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Blog of Hervé Fuyet

ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Reemembering the Reformer

Remembering the Reformer

Comrage Xi Jinping talk at Davos

Translated Wednesday 15 February 2017, by Hervé Fuyet

Lina Sankari’s article (follow this link), about the talk by President and Comrade Xi Jinping at Davos, is important. The national and international Press widely covered the historical event : the president of socialist China talking on an equal to equal basis with the leaders of the capitalist West, explaining to them patiently and softly that the future of capitalism is doomed, is of a historical significance.

The following article from Global Times will help the readers to understant Lina Sankari’s article. We, in the West, often lack a balanced understanding of the nature of China’s socialism!

Though fans of Deng Xiaoping are low-key, his controversial impact is everywhere

By Xie Wenting Source:Global Times Published: 2017/2/14 19:08:39

○ Deng Xiaoping is widely applauded for the legacy of his reform and opening-up policy. But some believe he is to blame for social problems such as corruption and wealth inequality.

○ Fans of Deng keep a relatively low-profile, especially compared to those who prefer Chairman Mao Zedong.

○ His fans believe that it was his powerful leadership that led to the success of China’s reform and support upholding Xi Jinping, the General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee, as the core of the CPC.

Photo: Visitors pay tribute to a statue of Deng Xiaoping on February 20, 2015 on Lianhua Mountain, Shenzhen, Guangdong Province. Photo: CFP

For Zhang Yonggang, a resident of Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, February 19 is a special day on his calendar. No matter how busy he is, he always reserves that day to commemorate the man he considers the most important figure in China’s recent history - former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, who passed away on that day 20 years ago.

It takes Zhang more than one hour to get to Lianhua Mountain, where he places a bouquet of flowers at the feet of a statue of the diminutive Sichuan Province native.

Looking over Shenzhen from the mountaintop, Zhang, 43, says he always feels that "Shenzhen is the epitome of China after introducing reforming and opening-up and it has shown the way for China’s future."

Shenzhen was once a small fishing village. After being chosen as a Special Economic Zone in 1980, making it a testing ground for the reform and opening-up policy, the village became one of the nation’s first-tier cities.

"In the 1980s, people would have thought that you were crazy if you said Shenzhen could compete with Hong Kong one day. But looking at its development now, the city will very likely best Hong Kong in the near future," said Zhang.

Deng, who introduced liberalizing economic reforms in the 1980s, is regarded as the chief architect of China’s reform in that period. His modernization plans propelled China from backwardness to being the world’s second-largest economy.

He is also recognized as the core of the second generation of Communist Party of China (CPC) leadership and has been honored for the "one country, two systems" constitutional principle he proposed in preparation for the resumption of Chinese sovereignty over Hong Kong.

Ezra Vogel, an academic on issues related to China and Japan at Harvard University, wrote in his book Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China that no 20th Century leader did more to improve the lives of so many.

But beside the praise, many people blame him for the negative consequences of China’s transformation, including corruption, high housing prices and wealth inequality.

"Reform meant a redistribution of interests. It’s unavoidable that some people feel disappointed. But what Deng did was beneficial for most people," Zhang said. "We should look at the big picture. We shouldn’t judge Deng based on personal gains and losses."

Photo: Zhang Yonggang explains to tourists how reform and opening-up has transformed, Shenzhen. Photo: Courtesy of Zhang Yonggang

He brought us new life

Zhang volunteers at a Shenzhen museum as a guide to tell tourists the history of how reform gave birth to modern Shenzhen.

He has been in this position for five years and says he is motivated by his fondness for Deng. His full-time job is to train new employees at a property management company.

"Deng was a great man. He pulled China out of chaos after the Cultural Revolution and led the Chinese people to a better-off life. So I like him," he told the Global Times.

Zhang, who was born at the end of the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), said he wasn’t directly affected by many of Deng’s reforms, being a child at the time, but the overall living standards of Chinese people have improved as a result of Deng’s policies.

When Zhang was young, his family couldn’t afford to eat pork. "Now everyday we eat like we’re celebrating the Spring Festival," he said.

"But it was not easy for Deng to advance his reforms back then," he noted.

Deng, nicknamed "Iron Company," was a survivor and hard worker. Experiencing "three ups and three downs" in his career, Deng stuck to his guns despite being purged for his advocacy of economic reform and trade with other countries.

"He was very far-sighted and had a big heart. He was so optimistic even when he was exiled from the leadership," said Zhang.

Vogel wrote that Deng’s early experiences of working overseas and his leadership of various governmental sectors together with his contemplation when he was purged gave him insights into the country’s problems.

While Zhang thanks Deng for his impact on all of society, Long Xiaoping, a retired public servant in Hunan Province, directly benefited from Deng’s decision to resume the gaokao (national college entrance examinations) which had been suspended during the Cultural Revolution.

It was Long Xiaoping’s long-held dream to attend college. "At that time, entering college meant you would have a good job and a better life," he said.

When chaos started to grip the country in the late 1960s, Long, then a high school senior, was sent to a village to work as part of the "Down to the Countryside Movement." "My dream was crushed," he said.

He then spent nearly eight years farming. When he heard the news that Deng had resumed the gaokao, he was already 30. Deng passed the examinations and was admitted to a college. After graduating, he first taught at a school and later became a public servant in Huaihua, Hunan. "It totally transformed my life," he said.

"Before I loved Deng Xiaoping because of the gaokao. Later seeing the changes he brought through reform, my fondness towards him went from an emotional level to an intellectual one," he said.

Photo: Long Xiaoping looks at a newspaper clipping about Deng Xiaoping in his home. Photo: Courtesy of Long Xiaoping

Low-key fan club

In Long’s home, newspaper clippings about Deng are piled up. He started to collect newspapers about Deng in 1997, the year he died.

Since then he has collected more than 20,000 clippings, spending a significant chunk of his salary on his collection. "My children don’t understand me. But my wife supports me," he said.

Beside collecting newspapers, he has bought souvenirs about Deng and toured places that have associations with Deng.

He has never concealed his love for Deng. But most people don’t like to openly state it, he said.

One of Long’s friends broke off their relationship after learning that he is a fan of Deng because the friend thought China’s contemporary social problems are all caused by Deng’s polices.

But when Long held an exhibition of his clipping collection, many people came to see it. Most people who express a fondness for Deng are people living in developed areas and coastal cities, and people who are benefited from reform and opening-up and the gaokao. Some of today’s college students also show interest in him, according to Long.

Unlike fans of Mao Zedong who are often outspoken, Deng’s fans are far more low-key.

The Global Times reporter tried to find an official Deng fan club but failed, but was able to easily find many equivalent clubs for Mao fans. One of the large online forums about Deng Xiaoping has about 6,000 members, while a popular Mao fan club has nearly 47,000.

In the forum dedicated to Mao, the slogan is "Long live the invincible Mao’s thought." In Deng’s forum, the slogan is "Less empty talk, more practical work."

"There are not many people openly saying that they are fans of Deng Xiaoping. Deng’s fans stay low-key and they don’t like to directly confront accusations from other groups," said Zhang.

There are some foreign leaders, including former Singapore President Lee Kuan Yew, who have openly stated that they are fans of Deng.

Within Zhang’s family, there has been conflict over his idol. Zhang’s father dislikes Deng. Instead, he prefers Mao, and holds skeptical views about Deng’s economic policies.

His father used to be a worker in a State-owned factory. In Mao’s time, jobs at State-owned companies were envied and meant higher pay and social status. But after Deng started to encourage the development of privately-owned businesses, his father’s factory was unable to compete and his salary shrank.

In the family, Zhang often had arguments with his father when talking about Deng. "But he isn’t as eloquent as I. So I always win," he said.

In 2014 when the 48-episode drama titled Deng Xiaoping During a Historic Turning Point aired on CCTV to commemorate Deng’s 110th birthday, there were heated discussions over his legacy. The drama was viewed 210 million times on video streaming platform Tencent, and it was estimated that every day roughly 60 million people watched it on TV.

The drama tells the story of the historic transformation of China under Deng’s guidance from 1976 when the "Gang of Four" was arrested and 1984 when reform and opening-up policies were fully implemented.

Many young people said on the Internet the drama piqued their interest in Deng Xiaoping, and some pointed out that the drama suggests history will show Deng in a positive light.

Lessons to learn  

In 2014, Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee and Chinese president, said in a speech to mark Deng’s 110th birthday that the most important political and theoretical legacy of the late Chinese leader is "socialism with Chinese characteristics," which the Party and people created under the leadership of Deng, reported the Xinhua News Agency.

"We will try our best to reform areas that are weak and unsound and learn from the good experiences of foreign countries, but we will never completely copy the foreign experience let alone absorb bad things from them," he was quoted by as saying by Xinhua.

In a previous interview with the Global Times, Zhang Weiwei, director of the China Institute at Fudan University who served as an interpreter for Deng, said that "Generally China has achieved much more success than Deng Xiaoping expected."

Deng’s political composure and strategic vision is the biggest contribution he made towards China’s reform and opening-up and rapid rise, said Zhang Weiwei. He said that China should stick to the socialist road but that socialism needs to be innovative and open.

In an interview with the Shanghai-based Wenhui Daily, Vogel said that "China is so big and complicated and has a long history. If the leadership is too weak and fragmented, it will be difficult for the central government to administer local officials and may lead the country into chaos."

Zhang Yonggang believes that commemorating Deng and reflecting on the history of reform and opening-up can serve as a useful reference for today’s society.

He says that Deng’s experience of pushing forward reform shows that "a powerful core is important. So now it’s important for us to uphold Xi as the core of the CPC."

This year he plans to call up more of his neighbors to join him in commemorating Deng on February 19.

Newspaper headline: Remembering the reformer

Posted in: IN-DEPTH


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