An Era Without Dreams

Bao Tong calls on China's Communist Party to let ordinary people 'go about their business.'
By Bao Tong
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The ousted Bo Xilai (c) walks past Premier Wen Jiabao (l) and President Hu Jintao at the National People's Congress annual session in Beijing, March 9, 2012.
The ousted Bo Xilai (c) walks past Premier Wen Jiabao (l) and President Hu Jintao at the National People's Congress annual session in Beijing, March 9, 2012.

The Chinese Communist Party is in the throes of organizing the happy event that is the 18th Party Congress, and is facing a real crisis of public trust. This is one conflict. Ms. He Qinglian was right when she said: "China has entered an era without dreams."

Now that the dream of public confidence has been lost, the organizers of the 18th Party Congress are faced with a new problem: how to evolve in the long term, while constantly improving the art of running a one-party dictatorship.

A lot of people find it hard to describe the art of the Party leaders. We should thank Bo Xilai, for it was he who adapted the legacy of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping in a realistic manner, he who boiled down the unchanging characteristics into a concise formula: "Sing red, strike black."

This maxim surpasses the "Three Represents" [of former president Jiang Zemin] because the latter merely offered up arguments for a monopoly on political power, a monopoly on wealth, and a monopoly on ideology. It also surpasses the "Four Modernizations" of Deng Xiaoping, because no one can actually describe clearly what these four things are supposed to be.

Bo Xilai integrated the Communist Party with his "sing red, strike black" campaigns, making them the same thing. What does the Party love? Why, it loves that which is red [revolutionary]. What does it like to fight? Why, it likes to fight that which is black [criminal].

The Party, in attacking that which is black, ensures that those who oppose it fall, that dissent is suppressed. And in singing revolutionary songs, it ensures that those who support it prosper in its overweening might. The Party loves red, which can't be criticized and must be praised. From the abolition of private property, to the destruction of the markets, right down to the deaths by starvation of tens of millions of people—it’s all socialism.

As for the widespread poverty of the past and the widespread corruption of the present, why, that's socialism, too.

The Party hates black, which is counterrevolutionary. Human rights are black, freedom of speech is black, a democratic system is black, as are the people when they stand up for their rights, the Nobel [Peace] Prize and universal values.They must be defeated.

What is the truth? The central propaganda department will tell us that, and ensures that a billion people all think with the same head and speak with the same mouth. What is the law? The political and legal affairs committees will tell us that. The stability budget is the budget for striking black. This is the theory and the practice, the guiding principle, the rulebook and the goal. It is the morality and the belief system, both clear and convenient.

Bo Xilai didn't create anything new. But, with amazing accuracy, he took on the legacy of Mao Zedong’s and Deng Xiaoping's one-party dictatorship and gave it depth and universality.

Now that we have the central propaganda department and the politics and legal affairs committees, the Chinese people have no need any more for their own minds or their own limbs. Thus do we enter the era without dreams.

If the 18th Party Congress really wants to cut the bonds with the infamous Bo Xilai, can they please also say goodbye to this blindly repetitive "singing red, and striking black" business while they're about it? Get rid of the revolutionary songs and start looking for the truth. Bid farewell to the "striking black" campaigns and move towards the rule of law.

If you permit any action that doesn't break the law, and allow people to say what they're actually thinking, then everyone will be busy and bustling, and I guarantee you won't lose your jobs. People should be free to sing revolutionary songs or not to sing them, should be free from fear in either case.

Let everyone go about their business from morning to night: the workers to the factories, the entrepreneurs to their businesses, the students to their classes, the petitioners to the court. What do revolutionary songs and "anti-crime" campaigns have to do with ordinary people?

A normal society needs to have a durable climate of lasting peace and harmony. Let's consign the Party's founding ideology, the "sing red, strike black" campaigns, to the museums, as if we were taking Chairman Mao's portrait down from Tiananmen Gate. No harm will come to the nation.

For centuries, millennia, the world got by just fine with no revolutionary songs or "anti" campaigns. If China gives them up, it won't have lost anything. Those who are specialists in these arts can be retrained for other trades. A major thing came out of the 7th Party Congress [in 1945]. It was called "engaging in serious, not perfunctory, self-criticism."

Many years later, barely a handful of Communist Party members have achieved this. If anyone within the Party wanted to take on such a ground-breaking task, they would meet with a warm welcome and wide-ranging support.

Translated by Luisetta Mudie.

Bao Tong, political dissident and aide to former Chinese premier Zhao Ziyang, is currently under house arrest at his home in Beijing.





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