Chinese democracy movement
rises above its Inside Baseball
The news from CDP suggests that a highly competent
Xu Wenli is winning his high-stakes power play
By John P. Kusumi
DEMOCRACY MOVEMENT INSIDE BASEBALL
The Chinese pro-democracy movement has a lot of Inside Baseball -- internecine rivalry, dispute, disagreement and conflict -- that constantly threatens to backfire, and to reduce the public image of the movement into being merely the scene of an angry squabble, where leadership is impossible.
I have previously expressed my disappointment in the Tiananmen Generation Association, a group that might have carried on the voice of the leadership of 1989's pro-democracy uprising; it might have done so, but for the fact that the group could not agree to exist. (The group was first formed, and then suspended operation.)
As a campaigner who works in the China Support Network to boost and support Chinese dissidents and related activities, I have been privileged to meet numerous Chinese dissidents -- both the top leaders, and the rank-in-file dissidents -- at numerous occasions. The China Support Network has always enjoyed high-level access and the ability to contribute work, both actual and suggested, to the dissident activities in exile overseas ("Overseas" means outside of China).
It means that I have been privileged to meet them, but I have also seen the result of their political and competitive instincts. When I ask a Chinese dissident about any other top Chinese dissident, I do not hear any recognition of why the second dissident is prominent or esteemed. In fact, it is impossible to talk about the wider group of dissident leaders, because no matter what question is asked, the response is an answer to a different question: "What are the negatives about this person? Why should this person be discounted, disregarded, or disrespected as a leader?" Please remember, that I don't ask these latter two questions. I simply hear the answer.
Therefore, it is my experience that if you ask a dissident about another dissident, you will hear a personal, ad-hominem trashing of the second dissident, and this is the natural first instinct of too many Chinese dissidents. I don't want to name names, nor to give real-world examples here, but imagine a hypothetical dissident named Xing Guizhen. And suppose that Xing Guizhen is the leader of a group called FCDCCSS, the Free China Democracy Coalition of Chinese Students and Scholars. Another Chinese dissident might say, "Well, I support the FCDCCSS, but I oppose Xing Guizhen. Xing Guizhen tried to open a Chinese laundry and failed; that resulted from his bad judgment and failed management / leadership skills." The negative point gets the attention; never mind if Xing Guizhen is in the news receiving a Congressional Medal of Honor.
Is there any better esteem for another dissident? My example could continue. I could ask, "What about the famous Tiananmen Square leader, Xin Luchaixi?" I would be told, "First, he misappropriated money at Tiananmen Square. Then, he misappropriated money at FCDCCSS." To observers outside the circle of Chinese dissidents (the general public), Xin Luchaixi may be a phenomenal hero, famous for stopping tanks at Tiananmen Square. But inside the circle, his name is mud, and they don't care about heroism or esteem from the outside world (the general public).
Some of this is sour-grapes jealous carping from people with less public prominence, directed against people with more public prominence. No one can ever take away the fame that is attached to people like Wang Dan and Harry Wu. Others who are less famous may naturally have a condition that may be called "sore runner-up syndrome." They can speak reasons why the person in question really does not deserve such fame and prominence. But, public perception does not change based on gripes and grumbling uttered in private. The wider community still holds a place for the famous public figures. They have the kiss of being media darlings.
This is what I call democracy movement Inside Baseball, and it is the reason why cooperation seems impossible -- even to be discussed, inside the movement.
XU WENLI MAKES HIS MOVE
Usually, maneuvers within the democracy movement are not loud enough to impact U.S. public perceptions. On June 4 and 5, 2007, dissident Xu Wenli held a First Party Congress of the China Democracy Party in Providence, Rhode Island. The Congress adopted a Declaration of "China's Third Republic," an expression of intent to build a third republic while respecting the work, effort, and legacy of two earlier attempts (1911 and 1946) to make a democratic Chinese republic.
This time, it was loud enough to impact the public face of the democracy movement, in English, as observed by the U.S. public. Mainstream U.S. news outlets including the Providence Journal and Channel 10, a Rhode Island affiliate of the NBC network, covered the Congress. (At the China Support Network, we have adjusted our "splash page," the first one seen at www.chinasupport.net. It shows a Chinese dissident waving a copy of the Providence Journal on the second day of the Congress. By following links at the splash page, one read the Providence Journal story, or view the Channel 10 story.)
The Rhode Island news coverage stands out, because Chinese democracy rarely gets attention in the American news. As such, this was a public relations victory for the entire movement. It is also noteworthy in light of the movement's Inside Baseball. With the usual bickering in the movement, what are the odds that a news story comes out and makes the movement appear to be professional, competent, and unified? --The Rhode Island coverage made no mention of splits, divisions, back biting, recrimination, and Balkanization at our movement. Why? Because it was "top line" coverage, looking at the major points of our situation, and reporters had no time to study, research, or look up the Inside Baseball.
To overlook the Inside Baseball is actually good editorial judgment. If we prefer a movement of progress, rather than gridlock, we must embrace occasions like this, when the news reports progress. Xu Wenli is to be congratulated for holding a successful Congress, even if it was an "invitation only" exclusive group of hand-picked dissidents. The Rhode Island reporters are to be thanked for making us look good. As we know from my discussion of Inside Baseball, above, any story could be told in a way that is more dark. The Rhode Island reporters "took the high road," something that I wish Chinese dissidents themselves would do. To give credit where credit is due, and to acknowledge the legitimate standing of other dissidents -- that is a habit of "larger men," and I wish that Chinese dissidents would take up that habit. To be the bigger man means that one must acknowledge the actual significance of actual work by others, even if the "other" is a rival, competitor, opponent, or is to be found with a differing stance, "across the aisle" politically.
In his remarks, Xu Wenli acknowledged that China's political opposition has many factions. His CDP Congress brought together the leaders of other parties -- the Chinese Labor Party and the China Social Democratic Party were each participants in the Congress, through their representatives who were given time on the floor with a microphone to speak. (The Chinese Republican Party was notably absent, as was the "Mainland KMT," or Nationalist Party.) The presence of the other parties was not hidden -- but, it was overlooked by the American reporters who didn't pick up the nuance. They reported "the news at first blush," which was a CDP Party Congress. If they reported "the news at second blush," then they would be covering the Inside Baseball of the Chinese democracy movement.
Baskin Robbins is a store that is famous for having 31 flavors of ice cream. If there is a child who likes chocolate ice cream, he or she might walk into Baskin Robbins and say, "Hey -- there's chocolate ice cream!" That is what the American reporters recently did. Someone else might walk in and say, "Hey -- there are 31 flavors of ice cream here!" An intellectual could take exception with the American reporting, because of the 30 additional flavors of Chinese dissent that we have in the store. But, the situation worked in favor of Xu Wenli and the China Democracy Party, who may feel like "the cat who swallowed the canary."
In a victory of public relations, Xu Wenli bolstered his standing as perhaps the top leading Chinese dissident at work today. The CDP became the leading public face of the Chinese democracy movement. (And meanwhile elsewhere -- in Japan during the Congress -- Wei Jingsheng was having a public relations disaster. He was arrested upon trying to enter Japan for a June 4 commemoration.)
IMPACTFUL FROM HERE TO BEIJING
The Providence Journal story included this note-- "An audio broadcast of yesterday’s events...was sent out over the Internet. It was unclear if residents of mainland China had access to the Web cast, although it seems certain that one way or another, accounts of the congress will reach the country."
I will add my own anecdote. There is a citizen in Beijing whose name I will protect by calling him Hank. Hank reports that he got word of Xu Wenli's successful Congress, and added, "some friends around me heard the real time broadcasting from the internet." We can see from my anecdote that the "free China" community was paying attention to the event. Therefore, we should all sit up and take notice of the recent contributions, given by Xu Wenli to the movement.
A PLAN FOR CHINESE DEMOCRACY
It is easy to find disagreement in the Chinese democracy movement, by asking about the vision of a future China. Three questions are obvious questions, but they get a variety of answers: (1.) What should be the name of the future Chinese nation? (2.) What should be the flag of the future Chinese nation? (3.) What should be the Constitution of the future Chinese nation? Any one of these questions will reveal a diversity of opinion. About the name, some people want a "United States of China." Other names bandied around include "Democratic Federal Republic of China," the "Free Republic of China," or simply ROC -- a return to the Republic of China as once existed earlier. Likewise, the movement has more than one flag, and more than one Constitution, sitting on the shelf as contenders for consideration.
However, most people in the movement lack the stature to make their choice "stick" among the others. Our community can point to a string of failures, where one dissident or another tried to make a government-in-exile -- Hua Xiazi ("Linda") and her DROC; Peng Ming and his China Federation Foundation; Zhang Hongbao and his China Shadow Government. These efforts failed to "stick" because they were vehicles for an individual to have a fiefdom. They did not attract wide participation or "political buy in," hence they failed to represent the whole democracy movement. For that matter my group, CSN, issued its Road Map To Democracy, a similar plan, which met with a similar fate. Without wide participation or "political buy in," we cannot say that it is the will of the democracy movement.
With its recent Congress, the CDP did something interesting. It answered all of questions (1.), (2.), and (3.) and then it stopped short of forming a government-in-exile. The Chinese democracy movement now has "default answers" for (1.) What is the name of the future Chinese nation? (Republic of China.) (2.) What is the flag of the future Chinese nation? (See ROC flag as in 1947.) (3.) What is the Constitution of the future Chinese nation? (See ROC Constitution as in 1947.)
The three questions are answered, but CDP denies that the Third Republic of China is a government-in-exile.
It was politically astute for Xu Wenli to move in this way. In an environment where the movement's dissidents would never agree on anything else, Xu reached for the model provided by history. Chinese dissidents do respect, admire, and honor the work done by the earlier founders of the Republic of China. Xu leveraged that earlier work, and has stepped into a role as the enforcer of China's earlier government. The Third Republic of China carries with it the weight and the authority of an earlier Chinese government, and by adding new life to China's old clothes, there is a powerful blend. It amplifies the voice and moral authority of Xu Wenli and the CDP in general.
As it turns out, Xu Wenli had the stature to "swing" this much, and to make the event a success. As I say, he is to be congratulated for his achievement.
TIME TABLES OF HISTORY
The CDP Party Congress further underscored a political tract that CDP first released in May, 2006. It is the "Proposed Direction and Timeline to the Chinese Government for the Implementation of Political Reform in the People’s Republic of China." The proposal states that this year (2007), the Chinese government should release prisoners of conscience and allow the exiled dissidents to return to China. If the PRC/CCP government makes that goodwill gesture, then in turn the CDP and those it influences would allow the 2008 Olympics to be held without the expected protest which is otherwise coming. That would be a reciprocal gesture of goodwill from the pro-democracy forces.
Further along CDP's timeline in Fall, 2009, a "Future of China Conference" should be held in Beijing, and should authorize a Constitutional Convention to be held in 2010. The document calls for the CCP and political opposition factions to establish working groups for the Future of China Conference, and calls for delegations from these working groups to meet in earnest dialogue, this year and next (2007 / 2008). Even if the United Nations must mediate these discussions, CDP wants them to prepare "the topics, schedules, and implementation" of its proposed Future of China Conference. Among political factions to be included at the conference, the CDP wants Taiwanese, Tibetans, Falun Gong, and June 4 (Tiananmen Square) victims to be represented.
The document calls for Hong Kong to have direct elections for its chief executive in 2008. Also, a "News Publication Law" to take effect in 2009 would allow freedom of the press in the Mainland from that time forward. The document suggests that one or two provinces be designated "Early Political Reform Provinces," with direct elections at city and county levels by 2010, and province-level elections by 2011.
The Providence Journal, in reporting from the CDP Party Congress, said "the CDP has set a goal of becoming a legal party in China by the year 2015 — and of becoming the ruling party by 2020." Actually, many Chinese seem to have a superstition about the year 2012. There is a widely shared expectation of Chinese democracy by that year. Perhaps because "the fourth generation" of Chinese leadership must give way to the fifth: the Tiananmen generation. Also, many people feel that 2011 is a fitting target date, because of the centennial of the 1911 Revolution. If Chinese politics found its way to freedom and stability on solid footing, then the prior century would become known as "the Hundred Years Revolution" -- a revolution rudely interrupted by such things as World War II, Civil War, and Communism. The latter led to the PRC's empire of lies, which continues today.
NOT A VIOLENT REVOLUTION
China should count itself fortunate to have Xu Wenli as its rising dissident / opposition leader. Very clearly, he has studied history extensively. His approach is intellectual so that it remains principled and pure. Xu's forethought about an opposition party stretches back more than 20 years. With most men, if you offered to make him a king, he would accept. Departures from that tendency are rare -- George Washington is the obvious example of a man who was offered to be a king, and he preferred (chose of his own volition) to be a democrat. Xu Wenli strikes me as similarly inclined. He has suggested a standard whereby participants in the Constitutional Convention would foreswear the subsequent holding of political office. And, he has indicated that he would sooner work on constitutional issues, rather than be President of China. In this way, he is showing more concern for future generations than for personal gain in his own lifetime.
Through Xu Wenli, the Chinese democracy movement is keeping its character as a non-violent movement. In its prisons, China is holding two dissidents -- Peng Ming and Wang Bingzhang -- who, if they were free, might be more favorably inclined to the use of force and paramilitary actions. For those, such as the Communists, who value stability, the approach of Xu Wenli allows for a transition, rather than a revolution and a sharp break with the past. Because he remains open to following the path of transition, Xu is being cagey and straddling the fence on many issues.
It remains to be seen whether the Communists will play ball, but they have unique pressure due to the upcoming 2008 Olympics. If they want smooth Olympics rather than a riot, the CDP is offering a path to the achievement of that objective. The press and public relations surrounding the Olympics has been sliding in a negative direction -- recently, it grows uglier and uglier. The rioters are getting ready. Everyone is looking for a goodwill gesture from the CCP. A failed Olympics would be the end of the CCP, whether or not they are cooperating and playing ball.
The China Support Network, the Falun Gong, and many related groups are preparing to announce their stepped up push for an Olympic boycott on August 8, 2007. The announcement is inevitable, unless the CCP comes through with a goodwill gesture as suggested in the 2006 CDP document to the PRC government. The time is now for the CCP to decide about the end of Falun Gong persecution, and the release of its prisoners of conscience. A decision that stops Falun Gong persecution would be a clear signal that Hu Jintao's group has won the power struggle with the faction headed by former PRC President Jiang Zemin. Indeed, the absence of that decision suggests that Jiang Zemin is still in charge and protecting his legacy. (It was Jiang's decision, late in his tenure, to begin Falun Gong persecution. Hence, this continued pain for China is Jiang's legacy and has been saddled to the administration of Hu Jintao.)
On the public relations front, thanks in part to the CDP, dissidents and those who question the Olympics are gaining the upper hand. The movement has continued to build the case against the CCP regime -- including damning confirmation from the United Nations about the regime's practice of harvesting organs from unwilling Falun Gong prisoners. And, U.S. President George W. Bush recently dedicated a new Victims of Communism Memorial in Washington, DC. China is having one PR setback after another. The Olympics are clearly under threat based on these human rights concerns.
By the time that Chinese Communists figure out their political calculus, it turns out that they would do well by accepting Xu Wenli, the CDP, and the Third Republic of China. There are yet more reasons why their back is to the wall, politically. The CDP Congress was blessed with auspicious timing, due to the many other factors surrounding Chinese politics. He may not be a democrat, but Hu Jintao is a smart man. It may be politically expedient for him to become a democrat.
Published June 15, 2007 by the China Support Network (CSN). Begun as the American response group in 1989, CSN represents Americans who are "on the side" of the students in Tiananmen Square -- standing for democratic reform, human rights, and freedom in China. For dissident news; to support a stronger China policy; or get more information, see http://www.chinasupport.net/.