Zhao Ziyang: The world lost another good one today
Sun Tzu said, "The general who does not advance to seek glory, or does not withdraw to avoid punishment, but cares for only the people's security and promotes the people's interests, is the nation's treasure."
You know what real leadership is? It's not some triumphant march down the parade path after a glorious victory, but rather, the daily struggle to protect the well-being of the unrepresented majority against the often opposing elitists’ interests. A thankless job best left to individuals of uncompromising principle.
You might find the following Time essay inspiring (I did).
An account from Time Magazine:
The Sacrifice That Made a Leader
Going to the square that night was ZHAO ZIYANG's defining act, says Wu Guoguang, and cost him his freedom
In the wrong place at the wrong time, Zhao Ziyang did the right thing. It was close to midnight on the night of May 19, 1989. China's leaders were finalizing their plans to declare martial law and crush the Tiananmen Square democracy protests that had, in the preceding 48 hours, swelled to include more than a million demonstrators. Zhao, then general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, might have remained with the commissars inside Beijing's Great Hall of the People as they called in the troops. Instead, stooped with fatigue, tears in his eyes, he waded into the throngs of students and in the gathering darkness pleaded with them to abandon their vigil before it was too late.
It was already too late for the protesters and, as Zhao must have known that night, for himself. His act of conscience—Zhao could not countenance p.l.a. armored columns attacking Chinese people—was the political equivalent of standing in front of a tank. He was stripped of his position and replaced by the nimble first party secretary of Shanghai, Jiang Zemin. For the past 13 years, Zhao and his wife, Liang Boqi, have lived under house arrest in Beijing.
What motivated Zhao's act of self-destruction remains a topic of debate among those who knew him. Some say he went into the square hoping a conciliatory gesture would gain him leverage against hard-liners like Premier Li Peng—political gamesmanship gone badly awry. Others suggest he was merely naďve, that a false sense of security caused him to misjudge the risk he took by breaking rank.
I was not surprised when I watched on TV that night as he arrived at the square. Zhao had been my boss since 1986. I knew that, in trying to protect the students, he was defending his own dreams for a better China. When he invited me to leave my job as an editorial writer for the People's Daily to join his advisory committee on political reform, I had expected to be working with a protean party bureaucrat, an expert in cynical self-preservation. But when we had our first face-to-face talk in 1986, I found a paradox: a leader staunchly committed to dismantling the very system that supported his power.
Zhao called political reform "the biggest test facing socialism." As I grew to know him, I came to understand why. He believed economic progress was inextricably linked to democratization. As early as 1986, Zhao became the first high-ranking Chinese leader to call for cha e xuanju—elections offering a choice of candidates from the village level all the way up to membership in the Central Committee. His economic policies were, for their time and place, similarly progressive. He developed "preliminary stage theory," a course for transforming the socialist system that set the stage for much of the prosperity China enjoys today.
In the 1980s, Zhao was branded by many as a revisionist of Marxism, a heretic. The man I knew was warm and engaging, a person given to using personal anecdotes—and occasionally scenes from Chinese films—to illustrate his points. Sometimes during our committee meetings, Zhao's chief of staff, Bao Tong, would argue sharply with him. Zhao always smiled and listened carefully, never one to close off debate. He valued dialogue, and not just among individuals behind closed doors. He wanted government to be transparent. He wanted a national dialogue that included ordinary citizens in the policymaking process.
That was because he trusted the Chinese people. He had suffered among them. His father, a landowner in Henan province, was killed by the ccp during land reforms in the late 1940s. Later, as he rose through the party ranks in Guangdong province, Zhao was one of the rare party figures who was popular with the masses. In Sichuan, where Zhao implemented economic restructuring in the 1970s, there was a saying: "yao chi liang, zhao Ziyang." The wordplay on his name, loosely translated, means "if you want to eat, seek Ziyang."
It is rumored that the guards who watch Zhao's house today must be rotated on a regular basis. If they stay more than a few months, they become his friends. He is now well into his 80s, and poses no real political threat. But his vision of a democratic China remains dangerous. I wonder if Zhao still likes to recite his favorite quotation, attributed to Karl Marx: "If I don't go to hell, who else will?" It's an appropriate expression for a man who understands the high price of holding power—and the higher price of having principles.
Wu Guoguang, a former speechwriter for Zhao Ziyang, teaches politics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong
Today's article from the Washington Post:
Zhao's Death Unsettles China
Party Leaders Seek to Head Off Public Debate
By Philip P. Pan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, January 18, 2005; Page A01
BEIJING, Jan. 17 -- China's Communist leadership convened a series of emergency meetings Monday to manage the consequences of the death of a disgraced party leader and confront the legacy of an event it has tried to put behind it, the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square.
According to journalists and other Communist Party sources, the government was wrestling with the question of how to pay its respects to Zhao Ziyang, the party general secretary purged in 1989 for refusing to endorse the military assault on the student protesters, but to do so without triggering an emotional debate about the Tiananmen massacre.
As the party tried to limit public discussion of Zhao's death, news of it was spreading, and there were quiet signs of unofficial mourning across Beijing. Vans carried flowers all day to the traditional house with a courtyard where Zhao had been held under house arrest for the past 15 years. A man lay down in Tiananmen Square and was whisked away by police.
On the Internet, especially on college bulletin boards, users posted hundreds, if not thousands, of notes of sorrow, only to watch as censors deleted most of them quickly. "Can't we grieve when someone has died?" asked one message that remained on the Web site of the party's flagship newspaper, the People's Daily.
At least 20 party veterans, many of them former colleagues of Zhao's from across the country, appealed to President Hu Jintao to authorize a state funeral for the deposed party leader, according to Frank Lu, a Hong Kong-based democracy activist who said he had received the information from a party elder with ministerial ranking.
Lu said some of the party veterans also urged Hu to reverse the harsh judgment on Zhao's leadership handed down by the party in 1989, a move that would mean admitting the government was wrong to use force against the peaceful demonstrations and should have negotiated a settlement with the students, as Zhao had recommended.
"Their core request is to give him a public and solemn memorial service, in which he is treated as a national leader," Lu said.
Reached by telephone, Zhao's youngest son, Zhao Sijun, said his family hoped to schedule "a simple, solemn farewell ceremony, something relatively private, with friends and relatives." He said the family had not decided whether to request a state funeral as well, but supported calls for the party to reverse its verdict on his father.
The request complicates an already delicate task for Hu, a relatively new party chief still consolidating his grip on power. Doing too much to honor Zhao, who was condemned by the party but still enjoys a degree of popular support, could stir memories of Tiananmen. But doing too little could draw attention as well and perhaps provoke a backlash.
In a sign of Hu's caution, propaganda authorities prohibited state television and radio from announcing Zhao's death on the evening news. They also ordered newspapers to use only a brief dispatch distributed by the official New China News Agency, and then only after receiving explicit permission, journalists said.
The one-sentence report referred to Zhao as "comrade" and did not mention his previous leadership posts or fall from power. The Beijing Evening News put the news on page 16, under an item about the Golden Globe Awards ceremony in the United States.
The party appeared determined to avoid what happened in 1976, when the death of a popular premier, Zhou Enlai, prompted an outpouring of grief and protests in Tiananmen Square against the excesses of Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution. The 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations were also touched off by the death of a popular party leader, Hu Yaobang, who had been ousted two years earlier by party hard-liners.
The same hard-liners attacked Zhao's handling of the 1989 protests. After Zhao challenged paramount leader Deng Xiaoping's order to use force to clear the square, the party concluded that he had "committed the serious mistake of supporting the turmoil and splitting the party." He spent the next 15 years under house arrest, becoming a hero to those horrified by the army's assault on Tiananmen, which killed hundreds, perhaps thousands.
In many ways, the party has recovered from the damage done to its reputation by the massacre, both by delivering record economic growth and fanning nationalist sentiment. But its anxiety about Zhao's death suggests a deep insecurity about its hold on power.
"Logically, as a former general secretary of the party and premier of the government, there should be a memorial service," said Wu Jiaxiang, a writer and former aide of Zhao's. "Zhao Ziyang made an important contribution to China. There may be some decisions that people don't agree about, but his contribution should be the main thing."
Zhao's death came days after the state funeral of Song Renqiong, a party elder who died Jan. 8. State television on Friday showed Hu and other senior leaders approaching Song's coffin separately and bowing three times.
Party officials said a similar service for Zhao was very unlikely, as was any change in the party's official assessment of Zhao or its defense of the 1989 crackdown. But doing nothing to honor Zhao, who served as premier from 1980 to 1987, then as party leader until 1989, might seem callous. That would be particularly true for Premier Wen Jiabao, who was one of Zhao's top aides and stood next to him when he last appeared in public in May 1989 and pleaded with students in the square to go home.
One party official said Hu and Wen might call on Zhao's family privately, thus recognizing his pioneering role in promoting market changes that transformed China's economy.
Vice President Zeng Qinghong is reported to have already visited the family, about an hour before Zhao's death at 7:01 a.m. Monday. Zhao, 85, had suffered multiple strokes and had been in a coma since Friday night.
Re: Zhao Ziyang: The world lost another good one today
That was a very good post/articles.
Thanks for sharing.
If anyone is interested in learning more about Zhao and his actions during Tiananmen Square I highly recommend reading "Seeds of Fire" by Gordon Thomas.
The book also has some interesting thoughts about 9/11.
Food for thought.