Reform and Revolution

Many complex political issues have been repeatedly cast in terms of whether reforming the pre-existing system is better than outright revolution and starting afresh. Since the turn of the century people have been forced time and again to take sides, to choose between overthrowing the status quo (whether it was the imperial government of the Qing Dynasty, the corrupt rule of the Nationalists in the 1940s, or the Communist Party in the 1980s), or staying with a hide-bound, unchanging, and decrepit bureaucracy. In reality, the choices have never been that straight forward or clear-cut. In THE GATE OF HEAVENLY PEACE, people like Liang Xiaoyan, Wu Guoguang, Ding Zilin, and others, argue that long-term change in China may not necessarily be brought about by radical revolution. In the website section Parallel Cultures: Reform and Revolution in China and Eastern Europe, two leading Central European intellectuals meditate on the pros and cons of this question (see "Revolution or Reform, " George Konrád [with Iván Szelényi], from Konrád, The Melancholy of Rebirth: Essays from Post-Communist Central Europe, 1989-1994, New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1995, pp. 34-40).

Read an essay by Liu Xiaobo, a university teacher and a leading activist in 1989 who was interviewed for THE GATE OF HEAVENLY PEACE, on "That Holy Word, 'Revolution, '" in which he writes:

The 1989 protest movement once again showed that "revolution" prevailed. The venom of "revolution" is too deep within us, with the result that we continually become unconscious sacrificial items for the cause of revolutionary justice. We still are infatuated with "revolution."