Pages Navigation Menu

Advancing a peaceful transition to democracy in China through truth, understanding, citizen power, & cooperative action

Three Chinas and Liu Xiaobo

Text of Speech at Oslo Freedom Forum, the 4th Annual

May 9, 2012, Oslo

Everyone asks: Why is China, a seemingly increasingly assertive world power, afraid of a single man like Liu Xiaobo? Why is it afraid of a moderate document like Charter 08, a manifesto authored by Liu Xiaobo and his colleagues demanding for political reform?


Liu Xiaobo and his colleagues recognize there are two Chinas. They have tried to bring together these two severely separated Chinas and construct a society based on universal values.
By “two China”, I am not talking about “mainland China” and “Taiwan.” Geographically there is only one entity of mainland China, but politically, economically, sociologically, and even sentimentally, it has largely broken into two societies.

 

Over the past 23 years after Tiananmen Square, the CCP regime has established a two China structure and one of the two Chinas, which I call China, Inc.,  is formed by the marriage of China’s political elite, economic elite and co-opted intellectuals which monopolize on power, capital, culture and information.

 

Today, China Inc. is dazzling the entire world with its wealth, might and glory. It dominates the public discourse that outside observers believe that it represents China—the whole of China.

The truth is there is another society named China, the under China, a society constituted of over a billion Chinese who are virtually slave-laborers working for China, Inc.

 

There is unprecedented wealth gap between the Chinas and the citizens of the under China are severely exploited economically but without protection of constitutionally afforded civil and political rights. The two Chinas no longer speak a common political language, and have no common political life and the underclass have grown more and more discontent and distrustful of the elite.

 

It is, however, not enough to just see the severe division of the two societies of China. We must envision the emergence of a new, democratic China: the third China  which is represented by people like Liu Xiaobo.

Despite the division, there are two often overlooked  consensuses among Chinese from both societies. The first is that the present China is not “normal.” The second, agreed upon to a lesser degree, is that China will eventually become normal through democratic means.


In order to find a common ground to lay the foundation for the third China, we must create a political language based on universal values that can bridge the gap between the two Chinas. And that is exactly what Liu Xiaobo, and Charter 08, has been intent on accomplishing.


Change is unlikely to first happen from within the deeply entrenched CCP regime which values stability-above-all. The persecution of Liu Xiaobo is evidence of this. Liu Xiaobo has repeatedly said  “ In the people lies the hope for a democratic China.”

 

The Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Liu Xiaobo has  remarkable impacts on the hearts of the people and over the past year the civil movement has become increasingly mature, skillful, and resilient as evidenced by three cases: Chen Guangcheng, Ai Weiwei, and Wukan villagers.

 

Charter 08 is our banner and Liu Xiaobo our standard bearer. Backed by large numbers of its real-name signers from diverse segments of society, the Charter will continue to transform individual protests into a long-lasting movement that demands across-the- board, systemic change.


As the people’s forces grow and the civil protests escalate, power struggles within the CCP regime will become more pronounced. Once the external pressure reaches a critical mass, the rival factions within the CCP will have no choice but take the voices of the people seriously and seek their support to survive.   And the release of Liu Xiaobo will help signal the coming of that change.

When a large-scale movement takes place again, as it did in 1989,we will need leaders to play the roles that Mandela, Havel, Walesa, and Aung San Suu Kyi have played at the critical moments of political change in their respective countries. We will need a group of civil leaders who can disrupt the political order and establish itself as the legitimate voice of the people in negotiations with the state. Liu Xiaobo, as a widely accepted leader both at home and abroad, will surely play a unique role in forming such a group, which was most needed but lacking in our 1989 Tiananmen movement.

 

Therefore, working toward his freedom is vital for a democratic change in China.  I am particularly encouraged by the strong support for Liu Xiaobo from world human rights activists. Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest in November of 2010. For the first time, there is hope for reform in Burma. In seeking the Liu’s release, we hope and struggle for the same in China.

Print Friendly