The Counterattack Against Jiao Guobiao
Several days ago, Beijing University journalism professor Jiao Guobiao (焦國標) found himself dismissed by the university for "leaving his post on his own" (see previous post Jiao Guobiao's Final Struggle). Jiao's troubles are connected to the fact that he is an outspoken critic of the current government in China, as documented by the references at the bottom of this page. The coverage by the foreign media of his 'dismissal' is sympathetic to Jiao and critical of the university and the government. In the midst of all this, there is now an essay from an individual named Guo Feixiong (郭飛熊) that is critical of Jiao.
Is this a counterattack against Jiao by a pro-Chinese government shill? Perhaps, but one had better be able to look at the case on its own merits than rely on pre-suppositions. If this was just another rant about unpatriotic behavior, it would not be worth an iota of attention. However, this essay is interesting, less because of what the author actually wrote but more because he directed attention to some of Jiao's work, which are troubling by themselves.
In essence, the situation illustrates the classical dilemma faced by Chinese public intellectuals who are critical of the current system. On one hand, there is the maxim: "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." Thus, any critic of the system is a friend whom one should not criticize. The cause is lost if people are obsessed with forming circular firing squads to attack each other. On the other hand, some of your 'friends' may spout deplorable opinions. To maintain silence would be complicit and in fact those opinions will be seen as the representative face of the movement as a whole.
I will begin with a recent essay by Jiao Guobiao, dated March 20, 2005, first appearing in Observe China (觀察). The title of the essay is Two Henan Old Ladies: Chang Xiangyu (常香玉) and Gao Yaojie (高耀洁). The essay has been posted on various Chinese-language websites. My version came from New Century Net, with the author Jiao Guobiao being identified as an associate professor in the School of Journalism at Beijing University and a current visiting scholar at the National Endowment for Democracy in the United States.
There are two famous old ladies from Henan: one is Chang Xiangyu and the other is Gao Yaojie. Chang is a master of classical Henan opera while Gao is an AIDS advocate. As a Henan person myself, I respect these two ladies, but they also happen to have faults that I found to be lamentable.
Chang Xiangyu donated a military airplane during the Korean War. This was a source of honor to the people of the country. Even if they don't know anything about classical Henan opera, they still know that classical Henan opera master Chang Xiangyu donated an airplane.
But I believe that this is a greatest black spot in her life. What is that? Because the War To Resist America And Support Korea was a huge mistake. First of all, "resisting America and supporting Korea" ended up preserving North Korea. The next few decades showed that the War To Resist American And Support Korea ended up supporting the Kim dynastic totalitarian regime, which committed unforgivable crimes against the people of North Korea. This so-called War To Resist America And Support Korea is actually a crime against the tens of millions of North Koreans.
Second, the War To Resist America And Support Korea "saved" the Mao Zedong totalitarian regime. During the more the than two decades of the Mao Zedong era, from the One-To-Three to the Anti-Rightist campaign, from the Great Smelting Of Iron/Steel and the Great Leap Forward to the People's Commune, from the so-called "Three Years' Of Natural Disasters" to the Cultural Revolution, more than 40 to 50 million Chinese people died from hunger and other perils.
If the Americans took the Korean peninsula, crossed the Yalu River and went straight to Beijing to overthrow the Mao Zedong regime, just like the Manchurians chased away Li Zicheng, then all those disasters would have been avoided and contemporary China would be just as happy and prosperous as today's Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, and it would not have required Deng Xiaoping to come several decades later to bring about economic reform. It can be said that the War To Resist America And Support Korea hurt both the Chinese and Korean peoples.
When I say that, I know that someone people will accuse me of being unpatriotic. But I would rather have the American government of Washington to rule over me than the Chinese government of Qin Shihuang (First Emperor of China). This is not just my personal choice, because why else would so many Chinese people as well as others from developing countries want to migrate to Europe and America, including those who risk their lives via illegal smuggling?
Chang Xiangyu donated an airplane. The final outcome of the War To Resist America and Support Korea was obviously not determined by Chang Xiangyu's single airplane, but the airplane is the greatest event in the her life and also the greatest blight in her life. You may not agree with my point of view, but I accept that you have the right to disagree with me. Nothing more needs to be said.
In Guo Feixiong's essay (posted at ChineseNewsNet), he took exception to the paragraph about the hypothetical scenario of the United States entering China and deposing the Communists during the Korean War. Guo wrote this:
In this paragraph, Jiao Guobiao affirmed that the American military has the moral legality to "roll straight to Beijing." If that is the case, then the nature of the discussion is changed. Jiao has trampled directly on the basic values of our society -- our common notions about nation, people and rights, and our character, respect and integrity.
This is not a powerful critique at all, and in fact does not say much. However, it made me go back and read Jiao's essay in the original. I found the scenario unconvincing. Jiao has set up the actual sequence of infelicitious history against a straw man in which everything good occurred after the Americans crossed the Yalu River. But this piece of alternate history is not the only possible one. Rather, alternate histories are forked paths that lead to all sorts of possible scenarios with radically different consequences.
For example, if the Americans crossed the Yalu, rolled straight into Beijing and ousted the Communists, it is almost certain that they will bring back Chiang Kai-shek to take charge. After all, Chiang's Republic of China government was the legal representative of China at the United Nations and held a seat on the Security Council. If Chiang came back, it is conceivable that we would still be fighting a civil war today with hundreds of millions dead. But this is just as much idle speculation as Jiao's happy-talk scenario.
If Jiao is not permitted to use his alternate history to condemn what Chang Xiangyu did, then this is just a "she said, he said" argument where two sides respectfully disagree about a deed without any objective criteria. If anything, Chang has a stronger argument because she can justify her deed by referring to the known past history: she had a reasonable belief that the Americans intend to invade China to restore Chiang Kai-shek and bring back all the sorrows and woes of yesteryear. Can you blame Chang for donating an airplane then?
Now we continue with the second half of Jiao's essay about the other Henan old lady:
As for Gao Yaojie, I used to think that she had no flaws. Recently, the 2004 Chinese-language media awards were announced and Mrs. Gao's Ten Thousand Letters won the top prize. On March 7, 2005, the New Beijing Daily reported her reflects at receiving the honor, and she made a highly inappropriate comment. She said: "The book was published and got good reviews. Some newspapers and websites carried excerpts. A foreigner came to me to ask to get it translated and published internationally with quite favorable terms. It is good for the national media to publish it because that will increase circulation, touch people's conscience and awareness of this epidemic. As for publishing it internationally for whatever reasons for whatever profits, I have no interest and I have categorically refused to do so."
I don't understand if Mrs. Gao has too much money with nowhere to put it or she thinks that money is trouble. Why else would she say that she will not be moved by money and refuse categorically? What is wrong with a translated version outside China? At the very least, one reason for publishing it is to make the world more aware of AIDS. Do you only want the Chinese to become more aware of AIDS, but not the rest of the world? What have the foreigners done to offend you, Mrs. Gao? How did they mistreat you? When you were oppressed inside China, did not foreign opinion helped you and gave you moral support? Did your international prize not come from the outside? Is not the reason why your anti-AIDS situation is turning for the better and the Chinese government is supporting you due to world opinion? But you want to "refuse categorically" as if the foreigners are setting up a trap on you. If you, Mrs. Gao, are were really bright and firm, you would be fooled by them. Is that the case? I don't understand why Mrs. Gao could say something so stupid! Are you getting too old?
Mrs. Gao goes on in her remarks to explain why she "refused categorically." She said: "Over the past two years, the party central and the State Ministry have paid a high degree of attention to the AIDS problem. The local governments have also included it into their agenda. The AIDS patients and the families of those who died from AIDS have received care and this is satisfying. My anti-AIDS campaign will not run into any more difficulties. A cadre who helped me to promote AIDS awareness in the epidemic zone is now highly esteemed by the local AIDS sufferers. This caused me to see that there is hope in China to fight AIDS and affirm my faith in fighting AIDS." When I read this section, I seemed to understand that there was a problem about political position.
Now that the central and local governments are paying attention, Mrs. Gao does not want "help" from the foreigners! From this, I can see the narrow-mindedness of this old person. This sort of narrow-mindedness has the same roots as the narrow-mindedness of Chinese government officials; alternately, the narrow choice was imposed under the narrow-minded official ideology! I believe that Mrs. Gao's desire was to get this book translated and published outside; but the reason that she "refused categorically" was that she was pressured by the inane and ossified official ideological forces. In the past, Mrs. Gao was fighting AIDS as well as officialdom (because the government tried to keep a lid on the AIDS problem), and it was more difficult to fight the government than AIDS. During the last decade, it would be fair to say that Mrs. Gao was fighting the government instead of fighting AIDS. The problem is that, if Mrs. Gao could fight officialdom in the past, then why did she so stupidly decide to accede ti the will of the government. The ideology of the government is reactionary and ossified, and is that why Mrs. Gao has also become an "ossified reactionary"?
I am thinking about the story of the rebellious men of The Water Margin. Mrs. Gao was able to accomplish much as a "rebel" and she now decided to be pacified by the government. In 2003, CCTV named Mrs. Gao as a famous and influential person. In 2004, she received the top book prize, and officials from the central and local government came to visit her. Generally speaking, things are sailing smoothly and so Mrs. Gao is not willing to disobey the official ideological demands or hints. This is probably the true reason for her "refusing to be moved by money and categorically rejecting" the translation of Ten Thousand Letters.
At first, the officials refused to permit Mrs. Gao to travel to the United States to accept the prize. Now they won't let her get Ten Thousand Letters translated and published. It is the same logic, which is the stupid argument about the image of the country. On the surface, this is to preserve the national image; in practice, it is jealousy on the part of the officials who "watch" Mrs. Gao because they have not been to the United States, much less than accept an award. At first, they did not allow Mrs. Gao to travel to the United States to accept the prize and they said that Mrs. Gao did not want to do so herself. This was flatly refuted by Mrs. Gao herself. But now, Mrs. Gao is personally informing everyone that "she will not be moved by money and has made a categorical rejection." This proves that her determination to fight AIDS and to seek justice is retrogressing rapidly. To violate her professional conscience in accordance with the ossified official ideology, or else to use her professional accomplishments to win the support, approval and praise of an ossified reactionary official ideology constitute the cursed fate of a hundred percent of Chinese people. When you are an unknown, the official ideology looms and suffocates you; when you become known, it cannot suffocate you but it will devise all sorts of other things to restrain you. In contemporary society, the relationship between independent good people and the local officials is often like this.
Does Gao Yaojie need money to fight AIDS? Do the AIDS patients and the families of those who died from AIDS need money? Obviously, the more the better. Do foreigners need to read this book? Of course, they do. If money is needed, then why not sell the copyrights? If people want to read it, then why not get it translated? The reason has to be that certain facts in the book are "unfavorable to the image of China." The ossified reactionary official ideology has always turned things upside down on the issue of the image of China: what it thinks is favorable was actually damaging; what it thinks is unfavorable is actually advantageous. Mrs. Gao is very clear on this point.
At first, the officials thought that exposing the AIDS problem in China was unfavorable, so nobody took care of AIDS which was permitted to spread for so many years. At first, Mrs. Gao fought gloriously by herself against this inane and ossified official ideology, but now she has joined forces with this inane and ossified official ideology. Now, she is qualified to join forces and she can be pacified by this inane and ossified ideology. Her strong statement that "she will not be moved by money and she rejects categorically" previews that she is beginning to be controlled by the inane, cold-hearted and ossified official ideology, and at the same time betraying her professional conscience and concern for others. This is very lamentable.
I used to think that Mrs. Gao was worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize, but I think that there is a gap now. The Nobel Prize Winner should care most about humanity, but Mrs. Gao's statement about "not being moved by money and rejecting categorically" is inhumane, and not even for the Chinese people. Rather, it is an inane and ossified official ideology. A Chinese person who cannot escape the control from the narrow-mindedness, ossification, inanity and cold-bloodedness of official ideology can never step into the world! I feel sorry for Mrs. Gao. I hope that Mrs. Gao can live a long life, and to fight against the ossified, inane, selfish, narrow-minded and inhumane ideological officials until she grows old.
Guo in fact said nothing at all about this part of the essay. I am bothered by it, though. Jiao is making an inference about Gao's motives for not wanting the book published overseas. This is an inference, and calls for a direct clarification from Gao. If you want the real deal, here is Gao Yaojie in her own words (ChineseNewsNet):
A foreign friend mailed me a copy of the article titled Two Henan Old Ladies: Chang Xiangyu and Gao Yaojie, originally published in ObserveChina and posted at Boxun. The signed name of the author was Jiao Guobiao, an associate professor at the School of Journalism at Beijing University and currently a visiting scholar at the National Endowment For Democracy in the United States.
Let me state up front that I don't know Mr. Jiao Guobiao. Although I am advanced in age, I have never heard of the name or about anything he did. If he is a responsible journalist, he should have verified the facts. At the very least, he should have asked me directly about my views on the AIDS situation. I never hide my views from anyone under any circumstance.
I am old and infirmed, but I still want to inform the media that there are illegal blood stations obtaining blood at night. In November 2004, I asked reporters to go to those illegal blood stations to take many photosgraphs. In addition, there are many AIDS infected people, patients and orphans in peasant villages still undetected. I call these the "black holes." Since March 8th, I got people to uncover two of these "black holes."
In order to make more people aware of these truths, I had to get out of my sick bed in the hospital and spend my own money to ask a doctor to accompany me with medical equipment to go to Beijing to attend the award ceremony at the First Chinese-language Book Media Awards for books published in 2004.
During the awards, a reporter from New Beijing Daily interviewed me. I mentioned that a Japanese businessman requested that he be allowed to translate my <<Ten Thousand Letters>>. I refused. I said honestly that I cannot think only about the royalty fee. My family was victimized during the Sino-Japanese War. My fifth little sister was still an infant when she was killed by a bomb from a Japanese airplane! On March 7, New Beijing Daily published the original article that everybody has read. That newspaper exposed the presence of the illegal blood stations and their perils. I am very grateful for that, but perhaps some people were displeased or unnerved. Here, I state clearly that many things in Professor Jiao Guobiao's article are different from the facts.
Meanwhile, what was Guo's complaint about Jiao? Here are the direct criticisms:
There are often moments like these in history: at a time when information is severely restricted, or when communication is distorted, a clown is often hailed as a "hero" by the moderate majority.
We can choose to ignore such a "hero" and watch him from the sideline. But when he chooses to trample on our basic social values in order to "ascend" in conjunction with certain powers, I cannot help but stand up and speak out.
The deeper significance of the Jiao Guobiao phenomenon is that it is just his own personal thoughts. After a suffocating period of ultra-leftist oppression in Chinese society, there is now an extreme ultra-rightist force that is expanding through the unrestricted internet. The principal feature of this ultra-rightist force is that in terms of world view, it embraces the American world view and tramples on the Chinese world view; it regards the Chinese concerns about security and national interests with contempt; it reduces the complexity of historical movements into moral simplifications; it treats the history of Chinese resistance against invasion as evil; it treats the War To Resist America and Support Korea and the War To Resist America and Support Vietnam as episodes in which China was evil and America was righteous. But the malignant control of information by the ultra-leftists in China has prevented the truth from coming out in China, and many netizens unconsciously accept these ultra-rightists explanations of history and such extreme singular ideas are spreading.
More and more human rights advocates recognized that they must treat the ultra-leftists and the ultra-rightists the same way. They cannot be too gentlemanly and they must expose those people immediately. Those who advocate and promote nonsense against logic and morality must be pursued relentlessly.
This too contains far too much hyperbole, as if we are expected to conduct simultaneous anti-Rightist and anti-Leftists campaigns in the 1950s style. In discussing the ultra-rightist tendency, Guo went on to cite another work by Jiao Guobiao. This is a poem titled "To the American Soldier" dated April 15th, 2004, on the fifteenth day of the War in Iraq. I found the Chinese version at Epoch Times:
|To the American
Author: Jiao Guobiao
On the second day of the war in Iraq,
The desert storm in Iraq shook heaven and
The desert in Iraq stretched on without
In the desert of Arabia,
Most youth of the world today
Russian Foreign Minister Mr. Ivanov said:
Your heavy army boots,
Ugly faces are on the television criticizing
If I have a next life,
Guo made these comments about this poem:
I think Jiao Guobiao must regret his poetic ardor afterwards, because this might have been his definitive symbol for all times. At the end of April 2004, the scandal about American soldiers abusing prisoners broke open. The dear American 'brothers' may have lived in a democratic country, but they have not eliminated racism and the seduction of power over the weak. Not only did they kill innocent people, but they conducted systematic torture of prisoners of war, including extremely disgusting sexual torture! This is such a satirical reflection on "To The American Soldier"!
I speculate that Jiao Guobiao initiated his offensive at the beginning of April with erasing this historical dirty spot as one of his principal objectives. The very much disliked thought police in China became his stepping stone. Jiao Guobiao was smart and alert. Perhaps some special internal pressure or the incessant reporting about American soldiers killing innocents reminded him (but it is also possible that the "lofty" anti-totalitarianism motivated him) to take action right before Torture Gate broke open. After his Declaration came out, it was spread throughout the Internet in and outside of China. By that time, even if he was attacked for having written "To The American Soldier", it would be less persuasive. In a certain sense, this helped Jiao Guobiao to temporarily escape a huge scandal that he committed in an impulsive moment.
Here, I think Guo is overworking his mind. Look, everyone is entitled to write bad poetry, and this one can certainly be heavily criticized for style, imagery and content (e.g. "I would rather become a perished soul to an American precision-guided bomb" is hilariously self-contradictory). In fact, it made me feel very creepy, but let me say that I have seen much worse from famous people. Also, everyone is entitled to have some degree of political naïveté. But it becomes a bad thing if nobody tells him how dumb he sounds. It is worse when this political naïveté carries him over to attack others (such as Chang Xiangyu and Gao Yaojie in the first cited essay here) on top of some very severe language.
Addendum: Jiao Guobiao has posted a response to Guo's letter. From New Century Net, I have translated the relevant excerpts (note: I saw no point in translating the entire invective, for which the word "classy" is inoperative):
From the very beginning I said: if the Declaration Of The Campaign Against The Central Propaganda Department made me famous for a decade, To The American Soldier will make me great for 50 to 100 years! This blind man Guo guessed blindly: "I think Jiao Guobiao must regret his poetic ardor afterwards." He is so very wrong! Not only do I not regret this, I am proud of To The American Soldier for eight hundred lifetimes. The American military torture of prisoners not only did not damage the honorable reputation of the United States, but it proves the greatness of the United States. Mankind have tortured prisoners for thousands of years, but only the leader of one country has ever apologized for his soldiers torturing prisoners of war. Which country? The United States. The only one and none other!
In the vocabulary of Jiao Guobiao, there is no distinction between integrity and triviality but only between democracy and totalitarianism. Democracy, if it happens to be in America, I support! Totalitarianism, if it happens to be in China, I condemn!
Actually, this blind person has no idea about just how I am "willing to sell myself for gain." Let me make a bargain with you: if one day, I take charge of the People's Republic of China government, I will sell it to the United States as its 51st state for one cent.
Uggh! Nobody is telling Jiao Guobiao what the real deal is. The western mainstream media are not interested in someone who will sell China to the United States for a cent. In fact, they will recoil in horror and abjection. In reality, they want a true knight in shining armor, someone who loves China but hates the Communist Party. Jiao is marketing the wrong merchandise at this time!