'The Entire Country Will Be Organized to Dream a Single Dream'

A commentary by Bao Tong
china-sina-weibo-dec-2012.jpg A Chinese netizen uses Weibo, the Twitter-like microblogging service of Sina, in Guizhou province, Dec. 15, 2012.

The arrest of Wang Gongquan followed on from the detentions of Xu Zhiyong and Charles Xue. Who will be arrested next is part of the Party and government's strategy, and as such is unfathomable.

Their arrests, and any follow-up action, are subject to the requirements of Document No. 9 and its seven taboos [of universal values, press freedom, civil society, citizens' rights, the historical mistakes of the Chinese Communist Party, the financial and political elite, and judicial independence.]

The war on rumor has begun, with initial battle positions and territory occupied pretty much according to plan.

What is a rumor? Certainly not any speech our leaders like to hear. Rumors are always something that our leaders don't like to hear. But both rumors and non-rumors should be exempt from [government] inspection. [Late disgraced premier] Hu Yaobang used to say that what actually happened in practice should be the arbiter of truth, but Hu hasn't been general secretary [of the Chinese Communist Party] for a long time now.

Whatever times we live in, we have to obey the leaders of that time; to each emperor his own ministers; to each general his subordinate officers. Nowadays, the arbiter of truth is Document No. 9, which has already categorized everything with perfect clarity.

That which complies with Document No. 9 is in no need of testing, and it is certainly not a rumor. That which doesn't comply with Document No. 9 doesn't need testing either, because it's most definitely a rumor. Those who don't grasp the spirit [of Document No. 9] can't be hired as Internet censorship officials.

[Spring and Autumn period] statesman Zi Chan [died 522 B.C.], refused to destroy all village schools. Village schools in ancient times were places where people would hold public debate on affairs of state, much like our Internet today. Xi Zhongxun wanted to enact legislation to protect different opinions, which are much like our "rumors" today.

These were two good men who spoke up on behalf of a diversity of opinion, and they could never have become brutal dictators.

[Emperor] Qin Shihuang who burned books, and Mao Zedong, who attacked rightists and perpetrated the Cultural Revolution, brazenly stopped the mouths of others. This may not have been a good thing, but they were heroes who built empires, right?

Zi Chan could never have become Qin Shihuang, any more than Xi Zhongxun could have become Mao Zedong. The successors of Emperors Qin and Mao must wallow in the same mire as they did, with a clear line drawn between them and the likes of Zi Chan and Xi Zhongxun.

Banning different opinions comes from the same [political] roots as opposing the separation of powers. If the entire country and its people are under the leadership of the Party, then the entire country and its people must act as a tool for Party power and interests.

Opinion must be united throughout the land, and unified with the opinion of the Party; power must also be centralized under the control of the Party. This is a self-evident truth, so how come some people just never seem to get it?

In 1942, Mao Zedong said that those who speak are innocent. In 1956 he called for the 100 flowers to bloom and the 100 schools of thought to contend. In 1962, he said we shouldn't be a one-message government. That was before he launched the Cultural Revolution [of 1966-1976].

Deng Xiaoping said, "The sky won't fall in if we let people speak." But just because the sky doesn't fall in doesn't mean people don't panic. That why, as soon as someone panicked, we were told to "uphold the dictatorship of the proletariat" and to "oppose bourgeois liberalism," and then the tanks rolled into Tiananmen Square. From this we can see that whether sharp criticism is listened to or whether mild disagreement is banned, depends largely on the mood and context of the time.

What happens next? I don't know, so all I can do is guess. I guess that the single message will be rehabilitated and its reputation restored. I guess that the entire country will be organized to speak with a single voice, to say a single word, and to dream a single dream, the national dream.

We shouldn't act rashly, lest the whole world be reduced to a single form of speech. Capsizing a boat is no fun at all.

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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