Xu Zhangrun: The People are Angry and No Longer Afraid

Back in early February, Geremie R. Barmé translated this essay by Tsinghua University Law School Professor Xu Zhangrun. Viral Alarm: When Fury Overcomes Fear — An Essay by Xu Zhangrun, Translated and Annotated by Geremie R. Barmé

This essay made the Chinese Communist Party even more disappointed with Professor Xu who they see as constantly emitting what the Party calls these days “negative energy”.

The China Heritage website of Australia’s Wairarapa’s Academy for New Sinology has a collection of translations of some of Professor Xu’s essay and some article about him.

I translated earlier Xu’s November 2018 essay “Whoever Heard of a Teacher Who Doesn’t Speak” criticizing widespread censorship in China which was published on the Financial Times Chinese language website.

Although my qualifications cannot compare with Dr. Barmé’s, I did find the essay fascinating and so decided to work through it on my own and put it up here on here on my translation blog.

The first thing one might notice is that some of the copies of this essay available on line lead with the summary before quoting the first line of Boris Pasternak’s poem “February”. Most of copies I see online do not include the summary.

Leading off with a Russian poem! China’s Russia connection has always fascinated me. From Mikhail Borodin sent to China by the Communist International at the request of the Republic of China’s leader Sun Yat-sen and influenced both the organization of the Nationalist Party and the Chinese Communist Party. To the ‘Flying Bears’ of the Soviet Volunteer Group who helped China fight Japan before the ‘Flying Tigers’ came along up until the USSR – Japan Non-agression pact. As well as the many Soviet advisors who made many Chinese friends while in China during the 1950s notwithstanding the vagaries of Sino-Soviet relations during that decade as my Chengdu writer friend Yin Shuping, one-time boy Xinhua correspondent with the Chinese Volunteers in the DPRK, told me. He kept in touch with a few Russian friends until he died a few years ago.

Professor Xu writes in the slightly archaic literary style of the oldtime righteous scholar. To echo those illustrious predecessors and the old time high prestige language of the past. Some of the very elderly (not to mention Mao himself) were educated in that tradition; some of their students are still active. When I visited 94-year old exiled Henan hero AIDS-fighting physician Dr. Gao Yaojie last week in New York City, she told me that in her early education she spent four years memorizing the Four Books.

Citing and re-interpreting the authorities of the past to justify innovation in the future seems to be a Chinese tradition. The authority of the old in China versus the appeal of the new in some other cultures — in China something like putting new wine in old bottles. Just like the Mao’s old quote “Practice Is the Sole Criterion of Truth” was turned around in 1978 during Party Secretary Hua Guofeng’s time (the Deng gang (or is it just the specious and overly simple conservative/reform dichotomy of Deng fans?) doesn’t like to share credit) for reform) to sweep away ideological detritus of Mao’s era to push forward with reform.

Xu Zhangrun has been writing articles criticizing the Chinese Communist Party and Party Secretary Xi Jinping’s policies for some years and has suffered for it. He is now apparently under house arrest in Beijing.

Professor Xu’s sees that China as going rapidly downhill under Party Secretary Xi Jinping. The tightening of one man rule has led to paralysis and passivity making China ever less capable of facing up to its chronic problems.

The People Are Angry and No Longer Afraid

by Xu Zhangrun

Summary: As the poet sang,

“Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

Therefore scholars are good-for-nothings. All they can do is breathe their deep sighs, pick up their pens, and write essays calling for fairness and justice.

Summary beginning with the first verse of Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Black spring! Pick up your pen, and weeping,
Of February, in sobs and ink,
Write poems, while the slush in thunder
Is burning in the black of spring.

February by Boris Pasternak, first verse. Translated by poet’s sister, Lydia Pasternak Slater.

Just as the Year of the Pig was about to give way to the Year of the Rat, an epidemic broke out, first in a great city. and then spread throughout the entire country. In an instant, the Divine Land of China became desolate and the population fearful. The dithering of the authorities brought disaster to the common people and spread the pestilence throughout the world. China has gradually become an island unto itself, cut off from the rest of the world. The image of “reform and opening” built up laboriously over more than three decades seemed to have crumbled in an instant. The blow slapped China, and especially its system of governance, back to the pre-modern era. The blocking of roads and the slamming shut of gates brought with it a whole string of man-made, barbarous humanitarian disasters that recall the Middle Ages.

All this was brought about by the intimidation into silence and the falsification of reports by powerful officials both high and low. Then followed their preoccupation with their personal affairs, their evasion of responsibility and their claiming credit for the good work of others, stupidly ignoring their important task of coordination to accomplish the essential task of prevention. Monopolizing all power, stressing that all decision must be referred to the top leader for a decision for fear of “organizational dysfunctionality” and assuming responsibility with respect to the top leader only for their own inaction due to “institutional incapacity arising the rules of the organization”.

Specifically, it was the “perversion of morals” and corruption by personal interests of this political regime dedicated to “defending the entire country” that affected the livelihoods of the vast population of the land, creating a man-made on a greater scale than any natural disaster. This exposed the utter moral bankruptcy of the regime and its institutional weaknesses more than ever before. Therefore the source of this man-made disaster is to be sought in the ethics, politics, society and economy of today’s China. The Yankees may well want to harm the China’s economy but unexpectedly China’s own rulers rushed in to get the job done first. It was especially the confusion spread by own words and actions after the pestilence broke out, their deliberate lies and flagrant irresponsibility that has infuriated and broken the hearts of the people.

Yes, the people’s anger has already erupted like a volcano. Infuriated people are no longer intimidated. Therefore we’ll weigh the characteristics of the world’s systems of governance and examine China’s own overall development since [the year Wu Wu of 60 year cycle — apparently 2018].

Summarized in the nine points below, I respectfully submit this for the consideration of my compatriots.

First of all, political corruption has completely undermined the political system.

Protecting their family wealth and ruling the country has become the core concern of this political system and of its highest authorities. Whenever they speak of “the masses of the people” they merely mean taxable units to be exploited by various means, mere numbers to be controlled through “stability maintenance” and “necessary expendable” needed to maintain the locusts, both big and small, of this totalitarian government. State authorities both high and low concealed the epidemic, repeatedly delaying reporting, for the sake of the debaucheries and dance parties of those surrounding “the core leadership” showing that they the idea that the people are innocent and that Heaven cares about their fate does not occur to them, not does the idea that we share in the good and bad fortune of peoples in the global system.

When it did happen, they made fools of themselves, acting completely with no conscience causing harm to the common people. The core of power still exists, breeding both inefficiency and chaos, especially with the web police so dedicated to serving the cruel government. Like bird dogs, they swiftly close in on their prey and work overtime to block information. News spreads quickly however, revealing that the security agency is in charge and the National Security Commission of the Communist Party of China has become the most powerful department. Though it sits at the very top of the power pyramid, it is a pre-modern apparatus that had its day but now that day is past. In fact, as our ancestors once clearly observed, “Keeping people’s mouths closed is harder than holding back a mighty river”.

Who cares whether the Cyberspace Administration of China has any patience left, it is powerless against the 1.4 billion mouths of China just as was the case for people in ancient times. So it goes all around the land, believing that their power knows no limits, indulging in the self-deceptions of the so-called “leader” yet in the end they are unable to conceal it.

When the outbreak occurred, no leader displayed any virtue or knowledge whatsoever. When finally grabbed by their lapels, with officers and soldiers dying from exhaustion on the frontlines, and calamity befell untold hundreds of millions of people, they still stood their screaming their empty political slogans, saying a little bit of this and that, to create the appearance of taking it all very seriously. The spectacle made the people sneer and ridicule them. This was not so much about them but about the “corruption of morals” in the political system. It was as if seventy years of unbroken disasters had already well taught the people the evils of totalitarianism — this great epidemic has made that fully and completely clear. I ask only of my hundreds of millions of compatriots, both elders and brethren, that they long remember this, be less servile, and employ their own rationality in the conduct of public affairs. No longer permit yourself to be buried alongside the totalitarians. If not, you will forever be taken advantage of and forever have great difficulty in saving yourselves.

Next, the political system has been crushed under tyrannical rule and the technocrat-run bureaucratic system built up over three decades has come to an end. Not so long ago, motivated both by morality and personal advantage, many able technocrat took charge forming a technocratic bureaucracy that although not ideal and having many shortcomings as able to serve its purpose at the time. One cause of this was that, taking advantage of the quest for political achievements to gain promotion, some poverty-stricken people from the younger generation were incentivized to work hard. Here is won’t discuss the Red second generation taking advantage of their special connections to hold a job without doing any work, being good-for-nothings, not able to do anything but fully capable of ruining things.

Unfortunately, due to the unbroken succession of purges in recent years, people throughout the red lands all sing the same tune. All they can do is obey and see to their own advantage. The result has been that the morality and capable people of the technocratic bureaucratic system who are motivated to seek the political achievements they need to get promoted were without anyone being aware of it, vanished from the system. In particular, those with “red genes” who are judged by their own and reserve advancement to their own making everyone disappointed and discouraged as as time went one, increasingly inclined to depart from morality and humaneness.

Among the reasons for this, is that in this post-leader era, the leadership system itself was destroying the mechanisms of governance. What was promised to be modern governance actually plunged the governance of the country into a predicament growing out of the lack of structure in governance. The symptoms of this were in fact “organizational dysfunctionality” and “institutional incapacity arising the rules of the organization”. Can’t you see? Following the lead of just one person and the failings of that person, means that there is no system of running the country, no direction for government but endless power struggles that harm the country. Officials do not have any guidance. Good official don’t dare to take initiative while bad officials seek to turn the situation to their own advantage. If you don’t do anything you won’t get yourself into trouble, or even be duped, as the less capable push out the more capable and all sorts of madness occurs.

Next, domestic governance is completely overturned. This sudden rapid decline manifests itself in the following two ways:

There economy is already trending towards less growth. This year’s trends will only confirm that, making the worst performance since the “disturbances” [of 1989], pushing to new extremes the dysfunctionalities of “organizational dysfunctionality” and “institutional incapacity arising the rules of the organization”. The trust of the people in government has fallen sharply, they fear for their property rights, officialdom and academic boiling with anger, society deteriorating, the cultural and publishing worlds bleak, with only the dogshit world of red songs and red theater flourishing. The production of ever more shameless articles and hack tunes that fill the air with sickening praise of the leader is already a confirmed trend.

The most troubling of all is misjudging the situation in Hong Kong and Taiwan, in particular the refusal to honor the basic commitments to the Hong Kong Basic Law. That lousy move made trust in government plummet to a new low. This has resulted in great dissent and discord in the wealthiest and best-educated part of China and shown to the world what a faithless scoundrel China’s political regime really is.

Meanwhile, US-China relations have been disrupted because the superpower has no fixed rules governing its internal affairs – such a shortcoming is something that can shape the destiny of a nation. Just because of that, with the muddle-headness and carelessness of its leader and the uncertainty of an oceanic county about just where its borders lie has led to confusion. The online discussions about “the imperialists have not given up their plot to destroy us” – they want to do it but haven’t done it yet. Indeed, just let them do it! That is not only ridiculous, it is heartbreaking.

On the other hand, the tightening and restrictions on civil rights over the past several years and the destruction of civil society, the ever stricter restrictions on speech, have weakened or even destroyed society’s early warning systems. With the epidemic came, tightly sealed mouths led to tightly sealed cities. The death of hope led to the death of human beings. Therefore it is easy to understand what came together with all that. The more that political opportunism and vulgar pragmatism expand in politics, reaching their extremes you get the “sent-down youth politics” [Note: the politics of the youth sent down to the countryside during the Cultural Revolution. End note], a characteristic phenomenon of a particular time revealing that both morals and intelligence had both vanished.

We can say that those people at all levels are the worst leaders we have had over the past forty years. Therefore what we need right now is to implement Article 35 of the PRC Constitution, abolish press restrictions, end the management and control of the Internet by online spies, put into practice for our citizens the various rights of freedom to organize themselves including freedom of speech and freedom of conscience. The human rights of all people must be recognized an in particular the right of universal suffrage. Moreover, as far as determining responsibility of individuals and the system for the epidemic and the concealment of information about the epidemic, we need to set up an independent mechanism for determining that. That will be the way for “post-war reconstruction” and is a pressing matter.

Court politics has reappeared. Along with the actions to centralize power over the past few years, the integration of the Party and State has become even more marked. In particular, we see the Party taking over the functions of government as we discussed earlier, this has paralyzed nearly the entire bureaucratic system. Whatever his motive was, the top leader is not strong enough to impose himself on his powerful subordinates so he uses the Discipline and Inspection organs as a whip, beating the system to death, continues on and on, not knowing what the next steps should be, wanders along, lost. Moreover, because freedom of speech is lacking in the modern bureaucratic system, that is there is no “His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition” present, and the wielders of the whip themselves lack oversight so we end up back at the system of the National Security Commission [of the Communist Party of China] taking everything under its control and strict iron-fisted leadership.

Finally all the layers of government are under the control of one man. Yet all men are mortal with their own particular shortcomings. Under the Party-State system, there is no division of countervailing powers to share responsibility and to combine strength with strength and built trust and cooperation. From that is born court politics. To put it into plain language, this is decomposition of the “collective leadership” decomposed into the “the nine dragons who command the rain” [Note: traditionally, the dragons in charge of the rain who can’t agree to anything and so cause drought. End note] ineffective oligarchy, all losing power as they counterbalance one another to the point that a small leading circle becomes the “state within a state” something similar to what the Americans would sighingly call a “hidden power structure”.

Considering past events in the light of this, the normal state of the “1949 political system” – bureaucratic responsible government so that even in the era of Mao Zedong, Premier Zhou was allowed his small domain. When the “Revolutionary Committees” and their People’s Security Organizations [人民保卫组] appeared, they broke up that organization but finally that new system itself in the end could not last. During the past forty years, the “nobles” have largely balanced one another, and the previous integrated party-state gave gave way to the administration implementing the directives of the Party. It has been only over the past several years, however, that a closed, incompetent, brutal jungle-like court politics has appeared, decisively preventing the reconstruction of normal governance.

Once the blockage is in place, there is room neither to advance nor to retreat, creating tensions, but nobody can do anything about it. They can only watch as the situation continues to deteriorate until finally things have gotten to such a state that recovery is now impossible. By then, the economy and the society have already been severely harmed. A moral, secularizing society plunged into such a dangerous situation cannot function, the law becomes ever weaker, and so the foundations of civil society itself disappear so that in the end there is no longer even a shadow of an advanced political and social order. When there is a small disturbances, or a great disaster comes, people cannot save themselves and obstacles appear to others helping them, resulting in a great calamity.

The disorders in the Jiangshan district of Wuhan City, although it is located at a subordinate level, the root of the disorder lies at the level of superior authority. The superior authority has been completely consumed with the task of “protecting the country and ruling the country” that they have ignored the sovereignty of the people which is inherent in the “building a civilized country and a free country”. So what do we get? Just what they say in online discussions “by joining together we can do great things” but that immediately becomes “by joining together we can cause a lot of trouble”. The big epidemic in Hubei is proof of that.

Fifth, using “digital totalitarianism” and “Weibo social media terrorism” to rule the country and to control the people. Over the past thirty-odd years, with the basic situation unchanged, the ideological conformity of officials has gone from seeing to build a rich and strong country through “Rejuvenating China”, nationalism and the Four Modernizations to “The Three Represents” and “The New Three People’s Principles” and then to the “new era” of one confusing twist and turn after another. Looking at quality the overall pattern is a rise and then a decline. “The Three Represents” comes at the top and flattening of the trajectory after when we see a decline to the present when we see a naked appeal to “digital totalitarianism” to “defend the country”. It seems to me that trend towards making a transition from Mao-style totalitarianism to authoritarianism halted after the 2008 Beijing Olympics and a contrary trend took hold back towards Mao-style totalitarianism.

This trend has accelerated considerably over the past six years. This accelerating trends relies on unlimited spending on science and technology resources suitable for creating a “1984”type “digital totalitarianism”. Therefore a “social media terrorism” targets all the country great many citizens, using the blood and sweat of the taxpayers to support a vast network of online police so as to monitor and control the words and actions of the entire nation. This system can be called a poison aimed directly at the citizenry. Every gesture that one makes can lead to freezing or closing your social media account, closing down a chatgroup, or even dispatching armed police to your door. This makes everyone feel that they are in danger an feel pressure to censor themselves for fear that some unimaginable punishment will descend upon them. This smothers all chance for public discussion of ideas. This strangles as well means of communication and advance warning mechanisms in society.

Therefore a “fascist military tyranny” is gradually taking shape which moreover is daily showing signs of structural failures and symptoms of its falling apart such as “organizational dysfunctionality” and “institutional incapacity arising the rules of the organization”. Just for this reason, it is not hard to see that facing the big epidemic that the omnipotent totalitarian rule with one monarch in charge of everything unexpectedly manifests itself in state governance as being overwhelmed with problems so that a great manufacturing country finds itself suddenly short of facemasks. In Wuhan and indeed through Hubei Province down to the present there are uncounted multitudes of people who are not getting medical care, they look for medical care but can’t get it, many suffering patients try many avenues to get help but don’t find it. Many are those who have lost their lives and gone to the netherworld. Thus does the true state of the omnipotent as the ultimate incompetent is exposed for all to see. The cause is cutting off communication among people in society, cutting off all sources of information, allowing only Communist Party media and propaganda. This country is always a cripple, if only it were really a giant!

Sixth, revealing all the cards in one’s hand thereby foreclosing any opportunity to make improvements. To put this another way, this ends all hope for “reform and opening” policy. Judging from the many statements between year-end 2018 about “what should be changed”, “what shouldn’t be changed”, and “what certainly won’t change” to the various declarations made in the report of the Fourth Session of the Nineteenth Congress of the Communist Party of China, one can say definitively that the third wave of “reform and opening” in the modern history of China has died of old age. To be certain, it death throes began six years earlier; what this last gasp does is send us a clear and unmistakable signal that this is so. If we were to review twentieth century world history, it has only been right-wing dictatorships that have, under pressure, been capable of making a democratic transition without a great deal of bloodshed. Nonetheless, the last years of the Soviet Union, and especially those of the red totalitarians of the communist countries of Eastern Europe unexpectedly did make a peaceful transition. That was surprising and reassuring.

However, in our country at the moment, the question of whether or not the authorities have closed off that path, rendering a peaceful transition impossible has arisen. If that in fact is what has happened then we have come to a situation in which “If the country prospers, the people will be miserable. If the country falls, the people will also be miserable.” Who could imagine we are back to all that once again! May we hope that once great epidemic passes, all our nation’s people will reflect on this, become more aware of this issue, and consider whether we might be able to embark upon the “fourth wave of reform and opening”!

Seventh, if we continue down this path, as we are already seeing, China has been becoming increasingly isolated from the rest of the world. Over the past hundred-odd years, China has always been switching sides back and forth with respect to the modern world system which originated in Mediterranean culture and reached its peak in the Atlantic civilization. Sometimes China resists that camp and sometimes China goes along with it. China keeps going back and forth, enduring brutal shocks going along its own uncertain path. Over thirty years, having finally calmed down and reflected upon the immense suffering of its recent past, it decided to “give in and listen to reason” and “set itself the task of catching up”, finally even “astonished with its renovation of itself” and “joined the mainstream”.

Unfortunately, in recent years it has committed repeated violations and acted unreasonably, and stated clearly that “reform and opening” has reached its end. The leftist totalitarians have “retreated and can retreat no longer”. They could not accept transforming themselves along with a peaceful transition so they blame the world order. Be that as it may, looking at the big picture, over the course of a much seesaw competition, China because of its vast size and its open attitude in the end was able to rise in the world system, become an important player within that system, and in fact forced a re-definition of just what is the center and what is the periphery. However, an overly aggressive export-oriented policy unsuited to its over national capacity and its current situation, and particular a regressive trend in its internal affairs as the country daily became “more fascist”. These trends made the other players in this system become cautious and even fearful of the rise of the Red Empire which while loudly calling for the construction of a “community of common destiny” is in fact creating a tragic situation by rejecting that community and in fact clearly became more and more isolated. These matters, however complicated they are, are in fact very simple in principle:

  • Can can a regime that cannot treat its own people well treat the world well?
  • How can a nationality that is unwilling to merge with the world cultural and political system possibly ever join in a “community of common destiny”?

That is why, although exchanges on the economic level will continue, China’s isolation from the rest of the world in the sense of a shared cultural community will only be further confirmed. This is not a war of cultures, nor what is commonly used phrase “clash of civilizations” can convey. Even less does it have to do with the fact that a dozen-odd countrie have imposed a ban on receiving travelers from China, or that people around the world just don’t like China, reject China or are just quietly discriminating against China. In this context we can raise the issue of feeling of a “Yellow Peril” emerging. Those who pay the price in the pain of discrimination and isolation are my fellows of Chinese ethnicity but not the rich and powerful among the Chinese.

A better way to put it would be that China, with respect to the modern system of universal values that has formed over the course of long historical trials, has taken up a position in opposition to those values while placing itself within the system of nations by entering into treaty obligations. How then does the living cultural consciousness of my country and my nation and our national philosophy survive by choosing what to select or reject, which orders to accept or reject. In this matter, if we go along, we flourish, if we go against the flow we be isolated. We will not be on the map of global modern political culture, friendless and alone.

The way to turn this around and to rebuild our image as a great country, is to shoulder the burden or our responsibilities. First of all we need to start by building good governance into our internal politics – a good political system founded on “constitutional democracy and a people’s republic” that is ruled effectively. Only then will we be able to break out of our isolation, and take our place among the nations ruled by the laws and principles of the world system. This is the way forward for the survival of our nation, its prosperity and bright future. When that time arrives, we can easily imagine that China will join the G7 making it the G8.

Eighth, the people aren’t afraid anymore. One can put it more verbosely but it comes down to that. The people have had a hard time making a living for themselves, in their hundreds of millions they have endured much misery, “our people” have been tossed back and forth in a turbulent era, that they have long cast aside any in the mythology surrounding authority. Even less would they give up the small measure of civil rights, three meals and a basic decent standard of living, and give all that up to be at the beck and call of some tyrant who would hold them completely under his power. No, on the contrary, especially during this time of a great epidemic, the people are angry and won’t take it anymore. They have themselves witnessed the concealment of information about the epidemic situation, showing clearly their callous and cruel disregard of the people’s well-being. They have seen for themselves all the talk of happiness and prosperity while the people are made to pay the heavy price, cast aside like straw dogs after the ancient sacrifices. They have seen themselves while many people are dying, the authorities are incredible shameless in their deletion of social media accounts, forced into silence people who would speak up, manipulating public sentiment and orchestrating the singing the praises of the leaders. In a word, “I don’t believe it” they say this will not go on any longer.

Some say that the will of the people is invisible and cannot be touched and is the most useless of all things, and that the experience of the world has confirmed this time and again. They are not completely wrong. As a matter of fact, if all the people says “Kill him!” yet he lives out his natural life, then like that great bird which everyone spits on that appears at the end of the world, then people will be shocked to see that Heaven itself it blind, and that Heaven does not stand up for justice. But in fact, Heaven itself is suffering just as we are.

However, if one can say that humaneness is what makes a person a person, and that within every human chest lies a beating human heart, and neither the heart of a world nor the lungs of a dog. Just because of this we have the four sufferings of life: birth, aging, sickness and death and our blending of joys and sorrows. Just because of this we have the blending of disaster and happiness, justice and seeking personal advantage, hatred and love. Because of this flower petals and tears fall, water flows and people are filled with sorrow. What the public yearns for is that cutting through the thistles be as easy as pushing aside dry weeds and crushing rotten woods. As for those who have for year led easy lives prostituted to the authorities, it is not for them to change the channels through which the raging currents are pouring. History will judge them and will not be cheated.

Ninth, the signs of decline have already appeared. The countdown has begun; the day of constitutional governance will come. The PRC Constitution was revised in 2018, opening up a Pandora’s Box. The very moment when centralized power has reached its apex is the moment when the reverse trend takes hold. From here on out we’ll see it running madly in reverse showing finally many symptoms of decay. Even leaving aside the matter of the loss of popular support, the problems discussed above we see how strong man politics produces results contrary to expectations such as the policy failure with respect to Hong Kong and Taiwan and the disarray in Sino-American relations, the irretrievable onset of economic decline, China’s global isolation clearly demonstrate the failure in China’s governance which is flying in the face of common sense in modern governance. Everyone now faces a depressing situation in which fear has already turned into deadlock, thinking hard and worrying about how the game will open and the changes that will be taking place.

Insisting that an internal change will be able to break that deadlock is like fishing for the moon in a pool of water. The development of the Hong Kong and Taiwan situations have already moved from peripheral issues to the center of attention towards a breakthrough that may open up a slim chance of survival. These kinds of breakthroughs on the periphery are gradually moving to center stage a way forward to a peaceful transition. On the other hand, it may further constrict the possibilities of any more progress on the great Chinese-style opening.

These days, what my friend calls the “troubled city” may turn out to be the New Jerusalem of the old community of China. In other words, the breakthroughs at the periphery means that for the second time in modern Chinese history, we will see the dawn of constitutional government. At this critical juncture, the day wants to dawn, bring light where there is no light, while power strives to hold onto the past and reject any innovation, rejecting public opinion. That remarkable door has already opened; it can be foreseen that many will die before the dawn comes.

The nine points above, I submit to my nation’s people, are all common sense. As I have said several times before, because the governance of the country has not yet entered into a normal state, the nation’s political culture is still not a modern one. Moreover, being aware of its numerous advantages, let us insist upon “constitutional democracy in a people’s republic” to bring to an end this already fifty-year long cultural transition. Just because of this, how could we, “we the people” ever be “as lazy as a pig, as subservient as a dog, and as shameless as a maggot”? !

At this point I would like to review how since 2018 I have been punished for my speech, have been reduced in rank and suspended from my position, have been compelled to remain at school under surveillance, and have been troubled by the restrictions on my movements. I expect that new punishments will befall me for writing this article. This may well prove to be the last article I write in this life; there is no way of knowing.

However, now that the epidemic has come, and I find myself standing on a cliff’s edge, I have the responsibility to speak out. I cannot shirk this responsibility. There is no evading it. Otherwise we would be even less than those pigs who are slaughtered and their meat sold.

Yes, it is true what the western philosophers say about righteous anger which contains both righteousness and anger. When I reflect upon the teaching of ancient sages of my Chinese homeland that righteousness and humanity are one: — that “The feelings of the people illuminates the way that should be followed” in these disturbed times which make of a dusty scholars in their studies intellectuals , joining in the battles of their times even at the cost of their own lives. After all, freedom, is a kind of existence that transcends the here-and-now as well as the pursuit of goal. Freedom is the most spiritual of the phenomena in our world. Freedom is what individuals find in the free gift of themselves to others. The sons and daughters cannot be held apart as an exception to this. This world spirit, this spirit here on Earth, is nothing but the splendid flowering of the idea of liberty. Therefore, friends, my hundreds of millions of compatriots, even though the inferno lies before us, what have we to fear!

You, this great land that lies beneath my feet, you have so much love and so much hard-hearted ness, so little good fortune and so many hardships. You have worn out our patience. You have bit by tiny bit peeled away our self-respect. I don’t know whether I should curse you or I should praise you. What I do know, however, what I know very painfully, is that whenever I think of you I cannot keep my tears from overflowing from my eyes and my mind from filling with painful sorrows. Yes, indeed, it is like what the poet chanted, “I will not go quietly into the that good night, the sunset of old age should brightly burn, in anger at the fading of the light”.

Therefore scholars are good for nothings. They sigh their long sighs. Their only sword is their pen, discussing fairness, demanding righteousness.

In this great epidemic seeing all the chaos that has ensued, I hope that my compatriots, my 1.4 billion brothers and sisters both young and old, the vast multitude who will never be able to flee this land, that all should roar with anger at infamy, one and all consumed with burning anger for righteousness’ sake, and pierce the night’s pestilential mists to greet the dawn. Everyone together with all your strength, your hearts and your lives embrace the sunlight of freedom that will soon descend upon this land!

Drafted completed on the fourth day of the first month of the 37th year of the sexagenary cycle. Revised final version completed on the ninth day as a big snow suddenly fell outside my window.

Chinese text

许章润:愤怒的人民已不再恐惧

如诗人所咏,“我不要温和地走进那个良夜,老年应当在日暮时燃烧咆哮;怒斥,怒斥那光明的消逝。”因而,书生无用,一声长叹,只能执笔为剑,讨公道,求正义。
二月。墨水足够用来痛哭,
大放悲声抒写二月,

一直到轰响的泥泞,

燃起黑色的春天。

——帕斯捷尔纳克

  豕鼠交替之际,九衢首疫,举国大疫,一时间神州肃杀,人心惶惶。公权进退失据,致使小民遭殃,疫疠散布全球,中国渐成世界孤岛。此前三十多年“改革开放”辛苦积攒的开放性状态,至此几乎毁于一旦,一巴掌把中国尤其是它的国家治理打回前现代状态。而断路封门,夹杂着不断发生的野蛮人道灾难,迹近中世纪。原因则在于当轴上下,起则钳口而瞒骗,继则诿责却邀功,眼睁睁错过防治窗口。垄断一切、定于一尊的“组织性失序”和只对上负责的“制度性无能”,特别是孜孜于“保江山”的一己之私而置亿万国民于水火的政体“道德性败坏”,致使人祸大于天灾,在将政体的德性窳败暴露无遗之际,抖露了前所未有的体制性虚弱。至此,人祸之灾,于当今中国伦理、政治、社会与经济,甚于一场全面战争。再说一遍,甚于一场全面战争。此可谓外寇未逞其志,而家贼先祸其国。老美或有打击中国经济之思,不料当轴急先锋也。尤其是疫疠猖獗当口,所谓“亲自”云云,心口不一,无耻之尤,更令国人愤慨,民心丧尽。

  是的,国民的愤怒已如火山喷发,而愤怒的人民将不再恐惧。至此,放眼世界体系,揆诸全球政治周期,综理戊戌以来的国情进展,概略下述九项,兹此敬呈国人。

  首先,政治败坏,政体德性罄尽。保家业、坐江山,构成了这一政体及其层峰思维的核心,开口闭口的“人民群众”不过是搜刮的税收单位,数目字管理下的维稳对象和“必要代价”,供养着维续这个极权政体的大小无数蝗虫。公权上下隐瞒疫情,一再延宕,只为了那个围绕着“核心”的灯红酒绿、歌舞升平,说明心中根本就无生民无辜、而人命关天之理念,亦无全球体系中休戚相关之概念。待到事发,既丢人现眼,更天良丧尽,遭殃的是小民百姓。权力核心仍在,而低效与乱象并生,尤其是网警效命恶政,动如鹰犬,加班加点封锁信息,而信息不胫而走,说明特务政治临朝,国安委变成最具强力部门,虽无以复加,却已然前现代,有用复无用矣。其实,老祖宗早已明言,防民之口甚于防川,哪怕网信办再有能耐,也对付不了十四万万张嘴,古人岂余欺哉!盖因一切围绕江山打转,自以为权力无所不能,沉迷于所谓“领袖”之自欺,而终究欺瞒不住。大疫当前,却又毫无领袖德识,捉襟见肘,累死前方将士,祸殃亿万民众,却还在那里空喊政治口号,这个那个,煞有介事,令国人齿冷,让万方见笑。此亦非他,乃政体之“道德性败坏”也。若说七十年里连绵灾难早已晓瑜万众极权之恶,则此番大疫,更将此昭显无遗。惟盼吾族亿万同胞,老少爷们,长记性,少奴性,在一切公共事务上运用自己的理性,不要再为极权殉葬。否则,韭菜们,永难得救。

  其次,僭主政治下,政制溃败,三十多年的技术官僚体系终结。曾几何时,在道德动机和利益动机双重驱动下,一大批技术官僚型干才上阵,而终究形成了一种虽不理想、弊端重重、但却于特定时段顶事儿的技术官僚体系。其间一大原因,就在于挂钩于职位升迁的政绩追求,激发了贫寒子弟入第后的献身冲动。至于乘势而上的红二们,从来尸位素餐,酒囊饭袋,成事不足败事有余,在此不论。可惜,随着最近几年的不断整肃,红色江山老调重弹,只用听话的,自家的,其结果,技术官僚体系的德性与干才,其基于政绩升迁的那点儿冲动,不知不觉,乃消失殆尽。尤其是所谓“红色基因”的自家人判准及其圈定,让天下寒心而灰心,进而,离德离心。于是,这便出现了官场上普遍平庸而萎顿委琐之态。鄂省乱象,群魔乱舞,不过一隅,其实省省如此,举朝如此矣。其间原因,就在于这个后领袖时代,领袖制本身就在摧毁治理结构,口言现代治理却使整个国家治理陷入无结构性之窘境。此间症状,正为“组织性失序”和“制度性无能”。君不见,惟一人马首是瞻,而一人暝朦,治国无道,为政无方,却弄权有术,遂举国遭罪。百官无所适从,善者只堪支应,想做事而不敢做事,恶者混水摸鱼,不做事却还搅事,甚而火中取栗,遂劣胜优汰,一团乱象矣。

  再次,内政治理全面隳颓。由此急转直下,遂表现为下述两方面。一方面,经济下滑已成定势,今年势必雪上加霜,为“风波”以来所未有,将“组织性失序”和“制度性无能”推展至极。至于举国信心下跌、产权恐惧、政学愤懑、社会萎缩、文化出版萧条,惟剩狗屁红歌红剧,以及无耻文痞歌功颂德之肉麻兮兮,早成事实。而最为扼腕之处,则为对于港台形势之误判,尤其是拒不兑现基本法的普选承诺,着着臭棋,致使政治公信力跌至谷底,导致中国最为富庶文明之地的民众之离心离德,令世界看清这一政体的无赖嘴脸。那边厢,中美关系失序,而基于超级大国没有纯粹内政的定律,这是关乎国运之荦荦大端。恰恰在此,当轴颟顸,再加上碰到个大洋国的特没谱,遂一塌糊涂。网议“帝国主义亡我之心不死”,想做而没做成的事,却让他做成了,岂只调侃,而实锥心疼痛也哉。另一方面,几年来公权加紧限制与摧毁社会发育,钳口日甚,导致社会预警机制疲弱乃至于丧失,遇有大疫,便从封口而封城,死心复死人矣。因而,不难理解的是,与此相伴而来的,便是政治市侩主义与庸俗实用主义蔓延政治,无以复加,表明作为特殊时段的特殊现象登场的“知青政治”,早已德识俱亡。可以说,上上下下,他们是四十年来最为不堪的一届领导。因而,此时此刻,兑现《宪法》第35条,解除报禁,解除对于网络的特务式管控,实现公民言论自由和良心自由,坐实公民游行示威和包括结社在内的各项自组织权利,尊重全体国民的普遍人权,特别是政治普选的权利,而且,对于病毒的来源、隐瞒疫情的责任人及其体制性根源,启动独立追责机制,才是“战后重建”之大道,也是当务之急也。

  复次,内廷政治登场。几年来的集权行动,党政一体之加剧,特别是以党代政,如前所述,几乎将官僚体制瘫痪。动机既靡,尾大不掉,遂以纪检监察为鞭,抽打这个机体卖命,维续其等因奉此,逶迤着拖下去。而因言论自由和现代文官体制阙如,更无所谓“国王忠诚的反对者”在场,鞭子本身亦且不受督约,复以国安委一统辖制下更为严厉之铁腕统领,最后层层归属,上统于一人。而一人肉身凡胎,不敷其用,党国体制下又无分权制衡体制来分责合力,遂聚亲信合议。于是,内廷生焉。说句大白话,就是 “集体领导”分解为“九龙治水”式寡头政制失效、相权衰落之际,领袖之小圈子成为“国中之国”,一个类似于老美感喟的隐形结构。揆诸既往,“1949政体”常态之下,官僚体系负责行政,纵便毛时代亦且容忍周相一亩三分地。“革委会”与“人保组”之出现,打散这一结构,终至不可维持。晚近四十年里,多数时候“君相”大致平衡,党政一体而借行政落实党旨。只是到了这几年,方始出现这一最为封闭无能、阴鸷森森之内廷政治,而彻底堵塞了重建常态政治之可能性也。一旦进路闭锁,彼此皆无退路,则形势紧绷,大家都做不了事,只能眼睁睁看着情形恶化,终至不可收拾之境。置此情形下,经济社会早已遭受重创,风雨飘摇于世俗化进程中的伦理社会不堪托付,市民社会羸弱兮兮,公民社会根本就不存在,至于最高境界的政治社会连个影子都没有,则一旦风吹草动,大灾来临,自救无力,他救受阻,必致祸殃。此番江夏之乱,现象在下,而根子在上,在于这个孜孜于“保江山,坐江山”,而非立定于人民主权、“以文明立国,以自由立国”的体制本身。结果,其情其形,恰如网议之“集中力量办大事”,顿时变成了“集中力量惹大事”。江夏大疫,再次佐证而已矣。

  第五,以“大数据极权主义”及其“微信恐怖主义”治国驭民。过往三十多年,在底色不变的前提下,官方意识形态口径经历了从“振兴中华”的民族主义和“四化”的富强追求,到“三个代表”和“新三民主义”,再至“新时代”云云的第次转折。就其品质而言,总体趋势是先升后降,到达“三个代表”抛物线顶端后一路下走,直至走到此刻一意赤裸裸“保江山”的“大数据极权主义”。相应的,看似自毛式极权向威权过渡的趋势,在“奥运”后亦且止住,而反转向毛氏极权回归,尤以晚近六年之加速为甚。因其动用奠立于无度财政汲取的科技手段,这便形成了“1984”式“大数据极权主义”。缘此而来,其“微信恐怖主义”直接针对亿万国民,用纳税人的血汗豢养着海量网警,监控国民的一言一行,堪为这个体制直接对付国民的毒瘤。而动辄停号封号,大面积封群,甚至动用治安武力,导致人人自危,在被迫自我审查之际,为可能降临的莫名处罚担忧。由此窒息了一切公共讨论的思想生机,也扼杀了原本应当存在的社会传播与预警机制。由此,“基于法西斯主义的军功僭主政治”渐次成型,却又日益表现出“组织性失序”和“制度性无能”,其非结构性与解结构性。职是之故,不难理解,面对大疫,无所不能的极权统治在赳赳君临一切的同时,恰恰于国家治理方面居然捉襟见肘,制造大国一时间口罩难求。那江夏城内,鄂省全境,至今尚有无数未曾收治、求医无门、辗转哀嚎的患者,还不知有多少因此而命丧黄泉者,将此无所不能与一无所能,暴露得淋漓尽致。盖因排除社会与民间,斩断一切信息来源,只允许党媒宣传,这个国家永远是跛脚巨人,如果确为巨人的话。

  第六,底牌亮出,锁闭一切改良的可能性。换言之,所谓的“改革开放”死翘翘了。从2018年底之“该改的”、“不该改的”与“坚决不改”云云,至去秋十九届四中全会公报之诸般宣示,可得断言者,中国近代史上的第三波“改革开放”,终于寿终正寝。其实,这一死亡过程至少起自六年前,只不过至此算是明示无误而已。回头一望,二十世纪全球史上,但凡右翼极权政治,迫于压力,皆有自我转型的可能性,而无需诉诸大规模流血。纵便是“苏东波”,尤其是东欧共产诸国等红色极权政体,居然亦且和平过渡,令人诧异而欣慰。但吾国刻下,当局既将路径锁闭,则和平过渡是否可能,顿成疑问。若果如此,则“兴,百姓苦;亡,百姓苦”,夫复何言!但愿此番大疫过后,全民反省,举国自觉,看看尚能重启“第四波改革开放”否!?

  第七,由此顺流直下,中国再度孤立于世界体系,已成定局。百多年里,对于这个起自近代地中海文明、盛极于大西洋文明的现代世界体系,中国上演了多场“抗拒”与“顺从”的拉锯战,反反复复,跌跌撞撞。晚近三十多年里,痛定思痛,“低头致意”以及“迎头赶上”,乃至于“别开生面”,蔚为主流。惜乎近年再度犯二,犯横,表明“改开”走到头了,左翼极权“退无可退”,无法于和平过渡中完成自我转型,因而,也就怪异于现代世界体系。虽则如此,总体而言,几番拉锯下来,中国以其浩瀚体量与开放性态度,终于再度跻身现代世界体系,成为这个体系的重要博弈者,重新诠释着所谓“中心—边缘”的地缘叙事,也是事实。但是,与国力和时势不相匹配、太过张扬的外向型国策,尤其是内政回头,日益“法西斯化”,引发这个体系中的其他博弈者对于红色帝国崛起的戒慎戒惧,导致在高喊“人类命运共同体”之际却为共同体所实际拒斥的悲剧,而日呈孤立之势,更是眼面前的事实。事情很复杂而道理却很简单,一个不能善待自己国民的政权,怎能善待世界;一个不肯融入现代政治文明体系中的国族,你让人怎么跟你共同体嘛!故尔,经济层面的交通互存还将继续存在,而文明共同体意义上的孤立却已成事实。此非文化战争,亦非通常所谓“文明冲突”一词所能打发,更非迄今一时间数十个国家对中国实施旅行禁限,以及世界范围的厌华、拒华与贬华氛围之悄悄潮涨这么简单。——在此可得提示者,隐蔽的“黄祸”意识势必顺势冒头,而买单承受歧视与隔离之痛的只会是我华族同胞,而非权贵——毋宁,关乎对于历经磨难方始凝练而成的现代世界普世价值的顺逆从违,而牵扯到置身列国体系的条约秩序之中,吾国吾族如何生存的生命意志及其国族哲学,其取舍,其从违。在此,顺昌逆亡,则所谓孤立者,全球现代政治文明版图上之形单影只、孤家寡人也。扭转这一局面,重建负责任大国形象,担负起应担之责,而首先自良善内政起始,必然且只能皈依人类普世文明大道,特别是要坐实“主权在民”这一立国之本。在此,内政,还是内政,一种“立宪民主,人民共和”的良善政体及其有效治理,才是摆脱孤立、自立于世界体系的大经大法,而为国族生存与昌盛之康庄大道也。那时节,顺时应势,中国加入G7 而成G8,亦且并非不可想象者也。

  第八,人民已不再恐惧。而说一千道一万,就在于生计多艰、历经忧患的亿万民众,多少年里被折腾得一佛升天二佛出世的“我们人民”,早已不再相信权力的神话,更不会将好不容易获得的那一丝丝市民自由与三餐温饱的底线生计,俯首帖耳地交还给僭主政制,任凭他们生杀予夺。毋宁,尤其是经此大疫,人民怒了,不干了。他们目睹了欺瞒疫情不顾生民安危的刻薄寡恩,他们身受着为了歌舞升平而视民众为刍狗的深重代价,他们更亲历了无数生命在分分钟倒下,却还在封号钳口、开发感动、歌功颂德的无耻荒唐。一句话,“我不相信”,老子不干了。若说人心看不见摸不着,最最无用,似乎经验世界早已对此佐证再三,也不无道理。这不,万民皆曰可杀,他却坐享天年,如那个人人唾骂之李大鸟者,令人感慨天不长眼,天道不公,可实际上,天是苦难本身,与我们一同受罪。但是,假如说人之为人,就在于人人胸腔里跳动着一颗人心,而非狼心狗肺,其因生老病死而悲欣交集,其因祸福义利而恨爱交加,其因落花而落泪、流水而伤怀,则人心所向,披荆斩棘,摧枯拉朽矣!人心丧尽之际,便是末日到来之时!至于脑残与岁月静好婊们,一群乌合之众,历史从来不是他们抒写的,更不因他们而改变奔流的航道,同样证之于史,不予欺也。

  第九,败象已现,倒计时开始,立宪时刻将至。戊戌修宪,开启邪恶之门,集权登顶之际,恰恰是情势反转之时。自此一路狂奔倒退,终至败象连连。撇开人心已丧不论,则前文叙及之港台应对失策与中美关系失序,以及经济下滑之不可遏止、全球孤立,表明治理失败,违忤现代政治常识的强人政治事与愿违。大家面对闷局而恐惧其已成僵局,苦思焦虑其开局与再布局,期期于内部生变式与自下而上式之破局犹如水中捞月之时,港台形势发展实已自边缘捅破铁桶,而开辟出一线生机。此种自边缘破局、而渐进于中心的和平过渡之道,或许,将成为中国式大转型的收束进路。此时,吾友所说之“难城”,或为华夏旧邦新命之耶路撒冷。换言之,边缘突破意味着现代中国的立宪时刻再度即将降临。当此关口,天欲晓,将明未明,强权抱残守缺,不肯服膺民意,则崇高之门既已打开,可得预言者,必有大量身影倒毙于黎明前矣。

  以上九点,呈诸国民,均为常识。而一再申说,就在于国家治理未入常态政治轨道,国族政治文明有待现代转型,而于积善前行中,期期以“立宪民主,人民共和”收束这波已然延续一个半世纪的文明大转型。正是在此,我们,“我们人民”,岂能“豬一般的苟且,狗一樣的奴媚,蛆蟲似的卑污”?!

  行文至此,回瞰身后,戊戌以来,在下因言获罪,降级停职,留校察看,行止困限。此番作文,预感必有新罚降身,抑或竟为笔者此生最后一文,亦未可知。但大疫当前,前有沟壑,则言责在身,不可推诿,无所逃遁。否则,不如杀猪卖肉。是的,义愤,如西哲所言,正是义愤,惟义与愤所在,惟吾土先贤揭橥之仁与义这一 “人心人路”之激荡,令书斋学者成为知识分子,直至把性命搭进去。毕竟,自由,一种超验存在和行动指归,一种最具神性的世界现象,是人之为人的禀赋,华夏儿女不能例外。而世界精神,那个地上的神,不是别的,就是自由理念的绚烂展开。如此,朋友,我的亿万同胞,纵然火湖在前,何所惧哉!

  脚下的这片大地啊,你深情而寡恩,少福却多难。你一点点耗尽我们的耐心,你一寸寸斫丧我们的尊严。我不知道该诅咒你,还是必须礼赞你,但我知道,我分明痛切地知道,一提起你,我就止不住泪溢双眼,心揪得痛。是啊,是啊,如诗人所咏,“我不要温和地走进那个良夜,老年应当在日暮时燃烧咆哮;怒斥,怒斥那光明的消逝。”因而,书生无用,一声长叹,只能执笔为剑,讨公道,求正义。置此大疫,睹此乱象,愿我同胞,十四万万兄弟姐妹,我们这些永远无法逃离这片大地的亿万生民,人人向不义咆哮,个个为正义将生命怒燃,刺破夜瘴迎接黎明,齐齐用力、用心、用命,拥抱那终将降临这片大地的自由的太阳!

庚子正月初四初稿,初九定稿,窗外突降大雪

About 高大伟 David Cowhig

After retirement translated,with wife Jessie, Liao Yiwu's 2019 "Bullets and Opium", and have been studying things 格物致知. Worked 25 years as a US State Department Foreign Service Officer including ten years at US Embassy Beijing and US Consulate General Chengdu and four years as a China Analyst in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Before State I translated Japanese and Chinese scientific and technical books and articles into English freelance for six years. Before that I taught English at Tunghai University in Taiwan for three years. And before that I worked two summers on Norwegian farms, milking cows and feeding chickens.
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