'Amid the Silence of the Birds, the Entire Country Is on Its Last Legs'

A commentary by Bao Tong
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A netizen visits a microblogging website at a cafe in Beijing, April 2, 2012.
A netizen visits a microblogging website at a cafe in Beijing, April 2, 2012.

They are currently battling rumors online. I have done a little research into rumors, aspiring to write a rough guide, but I haven't managed it yet.

I think that rumors are likely to live forever. At the very least, they will go on a lot longer than any media organization. Their demise will only come after generation upon generation of enthusiastic rumor-mongers have finally met their deaths.

Some say it's up to the wise to stop the rumors. I don't think so, necessarily. I think it would be more accurate to say that transparency puts a stop to them. Because rumors are most rife during times of darkness and cultural authoritarianism, under an information monopoly, and when public opinion is tightly controlled, and where there is no freedom of expression.

Rumors don't have any special attributes.... They don't belong to any particular class.... They have existed under [imperial dynasties] just the same as they exist under our technologically advanced dictatorship of the proletariat and the within the 'harmonious' model of government and [ruling Chinese Communist] Party leadership.

Deng Xiaoping said he wasn't quite sure what socialism is, but he ... insisted on perpetuating this system nonetheless. Those who are in charge of striking out at the rumor-mongers today aren't necessarily any cleverer than Deng Xiaoping, and they might not be able to define clearly by what standards they define a rumor, but they do have standards hidden away in their black box. Their standards can only be described as "rumors are judged purely on whether they are helpful or harmful to the leadership."

The red and the black

This was the standard used by [the Party's disgraced former Chongqing chief] Bo Xilai in his "sing red, strike black" [revolutionary song and anti-crime] campaigns: that which Bo liked was judged to be "red," while that which he hated was judged to be "black [criminal]," and must be attacked by the state! Those who are with me will prosper, while those who oppose me must die. So many lives, so many hundreds of billions' worth of people's money, were sacrificed to this rhapsody of Bo's.

Once you have a cosmetic strategy in place for running the country, you will need to launch an attack on online rumor-mongering, so as to occupy the moral high ground of public opinion and to ensure silence.

Every revolutionary with a point of view should know the difference between red and black rumors. For example, if someone points out that a number of Chinese judges are engaging in debauchery, why, that must be a rumor, because such negative energy couldn't possibly have been released by the fornication of judges; it must surely be the work of the evil Internet.

This was true back in the days of the Anti-Rightist movements (1957-1959) and the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) ... and it is even more true today. The essence of our leaders should be the soul of the nation. Ideology depends upon them, and we rely on them to show us the way, and to put the system in place. What is the use of different opinions, which are nothing but wrangling and confusion? So [dissidents] must be purged ... or disappeared .... Liu Xiaobo and Xu Zhiyong must be arrested. Party founders Peng Dehuai and Xi Zhongxun are expelled. The state can have only one brain and one mouth. This is enough! Any more would be too much!

Xi Zhongxun (1913-2002) died too young. I wish him peace in heaven. The last posts held by this old gentleman were seventh vice-chairman of the National People's Congress, chairman of the NPC judiciary committee and member of the Party leadership group of the NPC standing committee. In his last roles, he continued to advocate that China should pass a "Different Opinions Protection Law." What a deep and mature vision. China's fate has been closely related to the fate of different opinions. Amid the silence of the birds, the entire country is on its last legs; what sorrow for the sparrows and the ducks! This venerable old man should have someone to succeed him; then China might not be doomed to stagnate forever.

Translated by Luisetta Mudie.

Bao Tong, political aide to the late ousted premier Zhao Ziyang, is currently under house arrest at his home in Beijing.





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