The Man Who Changed China

There is a newly published book, The Man Who Changed China: The Life and Legacy of Jiang Zemin, written by an American businessman Robert Lawrence Kuhn with the cooperation of the subject, his friends, relatives and associates.  I have not read the book, so I won't say anything.

Here are two book reviews:

What do the Chinese think?  I am going to translate an article by Liu Binyan (刘宾雁), the best known Chinese dissident in exile.  Now this is not a true book review, because Liu does not appear to have read the book in detail.  What he has done is to give his assessment of Jiang and then predict what the book is likely to cover and, more interestingly, will not be able to cover because the author will not be able to elicit any opinions.

(New Century Net from Radio Free Asia)  Reading the Jiang Zemin biography "He Changed China"


A biography of Jiang Zemin has been published in China.  It is written by a director of Citibank, Robert Kuhn.  The book title is "He Changed China."  It goes without say that this book was approved by Jiang for otherwise the author could not have spent so much time interviewing him.  Jiang's approval was also needed before the Chinese publisher dared to print the book.  Not many Chinese leaders have biographies of themselves published.  The problem is that this book appeared before any biographies of Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang while referring to Jiang Zemin as a great person "who changed China."  That seems somewhat inappropriate.

Sometimes, a person such as Mao Zedong can be said to have "changed China" in two senses of the phrase.  First, Mao Zedong overthrew the corrupt government of Chiang Kai-shek and he changed a Chinese society which had been stuck in a feudal system that had existed for several thousand years.  This was truly an earth-shattering change.  But a few years later, Mao personally destroyed that revolution.  He turned the prospering and promising China of the early 1950's into an impoverished China.

As for Jiang Zemin, he obviously cannot be compared with Mao Zedong.  Still, the fact was that he did reach the position of chairman, so his contribution to the state of China must not be underestimated.  In my opinion, there are also two meanings when one says that "he changed China."   During his term, the economic conditions in China improved.  This is one change.  But there was a price, and this was how he "changed China" in another way.  The newly published biography of Jiang Zemin is likely to have covered the first change in great detail, but not the second change; and even if the second change is mentioned, it would not be connected to Jiang Zemin.

In 1958, Mao Zedong started the The Great Leap Forward.  The next year, the Chinese people suffered from famines.  Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin also started a Great Leap Forward in the 1990's.  They turned steel and concrete into houses, roads and bridges in the major cities as well as the coastal areas at a rate that dazzled Chinese and foreign observers.  But nobody asked where they found the resources to do all that?  And was it necessary to go so fast?

As for Jiang Zemin's other change, it was the loss that we could never recuperate no matter how much money we have.  The rich got richer, the poor got poorer; the peasants, the workers and the low-income earners were embittered; most Chinese people could not afford to get sick; if you have a serious illness, you might as well as wait for death to come; you can rarely get clean water; students who can't afford the tuition have to drop out of school; the police and the criminals commingle and we can't tell them apart anymore; corrupt officials are in every corner of the country; money became the highest value; doctors will not apply treatment unless they get paid first ... as an intellectual said, "We now have everything except we don't have any souls anymore."  As Lu Xun said in 1925, there are banquets everywhere that serve human flesh.

You may complain that I am being too shrill.  But I ask you if the reason why China is invincible in the world economy is because it has such low wages which are often lower than in many Third World countries?  Those low wages are sometimes not even paid, leading migrant workers to jump off tall buildings to commit suicide in protest?  Or the Taiwan-capital factories have cases of poisoning in which hundreds of young female workers die?  Or fires that kill hundreds of workers because the factory boss locked up the dormitories?  As for the intellectuals, the better known they are, the more disgusting they are.  As Lu Xun said, there is nothing but "lies" and "falsehoods" around here.

Jiang Zemin ascended to the leadership throne when the road to democracy was disrupted in 1989 and the fate of China went on a reverse course.  An era of political retrogression, social corruption and economic development began in that manner.  Even with his experience and position, he could only flow with the tide.  At the later stage of Jiang's career, Deng Xiaoping no longer paid attention to things, so Jiang had the heaven-sent opportunity that was never afforded to Hu Yaobang or Zhao Ziyang and he could do whatever he wanted.  Now that would be the moment when Jiang Zemin could have shown us his true colors.  So what did he do?  He initiated the infamous oppression of the Falun Gong!  I have no idea how the American author would treat this part of the story.