Today is Oct. 1. It has been 24 years since the orchestrators of the main theme tune started to avoid any reference to 6 and 4 [numbers associated with the military crackdown of June 4, 1989]. But today, they can't hide from it, because it is the 64th anniversary of their seizure of power.
There used to be a time when the orchestrators of the main theme tune didn't deny that they had seized power.
If we look at Mao Zedong's scriptwriter Hu Qiaomu's 1951 article titled "30 Years of Chinese Communism," we can see this very clearly.
Back then, no effort was made to avoid talking about the seizure of power. On the contrary, it was spoken about with evident happiness. If they'd stopped talking about it, then where would all their greatness, glory, and rightness be found?
Later, this concept of the seizure of power that implied so much, so aptly, was gradually dropped in favor of a mysterious concept called "constructing the country."
It seems that Chinese people had no nationality prior to , as if the changing of the country's name [to the People's Republic of China] signaled its subjugation. However, even some of the older people got used to being assimilated over time. I was one of them.
But "Oct. 1" wasn't a unique historical event. As far back as 1911, the old imperial regime had already been toppled by revolution, under the banner of the Three Principles of the People [of Sun Yat-sen].
Before this, China was characterized by authoritarianism. The emperor was the Son of Heaven. If you were Chinese, then you were the subject of the emperor, and you had to follow his orders.
After the 1911 revolution, with the exception of the [brief] rule of the self-styled "Hongxian Emperor" and biggest warlord Yuan Shikai, no serious politican would dare to be openly hostile towards the republic, or towards democracy.
Citizens' rights 'a heresy'
Things all went downhill after the "liberation" that took place on Oct. 1, 1949, however. The notion of citizens' rights was once more treated as heresy.
Under the aegis of the "dictatorship of the proletariat," another dictatorship arose, as if this were only right and proper.
The [ruling Chinese] Communist Party exerted its rule over all areas of society, far more than any tyrant or monarch ever could. The "liberated" Chinese people now had to obey the Party, and were dominated by the Party.
During the period from 1911-1949, this old-new, or new-old phenomenon would have appeared as a monstrous absurdity. But after "Liberation,"
it came back to life. The corpse of the proletariat and their autocratic revolution was reanimated under the leadership of the Communist Party.
The power of the leadership was the spoils of victory, which of course weren't to be enjoyed by the corpse of the revolution and the proletarian masses. They belonged to those who had made the revolution happen and their descendants, and were "not for sharing," as Lenin put it, "not even for a moment," as Mao put it.
The Chinese Communist Party gave full play to the booty of war that was its authority, using it to visit wave upon wave of unprecedented torment [on the nation].
First of all, it led the farmers in a violent seizure of land from the landowners, after which it demanded that the land they had just seized for their own be given back to the state in the form of the People's Communes.
They nationalized private enterprises before handing them over to powerful cliques and interest groups, dividing up the majority of them under the guise of price-setting, so that they became a new breed of socialist private enterprises.
And so it went on. The names they gave to things always sounded exciting.
Sometimes they called it "revolution," sometimes they called it "reform." But it was all part of that "socialism" that nobody could really explain clearly, as Deng Xiaoping put it...all in accordance with universal truth, Chinese characteristics, not to mention the teachings of Mao, Deng, and the "Three Represents [of former president Jiang Zemin]."
In 1927, China was in the middle of the warlord period and on the edge of a slippery slope, but it still ranked as the second-largest economy in the world, owing to the fact that it had the biggest labor force on the planet.
Under the mismanagement of the Communist Party, China's economic output plummeted, plunging into the abyss and bringing the country to the brink of collapse.
This went on until after Mao's death, when some of the more obvious chains binding those who produced things and those who owned things were finally broken, and not without a lot of trouble.
Still, it wasn't easy for us to regain our glorious No. 2 economic ranking that we had occupied at the time of the warlords. [It seems that] one pretty thing can cover up 100 really ugly ones.
The past 64 years haven't been an exercise in futility; they have been the tuition fees we have paid for having [such] leaders.
That the normal state has been one of revolution is eloquent testimony to the "universal truth" that the Chinese people must be led by the Communist Party.
Miscarriages of justice
Of course, paying our "tuition fees" has nothing to do with blindly mucking about or going off on random detours.
Of course, life is one of the currencies in which such tuition fees are paid!
How many homes have been broken, and how many people have died in battle, of starvation, through political "struggle," or by lawless injustice, or by those who use the letter of the law as an excuse to deliberately mete out miscarriages of justice?
Alienation is another currency in which tuition fees must be paid.
Anyone who lives in China lives in a place that is hostile to universal values. The "republic" is a country where elections cannot take place. "Market economics" means an economy that depends on the coordinating operations of the Party. Opinions can only come from the Party mouthpiece, while education is a cradle and a hell that serves only to train up followers.
Of course, it is the duty of the people to act as the tool of the Party. The touchstone for deciding the difference between truth and rumor can't be the facts, but must be Party interests.
As for all-pervasive corruption and the pollution of nature—air pollution, river pollution, and land contamination—they are all of them part of the "tuition fees" that generation upon generation of citizens must pay against their will and without their consent, so that generation upon generation of leaders can continue to conduct their laboratory experiments.
This is the China model that took 64 years to build, and which has raised eyebrows around the world. The Chinese Communist Party will have made its own internal meaning from this, be it "mucking about" or "learning curve," while the system it has built is the face it presents to the world.
I have no intention of belittling its existence. I just think a system that can't tolerate objection is one that is doomed to extinction. Progress belongs to those brave souls who are ambitious enough to change their ways.
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.