史景迁(Jonathan Spence), 世界著名汉学家、历史学家，现任美国历史学会主席。
Zhao's passing: An ancient fear of martyrs
The New York Times
Friday, January 28, 2005
NEW HAVEN, Connecticut Why has the Chinese government been so intent on showing that the former Communist Party chief Zhao Ziyang was a man whose life should not be celebrated and whose death should pass unsung?
Zhao played a role that has often made Chinese governments deeply uneasy: that of a bold and visionary reformer who insistently calls for change and openness in a tightly controlled political environment. Saluted for a time as one of the leaders of the country, Zhao sought to use his power and visibility to grant a hearing to the voices of those excluded from the inner circles where decisions were normally made. And when he persisted in this course in the face of opposition from senior party leaders, he had to be discarded.
Many others have played similar roles in China's long history, from as early as the seventh century B.C. Often, those seeking reforms were punished by their own colleagues, so that the concept of reform led to the construction in China of an elaborate and emotionally powerful martyrology.
China's recent history is studded with such cases that also serve as markers for major political shifts. Near the end of the Qing dynasty, there was a dramatic example. In 1898, China's political structure seemed frozen in time, unable to adjust to a new world's market and military forces.
The emperor himself tried to open up the system by inviting independent-minded scholars to the court, where they introduced plans to develop the economy and tax system, transform education, develop the press, and begin discussion of constitutional government and popular participation in decision-making.
Before the year was out, the conservative opponents rallied, the emperor was placed under a form of palace arrest, and six of the most outspoken reformers were arrested and summarily executed. The reform movement of 1898 became associated with the names of these six martyrs, though indeed they had spoken for a much larger constituency.
In the years after the dynasty's fall in 1912, other individuals mounted similar challenges, knowing how high the risks might be. One politician who had risen to prominence in China's first republican elections, held in late 1912, challenged the centralizing and militaristic tendencies of China's interim president; he was gunned down in the Shanghai railway station.
When Chiang Kai-shek was consolidating his power over the Nationalist Party in the 1920s, one of his closest lieutenants sought to increase the participation of leftists and to shift the government onto a more populist course. He, too, was shot dead.
In 1946, the popular poet Wen Yiduo cried out in anger against what he saw as government coercion against the liberals who were trying to open up the Nationalist Party. Wen was shot and killed, just after giving a passionate speech daring the government to take action against him.
The list could be expanded with many figures in the People's Republic. In 1976, after his speech of homage to the deceased Prime Minister Zhou Enlai, when the people of Beijing demonstrated in thousands on Tiananmen Square, it was Deng Xiaoping who seemed to be demanding change; for that bravado, he was purged from the party for a second time. In 1987, Hu Yaobang, the party chief who was one of Deng's new protégés, fell from grace because he was considered too soft on the fledgling democracy movement.
Hu was replaced by Zhao Ziyang, who fell in his turn as he tried to persuade the government to respond more favorably to some of the ideas for greater political participation being framed so vociferously by the demonstrating citizens and students of Tiananmen Square. As the guns were being brought in, Zhao wept, and for that the world remembers him.
In contrast to many earlier reformers, Zhao was allowed to live out the 15 years of life that remained to him in house arrest in Beijing. But the main issues he had raised about political openness were not addressed. Instead, it was the market-energizing plans, which he had formulated in earlier years, that were enshrined as basic policies for China's boom economy. It did seem like petty spite for China's government to refuse Zhao a full state funeral and to deny him the credit that was his due.
But, if the past is any guide, there will be a kind of corrective justice. China's leaders are already modifying their tough stance on the funeral arrangements, allowing a memorial ceremony for Zhao in Beijing on Saturday. The last thing they probably want is for Zhao to join the long list of reforming martyrs who have made their mark before him.
(Jonathan Spence, a professor of modern Chinese history at Yale University, is the author, most recently, of ‘‘Treason by the Book.’’)