The Conundrum of China’s ‘Wading the Stream by Feeling the Way’


No Existing Road or Model to Follow
As pointed out in Chapter 53, Deng Xiaoping and Zhao Ziyang switched to capitalism as communism had proved a failure while the development of the private sector in China since the reform had created jobs, increased tax revenue and brought about economic growth. Their pursuit of capitalism was readily accepted by those who jointed the CCP first of all for national salvation including the first generation of Chinese communists and the majority of 38-style cadres. Like Deng, they also lost confidence in communism and wanted to try capitalism. However, compared with dogmatic communists, those reformists were after all a small minority in CCP.

They became aware that the ideals previously pursued were either not suitable to China’s national conditions such as Western democracy or entirely unrealistic such as the communist ideal. They realized that for such a huge and complicated nation as China there are no foreign or theoretical models to follow. Their previous pursuits of foreign and theoretical models have only brought misery to China. They have to pursue real and practical progress instead of ideals. However, the administration of a huge country with complicated national conditions is very difficult. There may be lots of risks and dangers. A wrong decision may have disastrous consequence that provides leftists the excuse to conduct another Cultural Revolution to revolt against “capitalist roaders” and bring another round of chaos to China. According to Mao’s instruction, Cultural Revolution shall be repeated about once a decade to prevent restoration of capitalism!

In addition, China has a history of being divided into several autocracies when the central government collapses. The danger of division is especially strong at that time due to foreign instigation and assistance as some foreign powers believe a split China will be a less threat to them.

Wading a Stream by Feeling the Way
To avoid those risks and dangers, China shall be very careful in pursuing economic growth and prosperity. That is especially true as there are no specific models for China to follow. As a result, Deng described Chinese way of seeking progress as “wading a stream by feeling the way”. He wanted his successors to be very cautious in achieving economic growth.

It also indicates that China only knows its destination of prosperity but does not know the road leading to the destination. It has to explore its way.

Serious Obstacle to the Wading – Dogmatic Communists’ Opposition
The younger dogmatic communists began to denounce Deng Xiaoping’s reform and opening up for its capitalist nature as soon as Deng began his reform. However, Deng has the support of most of the powerful elders and the educated CCP members a generation or two younger who like him were first of all patriots. Zhao Ziyang, Jiang Zemin and Zhu Rongji were talented ones among them. Like Deng, they regard making China rich and strong as their priority. They were Deng’s loyal followers and dedicated themselves to Deng’s reform to make China rich and strong.

Compared with the large number of leftists, they were but a small minority. Knowing well it was impossible to win the debate with the dogmatic communists and make them accept capitalism, Deng resorted to the trick of delay. He told his leftist opponents to refrain from debate but wait and see the results of his reform and opening up.

However, the leftists did not obey. Instead, they kept on attacking Deng’s reform vehemently.

How can reformists justify the pursuit of capitalism?

Article by Chan Kai Yee

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China marks Mao anniversary, but President Xi makes no mention


People line up to visit the mausoleum of China's late Chairman Mao Zedong on the 40th anniversary of his death in Beijing, China, September 9, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

People line up to visit the mausoleum of China’s late Chairman Mao Zedong on the 40th anniversary of his death in Beijing, China, September 9, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

Chinese state media on Friday marked the 40th anniversary of the death of the founder of modern China, Mao Zedong, with articles praising him, but President Xi Jinping visited a school and did not mention the day.

Mao, who died in 1976, remains a divisive figure.

His image adorns banknotes and his embalmed body attracts hundreds, if not thousands, of visitors a day to Beijing.

While the ruling Communist Party has acknowledged Mao made mistakes, there has yet to be an official accounting for the chaos of the Cultural Revolution when Mao declared class war, or the millions of deaths from starvation during the 1958-61 Great Leap Forward, a failed attempt at rapid industrialization.

The Hunan Daily, the main party paper in Mao’s home province in the south of China, carried a small article on its front page proclaiming “Chairman Mao, the people cherish your memory”, but banished to its fifth page a longer article about him.

The party’s official People’s Daily carried several pictures of him on its Weibo microblog along with a collection of some of his most well-known quotes and asked people to name their favorite.

However it disabled the comments section.

Xi, who doubles as party and military chief, made no mention of Mao in his main activity for the day as reported by state media, going to a Beijing school ahead of China’s Teachers Day, which falls on Saturday.

While there he “underscored the importance of better basic education”, according to Xinhua news agency, and watched students playing football, Xi’s favorite sport.

Xi suffered personally during the Cultural Revolution when his father was imprisoned. Xi was sent to the countryside to live with peasants, like millions of other urban Chinese youth.

Mao has become a potent symbol for leftists within and without the party who feel three decades of market-based reform have gone too far, creating social inequalities like poverty and graft.

In lauding Mao, they sometimes seek to put pressure on the current leadership and its market-oriented policies.

A day earlier, a small group of Mao fans attended the opening of a calligraphy and art exhibition about him in Beijing.

“Chinese people, the broad masses of the Chinese people, in their hearts, have never forgotten Mao Zedong. They will remember him forever. And they still promote his principles,” artist Yao Weidong told Reuters.

“So if there are corrupt officials, we use Mao Zedong Thought to defeat them. We all remember very clearly. Most of us have not forgotten Chairman Mao.”

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Source: Reuters “China marks Mao anniversary, but President Xi makes no mention”

Note: This is Reuters report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


No Repeat of Cultural Revolution but Tyranny in Other Forms Perhaps


Mao, the culprit of the Cultural Revolution, remains popular as proved by the recent grand concert praising him in the Great Hall of People, Beijing

Mao, the culprit of the Cultural Revolution, remains popular as proved by the recent grand concert praising him in the Great Hall of People, Beijing

To prevent the repeat of the Cultural Revolution, Deng Xiaoping invented the retirement system so that an autocrat like Mao cannot remain in the post of top leader forever to cause the disaster of the Cultural Revolution. In addition, he restored and strengthened the system of collective leadership. Such political reform has been carried out due to the lessons learnt from the mistakes of the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution caused by Mao’s absolute autocracy.

The historical lessons learned from the Cultural Revolution shall be remembered well for generations after generations. If it is well remembered due to repeated education, there may not be repetition. History has proved that.

The cruel tyranny of Emperor Shihuangdi of Qin was described and denounced for over 2,000 years so that there was no repeat of it. However, when Mao praised Shihuangdi, tyranny similar to Shihuangdi’s, i.e. the Cultural Revolution, was repeated.

Mao’s serious errors are shameful to the ruling Chinese Communist Party so that the Party has done its best to avoid mentioning it. Even in the 50th anniversary of the Cultural Revolution, CCP mouthpiece the People’s Daily only mentioned it in an opinion piece according to Reuters report today titled “China must never repeat Cultural Revolution: People’s Daily”.

As a result, the lessons leant from the Cultural Revolution will soon be forgotten and there may well be repeat of autocracy and even tyranny in forms other than the Cultural Revolution.

According to Hong Kong media’s recent report, the CCP is now discussing the abolition of the Politburo Standing Committee to remove collective leadership and the unwritten regulation of compulsory retirement for leaders exceeding 67 in age. Both the system and regulation were mechanism set up by Deng Xiaoping to prevent the repeat of the Cultural Revolution.

Now, as there has been no education about the errors of Mao’s Cultural Revolution, people are ignorant of the need for Deng’s mechanism. Some stupid analysts even regard the removal of the mechanism as a stride towards democracy.

A democracy without collective leadership? A democracy where a leader can remain in power until he dies?

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Reuters and Hong Kong media’s reports:

Full text of Reuters report can be viewed below:
China must never repeat Cultural Revolution: People’s Daily

China must learn from the tumultuous, decade-long Cultural Revolution and never allow such an event to happen again, the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily said on the movement’s anniversary.

Monday marked the 50th anniversary of the start of the Cultural Revolution, but there were no official commemorations and no signs the party plans to loosen its tight grip over the historical narrative of one of its most damaging episodes.

“We must never forget to draw lessons from the ‘Cultural Revolution’,” the newspaper said in an opinion piece on Tuesday, in a rare public mention of the 1966-1976 period when Mao Zedong declared class war, plunging China into chaos and violence.

“We cannot and will not allow a repeat performance of an error like the ‘Cultural Revolution’,” it added.

During the Cultural Revolution, the economy stagnated, schools were closed, and some historians estimate that as many as 1.5 million people died and millions more were persecuted in the political upheaval.

Schools and official histories whitewash the movement and gloss over the violence, hewing closely to an official party verdict, five years after Mao’s death ended the Cultural Revolution, that it had been a major and costly mistake.

The People’s Daily said that 1981 assessment was “unshakably scientific and authoritative”.

Though Mao remains a divisive figure, his image adorns China’s banknotes and his embalmed body attracts hundreds, if not thousands, of visitors each day in Beijing.

He has also become a potent symbol for some leftists within the party who feel that three decades of market-based reform have gone too far, creating social inequalities such as a yawning gap between rich and poor and pervasive corruption.

The People’s Daily said China has never been closer than it is today to, nor had more confidence in, reaching the goal of the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese people” and that China must “inseparably unite” around President Xi Jinping.

The Cultural Revolution must not be used by entities on the “right” or “left” to create interference, it said.

“(We) can neither take the rigid, closed, old road, nor the evil path of changing the flag,” it said, a reference indicating that China will stick to socialism.

(Reporting by John Ruwitch and Michael Martina; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)


Well-known Chinese TV Host Forced to Apologize for ‘Insulting’ Mao


Hong Kong’s Singtao Daily reports today that China’s official TV media CCTV’s anchor Bi Fujian, well-known for his humor, has been denounced by Maoists across the Chinese nation for mentioning the misery Mao brought to Chinese people when he sang a tune of Peking Opera at a private dinner party on April 6.

CCTV suspended Bi’s hosting of its “Starlight Avenue” program. The Red Army Primary Schools all over the nation canceled Bi’s honor as their “image ambassador”. Some Maoists in Mianyang City, Sichuan Province even held an assembly to denounce him, calling him “traitor”.

After three days of silence, Bi issued a statement on April 9, expressing his “great self-accusation and regret’ and “sincere and deep apology to the general public”.

This blogger’s note: For a tyrant like Mao, Chinese people are really wonderful! In spite of the death of starvation of tens of millions of people caused by Mao’s Great Leap Forward and the serious disaster of Mao’s Cultural Revolution, Chinese people still love him so deeply that whoever mentions that tyrant’s crime will be in trouble.

With such people, there will be a good chance for another tyrant like Mao to emerge in China and bring disasters not only to Chinese people but also to the people all over the world.

Why will world people suffer? Mao fought with the Soviet Union for leadership of the socialist camp, resulting in a military clash that may well lead a large-scale war. In addition, Mao wanted to trigger a nuclear war even at the cost of the death of half of Chinese populaton.

As China is much more stronger when another Mao emerges, that Mao will certainly fight a war with the US for world leadership.

That was why I wrote my book Space Era Strategy: The Way China Beats The U.S. to warn American and world people in the hope that knowing that American people will carry out a reform to enable their country to remain strong as a balance to a rising China so that if another Mao has emerged, he will not be able to dominate the world.

CNN’s website also carries a report on the event titled “Chinese TV star Bi Fujian caught insulting Mao”. I give the full text of CNN report below, but readers had better visit CNN website to view the report at http://edition.cnn.com/2015/04/08/asia/china-tv-star-curse/ as there is a footage of Bi singing the tune in that report:

Chinese TV star Bi Fujian caught insulting Mao
By Kevin Wang and Katie Hunt, CNN
Updated 1510 GMT (2210 HKT) April 9, 2015

(CNN)—A popular Chinese television host known for impromptu satire is now the subject of controversy after being caught on camera cursing the late Chairman Mao Zedong.

Bi Fujian, who works for state-run China Central Television, was filmed at a dinner party singing a revolutionary song that eulogizes the Communist Party’s early years when he started going off script.

“The Communist Party, Chairman Mao. Don’t mention that old son of a b***h. He made us suffer so bad,” went Bi’s improvised lyrics.

The other dinner guests burst into laughter.

Bi later apologized. “My personal speech has led to grave social consequences, and I feel remorseful for that. I hereby sincerely apologize to the public. As a public figure, I shall learn the lesson from this incident, adhering to strict self-discipline,” he posted on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social media platform.

Making disrespectful references to China’s leaders in public is considered a taboo in China, even today.

And Bi’s comment was directed at the man regarded by many as the country’s founding father — despite his controversial reputation.

The 75-second video clip, seemingly filmed on the cellphone of another dinner guest, was uploaded on Monday.

Since then, it has been removed from video-sharing sites inside China, although it was still accessible on Weibo.

It’s unclear when the incident occurred, or what the relationsip was between the camera person and Bi.

CCTV said it would investigate.

“As a CCTV presenter, Bi Fujian’s speech in the online video has led to grave social consequences,” the network said in a statement posted on its Weibo account.

CCTV did not respond to a CNN request for comment.

READ: Star anchor detained just before going on air

Mao divides opinion

Fondly known as “Grandpa Bi,” the 56-year-old TV personality was born and grew up in the Mao era.

The song Bi riffed on was part of a “red” Peking opera that was first performed in the late 1950s. It was popularized during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s — which was launched by Mao — when China was torn apart by violence and social unrest.

The video quickly divided China’s online community.

Critics said Bi, as an influential public figure, deserved a harsh punishment. But others rushed to his defense, arguing that Bi was simply enjoying himself in a private setting and was set up by whoever uploaded the clip.

The video also emerged just a day before the new head of CCTV started his job, leading some to wonder if it were a case of “a new broom sweeps clean.”

Mao still divides opinion in China. His giant portrait hangs on Beijing’s Tiananmen Gate, and thousands flock to see his embalmed body at his mausoleum in Tiananmen Square in the heart of the Chinese capital.

But despite this reverence, Mao’s is a deeply flawed legacy.

Many remember him as a brutal dictator who inspired fear, paranoia and famine, and whose actions resulted in tens of millions of deaths.

READ: The shadow of Mao still lingers over China

READ: China’s ‘lost generation’ recall hardships

CNN’s Shen Lu contributed to this report.

Source: Singtao Daily “Denounced by Sichuan leftists, Bi Fujian issues a statement of apology” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinese”

Source: CNN “Chinese TV star Bi Fujian caught insulting Mao”


China: Mass Suicide of 30 Petitioners in busy Beijing Street


Beijing police rushed the unconscious taxi drivers to hospital, where they are now said to be out of danger. Photos: weibo/SCMP

Beijing police rushed the unconscious taxi drivers to hospital, where they are now said to be out of danger. Photos: weibo/SCMP

“Tyranny is fiercer than a tiger.” Chinese despot’s tyranny made Chinese sage Confucius make that well-known comment more than 2,000 years ago.

As most Chinese emperors studied Confucian classics since their early childhood, tyrants like Mao Zedong and Shihuangdi of the Qin Dynasty are few in Chinese heriditary dynasties. However, local officials’ despotism has been quite common in China for thousands of years in spite of Confucius’ teachings.

Such despotism is especially serious in China during and after the Cultural Revolution when local despots followed Mao’ example of defying all laws whether human or divine.

Local despots’ tyranny and corruption were so serious that Chinese President Xi Jinping had to take drastic measures to overcome local despotism by his mass line and anti-corruption campaigns and improvement of China’s rule of law. He was granted the power to do so by all the powerful elders as the problems were threatening the very survival of the Chinese Communist Party.

Xi’s closing of local despots’ black jails in Beijing and abolition of the labor camp (education through labor) system that enabled local despots to imprison people at will, are great achievements in that respect to be praised in Chinese history.

However, as such despotism is too widespread and deep rooted, it perhaps has to take decades to overcome. I have described the despotism and its root in Chinese families in my book Tiananmen’s Tremendous Achievements Expanded 2nd Edition. That is a very long topic. Readers interested have to read that book.

Hong Kong’s Singtoa Daily and SCMP both carry a report on petitioning taxi drivers conducting mass suicide in a busy street in Beijing in protest of local despotism in their hometown Suifenhe City, Heilongjiang Province.

Those cabbies are all self-employed taxi operators who own their own taxis and have been issued necessary licenses.

However, the local government there is forcing a taxi reform on them. It is forcing them to join some taxi companies there so that they have to pay the companies for their operation. They, in addition, have to replace their vehicles with expensive brand that will cost each of them more than $20,000. They cannot earn back such a huge investment even with all their income for 8 years.

Desperate, all the more than 2,000 taxi drivers in the city have held a strike for two weeks in protest but failed to make the government change its mind.

They have to send their representatives to Beijing to complain. The 30 representatives complained to both the State Bureau for Letters and Calls and the Ministry of Transport but so far to no avail. As a last resort, they committed mass suicide by drinking poison in Wangfujing Street, the busy shopping area in Beijing.

They proved Confucius’ well-known saying by their sad deeds. Tyranny is indeed fiercer than a tiger!

Source: SCMP “Chinese taxi drivers attempt mass suicide in Beijing during vehicle leasing protest”

Source: Singtao Daily “30 petitioning taxi drivers committed suicide at Wanfujing Street” summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinese)


Western Media Are Missing China’s Biggest Story


Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Madam Fu Ying at the end of the National People's Congress in Beijing.  (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Madam Fu Ying at the end of the National People’s Congress in Beijing. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Well-known journalist Nathan Gardels points out in his report on March 16 the biggest story of China’s persistent “long march toward ‘rule according to law’”, which this blogger regards as the greatest political reform that will lay foundation for China’s long-term stability, prosperity and democracy. The following is the full text of Mr. Gardels’ report:

Western Media Are Missing China’s Biggest Story
By Nathan Gardels
Editor-in-chief, THEWORLDPOST
Posted: 03/16/2015 11:37 am EDT Updated: 4 hours ago

BEIJING — In Western media, the National People’s Congress — China’s legislative body which just ended its annual three week session — is perfunctorily conjoined with the phrase “rubber stamp.” This characterization is less and less true every year and does a disservice to understanding the most significant historic shift taking place in China today: the long march toward “rule according to law” from administrative fiat.

One problem is that most journalists focus only on “events” as news. Process, which takes place step by step and evolves over many years, but which in the end changes the entire framework of political life, is difficult to capture in an attention-grabbing headline. It is also good news about “what works” instead of bad news about what doesn’t — the métier of the adversarial press.

To be sure, there are twists and turns along the road and many battles with authorities who would lose their prerogative to impose policies without consent or get away with corruption unscathed. But China is now a long way down the road on this score.

The active shift toward the rule of law began in the wake of the Cultural Revolution when anarchy overtook China and decisions, with often tragic consequences for individuals as well as the entire society, were made arbitrarily either by roving bands of hot-headed teenagers or by rigidly ideological top officials with no constraint on their authority.

One institutional push for rule of law came when Qiao Shi was head of the National People’s Congress back in 1997. As he told me then in an interview in the Great Hall of the People:

An important reason why the Cultural Revolution took place and lasted 10 years was that we had not paid enough attention to the legal system.

It was from this bitter experience that, by the end of the 1970s, we began to stress the need to improve the legal system and law, to maintain stability and continuity in this system of law and make it very authoritative.

According to the constitution of China, all power in the country belongs to the people, and the people exercise state power through the National People’s Congress and local people’s congresses at various levels.

To ensure that the people are the real masters of the country, that state power is really in their hands, we must strengthen these institutions and give them full play.

No organization or individual has the prerogative to override the constitution or the law.

One reason a consolidated push toward rule of law is happening today is that the current generation of leaders now in power, including President and Communist Party chief Xi Jinping, suffered through the Cultural Revolution and never want to see such a catastrophe ever again. Today’s leaders also know that the pervasive corruption which has accompanied rapid economic growth is so severely eroding society’s sense of fairness and equality of opportunity that the very legitimacy of the ruling Communist Party is at stake.

Indeed, I was told in Beijing last week by one high official that President Xi is deeply influenced by China’s classical school of legalism, which flourished during the Qin Dynasty (221 B.C.) when the various warring provinces were unified into one state. Legalism posits that the well-being of the state would be best guaranteed by clear-cut rules rather than the traditional Confucian reliance on private morality of officials.

In 1999, the constitution was amended to incorporate the phrase “rule according to law” and set out a path for the transition from a regime of administrative decisions to one whereby all policies would ultimately be implemented by legislation. For the first time last October, an entire plenary session of the Central Committee of the Communist Party was devoted to “comprehensively advancing rule of law in China.”
At the moment, the NPC does not itself propose legislation. Its delegates submit proposals based on constituent concerns to the party and the state council — the government executive body — which processes those proposals into legislation which are sent back to the NPC for approval. Since the process is meant to create consensus through back and forth deliberation and trade offs among competing interests, legislation is usually not submitted unless there is an expectation of its passage. But as Chinese society grows more complex with prosperity and greater participation, much debate indeed takes place — including about the role of the NPC itself.

As Xin Chunying, Vice-Chairperson of Legislative Affairs Commission of China’s National People’s Congress, wrote in the WorldPost at the time of the plenary:

The drafting of laws should be more often led by the Congress and the special committees instead of by ministries concerned — which may lead to legalization for the interest or rights of relevant government agencies over the society as a whole.

It is also important that legislation moves ahead of reform so that the new reforms progress on the basis of law and so that every major reform step is guided by law.

This year, as the NPC spokesperson Fu Ying told me, there was “heated debate” — no less than what has been witnessed in the West over similar legislation — about a new anti-terrorism law. The debate centered around “how to define terrorism” and “how to balance the anti-terrorism measure with human rights.” Another major issue concerned the shift toward imposition of taxes by legislation instead of by administrative decisions of the State Council. NPC members insisted, according to Fu Ying, that “the various categories of taxes that the government levies, who will be levied, how much and how to levy, must all be stipulated by the NPC.”

On corruption, Fu Ying said “the job of NPC National Committee is to treat the root causes by pushing forward the building of anti-corruption institutions and thus creating an environment in which officials dare not breach the laws.” As it has been, she said, “officials feel they can break the law. They are not in awe of the law, don’t understand the law or don’t worry about the law.” All Party members,” Fu Ying continued, “must study the law, learn the law and abide by the law. [They must understand that] all people are equal before the law.”

Certainly, the NPC is not yet the U.S. Congress. And from China’s perspective that is no doubt a good thing. The NPC will not anytime soon be second guessing the president on his foreign policy initiatives and sending their own messages to an enemy with whom the executive branch is negotiating, as is the case with the Iran nuclear negotiations. No time soon will the NPC try to unravel already passed legislation, as is the case with Obamacare. And the NPC will continue to strive toward consensus instead of engage in the corrosive politics of gridlock.

Just because China’s NPC is not mired in dysfunction like the U.S. Congress, doesn’t mean it is not advancing the rule of law.

Source: huffingtonpost “Western Media Are Missing China’s Biggest Story”


Write to Prevent Chinese History from Being Distorted


At the end of the preface to the first edition of my book Tiananmen’s Tremendous Achievement, I tell readers my intention in writing the book:

As the Party’s official historical records tend to omit the evils done by Mao and his lackeys and the top-level power struggles in the Party in order to beautify the Party and maintain the legitimacy of its monopoly of power, if no one writes this part of the history, this important part of Chinese history will be missing and people will not be able to really understand what has happened in China over the past few decades or see what will happen in the future from a Chinese perspective.

Especially, Tiananmen butchers will succeed in justifying the massacre and Tiananmen heroes would shed their blood and suffered imprisonment and other persecution in vain if their great achievements remain unknown. Therefore, having this book written and published becomes my historical mission and destiny.

True enough Reuters says in its report today, “China’s ruling Communist Party will likely never open all the files on its recent painful past, including the Cultural Revolution and Great Leap Forward, and sees no need to reassess those periods, a senior party historian said”.

Knowing that well, I wrote quite a lot about Mao era, especially the Cultural Revolution and Great Leap Forward. It is a pity that my book does not sell and no libraries in the West have even a copy of my book.

I hope other people to write their sufferings in Mao era, but few were willing as recalling the terrible past is traumatic. I have experienced the trauma when I write my book, but have overcome it as we must let our posterity know the truth.

Due to fear of Chinese authorities’ and leftists’ retaliation, I dare not publish the Chinese version of my book. Now it is time for me to have the courage to publish the Chinese version of my book for the benefits of our posterity.

The following is the full text of Reuter’s report:

China likely will never open all files on painful past, official says

China’s ruling Communist Party will likely never open all the files on its recent painful past, including the Cultural Revolution and Great Leap Forward, and sees no need to reassess those periods, a senior party historian said on Monday.

The 1958-1961 Great Leap Forward, when millions starved to death in Mao Zedong’s botched industrialization campaign, and the 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution are two of modern China’s most sensitive historical events.

During the Cultural Revolution, children turned on parents and students on teachers after Mao declared class war, convulsing the country in chaos and violence.

While recent years have seen increased public discussion of both events, certain topics remain almost completely off limits, including the death of Lin Biao, once handpicked to succeed Mao but killed in a mysterious plane crash in 1971 while fleeing China having been accused of plotting a coup.

Xie Chuntao, Director of the Party History Teaching and Research Department of the Party School, which trains rising officials, said the party had reflected deeply on its mistakes.

But former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping’s conclusion that Mao made mistakes remains the correct way to broadly view the period, Xie told a news conference.

“I believe this summation is still, to this day, authoritative and has withstood the test of time,” he said, in rare public comments by a party official on the country’s fractious communist past.

The mistakes of the party’s past are still being learned today by its members, and he himself teaches his students about the Great Leap Forward, Xie added.

“Everyone has reached a consensus that the mistakes of the past will certainly not be repeated today or in the future.”

Only a “small number” of the party’s historical files were still sealed, he said.

“Some involve the state’s core interests, and some are not convenient to be released,” Xie added.

“From a historical research it is to be hoped that it would be best if they are all opened. But I fear this cannot happen, and may never happen.”