Re: FW: [ The Rise of China's New Left---Far East Economic Review article]
Daniel Frederick Vukovich <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Thu, 19 Apr 2007 13:48:06 +0800
Internet Messaging Program (IMP) 3.2.2
I agree with our anonymous colleague. Mr Harmony indeed! The article does
over-state the influence; from what I understand even Wang Hui is fairly
marginalized within academe across and up from the harbor here. Still I think
they all (maybe not all! I dont know enough...) deserve our support, even if
critical support. I find it useful, all the time, just to refer to the
existence of the 'New Left" just to try and indicate to students and colonial
gentlemen and gentlewomen that alternative views of the revolution, Mao and the
reforms exist. And Han Yuhai and Wang Hui (just to speak of folks in China
proper)really help me think. Very very happy that "the" New Left exists at
But speaking of gender, are there any folks in this "circle" that attend to
gender and feminism? It is obviously quite crucial (to put it mildly) and can
be a key leverage point in making critical analysis of what happened in the Mao
era versus today, and the return to positioning women as only consumers and
objects (in discourse)and not as "producers." Think of the iconography of
Chinese women now, as opposed to in the Mao era; whatever else we say, it is
such an obvious regression in many ways. Or is the "feminist" movement and
academic scene quite separate to these other folks? I'm not casting
aspersions, by any means, just curious.
Daniel F. Vukovich
Comparative Literature, School of Humanities
208 Main Bldg.
The University of Hong Kong
(852) 2859 7934
Quoting Saul Thomas <email@example.com>:
> An anonymous list member writes:
> [begin forwarded message]----------------------
> I have some quick reactions that I need to get off my chest: it's too
> much to say that Hu is like Mao (none of the three leaders are like
> Mao): one is Mr. Harmony while the other is Mr. Class Struggle. Where is
> the resemblance?
> There is no class analysis in any of the new leftists interviewed. It's
> as if even they (not to speak of the interviewer...) believe that a few
> intellectuals have made that much difference in re-steering the trends
> of thinking. Not to downplay the role of intellectuals, but [their
> influence amounts to] a mole hill compared to the mountain of 74,000
> collective protests.
> It's interesting to see how new leftists represent themselves.
> Daniel F. Vukovich wrote:
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: Xudong Zhang [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
> > Sent: April 17, 2007 1:25 AM
> > To: undisclosed-recipients:
> > Subject: [Fwd: The Rise of China's New Left---Far East Economic Review
> > FAR EASTERN ECONOMIC REVIEW
> > The Rise of China�塜 New Left
> > April 2007
> > by Leslie Hook
> > Wang Shaoguang, a professor of politics at Chinese University in Hong Kong,
> leans forward in his chair, beaming, and says that China is at a tipping
> point. � call it the �鹋reat
transformation,�⒝�� he exclaims. �n
> addition to economic policy, for the first time China now has social
> policies.�� Before economic reform it was not necessary to have
> social policy, he says, because society and economy were deeply intertwined.
> > For Mr. Wang this shift, long overdue, is good news. This articulate former
> Yale professor is one of a loose grouping of Chinese intellectuals, dubbed
> the �爗ew left,�� who point to rising income
inequality and argue that the
> country�塜 emphasis on economic growth should be leavened with
> democratic policies that redistribute wealth. And that is precisely what is
> starting to happen.
> > The social policy trend is linked to a revival of central government power.
> In 1995, the government�塜 tax revenue as a share of GDP reached
a nadir of
> 9.9%. After a concerted effort to improve collection, last year the figure
> reached 18.1%, roughly the level of 1987. And of course real GDP has tripled
> in that same period, meaning the government has plenty of cash to beef up the
> military, invest in infrastructure and still spend more on social welfare.
> > The rebound in fiscal muscle tracks with Mr.
> > Wang�塜 diagnosis of the current transformation.
> > �⇨conomy and society were embedded during socialist times, then
> disembedded and now they are becoming re-embedded,�� he says.
> > �晍ou see this in health care and education
especially.�� He explains
> that state withdrawal from areas like health care and education during the
> heady economic reform of the 1980s and 1990s left huge inequities that are
> now beginning to be filled.
> > China�塜 policy track record bears out this observation. The
> legislative plan released Feb. 27 in anticipation of the National
> Congress put it thus:
> > �■ecause China now places economic growth and social development on
> equal footing, there will be more laws dealing with social issues in the next
> few years.�� And in his opening speech to the NPC on March 5,
> Jiabao pointed out that last year government spending on education and health
> increased 39.4% and 65.4%, respectively, from the previous year.
> > But the shift goes beyond just spending money on the poor. That is clear
> from the contentious debate over the Property Law that has haunted the NPC
> for years. The legislation was tabled and failed to pass six times at the
> annual Congress�岾etting a record in China�塜
> it went through with substantial changes this year. Even now the law remains
> controversial because it codifies the individual�塜 right to own
land in a
> state that was founded on the principle of communal ownership. And within
> society, enthusiasm for free enterprise seems to have peaked.
> > Since 1992 when Deng Xiaoping made his Southern Tour and reinvigorated the
> reform process, pragmatism has been the order of the day. The conflicts
> within the upper echelons of the Communist Party were between rival patronage
> networks, not policy factions. So it is striking that today, even though the
> leadership is still dominated by technocrats, ideology is making a limited
> > The debate rages not just on the floors of the Congress, but across
> China�塜 intellectual
> > circles: How to successfully reconcile open markets with the
> communist legacy?
> > The days of dismissing contradictions by invoking Mr. Deng�塜
> �牗ocialism with Chinese characteristics�� are
> > Rise of a Movement
> > In the five years since Communist Party
> > Secretary Hu Jintao�塜 rise to power, the new left has emerged
> range of prescriptions for a troubled society. Although the name is something
> of a misnomer�埖efft and right are understood quite differently
> than in Europe or the United States�嵶he term generally describes
> oppose a neoliberal market economy, want increased social welfare, argue for
> greater democratic participation (but without formal elective democracy), and
> support more assertive foreign policies.
> > �⇨ts basic features include caring about the poor and the
> and being critical of runaway development,�� says Zhang Xudong,
> of comparative literature at New York University who has been identified as
> new left.
> > Mr. Zhang, who was reached in a telephone interview, also cited the rise of
> the nouveau riche, official corruption, pollution and the
> the countryside�� as primary concerns for this group.
> > The new left has been talking about these issues for long time, but the
> dramatic deterioration of China�塜 environment and rural areas in
> years has thrown these topics into the national spotlight. In 2004 over
> 70,000 incidents of rural unrest, many due to illegal land seizure by corrupt
> officials, were reported, and the social fabric of China�塜
> continues to decay as able-bodied men and women migrate to cities to seek
> > The increasingly dire situation has undoubtedly been a boost to the new
> left. Prof. Wang says that six or seven years ago universities in China were
> almost complete dominated by liberals, but that is no longer the case.
> > Because society changed. People think about issues that they
> before.�� Others described the new left as having
�熣 lot of appeal.��
> > The term new left itself is problematic, though. Some who bear the label
> cringe at its associations with the �爤ld left��
hardliners who genuinely
> wish for a return to Mao�塜 era. �n the very beginning,
> was not a word I used myself, it was a word other people used to criticize
> me,�� says Wang Hui, a professor in the department of Chinese
> literature at Tsinghua University and co-editor of the influential monthly
> magazine Dushu.
> > The reasons behind intellectuals�� reservations towards the
> linked to the seismic shifts in China�塜 political climate over
> decades. Mr. Zhang identifies three stages in the development of the new
> left: �煫hen it first emerged it was purely academic, and
> specifically to overseas Chinese students who studied with American or
> European leftist intellectuals. They were very critical of marketization,
> privatization, the rolling back of the welfare state.��
> > During the second stage, when these students returned to China, they felt
> that China was going through the same process of
> countries had experienced, says Mr. Zhang, and they were bitingly critical of
> the direction of the reforms. As a result, �牜hey were viewed
> suspicion at home,�� he says. During the 1980s, when China was
> its program of economic reform, Deng Xiaoping famously said that the
> Communist Party had to guard against radicalism from the left more than from
> the right.
> > However, as China�塜 economy boomed and society became more
> these suspicions were overcome. �焩ow at the most recent stage
the new left
> has become a pretty broad-based social movement. Maybe it�塜 an
> to call it a movement, but it�塜 certainly a trend of like-minded
> Mr. Zhang says.
> > Still, there remains great difference of opinion over what the new left
> stands for. One of the most central divisions is between thinkers who define
> the new left in terms of opposition to neoliberalism, which advocates free
> market capitalism, and those who see it as opposed to classical liberalism,
> which advocates individual freedoms. Wang Hui espouses the former view.
> �焾his is not a debate with liberalism, he says, explaining that
> left draws on a variety of intellectual resources including the liberal
> tradition. In his view the new left is really debating neoliberalism, and he
> suggests the term �漜ritical intellectual�� is more
> > Alternatively, Wang Shaoguang defines these camps in terms of Isaiah
> Berlin�塜 two concepts of liberty: �焅iberals
advocate a kind of 19th
> century freedom--freedom from, rather than freedom to. So they just want to
> be left alone by government control or intervention.�� He
describes the new
> left as advocating the opposite. �焩ot just freedom from
> intervention, but freedom to have an equal chance at health, education, and
> many other things.�� This group is more likely to include
> Marxist and Maoist thought.
> > Further along the spectrum, some thinkers fall between the new left and the
> now largely irrelevant hardliners, or old left. One example is Gong Xiantian,
> a 72-year-old professor at Peking University Law School whose criticism is a
> big factor in the delay of the passage of the Property Law. An ardent
> Marxist, he describes China�塜 current political direction as
> of capitalism and ready to �燝o back to the good old
> > (Embedded image moved to file: pic09894.jpg)
> > Yet unlike leftist hardliners�掵hom one source described as
> marginalized and bitter�栂r.
> > Gong is hardly irrelevant. His main bone of contention is that
> private-property rights are unconstitutional in China, a state founded on the
> idea of collective ownership. And when he speaks out, China�塜
> note. �n [August] 2005 when I posted my essay [online], Wu Bangguo
> [chairman of the standing committee of the NPC] called me right up and we
> spoke for a long time,�� he recalls. �nd on Sept. 26 of
that year they
> made an announcement concerning publicly owned property, emphasizing that
> China is still based on collective ownership.��
> > As a result of such objections the law was amended to improve protection
> for public property, and a clause stating the law must not contradict the
> constitution was added.
> > Interviewed the day after the seventh version was discussed in a closed
> session of the NPC, Mr. Gong said he had already seen the new version (which
> had not been made public at that
> > time) and supported the changes and the draft.
> > Mr. Gong�塜 experience suggests that communist ideals resonate
> China�塜 decision-makers. However, such an ideologically charged
> the exception rather than the rule. Most of those interviewed for this
> article lamented that ideology was increasingly irrelevant to policy
> > �✕he country is basically run by a bunch of engineers, the
> class,�� says Mr.
> > Zhang, the professor of literature at New York University.
> students are less and less political,�� he adds, expressing
> > Some see this as a crisis of cultural
> > leadership. �焾he current leaders are really just feeling the
> cross the river,��
> > says Han Yuhai, an associate professor of literature at Peking University,
> referring to a well-known Deng Xiaoping dictum about gradualist reform.
> sometimes joke that the leaders walk with their heads down because they are
> looking for money lying on the ground,��
> > says Mr. Han, whose academic work is influenced by Maoism.
> crisis lies exactly here�粂hina has no governance. The economy is
> government��. Money is the only ideology.��
> > But while the new left is critical of
> > neoliberalism, they are not advocating return to a centrally planned
> economy. �焾hey are not calling for a direct return to
> Instead of that they are calling for a middle-of-the-road
> Scandinavian social model, the British welfare approach, or the U.S. model,
> the New Deal,��
> > says Mr. Zhang.
> > Several new leftists see the reforms as
> > initially beneficial, but less so as the human and environmental costs of
> China�塜 development increased. �焾he early economic
reforms were a
> positive-sum game,�� says Wang Shaoguang, �熭ut by
the late 1990s economic
> reform had become a zero-sum game.�� As the state forced sectors
> care and education to become more market-driven, many people were simply left
> without the services they once enjoyed.
> > Wang Hui�塜 description of problems brought on by an overly
> of open markets draws on the liberal tradition: �焝arket freedoms
> possible under the control of a government. So they can never be unlimited.
> > China�塜 problem is that our lives have been too closely
> need more autonomous space. We can�塟 have our lives controlled
> market.�� He advocates greater �熺conomic
democracy�� as a solution, for
> example by improving workers�� rights.
> > One area of particular concern for new leftists has always been the
> countryside, which they point to as a prime example of market-economy
> failures. Wen Tiejun, an agricultural economist at Renmin University,
> describes how he perceives China�塜 reform as having robbed the
> of its labor and its capital, thwarting the necessary �牜hree
> productivities�℞�椛dam Smith�塜 land,
labor and capital. He argues that
> China is a typical dual society, where the vast difference between urban and
> rural environments necessitates different policy approaches for the
> countryside and for the cities.
> > The reforms backfired because policy makers treated the countryside too
> much like the cities, he says. �焵ural industrialization combined
> townshipization is a valuable way to increase farmers��
incomes,�� he says,
> adding that rural incomes grew faster than urban incomes in the 1980s.
> �焾here were no protests, no social conflicts [in rural areas].
> > The 1980s were a golden age. The social
> > conflicts started because in the 1990s we didn�塟 progress in a
> was compatible with the realities in the rural areas. The implementation of
> the legal system, for example�嵶his cannot really work in the
> > New leftists see China�塜 rural woes as
> > vindicating the positions they have held for a long time. Wang Hui smiles
> as he explains how his journal helped break the story on rural Chinese
> poverty. �n 1999 Dushu printed a piece about the sannong
> rural��) problem [referring to agriculture, farmers and the
> that time, the government did not even admit that the three rural problems
> existed, but two years later it was on the agenda of the NPC.��
> > Support From the Top
> > In a sharp departure from the eras of Deng and Jiang, Messrs. Hu and Wen
> have differentiated their leadership style with symbolic gestures bound to
> please the left. After Mr. Hu was appointed president in 2002, one of the
> first places he visited was Xibaipo in Hebei province, the last place the
> Communist Party occupied before seizing Beijing in 1949. And Mr. Wen made
> headlines a few months ago by visiting farmers�� homes in the
> Liao-ning province on the eve of Chinese New Year, echoing his visits to
> coalminers on the same day of the lunar calendar in 2005. These expressions
> of solidarity with the working class and visits to revolutionary heritage
> sites pay homage to the country�塜 socialist past in a way that
> leaders have not done for decades.
> > While this has undoubtedly helped the rising popularity of the left and the
> new left, many point out that it is too early to tell whether Mr. Hu truly
> shares leftist convictions, or if his policies and political gestures have
> just been motivated by pragmatism. �せor the time being
> maintaining the status quo, so we�垾l have to wait and see what
> believes in,�� says a young woman in a leftist bookstore who
asked to be
> identified by her screen name, Red Star Beauty.
> > Others think that Mr. Hu has already shown his colors and will stick to
> them. Mr. Zhang describes the slogan �燫armonious
society�� and Mr. Hu�塜
> visits to communist heritage sites as �漚 very smart way of indicating
> mild break from the Zhu Rongji model, which is very pro-business and very
> focused on the coastal regions, and a very good way to achieve some type of
> political identity.��
> > Mr. Han, the professor of literature at Peking University, sees Mr. Hu as
> similar to Mao Zedong in that both are homegrown intellectuals who began
> their careers at the grass-roots level�栂r. Hu spent 14 years
> GGansu province, one of China�塜 poorest areas. �u will
be the most like
> Mao, compared to Deng and Jiang,�� he concludes. Cynics,
however, say Mr.
> > Hu�塜 defining characteristic is a lack of vision, and that his
> choice of political hues is simply the safest option for someone in his
> > Democratic Traditions?
> > Like Mao, the new leadership is emphasizing
�屸emocracy.�� In the
> Communist Party context the word does not mean one person one vote, but
> rather greater mass participation in politics.
> > After the end of the Cultural Revolution, Deng moved the Party away from
> broad-based movements that mobilized activists. Nobody expects a return to
> the bad old days of struggle sessions and Red Guard rallies. But many
> leftists would like to arouse more enthusiastic involvement in implementing
> Party policy.
> > �☽e want to go back to the original meaning of
democracy�峅ule by the
> people,�� says Prof. Wang.
> > In practical terms, new leftists have a variety of opinions about how this
> could be achieved.
> > Prof. Wang describes scenarios of choosing a jury of citizens by lot to
> approve major policy initiatives, or participatory budgeting whereby town or
> village residents have a say in allocating the municipal budget.
> > Others describe a democracy with a hint of socialism. �emocracy is
> about procedure only,�� says Mr. Zhang. �煫hen you
talk about democracy you
> have to talk about it in substantive terms like democratic distribution of
> wealth, or democratic distribution of social power.�� Mr. Zhang
> concept of democracy as being very different from the Western-style democracy
> advocated by Chinese liberals. �n China opponents of the new left
> say, let�塜 have rule of law, let�塜 have elections,
let�塜 play by the
> rules. That is a partial understanding of democracy.��
> > Thinkers across the new left spectrum criticize Western-style democracy,
> and many say they hope to learn from the mistakes that democratic countries
> have made. And by refusing to embrace elective democracy, new leftists
> believe they have the best interests of the masses at heart.
> > �◆orrupt officials are the ones who would benefit from
> democracy. In the future there is a chance that the nouveau riche could take
> advantage of capitalist-style democracy,�� warns Mr. Gong.
> > Mr. Zhang expresses similar reservations: �焾he new left
advocates a sort
> of deeper democracy�垳t has to reach the masses, instead of only
> the urban middle class.
> > Whereas the Chinese liberals have to equate democracy to rule of law, all
> of which is meant to legalize their newly gained social
> > Some new leftists perceive China as already moving toward the model of
> democracy they advocate. Wang Hui points to the discussions over the Property
> Law. �焻everal things are changing about the way
China�塜 laws are being
> made,�� he says. �n the past, policies were made from
> government, but now more of those [policy initiatives] are coming from
> society.�� He lists a number of factors that he says
> the way society and government interact: the Internet and broader access to
> information; more intellectuals participating in critical debate; and
> economic growth. �煫hen social conditions present the opportunity
for such a
> discussion [as took place over the Property Law], that�塜 a good
> > Despite these reassuring sentiments,
> > contradictions emerge on topics like human rights and press freedom. Since
> Mr. Hu has come to power the state has progressively tightened its grip on
> journalists, and Beijing�塜 top universities have reduced the
> public expression of opinions. The Internet continues to be tightly monitored
> and restricted. And at this year�塜 NPC, discussion of the
Property Law was
> conducted in closed meetings, and as of the time of writing the law still had
> not been made public.
> > Mr. Gong says that an increasingly transparent legislative process and
> public involvement in debate over legislation are signs of
> but he shakes his head at the way the NPC dealt with discussions of the law
> during the latest Congress.
> > �✕he fact that they�墧e shut down debate
> > indicates that they�塇e trying to avoid
> > ideological discussion,�� he says, a fact that others have
> Messrs. Hu and Wen�塜 desire to avoid controversy in the run-up
> October�塜 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of
> once-in-five-years event that will most likely herald changes in
> top leadership positions. Mr. Gong called the drafting process of the law
> �牜oo secret�� and said the way the NPC had gone
about it �猐asn�塟
> > New leftists have a variety of reactions to discussions of press freedom,
> underlining the diversity of people to whom the label is applied. On the more
> moderate side, Wang Hui advocates ever greater space for discussion and
> suggests he has experienced firsthand how difficult media censorship can be.
> ��墧e been an editor for 11 years. I can�塟
use casual language to
> describe this experience,�� he says, pausing.
�焫nly by continuing to
> express your views can you expand the space for discussion.��
> > Others seem less sure of where they stand, however. Like Wang Hui, Wang
> Shaoguang also said everyone should be allowed to engage in free speech.
> However when asked directly about China�塜 censorship of the
> censorship, he gives a look that suggests surprise. � have no such
> experience, and most of my friends in China can use the Internet in extremely
> productive ways.�� And leftist hardliners go so far as to
> support for government intervention in the press. �焾here is
> control of the media,�� Red Star Beauty, a self-identified
Maoist, tells me
> before excusing herself to join colleagues for takeout dinner in the back of
> the bookshop. �ut this is necessary. It�塜 quite
different from the
> U.S.�掵e need some guidance.��
> > Human rights are also not something new
> > leftists bring up very often. �uman rights were not part of Mao
> Zedong�塜 worldview,�� says Mr. Han, in the context
of a discussion about
> China�塜 foreign policy, shortly before referring to a book
famous for its
> anti-Western sentiment, China Can Say No (China Industry and Commerce
> Associated Press, 1996).
> > The irony is that only because human rights have improved in China do such
> intellectuals have the freedom to voice their dissatisfaction with a
> government that has largely succeeded in sidelining ideology. As the values
> of liberalism become more strongly entrenched, those who pine for the days of
> less economic and political freedom are able to reassert their views. Whether
> or not China�塜 leaders sympathize, this poses an added challenge
> > The question then becomes what sort of �燝reat
transformation�� China is
> facing. In addition to having social policies, the country now has a
> > CB��
> > �
> > �M�沤