May 14, 2009

"The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang."

"Reaching from the grave, Zhao pillories a conservative wing of the [Chinese Communist Party] for missteps that led to the bloody crackdown, which began after dark on June 3, 1989 and left hundreds dead. Few in China's leadership at the time escape Zhao's criticism. He castigates Deng Xiaoping, the man credited with opening China to the West and launching its economic reforms; Li Peng, the dour premier at the time of the Tiananmen tragedy; Deng Liqun, a hardline party theoretician; Li Xiannian, a former vice president; and even Hu Yaobang, Zhao's longtime ally, whose death on April 15, 1989 touched off the student-led protests."

14 comments:

Bissage said...

More than once, I have been pilloried and castigated by General Tso, reaching from the grave. But that's no secret.

ElcubanitoKC said...

He had a hand in it all, from even before the stablishment of the regime. As many others before him, going all the way back to Trotsky and other defectors in the 1920s and '30s, they seek to vindicate their image after they have been forced out of power.

I do appreciate the correct use of the word "conservative" in the article.

NKVD said...

Yep, those conservative communists are all to blame. Pay attention America, elect only liberal communists.

ricpic said...

America escaped these horrors. Why? Limited constitutional government. But that's so pastville, man.

Jason (the commenter) said...

I'm intrigued. It's like a modern Secret History.

Balfegor said...

"A more intense confrontation was made inevitable," Zhao writes. "On the night of June 3rd while sitting in the courtyard with my family, I heard intense gunfire. A tragedy to shock the world had not been averted, and was happening after all."

What is most surprising to me is how much more civilised the regime had evidently become in only a generation or so. We have a high communist official considering a slaughter of civilians a "tragedy to shock the world," even though only 15-20 years earlier, China was going through a purge of reactionary and conservative elements in which a million (or two or three) people were slaughtered or tortured to death. That's a pretty striking contrast.

Of course, he did become a nonperson afterwards, but he was high in the hierarchy.

I'm intrigued. It's like a modern Secret History.

I kind of doubt he's going to claim that Deng Xiaoping is a sleepless demonic shapeshifter. Although I would be tickled if he did.

Richard Dolan said...

It reminds me of what Deng & Co. did to Mao (mostly by indirection, in focusing on Mrs. Mao and her gang) in the '70s.

At one level, it's score-settling among the dead or almost departed. Zhao, Deng and the other key players are all long gone. That aspect hardly matters except to the historically minded.

What was most significant about the score-settling in the '70s was how it presaged the "what comes next" move. The publishing of Zhao's memoir could have the same significance if its release had the backing of some influential faction in the current PRC leadership.

One of the themes of Prof Spence's history of modern China was that communism lost its claim to intellectual legitimacy in China in large part because of the wild, irrational swings in policy and personnel under Mao -- leaders or policies praised one day were denounced the next, all on a whim and in a way that anyone paying attention could hardly miss. The ideology was reduced to blather in which no one really believed, and became a convenient cover for strong-man politics justified by the (publicly unstated) claim that China was ungovernaable except by the PRC's one-party, autocratic system.

Zhao's memoir sounds like it is in keeping with that tradition. While I haven't read these memoirs, he seems to be taking aim at the then-reigning autocrats, but not so much at the still-reigning autocracy.

William said...

I remember reading Theodore White's memoir, Witness to History. Theodore White was the liberal correspondent of Time magazine. In his book he praised beyond measure the greatness of Mao's executive officer, Chou En Lai and criticized the corruption of Chiang and the Nationalists. Many years later Taiwan under the direction of the Nationalists has become the first and only democracy in China's 4000 year history and has a standard of living approximately 10 times that of the mainland.....No liberal will ever reflect on this phenomenon and wonder why he got it so wrong. The Chinese Communists killed, depending on how you count, between thirty to seventy million people. The only part of their depradations that has engaged the indignation of the left is the massacre at Tiannemen Square.

Joe said...

I was going to suggest that this sounds like someone trying to look better than he was, but after doing some reading, Zhao sounds like he was the genuine article--a true reformer in a very corrupt government.

ElcubanitoKC said...

William said...
[...] The only part of their depradations that has engaged the indignation of the left is the massacre at Tiannemen Square.

12:48 PM
.

Simply because at the time when it happened, and even more so after that, China is no longer perceived as a communist country. Therefore, it is safe and even meritorious (given China's status as an apostatic nation) for many to criticize them now.

ElcubanitoKC said...

Joe said...
I was going to suggest that this sounds like someone trying to look better than he was, but after doing some reading, Zhao sounds like he was the genuine article--a true reformer in a very corrupt government.

12:54 PM
.

It shouldn't preclude condemnation for his previous participation in the rrgime. None of these people come to be in those positions by "being nice" or just.

That he may have spoused some reformist ideas, is possible. However, it is again interesting how these people find "the correct way" after being in power at any cost no longer occupies their minds.

Cedarford said...

This is another sign that China is taking a very different path than the Soviets and the NORKs where obvious mistakes were denied or covered up for decades...or for what they hope will be all eternity.
That left the Soviets stunted and the NORKs still stunted by refusing to learn.

China seems to "get" that a great nation must learn and adapt and confront failure.

Curiously, America is going the other way - as PC makes denial almost habitual and a broad sentiment of risk avoidance and "kicking all problems down the road" are gving us massive problems.

1. 40% of US births are now out of wedlock. The black rate approaches 90% and hispanics, to the nation's detriment, are emulating black culture. Whites are trailing, but their illegitimact rates are now where blacks were in the 60s.

2. Any good engineer or scientist knows that "exciting alternative energy" from wind and solar replacing fossil and "driving the Arabs to their knees when oil is no longer needed" is a pile of total crap. Most politicians do, as well, but it is in leaders interests to spout "the greener, the better" nonsense.

3. Add the unsustainability of our budgets, a trillion-dollar trade deficit bleeding away our saved wealth, mass illegal immigration, projects once taking 6 months taking 10 years due to endless litigation and bureaucratic permission chains, our nations capital corrupted by special interest groups money, half the population no longer paying taxes but with an equal vote which they always cast for more "free stuff" and a dozen other pressing problems.

We could use a little more, or a lot more of the traits in people and government that is uplifting China into the largest economy with the most scientists and engineers, with a 3 trillion-dollar cash surplus...We need a 3rd American revolution to fix the crises our present system is unable to cope with. (the Civil War to fix unresolvable flaws & failed elements of the Constitution was the 2nd.)

Joe said...

It shouldn't preclude condemnation for his previous participation in the rrgime.But he didn't always participate; that's what fascinating. This man was jailed several times. I'm surprised he wasn't executed during the cultural revolution.

ElcubanitoKC said...

Joe, it still doesn't make him an exception.