Wang Ruoshui

wpe11.jpg (2059 bytes)

简    历

著    作


讣    闻

图    片

访    问

吊    唁

Commemorating纪   念


首    页



纪   念


Intellectuals in China
Under fire, again
Dec 9th 2004 | BEIJING
>From The Economist print edition

Free _expression worries the authorities

IN AN Orwellian obfuscation of its role, the Chinese Communist Party's Propaganda Department prefers to translate its name these days as the Publicity Department. But one of its main tasks remains that of issuing secret directives to the state-controlled media telling them what not to report. And among its latest prohibitions is any encouragement for public intellectuals in China.

In recent years, the party had become more relaxed about intellectuals. Outspoken academics helped fuel the campus fervour that eventually erupted into mass protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989. But the crackdown, followed a couple of years later by an economic boom, dampened demands for political change. The party began to worry more about unemployed workers and disgruntled peasants, and less about intellectuals璵any of whom, anyway, were turning their attention to making money.

Click to buy from "Public Intellectuals: A Study of Decline", by Richard Posner (

See also the People's Daily and World Audit's information on democracy and freedom in China.

More recently, however, the rapid spread of the internet and the increasing commercialisation of the Chinese media have given intellectuals new avenues of _expression. A few, including economists, social scientists and lawyers, have become well-known among the chattering classes for their critiques of social ills (though prudently, in most cases, not of the party itself). The term public intellectuals has crept into the media, encouraged not least by a Chinese translation last year of Public Intellectuals: A Study of Decline , a book by an American judge, Richard Posner, examining the role of such commentators in America.

The Propaganda Department lost its patience after a magazine in Guangdong Province, Southern People Weekly, published a list of 50 Chinese public intellectuals in September. The market economy, said an accompanying commentary, had caused the rapid marginalisation of intellectuals. But this is the time when China is facing the most problems in its unprecedented transformation, and when it most needs public intellectuals to be on the scene and to speak out.

If the 50 had been loyal party stooges, all might have been forgiven. But among them were several who are decidedly not, including Zhang Sizhi, a defence lawyer who has argued in the trials of some of China's best known dissidents; Cui Jian, a rock singer whose irreverence has irritated the authorities since his heyday in the Tiananmen era; Bei Dao, a poet who has been forced to live in exile since the 1989 unrest; and Wang Ruoshui (who died in 2002), a senior journalist and member of the party's inner circle who turned dissident. A scathing commentary on the list, published last month by a Shanghai newspaper and republished by the party's main mouthpiece, People's Daily, said that promoting the idea of public intellectuals was really aimed at driving a wedge between intellectuals and the party. The window for free debate that opened a crack over the past couple of years, as China's leadership shifted to the fourth generation of leaders, is closing again.

Oddly, perhaps, given the supposed indifference of urbanites to politics, two of the bestselling books in China this year have been about the anti-rightist campaign of 1957, during which half a million of the party's intellectual critics were persecuted. One of the books, Past Events Have Not Vanished Like Smoke , was banned by the Propaganda Department. The other, Inside Secrets of 1957: The Sacrificial Altar of Suffering , is still for sale. Though probably not for long.