Parallel Cultures: Reform and Revolution in Russia and Eastern Europe

Many of the issues raised in THE GATE OF HEAVENLY PEACE are familiar to people who have experienced popular opposition to communist rule in other countries, whether those nations be in Asia, Central Europe, or elsewhere.

In understanding the dilemmas of political dissent and opposition in late-socialist China it is useful to refer to the work of intellectuals, writers and dissidents, as well as former government figures, in the once-socialist countries of Europe. Among them are writers who have, over the years, attempted careful analyses of their political situation, the possibilities for change and the significance of reform within the structure of state socialism. Some, like George Konrád, quoted below, have pondered long and hard on the issues of reform and revolution within their nations. These reflections can provide an important contrast to similar discussions within the Chinese polity.

Konrád's essay "Revolution or Reform" (written with Iván Szelényi), can act as an fascinating counterpoint to remarks made by Wu Guoguang, Chinese Party General Secretary Zhao Ziyang's former speech writer, and the university teacher Liang Xiaoyan in the film GATE where they discuss what would happen in China if there was radical revolution, and what is happening in China today. To view the Communist system as static and unchanging is simplistic and unfair to Chinese realities; to understand the chances of future change and development it is impossible to ignore what is going on within the system itself.