<HTML><HEAD> <META name=GENERATOR content="MSHTML 8.00.6001.19019"></HEAD> <BODY> <DIV class=meta> <H1 class="title entry-title">Chongqing Dispatch</H1> <P class=metadata><SPAN class="date updated">May 13, 2011</SPAN> in <SPAN class=categories><A title="View all posts in Uncategorized" href="http://www.thechinabeat.org/?cat=1" rel=category>Uncategorized</A></SPAN> by <SPAN class="vcard author"><A class="url fn" title="Articles by The China Beat" href="http://www.thechinabeat.org/?author=1">The China Beat</A></SPAN></P></DIV> <DIV class="content clearfix"> <P>By Xujun Eberlein</P> <P>On April 2nd, entering China at Chengdu s airport, I was held for a few extra moments and ordered to wait to the side. I watched as my passport was handed to a different desk, apparently for further scrutiny. This did not happen to my American husband who went through before me, nor to a couple of Chinese-looking people behind, nor to me on a previous trip two years ago. I asked what was wrong, and the stern-faced custom officer raised his voice, changing from Chinese to English:  Please wait a moment! </P> <P>His unfriendly tone concerned me, even after I got my passport back. I m not a dissident. I don t know the recently arrested outspoken Chengdu writer, Ran Yunfei (nor, for that matter, the renowned artist Ai Weiwei, who would be detained in Beijing the next day). But in China you never know what might happen, and I do have a<A href="http://www.insideoutchina.com/">n English blog</A>, on which I sometimes discuss  sensitive topics.</P> <P>I mentioned the customs incident to an American-Chinese writer friend. Like me, he had been an active participant in the first democracy movement after the Cultural Revolution, from the late 1970s to early 1980s, when we both were university students. But unlike me, he gave up commenting on current affairs, after a customs incident years ago in which he was nearly denied entrance into his native land. He now writes harmless fiction and gets no trouble whatsoever.</P> <P> Sounds like you ve got yourself on some kind of black list now, my politically-savvy friend said.  You are lucky to get your passport back. They were being lenient to you. </P> <P> Because? </P> <P>I thought he d mention my US citizenship, but no, he said,  Because your parents are old generation Communists, just like my parents. Without our parents, those in power today would have never gotten where they are. </P> <P>His reasoning would have been true three decades earlier. China s political tightening-up comes in cycles. After the Cultural Revolution ended in the late 1970s, there had been a  second spring period when the political atmosphere was quite relaxed, and we felt we could finally speak our minds without punishment. Boy were we wrong. Deng Xiaoping soon pushed down Beijing s  democracy wall, despite its role in securing his power. In 1983, Deng launched the  clean-up spiritual pollution campaign against writers. One of my short stories got into the Central Propaganda Department (CPD) s black list and I was threatened with big trouble. It was my parents who, through their connections, got me off the hook. But now my  old-generation Communist parents are withered and feeble like candles flickering in the wind.</P> <P>As soon as I arrived in Chengdu, I heard my 85-year-old father had just had an operation to install a pacemaker the day before in Chongqing, following a mid-night scare when his heart nearly stopped.</P> <P style="TEXT-ALIGN: center">***</P> <P>In the high-speed rail called  dong che by the locals I watched the speedometer on the wall steadily rise to 200 kilometers per hour and stay there. Before I left China in 1988, it took an overnight train about 10 hours to travel the 350 kilometers from Chengdu to Chongqing. Two years ago, with the travel time reduced to four hours, I was already overjoyed. Now it takes only two hours. I heard that next year an even faster rail line would further reduce the travel time to one hour. Such is the speed of China s development. Economic success in the past two decades has caused nearly all my old friends, including those who participated in the 1989 student movement, to feel that the government s actions at Tiananmen Square were justified.</P> <P>I went to see my hospitalized father, thinking of words to comfort him. To my surprise, he wasn t much concerned about his heart; instead he told me he had been deeply depressed lately. This wasn t like him, a jolly, sometimes silly, old man. I asked what was making him depressed. He said,  I keep thinking of the things I did wrong when I was young, like spreading the propaganda that the three-year famine was caused by natural disasters&  </P> <P>Coincidentally, the topic of the famine years had also come up two days earlier in Chengdu, when I visited Liao Bokang, an 87-year-old man who had been Chongqing s Party chief from 1983 to 1988. In Sichuan province (which then included Chongqing), the famine from 1959 to 1961 resulted in ten million starvation deaths, mostly in rural areas. That was one seventh of the province s population. The famine was nation-wide as a consequence of the fanatic Great Leap Forward movement, but Sichuan was hardest hit because its then Party chief, Li Jingquan, transported a large amount of grain to Beijing and Shanghai, despite the province s own severe food shortage. Unaware of this, people believed the Party media s claim that the disaster was natural. Apparently, this widespread belief was what led starving peasants to quietly wait for their deaths without any protest.</P> <P><SPAN id=more-3434></SPAN>But there were a few people in the know. In June 1962, Liao Bokang, then a cadre working for Chongqing s city government, courageously reported to Beijing on Sichuan s high starvation deaths, which he believed were caused by misdirected policies. The facts were exactly what the then governor Li Jingquan wanted to block from reaching Beijing. Liao s report thus touched  a tiger s ass, as a folk adage goes. The tiger was fierce. Consequently, Liao was persecuted and sent for  labor reform in 1963, as even Beijing couldn t save him from Li the  local emperor. It was not until twenty years later, after the Cultural Revolution ended, that Liao s case was eventually overturned.</P> <P>In our meeting, Liao said of Li Jingquan,  He was an extreme leftist, more so than Mao. Then he quoted Confucius,  When a ruler loves anything, those below him are sure to surpass him to love it more. (????,????)</P> <P>A few days later in Chongqing I again heard the same Confucius aphorism quoted by a writer friend, this time referring to Bo Xilai, Chongqing s Party chief, as the  ruler. Because Bo Xilai likes gingko trees, now they have become ubiquitous on my hometown s streets and highways. In my own upbringing in Chongqing, gingko trees were rarely seen. The most common local trees were the leafy banyan, a thriving native species that was made the official city tree in 1986, as approved by the People s Congress of the city. Now, to cater to Bo Xilai s taste, many banyans have been cut and replaced with gingkoes.</P> <P> When a ruler loves anything, those below him are sure to surpass him to love it more, the friend shook her head.</P> <P>It is a retreat from the mid-1980s. Then, Mayor Xiao Yang had viewed the banyan as a more suitable choice both culturally and ecologically to be Chongqing s sidewalk tree, and he went through the People s Congress for approval to make it the city tree. Now Bo Xilai s words travel above the law.</P> <P style="TEXT-ALIGN: center">***</P> <P>While meeting Liao Bokang in Chengdu, I had asked him what he thought of Chongqing s  red songs campaign, thinking of his time as Chongqing s Party chief in the 1980s. Liao simply replied,  I haven t been in Chongqing for a long time. </P> <P>A historian I met in Chongqing said the campaign is  lawless.  Work units arrange work time to sing  red songs, some even pay to ensure participation, and the city finances it. This expense goes through neither the process of audit nor the process of argumentation. A word from the leader, then you must support the activity. Because it is a revolutionary activity, you must support that s same as in the Cultural Revolution. Law is not of concern. </P> <P>He added,  Bo Xilai s thought resources are scanty. He does not know other ways to boost his performance. He can only draw on his own education, things like singing  red songs . </P> <P>Bo Xilai was born in 1949, the year of the Communist victory in China. He was brought up on Mao s teaching. People will have to wait for another generation or two to see a leadership with a different way of thinking.</P> <P style="TEXT-ALIGN: center">***</P> <DIV style="WIDTH: 510px" id=attachment_3435 class="wp-caption aligncenter"><A href="http://www.thechinabeat.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Eberlein-opera-house.jpg"><IMG class="size-large wp-image-3435" title="Eberlein opera house" alt="" src="ctsEberlein-opera-house-1024x575.jpg" width=500 height=280></A> <P class=wp-caption-text>Chongqing's Opera House</P></DIV> <P style="TEXT-ALIGN: center"></P> <P>My father was released from the hospital before I left Chongqing. He made sure I saw the newly built Chaotianmen Bridge. In fact, every time I visit, he points out to me new bridges on the two big rivers, Yangtze and Jialing, that surround the city. When I left China in 1988, there was only one bridge on each river. Now the total number has grown to over twenty. Another new construction my father was proud of, which emerged after my last visit two years ago, was the huge Opera House overlooking both rivers. For good or bad, the speed of Chongqing s economic change has been breathless. Compared to this, my little troubles such as being blocked from my blog even using a proxy server that had worked before seem trivial.</P> <P>But as loyal a Communist and proud a Chongqing man as my father is, he does not approve the  reaffirmation of Mao theme that dominates TV and the local news media.  It s not right to view Mao as all positive, he said.</P> <P>The day before my departure in mid-April, another friend, a book lover, bought me a bunch of books as presents.  These are the books I like myself, he said. I unexpectedly found among them Ai Weiwei s new book, <EM>Time and Place</EM>, a collection of his blog posts on architecture, photography and arts. (I would later learn about the publication of its <A href="http://mitpress.mit.edu/catalog/item/default.asp?ttype=2&amp;tid=12437">English translation</A> in the United States.)</P> <P> Wow, I said,  his book is not banned after his arrest? </P> <P> He was arrested? I didn t know that! Why would he be arrested? He designed the Bird Nest! He is Ai Qing s son! </P> <P>While he was being surprised, I found myself seeking a shred of optimism was Ai s book still being on shelves a positive sign?</P> <P>On April 19th, I exited China from Shanghai. With hesitation, I left Ai Weiwei s book to my sister who saw me off I was afraid that having it in my luggage might cause me trouble at customs. Before saying good-bye, my sister begged me not to write on  sensitive topics any more.  I want to be able to see you again! she said. It struck me as odd that, more than three decades after the Cultural Revolution ended, we had to worry about this.</P> <P>At Shanghai passport control, I was again held a few moments. After carefully checking my passport with her computer, the young female officer asked me,  Where have you come back from? I thought she meant coming back to Shanghai.  From Chongqing to Shanghai, I answered. She stared at me, baffled, as if not sure what to do with my answer, and then called her supervisor. A man came, looked at my passport, looked more closely at her computer screen, and then said to me,  Let me double check: where did you enter China?  Aha, I said,  Chengdu! With the correct answer, all three of us were relieved.</P> <P>Two days after I returned to Boston, the news broke that Chongqing s prosecutors had dropped additional charges against lawyer Li Zhuang, who had tried to defend an alleged  black society member but was himself jailed during Chongqing s crack-down on organized crime over a year ago. (Bo Xilai insists that Li Zhuang s arrest and conviction were legal, while China s lawyers and academics largely disagree.) I had closely followed Li Zhuang s case on my blog. Now, Li s defense lawyers view the dropping of charges as  a victory for China s rule of law, while the <EM>Wall Street Journal</EM> credits it to US pressure on China s human rights record. Other Chinese believe there was interference from above, indicating balance forces might be growing within the leadership. A more optimistic Chinese blogger even viewed it as a sign that Ai Weiwei would be released soon.</P> <P>While that might be too optimistic, things are very different today than they were during the Great Leap Forward. People in China, both urban and rural, are enormously more aware. As a consequence, Bo Xilai s attempt to use the tools of China s unsuccessful past to chart its future direction is meeting with resistance from a significant portion of the masses he would shepherd.</P> <P><EM>Xujun Eberlein is the author of the short story collection</EM> <A href="http://www.amazon.com/Apologies-Forthcoming-Xujun-Eberlein/dp/160489007X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1305224306&amp;sr=8-1">Apologies Forthcoming</A>.</P></DIV>&gt;</PMLx89R x89ML> <META name=GENERATOR content="MSHTML 8.00.6001.19019"> <DIV class=meta> <H1 class="title entry-title">Chongqing Dispatch</H1> <P class=metadata><SPAN class="date updated">May 13, 2011</SPAN> in <SPAN class=categories><A title="View all posts in Uncategorized" href="http://www.thechinabeat.org/?cat=1" rel=category>Uncategorized</A></SPAN> by <SPAN class="vcard author"><A class="url fn" title="Articles by The China Beat" href="http://www.thechinabeat.org/?author=1">The China Beat</A></SPAN></P></DIV> <DIV class="content clearfix"> <P>By Xujun Eberlein</P> <P>On April 2nd, entering China at Chengdu s airport, I was held for a few extra moments and ordered to wait to the side. I watched as my passport was handed to a different desk, apparently for further scrutiny. This did not happen to my American husband who went through before me, nor to a couple of Chinese-looking people behind, nor to me on a previous trip two years ago. I asked what was wrong, and the stern-faced custom officer raised his voice, changing from Chinese to English:  Please wait a moment! </P> <P>His unfriendly tone concerned me, even after I got my passport back. I m not a dissident. I don t know the recently arrested outspoken Chengdu writer, Ran Yunfei (nor, for that matter, the renowned artist Ai Weiwei, who would be detained in Beijing the next day). But in China you never know what might happen, and I do have a<A href="http://www.insideoutchina.com/">n English blog</A>, on which I sometimes discuss  sensitive topics.</P> <P>I mentioned the customs incident to an American-Chinese writer friend. Like me, he had been an active participant in the first democracy movement after the Cultural Revolution, from the late 1970s to early 1980s, when we both were university students. But unlike me, he gave up commenting on current affairs, after a customs incident years ago in which he was nearly denied entrance into his native land. He now writes harmless fiction and gets no trouble whatsoever.</P> <P> Sounds like you ve got yourself on some kind of black list now, my politically-savvy friend said.  You are lucky to get your passport back. They were being lenient to you. </P> <P> Because? </P> <P>I thought he d mention my US citizenship, but no, he said,  Because your parents are old generation Communists, just like my parents. Without our parents, those in power today would have never gotten where they are. </P> <P>His reasoning would have been true three decades earlier. China s political tightening-up comes in cycles. After the Cultural Revolution ended in the late 1970s, there had been a  second spring period when the political atmosphere was quite relaxed, and we felt we could finally speak our minds without punishment. Boy were we wrong. Deng Xiaoping soon pushed down Beijing s  democracy wall, despite its role in securing his power. In 1983, Deng launched the  clean-up spiritual pollution campaign against writers. One of my short stories got into the Central Propaganda Department (CPD) s black list and I was threatened with big trouble. It was my parents who, through their connections, got me off the hook. But now my  old-generation Communist parents are withered and feeble like candles flickering in the wind.</P> <P>As soon as I arrived in Chengdu, I heard my 85-year-old father had just had an operation to install a pacemaker the day before in Chongqing, following a mid-night scare when his heart nearly stopped.</P> <P style="TEXT-ALIGN: center">***</P> <P>In the high-speed rail called  dong che by the locals I watched the speedometer on the wall steadily rise to 200 kilometers per hour and stay there. Before I left China in 1988, it took an overnight train about 10 hours to travel the 350 kilometers from Chengdu to Chongqing. Two years ago, with the travel time reduced to four hours, I was already overjoyed. Now it takes only two hours. I heard that next year an even faster rail line would further reduce the travel time to one hour. Such is the speed of China s development. Economic success in the past two decades has caused nearly all my old friends, including those who participated in the 1989 student movement, to feel that the government s actions at Tiananmen Square were justified.</P> <P>I went to see my hospitalized father, thinking of words to comfort him. To my surprise, he wasn t much concerne` ab9Shis heart; instead he told me he had been deeply depressed lately. This wasn t like him, a jolly, sometimes silly, old man. I asked what was making him depressed. He said,  I keep thinking of the things I did wrong when I was young, like spreading the propaganda that the three-year famine was caused by natural disasters&  </P> <P>Coincidentally, the topic of the famine years had also come up two days earlier in Chengdu, when I visited Liao Bokang, an 87-year-old man who had been Chongqing s Party chief from 1983 to 1988. In Sichuan province (which then included Chongqing), the famine from 1959 to 1961 resulted in ten million starvation deaths, mostly in rural areas. That was one seventh of the province s population. The famine was nation-wide as a consequence of the fanatic Great Leap Forward movement, but Sichuan was hardest hit because its then Party chief, Li Jingquan, transported a large amount of grain to Beijing and Shanghai, despite the province s own severe food shortage. Unaware of this, people believed the Party media s claim that the disaster was natural. Apparently, this widespread belief was what led starving peasants to quietly wait for their deaths without any protest.</P> <P><SPAN id=more-3434></SPAN>But there were a few people in the know. In June 1962, Liao Bokang, then a cadre working for Chongqing s city government, courageously reported to Beijing on Sichuan s high starvation deaths, which he believed were caused by misdirected policies. The facts were exactly what the then governor Li Jingquan wanted to block from reaching Beijing. Liao s report thus touched  a tiger s ass, as a folk adage goes. The tiger was fierce. Consequently, Liao was persecuted and sent for  labor reform in 1963, as even Beijing couldn t save him from Li the  local emperor. It was not until twenty years later, after the Cultural Revolution ended, that Liao s case was eventually overturned.</P> <P>In our meeting, Liao said of Li Jingquan,  He was an extreme leftist, more so than Mao. Then he quoted Confucius,  When a ruler loves anything, those below him are sure to surpass him to love it more. (????,????)</P> <P>A few days later in Chongqing I again heard the same Confucius aphorism quoted by a writer friend, this time referring to Bo Xilai, Chongqing s Party chief, as the  ruler. Because Bo Xilai likes gingko trees, now they have become ubiquitous on my hometown s streets and highways. In my own upbringing in Chongqing, gingko trees were rarely seen. The most common local trees were the leafy banyan, a thriving native species that was made the official city tree in 1986, as approved by the People s Congress of the city. Now, to cater to Bo Xilai s taste, many banyans have been cut and replaced with gingkoes.</P> <P> When a ruler loves anything, those below him are sure to surpass him to love it more, the friend shook her head.</P> <P>It is a retreat from the mid-1980s. Then, Mayor Xiao Yang had viewed the banyan as a more suitable choice both culturally and ecologically to be Chongqing s sidewalk tree, and he went through the People s Congress for approval to make it the city tree. Now Bo Xilai s words travel above the law.</P> <P style="TEXT-ALIGN: center">***</P> <P>While meeting Liao Bokang in Chengdu, I had asked him what he thought of Chongqing s  red songs campaign, thinking of his time as Chongqing s Party chief in the 1980s. Liao simply replied,  I haven t been in Chongqing for a long time. </P> <P>A historian I met in Chongqing said the campaign is  lawless.  Work units arrange work time to sing  red songs, some even pay to ensure participation, and the city finances it. This expense goes through neither the process of audit nor the process of argumentation. A word from the leader, then you must support the activity. Because it is a revolutionary activity, you must support that s same as in the Cultural Revolution. Law is not of concern. </P> <P>He added,  Bo Xilai s thought resources are scanty. He does not know other ways to boost his performance. He can only draw on his own education, things like singing  red songs . </P> <P>Bo Xilai was born in 1949, the year of the Communist victory in China. He was brought up on Mao s teaching. People will have to wait for another generation or two to see a leadership with a different way of thinking.</P> <P style="TEXT-ALIGN: center">***</P> <DIV style="WIDTH: 510px" id=attachment_3435 class="wp-caption aligncenter"><A href="http://www.thechinabeat.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Eberlein-opera-house.jpg"><IMG class="size-large wp-image-3435" title="Eberlein opera house" alt="" src="ctsEberlein-opera-house-1024x575.jpg" width=500 height=280></A> <P class=wp-caption-text>Chongqing's Opera House</P></DIV> <P style="TEXT-ALIGN: center"></P> <P>My father was released from the hospital before I left Chongqing. He made sure I saw the newly built Chaotianmen Bridge. In fact, every time I visit, he points out to me new bridges on the two big rivers, Yangtze and Jialing, that surround the city. When I left China in 1988, there was only one bridge on each river. Now the total number has grown to over twenty. Another new construction my father was proud of, which emerged after my last visit two years ago, was the huge Opera House overlooking both rivers. For good or bad, the speed of Chongqing s economic change has been breathless. Compared to this, my little troubles such as being blocked from my blog even using a proxy server that had worked before seem trivial.</P> <P>But as loyal a Communist and proud a Chongqing man as my father is, he does not approve the  reaffirmation of Mao theme that dominates TV and the local news media.  It s not right to view Mao as all positive, he said.</P> <P>The day before my departure in mid-April, another friend, a book lover, bought me a bunch of books as presents.  These are the books I like myself, he said. I unexpectedly found among them Ai Weiwei s new book, <EM>Time and Place</EM>, a collection of his blog posts on architecture, photography and arts. (I would later learn about the publication of its <A href="http://mitpress.mit.edu/catalog/item/default.asp?ttype=2&amp;tid=12437">English translation</A> in the United States.)</P> <P> Wow, I said,  his book is not banned after his arrest? </P> <P> He was arrested? I didn t know that! Why would he be arrested? He designed the Bird Nest! He is Ai Qing s son! </P> <P>While he was being surprised, I found myself seeking a shred of optimism was Ai s book still being on shelves a positive sign?</P> <P>On April 19th, I exited China from Shanghai. With hesitation, I left Ai Weiwei s book to my sister who saw me off I was afraid that having it in my luggage might cause me trouble at customs. Before saying good-bye, my sister begged me not to write on  sensitive topics any more.  I want to be able to see you again! she said. It struck me as odd that, more than three decades after the Cultural Revolution ended, we had to worry about this.</P> <P>At Shanghai passport control, I was again held a few moments. After carefully checking my passport with her computer, the young female officer asked me,  Where have you come back from? I thought she meant coming back to Shanghai.  From Chongqing to Shanghai, I answered. She stared at me, baffled, as if not sure what to do with my answer, and then called her supervisor. A man came, looked at my passport, looked more closely at her computer screen, and then said to me,  Let me double check: where did you enter China?  Aha, I said,  Chengdu! With the correct answer, all three of us were relieved.</P> <P>Two days after I returned to Boston, the news broke that Chongqing s prosecutors had dropped additional charges against lawyer Li Zhuang, who had tried to defend an alleged  black society member but was himself jailed during Chongqing s crack-down on organized crime over a year ago. (Bo Xilai insists that Li Zhuang s arrest and conviction were legal, while China s lawyers and academics largely disagree.) I had closely followed Li Zhuang s case on my blog. Now, Li s defense lawyers view the dropping of charges as  a victory for China s rule of law, while the <EM>Wall Street Journal</EM> credits it to US pressure on China s human rights record. Other Chinese believe there was interference from above, indicating balance forces might be growing within the leadership. A more optimistic Chinese blogger even viewed it as a sign that Ai Weiwei would be released soon.</P> <P>While that might be too optimistic, things are very different today than they were during the Great Leap Forward. People in China, both urban and rural, are enormously more aware. As a consequence, Bo Xilai s attempt to use the tools of China s unsuccessful past to chart its future direction is meeting with resistance from a significant portion of the masses he would shepherd.</P> <P><EM>Xujun Eberlein is the author of the short story collection</EM> <A href="http://www.amazon.com/Apologies-Forthcoming-Xujun-Eberlein/dp/160489007X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1305224306&amp;sr=8-1">Apologies Forthcoming</A>.</P></DIV></BODY></HTML>