 25–9.

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between intellectuals and the state in post-Tiananmen China. These intellectuals were not free agents with many viable alternatives, but neither were they helpless. Although they made their peace with the system, they made several assertions at the same time. Repeatedly, each man stressed the need for explicit standards as to what is or is not legitimate debate: the Party should announce and stick to such standards. Arbitrary political attacks on intellectuals turn out to be the underlying object of criticism in the interview. “It is necessary,” says Ru Xin, “to formulate policies to protect and encourage those who are willing to study new problems.” A separate class of theoreticians, they argue, should not be held to the more disciplined standards of the publicists (i.e. propaganda work). “Theoretical study is different from propaganda work,” says Xing Bensi, “in theoretical study we have to proceed from what is known to what remains unknown . . . You take risks when you make explorations . . . We have to protect those comrades who make mistakes when making explorations . . . [otherwise] science and culture will be unable to develop.” Indeed, despite the nods to current Party policy, Su Shuangbi maintains precisely the themes of his more reformist writings of 1986: exploration and development are needed and intellectuals must be free to explore, albeit with limits, but non-Marxism should not be equated with anti-Marxism. What was less clear in 1986, however, was much clearer by 1990: there is but one truth, and that truth is Marxism. Su Shuangbi in this interview demonstrates rhetorical skill worthy of his mentor, Wu Han. Su shows the dexterous flexibility of Party intellectuals that so enraged Mao. Although “upholding” Deng Xiaoping’s Four Cardinal Principles of Party dictatorship and “attacking” bourgeois liberalization, Su maintains the heart of his reform goals from 1986. Nonetheless, these goals were limited. What these intellectuals were demanding was instrumental reform, not fundamental reform. “We can only distinguish correct ideas, which conform to Marxism,” writes Su, “from erroneous ones, which run counter to Marxism, through calm discussions.” Ru Xin goes a bit further, offering that “Marxism itself should be an open-ended theory . . . [Able] to absorb useful research results of other non-Marxist schools of thought.” These were precisely the ideas pushed in the 1980s by the reformist (and, by 1990, dissident exile in the US) Su Shaozhi, when he was director of the Marxism– Leninism–Mao Zedong Thought Institute at Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.51 51

On Su Shaozhi’s work, see Brugger and Kelly, Chinese Marxism in the Post-Mao Era, pp. 33 ff.

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The ideas and values as well as the role of leading intellectuals assumed in this interview maintain the priestly (read “theoretical”) role for establishment intellectuals, or that subgroup that wished to attend to national ideological policy.52 By way of metaphor, we can call it Vatican II Maoism, with the socialist equivalent of folk masses and the vernacular liturgy. There is instrumental latitude, but the underlying dogma is not changed. This was first broached in the post-Great Leap period of 1961–4. Democracy, pluralism, a release of key moral and political questions to a wide range of social groups—none of these are suggested (in fact they are rejected as “bourgeois liberalization”). Instead, instrumental themes are addressed, such as regularity and predictability. The goal of philosophical inquiry, true since the days of Confucius himself, remained good government policy. Intellectuals, particularly theorists (called “theory workers”) are qualified by their mastery of Marxism to speak for the people on these questions by following the traditional Maoist pedagogical politics of collecting and synthesizing the ideas of the masses. “We can make a success of formulating policies,” says Su Shuangbi, “if we pool the wisdom of the masses, hold conscientious discussions, and adopt a scientific approach.” Given the lack of a viable institutional alternative to the Party in 1990, the deal outlined by Su, Xing, and Ru to continue the intellectual cadre role was good enough to keep a large number of intellectuals willing to work with and through the party-state—so long as they, too, could continue to “interpret” the mandate. That work included participation in top-level policy debates. In 1996, Liu Ji (a vice president at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences) organized young establishment scholars to compose Heart-to-Heart Chats with the General Secretary to promote Jiang Zemin’s vision for further economic reform and to rebut leftist intellectuals making public announcements at the same time in opposition to further reform. Establishment intellectuals were serving as stalking horses for reformist and conservative leaders within the Party, but they were also, as Joseph Fewsmith points out, engaging “an emerging sphere of public opinion.” The 1996 public debates around reform, writes Fewsmith, “reflected the greater role intellectuals play in policy formation in contemporary China; on the other hand, they suggested the increasing need to respond to, refute, and encourage views growing up independently among the intelligentsia and the broader public.”53 The emerging public was fanned with 52 53

Timothy Cheek, “From Priests to Professionals: Intellectuals and the State under the CCP,” in Wasserstrom and Perry, Popular Protest, pp. 104–205. Vividly discussed in Joseph Fewsmith, China since Tiananmen: From Deng Xiaoping to Hu Jintao (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008), p. 192.

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popular nationalism in the Party’s patrioti education campaign during the 1990s and would transform into the social media world of the next ideological moment in the 2000s. While Xing Bensi, Ru Xin, and Su Shuangbi and their junior colleagues writing for Jiang Zemin in Heart-to-Heart Talks gave voice to the continuing role of the intellectual cadre and its efforts at reforming the Party, for many Chinese intellectuals Tiananmen broke the Maoist deal between intellectuals and the CCP. By the mid-1990s China’s intellectuals were increasingly disestablished intellectuals with no clear alternative public role.54 Intellectuals returned to print, in journals such as Reading (Dushu) that carried sway in intellectual circles, but no longer did they parade their newest thoughts in the national media as Wang Ruoshui and Liu Binyan had been able to do before Tiananmen. Meanwhile, the unified public sphere of the propaganda state became fragmented as hundreds of new newspapers, magazines, television shows, and films proliferated. By decade’s end there no longer was a “national audience” for intellectuals. The post-Mao liberties they enjoyed came at the price of lost influence. Some literary critics in China in the mid-1990s declared a new period, a “post-new era,” or Chinese postmodernism. This new world was crass, commercial, cynical, and a thousand times more entertaining than Party pap or intellectual angst. This was the birth of China’s raucous and commercial public culture, captured in the “New Ditty on the Ten Kinds of People”: The first class of citizens are the cadres; Young and old alike, they enjoy idle fortune. The second class of citizens are the entrepreneurs, With their portable telephones tucked into their belts. The third class of citizens are the compradors, Who help the foreigners make big bucks. The fourth class of citizens are the actors, A wiggle of their butts earns them a thousand dollars. The fifth class of citizens are the lawyers, Who gouge both defendants and plaintiffs. The sixth class of citizens are the surgeons; They cut open your belly, then ask for a bribe. The seventh class of citizens are the pedlars; In one night their pockets bulge with coins. The eighth class of citizens are the propagandists; Every three or four days they gorge themselves at banquets.

54

Merle Goldman adopts this model of disestablished intellectuals in her account of the 1990s, From Comrade to Citizen: The Struggle for Political Rights in China (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005), p. 4.

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Reviving reform: correcting revolutionary errors (1976–1995) The ninth class of citizens are the teachers, Whose tastebuds never experience any delicacies. The tenth class of citizens are workers, peasants, and soldiers, They bend their backs and bust their asses, learning from Lei Feng.55

The ditty captures the social changes, such as the return of professions like lawyers and doctors, as well as the ironic inversion of order with workers, peasants, and soldiers—the heroes of the Cultural Revolution—at the bottom, “busting their asses” following the pathetic example of Lei Feng, the PLA’s boy scout model soldier. Not far behind are teachers and propagandists, the exhaled roles for intellectuals under Confucian and Communist orders. Commerce and popular culture, as well as a distrusting Party, sidelined intellectuals. “The masterminds truly had a great fall,” concludes Jing Wang. “And despite all the wishful thinking, no task forces nor the Party’s men can restore the privileged position of literature and the literati again.”56 Intellectuals noticed the change. Some bemoaned the descent into consumerism, and a few hankered after the good old days when Partyled culture gave them a stronger role. Most just carried on. There were two major options in the early 1990s: diving into the sea of business (xiahai) or returning to the groves of academia. The newspapers buzzed with stories of university professors opening up bicycle repair shops or restaurants. Luckier ones accepted posts on boards of directors of new companies, and all could start writing for money in the commercial press for the emerging infotainment market. Some, as well, forwent the guaranteed income (iron rice bowl) in state bureaucracies to try their hand forming their own companies.57 However, state plans and intellectual proclivities joined to send most of the intellectual elite back to the newly expanding university system. From their posts as professors, academic intellectuals continued to write, some for the renewed professional journals in a scholarly and technical vein, but others contributed to a lively, indeed often vitriolic, public debate in the now fragmented public sphere of intellectual journals. These intellectual squabbles will define the next ideological moment, but at the end of the reform moment some of these new voices caught the change. Xu Jilin, a young Shanghai academic in the late 1980s and early 1990s, concluded that modernization inevitably 55 56 57

Trans. by Victor Mair, in Jing Wang, High Culture Fever: Politics, Aesthetics, and Ideology in Deng’s China (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996), p. 263. Wang, High Culture Fever, p. 266. Xiuwu R. Liu gives a lively oral history of three such scholars who threw away their state jobs to start their own electronics company in the 1990s, in Jumping into the Sea: From Academics to Entrepreneurs in South China (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2001).

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entails “the erosion of the central position of intellectuals,” and Wang Ning, another younger scholar, invoked the description of the theorist Zygmunt Bauman of the involuntary transformation of European intellectuals from cultural “legislators” to the more humble role of “interpreters,” and enjoined Chinese intellectuals to do the same.58 Meanwhile, similar social changes and student protests had marked life in Taiwan. Throughout the 1980s, the grip of the ruling Nationalists (the Guomindang, or, in their preferred romanization, Kuomintang) had loosened in response to the demands of a rising middle class and a restive student population. A year after the Tiananmen demonstrations in China, students from Taiwan National University staged a sit-in at Memorial Square in Taipei. The students wanted direct elections for Taiwan’s president and the National Assembly. Their protest, which grew to some 20,000 in number, coincided with the inauguration of Lee Teng-hui, the Guomindang’s choice for president who had been elected only by the National Assembly. The students wore the white Formosan lily to show their identification as Taiwanese, and so the movement has become known as the Wild Lily Student Movement. Conditions in Taipei and Beijing, however, were different in important respects. While Lee Teng-hui had not been popularly elected, the opposition party, the Democratic Progressive Party, had been legalized a few years earlier and Taiwan was clearly on the path to democratic reform. Indeed, Lee Teng-hui’s response to the student demonstration was to invite fifty students into the presidential building and to promise democratic reforms in the months ahead. Good to his word, and clearly able to make the transition to campaign politics, Lee allowed open elections for president, which were held in 1996, and Lee Teng-hui won, becoming Taiwan’s first democratically elected president.59 Taiwan, too, had its share of contentious public intellectuals, notably Bo Yang (1920–2008), a novelist, journalist, and political commentator who had moved to Taiwan in 1949 when Chiang Kai-shek’s forces had retreated there. Through the early 1960s, Bo had become increasingly critical of the Guomindang’s political domination. He was arrested for defaming Chiang and imprisoned for a decade, most of the time in Taiwan’s infamous penal colony on Green Island off the southeast coast. Released after Chiang’s death in 1975, Bo Yang, like his mainland compatriots, turned his ire on Chinese culture itself. In 1984 he gave lectures in Iowa that became the book The Ugly Chinaman (Choulou de 58 59

Xu Jilin and Wang Ning, quoted in Wang, High Culture Fever, p. 265. Linda Chao and Ramon H. Myers, The First Chinese Democracy: Political Life in the Republic of China on Taiwan (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998).

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Zhongguoren). It caused an uproar not only in Taiwan, where Bo Yang continued to live until his death, but also in China. Not since Lu Xun’s biting commentaries and satires in the 1920s and 1930s had the Chinese character been subjected to such a forthright critique. Bo Yang did not mince words: Even among the Chinese in the United States you will find the absurd situation wherein leftists, rightists, moderates, independents, left-leaning moderates, moderate-leaning leftists, right-leaning moderates, and moderate-leaning rightists can’t seem to find a common language and are constantly at each other’s throats. What does this imply about the Chinese people? . . . How is it possible for such a great people to have degenerated to such a state of ugliness?60

Bo Yang is unequivocal: “My answer is that this is not a problem of any particular individual but rather of Chinese culture as a whole.” Bo Yang enumerates the faults of his people: infighting; the inability to admit error and the propensity to blame others; inveterate bragging and boasting; and the inability to treat themselves, or others, with respect. Yet, Bo Yang concludes, “With so many loathsome qualities, only the Chinese people can reform themselves.” His solution is to develop a personal sense of judgment: The only way to improve the situation of the Ugly Chinaman is for each of us to cultivate our own personal taste and judgment. If we’re poor actors, we can at least enjoy going to plays. Those who don’t understand what’s happening on stage can enjoy the music, lights, costumes and scenery, while those who do understand can appreciate drama as an art form. The ability to make such distinctions is a great achievement in itself . . . I have my freedom and rights, whether the government gives them to me or not. If we had the capacity to make proper judgments, we could demand elections and be rigorous in our selection of candidates. But without this capacity, we’ll never be able to distinguish a beautiful woman from a pock-marked hag.

Many of the themes Bo Yang raised, such as the grounds for effective democracy, would come to dominate intellectual debates in the next ideological moment of rejuvenation.

Enduring ideas, 1985 The idea of the people was rescued from the idealized collective images of the Cultural Revolution in this ideological moment of reform after Mao. From the wall posters of former Red Guards in the late 1970s to 60

Quotations from Bo Yang, “The Ugly Chinaman,” trans. in Barmé and Minford, Seeds of Fire, pp. 170–1, 175–6.

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Party theorists like Wang Ruoshui to students on Tiananmen Square in 1989, “the people” became individuals, ren, and not the collective renmin. Chinese citizens, as well as the intellectuals who still felt they could speak for the general public, demanded that individuals and personal values become the focus of politics, not class struggle, not group identity. Intellectuals explored how this newly emphasized individual ought to relate to public life, but class and national definitions of “the people” were not the focus during these years. Li Zehou was representative of the moment in his search to find, describe, and cultivate individual subjectivity. At the same time, China’s raucous popular culture was allowed to enter a more relaxed version of China’s “directed public sphere” as the post-Mao propaganda state stepped back from total control to strategic management of communication. Thus ditties like “The Ten Kinds of People” could mock the re-emergence of social class stratification among “the people” that kept political and economic elites sitting pretty and workers, peasants, and soldiers out in the cold. Chinese remained as Zhongguoren (people of the state of China) or Zhongguode (pertaining to the state of China). However, discussions of China in the 1980s focused on culture, Chinese culture or Zhongguo wenhua. During these years of painful reflection and reform, this focus took the form of critique of the character flaws of Chinese civilization—seen more in terms of “feudal” characteristics of political despotism and social irresponsibility than of Confucian heritage per se. While this echoed similar criticisms of Chinese culture in the May Fourth period in the 1910s and 1920s, by the 1980s the conditions of this criticism were crucially different. China in 1980 was not occupied by foreign powers and its state was, if anything, too strong and not too weak. The criticism of Chinese character thus played out differently in the 1980s compared with the 1920s. The reform moment began with real self-doubt about a civilization that could inflict upon itself something like the Cultural Revolution. The beginning of economic success by the mid1990s and a concerted effort by the Party to peddle nationalism as the glue in a new nationwide education campaign had an impact, particularly on the next generation.61 By 1996 the national best-seller was the antiforeign screed China Can Say No!. Democracy for Mao and the CCP was democratic centralism. Even in his most liberal speech, the original version of his “On the Correct Handling of Contradictions among the People” in February 1957, Mao 61

On the patriotism campaign, see Geremie Barmé, In The Red; and Suisheng Zhao, A Nation-State by Construction: Dynamics of Modern Chinese Nationalism (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2004).

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declared, “Democracy is democracy with leadership; it is democracy under centralized leadership, not the democracy of anarchism.”62 Deng Xiaoping in his Four Cardinal Principles in 1979 had reiterated this. Yet during this reform moment this official conception was challenged from two directions—from within the Party and from society. Party intellectuals cited Marxist theory and Party experience to demand that political power be decentralized; that democracy required first regular procedures, then a procedural voice for individuals, and finally the protection of individuals through law. Some, like Fang Lizhi, went fully to the position of liberal democracy, and were kicked out of the Party. Outside the Party, younger scholars and radical students all embraced the idea of democracy and individualism, though they had fuzzier ideas of how a legal regime regulates democratic politics. The West, however, was the model for democracy—to imitate or to beat. The Party unequivocally reinstated control in the summer of 1989 with “shock and awe” tactics very much directed at its own people. And so a sullen political truce on the question of democracy held as economic growth and a more vibrant and colorful life of consumerism blossomed through the 1990s.

62

MacFarquhar, Cheek, and Wu, Secret Speeches, p. 133.

China in the 1990s

This was the twilight of the intellectual cadre. The 1990s saw the growing marginalization of establishment intellectuals into mere government employees. Already discredited by complicity in Mao’s revolutions and now disestablished by economic reforms and loss of prestige, the intellectual cadre role gave way to alternatives. After 1995 there would be no more Deng Tuos or Wang Ruoshuis—intellectuals widely respected, highly placed, and dedicated to government service. Party intellectuals and government officials continued, of course. Xing Bensi, one of the new establishment intellectuals supporting the Hundred Flowers after Tiananmen, lived on into the 2000s as the editor of the key Party theory journal, Seeking Truth. But outside official circles no Chinese intellectuals really knew him, much less read that journal. In the 1980s such establishment intellectuals were prophets to the people, by the end of the 1990s they were merely theologians speaking to the clergy. The demise of the role of the intellectual cadre was paralleled by the rise of alternative occupations for China’s intellectuals, predominantly as academics in the vastly expanding university sector in the 1990s. In 1995 the Ministry of Education established the 211 Project to fund new growth in China’s top research universities. By the year 2000 there were over 20 million students enrolled in some 2,236 colleges and universities across China.1 China’s thinkers and writers began the shift to professors and experts. This was a form of professionalization as the intellectual work of these professors was largely certified through academic disciplines in university departments and their professional journals. Equally, professional associations and the social status they confer returned: doctors, engineers, scientists of various stripes, and even lawyers (though their closeness to political issues has made that a perilous profession). The majority of these professional intellectuals, however, concerned themselves with their work in their fields and so did not come into the 1

Li Lixu, “China’s Higher Education Reform 1988–2003: A Summary,” Asia Pacific Education Review, Vol. 5, No. 1 (2004), pp. 14–22.

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scope of cultural or critical intellectuals, other than as a growing and discerning audience.2 The failure of reform Marxism in the fires of Tiananmen began the retreat of formal ideology. By the late 1990s Maoism was no longer the vocabulary through which intellectuals expressed and debated their ideals and political propositions, and the new generation of Party leaders has allowed this. Party ideology would become what it is today, a political platform that political activists would do well to mention. It is no longer a system of thought that explicitly shapes debate. Conformity with current policy and refraining from criticizing Party leaders by name suffices. This is the shift from big-“I” Ideology—like Maoism during his life—to small“i” ideology—less dogma and more shared assumptions behind a range of divergent proposals. Nonetheless, we shall see that some of the working parts, the assumptions, of a “living Maoism” still shape Chinese intellectual debate in the 2000s. The public sphere in the 1990s saw the return of commercial media and a publishing market, replete with the return of media stars, advertising, and a raucous tabloid press. In this, the two previous forms of the public sphere in twentieth-century China—print capitalism and the propaganda state—came to form a new public sphere: today’s directed public sphere. Less free than the 1930s but more free than the 1960s, China’s directed public sphere is characterized by the incongruous images of a wide choice of commercial media and active censorship by government authorities. The next ideological moment will be shaped by a third addition to this public sphere: the Internet. Less obvious to urban dwellers was also a resurgence of popular culture across the countryside, including a revival of popular religion, with its shrines and temples, local healers and preachers, all sorts of “among-the-people” (minjian) cultural exchanges. These years saw the Qigong exercise craze and rise of the Falun gong meditation group. While more colorful and diverse, these more relaxed, popular, and commercial media operated, and still do operate, within the constraints of the CCP’s directed public sphere. The 1990s saw an explosion of entrepreneurial opportunities and some people got rich. Rather than denouncing them as capitalist-roaders, the Party under Deng Xiaoping praised them for contributing to production, declaring, “It is glorious to get rich!” A small number of people outside the Party became quite rich and therefore became a social force 2

I am following the basic Weberian framework for distinguishing three major kinds of intellectual: professional, cultural, and critical. See Hao, Intellectuals at a Crossroads, pp. 377–95.

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with which the Party would soon have to deal. By mid-decade the Party’s patriotic education campaign had produced a revival of virulent Chinese nationalism reflected in pop books like China Can Say No in 1996. This popular nationalism took root and would become a force that the Party would soon find hard to control. The failure of the grand intellectual projects of the 1980s and the crisis of Tiananmen left intellectuals lost, looking for a new social role and for a replacement for Maoism. Intellectual debates among metropolitan intellectuals became shrill, obscure, personal, and inconclusive. Intellectuals were no longer the teachers of society, no longer the voice of the Party. They entered a period of soul-searching.

6

Rejuvenation Securing the Chinese Dream (1996–2015)

Fig. 6. Chan Koonchung in a Beijing Starbucks

Starbucks and Yahoo! were the talismans of public intellectual life in China on the eve of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. In 2006 Chan Koonchung, a writer and intellectual organizer, frequented coffee shops in Beijing. Sometimes, as in the picture above, it was one of the many Starbucks lounges that have proliferated in major cities, but just as often it was in cafés associated with bookshops where he hosted salons bringing together scholars, thoughtful businesspeople, and cultural entrepreneurs from the 262

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Chinese diaspora who, like himself, had been drawn to Beijing to understand “Rising China” and its relations with the outside world. Meanwhile, Chan would start publishing critical novels about the problems of contemporary life in China. At the same time, Liu Xiaobo, firebrand literary critic and human rights activist, was at home in Beijing, on the computer and online. He was adding to his blog and praising the Internet. For Liu, first arrested after June 4th for his part in the 1989 Tiananmen demonstrations, and most recently jailed for his protest activities in late 1996, the Internet opened a new world. While he could not publish in China, he was tolerated when publishing outside China. Before the Internet, however, getting manuscripts safely abroad took a lot of time and effort. Now, he was sending his latest articles by email and getting a reply from the editor overseas in a matter of hours. The computer and Internet are wonderful, enthuses Liu; they expanded his world unimaginably, supercharged his writing, and provided enough income to get by. This ease of online publishing energized Liu to join “Charter 08,” a petition for democracy in China of which he became the lead author, and for which he was detained in 2008 and subsequently sentenced to jail for eleven years.

The ideological moment: the Chinese Dream and the perils of prosperity In the early 2000s China was a marvel to the world, with phenomenal economic growth, flourishing cities, a rising middle class, and a growing sense of national self-confidence. There can be no greater contrast to the situation a century earlier, when Liang Qichao struggled to find a way to “save China.” “Rising China” became the catchphrase, at home as well as abroad. How had the Chinese Communist Party defied expectations and provided some two decades of sustained economic growth without conceding political power to democratic reforms? Talk of a “China model” or “Beijing consensus” began to challenge the “Washington consensus” of George W. Bush and the neoliberal triumphalism of America. The rising self-confidence in China came to a crescendo in August 2008 with the Beijing Olympic games. The run-up had been marred by uprisings in China’s west around Tibet and the worldwide confrontations that ensued as China paraded its Olympic torch around the world only to be greeted by protesters. The games themselves, however, were a festival of celebration, an announcement of

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Voices in the 2000s YU K E P I N G ( b . 19 59 ) : D E M O C R A C Y I S A G O O D THING ( 20 06 ) Democracy is a good thing, but this does not mean that democracy can do everything. Democracy is a political system that holds that sovereignty belongs to the people, but it is only one of many systems that govern human societies. Democracy mainly regulates the political lives of people, but it cannot replace the other systems and it cannot regulate everything in people’s lives. Democracy has its internal limitations; it is not a panacea and it cannot solve all of humankind’s problems. But democracy guarantees basic human rights, offers equal opportunity to all people, and represents a basic human value. Not only is democracy a means for solving people’s livelihood issues, but it is also a goal of human development. A tool for achieving the other goals, democracy is also in accord with human nature. Even if food and housing are widely available or even guaranteed to all, the human character is incomplete without democratic rights. . . . Since democracy is rule by the people, it should respect the people’s own choice. If a national government employs forceful means to make the people accept a system that they did not choose, then this is national autocracy and national tyranny masquerading as democracy. When one country uses mostly violent methods to force the people in other countries to accept their so-called democratic system, then this is international autocracy and international tyranny. National tyranny and international tyranny are both contrary to the nature of democracy. We Chinese are presently building a strong, modern socialist nation with unique Chinese characteristics. For us, democracy is not only a good thing but an essential one.1 CHAR TER 0 8 (2 00 8) A hundred years have passed since the writing of China’s first constitution. 2008 also marks the sixtieth anniversary of the promulgation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the thirtieth anniversary of the appearance of the Democracy Wall in Beijing, and the tenth of China’s signing of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. We are approaching the twentieth anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen massacre of pro-democracy student protesters. The Chinese people, who have endured human rights disasters and uncountable struggles across these same years, now include many who see clearly that freedom, equality, and human rights are universal values of humankind and that democracy and constitutional government are the fundamental framework for protecting these values.

1

Yu Keping, “Minzhu shige hao dongxi” (first published 2006), trans. in Yu Keping, Democracy Is a Good Thing: Essays on Politics, Society, and Culture in Contemporary China (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2009), pp. 4–5.

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(cont.) . . . China, as a major nation of the world, as one of five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, and as a member of the UN Council on Human Rights, should be contributing to peace for humankind and progress toward human rights. Unfortunately, we stand today as the only country among the major nations that remains mired in authoritarian politics. Our political system continues to produce human rights disasters and social crises, thereby not only constricting China’s own development but also limiting the progress of all of human civilization. This must change, truly it must. The democratization of Chinese politics can be put off no longer. Accordingly, we dare to put civic spirit into practice by announcing Charter 08. We hope that our fellow citizens who feel a similar sense of crisis, responsibility, and mission, whether they are inside the government or not, and regardless of their social status, will set aside small differences to embrace the broad goals of this citizens’ movement. Together we can work for major changes in Chinese society and for the rapid establishment of a free, democratic, and constitutional country. We can bring to reality the goals and ideals that our people have incessantly been seeking for more than a hundred years, and can bring a brilliant new chapter to Chinese civilization.2 BA I T ONGDO NG (b. 19 70 ): NEW M ISSION FOR AN O L D S TA TE (2 00 9) Chinese intellectuals mistook the weakest moment of this abnormal dynasty [the Qing] as representing the core of traditional Chinese politics, and misguidedly turned their fire on tradition. During the May Fourth Movement (in 1919), Chinese radicals called for the demolition of the “Confucian Store” (Kong jiadian). The sad irony was that, in their bid to get rid of the authoritarian elements in Chinese politics, they helped to dissolve the Confucian elements that served historically as the main counterbalance [to the authoritarian Legalist elements]. In consequence, Chinese politics has since developed an even more authoritarian tendency, which has reinforced the radicals’ conviction that traditional Chinese politics was purely authoritarian. For example, under early Communist rule (Chinese Communists belonged to the most radical wing of the May Fourth Movement), even village officials were directly appointed by the central government. However, throughout much of Chinese history, communities below county level had often enjoyed a large degree of autonomy. Recently China has experimented with village elections, which many Chinese and Westerners welcome as a sign of the country’s democratization. Yet this development can equally be viewed as a return to traditional politics, when the regime was far less authoritarian.3

2 3

Liu Xiaobo, No Enemies, No Hatred: Selected Essays and Poems (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012), pp. 301 and 309–10. Bai Tongdong, Jiu bang xin ming: Gujin DongXi canzhao xiade gudian rujia zhengzhi zhexne (New Mission of an Old State: Classical Confucian Political Philosophy in a Contemporary and Comparative Perspective) (Beijing: Beijing chubanshe, 2009), trans. in Bai Tongdong, China: The Political Philosophy of the Middle Kingdom (London: Zed Books, 2012), pp. 174–5.

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China’s prosperous age (shengshi Zhongguo).4 The financial collapse exploded in America only a few months later, and the global financial crisis that ensued only strengthened the feeling that China’s time had come and that the age of Western domination that had defined life in China for over a century was passing. By 2012 the newest Party leader, Xi Jinping, tapped this emerging official Chinese triumphalism by calling on everyone to pursue and achieve the “Chinese Dream”—to “dare to dream, work assiduously to fulfill the dreams and contribute to the revitalization of the nation.”5 This happy state of affairs, however, brought its own challenges. Now that China had gained a measure of wealth and power and was internationally respected, or at least treated with respectful tact, how to deal with the consequences of reform? How to share the wealth at home? How to be a responsible player regionally and on the world stage? In short, the question that defines the ideological moment in China today is, how to be a great power? For the CCP this translates into how to secure legitimacy as a ruling party and how best to handle the PRC’s foreign policy. For China’s intellectuals in the public arena the question is broader: how to be a just society and positive leader in the world? China’s intellectuals, like Chan Koonchung and Liu Xiaobo, have been operating in new worlds as well. The disestablishment of China’s intellectuals from the party-state, already apparent in 1995, has carried on apace. New roles have established themselves, particularly as university professors, independent writers selling their manuscripts, journalists, book and magazine editors, businesspeople of all stripes—all in various ways experts. Government jobs in think tanks, research institutes, even the Propaganda Department, have continued but those intellectual cadres have retreated to the functional specialization of their fields, advising and serving the bureaucracy as experts and no longer speaking “for the people.” The vaunted roles of intellectual cadres and establishment intellectuals as teachers of the nation, active leaders in a historical transformation of society, even as repositories of China’s cultural heritage, are increasingly only a memory, though a powerful one. Some of China’s thinkers and writers have begun to talk in terms of post-intellectuals, leaving that identity to the past. 4

5

Geremie Barmé, “China’s Flat Earth: History and 8 August 2008,” China Quarterly, No. 197 (March 2009), pp. 64–86; and Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom, China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know, 2nd edn. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), p. 101. Xi Jinping’s quote from “Youth Urged to Contribute to Realization of ‘Chinese Dream,’” Xinhuanet, May 4, 2013, at http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/china/ 2013–05/04/c_132359537.htm. This history and current use of the slogan is covered by the official English-language newspaper, China Daily, at www.chinadaily.com.cn/ china/Chinese-dream.html, accessed June 25, 2015.

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Intellectuals (zhishifenzi) had been the ineffectual cultural critics of the Republic and the culpable handmaidens of the disaster under Mao. Better to be scholars (xuezhe), readers (dushuren), writers (zuojia), commentators (pinglunjia), or one of any number of intellectually respectable professions— scientist, journalist, artist, doctor, lawyer, or such. In the late 1990s the mood of intellectuals was despairing. Zhu Yong’s 1999 book What Are Intellectuals to Do? captures something of the mood: I fear no social group has had such ups and downs as intellectuals have, experiencing such a dramatic fate in a century of profound changes: from heroes of creation to objects of remolding, from subjects of discourse to marginal mayflies, and feeling themselves unable to explain themselves simply, and so presenting the world with a confused and indistinct image. They created myths and were shattered by those myths; they led the currents and were engulfed by those currents. They were paragons of excellence and they were thoroughly degraded; they cherished the ideal nation, yet created a spiritual prison. They appear to be the critics, but seem unable to escape their original sin.6

In Rising China, China’s thinkers and writers have moved on. They go online at coffee shops, at university, and more recently on their electronic tablets. They travel internationally more; they live on their smartphones—having pioneered the short text messaging now known as Weibo in China and Twitter elsewhere, and more recently Weixin (WeChat) mobile text messaging.7 It is a confusing world to describe, but even more confusing for China’s current intellectuals to live in. We will review the shape of their world, made up of the sinophone universe, those communicating in Chinese, and the reality of the directed public sphere under the anxious watch of the party-state but fired by a form of print capitalism and the unpredictable forces of the Internet. Within this universe we will visit again the many worlds of China’s intellectuals: the official world, academic world, commercial world, associational worlds and the lonely world of open dissent. We are interested in the public intellectuals (now known by the shorthand gongzhi), those who choose to address public affairs beyond their scholarly or professional specialties. We will see a range of public intellectuals— establishment, academic, and independent. The new limited version of 6 7

Zhu Yong, Zhishifenzi yinggai gan shenme?, p. 1. Weixin is a Chinese microblogging service akin to Twitter (Twitter is blocked from use in China). Until about 2013, when it came under increased censorship pressure from the CCP, Weibo was the dominant social media service used by China’s intellectuals. In response, much social commentary has moved over to the more flexible Weixin/WeChat format which provides micro-messaging on mobile devices between individual users or to a set list of recipients. Weixin is harder to control but reaches fewer people.

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establishment intellectuals includes Pan Wei at Peking University, theorist of the China model; Yu Keping, a Party advocate of democratic reform at a key government think tank; and Cui Zhiyuan at Qinghua University, who embraced the left-wing Chongqing model under Bo Xilai. Academic public intellectuals speak from their university perches but to a public intellectual audience. They include Xu Jilin and Bai Tongdong in Shanghai; and Qin Hui, Wang Hui, and Xu Youyu in Beijing. They give a sense of this vibrant world dominated by intellectual standoffs between New Left and liberal camps. Chan Koonchung is our entryway into the third world of independent public intellectuals, where commerce, religious and local associations—including a range of New Confucian organizations—and the Internet intersect. Among and between these three roles for public intellectuals live the lonely souls who choose open dissent, from 2010 Nobel Peace Prize-winner Liu Xiaobo and Ai Weiwei, the performance art enfant terrible of the establishment, to a host of lesser-known activists, lawyers, and malcontents. All of this is shengshi Zhongguo: China in the prosperous age. In this ideological moment, China’s thinkers and writers, now with smartphones and Weixin accounts, continue to debate who are “the people,” what it is to be “Chinese,” and what is “democracy.” But they do so no longer in order to save China from destruction but to call on China to deliver on her promises to all Chinese and to the world. The challenges of China’s prosperous age China in 1995 was on the cusp of sustained growth. Already the major cities showed profound changes, not least the arrival of notable foreign brands, such as McDonald’s and Starbucks, but also in a building boom of skyscrapers. At the same time, daily life changed in fundamental ways. The power of the work unit, the danwei, to shape the lives of urban Chinese began to wane in the 1990s. Until then, not only did one’s work unit provide employment and health insurance, but usually also housing, schooling for children, and even job placement for the next generation. They also doled out ration coupons for grain, meat, oil, and cloth. Universities, of course, were the danwei for students and the job allocation system of the universities was a major fact of life for intellectuals up to then. Recall that Chen Ziming and Wang Juntao just ten years earlier were driven to form a non-state think tank in Beijing because they had been punished through the job allocation system with assignments to inappropriate jobs. Increasingly in the 1990s, finding jobs, changing jobs, and securing housing and even grocery shopping or going to a restaurant moved from the bureaucracy to the market. The most exciting development on the streets of Shanghai in the mid-1990s was the proliferation of real-estate offices,

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with windows plastered with apartment sales. This had not been possible for nearly fifty years. It was refreshing, it was exciting, and it was timeconsuming. Deng Xiaoping had gambled rightly; the market absorbed the anxieties and energies of China’s urban classes that had been dangerously focused on political reform. Chinese intellectuals noted the change. They called it the commercialization of daily life. The lures of the market, with the titillations of infotainment, the distractions of shopping, and the temptations of money-making were all part of the economic liberalization of daily life, and they dazzled. This rush to the life of the market only compounded the political alienation of China’s former intellectual cadres. Held at a distance from their government, China’s intellectuals now found that their reading public had stopped paying attention. Intellectual debate turned inward and stumbled on some of the bad habits that the Taiwanese writer Bo Yang had identified in the 1980s, particularly intellectual factionalism and feuding. Even the main contestants in these rows admitted that the struggles were often “storms in a teacup.” The debates raged in the new intellectual journals, beginning with Twenty-First Century (Ershiyi shiji), and joined by The Scholar (Xueren), Reading (Dushu), Strategy and Management (Zhanlüe yu guanli), and Frontiers (Tianya). These intellectual journals had more leeway and less censorship than the national press of the 1980s but they reached only a tiny minority of Chinese—fellow academics, students, and those who identified as intellectuals—not even 1 percent of the population. An account of the intellectual debates of the 1990s and early 2000s produces a dizzying map of debates that flowered, faded, and merged into the next debate across the social sciences, the humanities, and policy advice. At mid-decade these included heated exchanges on “institutional innovation” (a candidate to replace “reform” and avoid “democracy”), on “state capacity” (a vehicle for advocates and opponents of “neo-authoritarianism”), on “national studies” (i.e. fresh debates on what “Chinese” means and platforms for academic New Confucianism), on “the humanistic spirit” (a defense of literature and philosophy in the face of short-term policy orientations), and on the concept of civil society and constitutional democracy carried out in terms of foreign examples and academic arguments.8 These intellectual debates had dissolved by the early 2000s into three major constellations: liberals, New Left, and New Confucians.9 We will meet 8

9

These debates and readable translations from some of the main disputants, along with a handy chart of the debates (on p. 38) are provided in Wang, One China, Many Paths. Much of the material in the book was first published in the New Left Review, and so reflects that journal’s orientation. Reviewed in Gan Yang, Tong san tong (The Three Traditions) (Beijing: Sanlian shudian, 2007).

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several representatives, below, with Wang Hui and Cui Zhiyuan widely identified as New Left critics of neoliberalism and nostalgic for the good parts of Mao’s revolution. Xu Jilin and Qin Hui represent the Chinese liberal approach, favoring law and incremental reforms toward electoral democracy. Kang Shaoguang and Bai Tongdong open the window on the diverse communities that self-identify as New Confucian. National politics was dominated first by recovery from Tiananmen, and coping with the profound shock and challenge of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and then by the torrent of passions that the new nationalism of a post-Tiananmen patriotic education campaign had stirred across Chinese society. These passions were engaged on the one hand by the pleasure of Hong Kong returning to Chinese administration in 1997 and on the other by the frustration of viewing Taiwan’s increasing moves away from the status quo since 1949 (under which the Guomindang also claimed to be the government of China). A local independence movement was growing on Taiwan under the Democratic Progressive Party. This led to a confrontation in the Taiwan straits in 1996 in which the PRC flexed its muscle, and tested some missiles, to make the point to Taiwanese electors of the dire consequences of going independent (in the end Lee Teng-hui, the Guomindang candidate, won the presidential contest and maintained the status quo). The major problem for the CCP, however, was domestic. Chinese students and urban citizens hit the streets in numbers not seen since Tiananmen in 1989. They were demonstrating in favor of the government while loudly clamoring for the Party to “protect the dignity” and “the national honor” of China by sinking any American ships that came too close.10 The Party found itself riding the tiger of popular nationalism. The Party established a predictable, if still confidential, pattern for leadership rotation through Party congresses held regularly every five years beginning in 1977. The decade of the 2000s saw China enter the WTO in December 2001. Relations with the United States drew back from what looked like bitter confrontation in the late 1990s after China signed up to the War against Terror following the 9-11 attacks on the US in 2001. While America welcomed Chinese support in its new crusade, Chinese authorities promptly declared Uighur separatists in the far western autonomous region, Xinjiang, to be terrorists. Stern measures there and in Tibet have kept those two regions in the PRC but at considerable cost. Uprisings, demonstrations, and the Party’s harsh repression of these areas continue to sour China’s relations with Western nations. At 10

Peter Hays Gries, China’s New Nationalism: Pride, Politics, and Diplomacy (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004).

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home, China’s harsh rule in Tibet and Xinjiang is a continuing source of concern for some of China’s intellectuals as well: how can China in this prosperous age, how can a great power, how can the Chinese Dream, be doing these things? Public life in China has most strongly been shaped by the social contradictions that have come from the Party’s reform efforts. The struggle between winners and losers in prosperous China appears in three contradictions: class conflict, competition between local and central governments, and contradictions between growth and sustainability. There is a simmering class conflict brewing between the prosperous middle class, the minuscule super-elite, the rural poor, the laid-off industrial workers, and the lumpenproletariat of the “floating population” of urban day-laborers.11 The second contradiction is the undeniable reality of two governments in the one-party state: the central government and the local governments. China may not be a multi-party system, but it is emphatically a bifurcated state system. Beijing leaders bemoan the insubordination of local authorities, and local leaders know full well that (contrary to Western views about Communist systems) the Leninist party-state is in fact not strong enough to control all of them all the time.12 The third contradiction is between growth and sustainability, particularly resource and environmental sustainability. None of the actors in Chinese society, from the top leadership to the poorest farmer or day-laborer, can continue to use land, water, air, and energy in the same wasteful ways and expect other than disaster in just a few decades. While social contradictions between rich and poor and central and local governments are more acute, it is the chronic contradiction of environmental sustainability and economic growth that will most fundamentally determine China’s future. Only belatedly has the government leadership done more than talk the talk of conservation and sustainability and only recently have social groups been able to mobilize to protest the local destruction caused by industrial pollution.13 China’s public intellectuals have engaged all these issues as best they can in the directed public sphere of China since Tiananmen. The 11

12

13

The best overview of policy and intellectual debates in my view is given in Fewsmith, China since Tiananmen, and is covered in short compass in Timothy Cheek, Living with Reform: China since 1989 (London: Zed Books, 1989), pp. 103–21. The impact of these tensions between central and local state is powerfully documented in Joseph Fewsmith, The Logic and Limits of Political Reform in China (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013). China’s environmental issues are hard to grasp. A good introduction is Judith Shapiro, China’s Environmental Challenges (London: Polity Press, 2011). The science is covered sensibly in works by Vaclav Smil, such as China’s Past, China’s Future (London: Routledge, 2004). The long-term history is covered in Robert B. Marks, China: Its Environment and History (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2012).

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limitations were reinforced in the 2004 public intellectuals case. That September, Southern People Weekly (Nanfang renwu zhoukan) profiled fifty of China’s top “public intellectuals.” The list included journalists, activists, artists and writers, legal specialists, and university scholars from the social sciences and humanities. This popular PRC journal defined public intellectuals: “They have academic backgrounds and professional knowledge; they address and participate in public affairs; they maintain a critical spirit and moral ideals.”14 The writings of the profiled intellectuals address every conceivable contemporary issue, from US–China relations to AIDS to this week’s news or popular movie, in essays published in the popular print media and all conveniently accessible from interlinked websites.15 They particularly embarrassed the Party during the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) epidemic scare in early 2003—exposing Party efforts to quash reports on the outbreaks. If China’s intellectuals are not to be propagandists for the Chinese Communist Party or technocratic servants to an authoritarian state, then how will they find a public role? By the end of 2004 the Party media closed ranks around the leadership, reimposed restrictions on scholars and journalists, and ran virulent denunciations of “public intellectuals” in the state media, blaming them for dividing the people and the Party.16 Over the decade since, China’s intellectuals have sought ways to leverage government position, academic prestige, and professional status to maintain a role as public intellectuals.

China’s directed public sphere and the social media revolution In China today the life of intellectuals is first of all subject to the ground rules of the directed public sphere of the CCP. It is the powerful remnant of Mao’s fearsome propaganda state as the Party retreats from total control of the public sphere to “scientific management” of communication. At the same time, revived commercial media and new Internet social media propel confusing changes. In this hybrid public sphere, intellectuals speak within sinophone discourse, which entails a set of 14

15 16

“Yingxiang Zhongguo gonggong zhishifenzi 50 ren,” Nanfang renwu zhoukan (Southern People Weekly), September 2004, at http://business.sohu.com/s2004/zhishifenzi50. shtml, accessed November 15, 2013. For such websites, see Nanfang renwu zhoukan, above. Particularly in People’s Daily and Jiefang junbao. David Kelly gives a good assessment of this list and the political fallout it generated in autumn 2004 in “The Importance of Being Public,” China Review, No. 31 (2004–5), pp. 28–37. Also see Willy Wo-Lap Lam, “Hu’s Campaign for Ideological Purity against the West,” China Brief, Vol. 5, No. 2 (January 18, 2005).

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expectations beyond simply communicating in Chinese. Intellectual life is further enlivened by the value spheres of several intellectual worlds: the official world of public and political life; the academic world of universities and scholarship; the commercial world of making, buying, and selling; the associational world of public intellectuals, religious groups, Internet communities, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and other tolerated groups; and finally the waiyu world of “foreignlanguage communities” in China, particularly those competent in English or other major European languages. This range of intellectual worlds inside the universe of sinophone debate means that there is naturally a range of opinions among various thinkers and writers. But at the same time, there are shared concerns, assumptions, and ways of being a Chinese intellectual.

China’s directed public sphere The directed public sphere is the public arena as it exists in China today: the media, public institutions like universities and cultural associations, and the legal structure of associational life (i.e. the rules governing NGOs, religious groups, other social associations). In China the institutions of civility and social publicity are still organized and controlled by the propaganda system—the culture and education system led by a member of the CCP Central Committee—that we met in Chapter 3.17 This system integrates under Party leadership the current newspaper and media systems as well as internal reporting systems within the party-state administration; the research agendas of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences; and the strategic planning, curriculum, and research output of all universities and research institutes. The reforms in the post-Mao period have modified China’s propaganda state. Print capitalism that flourished in the first half of the twentieth century and was suppressed in mainland China under Mao has returned, and new avenues of citizen communication have emerged in the social media of the Internet, but both remain under the “management” of the CCP’s Propaganda Department. There is certainly more intellectual freedom in China today compared to the Mao period—at a minimum the blessed freedom to be silent, to avoid politics, and to just get on with your own business, 17

This is the xuanjiao xitong. For studies of the contemporary propaganda system in China, see Anne-Marie Brady, Marketing Dictatorship: Propaganda and Thought Work in Contemporary China (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008); David Shambaugh, China’s Communist Party: Atrophy and Adaptation (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009).

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including serious academic research. The CCP has learned to use market choices to serve the goals of directed culture: with entertainment to distract the masses and financial inducements to corral intellectual energy in academic professorships and grants, government-funded research projects, and state-approved artistic ventures.18 And, for those incorrigible souls bent on dissent, there remains the stick. Jeffrey Wasserstrom has evocatively named this startling mix of commercial excess and political regress “China’s Brave New World”—where China has succeeded in achieving something of the vision of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World: “the stability-crazed, pleasure-mad society of ‘Year of Our Ford 634’.”19 The power of the Internet is the second defining feature of China’s directed public sphere today. China first connected to the Internet in 1987, but it was not until the mid-1990s that usage became relatively widespread. Today, there are over 600 million Internet users in China, mostly connecting through broadband service or their smartphones. The Chinese Internet is owned by the state, which famously set up what Geremie Barmé calls “the Great Fire Wall of China” to filter out unwelcome content.20 Much of Western news and social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) is blocked by this firewall. It is, nonetheless, the largest area of the global Internet, though of course it is in Chinese. Fortunately, a number of new books give English readers a pretty good sense of the Chinese Internet.21 Western newspapers regularly quote outrageous statements about popular nationalism from Chinese netizens. It is worth keeping in mind, however, that the Chinese Internet, like Chinese society, is unified but not homogeneous.22 It is united by the directed public sphere, shared patriotism, the norm of the sinophone intellectual sphere to worry about China, and the pleasure-seeking distractions of Wasserstrom’s “Brave New World.” But the lives and interests reflected on the Chinese Web are by no means homogeneous: there 18 19 20 21

22

Yuezhi Zhao, Communication in China: Political Economy, Power, and Conflict (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008), pp. 5–7; Brady, Marketing Dictatorship. Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom, China’s Brave New World: And Other Tales for Global Times (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2007), esp. pp. 125 ff. Geremie Barmé, “The Great Fire Wall of China,” Wired, Vol. 5, No. 6 (June 1997), pp. 138–51. Two of the best studies on the Chinese Internet are Guobin Yang, The Power of the Internet in China: Citizen Activism Online (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009); and Johan Lagerkvist, After the Internet, Before Democracy: Competing Norms in Chinese Media and Society (New York: Peter Lang, 2011). This is how Kuhn describes Chinese culture in the eighteenth century and the insight holds for today; see Kuhn, Soulstealers, p. 223. An excellent set of recent studies that reinforce this image of coherent diversity is the special issue on cyberpolitics in China edited by Guobin Yang, in China Information, Vol. 28, No. 2 (July 2014).

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is not only the usual human diversity of good and bad intentions, clever and dull minds, energetic and lax efforts; there is also the reflection of the social and professional worlds (and, of course, private worlds of friend networks, fantasy fiction, and, yes, pornography). It is easy to mistake the uniformity of compliance with PRC rules of public discourse and anxious patriotism for some unanimity of values and intentions. Scholars have been saying this for decades, but it bears repeating: China is diverse. However, the Chinese Internet does highlight some voices over others. The voice of popular nationalism is particularly prominent. Because “loving China” is something the directed public sphere’s police cannot censor, extreme statements made in the name of patriotism pick up a huge audience. The international community, particularly Japan and the United States, regularly obliges with either gaffes or real conflicts of interest (from islands in the South and East China Seas to demands concerning the exchange rates of China’s currency, the renminbi or yuan). The result, as several scholars have shown, is that China’s foreign policy is driven in part by managing these angry voices on the Net.23 Thus, while more regulated than the Internet in other countries, China’s Internet is nonetheless volatile and shows the limits of control by even the Communist Party.24 For advocates of freedom, this sounds good. However, many examples of independent thought on the Chinese Internet are voices of xenophobic ultranationalism. Even the efforts of well-educated graduate students with experience in Europe or the US and conversant with English or other languages can be surprising. Tang Jie is such an example. During the 2008 Olympic torch relay, China’s runners were heckled as they ran through Australia, Europe, and the United States because of their government’s harsh suppression of demonstrations that year in Tibet. In response Tang Jie, a PhD student in German philosophy, and his Fudan University classmates in Shanghai, produced a short video, “China Stands Up 2008.” It looks likes typical CCP propaganda in its defense of national purpose and rejection of Western interference. However, Evan Osnos’s interview with him shows that for Tang this reactionary video was a product of just the sort of intellectual freedom that Westerners embrace—Tang had jumped China’s Great Fire Wall and gotten access to the webpages of CNN and Der Spiegel and was disgusted with

23 24

Zhao, A Nation-State by Construction; Gries, China’s New Nationalism; and Yang, The Power of the Internet in China. Susan D. Blum, “Why Does China Fear the Internet?”, in Weston and Jenson, China in and beyond the Headlines, pp. 173–92.

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the anti-Chinese slant of Western journalism.25 Tang Jie’s reflections offer a startling contrast to the image of angry Chinese youth in most newspaper accounts. He is articulate and challenging: “Because we are in such a system, we are always asking ourselves whether we are brainwashed,” Tang Jie says. “We are always eager to get other information from different channels. But when you are in a so-called free system you never think about whether you are brainwashed.” Finally, the Chinese Internet serves and promotes the growth of independent associations and communities of Chinese people with shared interests. These interests range from the proverbial bird fanciers and chess clubs, and recently middle-class backpacking communities, to public-service organizations and charities. As we shall see below, intellectuals also use the Internet to publish in a way that gets around China’s restrictive press laws and to organize an independent youth movement for rural renewal. However, these groups do not act like citizens in liberal democracies. Indeed, Wenfang Tang’s survey of local political activism confirms that even among non-Party or nonestablishment intellectuals, there is an acceptance that the most practical way to bring about concrete political improvement is to work with the Party.26

The sinophone sphere, and worrying about China China’s intellectuals, understandably, mostly communicate in Chinese. In addition to the requirements of the directed public sphere that one must meet in order to publish legally in China—primarily not to question or to challenge the rule of the CCP—Chinese intellectuals must meet the expectations of the worlds of Chinese-language, or sinophone, discourse. These expectations are independent of current Party regulations and turn up in the essays of and arguments among intellectuals themselves. There are rules for those who want to publish in the New Yorker or Le Monde; so, too, are there shared expectations, reflected in the track record of notable writings, that an aspiring Chinese intellectual must meet. We can recognize sinophone discourse even when it is translated into English. The structure of a discourse, as Gloria Davies so carefully describes, is not limited to linguistic family alone. It is the constellation of expectations, assumptions, and agreed rules on what constitutes a good 25

26

Evan Osnos, “Angry Youth: The New Generation’s Neocon Mood,” New Yorker, July 28, 2008. Tang Jie’s video can be viewed at www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSTYhYkASsA, accessed June 26, 2015. Wenfang Tang, Public Opinion and Political Change in China (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2005), p. 187.

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argument, or the “so what?” in intellectual debate. Davies captures the heart of this contemporary intellectual life in the sinophone compulsion to worry about China (youhuan): As a praxis, worrying about China carries the moral obligation of first identifying and then solving perceived Chinese problems (Zhongguo wenti), whether social, political, cultural, historical, or economic, in relation to the unified public cause of achieving China’s national perfection.27

What does this intellectual “worrying” look like? Take for example, the opening paragraph of this translation of an essay by Wang Hui—a contemporary Chinese academic and public intellectual who engages Western scholars and is also frequently translated: Inquiry into scientism in contemporary Chinese thought is intimately bound up with the cultural atmosphere of mainland China during the late 1980s. This kind of inquiry is not primarily focused on “knowledge” . . . [but] if one cannot relate critical thinking on the course of modern history to a critique of Nazism and Stalinism, then . . . one might even end up concealing the true origins of despotism in modern society.28

Wang Hui in this passage invokes the “Western intellectual perspective” but only to justify worrying about Chinese politics. Sinophone discourse in China’s intellectual worlds is also shaped by assumptions about how to do intellectual work. We can see three core characteristics of this thought work among contemporary public intellectuals in China today.29 First, such thought work continues to privilege thought, and particularly the search for correct thought, as the foundation of effective public policy. This collection of intellectual habits assumes that thought (sixiang) paves the road to social solutions—just as Wang Hui, in the quote above, requires “critical thinking” to address despotism. Second, such assumptions in sinophone writings provide the channels of change through which selective adaptation of foreign thought and discourse proceeds.30 Through these cognitively familiar channels new sets of ideas, such as political liberalism, have been introduced to the center of legal public discussion. Third, the cultural identity of these

27 28 29 30

Davies, Worrying about China, p. 7. By “praxis” Davies means political action, action in the public realm taken to change social life. Wang Hui, “On Scientism and Social Theory in Modern Chinese Thought,” trans. Gloria Davies, in Davies, Voicing Concerns, p. 135. This section draws from Timothy Cheek, “Xu Jilin and the Thought Work of China’s Public Intellectuals,” China Quarterly, No. 86 (2006), pp. 401–20. “Selective adaptation” in the political–legal sphere is thoroughly analyzed in Pitman Potter, Law, Policy and Practice on China’s Periphery: Selective Adaptation and Institutional Capacity (London: Routledge, 2011).

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public intellectuals is clear. They are Chinese because they were born Chinese and live and work in the PRC, and that identity does not require them to justify their use of Western theory on grounds other than utility. One result of this assumption is that Chinese scholars living outside China must establish an institutional position inside China if they want to be taken seriously by their compatriots. While sinophone discourse spans the globe—and anyone can join in via one of thousands of Chineselanguage Web pages, blogs, and Weibo feeds—in order to be an authoritative speaker in this intellectual universe you must present yourself as a Chinese living in China (or temporarily absent for purposes of study). Otherwise, you are a foreign commentator. The ghost of Maoism haunts this sinophone world. Formal Maoism is dead, but the component parts of the ideology live on to shape intellectual life in China in this prosperous age in the habits of a living Maoism. Maoist orthodoxy is used by the CCP to provide the legitimacy that would otherwise come from the ballot box. The story of China’s modern history that it tells is central to this legitimation and remains what Mao announced in the 1940s: China was great, was put down, and shall rise again.31 Since 2008 many believe that China has risen again. Whether or not various people in China believe every part of this official line, this basic story or identity of China that the CCP presents is widely accepted. Thus we need to distinguish between the specific and general claims made in Maoist orthodoxy. Since the 1990s, most people in China do not claim to follow Mao’s teachings, nor do they think that the current Party is a particularly noble example of Mao’s or anyone’s ideals. Yet most people in China appear to accept the assumptions in this story, about China’s national identity, about the role of imperialism in China’s history and present, and about the value of maintaining and improving this thing called China. In addition, those who lived through the Maoist system carry with them the habits of thought and the expectations that made sense under Mao’s rule. This population, long corralled by the rules of nondemocratic participation in danwei (work unit) and commune life, does not have the habits of mind conducive to a liberal or tolerant society. We shall see that the same habits and expectations even shape some of those who reject official Maoism and embrace alternative political ideas and 31

Mao’s classic statement is in “On New Democracy,” first published in Yan’an in 1940 and now collected in his official Selected Works (English edition published Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1975). Available online at www.marxists.org/ reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-2/mswv2_26.htm, accessed November 30, 2013. “Living Maoism” in contemporary China is explored in Cheek, Living with Reform, Chapter 2.

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social practices. Inevitably, some part of these values and expectations has been passed along—by parents and teachers—to younger generations. Naturally, they change with time and new experiences, but these mental models still shape the experiences and reactions of people in China, influencing the expectations of both intellectuals and their audiences. Central among these hegemonic values are respect for intellectuals, intolerant modes of argument and illiberal public demonstrations, and the expectation that suggestions should be addressed to the state. It is this mental furniture that will shape the lives of people in China long after the hukou (residence permits) and danwei (work units) are a thing of the past. Despite their own sense of marginalization, China’s intellectuals are taken seriously by both the state and the public. That is one reason why the CCP has always bothered to repress unorthodox intellectuals— because the Party believes that what intellectuals say is influential. Popular deference to intellectuals continues today both in the expectation that highly educated professionals and cultural commentators in China ought to help figure out what to do and in cynicism and criticism of them for failure to do so in most cases. Respect for intellectuals has been co-opted by the Party through the claim that a “meritocracy” rules China, borrowing some of the prestige of scholars to imply that all Party cadres are chosen by merit and so deserve respect. China’s intellectuals today wrestle with the elitist implications of this social norm. Do they use it to “guide” China wisely or do they fight it in order to empower ordinary citizens? When intellectuals or social activists are not fighting each other, they are talking to the party-state. This is born of both habit and of pragmatism. The CCP will not tolerate a substantial social organization or movement outside its control, from Christian house churches to Falun gong to any sort of political party. Working people assume that it is up to the “leaders,” or at least to the certified intellectuals, to fix things. Intellectuals cast their suggestions in terms of, or at least carefully not in contradiction to, Party ideological platforms, and most work for the state in one fashion or another—in universities, academies of science or social science, or major industries. This state orientation of civil society has been a real challenge to Western observers, who persist in seeing sprouts of democratic activity.32 It may come, but so far lived experience, intellectual orientation, and even business practices (in which business actors survive by colluding with local political leaders in the absence of 32

Timothy Brook and B. Michael Frolic, eds., Civil Society in China (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1997).

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legal protections) all point to collaboration with the party-state rather than confrontation. Those who set themselves up in defiance to the Party soon find themselves silenced, in jail, exiled, or dead.

The many worlds of China’s intellectuals Under the watchful eye of the Party’s directed public sphere and animated by the moral call of sinophone communities to improve China, intellectuals in China in fact operate in a variety of concrete arenas, or social worlds, that establish further norms and shape expectations. It is wise to ask of any Chinese intellectual we read, “from which world are you speaking?” From the official world of the PRC government? The academic world of formal scholarship? The commercial world? Or from one of a variety of social organizations? And is this writing or speaking originally directed to sinophone worlds or already meant to engage the outside world? We have met the various worlds across the decades in the preceding chapters. It is worth revisiting them again to help map the worlds of intellectual life in China during the current ideological moment.

The official world This is the world of the Chinese government that is completely dominated by the Communist Party and its ideology. The two overriding norms of the official world are to uphold the Communist Party and its policies and to defend the interests and honor of China. People’s Daily is the official mouthpiece of the CCP and is an authoritative source for understanding PRC government policy.33 Most Chinese do not participate in this government discourse directly, though a number of intellectuals do, especially in the Academies of Social Sciences and the Party Schools. Moreover, the official world shapes the media in China. Commercial newspapers, television, and radio have to toe the line of People’s Daily and the New China News Agency, or at least avoid contradicting it explicitly. This is enforced by a robust and well-funded propaganda and surveillance system. Intellectuals flout these rules at their own peril. Within these guidelines there is considerable latitude to get on with the business of one’s own social circles.

33

Renmin ribao (People’s Daily) is conveniently available online, and with an English edition, at http://english.peopledaily.com.cn, accessed June 22, 2015.

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The academic world Second only to the official world, the academic world is the most important for intellectuals in China. Scholarship has long held public prestige in Chinese culture and recent developments have only reinforced that status. Chinese society, like other East Asian societies, holds university professors in high esteem. Since the late 1970s the PRC has revived its university system and modeled it on the Euro-American research university. This has produced a commitment to university research and to educating greater numbers of university students. Huge amounts of money have been directed to China’s university sector in the past twenty years. University jobs are increasing in number and attractiveness—a most reasonable career for aspiring middle-class life.34 The result has been specialization. This has contributed to a massive withdrawal of intellectual talent from the public arena, as it is funneled into intellectual silos of professional activity. Nonetheless, a few remain engaged with public issues. But even those who still speak up increasingly do so as experts in their field rather than as public intellectuals or social critics. Most academics follow the path of Western scholars and publish in specialized journals and monographs using the technical language of the natural sciences, social sciences, or humanities. These highly educated people identify themselves as scholars (xuezhe), professors (jiaoshou), readers (dushuren), or experts (zhuanjia) rather than as broad intellectuals (zhishifenzi).

The commercial world This is the intellectually least interesting arena—except, perhaps, for scholars of popular culture—but it is worth remembering that probably the vast majority of intellectual energy in China is active in this social world—the commercial market, creating entertainment, and providing services for profit. While commerce hardly defines an intellectual world, it does have two important roles: first, it aligns the interests of many intellectuals with the institutions of global capitalism and the rules for international business since many intellectuals make their living in businesses and professional services in this market. Second, the ease of movement of people and information necessary for this global economy provides many avenues for intellectuals to “hitch a ride”—a method adopted by many social 34

W. John Morgan and Bin Wu, eds., Higher Education Reform in China (London: Routledge, 2001); and W. John Morgan and Bin Wu, eds., Higher Education Reform in China: Beyond the Expansion (London: Routledge, 2011).

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associations in China.35 That is, religious groups or public intellectuals can use a commercial channel, such as the Facebook-like websites (described below), to communicate “under the radar” of Chinese bureaucracies aimed at monitoring religious or publishing activities. The commercial world also provides a hybrid institution for Chinese intellectuals: the press. There are now literally thousands of commercial newspapers and magazines published in China today, and many aim to provide reliable news coverage and even investigative reporting. However, there are real limitations to a free press.36 In part this is because no publication in China is completely free of the directed public sphere of the CCP. Indeed, most newspapers are commercial wings of government or Party newspapers. For example, the famous muckraking newspaper Southern Weekend (Nanfang zhoumou), is owned by and operated under the supervision of the Guangdong Provincial Communist Party. However, this co-operative approach with the establishment is anything but craven compliance. In January 2013 Southern Weekend became embroiled in a censorship issue. The editors had drafted a New Year’s editorial on Xi Jinping’s new themes of the Chinese Dream. They decided that constitutional democracy should be a key part of their Chinese Dream. The provincial propaganda authorities did not. They changed the editorial to an anodyne theme of “progress.” Worse, the authorities sent the revised editorial to press without consulting the paper’s editors. The editors protested in public, and the Chinese Internet came to their defense. This reflects a widespread sense of “I’ve had enough” among the professional Party establishment— heavy-handed censorship is getting push-back from inside the CCP. Among those protesting the arbitrary rewriting of the now notorious New Year’s Day editorial for the paper is the faculty of the Journalism Department at Nanjing University—hardly a hotbed of anti-regime activity. The consensus at the establishment level is that regularization is needed, along with the predictability of sensibly adjudicated rules. This may not be democracy, but it is an ideology of relative political liberalism inside the CCP. Associational worlds Alternative political parties are illegal in China, but social groups (shetuan) are legal. They are highly regulated by the Ministry of Civil Affairs, 35

36

Kong Shuyu, Consuming Literature: Best Sellers and the Commercialization of Literary Production in Contemporary China (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2004). Also Liu, Jumping into the Sea. Zhao, Communication in China; and David Bandurski, “Jousting with Monsters: Journalists in a Rapidly Changing China,” in Weston and Jensen, China in and beyond the Headlines, pp. 29–49.

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but they are a dynamic part of life in China.37 Below the tip of the iceberg of environmental NGOs or the Charter 08 signers, the vast majority of Chinese associational life organizes local social and religious interests— and these activities engage the intellectual activities of many educated Chinese. For instance, there are more Buddhist organizations, writings, and websites in China than there are democratic ones. Yet the co-operative pose of China’s associations, and of the intellectuals active in them, does not make them either politically conservative (i.e. supporting the government in all things) or irrelevant. Take two examples. The first is the case of using commercial networks to pursue broader intellectual aims: intellectual book publishing. One Shanghai bookshop owner has for the past fifteen years been publishing books on scholarly and ideological topics that rarely appear in major presses, and he does so by just such amphibious organizing.38 First of all, he is not legally a publisher, but a “consultant,” so his editorial work is subject to the enterprise law and not the depredations of the government’s publishing controls. Second, he secures the manuscripts, edits them, and arranges for the printing, while he gets the all-important ISBN from a minor or cashstrapped legal publisher who is not too fussy. Our entrepreneur gets his book out; the press gets a title that sells. Both make money. There are some 200 such small private “publishers” across China, publishing from a dozen to a hundred books a year each. In truth, most of the titles our Shanghai entrepreneur publishes are cookbooks, novels, and pop books (with translation of books like The Da Vinci Code), but this supports a small line of serious books of social and cultural criticism. While all legally published books are subject to censorship, small regional presses in poor provinces are often less scrutinized than the major presses. This is a small doorway to de facto press liberalization. Indeed, our publisher uses websites like Alashan League, an environmental group, as a safe place to communicate with suppliers and buyers.39 The second example of associational life is the Liang Shuming Rural Reconstruction Center outside Beijing. In the rural suburbs west of the capital, near the Fragrant Hills, is a compound that houses this voluntary

37

38

39

For two examples, see Jessica C. Teets, “Dismantling the Socialist Welfare State: The Rise of Civil Society in China,” in Weston and Jensen, China in and beyond the Headlines, pp. 69–86; and Alex L. Wang, “China’s Environmental Tipping Point,” in ibid., pp. 112–33. This information comes from my interviews with a bookshop owner and independent publisher in July 2006 and April 2011. Given that his purpose is to avoid attention, his identity will remain undisclosed. See A-la-shan huwai lianmeng, at www.alsyz.com, accessed August 30, 2014; and www. alsm.unzt.com, shut down in 2010.

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group dedicated to the renewal of China’s rural society. It is a community-oriented youth organization, but it is registered under Renmin University in Beijing (which provides its mailing address). Building on the ideas of a charismatic professor, Wen Tiejun, the group aligns its goals not only with its namesake, the noted “last Confucian” and rural reformer of the 1920s and 1930s Liang Shuming, but also with current PRC government rural policy, the sannong or “three agricultural issues” (villages, rural inhabitants, and rural society). The organization is a startling hybrid of Maoist slogans (“serve the farmers”), YMCA volunteerism (university-age youth join up to lead teams to provide moral uplift to local villages, in the style of James Yen), and early twentiethcentury Chinese anarchism (these volunteers live in a commune in the suburban compound, raise organic vegetables, and study together the rural-reconstruction materials of the organization). There is even a songbook replete with a disconcerting mix of Cultural Revolution songs, Hong Kong and Taiwan pop tunes, and folk ballads. When I visited the compound in June 2010, a cheerful group of young volunteers led me and my colleagues in a rousing round of singing from this hymnal. This astonishing mix of cultural resources blends in a cheerful community of committed young people dedicated to helping the less fortunate in their society. This group represents a partnership between intellectual youth and some idealistic university professors and is not part of the CCP Youth League. Indeed, it harkens back through Liang Shuming to the most notable noncommunist rural reconstruction effort in China.40 Religion is an important part of associational life in China. The five organized religions recognized by the state have all revived activities in the post-Mao period: Buddhism, Daoism, Islam, Protestant Christianity, and Catholic Christianity. Meanwhile, popular or folk religion of local deities, temples, and festivals thrives across rural and urban neighborhood China. Most of these activities and organizations are politically neutral, though Protestant house churches have been engaged in a decades-long struggle with the state because they are not “properly registered.”41 The key to CCP policy is organization. This explains the treatment of the Falun gong

40

41

In Chinese: Liang Shuming xiangcun jianshe zhongxin. The group’s website evokes the sannong: www.3nong.org, accessed October 5, 2014. The group publishes a newsletter, a journal (Shijian or “Practice”), and a series of books—printed in just the same size (and red color) as Mao’s Quotations (including the song book from which we sang) under the general title Daxuesheng xiaxiang zhinong zhidao shouce (Guidebooks for University Students Going down to the Countryside to Help Agriculture) published by Hainan chubanshe in 2008. Contemporary religious life in China, as well as historical perspective, is covered in Goossaert and Palmer, The Religious Question in Modern China.

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sect that was banned by the Chinese government in 1999 for organizing a surprise peaceful “sit-in” outside the gates of the CCP’s leadership compound in Beijing, Zhongnanhai, that April. The key point about Falun gong and the CCP’s repression of it is that the problem was not ideological—it had been legal for years as a wonky exercise cult—but was organizational: thou shalt not have any other party but My Party.42 Dissent There are Chinese dissidents in China today, as there have always been.43 Sun Yat-sen tried to bring down the Qing Dynasty in the late nineteenth century, and Mao Zedong and his fellow Communists started as radical students and dissidents in the 1910s. Social mobilization and resistance to misrule at the local level is widespread in communities across China. Our focus on the diverse worlds of intellectual life is not to diminish the courage and dedication of China’s small circle of outright dissidents, but to show why most Chinese intellectuals seek avenues other than confrontation with the state to carry out their resistance to what they feel is wrong. Indeed, much of the most profound intellectual dissent in China comes not from the intellectual elite, but rather from ordinary lawyers and activists.44 Some, such as Chen Guangcheng, the blind lawyer from Shandong, have captured the attention of international audiences, but they are only the tip of an iceberg of social activism in China today. Yet, for reasons made clear by the Liu Xiaobo case and Charter 08, discussed below, most dissidents inside China try to cast their criticisms in terms of the political language of the CCP, calling on the government to respect the promises of China’s current constitution or invoking ideals from the Maoist canon. Within these political, institutional, and social worlds, China’s intellectuals today ply their trade.45 Self-consciously working in the tradition of Liang Qichao, Liang Shuming, and even the young Mao, these contemporary Chinese intellectuals seek to address the enduring question of 42

43 44 45

Falun gong (which also calls itself “Falun dafa”) is covered in nearly every book on contemporary China and it maintains its own propaganda network; see www.faluninfo. net, accessed June 25, 2015. For a serious analysis of Falun gong from the perspective of China’s social history, see David Ownby, Falun Gong and the Future of China (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008). For a reliable study that focuses on dissent, see Goldman, From Comrade to Citizen. You-tien Hsing and Ching Kwan Lee, Reclaiming Chinese Society: The New Social Activism (London: Routledge, 2009). William Callahan calls them “citizen intellectuals,” in Callahan, Chinese Dreams: 20 Visions of the Future (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013); also see Callahan’s profile of Ai Weiwei, “Citizen Ai: Warrior, Jester and Middleman,” Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 73, No. 4 (November 2014), pp. 899–920.

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China’s long twentieth century: how to save China from its ills and make it a beacon of civilized life? In the current ideological moment, the question becomes, what should China do to be a truly great power? Among the welter of voices in thousands of books and magazines, and all over the Internet, we can identify three prominent examples: New Left service to the state as establishment intellectuals, liberal engagement with scholarship to offer social criticism as public intellectuals, and writers and artists in somewhat independent associations using literature and informal salons to explore problems and solutions as independent public intellectuals. Establishment intellectuals: Cui Zhiyuan and the New Left Chongqing model Cui Zhiyuan (b. 1963) offers a window both into the New Left constellation of Chinese public intellectuals, which includes the notable theoretically informed writers Wang Hui and Gan Yang, and into government service as an establishment intellectual, that world of intellectual life focused on direct participation in administration or direct development of policy in contemporary China. There are other important examples: Pan Wei, a professor at Peking University who advocates the “China model,” and Yu Keping, in a central Party think tank, who seeks to harmonize theories of democracy with Party rule. Cui Zhiyuan, however, crosses both worlds. Son of a nuclear scientist in Sichuan, Cui is now a professor at Qinghua University’s School of Public Policy and Management. He has a PhD from the University of Chicago and was a professor at MIT for six years before taking up his position in Beijing in 2004. Cui Zhiyuan is best known for two things: his association with New Left intellectuals who criticize neoliberal economic reforms as “market fundamentalism” (along with his desire to recover the good things of Mao’s socialist revolution), and his participation in the Chongqing municipal government of the controversial (and now deposed) Party leader, Bo Xilai. Despite his intellectual and policy differences with the liberals among China’s intellectual elite, Cui Zhiyuan’s history and current life embody several important realities of intellectual life in China today. First, he is extensively engaged with international thought in his field of work. While by no means all of China’s leading intellectuals in this period of building China’s dream have studied in a Western university, nearly all have at least spent some months or years as visiting scholars, even those for whom English or another European language is a barrier. All engage in various ways the main scholars and their ideas from global, but largely

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Euro-American, scholarship and usually in English. China’s intellectuals today are inherently engaged with the broader world. Second, this familiarity and engagement, however, have not made these intellectuals Western. As Gloria Davies has noted in the case of Chinese humanities scholars who embrace critical theory and postmodernism, Chinese writers, even when translated or writing in English, rarely get the attention of Western scholars beyond those already interested in China.46 China’s intellectuals, with greater or lesser degrees of sophistication, cherry-pick from the theories and models on offer in graduate programs around the world to address Chinese problems. Their writings are not only mostly in Chinese but nearly always cast in the rhetoric or discourse of contemporary sinophone academic and policy concerns. In short, China’s intellectuals are in the global world of theory and scholarship but not yet of it. This reminds us of the importance of ideological moments. The question of the day in today’s ideological moment for China is still inward-looking: how to make China a truly great power, at home and abroad. China’s intellectuals have yet, as a generation, to turn to global problems in the global context in the way that many North American and European intellectuals have done. This is no doubt related to the realities of international power. The Euro-American order is the global order, and indeed that is one major complaint of China’s New Left intellectuals. Thus it is not some primordial or ethnic limitation that produces this inward gaze of China’s intellectuals, rather the cause is contextual— it is simply where the most urgent work needs to be done. That said, most of the leading Chinese intellectuals of the 2000s have had at least three or four essays translated into English, and several have had a number of full-length books in Western languages. Their international audience is largely in China studies and in China policy circles, but we can anticipate that those circles will expand to globally oriented and general scholarly discussions in time. Finally, all these intellectuals have websites and blogs, and most also post on Weibo, and message through Weixin, China’s version of Twitter, and WeChat. Regular academics have their home pages, but those interested in engaging public affairs usually have multiple presences, with websites for their essays and places on larger discussion fora that allow both “libraries” of an intellectual’s writings and discussion groups to debate points. It seems that everyone gets Weibo or WeChat feeds on their smartphones of new posts, publications, or pronouncements by the

46

Davies, Voicing Concerns; and Davies, Worrying about China.

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intellectuals or public figures they follow. The Great Fire Wall may put constraints on public debate between those in China and the wider world, but some 600 million people make up the Chinese Net—a sizable audience for China’s intellectuals. Cui Zhiyuan is amongst those Chinese scholars and public intellectuals who seek to contribute directly to policy formation by serving the establishment. His work takes its cue from central Party and government directives and he is sought out for advice by the government. His connection with Chongqing developed in this way from a conference there in 2008, to taking an interest in its approach to reform that seemed to combine both state control and market vitality, to being invited to accept a year’s secondment from Qinghua University to work in Chongqing’s State-Owned Assets Management and Supervision Commission in 2010–11.47 Before his Chongqing engagement, Cui had already made a name for himself with his 1993 article entitled “Second Liberation of Thought,” in which he argues that China needs to get past a superstitious fixation on market ideology and rediscover what is good in China’s socialist experience. This includes a hallmark of what has become the New Left orientation: an emphasis on economic democracy (equity) as well as political democracy.48 Cui continued to explore these themes in English, comparing the Chinese experience with a range of Western thinkers in a 2005 book chapter on “liberal socialism,” or what he calls “petty bourgeois socialism.” Cui begins with a classic formulation: “A spectre is haunting China and the world—the spectre of petty bourgeois socialism. Why? Both Marxism and Social Democracy have lost their political and intellectual momentum worldwide. Disillusionment with neoliberalism is also growing.”49 The image of the “haunting spectre,” of course, comes from the opening lines of The Communist Manifesto and, in fact, Wang Ruoshui—Cui’s establishment intellectual predecessor—also invoked the image in his defense of Marxist humanism in 1983. But this time it is not Marx’s “communism” or Wang’s “humanism” that haunts the contemporary world, it is the prospect of this new sort of socialism. Cui announces that “petty bourgeois socialism can make some

47 48 49

Cui Zhiyuan is profiled in Callahan, China Dreams, pp. 83–7. Cui Zhiyuan, discussed in Wang, One China, Many Paths, pp. 23–4. Cui Zhiyuan, “Liberal Socialism and the Future of China: A Petty Bourgeoisie Manifesto,” in Tian Yu Cao, ed., The Chinese Model of Modern Development (London: Routledge, 2005), pp. 157–74, reprinted with editorial corrections in Cui Zhiyuan, “China’s Future: Suggestions from Petty Bourgeois Socialist Theories and Some Chinese Practices,” in Fred Dalimayr and Zhao Tingyuan, eds., Contemporary Chinese Political Thought (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 2012), pp. 185–208, quote from the beginning of the original article now on p. 186.

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sense out of the current confusion in interpreting the institutional arrangements in today’s China.” He basically argues that the leading class of socialism has shifted from the proletariat to the petty bourgeoisie, not a modest claim in Marxist circles. In addition, Cui is careful to point out that since his idea of the petty bourgeoisie includes the peasantry, it is not the same as “middle class,” but it does fit the needs of current Party policy to build a moderately prosperous society (xiaokang shehui).50 The remainder of Cui’s essay is a comparison of key policy initiatives under liberal socialism and of major Western thinkers from the pantheon of petty bourgeois socialists or their supporters, amongst whom he claims are J.S. Mill, James Meade (the 1977 Nobel laureate in economics), and the historian Fernand Braudel. One policy initiative Cui highlights is the shareholding co-operative system he saw in operation during decollectivization in Shandong in the early 1990s. He declares this a “new form of property” that bridges public and private ownership. The villages in the Zhoucun district of Zhibo in Shandong decided not to divide their property to individual households when their commune was disbanded in the 1980s, nor to sell off things that could not be divided, such as trucks, but rather to distribute shares that paid out something like the “social dividend” envisioned in James Meade’s theory. The heart of the matter, for Cui, is that individual peasants got some share of the collective wealth without abandoning the economies of scale that collectivization offered.51 Cui Zhiyuan brought these concerns to his sojourn in Chongqing in 2010. By that October he was reporting in Chinese in the Journal of the Central Party School of the Chinese Communist Party on the “Ten Projects for the People’s Livelihood in Chongqing.” These include massive public housing construction for lower-income citizens, granting of urban residence to some two million agricultural migrant workers in the city, a market for land certificate trading that would give peasants some of the increased value of their farmland, increasing the role of state-owned industries (SOE) while maintaining support for private enterprise, and especially taxing those SOEs to fund the public-welfare programs. “These benefits,” Cui announces, “did not, as some feared, go to the wealthy but were distributed among the common people.”52 The next 50 51

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Cui, “China’s Future,” pp. 186–7. Cui, “China’s Future,” pp. 189–92. An example of such village shareholding in Dongguan, Guangdong province, near Guangzhou, is detailed in Tony Saich and Biliang Hu, Chinese Village, Global Market: New Collectives and Rural Development (New York: Palgrave Macmillian, 2012). Cui Zhiyuan, “Chongqing ‘Shida minsheng gongcheng’ de zhengzhi jingjixue” (The Political Economy of Chongqing’s ‘Ten Great Projects for the People’s Livelihood’,”

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year, publishing in an American academic journal, Cui stressed the significance of the Chongqing experience: “If Shenzhen was a symbol of China in the 1980s, and Pudong (the new part of Shanghai) in the 1990s, then Chongqing embodies China in the first decade of the twentyfirst century.”53 This was no idle boast. The CCP had, in fact, designated Chongqing a national experimental zone in 2007 and, as William Callahan notes, Chongqing really was in many ways a microcosm of China, with a population of 33 million in a territory the size of Austria and with a similar demographic mix as the rest of China: 30 percent urban, 70 percent rural. Cui tied the “land certificate exchange” system in Chongqing to both the ideas of Henry George, who argued “that the economic rent of land should be shared by all in society,” and Sun Yat-sen, who had taken his cue from George in Sun’s own famous formulation, “The increase of land value not due to the private owner’s effort should go to the public.” Cui concludes, “The point of Chongqing’s ‘land certificates exchange market’ is exactly to allow peasants who live far from urban areas to share the land value increase by selling their ‘development rights’ (‘land certificates’)” to others. In a system a bit like carbon trading, the exchange does not trade land ownership but the right to develop it. In 2011 Cui estimated that the average farmer gets between 150,000 and 200,000 yuan (between $25,000 and $33,000) per mu of “land certificates” exchanged.54 Cui likewise addresses the public–private partnership of the Chongqing model by a comparison with James Meade’s theory of liberal socialism. Cui’s goal is to avoid the idea that SOEs have to rule over private enterprises or vice versa. He is interested in the “optimal mix” of public and private ownership. Cui praises not Bo Xilai, the Party chief, but the mayor, Huang Qifan, for developing this “third hand” in public finance. Cui also addresses the notorious singing of Red songs promoted by Bo Xilai, somewhat defensively, noting that in the context of these practical reforms, such public displays can be seen as an effort to “depend on the ‘mass line’ [tradition of the CCP] to win the hearts and minds of the common people.” Although Cui invokes Antonio Gramsci’s theory of “hegemony” in culture in contradistinction to “domination” in the political realm, this really seems like a weak defense of

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Zhonggong zhongyang dangxiao xuebao, Vol. 14, No. 5 (October 2010), pp. 5–10, quote from p. 6. Cui Zhiyuan, “Partial Intimation of the Coming Whole: The Chongqing Experiment in Light of the Theories of Henry George, James Meade, and Antonio Gramsci,” Modern China, Vol. 37, No. 6 (2011), pp. 646–60, quote at p. 647. Cui, “Partial Intimation of the Coming Whole,” pp. 648–53, quote at p. 652. A mu is approximately one-sixth of an acre.

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political sloganeering with a troubling resemblance to the excesses of the Cultural Revolution years. Cui Zhiyuan is a typical establishment intellectual, or engagé scholar, working with the government in China today, but he is by no means the only one, or the most influential. At higher levels, Yu Keping (b. 1959), a deputy director of the Compilation and Translation Bureau of the Central Committee of the CCP, an elite central Party think tank, advises on political reform, the nature of civil society in China, and issues of democratization. He publishes widely in English, though in those circles advertises his academic appointment as director of the Center for Chinese Government Innovations at Peking University. He has also been a fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. By his own account, Yu’s PhD in political science from Peking University in 1988 was the first doctorate in that field to be completed in China. What Yu Keping says is powerful stuff: “An advanced state of democracy and rule of law is the only true way to achieve the great revitalization of the Chinese people, and it is where the basic nature of socialism lies.” As an establishment intellectual, Yu Keping is all too aware of resistance inside the Party and that any change will have to start with the Party, but it can get some help. “I think that ‘to rule the country by law we must first rule the Party by law’,” Yu declares, and that “mutual governance by the government and the people is the basic path to good governance.”55 Yu Keping is considered an adviser to the previous leadership, Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, and like them his ideas have yet to be embraced by their establishment colleagues.

The academy and public intellectuals: Xu Jilin and the liberals New Left intellectuals, such as Cui Zhiyuan and Wang Hui, have taken up the role of establishment intellectuals, serving or supporting the Party. Another influential group of academics are considered liberals advocating legal restraints on political power and greater voice for citizens. These academic intellectuals are trying to carve out a role as public intellectuals. Although other intellectuals—from local scholars, to New Confucian advocates running independent schools, to Chan Koonchung and other writers who gather to discuss public issues—certainly also play the role of public

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“Yu Keping: Prizing the Will of the People,” China Media Project (University of Hong Kong), posted April 16, 2012, by David Bandurski, at http://cmp.hku.hk/2012/04/16/ 21469, accessed November 29, 2013. See also Yu, Democracy Is a Good Thing.

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intellectuals, these prominent academic intellectuals have cultural prestige and have become prominent examples of gonggong zhishifenzi (public intellectuals in the Chinese sense) today. So much so, they have attracted government criticism, first in 2004 (as noted earlier) and more recently once again. In June 2014 the website of Seeking Truth, the theory journal under the Central Committee of the CCP, republished a Weibo post by the self-styled Maoist Yin Guoming, in which he likened public intellectuals and the democracy movement to an evil cult (xiejiao). Yin suggests that public intellectuals and democracy advocates are driven by irrational religious convictions and are puppets of American interference in Chinese affairs. Yin’s post was not official Party policy (indeed, Seeking Truth published a disclaimer), yet, as Gloria Davies concludes, the Party is content to use rumormongering when such innuendos serve its purposes.56 The line between public intellectual work and dissent in China may be fuzzy and shifting, but it is real and carries serious consequences. It is little wonder that academic public intellectuals speak cautiously. Xu Jilin (b. 1957), professor of history at East China Normal University in Shanghai, has built a reputation as one of the most prolific academic public intellectuals in China today. He is one of the fifty public intellectuals profiled by Southern People Weekly.57 Beginning in the mid1980s Xu started publishing on contemporary issues of modernization, ranging from the May Fourth Movement, to Japan’s experience, to contemporary events, and he has published a dozen books focusing on intellectuals and the history of Chinese thought in the twetieth century.58

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Yin Guoming, “Wei shenme shuo minyun shi yizhong xiejiao” (Why I Call the Democracy Movement an Evil Cult), reposted on Qiushi, June 11, 2014, now available at www3.nd.edu/~pmoody/Text%20-%20Peter%20Moody%20Moody%20Webpage/ Democracy%20and%20Cults.pdf, accessed June 29, 2015; discussed in Gloria Davies, “Destiny’s Mixed Metaphors,” 2014 China Story Yearbook (Canberra: Centre for China in the World, Australian National University, 2014). See, for instance, the entry on Xu Jilin in Edward L. Davis, ed., Encyclopedia of Contemporary Chinese Culture (London: Routledge, 2005), p. 685. Xu Jilin published his first book on Huang Yanpei and Zhang Junmai in 1988—Wuqiong de kunhuo (Endless Perplexity) (Shanghai: Shanghail sanlian shudian, 1988). His major books are Xunqiu yiyi: Xiandaihua bianqian yu wenhua pipan (In Search of Meaning: Transformations of Modernization and Cultural Criticism) (Shanghai: Shanghai sanlian shudian, 1997); Ling yizhongde qimeng; Qimeng ruhe qisi huisheng; and Xu Jilin, ed., Ershi shiji Zhongguo sixiang shilun (On the History of Twentieth-Century Chinese Thought), 2 vols. (Shanghai: Dongfang chuban zhongxin, 2000). He has numerous collections of essays, such as Xu Jilin zixuan (Xu Jilin’s Own Selections) (Guilin: Guangxi shifan daxue chubanshe, 1999), which includes a catalogue of his main books and articles up to 1999 on pp. 401–5; and a collection of suibi in the popular “Cultural Windows” book series (Renwen shichuang congshu): Xu Jilin, Xinshiji de sixiang ditu (Ideological Map for the New Century) (Tianjin: Tianjin renmin chubanshe, 2002). This series also includes collections by Qin Hui, Liu Dong, and other prominent academic intellectuals. Xu writes

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He appears regularly in the tony PRC intellectual press such as Dushu (Reading), or in influential Web journals such as Ershiyi shiji (TwentyFirst Century), and on intellectual Web pages such as Ai sixiang wang (Fond of Thinking).59 He is interested in Western ideas for China, particularly in the political philosophy of liberalism—but works to find a Chinese voice for these values.60 Like Fang Lizhi, Xu is China-trained yet global in orientation. He came up through the Party university system after the Cultural Revolution. This has not stopped Xu from spending six months as a visiting scholar at the Harvard-Yenching Institute in 2001 or from organizing conferences with Western and Japanese colleagues.61 In addition to a number of social commentaries, Xu has led discussions on the nature and role of intellectuals and on the possibility of a role for public intellectuals in China today.62 When Xu Jilin and his colleagues write to their fellow academics in sinophone discourse they adopt the voice of the professional academic, drawing from formal social sciences, historiography, philosophy, and critical theory. While the audience is educated (and most often academics), such complex writings are aimed at those intellectuals interested in doing the work of public intellectuals.63 Thus Xu’s long analytical pieces do not find their way into Lishi yanjiu (Historical Research), the premier academic journal in Beijing, rather they appear in the popular highbrow intellectual journals such as Dushu (Reading), Dongfang (The Eastern), and Kaifang shidai (Open Times).

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extensively in mainland Chinese intellectual journals, such as Dushu (Reading) and Ershiyi shiji (Twenty-First Century) and maintains an active Web presence. See his Chineselanguage blog at http://blog.sina.com.cn/xujilin57, accessed July 31, 2014. English translations of two essays by Xu Jilin are available in Davies, Voicing Concerns; and Gu and Goldman, Chinese Intellectuals between State and Market (see citations below). Ai sixiang wang page for Xu Jilin at www.aisixiang.com/thinktank/xujilin.html, accessed July 1, 2015. Jing Wang identifies Xu and Wang Ning as leaders in this project of recovery beginning in the 1990s. See Wang, High Culture Fever, p. 265. Xu Jilin is busy with international workshops and conferences, collaborating with colleagues in North America, Europe, Japan, and Taiwan. Xu and I co-organized a conference titled “Public Intellectuals in China” in December 2002, and several similar meetings since. Xu Jilin, “Cong feidian weiji fansi minzu, shequn he gongmin yizhi” (On the Concepts of Nationality, Community and Citizen after the SARS Crisis), first published on the website of Shiji Zhongguo (Century China) in May 2003 and later published in Tianya (Frontiers) (2003), No. 4, at http://mall.cnki.net/magazine/Article/TAYA200304001. htm, accessed June 24, 2015. Xu Jilin distinguishes between “professionalized” (zhuanyehua) and commercialized, or media (meiti) intellectuals and public intellectuals (who fit the definition given by Southern People Weekly, above) in his essay, “Gonggong zhishifenzi ruhe keneng” (How Public Intellectuals Can Be Possible), in Xu Jilin, Zhongguo zhishifenzi shilun (Ten Essays on China’s Intellectuals) (Shanghai: Fudan University Press, 2003), pp. 33–78.

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Xu Jilin’s theoretical disquisitions are aimed at a practical project: to find a language of civility for China’s warring intellectuals.64 He favors the formulations of two scholars for framing his argument: Zygmunt Bauman’s image of intellectuals as either “legislators” or “interpreters,” and Wang Yuanhua’s distinction between, on the one hand, “scholarly thinking,” using the example of the Cultural Revolution period diarist Gu Zhun, and, on the other, “thoughtful scholarship,” using the example of the noted and reclusive Republican-period scholar Chen Yinke. What these two kinds of public intellectual are and can do is framed by Xu’s analysis between Bauman’s formal models and Wang’s concrete examples. Postmodernity is key to this analysis. Xu sees postmodern society as deeply fragmented, in which the common ideological platform of the 1980s has crumbled. Instead, and this lies at the root of Xu’s analysis of the vitriolic debates between “New Left” and “liberal” intellectuals in the 1990s,65 even though scholars have “cultural capital” (per Bourdieu), they are locked into warring discourse communities that mutually disdain each other and have incommensurate criteria for argument and proof. These communities are, for Xu, none other than the well-known pai (schools) of intellectual debates in China today: the “national studies,” “enlightenment,” “postmodern,” “liberalism,” and “New Left” groups.66 In this fragmented and pluralistic society what is missing is a discourse that reflects, acknowledges, and engages this diversity. Xu bemoans the out-of-date “legislator” mentality of China’s intellectuals. They fail to address the “interpretive” needs of society precisely because “they only speak within their community with the habit of those 1980s ‘legislators’ and have not become used to speaking across to different communities

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Xu Jilin, “Zi xu,” in Ling yizhongde qimeng, pp. 1–26. See Xu Jilin, Liu Qing, Luo Gang, and Xue Yi, “In Search of a ‘Third Way’: A Conversation Regarding ‘Liberalism’ and the ‘New Left Wing’,” in Davies, Voicing Concerns, pp. 199–226; and Xu Jilin, “The Fate of an Enlightenment,” trans. in Gu and Goldman, Chinese Intellectuals. This is a translation of “Qimeng de mingyun,” in Xu Jilin, Ling yizhong qimeng, pp. 250–68. Xu’s version of the debates is largely accepted by Geremie Barmé in “The Revolution of Resistance,” in Perry and Selden, Chinese Society, pp. 198–220. Xudong Zhang, on the other hand, sees the debate more from the “New Left” perspective associated with Wang Hui. See Zhang’s tour de force survey, “The Making of the Post-Tiananmen Intellectual Field: A Critical Overview,” in Zhang, Whither China?, pp. 1–75. Xu Jilin, “Zi xu,” p. 15. These have been analyzed in recent anglophone studies, such as Xudong Zhang, “Postmodern and Postsocialist Society: Cultural Politics in China in the 1990s,” New Left Review, No. 237 (October–November 1999), pp. 77–105; Geremie Barmé, “The Revolution of Resistance,” in Perry and Selden, Chinese Society, pp. 198–220; and Kalpana Misra, “Neo-left and Neo-right in Post-Tiananmen China,” Asian Survey, Vol. 43, No. 5 (2003), pp. 717–44.

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by translating their community’s language into a public language.”67 Xu sees the same faults that Bo Yang denounced in his “Ugly Chinaman,” but rather than blame Chinese culture, Xu offers a solution. Intellectuals must create a “public” by devising a language of translation—a discourse—between increasingly differentiated social groups, not to mention factionalized intellectual groups. A fair amount of Xu’s work in the past few years has been a search for the rules for such a discourse that can govern the conversation between independent communities in a plural society, and so provide intellectuals with a productive role in public debate. Recently, Xu took part in just such an effort among different Chinese intellectual groups held, interestingly, in Oxford, England. Xu Jilin joined this annual meeting of the Forum for Chinese Theology and cosigned its “Oxford Consensus 2013.” The declaration is notable for its effort to forge the sort of tolerant community of diverse intellectuals that Xu has been advocating: We are a group of Chinese intellectuals with diverse academic and ideological backgrounds in the new liberal, new left, new Confucian, and Christian traditions who love the holy land of China and are faithful to our people. We treasure intellectuals’ responsibilities as critics and sentinels of society. We hope, in this critically important time of change in China and the rest of the world today, to carry forward the moral character and rational spirit bestowed to intellectuals by our history. We will mobilize the power and resources in culture and ideas to spur our nation and the society on to a higher and better level.68

The declaration goes on to announce four points of consensus: the people as the source of political legitimacy, a commitment to fairness and justice, the importance of pluralism and liberalism “while inheriting and transmitting the excellent Chinese culture,” and serving humanity as well as the interests of China. The declaration is notable for adding Chinese Christians to the intellectual conversation. While the Oxford Consensus brought a range of Chinese intellectuals together, it did not include all prominent actors. Those with irreconcilable differences, such as the New Left scholar Wang Hui and the liberal Xu Youyu, did not take part. Nonetheless, the goals of the Oxford Consensus can be compared with Charter 08, led by Liu Xiaobo (excerpted in “Voices” at the start of this chapter). The Oxford Consensus is an appeal to good behavior— among intellectuals as well as by the government—while Charter 08 is a 67 68

Xu Jilin, “Zi xu,” p. 17. English and Chinese text of the meeting and its declaration available at Sinosphere, “Full Text of the Oxford Consensus 2013,” http://sinosphere.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/10/18/full-textof-the-oxford-consensus-2013/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0, accessed June 24, 2015.

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direct political challenge to CCP power. The different reactions to these two efforts by groups of Chinese intellectuals to speak publicly on political issues are telling: Liu Xiaobo got extensive Western attention (including a Nobel Peace Prize) and a long jail sentence in China; the Oxford Consensus barely rated a mention in the New York Times but the two dozen Chinese intellectuals who signed that declaration carry on with their lives in China. The Oxford Consensus reflects Xu Jilin’s goal of finding the right language, the right thought (sixiang), to allow China’s intellectuals to work together to make their mark in China today. While only the New Left scholars trumpet Mao’s ideas (and even then gingerly), most of China’s academic public intellectuals nonetheless still look for correct sixiang to solve today’s problems. This diverse range of intellectual effort—from academic studies, to public commentary, to commercial or government service—constitutes “thought work” (sixiang gongzuo) in contemporary China.69 Much as Marxism–Leninism made socialism in the Soviet Union an attractive alternative in the 1920s and 1930s in the face of World War I and the Great Depression, for Chinese liberals in the 1990s and 2000s Western theories appear to underwrite the most successful social systems in the contemporary world—i.e. they pass the intellectual-pragmatism test.70 Ironically, Mao Zedong’s sinification of Marxism–Leninism (and Party practice over the decades) had succeeded by the 1990s in making that ideology appear both Chinese and inapplicable to today’s problems. In these writings Chinese academics do not wish to “become like the West” in any simple sense. Indeed, there is a range of approaches to foreign theory among China’s intellectuals today. Liu Dong (b. 1955) is

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This section draws from Timothy Cheek, “Xu Jilin and the Thought Work of China’s Public Intellectuals,” China Quarterly, No. 186 (June 2006), pp. 401–20. For a sense of the troubled history of such thought work, see Lynch, After the Propaganda State. Maurice Meisner, Li Ta-chao and the Origins of Chinese Marxism (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1967); Joshua A. Fogel, Ai Ssu-ch’i’s Contribution to the Development of Chinese Marxism (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Council on East Asian Studies, 1987); Nick Knight, Li Da and Marxist Philosophy in China (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1996); Liu Dong, “The Weberian View and Confucianism,” trans. Gloria Davies, East Asian History (Canberra), No. 25–6 (June–Dec. 2003), pp. 191–217. For an example of interest in conservative liberalism, see Zhang Rulun’s translation of Michael Oakeshott’s essays, Zhengzhi zhongde lixingzhuyi (Rationalism in Politics) (Shanghai: Shanghai yiwen chubanshe, 2003). Axel Schneider has analyzed conservative thought, including Confucian revivalism, in both Republican and contemporary Chinese thought. See Axel Schneider, “The One and the Many: A Classicist Reading. . . and Its Role in the Modern World—An Attempt on Modern Chinese Conservatism,” Procedia: Social and Behavioral Sciences, Vol. 2, No. 5 (2010), pp. 7218–43.

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editor of Zhongguo xueshu (China Academics) and professor of comparative literature at Qinghua University. In his noted essay “Perils of ‘Designer Pidgin Scholarship’,” Liu Dong calls for “an eventual development of Chinese theory after careful mastering of Western masters.” His model is the now-famous Chinese scholar of the Republican period Chen Yinke, whom he quotes: “Those who are truly able to develop their own independent system of ideas and who have creatively accomplished this, must absorb and import foreign learning on the one hand while bearing in mind the position of our own nation on the other.”71 Similarly, Qin Hui (b. 1953) most recently has sought to use Western theory to redeem the Confucian tradition from Legalist pollution.72 In fact, Xu Jilin’s use of liberal theory has led him to conclude that public intellectuals in China are better off organizing the institutions of publicity, such as journals, newspapers, and websites, than in organizing independent political parties.73 Xu Jilin has an entire other corpus of writing, public commentaries, in which he engages topics of the day in a fluid essay style suitable to the general reader and, increasingly, the Internet reader. He takes on serious issues, from SARS, to the debate over “universal norms versus Chinese values,” to the validity of a China model.74 These essays are similar to many others in the liberal camp. Qin Hui also addresses a range of topical issues, but returns to the problem of the fractures in China’s intellectual public sphere. Qin Hui’s solution to the fight between the New Left and the liberals is to propose a “common baseline” in a shared commitment to intellectual freedom. He casts the current divides in a historical context, seeing echoes of the “problems and -isms” debate of the 1920s that divided the liberal Hu Shi and the Communist Li Dazhao. “Indeed,” Qin concludes his historical comparison, “rigid theorizing

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Liu Dong, “Jingti renweide ‘Yangjingbang xuefeng’,” Ershiyi shiji, No. 32 (Dec. 1995), pp. 4–13, trans. Gloria Davies and Li Kaiyu, with a new prefatory section by Liu Dong, as “Revisiting the Perils of ‘Designer Pidgin Scholarship’,” in Davies, Voicing Concerns, pp. 87–108, quote at p. 96. Liu Dong continues this theme in his collection of essays, Lilun yu xinzhi (Theory and Wisdom) (Nanjing: Jiangsu renmin chubanshe, 2001). Qin Hui, “Xi ru hui rong, jiegou ‘fa-dao hubu’: Wenhua xiandaihua yu Zhongguo zhishiren” (Deconstruction of “Complementarity between Law and Dao” through the Blending of Western Learning and Confucianism: Cultural Modernization and Chinese Intellectuals), paper delivered at Public Intellectuals and Modern China, East China Normal University, Shanghai, December 2002. Qin Hui explores these themes in Si wuya, xing youzhi (Thought without Bounds, Action within Control) (Tianjin: Tianjin renmin chubanshe, 2002). Xu Jilin, “Gonggong zhishifenzi ruhe keneng.” Xu Jilin’s newer commentaries appear on his blog, http://blog.sina.com.cn/xujilin57, accessed November 30, 2013.

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about ‘isms’ that avoids ‘problems’ is shallow learning, while the study of ‘problems’ apart from ‘isms’ is but the piling on of words.”75 The core of Qin Hui’s writing, however, has been rural problems and citizen rights. What he drew from his experience as a sent-down youth in the Cultural Revolution was a commitment to help ordinary poor farmers “acquire and exercise their civil rights, such as the right to organize, which would allow them to protect their own interests.” Xu Youyu, a successor to Li Zehou at the Institute of Philosophy at the Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, engages the New Left scholars more pugnaciously. Born in 1947, Xu Youyu was both a Red Guard and a witness to the 1989 Tiananmen protests. He details seven issues that have divided New Left and liberal scholars since 1999: the role of the market in social justice (New Left con; liberals pro), the prospect of China’s entry into the WTO (ditto), evaluations of the Mao period (New Left pro; liberals con), evaluations of the May Fourth Movement and the 1980s Enlightenment Movement (New Left con; liberals pro), modernization (New Left say it equals new colonialism; liberals see progress), and radical nationalism (New Left pro; liberals con). The final issue of contention in Xu Youyu’s list (not given with the six others above) is on whether or not China now is a society controlled by foreign capital (New Left, yes; liberals, no): “Chinese New Leftists distort and excise the conditions of China in order to apply contemporary Western New Left and new Marxist conceptions of the global capitalist system to China.” Xu Youyu’s account smacks of the “spit fight” that Xu Jilin and Qin Hui are at pains to avoid. Still, Xu Youyu captures the heart of the Chinese liberal stand in the current ideological moment. The road to making China a truly great power is, first, to carry on a real market and real free competition, to make just rules, and for everyone to follow them and to expel political power from the market; second, to establish the rule of law and to complete a system of law, for example, to protect legitimate private property by means of amending and supplementing the existing constitution, to narrow the gap between the rich and the poor by means of legislation, to punish and rectify corruption by law.76

What is the world of the Chinese academic out of which essays like Xu Jilin’s emerge? Consider the plight of Liu Dong. Unlike intellectuals

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Qin Hui, “The Common Baseline of Modern Thought,” trans. David Kelly, in The Chinese Economy, Vol. 38, No. 4 (2005), p. 12. The entire issue of this journal features translations of Qin Hui’s essays. I have modified the translation only to use “problems” for wenti instead of Kelly’s “issues.” Xu Youyu, “The Debates between Liberalism and the New Left in China since the 1990s,” Contemporary Chinese Thought, Vol. 34, No. 3 (Spring 2003), pp. 8–9.

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under Mao, who had to please their Party secretary and keep on the right side of the Great Helmsman while pursuing their ideals of socialist service, Professor Liu faces a more complex world. He must not only demonstrate his academic abilities in front of his peers (at Harvard, the copublisher of his journal, as well as his own university), but he must also satisfy market forces, or his journal will go under. Nonetheless, he must still keep on the right side of his Party secretary, pay for his cellphone, and take care of his kid’s education costs. He must balance the specialist demands of his academic peers with the commercial interests of an emerging, middle-class readership. He has, of course, new tools: the Internet, Harvard-Yenching funding, that cellphone. The pressures Professor Liu Dong faces will be familiar to academics in the West, though Liu Dong’s conditions are meaningfully different: the Party still rules, and China’s economic reforms have brought social ills of rural poverty, urban homelessness, and pollution that are everywhere far more intense and urgent than in Western societies. Like Xu Jilin, Liu Dong travels to Western universities and conferences. He is a cosmopolitan academic, with strong international connections, trained in German literary history and theory, and yet he accepts that his place—living and working in China—defines what he should do: serve China according to his best lights as an intellectual. This level of international connection evokes a particular world of contemporary Chinese intellectual life: the waiyu world of foreignlanguage communication. Just as Hu Shi and some leading intellectuals in the first half of the twentieth century published in English as well as in Chinese, so, too, do many Chinese intellectuals today. Importantly, many more Chinese intellectuals and academics are employed in Western universities today. This hybrid role—something impossible for intellectuals, such as the rocket scientist Qian Xuesen, during the Cold War— now shapes part of today’s ideological moment. A good example of this globalized hybrid is Professor Xudong Zhang (b. 1965). He is a very important example of contemporary Chinese life because he is a professor of literature and Asian studies at New York University. He is also an adjunct professor at at least two Chinese universities.77 He is a PRC native with a PhD from Duke University in the United States, and he writes extensively in both English and Chinese. Unlike Xu Jilin or Liu Dong, Xudong Zhang identifies as a New Left scholar, closer in views to 77

See, for example, a June 2012 lecture in Shanghai that lists Zhang Xudong as professor at both NYU and East China Normal University: www.wengewang.org/read.php? tid=35524, accessed August 31, 2014. He has since become an adjunct professor at both Peking University and Tokyo University.

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Cui Zhiyuan and Wang Hui. His case raises two interesting issues about the realities of contemporary Chinese intellectual life. First, despite his good scholarship, by the early 2000s Professor Zhang discovered that one of his important audiences was not paying much attention. Despite the de facto essentialism of North American China studies that accords Xudong Zhang authority to speak on behalf of PRC intellectuals and Chinese people in general, this is demonstrably not the view of his PRC colleagues. PRC academics, such as Professor Liu Dong, dismissed him then as “a foreign scholar” because he could live and work free of the constraints that face scholars working inside China. One major reason why Xudong Zhang has taken adjunct professorships at major Chinese universities has been in order to be taken seriously by his Chinese peers again. With scholars like Xudong Zhang now holding jobs throughout Western universities, we face a second question: who is the Western scholar and who are the Chinese subjects of study? On almost any topic concerning China there are PRC natives trained in Western graduate schools who have published academic studies in English. Yet their voice is not uniform. Some (such as Xudong Zhang) embrace postmodernist approaches associated with Foucault or Derrida, while others maintain formal, Western social-science models (as does Tong Yanqi) or attempt to blend them (as do Zhao Yuezhi and Zhao Suisheng).78 While their childhood experiences in China and recent adventures as immigrants and visible minorities in Western societies surely shape their thinking, nonetheless their social experience as academics in North America, Europe, and Australia increasingly defines their outlook. At the same time, however, globalizing forces of professionalism bring many of the same forces (tenure review, peer-review academic publishing) to bear on academics like Liu Dong and Xu Jilin inside China. The premier example of the globetrotting Chinese intellectual today is Wang Hui (b. 1959), the noted literary critic and New Left intellectual at Qinghua University. Fluent in English, as well as prolific in Chinese, Wang Hui is perhaps the single most influential of China’s current thinkers and writers among English-reading audiences and, significantly, beyond China studies circles. He is widely published in English with his first book, China’s New Order: Society, Politics, and Economy in Transition

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Yanqi Tong, Transitions from State Socialism: Economic and Political Change in Hungary and China (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1997); Yuezhi Zhao, Media, Market, and Democracy in China: Between the Party Line and the Bottom Line (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998); Suisheng Zhao, ed., China and Democracy (London: Routledge, 2000).

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(2003), translating his seminal 1997 critique of contemporary Chinese thought that is credited with kicking off the fight between New Left and liberal scholars in China. Dozens of his scholarly articles and commentaries have been translated. By 2009 Wang Hui was bridging “China problems” and global concerns with The End of Revolution: China and the Limits of Modernity. By 2011 he was editing scholars from the US and China to write on The Politics of Imagining Asia.79 In anglophone literaryand critical-theory circles, Wang Hui is increasingly taken not as a Chinese thinker but as an international critical theorist. Indeed, he now heads an MA program at Goldsmiths, University of London, on “Asian Cultural Studies” (while, of course, maintaining his position at Qinghua University).80 Inside China, Wang Hui is still very much seen as a partisan for the New Left. Even a monumental piece of scholarship such as his four-volume history of the rise of modern Chinese thought from the Song Dynasty to today is generally received according to the reader’s affiliation (New Left like it; liberals nitpick or ignore it).81 The role of the Internet has, alas, been pernicious, enabling libelous exchanges and outrageous claims and counterclaims to find a ready audience. In the year 2000 money added fuel to the fire. Li Ka-shing, the Hong Kongbased billionaire, gave some HK$60 million to the Chinese Ministry of Education to support research. Part of that money went to a “Cheung Kong-Reading Award” for the best articles in the journal Dushu (Reading). A huge Internet brawl broke out when it was discovered that one of the winners was Wang Hui, an editor of Reading. The level of vitriol and polemical rhetoric is what stands out in this “intellectual exchange.”82 Of course, most academics are not public intellectuals. Yue Daiyun, whom we met during Mao’s revolutions, is still at work, and since the

79

80 81

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Wang Hui gives an account of his life in an interview, “Fire at the Castle Gate: A New Left in China,” New Left Review, No. 6 (2002); reprinted as “The New Criticism,” in Wang, One China, Many Paths, pp. 55–86. Wang Hui, China’s New World Order (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003); Wang Hui, The End of Revolution: China and the Limits of Modernity (London: Verso, 2009); and Wang Hui, The Politics of Imagining Asia, ed. Theodore Huters (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011). “MA in Asian Critical Studies, Recruiting for September 2014,” www.gold.ac.uk/pg/maasian-cultural-studies, accessed August 31, 2014. Wang Hui, Xiandai Zhongguo sixiang de xingqi (The Rise of Modern Chinese Intellectual Thought), 4 vols. (Beijing: Sanlian, 2004). The partisan debates are reviewed in Zhou Chicheng, “Hunluan yu miuwu: ping Wang Hui ‘Xiandai Zhongguo sixiang de qiyuan’” (Confusion and Error: A Review of Wang Hui’s The Rise of Modern Chinese Thought), Shehui kexue luntan (Social Science Forum) (2012), No. 4, pp. 115–20. Xu Jilin, “The Fate of an Enlightenment”; and Geremie Barmé and Gloria Davies, “Have We Been Noticed Yet? Intellectual Contestation and the Chinese Web,” in Gu and Goldman, Chinese Intellectuals between State and Market, pp. 75–108.

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1990s has divided her academic time between Beijing and North America while teaching and researching on comparative literature.83 She is the president of the Comparative Literature Institute of China, and the All China Women’s Federation (Fulian) now publicizes her 2009 memoir of sixty years at Peking University.84

Voices from civil society: Chan Koonchung, New Confucians, and dissent Turning our focus from government and academic intellectuals to society more broadly, the first impression is that China today is so different from earlier ideological moments. Think of Chan Koonchung sitting in a Beijing Starbucks in the photo at the start of this chapter. China is prosperous and it is a world power. This is the “prosperous age,” or shengshi Zhongguo, in which Xi Jinping now calls us to the “Chinese Dream.” In this world some of China’s thinkers and writers can once again make their way as independent intellectuals earning their keep by selling their writing. What does this commercial version of Chinese intellectual life look like? Our final guide, Chan Koonchung, gives us a good idea. It is a globalized world of professors, paid writers, as well as government civil servants, political hacks, think tanks, business ventures, and “under-theradar” social activism. It is vibrant, raucous, with many intelligent voices, but is it not free. Chan Koonchung (also known in Mandarin as Chen Guanzhong) was born in Shanghai in 1952, grew up in Hong Kong, did graduate work in Boston, led the cultural scene in Hong Kong as a writer and editor, did a spot of script writing in Taiwan in the 1990s, and has been living and writing in Beijing since around 2002. He is not a civil servant and he does not present himself as a teacher of society. Rather, he adopts two other roles: social critic and social organizer. Chan is known in the West mostly as a novelist. But he is also an intellectual networker. Much of his time is not spent writing fiction, but in organizing salons or discussion groups, at Beijing bookshops, such as All Sages up in the university district, but more so on the Internet.85 Like 83

84

85

See, for example, her English-language study published in China, Yue Daiyun and Qian Linsen, eds., Comparative Literature in the Cross-cultural Context (Beijing: Yulin Press, 2003). The memoir is entitled Siyuan, Shatan, Weiminghu (Siyuan, Shatan, Weiming Lake) (Beijing: Beijing daxue chubanshe, 2008); see the English notice at www.womenofchina. cn/womenofchina/html/people/writers/9/7708-1.htm, accessed June 29, 2015. As of June 2014, Chan reports that it is no longer possible to continue these salons at bookshops in Beijing, due to the current crackdown. It remains unclear whether or not this is a temporary situation.

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Liang Qichao a century ago, Chan engages Chinese outside China who care about China’s fate. In particular, Chan runs two listservs on the Internet: “Minjian China” and “Chindia.” Each one engages Chinese, overseas Chinese, and a few international academics in open-ended conversations and occasional face-to-face salons in Beijing and Hong Kong. The Chinese Internet is famous for its thousands of blogs, webpages, and the fiery arguments on Weibo, China’s Twitter. Chan’s electronic salons are different for two reasons: they are bilingual, with posts in either English or Chinese accepted, and they are engaged with commercial and professional Chinese outside China as well as inside. This is a new stage, or platform, for China’s intellectuals. As Liang Qichao made use of the new commercial newspapers in 1900, and Ding Ling embraced the revolutionary literature of fiction from the 1930s, and Wang Ruoshui embraced the propaganda state of Mao’s China, so Chan Koonchung has adopted the Internet and its social media as a new and powerful forum for organizing intellectuals, not just for publicizing his ideas. Chan’s listservs are not secret, but they are not public—one has to sign up even to see them. So their purpose is not to publicize but to organize thoughtful Chinese, and those thinking about China, into coherent conversation to explore public issues. Chan is not alone in these efforts. Across China enterprising Chinese organize by using the Internet. Intellectuals are no exception. We have seen two such examples, above, in the commercial and associational worlds: the Liang Shuming Rural Reconstruction Center outside Beijing and the unofficial book-publishing venture in Shanghai. These folks do not take the Communist Party head-on, like Liu Xiaobo; rather, they work around it and they get a lot done. Chan Koonchung’s 2009 novel, translated as The Fat Years, gives us a sense of what is on the minds of intellectuals who make their way in China’s new commercial world and what challenges they face. The Fat Years is a dystopian science fiction novel about a “forgotten month” in the near future, “forgetting,” and the dangers of comfort in prosperous China.86 At heart, Chan’s novel is social criticism—Chan challenges China’s intellectuals not to forget the sufferings of the past century, not to ignore the sufferings of the poor in China today, not to accept the limited deal offered by the Party. Like Liang Qichao, Chan is dedicated to truth. Like Ding Ling, Chan uses fiction.

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Chen Guanzhong, Shengshi: Zhongguo 2013 (Prosperous Age: China 2013) (Hong Kong: Oxford University Press, 2009), published in English as Chan Koonchung, The Fat Years: A Novel, trans. Michael S. Duke (New York: Doubleday, 2011).

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Chan’s novel is really a story of the struggles of idealism in China today. Chan’s narrator reflects, Hundreds of millions of Chinese lived through an age that witnessed a storm of idealism and were baptized in that flood of idealism. Even though later on their ideals turned to nightmares and disillusionment, and an entire generation of people lost their ideals, still they didn’t abandon idealism. . . . Just think of all those people currently languishing in prison or under government surveillance—human rights lawyers, political dissidents, promoters of a democratic constitution, leaders of nongovernmental civil organizations, promoters of independent political parties, public intellectuals, whistle-blowers, and missionaries of the underground churches—no doubt all of them are hopelessly incorrigible idealists that the People’s Republic of China version 2.0 can never cure.87

But most intellectuals are like the lead character of The Fat Years, Old Chen. He is confronted with some disturbing events in prosperous China and recalls the bitter events of the Mao years: At this point Old Chen wanted to lay down the heavy burden of history. Can we really blame the common people for their historical amnesia? he asked himself . . . Who has the leisure time to mess around looking up those few historical facts? . . . Old Chen then considered a new concept: “90 per cent freedom.” We are already very free now: 90 per cent, or even more, of all subjects can be freely discussed, and 90 per cent, or even more, of all activities are no longer subject to government control. Isn’t that enough? The vast majority of the population cannot even handle 90 per cent freedom, they think it’s too much. Aren’t they already complaining about information overload and being entertained to death?88

Chan’s most compelling challenge for intellectuals in The Fat Years comes in the voice of the character He Dongsheng, the mysterious Party leader that Old Chen and his compatriots kidnap to force him to reveal the truth of “the missing month.” He Dongsheng’s taunt rings true: What I want to tell you is that, definitely, the Central Propaganda organs did do their work, but they were only pushing along a boat that was already on the move. If the Chinese people themselves had not already wanted to forget, we could not have forced them to do so. The Chinese people voluntarily gave themselves a large dose of amnesia medicine.89

This is the challenge for China’s intellectuals today: how to engage the idealism that fired Liang Qichao, Ding Ling, and Wang Ruoshui—each different in their own time and place, but each equally committed to truth and to making China better. Today the challenge is not Western 87 89

Chan, The Fat Years, pp. 199–200. Chan, The Fat Years, pp. 286–7.

88

Chan, The Fat Years, p. 145.

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imperialism and Japanese invasion, nor political disintegration, nor economic backwardness, nor totalitarianism, but rather comfort—comfort for intellectuals while a small elite of Party princelings make Wall Street look modest but a huge number of ordinary Chinese suffer maybe not outright starvation, but social injustice, poisoned water and air, long hours of work, and low pay. Liang Qichao was a political exile, Ding Ling became a revolutionary in a civil war, Wang Ruoshui served a cosmocratic “total state.” Chan Koonchung, as we have seen, goes to Starbucks in Beijing. In many ways earlier Chinese intellectuals could not help but serve a new state, criticize an old state, or be teachers of the people. Chan Koonchung’s generation has the freedom to live, even prosper, without taking up these tasks of the establishment intellectual. At the same time, the current generation has fewer opportunities to mount the national stage. Chan Koonchung uses his liminal status as a writer living in Beijing but with a Hong Kong residence permit rather than a PRC passport. This status is today’s version of the “space” that the treaty port concession areas gave to Liang Qichao and Chen Duxiu a hundred years ago. It gives Chan partial protection or greater leeway. As he says himself, it is this status and the fact that The Fat Years is presented as fiction that has contributed to his lack of trouble with the authorities. Still, he admits that he doesn’t know when trouble may turn up. Chan has also written directly on Chinese policy, but from the perspective of Hong Kong (and publishing there as well). In 2012 he published The Heavenly Doctrine and Hong Kong, in which he takes to task new thinking coming out of Beijing as a new “Chinese world order.” That doctrine invokes imagery of the dynasties; tianchao literally means “heavenly dynasty.” Chan’s point is to argue that as far as Hong Kong is concerned, this Chinese ecumen is more like neocolonialism.90 Chan’s newest novel turns to Tibet. It is a love story in the voice of a Tibetan chauffeur and his relationships with two Chinese women. His goal, says Chan, is to explore how Tibetans and Han do get along at present and the challenges to improving that relationship. Along the way, he paints a vivid picture of middle-class Beijing social activism—in the politically safe area of animal rights and pet rescue. This novel is likely to test the limits of his leeway.91

90 91

Chen Guanzhong, Zhongguo tianchaozhuyi yu Xianggang (China’s Heavenly Doctrine and Hong Kong) (Hong Kong: Oxford University Press, 2012). Interview with Chen, Vancouver, July 7, 2014. Chen Guanzhong, Luo ming (Naked Life) (Hong Kong: Cosmos Books, 2012); trans. as Chan Koonchung, The Unbearable Dreamworld of Champa the Driver, trans. Nicky Harmon (London: Doubleday, 2014).

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Tibetan intellectuals, as well as Uighur, Kazakh, and other “minority” intellectuals, are speaking for themselves, particularly through literature. The limitations and dangers of political expression that confront Han Chinese intellectuals are many times worse for ethnic intellectuals. In Tibet and for Tibetans literature has become the main area for public intellectual activity. Tibetan writers such as Woeser (Tib. Özer, b. 1966) engage not only Han Chinese colonialism but also internal Tibetan debates on the role of tradition. The constraints on Tibetan writers have tightened since 1994, says Tsering Shakya, but nonetheless Tibetan writers continue to find ways to use creative writing to address public issues within limits of permissible discourse.92 Meanwhile, Uighur intellectuals are subject to severe repression. Even a relative moderate like Ilham Tohti has been subject to a political trial and imprisonment for advocating for Uighur interests within the framework of the Chinese constitution and for hosting a website, Uyghur Online.93 New Confucianism Another vibrant associational world, and one that ties in explicitly with academic and now government circles, is New Confucianism. Confucianism had most recently been excoriated in the “Criticize Lin Biao, Criticize Confucius” campaign in the mid-1970s. However, as early as 1978 the role of Confucianism in the post-Mao cultural revival was raised by the noted historian Ren Jiyu. Since then, New Confucianism has been part of public life in the PRC. For Chinese intellectuals, the return of Confucianism as an acceptable topic of public discussion offered a variety of opportunities. In general, we can follow three paths for New Confucianism: as state ideology, as cultural identity in academic research, and as a vehicle for moral education at the grassroots level unconnected with either the state or elite intellectuals. Despite its recent propaganda campaigns, the Party quickly embraced the renewed interest in Confucianism. In October 1978 ruxue, or Confucian studies, was the subject of a major conference at Shandong University. By 1980 the Kongzi (Confucius) Research Center was established in his birthplace, Qufu, and a series of international conferences followed. The leaders were intellectuals at this stage. Gan Yang, then a young 92

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Tsering Shakya, “The Development of Modern Tibetan Literature in the People’s Republic of China in the 1980s,” in Lauren R. Hartley and Patricia Schiaffini-Vedani, eds., Modern Tibetan Literature and Social Change (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008), pp. 61–85. “China Jails Prominent Uighur Academic Ilham Tohti for Life,” BBC News, September 23, 2014, at www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-29321701, accessed June 25, 2015.

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firebrand, proposed a “Confucian socialist republic.” Soon, some intellectuals, such as Kang Xiaoguang (b. 1963) and Jiang Qing (b. 1953), were arguing for Confucianism as a state religion.94 These efforts bring to mind, of course, Kang Youwei’s proposal for Confucianism to be the state religion in 1916 and the efforts of the Nationalist government in the 1930s to infuse its New Life Movement with “traditional Confucian values.” In fact, intellectual and state interests have coincided when it comes to promoting Confucianism. Intellectual advocates tend to see a revived Confucianism providing a moral compass and a sense of Chinese pride. The state agrees and has the additional interest in promoting the orthodox school of imperial Confucianism that highlights loyalty and obedience to one’s superiors. The state has continued to fund Confucius research programs, conferences, and journals. Both the central state and local governments also organize large-scale rituals to celebrate Confucian culture, such as Confucius’ birthday (in September). These celebrations have also formed a handy and convivial way to reach out to overseas Chinese and Taiwanese who maintained their reverence for Confucius while the PRC went through its revolutions. “Confucianism became an orthodox label used by a great variety of different state and other organizations,” conclude Vincent Goossaert and David Palmer, “for a wide range of tourism, cultural, and educational projects.”95 In 1985 Deng Xiaoping invited Harvard scholar and noted international New Confucian Tu Wei-ming to open a Confucius Research Institute in Beijing. Since then, New Confucianism has been a conversation that has crossed the academic world of the PRC and the waiyu foreignlanguage world of international scholarship in an ongoing series of international conferences and faculty exchanges, all exploring the role of Confucianism not only in China but in East Asia and the world. In the new century, the PRC embraced Confucius as part of its efforts to extend “soft power” influence around the world. Starting in 2004, the Chinese state has set up some 322 Confucius Institutes in ninety-six countries (as of 2012). While such collaborations between a Chinese and a local university focus on teaching Chinese language, these Confucius Institutes brand the PRC as the true home of China’s grand cultural tradition.96

94 95 96

Goossaert and Palmer, The Religious Question in Modern China; and Lionel M. Jensen, “New Confucianism,” in Davis, Encyclopedia of Contemporary Chinese Culture, pp. 424–8. Goossaert and Palmer, The Religious Question, p. 345. Lionel M. Jensen, “Culture Industry, Power, and the Spectacle of China’s ‘Confucius Institutes’,” in Weston and Jenson, China in and beyond the Headlines, pp. 271–99.

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Confucianism has also played a role in “national studies” in the Chinese academic world. Bai Tongdong (b. 1970), a professor of philosophy at Fudan University in Shanghai with a PhD from Boston University, is very active in the study of and in debates over Confucianism. In the recent English-language version of his writings, Bai offers his account of the political philosophy of the Middle Kingdom—the Confucian classics along with their ancient partners, the writings of Legalism and Daoism. Thoroughly versed in the Western classics and an eloquent speaker in English, Bai’s task is to review the ideas and institutions of China’s past to offer “a normative assessment of contemporary global issues and an insight into the Chinese mind.” His goal is to see what Chinese thought can offer to the broader world—“what kind of regime is the best for human beings in modern times?” Read carefully, and adjusted to today’s realities, Bai argues that these Chinese classics “may serve to address political issues more effectively than liberal democracy.”97 In this, of course, he echoes what Liang Shuming advocated in the Rural Reconstruction Movement of the 1930s. Several voices have picked up this theme—Confucianism as an alternative to Western political theory. An unlikely advocate of New Confucianism is a Canadian, Daniel Bell, trained as a classicist in the Western tradition at Princeton but teaching and working in Asia for over a decade and now at Qinghua University. Bell is an enthusiastic advocate of the politics of meritocracy, based on education and age, that he sees in the Confucian classics and suggests that this may deliver good government more surely than liberal democracy.98 Popular Confucianism took off in the late 1990s after the collapse of the Qigong exercise and meditation movement (its fate sealed by the anti-Falun gong campaign in 1999).99 The Confucian revival in the 2000s became a genuine mass movement, organized locally by what we can call local intellectuals not connected with the state and not always related to university worlds. Literally thousands of private Confucian academies sprang up across the country. They offered courses in reading the classics, training programs for entrepreneurs looking for cultural sheen and spiritual purpose, summer camps for youth, and children’s moral education. As Goossaert and Palmer note, this was a bottom-up movement. The university world overlapped with it somewhat, but did not lead it. Pang Fei, a Peking University graduate, opened up Yidan 97 98 99

Tongdong Bai, China: The Political Philosophy of the Middle Kingdom, pp. 9 and 12. Daniel A. Bell, China’s New Confucianism: Politics and Everyday Life in a Changing Society (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008). Goossaert and Palmer, The Religious Question, pp. 296–7.

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Academy near Suzhou that spawned a nationwide network of volunteers sharing practical Confucianism and getting together for breathing exercises in public parks. This cannot but bring to mind the “Liang Shuming Village Reconstruction Movement,” and their commune outside Beijing that got going around the same time. New Confucianism reached a peak of media popularity in 2006 with the CCTV program on Confucius’ Analects led by Yu Dan, a professor of media studies. The book version of her plain-language commentaries became a national best-seller. There is an important role for the New Confucian phenomenon in our story of Chinese intellectuals: its absence. By and large, the mainstream intellectuals, including New Left and liberals, do not participate in this movement very much at all. In fact, this is part of a general orientation that eschews religion generally. Of course, these topics are mentioned, but they are neither central nor frequent in their writings. The New Confucians, even in the academy, are generally a world unto themselves. They do, of course, have government support, but that support is both focused and practical: where New Confucianism adds luster to the cultural prestige of the state and encourages “harmonious” compliance from the populace, it is good and gets state support. Furthermore, neither the state nor intellectuals outside the New Confucian circles seems willing to confront the inherent religiosity of Chinese society. Only the New Confucians are willing to address the “ongoing conflicts between China’s religions and the Chinese state,” David Ownby concludes, “because, for complex reasons, the state remains unwilling to accord religion the independent, protected space required by religion in a truly secular regime.”100

Contemporary dissent It is in this rich context that we return to look at China’s famous dissidents. We met Liu Xiaobo at the opening of the chapter enthusing about the great value of the Internet for his human rights activism in 2006.101 Two years later, Liu joined other activist intellectuals in drawing up “Charter 08,” a manifesto for human rights, democracy, and the rule of law modeled in conscious admiration of Charter 77 that had appeared in Czechoslovakia’s democracy movement three decades 100 101

David Ownby, “Kang Xiaoguang: Social Science, Civil Society, and Confucian Religion,” China Perspectives, No. 4 (2009), pp. 102–11, quote at p. 111. Liu Xiaobo, “Wo yu hulianwang” (Me and the Internet), published in Minzhu Zhongguo (Democratic China), February 18, 2006, and taken from Liu’s blog, http:// blog.boxun.com/hero/liuxb/513_1.shtml, accessed June 23, 2015.

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earlier. Unlike other reform petitions, this was not a polite request to the Party for more reforms but rather it was a direct challenge to the Party—a forthright political platform squarely in the domain of liberal democracy, advocating a new constitution, the separation of powers, legislative democracy, an independent judiciary, freedom of association, and even the public election of administrative officials. There were 303 initial signatures when it was unveiled on December 9, 2008, but Liu Xiaobo took the decision to be the main sponsor. Because of this and his record, the police came to Liu Xiaobo’s Beijing apartment and took him away for “residential surveillance.” He was held that way until they formally arrested him in late 2009. On December 25, 2009, Liu was found guilty of subversion by dint of his sponsorship of Charter 08 and was sentenced to a prison sentence of eleven years. The next year, Liu Xiaobo was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.102 Since his imprisonment after Tiananmen in 1989, Liu Xiaobo has been out of normal intellectual circles in China. The Party has been successful in keeping this “bad apple” quarantined from general intellectual life. Ai Weiwei is another story. Born in 1957 to a famous Communist literary figure, the poet Ai Qing, Ai Weiwei actually grew up with the privileges of Beijing high cadre circles but in exile in Xinjiang province because his father had been denounced as a Rightist.103 Reform in 1978 brought the family back to Beijing and the world of high cadres. Ai enrolled in the Beijing Film Academy. Ai lived for over a decade (1981–93) in New York City, where he studied art and befriended the beatnik poet Allen Ginsburg (who had in earlier years met Ai’s father in China). Since then, Ai has become an international figure in art circles and also the enfant terrible of the Chinese political world. Thoroughly international, Ai travels (when he is allowed) regularly to New York and London while maintaining art studios in China. His art is outrageous and purposefully shocking. Notable images are of him naked in Tiananmen Square or gesturing rudely (the one-finger salute) to Mao’s portrait on Tiananmen itself. In the recent decade, Ai has become a gadfly exposing government malfeasance and corruption around the terrible 2008 earthquake in Sichuan. He organized an effort to record the names of the over 5,000 children killed in the earthquake in school buildings of substandard construction (while the gleaming Party office nearby took no damage). 102 103

Charter 08 and Liu’s role in it are covered in Liu Xiaobo, No Enemies, No Hatred, esp. pp. 300 ff. An excellent overview of Ai Weiwei as of 2010 is his interview with Evan Osnos, “It’s Not Beautiful: An Artist Takes on the System,” New Yorker, May 24, 2010, pp. 54–63.

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He also set about defending the local activist Tan Zuoren, who had been arrested by police for his own work uncovering misdeeds around the earthquake. Ai did this in the public arena, using China’s Weibo to distribute shocking videos of police misconduct. Ai was pushed around by the police (and a blow to the head required surgery for internal bleeding), but until that point he was not formally arrested, incarcerated, or “disappeared.” This was in large measure due to his status—Ai Weiwei is a princeling, the privileged descendant of a revolutionary hero. As such, the authorities dealt with him gingerly. International connections helped make dealing with Ai more awkward, but, as we have seen with Liu Xiaobo, when the Party is upset, it does not matter what the world thinks. Reportedly the Party’s first attempt to resolve these confrontations with Ai was to invite him to be a member of the National People’s Congress, an attempt to co-opt him that others might have accepted. He must have known the likely outcome of his decision to decline the offer. He was finally arrested in April 2011, and released a few months later only to be presented with a huge tax bill—a demand for 12 million renminbi ($1.8 million) in “back taxes.” The case convinced few inside China or out, but the decision against him in June 2012 leaves Ai Weiwei in limbo and unable to speak in public. Western media present Ai as a dissident, and he is certainly pointedly critical of the authorities in China. But as his work in the Sichuan earthquake suggests, Ai works in more than one political genre. William Callahan has described Ai’s activities as “multiple narratives”—the warrior going after official malfeasance, the court jester lampooning political shibboleths, and the middleman acting as broker between China and the West, between young and old people, and between civil society and the state in China.104 Ai Weiwei is an intellectual dissident, but not only and not simply so. There are an increasing number of “rights lawyers” operating in Beijing and across China. While most do not see themselves as public intellectuals so much as practical advocates for the ordinary citizen and the downtrodden, the Chinese state treats them as dissidents. Known as “weiquan lawyers” or “rights-protection lawyers,” these men and women are often self-trained legal professionals who are goaded into action by the abuses of the local state. Ian Johnson profiles Ma Wenbin, an ordinary regional lawyer in Yan’an in Shaanxi, who in the late 1990s was drawn in to advocating for local farmers protesting illegal tax surcharges. He spoke on the farmers’ behalf, filed legal suits, and led protests with them. His reward was to be beaten at the Office of Public Petitions in

104

Callahan, “Citizen Ai.”

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Beijing (when he brought a delegation of farmers to submit their petition according to Chinese law) and a five-year sentence in reform through labor.105 Other rights lawyers are emphatically national-level public intellectuals. He Weifang, a professor of law at Peking University, has agitated for legal reform and for limits on the powers of the Party. He signed Charter 08 and held noted closed-door discussions with leading intellectuals, the New Xishan Meeting, in which he roundly criticized the CCP as an “illegal institution.” The Party, in turn, had him exiled to a small school in Xinjiang for two years in 2008 but he has now returned to Peking University and can speak overseas.106 Xu Zhiyong, a professor at Beijing Post and Telecommunications University and an active rights lawyer, is one of the leading organizers of the New Citizens’ Movement, a civil organization advocating civil and constitutional rights that started in 2010. Xu was elected to the local people’s congress in Beijing’s Haidian District in 2003 and again in 2006, but his name was removed from the ballot by officials in the 2011 election. The New Citizens’ Movement’s logo, 公民, uses Sun Yat-sen’s calligraphy and its slogan is “Freedom, Righteousness, and Love” (ziyou, gongyi, ai). Xu was arrested for “assembling a crowd to disrupt order in a public place” and sentenced to four years in jail in January 2014.107 In the same year Xi Jinping declared the Party’s renewed commitment to “rule of law” as part of his anticorruption campaign. But it is clear that the Party does not welcome legal counsel in public or from outside its ranks. As the characters in The Fat Years show, there are still idealists in China—some are like Liu Xiaobo and are in prison, but some are like Chan Koonchung and publish social criticism, others use their positions in universities to push for change, and yet others try to reform the Party itself. We can draw many lessons from the history of intellectuals in public life in China’s long twentieth century—from the disasters of the 1890s to China’s prosperous age today. For me, the most powerful lesson is the enduring strength of intellectual idealism in China, the commitment to truth, to making China not just prosperous and strong but also just and fair. Our guides across the century have shown us that there is more than one way to serve the public good, from government service to social agitation, and that the particular image of the ideal

105 106 107

Ian Johnson, Wild Grass: Three Portraits of Change in Modern China (New York: Vintage Books, 2004), Chapter. 1. “He Weifang,” in Thinking China, on the website of “The China Story,” accessed November 16, 2014, at www.thechinastory.org/key-intellectual/he-weifang. “New Citizens: The Trial of Xu Zhiyong,” The Economist, January 25, 2014.

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changes by ideological moments across the century, but the drive and the talent have always been there. Enduring ideas, 2005 The people have diversified in the writings of China’s intellectuals. The collective renmin remain, but for the most part intellectuals think of individuals in terms of kinds of people in China—urban residents, rural residents, migrant workers, the new middle class, “returnees” (student who return from training abroad), princelings, entrepreneurs, millionaires. More so, intellectuals have likewise given up speaking “for the people.” Thus Qin Hui focuses on the fate of farmers, not all Chinese. Xu Jilin sets his sights first on sorting out his own group—intellectuals. If there is a basic distinction among the category of “the people,” it is one of “cultural class”—the educated and the uneducated. This is represented in the word suzhi, which means “quality,” but quality in the sense of the British upper-class usage, “people of quality.” In contemporary writings, people of low suzhi behave badly, spit in public, do not know how to operate in a modern economy, and probably beat their child. They need watching and it would be madness to give them democratic powers. As one National People’s Congress delegate commented (below), democracy is good but only for the right sort of person. The realities of social stratification do not easily fit into official language, however. As one Chinese colleague joked recently, “In the past when we were all poor, all we could talk about was class struggle. Now that China really does have rich and poor and tensions between them we cannot mention class struggle but must talk about Harmony.” The meaning of Chinese remains as contested as ever. There is great pride in being the children of the Yellow Emperor with 5,000 years of cultural history. The Party has succeeded in inculcating a popular identification with the Chinese state. When it succeeds (in space exploration, for example) there is popular satisfaction within China. When China is affronted by Japan or America, there is outrage on the streets. And yet ethnic divisions have come to the fore. Han Chinese, the majority, now contest with restive minorities, particularly Tibetans and Uighurs. All are citizens of China, but who is Chinese? Regional sensibilities and languages have resurfaced. Local TV and radio stations now air some programs in Cantonese, Shanghainese, or other regional versions of Chinese that are unintelligible to Mandarin listeners. Urban Chinese, including intellectuals, now increasingly operate in two languages, their mother tongue at home and Mandarin as the common language at school and work. One can understand something of the Party’s anxieties about

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national unity, because on the ground China is a collection of regional nations with a common ancestry but with fierce individual identities. Democracy is on the public agenda, but is also a topic of contention. Is capitalist democracy (per the West) the best form? Some sort of socialist democracy, or Confucian community? New Left scholars emphasize economic democracy over political democracy. Liberal scholars push one version or another of liberal democracy, focusing on political rights. New Confucian scholars promote meritocratic alternatives to what they view as venal popularity contests of elections. Nonetheless, democracy as some form of voice for citizens and restraint on government power is a widely accepted value among intellectuals in China today. Among the middle classes there is a concern that electoral democracy of the Western sort is not appropriate in China “for the time being.” A civil engineer, a woman who was appointed to the National People’s Congress in the early 2000s, quotes Premier Zhou Enlai from the early 1950s: China is the most populous country on earth, and at present holding direct elections would be extremely difficult. As for equal representation, peasants would make up 80 percent of the population, and so the majority of the deputies would also be peasants, and that would not be any good.

“Now, a half a century on,” says the engineer NPC delegate, “it still holds true.” She goes on to say that she supports elections, and even cites Lenin by chapter and verse, “Only universal, direct, fair elections can be said to be democratic elections.” Her conclusion suggests that democracy is good, but only among the right sort of—educated—people.108

108

This interview with the NPC delegate appears as “The People’s Deputy: A Congresswoman,” in Sang Ye, China Candid: The People on the People’s Republic (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006), pp. 73–84, quotes at p. 79.

China in the 2010s

To capture life in China today and the national world in which Chinese intellectuals move, it is perhaps best to keep all three of our most recent images in mind: celebration of cultural glories at the Beijing Olympics, Chan Koonchung sitting in a Starbucks, and the student commune outside Beijing, the Liang Shuming Rural Reconstruction Center. These images contrast with what we find in Western news media: Xi Jinping’s new “mass line campaign” and anticorruption arrests or the treatment of Ai Weiwei, Liu Xiaobo, and NGO activists. Of course, China is all of these things. As always, our challenge is to try to see life in China as Chinese intellectuals experience it. Then we can make sense of their ideas. A new role for China’s intellectuals as public intellectuals is emerging in today’s ideological moment. It builds upon the remnants of the role of the intellectual-cadre of the propaganda state, the resurgence of the expert role in universities and the professions, and the growth of an independent intellectual role in the chinks and gaps between the state and professions forced open by commercial globalization. The period of soul-searching from the 1990s is over. In these various domains Chinese intellectuals are busy addressing what they see are the challenges of a prosperous China. The ideas or ideology through which China’s intellectuals make sense of China’s problems and with which they propose their solutions have diversified. The monolithic state ideology of the Mao years is gone, even as Marxism–Leninism–Mao Zedong Thought remains the official doctrine of the CCP and the habits of thought of a living Maoism color intellectual life. There are competitors to replace, or fundamentally revise, Maoism: New Left reform Maoism, a liberal social-democratic version, even a Neo-Confucian synthesis. But more importantly, change comes by an unacknowledged social process that reflects the accumulated experience of thoughtful Chinese rather than by fiat or from some charismatic thinker. The category of formal ideology, the claim to find a single and total explanatory prescription, increasingly does not attract China’s intellectuals. The age of extremes has passed. 315

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The search for an agreed ground of intellectual engagement and debate is in process now. What will fill the place of Maoism, even if it does not claim exclusive privileges, has not yet emerged. However, we can see the constituent elements that will, inevitably, be a part of the new public language of China when it does emerge. It will reflect the ancient cultural DNA of Chinese political thought in its epistemological optimism—the philosophical faith that the world is knowable (nowadays through science) and the psychological belief in the educability of humans.1 The promises of Maoism inflect those fundamental intellectual orientations by making the natural sciences, modern economics, and a love of technology part of China’s intellectual world. The lessons of Maoism underscore the fallibility of leaders and intellectuals as individuals, and set the agenda to find institutional or systematic solutions to ensure that the truths discovered and taught to the people are, in fact, good, and to limit the abuse of power. Morality—Confucian or Maoist— has proven unable to deliver on both accounts. Both Confucian tradition and Maoist experience leave the issue of elitism unresolved. China’s liberal tradition speaks to these issues—a method for finding consensus among competing truths, institutions for limiting state power, and mechanisms for empowering popular representation while avoiding mob rule. While liberalism faltered in a time of total war, it holds considerable promise for navigating social tensions in a time of relative peace. The world in which China’s intellectuals find themselves today is the “prosperous age,” the shengshi celebrated at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Like Chan Koonchung’s characters in The Fat Years, they confront the problems and challenges of wealth and power. Many are prosperous; more are not. There are social tensions and frequent “mass incidents”— over a 100,000 outbursts of local social protests every year. A crisis in local administration looms. All reflect a simmering battle in China between rich and poor. At the same time, ethnic tensions in Tibet and Xinjiang are a pressure cooker that explodes into the national consciousness in self-immolations and knife attacks at railroad stations. An environmental crisis clouds the daily life of ordinary Chinese every day, from the outrageous air pollution in Beijing and dozens of other major cities to the ongoing pollution of rivers and water sources. There is a volatile rise of popular nationalism started by the Party’s post-Tiananmen patriotic education campaign and fed by China’s commercial media and raucous Internet communities with compelling and distracting stories of “insults 1

Thomas A. Metzger, A Cloud across the Pacific: Essays on the Clash between Chinese and Western Political Theories Today (Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 2005), pp. 24, 88–93.

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to the Chinese people” occasioned by Japan, the US, and other actors. Finally, official corruption—of government and Party leaders high and low—distresses and outrages Chinese from all walks of life. Xi Jinping’s highly publicized anticorruption campaign since 2012 is a sign that the Party can no longer ignore this political sclerosis. Meanwhile, women face a confusing change of roles. Relief from the political depredations of Maoism came with the loss of the Iron Maiden and de jure equality of women in work and at home. Perilously mixed messages come to Chinese women—be a professional, be a mother who does all the cooking and most of the child care, take care of your parents and the in-laws, accept lower pay for the same work, look good, and, oh, at the same time, fight for your rights! These challenges have evoked social responses that in turn become part of what China’s intellectuals must consider as they ponder what to do. There is a profound moral crisis in China today, a lack of public trust. The tip of that iceberg is quotidian insurgencies against tainted milk powder, counterfeit medications, rapacious doctors, and poisoned food. The Internet market for New Zealand milk powder, and baby formula couriers plying the trade between Hong Kong and Guangzhou, are a marvel of citizen action and co-ordination.2 Middle-class activism has begun in China and will only grow. At the same time, individual Chinese and their families face a hostile world in which they feel they can trust no one they do not already know well. The continuing social life of guanxi, or personal connection networks, makes eminent sense in the face of this endemic lack of social trust. Popular nationalism reflects one version of a popular acceptance of an identity as a citizen of China. It provides a satisfying sense of belonging and self-esteem as the nation-state racks up achievements: space launches, Olympics, a blue-water navy. The Party endorses this nationalism while trying to curb its excesses. If revolution no longer legitimizes the Party, and clearly so many Party members and leaders are not paragons of virtue, then the ability of the Party to protect China from all assaults, real or imagined, will do. Finally, there is a huge resurgence of religion in China today. It is in part a reaction to the felt moral vacuum and crisis in social trust and also a response to the transcendental meaning that ideology—Maoist world revolution—offered. From the five state-recognized organized religions to the myriad of popular cults and temples across China, this religious world is reshaping Chinese society in 2

Amy Hanser, “Uncertainty and the Problem of Value: Consumers, Culture and Inequality in Urban China,” Journal of Consumer Culture, Vol. 10, No. 3 (2010), pp. 307–32.

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ways we cannot predict. China’s intellectuals have devoted much time and many words to the first problem, the crisis of morality, but have neglected issues of gender justice and religious experience. The public arena or public sphere through which China’s intellectuals express themselves is as changing as the roles and identities for intellectuals we see in China today. The total propaganda state has receded, leaving a directed public sphere that allows space for private lives left untouched by state prescription and makes use of lively commercial media in the digital version of print capitalism. At the same time, the Internet has created the world of social media that challenges the Party’s efforts to manage public communication. The Weibo world is perhaps the greatest structural challenge to CCP media hegemony. However, the instincts of the pedagogical state born in the mind of Sun Yat-sen and “perfected” by Mao have not deserted the CCP. Xi Jinping’s “important speech of August 19” in 2013 cast the challenge as “the struggle for public opinion” (yulun douzheng). This reflects a sophisticated campaign by Party propagandists to win the hearts and minds of the Chinese public with a combination of slick “positive propaganda” and an attack on “universal values” as a smoke screen for anti-Communist agitation.3 This includes a prohibition against “Seven Things That Should Not Be Discussed” in university courses (universal values, freedom of the press, civil society, civil rights, historical mistakes by the Party, Party-elite capitalism, and judicial independence).4 The Central Propaganda Department regularly issues directives to government and media on what can or cannot be discussed in public, how to phrase key issues, and what to censor altogether. The power of the state is such that most censorship in China has become self-censorship: savvy editors, authors, and publishers guess “where the line is” and avoid confronting the censors. This becomes an ingrained habit that is difficult for all but the most hardy or foolish to break. China’s intellectuals are constrained to speak through this complicated and often capricious “directed public sphere” if they want to reach their fellow Chinese. Finally, profound changes in the global environment have shaped China in the 2010s. The end of the Cold War and the bipolar world divided

3

4

Xi Jinping’s August 19, 2013 speech has not been openly published, but a leaked text is available and carefully assessed in Qian Gang, “Parsing the ‘Public Opinion Struggle’,” China Media Project, September 24, 2013, at http://cmp.hku.hk/2013/09/24/34085, accessed June 25, 2015. A May 2013 Party circular leaked by Gao Yu, a Chinese journalist, and reported in Geremie Barmé and Jeremy Goldkorn, eds., China Story Yearbook 2013: Civilizing China (Canberra: Australian Centre on China in the World, Australian National University, 2013), pp. 118–19. In April 2015, Gao Yu was sentenced to seven years for leaking state secrets.

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between the Soviet and US camps has produced a multinodal world.5 China’s leaders may aspire to a role as world leader, but at present the current world system does not welcome that. Instead, China will have to navigate a world of regional associations and global multilateral organizations. While China has always been connected to the world and modern Chinese intellectuals have had to engage foreign ideas for over a century, the degree of integration with the world today is unprecedented. Never have so many Chinese been familiar with basically accurate information about the wider world; never have so many visited and sojourned outside China; never have so many ideas of international origin and systems of knowledge (universities, business practices, multinational treaties) operated in China. This is a world in which McDonald’s feels like “local food” to young Chinese. The engagement with a new kind of global order is not only greater and deeper, but China’s place in the global order is no longer one of weakness but one of strength. With strength comes responsibility. With wealth and power come opportunities to contribute to the world and not just to protect oneself from others. This is the challenge of the twenty-first century for China’s intellectuals: to help China live up to its responsibilities to its citizens and to its promise of rejuvenation for an anxious world.

5

Brantly Womack, “China’s Future in a Multinodal World Order,” Pacific Affairs, Vol. 87, No. 2 (June 2014), pp. 265–84.

Conclusion Intellectuals, China, and the world

The history of intellectuals in modern China offers a compelling vista of the efforts of intellectuals—thoughtful and dedicated, ambitious and conniving, cantankerous and cowed, deeply human—doing their best to serve the public good where they live. We have emphasized how different the world and its problems looked at different times, in different ideological moments. And we have tried to keep in mind the different social worlds in which intellectuals in China have operated, beginning with a simple trio (metropolitan, provincial, and local) and expanding by the end to six worlds of government service, academia, commerce, associational worlds, the waiyu world of foreign languages, and dissent. Throughout we have traced the persistence and variations of some key ideas in public life: the people, what it means to be Chinese, and democracy. In each ideological moment we have seen how these three core concepts of Chinese political life have endured but have come to incorporate significantly different meanings at different times. In the end, one has to be struck by the perseverance and dedication of China’s thinkers and writers to use their skills, their social capital, and their life opportunities to serve China—serve China, of course, according to their own lights. The carnage of over a century has been horrific, the resilience impressive. Their contributions carry great promise for our shared future.

Intellectuals and China The twentieth century has been the nationalist century in China’s long history. No longer an empire, or tianxia, the identity, preservation, and perfection of this new version of “China”—Zhongguo, the nation-state in a Westphalian international order of nation-states—has dominated intellectual, as well as political, life across China’s long twentieth century. Nationalism, in one form or another, has been the overriding concern of modern China’s intellectuals. 320

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That overriding concern, driven by the political realities of Western and then Japanese imperialism, as well as by domestic disorder, found expression differently in different ideological moments. We have seen “the question of the day” change. In 1905 it was how to save China. What kind of changes are needed to enable what is important in the world we grew up with to endure and prosper? In the 1920s the question of the day was how to awaken the Chinese people in order to save themselves from the clear and present danger of foreign domination and domestic misrule. By the 1940s it was how to build the New China. By the 1960s, despite the CCP’s success in reunifying the country, the limitations of the Soviet model and the real failures of the Great Leap Forward set all to pondering how to make socialism work. In the 1980s the key question had become how to reform China’s socialist system so that, first, the Cultural Revolution could never happen again and, second, the Party and socialism could avoid the sclerosis of the state socialism of the Soviet Union and bring prosperity and cultural richness that seemed so apparent in Japan, America, and Europe. Since the Beijing Olympics in 2008 the question that defines the ideological moment in China today is how to be a global power. How to share the wealth at home? How to be a responsible player regionally and on the world stage? Throughout this history, changing roles, identities, and institutions defined China’s thinkers and writers in significantly different ways and shaped what they could do. We have seen China’s thinkers and writers as shi, or traditional scholars, and as shidaifu, or scholar-officials, in the waning years of the Qing. Although the ideal was state service as mandarins in the imperial government, the reality was that over 90 percent of China’s shi worked outside the bureaucracy, most often living as local gentry assisting local administrations informally. Early reformers used the new media of print capitalism to offer advice to the empire or to mobilize their colleagues for reform or revolution. By the 1920s a new role as independent intellectuals (zhishifenzi) had emerged in the context of the print capitalism and the new-style universities flourishing around the treaty port enclaves across China. At the same time roles and identities as professionals (doctors, lawyers, journalists, etc.) emerged, however tentatively. These were eclipsed by the muscular propaganda state of mid-century and replaced by intellectual cadres (zhishifenzi ganbu) who subordinated intellectual freedom and professional norms to the service of a charismatic leader and the total state. This began with Sun Yat-sen’s small regime in south China, grew with Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist government in 1928, and covered all of China under Mao Zedong in 1949. After the tribulations of the Cultural Revolution and with the challenges of globalization, today China’s intellectuals can choose from

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identities as intellectual cadre, professional expert, or independent intellectual through institutional roles in the enduring party-state, in the revived professions and universities, or in the vibrant but still “managed” commercial media and on the Internet. These changed roles reflect the changing opportunities to participate in public life offered to intellectuals in China over the century. We have seen three forms of the public sphere in China. In Chapter 1 we saw that the print capitalism—the commercial newspapers and magazines—that supported Liang Qichao’s generation in reaching a broader public was “free” or pluralistic in only a de facto way. That “freedom” depended on treaty port immunity from Chinese law. The imposition of China’s propaganda states in the 1930s put an end to that—at first only fitfully under Nationalist press regulations that still had the competition of foreign concession areas in Shanghai and other major cities and only locally in scattered CCP-controlled rural soviets. Even when free from government depredations, participants in Chinese print capitalism were not free of the discipline of the capitalist market, from owners or shareholders who wanted to make a return on their investments to the felt need to pander to the prurient tastes of urban readers in order to “sell papers.”1 The second form of public sphere was the print communism of the propaganda state. In it the technologies of print capitalism were harnessed to the goals of an ideological one-party state without the concerns of profit or loss (in the business sense). In the public sphere of the propaganda state competing voices were removed or deeply attenuated. This is the pedagogical state envisioned by Sun Yat-sen, attempted by Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist Party, and “perfected” by the CCP under Mao. The key institution for enforcing a fully directed public sphere has been the propaganda department of each party (GMD or CCP). The institution was drawn from the Soviet example but relies on enduring norms of public education that we saw in the Sacred Edicts lectures of the Qing and the moral exhortations in Chinese journalism from the time of Liang Qichao. “Propaganda” in this system was not seen as a bad thing. It is well to remember that the negative image of propaganda we hold is a product of the twentieth century.2 The original meaning of “propaganda” in early modern Europe more closely corresponds to the meaning of the Chinese term xuanchuan: to propagate what one believes to be true, with overtones of propagating the orthodoxy. The Jesuits, for 1 2

Reed, Gutenberg in Shanghai. See also the comparative example of print capitalism in Japan: Huffman, Creating a Public. Garth S. Jowett and Victoria O’Donnell, Propaganda and Persuasion (Beverly Hills, CA: Sage, 1986).

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example, set up the Congregation de Propaganda Fide to “propagandize” the Catholic faith in the Counter-Reformation.3 The urge toward “educational journalism” that we saw in Liang Qichao’s generation continues through the entire century in tension with growing commitments to professional independence, liberal ideology, and democratic tolerance of competing views. To the degree that China’s party-states have held power to that extent the intellectual urge to be the teacher of the people has come to the fore in educational journalism. In China’s public sphere today the propaganda state has receded and the institutions of print capitalism (a vibrant commercial media market) have returned. Meanwhile, the Internet has introduced a wild card in the form of social media connections among ordinary citizens. The Party keeps a firm hold on these developments with vigorous and well-funded efforts to manage the public arena. This is the directed public sphere of the Party’s Propaganda Department that now rebrands itself the “Publicity Department.” It attempts to maintain the goals of Sun Yatsen’s pedagogical state through indirect means rather than through the invasive propaganda and repression of the Mao years. Though huge, lively, and ever-active, China’s media are not free; they are managed. Those who cross the vaguely drawn “line” of Party propriety are disciplined. Nonetheless, the social-media function of the Internet has forced the Party in many instances to compromise, concede, and conciliate social movements—from anti-Japanese boycotts, to local resistance to polluting factories, to protests against local-government malfeasance. The Party may be the manager of the directed public sphere, but it is no longer the undisputed dictator of discourse. Earlier identities endure in ways that shape intellectual work in China today. For example, at mid-century the intellectual cadre was most often a revolutionary cadre. The ideal revolutionary cadre was the ideological leader. This is an important example of the adaptation of inherited habits and models to new circumstances. The emperor had been the font of ideological wisdom, as well as chief executive, of the Qing state. The Kangxi and Qianlong emperors, in particular, had succeeded brilliantly in casting their reigns in this fashion—which managed to unite the empire and sidestep issues of ethnicity. It was not important that the emperor was Manchu; rather, it was that he was a Confucian sage.4 This role of the supreme leader became expected in twentieth-century 3 4

John W. O’Malley, ed., The Jesuits II: Cultures, Sciences, and the Arts, 1540–1773 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006), pp. xxiv and 417. This successful political move is illustrated beautifully in Jonathan D. Spence’s study, Emperor of China: Self-Portrait of K’ang-Hsi (New York: Vintage, 1988).

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China, in both political and cultural leadership. When the Qing fell and the Republic’s leaders—in the form of less-than-sagacious military strongmen such as Yuan Shikai and Duan Qirui—patently failed to make this grade, others put themselves forward. More importantly, as Peter Zarrow persuasively argues, the intellectual elite and populace in general expected ideological leadership of their political leaders.5 The successful leaders over the next half-century would be able to make such claims, and even today the remnants of this sort of politics endure in the awkward “thought” of CCP leaders, most recently the theory of “harmonious society” attributed to Party General Secretary Hu Jintao and the “Chinese Dream” of his successor, Xi Jinping. The leading ideological figures of the twentieth century—Sun Yat-sen, Chiang Kai-shek, and Mao Zedong—all claimed ideological leadership: Sun and Mao more successfully, Chiang less so. What is the difference between a Dr. Sun Yat-sen or a Chairman Mao Zedong as an intellectual and as an ideological leader? Each man was both. Each produced ideas that were found to be persuasive to a number of intellectuals and to a public. Each was able to secure the role of political leader who produce the guiding philosophy of his party and administration. People have studied the “thought” of both Sun and Mao. Hence there came to be both Sunism (or the Three People’s Principles) and Maoism (or Marxism–Leninism–Mao Zedong Thought). As intellectuals, Sun and Mao addressed those questions that engaged their fellow intellectuals—why was China downtrodden? How could China overcome her shame and regain stability, prosperity, cultural integrity, and international respect? What made them ideological leaders was their ability to insist on a general acceptance of their answers among their followers. More so, as ideological leaders Sun and Mao were the models of and the justification for a priestly function for intellectuals as transformational bureaucrats that recaptured some of the traditional élan of the Confucian examination elite.6 That is, Sun and Mao served as “the local intellectual cadre writ large,” just as the Pope is the local parish priest writ large, or the emperor of the Qing was the great sage model for the local Confucian county magistrates or lineage patriarchs. This role, this service that the ideological leader provides to the intellectual cadre, is central for understanding why many Chinese intellectuals supported

5 6

Peter Zarrow, The Conceptual Transformation of the Chinese State, 1885–1924 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2012). Fitzgerald explores the role of “the first awakened” (xian juewu) among Sun Yat-sen’s followers in Awakening China, esp. p. 341; and Cheek describes the “culture-bearer role” of the intellectual cadre in Propaganda and Culture in Mao’s China, pp. 309–10.

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these ideological leaders—the relationship provided cultural and political capital for the intellectual who was otherwise a marginalized figure in a modernizing society. The role of intellectual cadre has waned in recent decades, but the claim to ideological leadership has not. The claim to ideological leadership has been based on scholarship—expertise in the textual tradition and the ability to make creative adaptations and practical applications of that orthodoxy in current conditions. In the Chinese case a curiously traditional aspect of ideological authority that has crossed conservative, liberal, and radical stands in the twentieth century is the power of calligraphy. The cursive and expressive writing of Chinese characters with a maobi, or slim writing brush, has been a signature of advanced personal cultivation in China’s culture for thousands of years.7 Despite his mediocre skills, Sun Yat-sen’s calligraphy has been touted since the 1920s. Chiang Kai-shek, too, graced monuments and favored subordinates with his calligraphy. Most famously, Mao—and his successors at the helm of the CCP—have seeded their scrawl across China, adorning newspaper mastheads (for example, the Chinese title of People’s Daily, Renmin ribao 人民日报, appears in red ink in Mao’s hand), monuments, and formal scrolls.8 Equally important, ideological leadership or the aspiration to it has not been limited to a handful of national leaders. We saw this in the case of Liang Shuming in Chapter 2. The model and the urge to articulate correct thought and to mobilize a reading or viewing public by feats of scholarly skill shape Chinese intellectual and political life down to today. Over the long twentieth century, we have seen the political deployment of virtuoso scholarship as a claim to ideological leadership by Chinese intellectuals in Liang Qichao’s and Zhang Binlin’s wielding of literary Chinese language and references, in Sun Yat-sen’s inspiring political speeches that claim to integrate Confucius and Lincoln (in his Three People’s Principles), in Ding Wenjiang’s application of advanced scientific method, in Liang Shuming’s classical scholasticism and sage-like demeanor, in Deng Tuo’s beautiful calligraphy and encyclopedic knowledge of Chinese history, in Fang Lizhi’s astrophysics, and in Wang Hui’s mastery of English and postmodern critical theory. This model of ideological leadership undergirds the search for correct thought that we have 7

8

This tradition, which includes the three arts of poetry, painting, and calligraphy, is beautifully captured in accessible prose by Simon Leys in “Poetry and Painting: Aspects of Chinese Classical Esthetics,” in Simon Leys, The Burning Forest: Essasys on Chinese Culture and Politics (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1985), pp. 3–34. Richard Curt Kraus, Brushes with Power: Modern Politics and the Chinese Art of Calligraphy (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991).

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seen dominate the work of so many Chinese intellectuals. What is the “correct thought” to address China’s problems? Who has it? For many Chinese it has been an ideological leader certified by feats of cultural and scholarly prowess. While intellectual life has been shaped by shifting ideological moments, and the recurrence of revolution, reform, and rejuvenation as zeitgeists or guiding orientations, there has been secular change that shapes what intellectuals in China can do. We have seen the pervasive acceptance of science and technology as China has industrialized, and we have noted the ongoing engagement with ideas, institutions, and norms coming from the West over the century. The most profound change, however, has been the growth of the state. In Chapter 3 we noted the tremendous growth of the party-state under both the Nationalists and the Communists during World War II. The growth of a muscular modern state and the penetration of its agents deep into China’s villages absolutely marks modern China, and the China of today, off from all previous empires, kingdoms and regimes. China’s educated elites were always engaged in local societies, usually as lineage leaders or local landlords or cultural leaders. This local autonomy is what Bai Tongdong is pointing to with his championing of a “Confucian” balance against “Legalist” restrictions in traditional China (in Chapter 6). The penetration of the modern state into local society has forced China’s thinkers and writers to disengage from local society or to join the state as a cadre in order to be certified for local leadership. This has made twentiethcentury China, and today’s China, more statist than at any previous time in Chinese history.9 The growth of civil society in contemporary China, along with the re-emergence of the role of independent intellectuals, such as Chan Koonchung, must be seen in the context of this contrary narrative of pervasive state-building. The considerable state capacity of the PRC state, along with its de facto division into central and local administrations, presents an unprecedented challenge to and opportunity for intellectuals in China. These contexts, roles, and changing public spheres have shaped the ideas that intellectuals in China have offered to address their evolving vocation to serve China. We have seen how the idea of “the people” has changed from the educable collective qun of Liang Qichao; to the objects of revolutionary mobilization, the renmin, of Sunism and Maoism; to the emerging individual person, the ren, of Wang Ruoshui’s Marxist 9

This point was a major theme of the research collected in Frederic Wakeman Jr. and Carolyn Grant, eds., Conflict and Control in Late Imperial China (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976).

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humanism; to the diversified range of social types—rural farmers (nong), middle-class urbanites (shimin), ethnic identities (Tibetan or Mongol or Chinese Muslim), professionals (zhuanjia), scholars (xuezhe), and, most generally, citizens (guomin) today. Likewise, what China means and what counts as Chinese has shifted over time, from hua, a civilizational identity; to minzu, an ethnic category; to citizenship as guomin in a republic; to a notion at mid-century limited to certain classes (jieji)—including the proletariat and excluding the bourgeoisie—and today returning to an inclusive (and some would say constraining) notion of citizenship that claims Tibetans and Uighurs as PRC citizens. Yet Chinese continues to be defined by one’s face and by contrast with other cultures. Finally, democracy has dominated debates throughout the century, but with contested meanings and assumptions—from Liang Qichao’s publicmindedness, to the guided democracy of Sun Yat-sen’s political tutelage and the CCP’s democratic centralism, to various notions of social democracy. All along, some voices spoke for liberal democracy but were not able to gain a secure footing in China’s age of extremes. Even today, widely held doubts about the “quality” (suzhi) of China’s working masses inflect discussions of democracy—the Party maintains its claim to lead, New Confucians stress educational merit, and middle-class professionals invoke professional competence. What these key concepts (or enduring ideas) came to mean at any given time—the explicit ideas and propositions we have met in the pages of this book—can only be seen through the details of each ideological moment, the content of the ideas put forward, and the specific debates to which they contributed. The meaning is in the detail. It has been my goal to use the lens of ideological moments and social worlds of intellectual life to discipline the natural urge to tell a simple, satisfying story that makes all the moving parts fit a single narrative. But there may not be a single narrative that does justice to China’s intellectuals and their century of efforts to identify, preserve, and perfect this thing called China. The road to modernization in the American sense, the rise and fall of the party-state, or the treason of the clerks, all fail to capture the range, diversity, ironies, and inspiration of China’s intellectuals over a terrible century. Still, there are several narratives to be found, overlapping and contradicting, coming to the fore and receding. The story of Chinese liberalism is real, if often tragic and currently muted. The story of Chinese socialism is clearly not over. Whatever claims can be made for Chinese exceptionalism, the embrace of science and technology, along with the assumptions of modern management in China (from the idea of “society” to the transnational corporation to management theory), is broadly comparable with societies around the world.

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The alienation of China’s educated elites from rural society and their partial reintegration forcibly under Mao’s revolutions leave that story unfinished: how will China’s intellectuals contribute to the life of their fellow citizens in the rural areas? The story of China’s women has yet to be told in a way that does justice to their struggles and achievements; nor has the centrality of religious life to most Chinese been acknowledged by intellectuals inside China or (for the most part) by international scholars outside the field of religious studies. We await with mixed expectations to see what intellectuals in China can offer to our shared challenges today of regional and global order, social justice for the poor, and environmental survival. China and the world China and China’s intellectuals have been connected to the wider world, and their experience over the century offers a fresh perspective on intellectuals around the world. Like intellectuals everywhere, some intellectuals in China firmly believed they had a mission and a responsibility to improve the world. Like European intellectuals, Chinese intellectuals wrestled with how to use their rich traditions in the course of modernization. Like American intellectuals, they thought they were exceptional, but of course were not. Intellectuals throughout the world experienced the high tide of Euro-American imperialism at the end of the nineteenth century, the shock of the Great War of 1914, and the global economic depression in the 1930s; they lived through the age of extremes in the middle decades of the twentieth century, coping with National Socialism, state socialism, and the Cold War; they all responded to the collapse of the Soviet empire, 9/11 and the ongoing War on Terror; and they embraced in varying ways the neoliberal global financial order at the start of the twenty-first century—only to face the challenge of the financial collapse in 2008 and the global financial anxieties since then. As part of the world system, China has been a part of all these trends. We identified four trends in the twentieth century in which Chinese intellectuals were also engaged. Chinese intellectuals provide some of the strongest voices of anticolonialism. Voices from Liang Qichao’s to Ding Ling’s to James Yen’s sought to find Chinese solutions to foreign domination. From Zhang Binglin in 1906 to Sun Yat-sen to Communists such as Deng Tuo and Wu Han, we have seen the attraction of political revolution as a solution to imperialism and to the challenges of modernization. We have seen what state-led development looked like under both the Guomindang and the CCP party-states and heard the voices of the intellectual cadres who served them. And we have heard the voices of

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post-socialism from Wang Ruoshui’s “Marxist humanism” in the 1980s to Wang Hui’s New Left idealism from the late 1990s to Chan Koonchung’s dystopian picture of ideological life in China today. These are all voices that are already part of a global conversation during the twentieth century as various societies have dealt with the challenges of what is generally called modernization. It has been a goal of this book to make these Chinese voices available to the general reader. If China is at a turning point in 2015, it may be in the role of the outside world. The defining feature of modern Chinese intellectuals is the inescapable looming presence of the West. Not simply in geopolitical terms, but also in terms of the civilizational challenge of science, technology, and mass politics. Every major intellectual since 1895, even the “nativists” or the national essence scholars and New Confucians, has had to deal with Western ideas, concepts, and approaches, and not least with the Western presumption to have identified universal values for all cultures. Of course, in many ways, traditional Chinese thought embraced similar pretensions in the universal applicability of Neo-Confucian doctrine, something largely embraced by China’s East Asian neighbors in previous centuries. However, this Confucian world order was overthrown by the events that set up our story: Western and then Japanese imperialism, technological might, and cultural confidence. Chen Yinke, the great traditional scholar of the twentieth century (and the teacher of Zhou Yiliang, whom we met in Chapter 4), used German philology to sharpen his research on Chinese essence.10 However, today there are signs that the dominance of the West for China’s intellectuals is beginning to wane. The “loss of faith” in the West occasioned by the financial crisis of 2008 and the inability of either the European Union or the United States to get their democracies to address the underlying problems of their economies drives this decline in the eyes of many in China. So, China is richer every year and the West has shot itself in the foot. End of story? No, because we have seen this story before in the dismay that China’s intellectuals experienced in the wake of World War I. We cannot predict the future, but there are suggestive patterns to keep in mind in the years ahead. In the 1920s, the turn away from the liberal West did not mean a turn away from the outside world. Instead, the National Socialism of Germany and Italy and the state socialism of the Soviet Union provided compelling models, particularly during the general crisis of capitalism in the Great Depression of the 1930s. 10

Wen-hsin Yeh, “Historian and Courtesan: Chen Yinke and the Writing of Liu Rushi Biezhuan,” Morrison Lecture, Australian National University, July 2003, at http:// chinainstitute.anu.edu.au/morrison/morrison64.pdf, accessed April 13, 2015.

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Nonetheless, Chinese intellectuals never gave up on European political ideas—from liberalism to Marxism to Christian uplift—to help them address China’s problems in the 1930s and 1940s; they simply “sinified” them or adapted them to local conditions. There is likely to be a similar process of adaptation or localization in the years to come that will generate distinctively Chinese responses to our shared problems. However, there will be more differences than similarities between China and the world in the 1940s and China in the 2010s for three reasons. The first reason is precisely China’s “rise.” China today is not the China of 1895 or 1945. In many ways China today is everything that earlier China was not: unified, stable, relatively prosperous, and treated with respect by other nations. The search for wealth and power has succeeded, but, of course, it has bred its own problems. Second, how China’s intellectuals will respond to the problems of development— rather than to the challenge of how to develop—will be different from earlier decades because so many of the foreign ideas imported in the first half of the twentieth century have been domesticated. When Chinese liberals talk about the rule of law, certainly some scholars cite chapter and verse from Locke, Jefferson, or Hayek, but increasingly Chinese turn to Chinese liberals from Hu Shi and Luo Longji to Li Shenzhi to mine the political resources a Chinese liberal tradition has to offer.11 Thus, unlike the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in the 1980s, China’s intellectuals who have had it with socialism and the one-party state are less likely to trust that the West has a better model in operation today. They will borrow from that part of the human storehouse of knowledge about political life that most recently has come from Western thinkers and writers and weave it with their own, already hybrid, traditions, just as we have seen Xu Jilin mix and match ideas from Zygmunt Bauman and Wang Yuanhua. Third, the global environment has changed. The twentieth century was, as Hobsbawm concludes, the age of extremes. The twenty-first century is opening as a period of global uncertainty, the age of anxieties. The uncertainties about their role and status that Chinese intellectuals confront today mirror a global community that is unsure about what is the best international order, financial system, or ecological regime. The total ideologies of the age of extremes no longer convince. We can hope for a turning of this dialectic. The confidence of the “Washington consensus” ran aground in Iraq and Afghanistan, the postWorld War II Bretton Woods order for the international economic 11

This story is highlighted in Edmund K. Fung, The Intellectual Foundations of Chinese Modernity: Cultural and Political Thought in the Republican Era (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010).

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system is clearly in need of renegotiation, and the world is warming, the seas are rising, and pollution in China and India is out of hand. China has righted herself and grown at a phenomenal rate for no less than three decades. Though not fully free, China’s professional and intellectual worlds are rich and busy. It makes sense that China’s intellectuals will look to their own resources. But the turn of the dialectic of borrowing and sending out that we can hope for in the twenty-first century is to see in the decades ahead more Chinese intellectuals offering back from their perspective contributions to global governance, political theory, and world literature and arts, just as confident Europeans and Americans did a century ago.12 Li Shenzhi (1923–2003), an intellectual cadre who survived Mao’s time to serve as foreign-policy adviser for Deng Xiaoping and Zhao Ziyang, came to a conclusion that could serve for this history of the intellectual in modern Chinese history. Reviewing the Asian values debate in the 1990s, Li concludes, It shows that global modernization has reached a transition period, that we need to clean up problems of industrial civilization dominated by Western values (or individualist values) that have accumulated over hundreds of years, so as to open up a new set of possibilities and to allow human beings to live a more reasonable, harmonious, secure, and healthy life. In fact, no single nation or value system of any culture will remain unchanged.13

12 13

See Leigh Jenco, Changing Referents: Learning across Space and Time in China and the West (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015). Li Shenzhi, “Asian Values and Global Values,” in Selected Writings of Li Shenzhi, ed. Ilse Tebbetts and Libby Kingseed (Dayton, OH: Kettering Foundation Press, 2010), p. 123.

Who’s who (intellectuals featured in the main text)

Ai Weiwei1 (b. 1957) Avant-garde artist and political activist in the 2000s. Son of a revolutionary poet of Mao’s generation, Ai Qing, he is considered a member of the “Red Elite.” Bai Tongdong (b. 1970) Professor of philosophy at Fudan University in Shanghai today, with a PhD from Boston University, active in the study of traditional thought and public debates about Confucianism. Bo Yang (1920–2008) Novelist, journalist and political commentator in Taiwan critical of the Guomindang’s government in the 1960s. Spent a decade in prison. Penned one of the most famous auto-critiques of the Chinese character, The Ugly Chinaman. Chan Koonchung (Chen Guanzhong) (b. 1952) Contemporary novelist and public intellectual from Hong Kong but active in Beijing organizing e-fora on China and the world. His dystopian novel Shengshi (2009), published in English as The Fat Years (2012), gained wide attention. Chen Bulei (1890–1948) Chiang Kai-shek’s personal secretary who committed suicide in 1948. A classic New Culture intellectual, he joined the Guomindang in 1927 and served as an intellectual cadre in propaganda and as Chiang’s ghostwriter. Chen Guangcheng (b. 1971) Crusading blind civil rights activist in the 2000s. A self-taught or “barefoot lawyer,” he advocated for locals in Shandong. Subject to house arrest, he escaped to the US embassy and then was exiled to the US in 2012. Chen Ziming (1950–2014) Intellectual activist in the 1980s who set up an independent think tank and journal. Active in the 1989 Tiananmen student protests, he was arrested and imprisoned later that year. Released in 2002. Cui Zhiyuan (b. 1963) Contemporary New Left activist and noted advocate of the “Chongqing model” of neo-socialist development. 1

Surnames appear first in Chinese names. For example, Ai Weiwei is Mr. Ai.

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A professor at Qinghua University’s School of Public Policy and Management with a PhD from the University of Chicago. Deng Tuo (1911–66) Intellectual cadre under Mao. A noted intellectual, Deng served as a CCP propagandist and first editor of People’s Daily, yet came to criticize Mao after the Great Leap. First major intellectual to die in the Cultural Revolution. Ding Ling (1904–86) Famous female writer from the late 1920s and advocate of women’s place in the revolution. An intellectual cadre in CCP cultural circles under Mao, she served as an in-house critic. Purged in 1957; rehabilitated and active in the 1980s. Ding Wenjiang (1887–1936) New Culture intellectual and advocate of modern science in the 1920s and 1930s. He trained in geography in the UK. Served the Republican government in mining and surveying; active in public debates about science and China. Fang Lizhi (1936–2012) Astrophysicist and intellectual cadre who became a famous dissident in the 1980s. A leading scientist, Fang endured Mao’s political campaigns, advocated democracy in the 1980s, and was exiled to the US after Tiananmen. Gan Yang (b. 1952) Public intellectual associated with New Left scholars. He was active in the 1980s “culture craze,” leading a major translation effort of Western theory. Active in the 1989 Tiananmen demonstrations, now lives and works in Hong Kong. Hu Shi (1891–1962) China’s most famous liberal intellectual. A leader of the New Culture Movement from 1915 and student of John Dewey at Columbia University. Served as China’s ambassador to the US during World War II and finally settled in Taiwan. Kang Xiaoguang (b. 1963) Advocate of New Confucianism in China today. Professor at Renmin University in Beijing. Advocates Chinese exceptionalism and Confucianism as an alternative to Western ideas and models. Kang Youwei (1858–1927) Radical Confucian reformer at the end of the nineteenth century. Adviser to the emperor in the failed 1898 Reforms. Exiled with Liang Qichao and other intellectual activists. Served the new Republic after 1911, advocating Confucian religion. Li Shenzhi (1923–2003) Intellectual cadre who survived Mao’s time to serve as foreign-policy adviser to Deng Xiaoping and Zhao Ziyang. Known as a liberal reformer within the CCP. Li Yizhe Joint pen name for the famous 1974 wall poster in Guangzhou criticizing the “Lin Biao system.” The three Red Guard authors were Li Zhengtian (b. 1944), the leader of the group, Chen Yiyang (b. 1948?), and Wang Xizhe (b. 1949). Wang became active in Beijing demonstrations in 1978–9.

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Li Zehou (b. 1930) Philosopher and liberal intellectual active from the 1980s. An intellectual cadre, Li made a trenchant critique of Maoism in the 1980s. Often criticized but not jailed, he now lives and writes in Colorado and Beijing. Liang Qichao (1873–1929) Reformer, journalist, and famous public intellectual around 1900. Liang advocated a constitutional monarchy, modern education, and renovation of the people in a social-Darwinist struggle for survival in the face of foreign imperialism. Liang Shuming (1893–1988) Father of Confucian revival of rural China from the 1920s. A major voice of a neo-traditional alternative to both CCP and GMD ideologies, Liang met and influenced Mao in the 1930s but was criticized by Mao in the 1950s. Liang Sicheng (1901–72) Leading architect in the Republic and PRC; advocated Chinese-style architecture and preservation. Third son of Liang Qichao, he is a classic example of a “returned student” at midcentury bringing Western ideas to China. Lin Xiling (1935–2009) Student activist and dissident in the 1957 Hundred Flowers Movement. A law student at Renmin University, Beijing, she advocated liberal democracy in the face of Party dictatorship. Purged and silenced. Liu Binyan (1925–2005) Party journalist and establishment intellectual under Mao whose 1979 reporting of abuses in the Cultural Revolution electrified intellectuals. Purged from the CCP in 1987, Liu settled in the US and continued critical writing. Liu Dong (b. 1955) Cultural critic and public intellectual today. Active in “nonofficial scholarship” in the 1980s, professor at Qinghua University, critic of facile westernization. Editor of a major translation series, Foreign Scholarship on China. Liu Xiaobo (b. 1955) Literary critic and democratic activist in China today. Radicalized by student demonstrations in Tiananmen, 1989. Jailed repeatedly for organizing petitions, especially Charter 08, Liu was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2010. Lu Xun (Zhou Shuren, 1881–1936) China’s most famous modern writer. A fierce critic of Chinese culture and a left-leaning public intellectual, Lu Xun joined no political party. Luo Longji (1898–1965) Liberal intellectual at mid-century. A returned student, like Hu Shi, Luo was a leader of the Democratic League. Tried to work with the CCP but was purged in 1957. Ng Leen-tuck (Wu Lien-teh) (1879–1960) Leader of the modern Chinese medical profession. Born in Malaya, trained in England, he

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“returned” to China in 1910 serving Chinese administrations until the late 1930s. Key figure in medical modernization. Pan Wei (b. 1960) Major theorist of the China model today. Professor at Peking University and critic of Western values and norms. Peng Pai (1896–1929) Communist rural agitator in the 1920s. Studied abroad (Japan) and was an early member of the CCP. Organized peasant associations outside Guangzhou and later a rural soviet. Qian Xuesen (1911–2009) noted Chinese rocket scientist who had emigrated to America where he was known as H.S. Tien. Driven back to China in the 1950s by US authorities, Qian became the father of China’s ballistic-missile program. Qian Zhongshu (1910–98) famous scholar, critic, and author of the novel Fortress Besieged (1948). Husband of Yang Jiang, together they endured “cadre school” confinement under Mao. Qin Hui (b. 1953) noted economic and agrarian historian and liberal intellectual in contemporary China. Qiu Jin (1875–1907) Chinese revolutionary, feminist, and writer. Active in revolutionary circles in Japan in the early 1900s. Executed by the Qing in 1907. Su Xiaokang (b. 1949) intellectual leader in the 1980s culture craze and lead author of popular television series River Elegy that condemned traditional Chinese culture. Active in Tiananmen demonstrations of 1989, he is now exiled in the US as a democratic activist. Sun Yat-sen (1866–1925) Chinese revolutionary and first president of the Republic of China in 1912. Rarely successful in his ventures, he finally established the Guomindang in the 1920s and gave it its ideology, the “Three People’s Principles,” or Sunism. Tang Yijie (1927–2014) noted Peking University scholar of Chinese philosophy who became tied up with the radical left Liangxiao writing group in the 1970s. Husband of Yue Daiyun. Wang Dan (b. 1969) student leader of the 1989 Tiananmen demonstrations who was exiled to the US after the crackdown to become a leader in the expatriate Chinese democracy movement. Wang Hui (b. 1959) noted contemporary Chinese literary academic and New Left public intellectual. Prolific in both Chinese and English, he is probably the best-known academic intellectual outside China. Wang Ruoshui (1926–2002) Chinese journalist and Marxist theorist best known for his work on Marxist humanism in the 1980s. He was expelled from the CCP in 1987 but largely remained in China.

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Who’s who (intellectuals featured in the main text)

Wang Shiwei (1906–47) left-wing intellectual, translator and Party theorist who crossed Mao in the 1942 Rectification Campaign with critical writings such as “Wild Lilies.” Purged in 1942, executed in 1947. Wang Shuo (b. 1958) Contemporary novelist and screenwriter who became famous in the 1980s for his “hooligan-style” stories of rough working-class characters. Wei Jingsheng (b. 1950) Contemporary Chinese human rights activist. Made famous for his Democracy Wall poster in Beijing in 1978 on “The Fifth Modernization.” Jailed in 1979, released in 1997, and exiled to the US. Wu Han (1909–69) Noted historian, democratic party activist, and underground CCP member. Famous for criticism of the Guomindang in the 1940s and for being part of inner-Party criticism of the Great Leap in the 1960s. Purged in the Cultural Revolution. Xu Jilin (b. 1957) Noted contemporary historian and liberal public intellectual based in Shanghai. Prolific writer and commentator on the history and contemporary role of Chinese intellectuals. Xu Youyu (b. 1947) Noted contemporary scholar in philosophy and liberal public intellectual based in Beijing. Expert on Western social theories and prominent critic of New Left intellectuals. Xu Zhiyong (b. 1973) Noted contemporary Beijing academic and active rights lawyer. Founder of the Open Constitution and New Citizens’ Movement NGO. In 2014 sentenced to four years in prison for “gathering crowds to disrupt public order.” Yan Fu (1854–1921) famous scholar and translator around 1900 who introduced major Western social theories, including social Darwinism. Yang Jiang (b. 1911) Well-known playwright and writer active from the 1930s until today. Wrote movingly of her and husband Qian Zhongshu’s travails in Maoist “cadre school” during the Cultural Revolution. Yao Wenyuan (1932–2005) Radical left literary critic during the Mao years. Famous for his denunciation of establishment figures in the Cultural Revolution. Rose to power in the Cultural Revolution. Purged in 1976 as a member of the Gang of Four and jailed. Ye Chongzhi (1873–1930) Patriarch of the Ye clan in Tianjin around 1900 who bridged traditional and modern lifestyles, as recounted in the family history Ancestral Leaves, by Joseph Esherick. Example of modernizing provincial intellectual family. Yu Keping (b. 1959) Leading contemporary Party intellectual active with foreign (English) audiences; a relative liberal inside the Party who advocates democracy along with the CCP.

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James Yen (Yan Yangchu) (1890–1990) Transpacific liberal and returned student active in the 1920s–1960s. Famous for leading the Mass Education Movement and rural uplift. Moved to Taiwan in 1948 but returned to China in the 1980s. Cato Young (Yang Kaidao)(1899–1981) Agrarian sociologist active in Liang Shuming’s rural reform movement. PhD from the University of Michigan. Taught at Beijing’s Yenching University before joining the Rural Reconstruction Movement. Yue Daiyun (b. 1931) Literary scholar and memoirist at Peking University. Memoir recounts her life from the 1940s through the 1980s as an establishment intellectual. Wife of Tang Yijie. Zhang Binglin (also Zhang Taiyan) (1868–1936) Noted Chinese scholar and revolutionary around 1900, later a conservative and noted philologist and Buddhist philosopher. Zhang Chunqiao (1917–2005) Prominent radical left political theorist under Mao. Rose to power in Shanghai to the top leadership during the Cultural Revolution. Purged as member of the Gang of Four in 1976 and jailed. Zhang Junmai (Carson Chang) (1886–1969) Prominent Chinese philosopher of the May Fourth period, with advanced education in Germany. Public intellectual and political figure in the democratic movement. Moved to the US in 1948. Zhou Yiliang (1913–2001) Accomplished historian and returned student who became a loyal establishment intellectual under Mao. Zou Rong (1885–1905) Radical republican activist around 1900 and martyr to the revolutionary cause. Famous for his anti-Manchu diatribe, Revolutionary Army (1903). Zou Taofen (1895–1944) Noted journalist and leader of the antiJapanese popular movement in the 1930s.

Further reading

Useful textbooks Mitter, Rana, A Bitter Revolution: China’s Struggle with the Modern World (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004). Saich, Tony, Governance and Politics of China, 4th edn. (New York: Palgrave, 2015). Schoppa, Keith, Revolution and Its Past: Identities and Change in Modern Chinese History, 3rd edn. (New York: Prentice-Hall, 2010). Spence, Jonathan, In Search of Modern China (New York: W.W. Norton, 1999). Walder, Andrew G., China under Mao: A Revolution Derailed (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2015).

Chinese voices: translations from Chinese intellectuals and ordinary citizens Cochran, Sherman and Andrew C.K. Hsieh, with Janis Cochran, trans., One Day in China: May 21, 1936 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983). Davies, Gloria, ed., Voicing Concerns: Contemporary Chinese Critical Enquiry (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2001). de Bary, Wm. Theodore and Richard Lufrano, eds., Sources of Chinese Tradition: From 1600 to the Twentieth Century, 2nd edn., Vol. II (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000). Sang Ye, China Candid: The People’s Republic, ed. Geremie Barmé, with Miriam Lang (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005). Wang, Chaohua, ed., One China, Many Paths (London: Verso, 2003).

Recommended next reads Callahan, William, China Dreams: 20 Visions of the Future (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013). Vivid tales of a range of China’s new “citizen intellectuals” in the twenty-first century. Carter, James, Heart of Buddha, Heart of China: The Life of Tanxu, a TwentiethCentury Monk (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011). China’s cultural worlds at mid-century captured in the life of a popular monk. 338

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Cohen, Paul, Speaking to History: The Story of King Goujian in Twentieth-Century China (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009). The history of Chinese modern nationalism through the lens of an iconic myth. Esherick, Joseph, Ancestral Leaves: A Family Journey through Chinese History (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011). A very readable history of an elite family of intellectuals from 1850 to the 1980s. Fewsmith, Joseph, China since Tiananmen: The Politics of Transition, 2nd edn. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008). A lucid and reliable introduction to politics and intellectual debates into the 2000s. Frolic, B. Michael, Mao’s People (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980). A dozen life stories give a vivid sense of life in Mao’s China. Goldman, Merle, Sowing the Seeds of Democracy in China: Political Reform in the Deng Years (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994). A vivid account of intellectual debates before and after Tiananmen. Goldman, Merle and Leo Ou-fan Lee, eds., An Intellectual History of Modern China (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002). A valuable collection of articles on modern intellectuals from the Cambridge History of China. Mishra, Pankaj, From the Ruins of Empire: The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2012). An engaging extended introduction to Liang Qichao in comparative perspective. Yang, Rae, Spider Eaters: A Memoir (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997). A readable, believable, and thoughtful account of Red Guard life and after.

Useful websites China Dialogue (www.chinadialogue.net): a bilingual website based in England that puts Chinese and English scholars, NGO activists, and intellectuals into conversation. China File (www.chinafile.com): informative blog, reporting and videos on contemporary China. Produced by the Asia Society, New York. The China Story (www.thechinastory.org): an engaging scholarly website on China’s history, culture, and politics. Excellent annual yearbooks online. Produced by the Australian Centre on China in the World, Australian National University.

Bibliography

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