Senior Official: The Governing Party Needs to Establish Fundamental Political Ethics

Chinese censors are busy these days, chasing news from Africa linked to the son of the president, or voices protesting imprisoned rights scholars, lawyers, and activists. Now they have set their eyes on the following text, circulating in Chinese QQ groups, blogs, online forums and Twitter networks, entitled “The Governing Party Needs to Establish Fundamental Political Ethics – A Talk by an Old Comrade on the Eve of the Sixtieth Anniversary of the Founding of the PRC” (执政党要建立基本 的政治伦理 ——国庆60周年前夕一位老同志的谈话), which alleges to convey the words of an unnamed senior CCP official. As Qian Gang pointed out on China Media Project last week, the authenticity of the document has not been verified, but as he writes, “Whatever the case, I believe this article, which urges China and the CCP to mark the 60th anniversary of the PRC’s establishment by engaging in deep reflection rather than indulging in empty eulogies, does represent the views shared by leaders of conscience within the CCP.” The Chinese text can be found here, and CDT thanks the anonymous translator for his permission to publish the translation in full here:

The sixtieth anniversary of the PRC is coming, I hear that now is a busy time preparing for military parades. I am old and can’t walk anymore so perhaps I won’t be able to go to the reviewing stand on Tiananmen. Although I was never in charge of propaganda work, I know that for the sixtieth anniversary of the PRC there will be a great deal of propaganda work done. The propaganda will concentrate on achievements and how much progress the country has made. That is the way it has been done for all these past sixty years. A few days ago a professor from the Central Party School, a very young person but someone has been doing some deep thinking, visited me for a talk. He said that he belongs to the reform generation and an old guy like me belongs to the revolution generation. He said that young people these days are very broad-minded in their thinking and so they ask me a lot of questions that are hard to answer. Some of their views seem to violate the ways of thinking about things and doing things that we have in the Party. However, the more I talk with them, the more I believe that they are quite honest in their thinking and they are not just thinking recklessly. Sometimes I am offended by their way of thinking, but perhaps that just goes to show that I am not as real and sincere as these young people. I keep telling them, you young people need to understand some history.

A few days ago, he came again, to tell me that he wants to ask me about history. The questions are not his own questions, but questions those local government bureau level cadres that he is teaching are posing. He said he can’t answer those questions and so wanted to pass them along to me. The question those student cadres wanted to pose are:

Over the past sixty years since the founding of the PRC, what hasn’t changed?
Why hasn’t it changed?
Could it change in the future?

I understood what he meant. For the past sixty years, the propaganda for the sixtieth anniversary is telling the people every day what great changes have been made. Could we look at things a little differently and ask, a country allows a single political party to lead for sixty years, that is quite a long time. Just how can those sixty years be characterized and summarized? Our Party has a responsibility to explain this clearly to the people. If at first we don’t explain it so they can understand, well, it doesn’t matter if there are questions, we can just explain again. We can publicly talk about it, we shouldn’t hide and not talk about it, or only talk about it with a select few. The country has already been established for sixty years so can’t we openly talk about some problems. Shouldn’t these sixty years be discussed? We are people who have had this experience so we have a responsibility to speak clearly so that we will be understood. There should be no order to keep some fundamental matters fuzzy, nor should we allow others to be fuzzy about them.

I told the young professor that in the sixty years since the PRC was established, there are many things that haven’t changed. The most fundamental is that this country is still led by the Chinese Communist Party. Everyone know this fact, but what lies behind this fact? For example, with its 70 million Party members, it is the world’s biggest political party, yet this party has never registered with the social organizations management department. What lies behind that fact? The fact that the PRC does not a have a “Law on the Government Party”. For sixty years, nothing, a blank page. That hasn’t changed. The PRC does not have a modern political party system. “The state is still the Party state,” and not the “Party is the party of the state.” For sixty years, the concept of “Party and state leader” hasn’t changed. In finance, no wall has been built between the Party treasury and the State treasury. Look, millions of soldiers are still called the “Liberation Army”. That hasn’t changed. The military is still not a real armed force of the state in a real sense. The highest leader of the armed forces is the highest leader of the Party. The identification of the military with the Party still has not been replaced with an identification with the state. In sixty years, that has not changed. Even now, although sixty years have gone by, a truly competitive system of elections has not been established, not to mention at the national level.

Although there is talk all the time of consultation, in practice it is the same tradition of secret, behind-the-scenes manipulation that went on during the war. These are all fundamental facts. They can be expanded upon to arrive at fundamental principles. They should be discussed openly. A discussion must involve these fundamentals and so young people must understand more history. I remember how in the early years of the PRC, some representatives of democratic parties wrote a letter to the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee, suggesting that the Forbidden City of Zhongnanhai be returned to the people. This is an imperial garden and should be preserved as a public cultural memorial. At the beginning of the 1980s, the Party Secretariat also received suggestions like this, including the suggestion: the organs of the Communist Party Central Committee such as the Party Office, the Central Committee Organization Department, the Central Committee Propaganda Department, the United Front Department etc. should establish offices with signs since they are the organs of the governing party and are not longer illegal underground organizations. This suggestion was passed down through the hands of many party secretaries, but was in the end never discussed. These two things also haven’t changed in sixty years.

Later, the professor told me that he believes that he has studied some issues at considerable depth but still doesn’t know how to handle these fundamental facts. From many different channels, I know that over the past decade or so there have arisen new ways of thinking and new formulations. However no matter what the theory or whatever the school of thought, when they consider what has changed and what has not changed over these sixty years they need to understand these fundamental facts. There are some things that should not change, that may or may not change, or that can or cannot change. Distinguishing which fundamental fact fits into which category is difficult. But when we want to discuss a problem, we need to first clearly understand the basic facts. I said to the young professor, you raised this question, so I have no alternative but to speak the facts, the basic facts. Once the basic facts are clear, intelligent people will be able to think about them. Is “no change” a good thing in politics? Or is it a kind of political inertia? Or a kind of political stagnation? All these questions should be studied and discussed with reference to basic facts and not closed off with an empty conclusion.

A few years ago, when an old comrade was seriously ill, I went to see him. He talked with me for over an hour about his worries about the current situation of the country and the Party. He said he would very much like to talk about these things directly with a leader of the Party Central Committee. I promised to pass along his concerns. Later, when a member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo came to visit me, I passed along what the old comrade had told me. What I remember best is how that old comrade who had devoted his life to the revolution was most concerned about how he could explain to the people, to make an accounting to history when he himself has some many doubts and so many things that he didn’t understand that he didn’t know what to say. The sixtieth anniversary of the PRC, I think, is a good opportunity. We need to summarize our experiences and have a good discussion. I am an old man who has worked for the state and the Party all my life. I cannot but be sentimentally attached to them, but still I don’t agree with formulations such as “Sixty Glorious Years” and “Fifty Glorious Years”. They are not true. The hard times of the “Great Leap Forward” lasted for three or four years. The chaos of the “Cultural Revolution” lasted ten years. Those years cannot be called glorious. Even with words used in propaganda, care should be taken that they are accurate and accord with the fundamental facts. If you don’t eliminate those years, the people will remove them from their hearts and the historians will also eliminate them. Ordinary Party members will do the same. For several years during the 1990s, I said more than once, that political propaganda has strayed too far from reality. What does this mean? This is uncultured, barbarous propaganda. During those years there was also barbarous propaganda aimed at stopping the mishandling of goods on the wharves by stevedores. That kind of barbarous propaganda should also be rectified. Nobody paid attention to what I said. Why is it that things haven’t changed in sixty years? Not only should young people think about this but also we people who have lived through it should also reflect — in effect rethinking things. We should celebrate well the sixtieth anniversary and also rethink matters carefully. The whole nation and the whole Party should rethink things. A governing party, the only governing party of a great country, a party that has governed for sixty years should after all have the courage to rethink things. This is actually a responsibility and the people in the government and the Party are not up to the task. I believe that the views of the people, of the democratic parties, of the experts and the scholars, and people who have not fulfilled their political ambitions should be listened to especially carefully. These voices should not be suppressed. Sixty years. Here I am saying things that a sage of old said over one thousand years ago. When I think of that, it makes me feel very uncomfortable.

One old comrade who worked in the Party Secretariat in the early 1960s spent some of his later years in Shenzhen. Once when I went to visit him, he talked about the twists and turns in his career. He said that with respect to the state and the Party, he feels one part gratitude, and two parts regret. He personally pushed forward opening and reform in southern China and was one of the forerunners in reform in the entire country. One of his regrets is that he was unable to rectify a great injustice in the history of the Chinese Communist Party. Another regret is that he was unable to promote a policy of tolerance by the Party of people with different views. He didn’t speak long, so when he finished we two sat together in silence. Sixty years have passed since the founding of the PRC. In the early years of New China, there were some political reasons for some policies but do those hold true for the entire sixty years? Are those political reasons still valid today? Are they reasonable? If these political reasons don’t make sense today, then how can the word “glorious: be applied to those sixty years of building state power, ideological construction, and cultural construction? A system that tolerates dissident views still has not been constructed. That shows that this bit of Stalinism is still causing problems: “as the construction of the revolution becomes more successful, so too does enemy opposition become more serious”. If this were not so, how could it be that there has been no change in this area over the past sixty years? That old comrade died several years ago. His long-cherished wish still hasn’t been realized. That wish is how to make an accounting to the people and to history? From the breakdown of the first period of cooperation between the KMT and the Communist Party up until 1949 when we drove out the KMT, the KMT oppressed us for 22 years. They banned our publications, arrested and killed the members of our Party, and suppressed dissident view in the schools. History proves that they failed. We should not use similar means against dissident views and the people who hold them. Sixty years compared to twenty-two years, what sort of conception of time does that convey to us?

I was once a senior leader in the Communist Party. Now I enjoy excellent political treatment. I asked the professor, if it seems inconceivable that I could say these things? He replied honestly that he really isn’t sure that it is really inconceivable. I think I want to say these things just because I am a senior cadre and so should think about things from the perspective of historical responsibility. If not, than a senior cadre is the same thing as a senior official and that would never do. Responsibility to history is a problem of political ethics. Taking responsibility for a political party, that is an issue that needs to be thought about carefully.

I’ll put it this way, since I have been thinking about these problems for a long time. I remember how in the late 1970s, Comrade [Hu] Qiao Mu in an internal Party speech mentioned the words political ethics. This is the first time I had ever heard these words. Once, during the break in a meeting, I went to him and asked him to explain it to me. He said that he has been through too many trials and tribulations within the Communist Party so the problem of political ethics is too difficult to explain in just a few words. Unfortunately, he never again discussed this issue. Yes, thirty years after the founding of the PRC, one outstanding talent finally brought up this issue within the Chinese Communist Party. After that, he didn’t bring it up ever again. In the thirty years since, nobody ever brought it up again. I just do practical work myself and don’t have a high theoretical level. However, one idea has kept going back and forth in my mind these past thirty years. Could it be that we Communists just can’t stand discussing ethics? What I mean to say is, that others shut us out for 22 years and have we now for sixty years been using the tactics of those other to shut out others for sixty years? Is that itself a question of political ethics? We don’t discuss it openly but can we stop the people from thinking about this issue? Many questions have been bumping around in my head ever since that conversation in Shenzhen. I tried to put them out of my mind but I can’t. To be honest, I really don’t want to understand. I am afraid has to do with as the Song Dynasty poet Su Dongpo wrote “only willing to see things from my viewpoint on the mountain and not seeing the mountain”. This needs to be studied carefully.

Last year, as I watched on television our leaders at the national day celebration in Tiananmen Square offer flowers at the Monument to the People’s Heroes. When the people of today pay their respects to people who died in the past for an ideology or an ideal, is that not a kind of fundamental political ethics? If they had not made their sacrifice, the Communist Party would not hold power. That is a basic fact. But who will stand before the people and explain why that hasn’t been done for over 50 years? No, not even such a simple explanation is made. It seems that restoring political ethics in a short time will be difficult. You would have under you tens of millions of party members, you who rule over one billion citizens, for over fifty years, you have not even made a serious expression of respect. Shouldn’t you make a serious apology? Nobody has done what they should. Whoever has made a mistake should stand up and take responsibility for it. That is a basic moral principle. In our Party there are many people who like to brag that everything is done correctly now. But they don’t make even a basic accounting of why things were not done correctly in the past. People often say that when the prodigal son returns, he isn’t asked to give the money back. The precondition for not paying back the money is reflection and accepting responsibility. Our great and impressive country, our great noble Party, has been very vague about its past and that is why it is in its current state! It has abused its servants and been careless in choosing people for promotion. The system of examinations and evaluations is also not run responsibly. The consultative system is also run irresponsibly. The disciplinary and inspection committee inspectors only care for their investigations and prosecutions but do not consider the negligence of those who were supposed to supervise these people. Arrest people or execute them and then consider the case closed. But then discover the glorious accomplishments of these people. With all this, how could a country avoid becoming a country in which people do not accept responsibility? How could our Party not become an irresponsible Party? If things continue this way, how will we be able to even start to talk about political ethics?

Reflecting upon all this, I realize that these serious errors of our Party are all a matter of not being able to reverse course unless it runs into a wall. Those walls are the laws of nature and the objective rules of national development. If you break those rules, then your heads hits the wall and bleeds. Why is this so? For sixty years, our country has not developed a social force that can compete with the Communist Party, that can warn and supervise our Party. Those people with different views, because they do not reflect the correct line of the Communist Party, are ignored. But full powers to govern also means the responsibility of full powers. During these past sixty years, how many times has the development of the country been blocked and opportunities for the development of its citizens lost, and constitutional rights failed to be implemented. That situation is immoral. That old comrade who asked me to speak for him said, you and I are both getting old, what we worry about is that it will be hard to make an evaluation of us as we are laid in our coffins! I have already reached the latter days of my old age and cannot help but reproach myself in this way.

Once a man bears moral responsibility, he certainly will not live an easy life. A country and a political party are probably the same way. An old man like me, when he gets together with young people, always pricks up his ears to hear what these successors think of me. That young professor told me that over the past sixty years in our country there have not yet appeared voters in the true and complete sense. Our Party has not yet seen party members with full rights. We still have not built a system that allows other people to have a political function. Isn’t this what troubles you the most? I got to know this professor, despite the difference in our ages, because he sent to me through my son a short article that he had written. He said he does not plan to publish it, but wants it to circulate within the Party and stir up discussion. In the article he asked why many of the rights in the Party Charter have not actually been implemented. Why weren’t the parts that were not amended? Many times I invited him over for discussions. We need to start from basic facts. We need to start from the time of the founding of the Communist Party. Our Party said that it represents the peasants and the workers. After 1949, it said it represents all the hundreds of millions of people of China. Down to the sixtieth anniversary of the founding of the PRC, its still says this. Everyone knows that for sixty years, it has not established serious and rigorous political processes to implement these rights whether through elections or other means.

Some old provincial governors and city mayors from my home province often come to see me. I always tell them, your position needs to be an elected one if you are to be able to do your job properly. You need to rely on your own abilities to get elected. You shouldn’t be relying as always on the behind the scenes work of the party organization department within the People’s Congress delegation. If you rely on that to get elected, you should blush. If you count on Party members with the right to vote by imposing party discipline to implement all the party’s decisions, that is just “party activities with the legislature”. That must be legal, but still, on many occasions, this becomes a method for suppressing dissident views. Just what other political party is there that compares in size to the Communist Party anyways? This is a system of unfair competition. It has been this way for sixty years. It hasn’t changed. It would be hard to argue that this system is serious and rigorous. According to the present election law, this is not illegal, yet it violates political ethics. It is the same as a single political party controlling the election process. This system makes it hard for the views of the people to be expressed. Anyone should be able to see that.

The Party School professor told me, that for the past sixty years, the Communist Party has responded to various crises including political unrest, internal disputes, pressure from public opinion, and improper personnel changes with a standard pattern of emergency response. The Party has also built up quite a lot of talent. With all these advantages, why hasn’t the Party been willing to engage in open inter-party competition? I said that I can’t answer that question, but I do think that the problem of elections can’t be avoided. Today some people still say that conditions are still not ripe for Chinese people to have genuine democratic elections. That is just like saying that China has many peasants, many poorly educated people, and China doesn’t have a democratic tradition — all these are disadvantages. However, if these disadvantages were to turn into advantages, than the advantages of the Communist Party organization would disappear. When that happens, why not have a democratic election? When will this tangled knot of political ethics be finished with and untied? Sixty years have already passed. How many more decades will we have to wait?

Sixty years have passed since the founding of the PRC. I need to return to a fundamental issue. What do the citizens of this country want? What method should be used so that they can express their true desires? The Soviet Union didn’t know how to answer that question. The state and party collapsed after 69 years. I have never been a populist. One the basis of my decades of political experience, I dare to say that the expression of popular views is part of the “infrastructure” of the political system of a country and also a measure of the progress and culture of a country. I still get letters from many ordinary people. I ask my secretary to make a selection from them for me to read. I have been doing that for many years. Last year, I got a letter from a peasant in Shandong Province. He asked me, “Do you leaders in Beijing really know what we are thinking about and want?” This made me recall how during the difficult years of the 1960s, Chairman Mao called upon us to go to the countryside and do investigations. I went down to the countryside and traveled around for two months. I summarized them and made a report to Chairman Mao and the Central Committee. Among them was this problem. Forty years passed and ordinary people are still asking this question. He did not get answer from the TV broadcasts and newspapers, so he asked me. Of course the views of the people are very complex, and there are all kinds of people with differing views. This is normal. The question is does the Party understand public opinion properly and what system can be used that will ensure that public opinion can be fully expressed? Television broadcasts report how people want to become rich and want to improve their lives. That is progress because before people weren’t allowed to say that openly. Who is to be held responsible for not having allowed people to speak? Don’t people today want to get rich? They want to get involved in more social and political matters, they want more rights, more opportunities to develop. Why aren’t they allowed to say this openly? Who will take responsibility for not letting them speak? Sixty year have gone by, and shouldn’t we say that those errors in handling public opinion were the most serious errors the Communist Party has made. That should be written in the history books. In the early 1990s, there were many books of petitions, of interviews, and of open letters. As I have said many times, don’t make a big fuss about small matters, don’t make rough investigations and close things down. If people want to speak, then let them have their say. What is it that we can’t stand it? Nobody listens to what we say. A leader in charge of ideology and propaganda who came to see me said, I don’t dare not to interfere. The Party Central Committee says that the guardian has the responsibilities of his post, this post is mine, and if I don’t interfere, then I am negligent. You see — that is their idea of responsibility. But it is not being responsible to public opinion.

What especially pains me is that many people vulgarize the guidance of public opinion and use it for their own personal ends. Distorting public opinion and holding public opinion as a “hostage” to oppose reasonable demands for reform and to oppose calls to revise erroneous policies. The consequences are very serious and result in more violations of political ethics. At the end of the 1990s, a group of comrades who had taken part in the “War to Oppose America and Assist Korea” wrote to the Central Committee to request that scholars be forbidden from publishing the latest results of their research on the “War to Oppose America and Assist Korea”. They believe that these research results revise the final conclusion that was previously established. They feel that they cannot accept that. That is public opinion, but what kind of public opinion? How much to these old comrades really know about the war? Those experts not only made use of the just-opened archives of the former Soviet Union and used these materials in scholarly research. What is wrong with that? A scholar wrote me a letter about an injustice that I passed along to a leader. But in the end, the letter was like a rock sinking into the deep sea. Where did that conclusion in the minds of those old comrades come from? Was it fed to them? If facts come along to revise some old ideas of theirs, should we say not, we should consider the feelings of these old comrades, say that “this history of the Party is an important matter”? What kind of political logic is this?

Sixty years have passed, there are many things that should change and may be changed, but that kind of logic makes the changeable become something that cannot be changed or may not be changed. If fundamental political ethics are to be established, there are many obstacles that must be overcome. The first is that for the past sixty years, our Party has made the state its own creature so that every one of the the twists and turns of all these years were all caused by the twists and turns of our Party itself. This pains me the disasters that the twists and turns of our Party brought to the state and ordinary people. All these years we told the people that if it weren’t for the Communist Party, there would be chaos. The people are very afraid of these twists and turns and want stability — this has became the “public opinion” as our party continued to govern alone. When will this cycle end?

The second has to do with how to enable the people to understand history and understand the true facts. We need to make clear some basic facts. For the past sixty years, the words we have used most are, “The lives of tens of millions of martyrs paid for the red mountains and rivers”. This is one of the main reasons for the legitimacy of the Communist Party as the ruling party. Tens of millions of people died for New China. This is a basic fact. Another basic fact is why did they make this sacrifice? They came one after another, taking the place of fallen comrades, because the Communist Party had established goals and ideals. Today how many ordinary people know what goals the Communist Party established? I know. In 1990, a book was published entitled “Heralds of History: Promises Made Fifty Years Ago”. The book was quickly banned. I had my secretary get me a copy. I finished reading it in a weekend. I then asked some people who had studied that historical period. They told me that the documents assembled in that book were all editorials, commentaries and declarations of our Party during the 1930s and 1940s. They were all authentic. Our Party at that time made promises to the Chinese people that it would establish a free, democratic and independent country. At that time the KMT was not democratic, did not allow freedom and did not allow the country to be truly independent. The Communist Party made these commitments and replaced it. These commitments attracted many people with lofty ideals. The people who were sacrificed belonged to that group. In fact, these commitments can be found in Mao Zedong’s writings from the 1930s and 1940s. However, during the 1950s and 1960s, the editorial committee of Mao Zedong’s works edited them out. I saw an original and revised version sent from a document research office. In those days it gave us a big shock. Today, we can openly speak of the questions that arose in our minds over twenty years ago. But these revisions and the sacrifice in vain of these tens of millions of lives? It is all there in black and white, clearly repudiating the commitments that our Party made at that time. To speak plainly, we don’t respect history. In essence, this is a violation of political ethics. This is equivalent to building the foundations of the legitimacy of the party’s rule on a pile of sand. Can that be solid? History will eventually reveal the truth to the people. If not in sixty years, than in seventy, if not in seventy years, then in eighty years the people will know. In 1991, the some experts wrote a report for the Central Committee that analyzed the dissolution of the Soviet Union. According to the report, Gorbachev’s opening destroyed the Soviet Communist Party and the Soviet Union. I would put a big question mark after this conclusion. I would say that it wasn’t that he did opening the wrong way but that it came too late. In many matters, there will always be people who will take an experience as a lesson and take a lesson as experience. That must change.

Sixty years have passed and there are still many things that have not been clearly explained to the people. When the “Decision” was drafted in 1980, many comrades raised many doubts. They were silenced by the issuance of a “rough outline”. That principle is still used today by some people who want to hide the truth and as a shield from taking responsibility before history. This made reform of our Party much more difficult. Last year, when the thirtieth anniversary of reform and opening was commemorated, some people who were involved in this turning point in history made some revelations but still observed many rules since the “taboo about criticizing living persons” and the “taboo about criticizing sages” had become a habit that is hard to break. That year I went to Guangdong Province on an inspection trip where some people involved told me about October 6, 1976 that confirmed some of the things I had heard from different sources. Just what happened behind the scenes our ordinary people could read in an issue of a south China newspaper. In handling the matter of the “Gang of Four” the Party’s secret intelligence organs played a special role that is hard to explain but was indispensable. An old marshal used his own relatives to communicate with intelligence organs. That fact was hidden for twenty-two years. Who bears the responsibility for hiding this fact? That a leader of the governing party uses his own relatives and intelligence organs and military force to settle and in internal party dispute. This kind of thing that “is not to serve as a precedent” but will it truly not serve as a precedent? Premier Zhou, when the PRC was founded, warned Comrade Li Kenong that intelligence organs are not to be used in struggles within the party. Did his warning stop that violation of norms within the Party? Sixty years have gone by, and the governing party still finds it inconvenient to explain matters to old comrades. It should at least also explain the facts clearly to the tens of millions of party members that while it praises this special contribution that enabled the country to achieve a new situation, it clearly condemns the methods they used. Only this way accords with political ethics. Today, we still haven’t heard any condemnation of their methods. A party that has governed the country for sixty years still doesn’t pay attention to this. What good is simply wanting the capacity to govern? Just what will become of a capacity to govern that is not founded on political ethics? I think that everyone should think carefully about this issue.

Our party has governed for sixty years. At the beginning it said it would make decision-making scientific and the balancing of powers. But what did it actually do? It seems that considering political ethics is indispensable. Talk is not enough; there need to be methods and a system to put it into practice. Chairman Mao before the PRC was founded put forth “Serve the people”. This is the highest goal of political ethics but how are the people to be served. Old Mao never was able to answer that question well. This “service” may be more modest that “govern for the people” but it is much more honest. But how is it to be put into practice? My conclusion is that making “Serve the People” or “Govern for the People” a slogan cannot solve problems. This slogan needs to be built on a foundation of political ethics. A young scholar named Kang a few years ago proposed that there are three sources of legitimacy. To say that a political party merely has to swear to “serve the people” and thus becomes the legitimate governing party seems immature to me and leaves some fundamental questions unaddressed.

Sixty years have gone by. Anyone who is concerned with the development of the country will be concerned with how to promote the development of democracy. Our ordinary people and social organizations are not able to express their own independent views with respect to the political life of our country. Neither can they truly participate in the political process or exercise oversight over the governing party. The words of the lowly carry little weight. This “three noes” situation cannot last for long. We can just keep going on with ritual talk, ritual inspections, and ritual approvals. We need to think more about how the ruling party can assume the historical responsibility is has towards the state, towards the people, and towards history.

I am so old and I have spoken so much. Some young people criticize me, that I didn’t speak up when I was in power, that I didn’t do anything. They are right to criticize me for this. I cannot myself use the objective situation and objective elements to reject the historical responsibility that I should bear. I have spoken so much about political ethics, yet I myself need to work on building up my own political ethics. In the 1980, while drafting the “Decision”, Comrade Xiaoping said that he has the best credentials for evaluating the political character of Chairman Mao. Yet he also believed, that that kind of evaluation should be left to the future. In that way, the problem has come down to us. If successors don’t have the qualifications of Comrade Xiaoping, and do not have basic political ethics, things will be dragged out until someone in the future addresses them. There will always be people who will have something to say. I am one of them.

(This manuscript was prepared on the basis of four conversations and approved by the person interviewed. The title was added by the person who prepared the text.)

Open popup

Welcome back!

CDT is a non-profit media site, and we need your support. Your contribution will help us provide more translations, breaking news, and other content you love.