at DC's National Press Club
Transcript of his prepared remarks follows.
November 29, 2007 in Washington, D.C.:
Carrie Conko: Good morning, and welcome to the Morning Newsmakers at the National Press Club. My name is Carrie Conko, and I'm a member of the Newsmakers Committee here at the National Press Club. I'd like to welcome club members and our guests here this morning as well as those of you watching on C-Span and other networks. This morning's speaker is Wang Dan, one of the most prominent advocates for Chinese democracy. At the age of 20, Wang Dan gained notoriety in China and across the world, as one of the undergraduate student organizers of the pro-democracy protests that culminated in the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. Following these protests, Wang Dan was arrested and sentenced to prison twice: once in 1989, and once in 1995. He ultimately served seven years in prison for conspiring to overthrow the Communist Party of China. In 1998, under intense international political pressure, Wang Dan was released from prison and exiled to the United States. Here, he completed his Masters in East Asian History at Harvard University, where he's pursuing his PhD. He's speaking with us today about his life in China, the country's histroic economic and social reforms, and the Chinese policies that continue to pose challenges to the country's growth and development. The talk will be followed by a Q&A with members of the media. I should note that Wang Dan will be reading his speech in English. However, when we go to the Q&A, he'll be aided by the assistance of an interpreter. She'll be interpreting his responses. He's able to understand the questions that are being asked. So, please be patient. Thank you. [New information comes in.] --We're doing the whole thing in Chinese with the aid of the interpreter.
Wang Dan: Well, first of all, I'd like to thank [inaudible] Center as well as NPC [National Press Club] for giving me this opportunity to meet with all of you.
The emergence of China is now an issue that is drawing a lot of attention, especially in the West. However, I think when the West is looking at China's emergence, you are looking at it from two perspectives, which I think are myths or mythified perspectives. A lot of the reports from the West these days about China are looking at China's economy, and I also think that a lot of the way the West is looking at China depends a lot on the conclusions of the pundits. And therefore, I think because of these two myths -- so when we look at the economic development of China today, we have ignored the two very important characteristics.
- First of all even though China's economic development is growing at a very rapid pace, however we have to recognize that it is a very unbalanced development.
- And also we need to recognize that this kind of growth is actually bulit on a very unequal, unfair fundamentals in the society.
And therefore, I think if we overlook these two important characteristics, then our judgment or our conclusion on China's economic development would be inaccurate. So, what we think today is that despite it's rapid economic development, China is also experiencing very dramatic or sharp social conflict. I think that the West should not look at only China's economic development and ignore China's social conflict.
Now what is the primary conflict? --As China develops economically, we see a kind of division in the society. First of all you see one group which is the interest group, or what we call vested interest group, or the elite group. On the other side, you see another group who has lost their rights during this process of reform, and we call them the vulnerable group. And the conflict between these two groups will bring a lot of problems to China. Although this kind of conflict is not quite obvious yet, but we cannot conclude that it wouldn't happen just because we are oblivious to it for now.
And I think the solution, the only solution to avoid this kind of social conflict is to bring democracy to China. Because now, there are many interest groups in China that are dividing the national assets. So, we need to impose some kind of checks and balances through bringing democracy to China. And we also believe that China's economic development will eventually lead to privatization. However, this kind of privatization will be extremely unfair if it is not supported by democracy.
A while ago the director of the Asian deparatment of the Rand Corporation mentioned that there is now political reform in China, which I think is actually a misunderstanding on his part. I don't see any realistic or real political reform in China today. We can use four criteria to judge or conclude whether there is political reform in China.
- First of all we need to look at the elections of the officials. Because we don't see any real election for officials who are above the county level.
- And secondly, we know that the military or the armed forces is still under the leadership of the party -- not under the leadership of the country.
- And, you don't see any real judicial independence in China yet.
- And, you can see that the government is still very much in control of the media and other propaganda organs.
And therefore, if we don't see any changes in what I just mentioned--the four issues above--then we cannot conclude that there is true or genuine political reform in China. Maybe some people argue that, "Well, we do enjoy more freedom in China now than we did compared to ten years or twenty years ago." --But, I have to point out very clearly that this so-called "freedom" is one that is not safe guarded or protected by a certain institution. This is a kind of freedom that is really shaky; that the government can terminate at any time. So, we say that this kind -- this is just an illusion, it's not true freedom. And, like all the other members of the world community we do look forward to China's prosperity and stability. But, I believe that the prosperity and stability in China will not be sustainable if there's a lack of freedom, and true freedom and true equality.
Finally, I would like the media to think about this one question: What is China going to look like in ten years? Now, think about China in ten years if it has finally become a military and an economic superpower, but without real democracy --what is it going to look like? Now are we willing -- the Western world in particular -- are we willing to face another Cold War? And therefore, I believe that bringing democracy to China is not something that concerns [just] China, but all of us in the international community who are stakeholders in that.
I would also like to take this opportunity to raise an issue that I think that everyone cares about and which is the human rights issue in China. Many Chinese have exiled to the United States since 1989, and many of them are still not allowed to return to China. It is really unfair not to let them return to the motherland after 20 years. Many of them have grown older and it's really -- they do need to go back.
We are very happy to see that the Olympics Games is going to be held in China next year. And therefore, we hope that these Olympics Games is going to give the Chinese government an opportunity to become more liberal and open and also to allow the exiles to return home. And we hope that this is an issue that the entire world will pay attention to.
--And next, you can ask questions and I will respond to your questions....