Wu Chenmou:The Call of History 《历史期待拐点》文集导论

The Call of History

It has been nearly half a century since the breakout of the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s. The nation-wide movement was powered by such ideologies as “No Crimes in Revolution, All Justified in Rebellion”, a time when the most horrendous acts swept across China like tornadoes, leaving behind one of the darkest periods in Chinese history until Mao’s death and the collapse of the Gang of Four which brought an end to the Cultural Revolution. Since then China has transformed itself from a poor and weak country at the brink of collapse to the world’s second-largest economy. In the long shadows of Chinese history, fifty years was such a short period of time. As a Chinese proverb says "falls as abruptly and rapidly as it rises”.
    A Chinese party-state official once questioned the meaning of commemorating the Cultural Revolution and said that the Ming dynasty was unprecedentedly corrupt in history but it still lasted over more than 200 years. He meant that at least the current corruption may not necessarily make the party-state collapse and overseas Chinese pro-democracy actions are just fruitless. However, history showed that many dynasties rose and disappeared quickly.  For example, the rapid rise and fall of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom and the Kuomintang's ouster from Mainland China can all be traced to corruption. Internationally, the dramatic changes in Eastern Europe, the disintegration of the Soviet Union, and the collapse of the Soviet Communist Party, as well as the recent changes in the Middle East and North Africa all prove the Chinese proverb “falls as abruptly and rapidly as it rises.”  So I believe the ancient saying is still true in our time. The party-state can collapse without a warning.
    The dramatic changes in China have drawn attention from Chinese scholars both inside China and abroad to explore and treat such huge changes.  If there are any different voices, they must be the “overseas hostile organizations” and “anti-China forces”. So, how to treat overseas’ various patriotic acts is a very important question for the Chinese government, which requires an open mind to change its old concepts and attitude, including adjustments on its foreign policies. In this context, we publish this anthology in the United States, A Turning Point long-awaited in History--- retrial Cultural Revolution and explore Future. The book’s title reflects the authors’ perspective, authoritarian rule in China has lasted over two thousand years. Today, a one-party dictatorship must come to an end in the 21st Century. If all Chinese are to reflect and to reevaluate the Culture Revolution and contemporary history, a turning point shall take place in the 21st Century. It is definitely not our goal to expose the ugliness of individuals or to oppose the Chinese government, but only to provide constructive suggestions for exploration of China's future path and development.
    It’s worthwhile to appreciate and to confirm the impressive economic progress in today’s China. However, throughout Chinese history, the authorities always attempt to show its “superior achievements which may cover the multitude of sins”. For example, the Qin Dynasty had a strong military base to make people overlook its harsh laws and atrocity. Tang Dynasty had its magnificent cultures but serious corruption and border troubles. Song Dynasty had its economic prosperity but weak military and frontier defense. Ming Dynasty had advanced marine technology but had tyranny and eunuch-rule. Qing Dynasty owned a large territory and dynasty’s glory but had inequality between groups, corruptions, conservative ideas, and closed borders. The advantages with all dynasties did not let them flourish forever; however, the disadvantages had put each dynasty into its demise. Therefore, today, it is very important and urgent for China to think highly of its disadvantages than to just praise its advantages. What are the disadvantages in China? Where are the roots of illness in society? To treat world history as a mirror, and to learn from the lessons of international experience, let the Chinese who has a dialectical thinking, global and historical vision, have an objective and rational attitude to observe and analyze today’s flashy phenomenon in China.
    In light of this, Tianwen United Institute organized a symposium, “Rethinking Cultural Revolution to Explore China’s Forthcoming Development.” We selected excellent speeches as well as paper submissions to form this book, a collection that discusses issues regarding the Cultural Revolution and is presented in two parts. Part I, History and Present, contains ten articles. Part II, Cultural Revolution, and Study of Cultural Revolution, contains eight articles. These articles are briefly introduced as follows.
    “Will the Second Cultural Revolution Probably Take Place in the Future?” wrote by Mr. Yao Jianfu, a retired researcher at the Rural Development Research Center in China State Council. He argues that China's" four cardinal principles" were a" lame reform", which would inevitably lead to the re-emergence of the Cultural Revolution. He points out that the second Cultural Revolution in China is likely to occur when economic, political, and social crisis reaches a boiling point, a time when landless peasants and migrant workers would be the main force. Mr. Yao stresses the importance of carefully studying the Cultural Revolution in order to prevent further tragedies. The authorities should take out the courage to initiate political reforms to achieve social justice. He also suggests that freedom of speech could also help alleviate social pressure. Mr. Cai Nancheng shares his expertise in planning a museum dedicated to the Cultural Revolution. With extensive experience in planning and building museums in China, Mr. Cai has a particular interest in China's social transformation and provides his honest opinions.
    Mr. Gao Falin, focusing on Mao’s motivation of the Cultural Revolution, in “Mao Zedong’s ‘Great Harmony Dream’ and ‘Cultural Revolution’”, points out “What Mao Zedong wanted to do?  Did he want to add new elements when he adopted the Soviet Union’s socialist model? No. Mao wanted to create an entirely new socialist model. He wanted to solve issues that no revolutionists before ever resolved. Mao wanted to eliminate social classes and ensure every member of society participate in community management.”, “Vision of an ideal society permeated throughout Mao’s whole revolutionary career.”, “He not only wanted to become a communist pope but also to be a tutor for the whole humankind --- at one time, he told Edgar Snow, that he only wanted to be a ‘teacher’ ”. Mr. Gao Falin’s article not only outlined Mao's utopian renovation project but also pointed out the complex motives of Mao to launch the Cultural Revolution. It is very useful for those who study the Cultural Revolution and evaluate Mao Zedong.
    Dr. Wang Guilan, an educator, shares with us her critiques of the Cultural Revolution through a novel, The Land of Sadness written by Yao Shuping.  In the novel, Dr. Wang pointed out the brutal acts carried out by the Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution and its impact on Chinese education. Dr. Wang identifies three fatal flaws in Chinese education, which include the lack of general education, the deviation of educational philosophy, and the suspension of research on history and culture.  Dr. Wang hopes that educators and all who are interested to ask the core and eternal question, what kind of people do we want our students to become? Her strong belief in education motivates her to revive Chinese culture and education.
    I wrote an article to propose that China should establish a new viewpoint of culture and history, through the lessons and reflection of the Cultural Revolution. In addition, the concept of culture and history must be based on the Tao of the universe and the faith in god. I believe it is the direction of human civilization. This new cultural concept also covers various paths, such as the Tao of Tai Chi, the Word of Christian theology, the nature of Taoism, the human psyche of Zen, and the human relationships in Confucianism. If China can successfully seize this rare historical opportunity, it not only can revive Chinese culture and civilization but also has the hope to lead the world in the future. China will become the world’s new birthplace of New Taoism culture and will be a new axis of human civilization into a new Axial Age.
    Mr. Ren Yanfang's “Tang Mo's Death and My Repentance” is a piece from his memoir, “Changchun Film Studio Nightmare --- the Reflection of Cultural Revolution and Repentance”. Mr. Ren recalls his innocent youth when he once first considered the Communist Party as his mother, and also his spiritual torment during the Cultural Revolution. He reveals his personal journey, the gradual awakening of the soul, and its redemption. This article not only truly discloses the causes surrounding Tang Mo’s death in the political context of the Cultural Revolution, but also exposes how the Cultural Revolution, like a meat-cutter, put the Party ideology to oppress humanity, to warp, and to reflect ugliness. The honest reflection and repentance from the old author of almost 80-year-old to Tang Mo are clearly displayed in his writing.
    This anthology also includes a work by Ms. Li Ying, a young scholar born in 1989. In addition to her study of the 10-year Cultural Revolution, she approached the Cultural Revolution in the context of entire Chinese history. She concludes that the traditional Chinese society, strictly speaking, was not typically authoritarian before Ming and Qing Dynasties. Yet, both in-depth and width, Mao’s era was more authoritarian than the traditional imperial society, it was indeed the height of authoritarianism.  Although it has been almost half a century since the end of the Cultural Revolution, it is very inspiring to see that some brilliant young scholars not only have inherited the legacy of Cultural Revolution studies but also continued it to a new level. Another young scholar, Mr. Chen Chuangchuang’s article analyzes some historic facts and concepts in the early stage of the Cultural Revolution. Mr. Lu Wenguang had a comparative study on the group dynamics in both early and later stages, which leads to his conclusion that the Cultural Revolution was doomed to fail.
    Analyzing and studying the political system, Mr. Luo Weinian’s article, “Exploring the Cyclical Crisis of Political Power Succession from the Tragedy of Cultural Revolution”, argues that China’s highest political succession invariably leads to cyclical crises. Many phenomena in contemporary Chinese politics are stemmed from the authoritarian nature of government. For instance, some autocrats still enjoyed life-long political tenure, while others get power through direct appointment, and still, some leaders became the “emperor dowager” even after their retirement, which gives rise to the contemporary duumvirate control in the center of Chinese political leadership. Mr. Luo concludes that the only solution to ending cyclical political succession crises is to build political institutions and the rule of law. The article by Mr. Gong He, an independent scholar, explained the real meanings of democracy, republicanism, and authoritarianism from the “Great Democracy” of the Cultural Revolution. His article argues that real republicanism must be based on the separation of power, while real authoritarianism under fake republicanism was in fact leading to the breakout of the Cultural Revolution. Mr. Li Zhang Sheng’s article analyzes various reasons for the occurrence of the Cultural Revolution; his article has many new views, giving readers a refreshing thought. Mr. Zhang’s bravery thoughts and critics have earned him the title of a brave man!
    Prominent historian and Cultural Revolution scholar, Mr. Ding Kaiwen’s piece “Analysis of Rising and Fall of the Capital Working Group” discusses the role of the People’s Liberation Army in the Cultural Revolution.  The article describes how Mao Zedong deployed troops in the early days of the Cultural Revolution, how the army affected the entire process of the Cultural Revolution, and the pivotal role of the army played in the tumbling of “Gang of Four.”  Another scholar, Mr. Xing Dakun, whose article is not included in this anthology, also had an eloquent speech at the conference. He linked the 9.13 Lin Biao’s Incident with the 9th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party and concluded that the 9th Congress was truly a failure of Mao. He also examined how the army’s faith crumbled. He also showed clearly why the three-year Cultural Revolution had originally planned but dragged ten years until the death of Mao.
    Mr. Feng Shengping, an independent scholar, wrote a piece, “Political Persecution during the Cultural Revolution” which is psychoanalysis of the Cultural Revolution. From the perspective of political theories, he emphasized the importance of “Repentance and Introspection” to every Chinese and to the nation.  He strictly points out that the Cultural Revolution took place from the deepest place of everyone’s soul, and the sin of the Cultural Revolution could find its root in people’s hearts as well. The past has been purged, and the future is lost. The Cultural Revolution has left vacuum-like souls of people. Speaking about the political persecution, Mr. Feng is pessimistic, but he is hopeful that the new generation would stop it in China. In addition, Ms. Chu Juehui told several stories about what had happened at Peking University during the Cultural Revolution. Peking University is one of China's top universities, and people who live and work there are a group with a higher level of knowledge. However, very sadly, many people are ugly and wretched at the quality of personality and moral dimension. Therefore, rich knowledge does not equal a noble personality. It must be from the inside of humanity to rethink the Cultural Revolution. If China wants to really revive, it must rebuild the nation’s soul first.
    Ms. Xu Xiaoqing and Mr. Sun Yingping’s articles are personal memoirs that truthfully record what had happened to them and their families during the Cultural Revolution, a period when they were both victims and witnesses. The protagonists in the articles both used to be genuine and sincere believers of communism, and they both actively participated in the development of the communist state. However, they became victims due to their true beliefs and human spirits, but the sanity was nowhere to be found in that era. The Cultural Revolution was a catastrophe for tens of millions of families. Their articles are valuable historical records, both of which have universal values and representativeness.
    Mr. Li Zhensheng’s piece “Let the Whole World Understand the Disaster of Chinese Cultural Revolution” narrates his journey of preaching the history of the Cultural Revolution around the world in the past decade with the valuable photos he collected during the Cultural Revolution. He is candid with his fear, with his complicated mentality and his internal struggles. He is truly an exemplar of one’s introspection and self-criticism on the Cultural Revolution.  His piece describes in great detail his photographic exhibition around the world and in the United States. It is worth reading for everyone who still cares about the Cultural Revolution.
    This anthology does not include all the submissions we received, and it also did not record many wonderful speeches delivered at the forum. For example, Mr. Wei Bizhou, Deputy Managing Editor at the World Journal, is a man of Taiwan origin, he discusses in his keynote speech that “although China’s economy has taken off successfully, China is still not certain what can do for the Chinese nation, what can contribute to human civilization. China’s road to the future would be a bumpy one if the issues left by the Cultural Revolution remain unresolved.” Mr. Luo Weinian talks about Chen Xiaolu, one of the “princelings” and son of General Chen Yi. Chen Xiaolu made a public confession about his sins during the Cultural Revolution. With their keen eyes to review the chaos and crises in today’s Chinese society, he urged that all the current generation princelings should be willing to take a lead to reflect on the mistakes of the Cultural Revolution. It’s a calling by time and it’s a necessity by history to initiate this kind of communicative action at home and aboard. In the conference, Dr. Wang Guilan emphasized a very important concept in education, which is how to train responsible world citizens. She said, in the universe, the earth is like a small boat in an ocean; though China is just a small part of the world, its future could make the boat unstable and impact the entire world.
    When we take a panorama view of this anthology, “A Turning Point long-awaited in History--- retrial Cultural Revolution and explore Future”, it is not confined to the ten years of the Cultural Revolution. It is connected to the modern and contemporary Chinese history, as well as many aspects of Chinese society -- politics, culture, education, and so on. This further proves that the Cultural Revolution is not an isolated political event.  In one way or another, articles collected in this anthology reflect this perspective. It is our hope that the readers will not only learn a lot from reading these articles but can also truly feel the patriotism of each author about their home country, as well as the best wishes of the Tian Wen Institute in publishing this book. Whether this hope would actualize, we will let the readers decide for themselves and let the history to make a judgment.  
    There are not many overseas Chinese who are truly concerned about the destiny of our home country, which is a tragedy for the nation, a downturn in history, and misfortune of the times. Like Mr. Li Zhensheng discussed in his article, “I never expected that Brazil, a country in remote South America, is still concerned about the Chinese Cultural Revolution. While I was speaking in Brazil, I observed whether there was any presence of Chinese at the meeting. Well, there were indeed two Chinese faces, but when I inquired afterward, one was from Hong Kong and the other was from Taiwan. No Chinese from Mainland attended the meeting. What a shame, this made me very sad.”  
    In the era of “global village,” no matter where we are in the world, our destiny is closely connected with the development of our homeland. As a Chinese, only full of wise understanding of our past and present, can we love our homeland rightly; only with morality and justice, will we have the courage to care about the fate of our homeland. Because the authors of “A Turning Point long-awaited in History--- retrial Cultural Revolution and explore Future” had discerned our home country’s weaknesses and disadvantages, it is an act of bravery and of best intentions to point them out. If this anthology can inspire passions within some readers to think about their homeland and to raise their concerns about China’s future, we would consider that we have done a great deal of good work with the highest satisfaction.