Wang Dan on China and his beliefs

First, by posting this here, it will ensure that I will never be able to access SwampBubbles in China. China'’s loss is your gain and when I go there next I may be able to access the site through some tricks. We will see, regardless…....
I apologize for the late post. I am not going to do much editing, this is just a warning that there will be problems. Hopefully they will not interfere with what was said. I was honored to see a man who stood up to the communists in China and lived to talk about it. I have an intimate knowledge of what happens to some Chinese citizens on the wrong side of a false allegation and how much corruption occurs in China.


I had the opportunity tonight to listen to Wang Dan speak at the University of Michigan Law School. You may or may not remember, Wang Dan was one of the leaders of the 1989 Democracy movement in China and was one of the leaders in Tiananmen Square student protests. Wang Dan spoke with a very thick accent. I am normally used to listening to non-native English speaking Chinese, but his was particularly hard to follow, but I could follow what he was saying.

Wang Dan started talking about corruption. He said the only way to eliminate corruption was through establishment of democratic institutions. Corruption has become worse and worse.

Aftermath of June 4 was the communist party has refused to embark on any reform.

People avoided political participation because they were afraid.

It was a victory for authoritarianism and a victory for corruption.

Communist party learned its lesson.

Communist used economic reform to strengthen power.

Even some of the issues that still face China today were the concerns they [student leaders] had in 1989.

Democratic movement did not produce radical events. When students started on hunger strike, wanted 2 things amend previous agreement (could not hear) and open an dialog with officials. They also wanted someone to resign (did not hear).

Government refused to accept a golden situation.

Those who claim it was a student issue, they have a one sided opinion about reform process.

What happened people were disappointed, there was never any student movement that caused China to not accept democracy. Some people blame the student movement on lack of democratic reforms. You can look at what happened in Hong Kong. They have a very stable social and large middle class, and why China Government refuses to hold elections in 07 and 2012...blame can'’t be placed on student movement.

One thing is to protect and never forget historical truths.

Communists have used their power to accumulate large sums of money. This is the secret.

Economic growth has not led to democratic reforms and has become the excuse to reject democratic reform.

Some government efforts to improve economy, instead of reform to bring democracy, pro
democracy watchers are watching a growning authoritarian government. Chinese government has been accused of the brutal prosecution of people.

Future of China, next few decades crucial period, if China moves toward democracy many great things will happen across the world. Economic development leads to democracy.

Western should not lose sight in encouraging democracy. Deal with growing society is to deal with China of tomorrow.

International community can help cultivate China by providing support and pressure. They can also support intellectuals and support education. They can accelerate construction of civil society. Allow US government to pressure China government.
Allow universities to discuss China, to increase interest.

Provide democratic experiences. A new republic of China will become a great friend of the United States.

Next there were questions and answers. It never ceases to amaze me at some Chinese who are angry with people who speak out on China. Some may say this is like the Dixie Chicks speaking out against America, but what they don't realize is that people like Wang Dan have been exiled from their contry. I guess this is what happens when you are constantly told the government can do no wrong. Wang Dan is probably used to the questions and the attitudes and he answered them without any hesitation regardless of how critical they were. I guess when you take on the government, a few students is not that big of a deal. I took better notes in this section because the questions and answers were translated into English.

Questions and answer time.

Question 1: Thank for your talk and courage to make China a better place. What is your
biggest lesson from 1989? What is your suggestion to young students considering 1989?

Wang Dan: It started out as a student movement then became a reform movement. The only wish we had was to express what we thought better. However student movement was transformed into a political and social movement after the hunger strike. What I
regretted, as one of the leaders, we did not notice the transformation in time. We needed new techniques, we still used the techniques of a student movement what turned into a political movement. Political and social movements requires techniques such as compromising and talking with different groups. Tell the truth my feelings are mixed, I am encouraged and disappointed with current student. We all read my recent article in Time, our values are self-centered. We must have more responsibility. The responsibility I refer to is toward community and society for things you observe and what this generation lacks is responsibility. Remain hopefully because future belongs to your generation. As a young generation they will grow up in time.

Question 2: In 1962 country was tested, internationial movement agree to sponsor international debate between students, business leaders, come up with a way to internationally come up with access to communications.

Wang Dan: Today China’'s problems are international problems. Not just related to US. We will need to think what US and China will be in the next few years. We always know that after 10 years China will have a stronger economy and military. You can imagine what would happen if such a strong country is not democratized. You can tell by Japan and Germany what happens. Without democracy a strong country will lean toward path of authoritarian. In the future, when China becomes democratic country, it will affect the
world. However, the West has a wrong perception, to check China by hindering development. (he says as a joke highlighting the corruption) The international world should bribe China into democracy. In other words the West should introduce China to the world and give access to more resources so it has access to more democracy. That is what the Western governments should do, give more pressure. So much, American government should give access to Chinese people, and American people should pressure Chinese government.

Question 3: When I hear from you I am emotional. You think you are an expert in economics, democracy and understanding China, I don'’t know. First student movement, we had friends signing a petition to support you, to encourage the student movement. Made a good statement…..and made it clear…..have you apologized you started something you did? Did you imagine the political and social, what happened, you think everything?

Wang Dan: First I never presented myself as an expert. Blame organizer for saying I am an expert. We do a lot of thinking but the responsibility is on the government. To use military on students without weapons is murder. Blame students mistaken or government who did a crime. At Harvard, they request what you said is dirty language was nonsense.

Question 4: What is your opinion on the Taiwan and China unification?

As a Chinese, I would like to see both come together, but question is when and how. At least in the foreseeable future, I see neither hope for independence and reunification, unless the mainland government wanted to unify the island by force, but I don'’t think they would use force, generally speaking, not a real question. I believe nothing will be better than democratization then both sides coming together.

Question 5: Current Chinese government making an effort to improve democracy. Claim China used military and have you consider why they used military force? Do you know where the other leaders are now?

Wang Dan: One of the primary reasons they wanted to exile us is to keep us away from Chinese citizens. Our main effort is toward the mainland, therefore I do not think I am too far away from China. So you know China through Internet. I think certain judgements were made through values. If you ask if they engange in reform the issue is no. To provide 2 pieces of evidence, as student of Marxism we need to look at mainstream, therefore when we anaylize political institution to see if mainstream has engaged in reform. Look at 4 factors; 1. military, 2. personnel, 3. propaganda, 5. Judicial. Whether the military can be internationalized and whether judicial can be independent. If no changes in any of these areas, it is hard to say changes have taken place. Secondly, even if China engages in democratization, I would like the government to refrain from doing something. For example in 88 when I was a freshman I organized a democracy salon and was not considered a threat. But imagine being there today, a person would be placed under arrest. Someone as a person who expresses his/her own political views are still subject to arrest, it is hard to see what progress has been made. Why government had to use military force, you can ask the government, but I will provide an answer. You can read all the books on authoritarian and a common secret will be to create terror in society by all possible means. Two years ago, I moved to Los Angeles. I joined a Chinese writers association, that was a welcoming party planned and a writer from mainland China did not attend because of his fear not being able to return to China if he went. It is precisely because military oppression that terror like this can exist. Therefore it is central government means to use force to instill fear. Other leaders are too busy making money to care, but me. Other leaders are making money in distance learning and investments. However, all of their wealth is less than whatever one makes, because he is a banker, Therefore they are all active participants in international economy. And I am still poor.

Question 6: Thank you for your inspiration. I think central government has played positive role in economic development, India, does not play role, it does not play, and there is social unrest in because multi-demsional [sic] companies cause problem, Chinese government is providing stability, so in my opinion, an economy needs protection and transistion from authoriartian to democracy. I think a strong government can play positive role. Social unrest if China develops quickly.

Wang Dan: I think one of be biggest misperceptions of international community against China it the economic reform. Today when we think about China people all talk about economic development. However, economic development is not the only thing that concerns China. We should look at different issues. Even though there is economic development, Hu Jintao said we need to develop a more ideological society. With corruption you don’'t have economic development. At the same time economic development solves many problems. So I can see why corruption can slow down economic development, more free media would solve the problem of corruption. Your second question infers that democracy causes instability. From what I have seen democracy is only one way to manage country and does not guarantee successful management of a country. You can run it in a healthy way and another way to bring it back to society. So if you feel that democracy will bring problems to society, you should not stop, manage it in a good way. I don’t think democracy will lead to social instability.

Question: State government control of the history of the student movement, how has it been? What do you think about what China has done?

Wang Dan: It a shame they[students] don’'t know about what happened. Students are affected by government control of communication. Students coming to western countries would have a better chance on learning about it. This is the government, we can’'t do much about it.

Question: Zhao ZiYang and your feelings about him? Did you think you should have him on your side?

WD: For a long time I though ZZY was a hero. And government can fool people. And what strikes me the most ZZY he had the option of standing by the side, at that moment his humanity overcame his humanity and he made a decision. Now we know that in 1190s they talked about ZZY came out supporting but he said rejected that. That made me admire him even more. Of course there is a lot of things we can rethink, it is a questionable to have hunger strike, we probably should not have had it. However it is a pure student decision, it is not an excuse and I don’t apologize. We were so inexperienced at that time. I regret that. Secondly there is more experienced people there who did not stand up and blamed students for all bad results.

Question: Russia and Easter European countries democratized. China is better off than those countries. What do you think could factor into the difference?

Wang Dan: There has been plenty of discussion whether Russia’s reforms or Chinas has been more successful. This is my own personal opinion, it is more desirable to have political reform before strong economy. Result of reallocation of national resources, they would put the resources into the hands of powerful. Therefore it is more harmful to develop economy without democratic reforms. Hard for anyone to predict what will happen to social complex in China given today’s state. Therefore it is too early to render a verdict.

Question: Talk about Pai Ling she suggested Chinese government kill the students? Do you think she has a problem suggesting that.

Wang Dan: One person’'s suggestion cannot represent an entire movement. In Chinese interview, you will only see a few sentences of what she spoke, not in context to what she really said. So far her perspective at age of 20 she has been through struggles and her spirit has been beaten it is easier for her to say that. I don’t think it is fair for us to think about what she did during entire movement. For you to take a few sentences is not fair. So no matter what she said, we think she is the person that left, should we judge by what she said or what she did.

Question: Even though I was young and I have parents. They told me what happened. I am from TianJin and had similar student movement. It is not a bunch of students def going on and going out of control. Not judging if the government did right or wrong. Where were you, and why some people were killed why student leaders live happy life and making free trips?

Wang Dan: Students may be mistaken of statregies, and the government absolutely committeed crime. Student leaders are those who survived, some who died. Blame PLA men who could not shoot well who made me survive. To answer other question, where I was... I left Tiananmen square 613 to attened meeting. At the time it happened I was there.

Thank you

The talk ended 1:20 minutes after it started. I do have some pictures which I will upload later. I hope you enjoy it.

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