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Saturday, April 29, 1989 MORNING
MODERATOR: Chen Ying-Chen
Participants: Ruan Ming, Liang Congjie, Leo Ou-Fan Lee, Nieh Hua-ling, Bo Yang, Zhou Ming, Liu Binyan, Chen Ying-Chen, Anthony Kane, Ge Yang, Orville Schell, Ding Xueliang, Pei Minxin, Hong Huang, Geremie Barme, Merle Goldman, Michael Oksenberg, Andrew Nathan, Wang Ruoshui, Richard Bernstein, Chang Hao.
Given the nature of the conference participants and the fact that the conference was happening at the very time that the 1989 Tiananmen demonstrations were under way, the topic of the panel -- the role of Western scholars, journalists, and diplomats in evaluating contemporary Chinese affairs -- provoked a number of contradictory views. Some of the participants, primarily the Chinese, criticized the Americans for using either the Soviet model or Western values to evaluate the events in China, thereby distorting Chinese reality. A few suggested using Chinese standards to judge events in China, but that suggestion sparked a debate on what were Chinese standards -- the standards of Mao, Deng, the intellectuals, students, workers, peasants, Confucianism or Taoism?
Deng, for example, has advocated developing China with "Chinese characteristics" which means authoritarian characteristics. Even the supposedly reformist official Zhao Ziyang had advocated the approach of Neo-Authoritarianism for which he won Deng's approval. This approach stressed the need for a strong leader and stable society in order to overcome the obstacles to economic reforms which in time will lead to political reforms. But as pointed out by Ding Xueliang, a graduate student in the Sociology Department at Harvard, this approach was conceptualized not by Chinese thinkers but by an American political scientist Samuel Huntington. Another graduate student Pei Minxin in the Government Department at Harvard had published an interview with Huntington in the major Shanghai weekly The World Economic Herald, in which Huntington argued that China's leaders had wrongly interpreted his concept. The point, however, was that the Chinese leaders themselves had used Western standards to interpret events even though they may have misconstrued these standards to suit their own needs. Anthony Kane of the Asia Society observed that Americans tend to use Western values in evaluating China's reforms because they are talking to Western audiences, but a number of the Chinese participants insisted that the Chinese themselves used Western values because they see them as more and more relevant to the Chinese situation.
Despite the seeming disagreements and plurality of approaches, a consensus emerged from most of the Chinese and Western participants on the use of certain universal standards, such as the United Nations' "Declaration on Human Rights", in evaluating events in China. The acceptance of these standards by the Chinese participants was not only because of increased international communication and the fact that such standards are increasingly in style, but also because most of them saw these standards as appropriate to China's own experience. After thirty years of Mao's authoritarian-totalitarian rule and ten years of a more open yet still repressive Deng Xiaoping regime, these standards are especially appealing to China's intellectuals. Their bitter experiences in the Anti-Rightist Campaign (1957-59) and the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) has brought a greater appreciation not only for the rights of the individual but also for such Western institutions as freedom of press, and independent judiciary and representative government which can limit the power of the political leadership. Thus, in the post-Mao era, China's intellectuals increasingly called for human rights and some system of checks and balances.
Even more significant, as seen in the 1989 Tiananmen demonstrations, these demands were not limited to a small group of intellectuals and students but were also made by an emerging middle class spawned by Deng's economic reforms in the urban and rural areas. Even workers participated in the demonstrations. While they stressed economic issues, they also wanted more control over their own lives. Thus, to use Western standards within the Chinese context is not just the wish of a small élite but a growing segment of China's population. Deng's insistence on development with "Chinese characteristics" whatever that may be and his and the revolutionary elders increasing isolation since the June 4 crackdown make them appear less in touch with the desires of China's population than the intellectuals with their demands for human rights and institutional limits on power.
These Western standards are not as alien to China as its present leaders claim. Some have deep roots in the China's past and may be just as intrinsic to China as New Authoritarianism. A basic premise of Confucianism is that the literati, the intellectuals of traditional time, have a responsibility to speak out against abuse of power and resist despotic leaders. They are also to expose and criticize the wrongdoings of officials and leaders even at the risk of their own lives. In addition, the Confucian system had some institutions, such as the censorate and the practice of remonstrance, through which the literati expressed their criticisms. The literati were supposed to make independent moral judgments based on their own interpretation of Confucianism. Furthermore, the traditional government existed to promote people's happiness. If the rulers were not concerned for the people's welfare, then the people had the right, based on the Mandate of Heaven, to replace them. Though restraints in pre-modern China were exercised by custom rather than by institutions, nevertheless, restraints on political power existed in practice if not in theory and law. That is not the case in present-day China.
Those Western scholars, journalists and diplomats who are involved in Asian affairs, or Chinese or Japanese studies, should perhaps examine the origins of Oriental studies and the West's interests in the region.
Does the historical strategy of oriental studies, especially the historical study of democratic reforms in these countries limit its contents? How should we look at oriental studies as an Asian and a Chinese? Should we warmly welcome such studies, or analyze them critically?
In the 20th Century, especially since the 1950s, large numbers of Chinese intellectuals have immigrated to the U.S. This is a phenomenon rare [in China's history]. Large numbers of Mainland intellectuals continue to pour into the U.S. and the West today. What impact will this have on China and Taiwan's experience and future?
First, I want to say it is worth questioning whether Asian studies are Western-oriented, or Caucasian-oriented. This question is worth examining for both Western and Asian scholars.
Second, China has always had uneasy relations with the outside world. Why? On the one hand, one may say it was due to the oppression of the imperialists, on the other hand, one cannot deny that conservative forces within Asian countries have collaborated with outside influences. This is different however, from China's uneasy relationship with Western scholars, journalists or diplomats. How should Chinese intellectuals look at Westerners' interpretations of the present process of reform? Should they welcome it or look at it critically? And what should be the relationship between Westerners and the peoples of Asia?
I would like to make two observations. One is that although the works of American scholars, journalists and diplomats on China are numerous, due to their long isolation from China and lack of understanding of the real situation, there is a sense of distance and estrangement in their work. Take the history of the Chinese Communist Party, for example. A common interpretation is to treat it almost the same as the history of the Soviet Communist Party, as a part of the evil Soviet Empire and an appendage of Moscow. But actually the Chinese Party gained power in its opposition to Stalin, only to pursue a Stalinist line itself later on. It was a very complex process which many works have ignored or oversimplified.
Another example is the Cultural Revolution. A common tendency is to view it as a power struggle at the top, without making an in-depth study of its impact on society. The course of the Cultural Revolution was extremely complex, as was the state of mind of the people during each of its phases. Scholars in the U.S. have made a good start and much research has been done on the subject. The problem now is how to push this study further. In China this is still a forbidden subject. No major work has yet been published. In my view, furthering exchanges on the subject is the solution.
I think our American friends can play a positive role in Chinese affairs. Take for example, the current student demonstrations in Beijing. Deng Xiaoping has claimed that he fears neither international opinion nor domestic opposition [to his line]. In reality, although he says he's not afraid, he is. When Mao put down the Tiananmen Incident in 1976, he made no such claims because he did not have to think of being afraid of anything.
International opinion as well as academic theories do have a certain influence in China. Qin Benli, the editor of The World Economic Herald, spoke with me in this country shortly before he was dismissed from his job. He said, "It's high time that foreigners gave Chinese bureaucrats some basic lessons on democracy." I agree wholeheartedly. Although the Party advocates governing according to "Chinese characteristics", it doesn't mean that it is reluctant to borrow ideas from abroad. Zhao Ziyang discussed New Authoritarianism in a conversation with Deng Xiaoping on March 16, 1989. He explained that New Authoritarianism could help achieve modernization in a backward country without Western democracy. Deng asserted that this was his belief too.
In explaining this theory to Deng, Zhao mentioned that it had been formulated by Samuel Huntington, a professor of government at Harvard who claimed that this theory was applicable to backward and developing countries like China. When Pei Minxin, a graduate student studying under Professor Huntington, told him the Chinese interpretation of his theory, Huntington insisted that was not exactly his idea. New Authoritarianism was only one of the alternatives and it had only been successful in two cases, South Korea and Taiwan. The theory had failed in some other countries, like the Philippines, Iran, and a number of Central and South American nations. In the past, China has relied on very strong authoritarian government to achieve modernization, but this has been unsuccessful.
Such examples indicate that our foreign friends can play an active and positive role both theoretically and academically in the Chinese reform process. We hope they will keep an eye on what theories are being introduced to China and whether they are being represented accurately.
Among the articles written by Westerners about China, I believe two types are least helpful: The first idealizes China, the Chinese revolution and China's current reforms. The second evaluates China entirely according to Western standards, without considering China's history, traditions or specific circumstances.
The most significant type of writing is that which combines Western or international standards and values with a knowledge and understanding of China. Such an approach envisages the difficulties that China might encounter when exposed to these values, as well as the possible distortions that might occur when applying them.
During my visit to the U.S. in 1986, I asked an American friend how many books are published in the U.S. each year on or about China. My friend, who spoke with some authority, told me the figure was around two to three hundred, of which about 10% to 15% were of some real value. But how many Chinese have access to these books? I am not talking about the common people, workers or peasants here, but ordinary intellectuals. The first problem is translation, the second publication. Recently there have been some influential books such as the one compiled by Geremie Barmé, Seeds of Fire. It would be very difficult to publish such a book in China. Yet, we should try to work out ways to publish Western books on China in Chinese so they will be accessible to Chinese scholars.
LEO OU-FAN LEE:
The study of contemporary China in the West is a rather recent phenomenon that dates from the 1950s. It's a field that is now in crisis. One crisis is that of methodology. There is a tendency to apply mechanically certain paradigms. But the Asian region, particularly the Pacific-Rim, presents certain challenges to American social science methodology. Another problem is how to modify so-called "universal" methodology when it relates to regional studies. Therefore, I urge all Sinologists overseas to pay attention to the problems of methodology and specific regional studies. In research work, it is possible to use conflicting methods -- I am against the idea that any one general theory can explain everything.
Even though quite a number of works by Westerners have been translated and published in China, they are often quoted out of context. Moreover, the selection of the books to be translated is often quite haphazard. An obvious example is [Alvin Toffler's] The Third Wave. When introducing a concept or a theory, a complete picture of its origin and development should be given. We should redefine the word "intellectuals" (zhishi fenzi, in Chinese it means literally "elements with knowledge"). For one thing, we should pay more attention to the knowledge than to the elements. In conclusion I would like to quote a cliché: The true strength, the strength of society and morality, lies in the accumulation of knowledge.
After the downfall of the Gang of Four [in 1976] and since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China there has been a "China fever" in the U.S. Many Sinologists now have access to people, places and materials that they could not reach before. Large numbers of publications have been produced. I find American Sinologists level-headed, objective and rigorous in their research and presentation. Yet because of different historical and cultural backgrounds, they are often limited and one-sided in their work.
My own experience is closer to the Chinese than that of the average American. I lived on the Mainland for twenty-four years, and on Taiwan for fifteen. I feel American Sinologists should undertake more in-depth study of China's history and national characteristics. I agree with Liang Congjie that Westerners are apt to use Western standards in judging and evaluating Chinese affairs and Chinese personalities.
We can play a positive role. We have tried since 1979 to invite Chinese writers to the U.S., allowing them to spend some time with writers from other countries in Iowa. Many Chinese writers, such as the playwright Wu Zuguang, the writer-journalist Liu Binyan, the poet Bei Dao, and the critic Shao Yanxiang, have been involved in this program.
A writer from Inner Mongolia, Ertu, cited two things that impressed him the most in the U.S. One was that he noticed the lack of walls, indicating what an open society this is. The other was that when a very famous U.S. writer came to Iowa to give a talk, he just sat on the table and spoke in a very casual way, without putting on any airs. This writer said that when he goes back to China, he will give talks sitting on the table too. This behavior is a symbol of individualism and emancipation.
I want to add two comments on the reasons for democratization in Taiwan that are relevant to our discussion. The first is that the growth of the middle class in Taiwan provided democracy with its social base. From this point of view, the democracy movement in the Mainland is bound to fail until there is a substantial middle class and private property.
The second comment is that every one of us present here is a product of Western culture. We did not wear our hair like this before. We used to have pig-tails. In traditional Chinese society, Nieh Hua-ling would not have even been here. Women had their feet tightly bound and had to stay home. She would not have been educated or be wearing high-heels. The clothes we wear today are Western. If we were to strip ourselves of everything Western, we'd all end up stark naked. We had no way to resist this stronger culture. The arms of the West were too much for us. But along with the invasion of Western hardware, Western software, that is, culture, also entered China without resistance.
If the Mainland wants modernization, pornography and violence will also accompany it. Yesterday I heard someone saying that China wants to retain something of its own. But do we have a choice? Do we have the ability? Over the past one hundred years we have been destroying our own culture until there's almost nothing left of it. The Chinese have an age-old reputation for thrift and industriousness. Do we still have those virtues? Can we still claim the virtue of honesty?
Therefore, the question for today's China is not what should be retained, because very little is left. We only hope that with the help of our foreign friends we can construct new lifestyles. The old is crumbling and is an obstacle. Without the help of our foreign friends there is little hope for a democratic polity and for China itself.
What we can do ourselves is to build up the middle class. Many foreigners help the Chinese in a Chinese way. They been helping for a hundred years, but China remains the same, as if it were a hopeless fool like Ah Q. In the past we needed money, foreign aid and so on. Of course these were important. But today Taiwan does not need financial aid but cultural aid. China's problem does not lie in the officials, they are like that anyway, the problem is the common people.
China has been in a state of isolation for a long time. This was especially severe during the time of the Gang of Four. After the Gang's downfall, the Party adopted the policy of reform and began to open up to the outside world. Yet when we were isolated, many friends in America and other countries, including the Sinologists present here today, helped translate, publish and introduce Chinese literature to the rest of the world, for which we are deeply grateful.
First, over the last ten years or so, a period we may call the "New Era" of Chinese literature, a large number of outstanding young writers as well as remarkable works have emerged. I suggest that the Sinologists make a thorough study of these and select and publish some of these works.
Second, the most popular forms of literature in China are reportage, the record of events, and essays that effectively reflect the reality and feature. [The rest of this sentence and a third point seem to be missing.]
I've only learned about American China studies since coming to the U.S. in 1988. I was very surprised and impressed to see that many Sinologists have several shelves filled with books on China. I heard that during the peak period in a year, an average of one book on China would come off the press each day.
But what about China's study of America, or the Soviet Union? Even though many Chinese writers have visited the U.S. I have not come cross a single book written by a Chinese that gives a true and in-depth view of the United States. Nieh Hua-ling alone has invited a dozen writers and they have all written something upon returning to China. But could they write a book about America after being here two weeks or two months? Wang Anyi and her mother [the writer Ru Zhijuan] and Zhang Jie, for example, have failed to give a true picture of America. Many people who know English would rather translate than write. Translation is easier and it is better paid. If you write honestly about what you see and think abroad, it's rather risky and the money is not so good.
Over the years since 1979 I have repeatedly urged people in the field of Soviet literature studies to write books on what has been going in Soviet literary circles in the last few decades. I believe their experience will be extremely relevant and helpful to us. But so far no such work has appeared.
What has the impact of Western books been on China? Western culture and ideology, especially that of the last one hundred years, have played an important role after being introduced into China, although some have been produced in a rough and slipshod way. An undesirable tendency is to copy things from the outside mechanically disregarding specific conditions, as if China were the same as America, Germany or France. What China needs most today are works like "The Diary of A Madman".
I think Chinese leaders and officials should be worried more by the strength of the Chinese people than foreign intimidation. I have thought this way ever since I have been in Taiwan. We always looked upon foreigners as our saviors and relied on them to speak for us there. I hope the Mainland will not follow in Taiwan's footsteps.
I would like to ask my friend Bo Yang why he thinks a middle class is a necessary prerequisite for democracy. An example is India, a very poor country without a strong middle class [sic], but whose level of political democracy far exceeds that of either Taiwan or the Mainland. Certainly, democracy is somewhat related to the economic situation, but whether it is necessarily linked with the rise of a middle class remains a moot point. If the Mainland has to have a middle class, private property and capitalism in order to have democracy, then it's got a big problem. None of these things are going to appear in the near future. Does that mean the democracy movement is bound to fail in the foreseeable future?
As for a friendly alliances, Taiwan is a little brother of the U.S., a small pawn in the American world economic gameplan. Our post-war experience shows that if we want help from foreigners, especially the U.S., the result will not necessarily be democracy. Chun Doo-hwan, Pak Chung-hee and the family of Chiang Kai-shek were all supported by our dear American friends.
Taiwan has many people who have studied abroad and returned. They've introduced Marx, Weber and recently some left-wing social scientists. But there are few Taiwanese who produce academic studies on Taiwan. There is no book explaining the life and history of Taiwan or the formation of Taiwan's society. And no work describes the stages of development in Taiwan or its post-war literature. It is a great pity.
There are two types of Sinologists. There are scholars who want to know China for themselves and there are professors who will help others to understand China. When we talk to you, we are trying to find out for ourselves, but when we write, it's not for the Chinese, but for an American audience. Therefore it is natural that we would use American or Western standards. Otherwise our main readers would not be able to understand us.
On the one hand Zhou Ming hopes that we use high standards for Chinese literature and on the other hand he asks us not to apply Western criteria. But we are Westerners, and naturally we will use our standards for our readers. So I hope that when you make your critique, don't just criticize our criteria or our understanding of Chinese culture. It's more helpful simply to tell us what we have said that was wrong.
The Cultural Revolution twisted the minds of some of our young people. They tend to be radical or egoistic in their views, therefore not accurate. There are other people like us, the older generation, whose souls after decades of negative experiences are not very pure and honest. So I hope that when you look at us, you will take an objective and multi-faceted view.
In China today we have plenty of poems, literature, passion and emotion but we lack science and technology, scientific and rational thinking and scientific conclusions. This applies to myself too.
I have been fascinated by the changes in the attitudes of the Chinese over the years. My first visit to China was in 1975 when the Chinese were at one extreme. They made us feel that we were the running dogs of imperialism and criticized us all the time. Now, it seems that all their prejudices are gone as if they have no criticisms at all. It's strange to me. We are still Americans and still have our opinions. Are we being too arrogant or too biased? I'd like to hear your comments. Before there was too much criticism, now there is none.
We must recognize that both our foreign friends and international opinion have had a significant impact on democratization and liberalization in China.
It is no longer the Maoist era when one could shut the door and carry out a revolution in isolation. Now Party leaders are under pressure to pay attention to economic and technological development and respond to the outside world. Let me give an example. When the Anti-Bourgeois Liberalization Campaign was launched in China in 1987, Merle Goldman mobilized many American scholars and professors to write an open letter criticizing the Party's policy. It did have some effect.
Some Chinese students studying in the United States complain that some American Sinologists develop bad Chinese habits after long years of studying China. For instance, like the Chinese they build up connections (guanxi), to form their own factions and rival kingdoms. Losing their open state of mind, they become like Chinese keen on internal strife.
When we talk about Western Sinologists or Americans, we should not treat them as a single monolithic group. The U.S. has its government and politicians, scholars and big businessmen. There are diverse organizations and diverse views. The U.S. authorities may use double standards as far as China is concerned, but intellectuals must not do so as well. Some American businessmen are short-sighted. They will cooperate with anyone, even communists. As long as they can make big bucks. But that's not necessarily the attitude of American scholars.
Generally speaking foreign scholars and journalists have played a positive role in China's reforms, especially in the rise of the democratic forces in China. We owe a special thanks to Professor Goldman who has had a considerable influence.
It is very difficult to learn about a foreign culture, foreign politics and foreign society. My impression of the works of American scholars on China is that their academic standards are generally high, but there are overt shortcomings. One is the source and reliability of information. In most of the early books, scholars relied too much on interviews with refugees from Guangdong in Hong Kong who were not representative of all of China. I often wonder how could they arrive at conclusions about the whole of China by such limited methods.
The other problem is the lack of original materials, which is partly due to the tight controls exercised by the Chinese authorities. Things have loosened up a little bit recently. Moreover, the materials referred to should be more comprehensive, not just limited to documents. They should come from all walks of life.
I also feel some of the premises are not quite right. I am not only talking about inaccurate Western standards or a superior attitude. When I read some Western writers' and scholars' books on China, I often feel that it is not the China I know. It's not a question of factual error, but rather a sense of distance and estrangement.
Another serious defect is that most of the writing tends to be a narration of facts. There are few theoretical analyses that use different models.
I am not a scholar. But I have read a few books by American sinologists. My impression is that they have mechanically applied the study of the Soviet model without taking into consideration China's specific cultural background. Such a method is dogmatic and can hardly lead to accurate analysis.
Secondly, some Sinologists behave like collectors. They go to China to search out talented people like scientists looking for a mouse or an interesting butterfly. And these people become their private property.
I often hear people say that non-Chinese are curious about the Cultural Revolution, which is true. Despite extremely difficult conditions there are people who have done their utmost to give an accurate, comprehensive and objective analysis of this terrifyingly significant phenomenon. One such person is Simon Leys, an art historian, and the first person in the West to introduce the big character poster written by Li Yizhe, calling for democracy under socialism in the 1970s. He was attacked and criticized by a number of scholars in the West who were concerned with China. He offended many Sinologists, not because he said the wrong thing, but because he said it too soon. In 1979, he again offended many people because he was the first to recognize the importance of Wei Jingsheng's big character poster and praised him in magazines like Newsweek, saying that people like Wei should not be underestimated because they are the real hope of China.
The book John Minford and I edited, Seeds of Fire, was very much inspired by Simon Leys. Leys has declined to visit China in recent years. He feels he has said all he should have and besides, Wei Jingsheng is still in jail. He also does not want to go to China because he would feel compelled to speak honestly about what he would see and that could result in some people getting into trouble, people like Qian Zhongshu, Yang Xianyi and Huang Miaozi, who have suffered a great deal in the past. It is necessary to remember conscientious Sinologists like Simon Leys.
I have two points to make, and in some ways they contradict each other. If you reject the application of Western standards to the study of China, then one really hurts China. If one were to compare premodern China with the premodern West, one would describe China as a more humane, a more just society. It was authoritarian but there were elements in premodern China that could have fostered concern for human rights in modern China.
When discussing the present period, the desire of Chinese intellectuals and students for democracy arises from their own internal situation. They did not turn to the West just because it was fashionable but because they saw certain kinds of practices and institutions that would help them in their own society to limit the abuse of political power.
At the same time, some Chinese idealize the West, as if its practices will solve all China's problems. But that is not always the case. For example, I was with Liu Binyan, when he met with Eli Weisel, the Nobel Peace Prize winner. Weisel told Binyan that what happened in Nazi Germany was far worse than anything that has ever happened in China. While there was much good in the West, Weisel said, there was also much bad in the West. And he felt that this idealization was not appropriate.
It seems to me that the question is not whether Western standards should be used to evaluate China, but whether there are universal standards that can be used to evaluate all societies. Are there common properties shared by all? Are there common aspirations to which all people aspire? And are there common properties of human behavior that govern all of us? The answer to those questions is yes. I also think that there are aspects of different cultures that must also be taken into account.
Striking the right balance is a difficult and complex issue. When I hear my Chinese colleagues say: don't use Western standards to evaluate us, a very important statement has been made. That statement immediately raises the question of whether standards of human rights should also be used in evaluating China. The notion of human rights is based on a view of certain common aspirations that all human beings share.
Following my two colleagues, I want to say a few words about the background of standards of evaluation. There has been a long debate in the West concerning standards, namely that of relativism versus universalism. Relativism more or less has the upper hand as far as I know in Western humanistic and social science methodology in general, but in Area Studies, relativism has big problems. If one culture is not comparable to the other, then there is no basis for discussion, let alone analysis and evaluation. The journal of "The Association for Asian Studies" is organizing a symposium, in which scholars from all disciplines in Asian Studies will write papers, discussing the problems of relativism with reference to their experiences in Asian Studies.
When evaluating certain aspects of China, if one does not use one's own standards, what standards should one use? Is there a Chinese standard? If I were to give up my own to adopt Chinese standards, which ones should I use? Mao's, Deng's, or that of the reformists?
I am not against having a standard, but which one to adopt is the problem.
Chinese leaders often stress that Western notions do not suit the Chinese situation and therefore should be rejected. We must make clear what is meant by the Chinese situation. Because China lacks human rights, does that mean that all theories in favor of human rights are unsuited to China? The answer is no. Because the human rights situation in China is inadequate, China needs greater human rights. So proposals favoring human rights suit the needs of the Chinese situation precisely.
A similar situation exists in regard to the concept of democracy. China's current system is a one party dictatorship. Does that mean Montesque's theory and all other theories advocating the separation of powers and a multi-party and parliamentary system are not suitable for China and therefore should not be introduced? Of course not. The point of introducing such theories is to change a bad situation. Any theory that is feasible and beneficial to China's progress should be introduced.
Secondly, I want to talk about how the very pragmatic and opportunistic way in which Chinese leaders use foreign opinions. Sometimes they reject Western ideas outright, but if they see any that would be of use to them, they grab them, as in the case of New Authoritarianism.
During my first visit to the United States in 1978, one thing surprised me greatly. A reporter from The St. Louis Post Dispatch asked me, "How come the Chinese are always inviting Nixon to China? Would you be pleased if we invited the Gang of Four?" I was very surprised and asked him, "How could you possibly compare the Gang of Four with Nixon?" He answered that in the United States, Nixon was just as notorious as the Gang of Four in China. I was really shocked. I had always read from the Chinese Reference News that the American people cherish the memory of Nixon and many people sympathized with him and voluntarily worked for him. We were also told that many Americans felt that the Watergate scandal had created a crisis for America. That incident had a great impact on me. We were never aware any other opinions existed. Why? Because Mao liked Nixon. Therefore the newspapers spread the impression that Nixon was very popular with the Americans and that his fall had been unfair. In this way China's leaders fooled the people as well as themselves.
Chinese leaders also use the press to create the impression that foreigners are all in favor of the reforms and that foreign opinion was unfavorable to Fang Lizhi, saying his ideas do not fit the Chinese situation. This is how Party leaders use Western opinions for their own benefit.
This discussion reminds me a bit of the Marxist distortion that there are only capitalist ideas and values or proletarian ideas and values. That kind of conversation sometimes makes me feel there is no truth or there is only Chinese truth or non-Chinese truth.
I am a journalist not a scholar. I simply try to find out the truth about what is going on in China. It is a simple question of what happened, who did what, who said what. Did we get the quote accurately, are our statistics and figures correct? How do we know what is happening in China? These are simple questions of fact.
Because there are many efforts, conscious or unconscious, to prevent foreigners from obtaining these simple truths, to be a journalist or a scholar in China, I imagine, is very difficult. When something happens in Tibet, for example, journalists are prevented from going there to find out about it. So you can go any place you want so long as nothing is happening there.
The second point is that this situation is changing. I am so pleased to be at this conference because it is one of the first instances in my career where the problem that I am about to outline does not exist. During my years in China and even during a recent trip to China, one of the striking things was still that people were simply afraid to tell the truth to foreign journalists. I know that many would like to but are afraid to do so.
So, given the difficulties and obstacles involved, we really haven't done such a bad job.
I recognize that human rights is a universal standard, but unfortunately, in a pluralized society values and standards vary from person to person. It's easy to say that a person or a country has a model value system. For instance, I need food, freedom and basic security. We hope these are the common needs and values that do not conflict with one another and co-exist peacefully. Unfortunately, in reality, there are often conflicts between needs and values. Then what?
Take China for example. In its modern history, China has often been faced with foreign invasion and numerous internal problems, so it has needed a strong central government to cope with these problems and to prevent the nation from disintegrating. Yet, freedom and human rights are basic values too. If sometimes these values come into conflict, how should we choose between them? Chinese intellectuals have encountered many such conflicts in the last hundred years and still have not found an answer.
In the 1930s, some liberal intellectuals in the north represented by Hu Shi advocated liberty and democracy in the journal Independent Forum. At that time the Nanjing government gave China some hope that as a unified nation China could defeat the Japanese imperialists. Then the liberal intellectuals of the Independent Forum split. Some chose national salvation over personal freedom, went south and joined the Nanjing government. That was a conflict of values; the choice was a hard one.
Many Chinese intellectuals in 1949 had to make a similar choice. They put aside personal freedom and human rights in order to build a strong motherland. This is what I mean by conflict of values. When the conflict occurs, all values seem important. What should we do then? I don't have the answer, but I think this is a very relevant issue.
Earlier, I said two types of writing are least helpful to China: One is full of compliments, the other is total application of Western standards.
I agree with the person who remarked that since such writings are aimed at Americans it is natural to use Western standards. But we are talking about what type of writing is most helpful to China. There is a big gap between the values of many Chinese and Westerners, one which I believe should be narrowed. I hope in the course of the modernization of Chinese values, China can catch up with those of the rest of the world. But before that point, it would be very difficult for the Chinese to appreciate the type of writing that is based on Western standards. Thus we require interpretation. If we use Chinese standards, foreigners cannot understand us and vice versa. That's why I say this type of writing is less helpful for promoting understanding.
Many Chinese think foreigners can be helpful to China's modernization and democratization process. As regards the KMT, I think there are two groups of Sinologists. One is independent, the other is somehow pro-KMT, such as retired CIA people publicly supporting the KMT. Similarly the Mainland and Taiwan also helped elections in the United States. We don't like Nixon at all, but the Mainland does. Comrade Xiaoping helped President Bush during his election campaign by saying that he hoped Bush would be elected. Taiwan supported Reagan's re-election. In the media in Taiwan, Reagan appeared more frequently than our own president. So both countries became involved in American election campaigns.
I am not saying that we do not need help from other countries. We welcome foreign friends working together with us for human rights and dignity. But it should be clear that we can rely on ourselves.
We cannot have a correct understanding of why the opposition movement in Taiwan is different from that in Korea and other Third World countries without considering the influence of the United States and its Taiwan policies since 1949. Most of the opposition movements in other countries are critical of the United States government, but in the case of Taiwan it is very different. I am not saying that the sole background to the Taiwan independence movement is the support of the United States.
Many Chinese scholars are very keen to introduce Chinese literature to the West. But the main readers of any good Chinese literary or academic work are our own compatriots. If it is a good work and it has an impact on our compatriots, it will naturally be introduced to the West. It is no good to keep nagging that a good piece of work be translated, so that we may have an opportunity to win the Nobel Prize.
Of course, cultural exchange is important and beneficial, but we must examine our sense of self-initiative and self-respect. This is my criticism of my Mainland friends. We also had this problem in Taiwan, but we got over it earlier. In the 1950s, some modern writers or modern artists most wanted to sell their works to the wives of U.S. army consultants. They didn't care at all whether the audience at home could appreciate it or not, they were only keen to please the foreigners.
The study of China must be an independent discipline. Be it foreign or Chinese, it should be from the perspective of historical and human development.
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