Zhang Xiaobo and Song Qiang are the Editors of, as well as contributors with four other young Chinese writers of the 1996 best-seller in China, China Can Say No---Political and Emotional Choices in the Post Cold War Era.
Though eight years old, their tract continues to evolve. The immediacy of the Islamofascist war should not blind us to other emerging threats. China's influence on this century will be great; its continued frienship with the United States isn't a given. The central government has sanctioned nationalism to bolster its credibility; but it is a two-headed dragon, no? The technology that enables state-approved nationalism is also the tool of the dissenter. No democracy, autocracy, dictatorship or monarchy should consider itself immune from the driving force of the new century.
CHINA CAN SAY NO TO AMERICA
Zhang Xiaobo and Song Qiang,
New Perspectives Quarterly
BEIJING--A generation of Chinese has totally and uncritically absorbed Western, particularly American, values. Lately, however, the tide has begun to turn. More and more people in China are looking East instead of West to find a future. Because of the growth of the Chinese economy and the legacy of China's rich cultural traditions, many of us maintain that China should aspire to take its place as a world power instead of lamely emulating Western society as, for example, Japan has.
The bold expression of this point of view in our book China Can Say No has drawn sneers from Western observers as well as China's own established "intellectuals," such as Su Xiaokang, whose consistent putdown of China comes from looking East through Western eyes. But those who sneer have not been able to propose any way of their own for China to become democratic and more prosperous, that does not compromise our national dignity. Those who criticize the fact that "America bashing" has become fashionable in China ignore the fact that "China bashing" has always been fashionable in America.
In fact, Chinese intellectuals are now in the process of seriously examining and rejecting the pro-Western views of the older generation, particularly those in exile, such as the physicist Fang Li Zhi or the journalist Liu Binyan. They have long lost touch with realities in China and can never again be an inspiration to Chinese youth. Nor will they have a part to play in future changes in China.
In writing down such views in our book which includes chapters titled "We Don't Want MFN" and "I Won't Get on a Boeing 777"--we and the other contributors are not "confessing our sins" about once being attracted to the ways of the West. We are only pointing out a dangerous fact: The sense of loss and resentment at this overwhelming Western influence in the Third World is a breeding ground for a growing, anti-Western post-colonialism. As a consequence, saying no to America will become more and more common in the world, particularly in Asia.
Our book openly condemns Japan for, in essence, defecting from Asia. We argue that Japan should not be a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and suggest, sarcastically, that the UN may as well give two seats to the United States instead. Further, our book makes the case that China has the right to claim damages from Japan for its invasion and occupation of China and exposes, for the first time, the resentment of Chinese students over former Communist Party General Secretary Hu Yaobang's over-optimistic invitation to 3,000 Japanese youth to visit China .
Critics of China Can Say No have noted that we make no secret of our appreciation of Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the Russian nationalist. But our view is that if we can permit an open airing of views by national black sheep such as Su Zaozhi, who has said "if only I could change my blood," then we should also allow those who think like Zhirinosvky in our country.
After all, the emergence of differing views in the debate is just a reflection of our future democratic political situation.
Examining the state of US-China relations, we are pessimistic about the future. The younger generation China can't stand America's disingenuous preachiness on human rights (haven't we all seen the video of Rodney King or of the immigrant workers being mercilessly beaten by police in Riverside, California?) or its irresponsible threats on trade sanctions and Taiwan. In turn, we take a critical look at the weak and vague stance of China in international relations, calling on the Chinese authorities never to give an inch to the "Anti-China Club" which exists in America. China should be more like Cuba, which has admirably stood up against America.
No doubt our views on Taiwan will worry the Americans and some people in Taiwan because we encourage Chinese youth to prepare to solve the Taiwan issue by force. The theory that the people of Taiwan have the right to determine their own political future is "absurd." This is not meant to be a provocation, only a reaction to the arrogance of the American Congress who think it is their vocation to "protect" Taiwan.
There should be no illusion that relations will be qualitatively improved by visits from high-level American officials such as Anthony Lake, the US National Security Adviser. Barring revolutionary change in American foreign policy, the confrontation between China and America will be a protracted one.
Though the neo-isolationist strain apparent in American thinking may eventually be self-defeating for the US, we believe it could nonetheless also be constructive in dampening America's indulgent self-exaltation. Certainly, the commercial greed and impotence before terror revealed during the Olympics in Atlanta should shake America from its illusion of being the sole world leader from here to eternity. This is especially noteworthy because the "Anti-China Club" in the US vetoed Beijing's chance to host the Summer Olympic Games for the year 2000 in that city because "we couldn't handle it."
At the end of the 20th century, China has once again become a world power in its own right. It need not play second fiddle to anyone. The next generation coming to power in China is prepared to say no and won't hesitate to do so when it is in our interests.