Wang Ruoshui

wpe11.jpg (2059 bytes)

简    历

著    作


讣    闻

图    片

访    问

吊    唁

Commemorating纪   念


首    页


Symposium in Honor of Wang Ruoshui

and the influence of the New Enlightenment Generation on

China’s Reforms

Sponsored by the Fairbank Center for East Asian Research

Harvard University

May 16, 2002, 3:00-5:00 pm

Center for European Studies, 27 Kirkland Street

Cambridge, MA

 Liz Perry:

Wang Ruoshui was an old friend of the Fairbank Center.  He first visited in 1978, as a member of the first official journalist delegation from the PRC.  He then spent three weeks at the Fairbank Center in the spring of 1989 and fifteen months here in 1993 to 1994 and then a bit of time toward the end of 1998 as well.  This symposium today was organized by Wang Ruoshui’s many close friends at the Fairbank Center, particularly Merle Goldman, Nancy Hearst, and Rod MacFarquhar. 

When Wang Ruoshui was preparing to become a visiting scholar at the Center in 1992, like all of our visiting scholars, he filled out a formal application form.  I would like to read you a very brief excerpt from his statement of purpose that he wrote ten years ago.  This is what he said:  “For many years, I had been an orthodox Marxist, but from the beginning of the 1980s I gradually began to criticize my former beliefs. I feel that Marxist thought is still a valid ideology, not in terms of economics or socialism, but as philosophy.  This is not the dialectical materialism of the Soviet model but rather a philosophical anthropology.  Therefore, for the past ten years I have systematically written essays about Marxist humanism and alienation.  There have been two main reasons for the changes in my beliefs.  One is the lessons I learned from Chinese reality and experience.  The other is the influence of Western thought on my thinking.  My interests are very wide but my main endeavor is philosophy.  I hope to use this opportunity to study Western ideas and viewpoints, especially in relationship to the role of the press, and how these ideas can be applied to China.  In sum, I want to make a theoretical contribution to the modernization and democratization of my motherland.”            

While he was in residence at the Fairbank Center in 1993-94 Wang Ruoshui began work on a book aboout why and how Mao Zedong launched the Cultural Revolution.  This book is soon to be published by Mingbao publisher in Hong Kong.

To tell you much more about Wang Ruoshui's accomplishments, I turn now to his wife, Feng Yuan. Feng Yuan is the assistant to the editor-in chief of China Women’s News, a national daily that serves as the major advocate for gender equality in China.  She has published widely on the topic of the status of women in contemporary China and currently is a Nieman Fellow here at Harvard.  It was to accompany Feng Yuan that brought Wang Ruoshui back to Cambridge for his final visit with us this past year.


Feng Yuan:

            Thank you very much.  I am going to show you a short video.  It is about five minutes.



Merle Goldman:

This is a panel to talk about personal memories of Wang Ruoshui.   There are several people who were asked to participate but could not be here today, so they sent me some memories of Wang Ruoshui.  I think they are really worth reading, so I will read a few of them. 


This is from Tim Cheek at Colorado College.  He writes: “Wang Ruoshui was a seminal figure in the post-Mao period, taking the Chinese intellectual world from the tattered remains of Maoist thought to the new fields that are open today.  Raised in the Maoist system, he found humanity between the lines of Leninist dogma and kept the flame of Chinese humanism alive, while breathing it back to brightness in the 1980s.  I think Wang inherited the mantle of Deng Tuo and Wu Han, and that generation of humanist party intellectuals of the early 1960s, and took their legacy forward.  Wang’s newspaper editing and writing in the late 1970s and 1980s helped build the more open public arena we see in China today.  Whether they acknowledge it or not, Chinese intellectuals owe a debt of gratitude to Wang for carrying forward Chinese culture and taking them through the dark and turbulent times to a new day.”


This is from Ed Friedman, another friend of Wang’s.  “Wang was a very special person.  I will treasure forever my last two chats with him in his hospital room in Peking, where the little table next to the side of the bed was still piled high with books to read.  And Ruoshui seemed to be devouring them all at once.  And yet when he spoke of them, the analysis was lucid, persuasive, and humane.  He was always humane.  This was a very good person.  For me, Wang Ruoshui is still very much alive, an inspiration to keep caring and learning and telling the truth and to work for justice.  My dream, my hope, my belief is that one day in a not too distant future Feng Yuan will see her husband, my friend, our colleague, honored, as he should be for his contributions to a better future for all the people of China.”


This is a note from Ezra Vogel who also could not be with us.

“When Wang Ruoshui came to Harvard, he lived in my upstairs apartment with his wife Feng Yuan.  I remember many conversations with Wang, a kindly mild modest man of great intellectual curiosity, depth, and perspective who, since the 1980s, wanted to expand the arena of intellectual discourse and humanity in China, a little ahead of his time.

            What I remember most about those years was that Wang taught me taijiquan.  Wang was a great enthusiast of taijiquan and had mastered very advanced forms which he performed early every morning in the parking lot next to my home.  He believed in taiji not only for the exercise but for the spiritual calm, to get away from the transient worries of the day.  He taught me the simple forms.  I was not a quick learner, unlike Iain Johnston who joined us for a few weeks and, perhaps because of his martial arts training in China, picked it up quickly.  For a while Ruan Ming also joined us.  Ruan Ming, like me, was a slow learner.  We spent a half hour each morning over several months, patiently learning each of the movements.  Wang Ruoshui had infinite patience.

            I can still remember his directions, half in English, half in Chinese. “Stand calmly.  Let your hands rise as if pulled up.  Move your hands like you are carrying a ball, a very valuable ball.  You are moving down to dodge an opponent.  Move your fists to the opponents face.  Move you arms gracefully like ballet.  Keep your left arm out to hide your fist.  When you finish, stand for a moment.”

            I visited Wang Ruoshui and his wife Feng Yuan in their Beijing apartment in the People’s Daily only once.  It was a wonderful visit.  I remember thinking how modest their apartment was, and what life was like for someone who was once a leader in the paper when in his later years many former friends wanted to avoid the risks of being associated with seeing him, and yet what warmth Wang Ruoshui and Feng Yuan shared.

            I had a number of visits to Wang Ruoshui in what turned out to be the last weeks of his life.  He talked to me about the paper he gave me to read on the shrewdness of Mao in isolating and attacking his fellow high-level officials, of starting with “Soviet revisionism” which no one could easily oppose and then, obviously with the long-term goal in mind that had not been perceived by his fellow officials, of turning that attack on “revisionism” onto Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping.  Wang had come to have a cynical interpretation of Mao as trying to preserve his own position and, after his death, his name, and a certain sadness that Mao’s influence still remained too strong in China.  Since I wanted to learn about Deng Xiaoping, he told me of his visits to Democracy Wall, his participation in the theory forum of January 1979, and of his evaluation of Deng.

            At the time of my visits, Wang Ruoshui knew he had not long to live, although I had no idea he would pass from out midst so soon.  He mind remained as clear as ever, sharp and interesting.  He had achieved a deeper philosophical peace with the world, combined with a sadness that many intellectuals in China had suffered so much and still were not given greater freedom and greater respect.  And with him was Feng Yuan who brightened his life with her dedication, vitality, and the deep humanity that she shared with Wang Ruoshui.  He left a deep impression on me and I think of him as I practice my taiji each morning.”


We will start the reminiscences with Liu Binyan who was a close friend of Wang Ruoshui and a fellow journalist.


Liu Binyan:

            I became acquainted with Mr. Wang Ruoshui at the end of 1979.  At that time, People's Daily had already become the center of the battlefield between the two factions within the Chinese Communist Party, and the assaults from the conservatives were often focused on Mr. Wang Ruoshui.  Numerous phone calls, almost everyday, from the leading figures of the conservatives bombarded Wang Ruoshui, condemning him for publishing articles they deemed not in accordance with the party line. The sympathy Wang Ruoshui revealed for the Democracy Wall activists and the editors of the underground independent publications was recorded by plainclothes spies and was placed in Wang Ruoshui's personal files kept by the Ministry of Public Security. He was the first to openly state that Mao Zedong's mistakes must be thoroughly criticized.  All of the above "crimes" became ineradicable evidence of Wang Ruoshui's antagonism against the party. I don’t know anyone else among the intellectuals who bore such heavy pressure and did not change his mind.  But Wang Ruoshui was calm and serene as usual, as if nothing happened.

From 1978 to 1983, People's Daily played an important and unique role in the political life in China.  Nominally People's Daily was still the organ of the party Central Committee, yet it in fact had become the mouthpiece of the reformist faction within the party.  People’s Daily carried out the tasks that Hu Yaobang and his colleagues could not accomplish through the party apparatus.  Therefore we can say that Wang Ruoshui, as a member of the leading body of People's Daily, played the role of an opposition faction or of a minority within the party.  As deputy editor-in-chief of the paper, Wang, together with editor-in-chief Hu Jiwei, on three occasions boycotted the anti-liberalization campaign that had been officially initiated by the party Central Committee.  Hu Yaobang, the party's supreme leader in name, could only rely on People’s Daily to carry out his intentions.  It is difficult to believe that, after Deng Xiaoping gave his speech on "Upholding the Four Cardinal Principles," People's Daily could publish a series of essays deliberately singing a different tune.  It is also difficult to imagine that in 1981, when the campaign to criticize the writer Bai Hua was raging all over China, People's Daily could go against the wind by not publishing one single such article. To be sure, the support of Hu Yaobang was an important factor, but Hu's position was wobbly, and sometimes even he himself had to retreat in the face of the intense pressure.  But People's Daily stood firmly behind him.  This reveals the uniqueness of China over the recent twenty years -- that is, the existing system can sometimes be flexible; the role of an individual can sometimes be decisive.  Although freedom is limited, yet sometimes using the limited freedom, one can stretch it to the largest possible limit, and miracles can be performed.  Wang Ruoshui's practice during these twenty years is excellent proof of this.

China watchers often focus their attention on the liberal elite, as if the elite were a unified force, and they do not realize that a split among the elite had already begun as early as the end of the 1970s.  There are a lot of intellectuals who, as soon as they recover their political status, they choose to avoid any risk, to follow a much safer way – not only for their own security, but also for some benefits they are seeking from the party.  There are many people like this.  Wang Ruoshui was expelled from the Communist Party in 1987.  He was deprived of his position as deputy editor-in-chief and also of his right to publish.  But another famous philosopher, also believed to be a dissident, was recommended by the leading conservative Hu Qiaomu, the major rival of Wang Ruoshui, to be the vice president of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in 1988, and also became a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference at that time.

The two main topics of Wang Ruoshui's research were Mao Zedong and humanism.  The essence of Mao Zedong Thought is contempt, and the trampling of the individual, the negation of the individual, and the deprivation of the people’s basic needs, both physically and spiritually. Under such lofty names as people, class, and revolution, the good and noble spirits of the people were destroyed.  All these campaigns prepared the people for the pursuit of unrestrained desires and the degradation of social morality in the 1990s; money became the only value in the society.

It is true that most intellectuals in China have suffered a lot.  But the most serious harm inflicted on the intellectuals was the stifling of their moral integrity.  I was acquainted with three deputy editors-in-chief from People's Daily in the 1950s.  All three had been distorted beyond recognition after the Cultural Revolution. One of them became a criminal for his involvement with the Gang of Four.  Another had become so slick and sly that one could never tell what he really meant by his words.  The third one, I liked him very much for his open-mindedness, a talented journalist.  But when I met him again at the end of the 1970s I was so surprised to find that he had become a totally different person.  He had become so cautious and timid, and politically he leaned toward the conservatives.  And he was working at the People’s Daily as one of the rivals of Wang Ruoshui and Hu Jiwei.

Wang Ruoshui was also changed during this period, but it was a change in an opposite direction.  He changed from an ardent supporter of Mao to Mao's main adversary.  But, unlike many Chinese, Wang did not discard all faith and ideals.  He abandoned Mao Zedong Thought and Marxism-Leninism and, after careful scrutiny, he also negated the mistakes in Marxism.  But he adhered to the basics of Marxism.  He became more mature and more firm, but for this, he attracted even more intense hatred from his opponents.  However, Wang Ruoshui remained pure and calm, just like his name "Ruoshui," which means "like water" in Chinese.

To the Chinese intellectuals who have been struggling in filth and mire, Wang Ruoshui should be a role model.  As early as the 1950s Mao Zedong took a fancy for Wang Ruoshui and contemplated having him replace Deng Tuo as editor-in-chief of People's Daily.  If this had occurred, he would have been only one step from the center of power.  But Wang Ruoshui was not interested.  In 1972 he was in fact the deputy editor-in-chief, but he wrote a letter to Mao Zedong and insisted that the criticism of Lin Biao should be focused on Lin’s ultra-leftist doctrines, instead of criticizing his so-called rightist views as the Gang of Four had advocated.  This letter displeased Mao, and he wrote “kanlai zhuozi de zhexue de zuojia ye bu gaoming.”  Jiang Qing called Wang to the Great Hall of the People and accused him of "intending to split the party center."  As a result, he was struggled against, deprived of his job, and sent to the countryside to do manual labor.  After the 1970s he had many opportunities to compromise, to retire and enjoy his wealth and rank, but he refused again and again.  He was the personification of the ideal of the pursuit of Chinese intellectuals since ancient times: "Neither riches nor high position can corrupt him; neither poverty nor lowly conditions can make him swerve from his principles; neither threats nor force can bend him."  Wang Ruoshui chose a road overgrown with thistles and thorns, but he was happy in his choice at the end of his life.

China now faces an unprecedented situation.  What China needs most today is moral integrity and a theoretical weapon.  The moral integrity and theoretical legacy of Wang Ruoshui are still living among us.  He will fight shoulder to shoulder with us forever.


Our next speaker is Stuart Schram who has spent many hours with Wang.


Stuart Schram

It is a privilege to have the opportunity of speaking to you this afternoon about Wang Ruoshui as I have known him.  I first met Wang in the course of the visit of what was originally called the “Mao delegation,” but it had been re-baptized, by the time we arrived in Beijing in June 1980, the “North American Delegation to Study Problems of the Chinese Revolution.” (The other members were Angus MacDonald, Ed Friedman, Mauri Meisner, Tang Tsou, Jerome Chen, and Ross Terrill.)  Some of the scholars and officials we met on that occasion were uncommunicative, unimpressive, or both, but many were both impressive and forthcoming.  This was assuredly the case of Liao Gailong, Li Rui, Yu Guangyuan, Hu Hua, and others, who subsequently became my good friends.  I believe that all of us were particularly struck by Wang Ruoshui – not only by what he said, but by his simple and unassuming demeanor.  He was at that time, as you all know, deputy editor-in-chief of Renmin ribao, but despite this important position, there was no hint of condescension on his part.  In our discussions his tone was always that of an exchange between colleagues and friends.  It was in this context, and in answer to a question as to whether the problem of privilege was not a problem of power in China, rather than of wealth as in the United States, that Wang Ruoshui cited, as Ross Terrill noted in an obituary, Lord Acton’s dictum about the corrupting effects of power, and went on to say that China must still solve the problem of the relations between the leaders and the masses.  This was, of course, one of his dominant concerns during the ensuing two decades.

            The schedule of our delegation during this visit was very full, and I did not have the opportunity to become better acquainted with Wang Ruoshui in 1980.  My next meeting with him was during a trip to China in 1982.  The ideas he expressed then were once again cogent and interesting, but regarding Wang as a person I was most deeply struck by what I learned not from him directly, but from a third party.  As was usual in those days in the case of visits to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a young scholar was given the task of accompanying me to the meetings scheduled by the Academy.  This time, the young man in question was a student at the School of Journalism attached to the People’s Daily, who was writing a master’s thesis on the role of the American presidency.  As we emerged from the People’s Daily building, I went on a brief errand next door, leaving my guide with Wang Ruoshui, who had accompanied us to the exit.  When my guide and I left together afterwards, he began by speaking in glowing terms of the interest and sympathy with which Wang Ruoshui had asked him about his thesis and made some suggestions.  He then went on to describe how, when all of those associated with the People’s Daily had lunch in the same large dining room, Wang Ruoshui repeatedly went and sat down with groups of students, rather than with his immediate colleagues, and spent the time in friendly and open-ended conversations with them.  Imagine, he said, a “great big deputy editor of the People’s Daily”coming to talk with students!  No one else of comparable status had ever behaved in this way, he said, and all the students had been very much struck by it.

            In reviewing my association with Wang Ruoshui, I would not wish to omit what happened in 1984, though the episode I am about to relate involved a conversation not with Wang, but with Deng Liqun.  I am not quite sure why Deng agreed to meet with me.  Some Chinese friends who were not admirers of his suggested that since Deng Liqun had at this time been accused of anti-intellectualism and xenophobia, he might have thought it would make a good impression if he met with an individual who was supposed to be some kind of intellectual, and who was certainly a foreigner.  In any case, the meeting took place in the Great Hall of the People.  Deng began by asking me what I thought of the campaign against “Spiritual Pollution” then underway.  I replied that I did not think much of it, both on general grounds, and because of the treatment which had been inflicted on my good friend Wang Ruoshui.  Instead of showing annoyance, as I thought he might, Deng spent at least 20 minutes trying to convince me that Wang Ruoshui was really a bad egg, mainly because he had refused to behave strictly in accordance with the directives of the party, as every good Communist should, on the one hand in his writings, but also in his role as a delegate to the National People’s Congress.  I only wish, Deng Liqun said, that I could sit down with you and go over all the documents concerning this disgraceful matter, but unfortunately many of them are neibu.  I referred to this episode in an article published soon afterwards in the China Quarterly, adding some rather sharp criticism of the whole concept of “Spiritual Pollution” as it had been defined and denounced by Deng Liqun and Hu Qiaomu.  As a result, Deng took a strong dislike to me, which I understand has persisted until this day.

            In 1980, responding to question from a member of the “Mao delegation” as to whether or not reading more Marx would help to solve China’s problems, Wang Ruoshui replied:  “To read more Marx would help us to understand his analysis of Europe, but our conditions are different.”  In other words, Mao knew more about Chinese reality.  A decade later, in a conversation in 1991 I had with Wang and another Chinese scholar who had become disillusioned with Marxism in all of its forms, his friend said that Wang was naïve to imagine that anything could be learned either from Marx or from Mao.  To this Wang Ruoshui replied that while he had totally given up on Mao, whom he used to admire so much, he still wanted to learn from the young Marx’s views on humanism and alienation.  No doubt most of you are familiar with his writings on these topics, and in particular with his 1986 volume, In Defense of Humanism.   In any case, others will shortly be speaking of Wang’s thought so I shall continue with some remarks about Wang Ruoshui as a person and as a friend.

            If I were asked to describe Wang’s character with a single term, I think I would say that he was young in heart.  By this I mean that, despite all the political troubles he encountered beginning in 1983, and despite the grave health problems from which he suffered in more recent years, he always retained the capacity to smile in the face of adversity.  In 1988, when he had been expelled from the party and was under a cloud, and no meeting with him could be arranged under the normal procedures of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Su Shaozhi took advantage of his position as party secretary of the Institute for Marxism-Leninism to bring us together, ironically, in an office reserved for party affairs.  Needless to say, Wang was not particularly happy at that time, but he was still able to speak of the future with courage and optimism, and could still flash his wonderful smile.  On a more cheerful note, I remember a lunch to which Wang Ruoshui and Feng Yuan invited me during a visit to Beijing in 1991, when they sought, with true Chinese hospitality, to make me eat twice as much as was reasonable, as well as the pleasure we had in seeing them here in Cambridge during their visit in 1993-1994.

            Then in 1996 came the distressing news of Wang Ruoshui’s illness. Together with many others associated with the Fairbank Center, I signed a card expressing our collective sympathy.  Only a week after leaving the hospital on that occasion, Wang sent a letter, addressed to all of us, saying that he often missed the days he spent with us in Cambridge, which had been “one of the pleasantest periods” in his life.  Despite the tragic circumstances of his last visit to Harvard, it therefore seems most fitting that he should have come back.  Many of you undoubtedly met with him during the brief period when he was here.  My wife and I had the pleasure of attending a dinner with him given by Merle Goldman, and it was our privilege to be the hosts at what was to be Wang Ruoshui’s final public appearance before he went into hospital for the last time.  On both these occasions despite obvious physical weakness, the smile was still there, and also the ability to take pleasure in the moment in spite of everything.  Plainly, his courage at this time was strengthened by the love and support of Feng Yuan.  When he dined at our house, there had to be, since Rod MacFarquhar was present, a good red wine.  I knew from our previous meeting at Merle’s that Wang’s doctor did not allow him to consume any alcohol.  When he confirmed that this was the case, I told him that we also had alcohol-free red wine.  He received this news with great enthusiasm, and when I placed the bottle in front of him, he drank from it abundantly.  He also expressed curiosity about the main dish, and asked whether or not it consisted of duck.  When I told him that these were indeed wild mallard ducks prepared according to my favorite recipe by the famous French gourmet Curnonsky, he expressed interest in these details, and proceeded to enjoy the ducks.  Once again, there was the smile, and the obvious pleasure at being with friends.

            To sum, up, I shall always remember Wang Ruoshui as a thinker of remarkable intelligence, subtlety, and originality, who boldly defended the truth as he saw it.  But I will also remember him as a human being of exceptional warmth and charm.  We will miss him greatly.


Our next speaker is Joe Fewsmith who also spent many hours with Wang Ruoshui.


Joe Fewsmith:

I think when Merle asked me to say a few words about Wang Ruoshui I could not help but to try in some way to link the man with his work.  I know we are going to talk about the work in a moment but yet it strikes me that there is such an integral relationship between the man and his work and it is certainly in that way that I understood Wang Ruoshui as a person as I knew him over these many years.  Since I have only known him since the 1980s and early 1990s I can’t speak to the origins of his humanism. But as we reminisce perhaps I can speak about some of the ways he came to his humanist philosophy by which I think he will be best remembered.  I think that point which Liu Binyan referred to was really in 1971-72 following Lin Biao’s death when he wrote his letter to the chairman and suggested that the problem was really leftism and not rightism, as some were then suggesting.  And as Liu Binyan of course noted, that brought him some ill return.  I once asked Wang Ruoshui if he had ever attended a politburo meeting.  Of course, ever the probing scholar, I wanted to know what a politburo actually felt like and he answered, “well, just one.”  Of course it was the meeting where he was criticized so harshly for the views that he had expressed in that letter.  And he was forced to write his self-criticism.  I don’t know if that was his first self-criticism, but I do believe it was his last.  He described it to me as a feeling of being raped, of being violated personally.  It was his sense of personal dignity and integrity that had been so badly violated.  And of course one needs to have a sense of integrity in order to have that sense of being violated.  That is something we all know that Wang Ruoshui certainly had in great depth.

  I think it is really not a very far reach to leave from that experience to the introspection that led to his philosophical writings of the 1980s.  Certainly by that experience he had realized that something had gone so terribly wrong with the Chinese revolution, something he had greeted with great idealism in his youth, had served with vigor, and now was destroying himself, his friends, his country.  I find it not at all a long reach to get from that incident and the reflections there to his later ideas about economic, political, and human alienation. 

And of course there was also his trip to the United States that Liz referred to in her opening remarks when he led a journalist delegation to the United States and he had the audacity to write some things that were not too terribly critical of the United States in the pages of the People’s Daily when he returned.  I think it is probably little known that Hu Yaobang criticized Wang twice for his views on the United States.  He was too liberal, even for Hu Yaobang.  We do know that he was ahead of his times. 

In 1983 he had the audacity to publish Zhou Yang’s speech at the Marx centennial, a speech, if I am not mistaken, that he actually drafted. He knew that Hu Qiaomu did not want that speech published.  And yet Hu Qiaomu did not want to send an order down and say do not publish it, because this was Zhou Yang’s speech.  So Wang took advantage of that loophole and published it anyway and of course encountered the trouble that led to his removal as deputy editor-in-chief of the People’s Daily

As you all know he also wrote an article that was published a bit prematurely in Jingbao in Hong Kong criticizing the criticism of him that Hu Qiaomu had written in the People’s Daily in early 1984.  Of course if you had been a good communist as Deng Liqun wanted him to be, as Stuart just mentioned, he would have done a good self-criticism and fallen back into line.  But, as I asked him about these experiences, he remembered very clearly about his experience in 1971-72 and said, “No, I will not do that again.”  He had ducked once, he had been violated, and he was not going to be violated again.  It is that sense of integrity, perhaps I should almost say his rigidity, in upholding his moral views and his sense of dignity that made such a contribution to China -- but of course also caused him all that trouble.  I think that is the way that all of us remember him, certainly as I remember him -- as a person of great humanism and of great integrity who indeed at the critical moments would not bend.


Paul Cohen

A number of people have mentioned the articles that Wang Ruoshui wrote in the People’s Daily on his return from his first trip.  I had translated those articles for my students and a mutual friend had written to tell Wang Ruoshui and he wrote me and asked me if there was any chance I would be coming to Beijing soon.  I wrote him back that I was planning to come in December of 1979.  So I was there and we were eating dinner at the Beijing da fandian one evening and the phone rang and I was called to the phone and it was Wang Ruoshui saying he had an extra ticket to Seiji Ozawa’s conducting of Beethoven’s Ninth -- the Boston Symphony was visiting Beijing at the time -- and would I care to come along.  I said that that would be lovely.  So he picked me up in his car the next evening and we went to the symphony.  We didn’t have much chance to talk but as we were saying good-bye he said that he was very busy at that time -- this was late December and he was putting out the special New Year’s edition of the paper -- but that if he had any time he would call me and it would be nice if we could chat.  He did call me and he came to the hotel and we spent about three hours talking in my hotel room. 

I was just enormously impressed with some of the same qualities others have already mentioned.  First of all, his interest in spending time with just an ordinary American scholar of China -- a person with such an important official position as he himself was in.  And then his curiosity about how things operated in the political system in the United States, his willingness to talk critically about the ways in which the Chinese political system operated, and also a marvelous sense -- and I guess that this is one characteristic of Wang Ruoshui’s that nobody has yet mentioned -- a sense of the absurd, a willingness to step back and look at the world and the folly that plays such an important part in it, certainly not just in China, but everyplace else as well.  

 I saw him a number of times subsequent to that on his visits to Cambridge.  The last time was just a few months ago when we chatted for some time in my office and there was very little that had changed in him as a person from my impressions that I had carried away from my first encounters with him.  I asked him what he was doing and he talked a bit about his treatment and so on for his cancer.  He told me about the Mao book.  Then he asked me what I was doing.  And he really seemed to be genuinely interested in the things that this American scholar of China, now twenty-five years older, was doing in his scholarly life. And we said good-bye, and that was unfortunately the last time that I saw him.


Rod MacFarquhar:

 I have been asked to chair the next panel which as you will see from your program deals with the influence of the new enlightenment generation on Chinese reform, something about which our two other panelists have written at considerable length.  I thought that probably the best thing that I could do since I am down as a panelist would be to look at some of the writings that Wang Ruoshui penned and some of the speeches that he made, as a sort of prelude to what the others are going to talk about. 

I discovered that I first came across Wang Ruoshui in July 1980 when I bought this book which you saw briefly on the video from the Communist outlet bookshop in London.  It had been published in January 1980 and I was going to that bookshop regularly at the time because publications of interest were just beginning to come out of China.  And I see that I religiously noted in pencil the dates of all Wang’s articles from November 1954 to 1979 --  most of them were from 1954 to 1963.  But there were two articles at the very end which I didn’t annotate because they didn’t seem to be relevant to what I was working on at the time.  And so I missed the two time bombs.  One was on humanism. And the other was on alienation.  They obviously hadn’t been published anywhere before because this book was very careful about saying where things had been published and it didn’t say they had been published anywhere before.

So I turned to what Feng Yuan has lovingly prepared on the Web site for Wang Ruoshui to see what she had done with his work on alienation.  In one of his long pieces about the struggle he had with Deng Liqun and Hu Qiaomu, he says that in a presentation he was giving in June 1980 in the Department of Journalism at CASS, he was asked “What is alienation?”  The person asking this question said that an American professor teaching a class at their school had mentioned the term alienation, but the students did not understand it. “So I tried to explain.”  (This is him speaking.)  “Alienation is when a thing originally of our own creation develops and becomes an estranged force out of our control, which then turns around to dominate and oppress us. Alienation exists in socialist society: for example, ideologically in the cult of the individual; politically when the public servants of the people become masters…. The main danger in the socialist countries was not the so-called revisionism [which of course was what Mao always said was the reason for the Cultural Revolution], but rather the alienation of the party.  When the party, which formerly had served the people and was the tool and servant of the people becomes divorced from the people and becomes an aristocratic overlord, it no longer belongs to the working class but rather becomes an estranged force opposed to the working class.” 

This recalled absolutely, and I looked up the book just before coming here, Djilas’ New Class.  Two men from very different positions, very different historical backgrounds, very different cultural backgrounds, who lived under communism, and had discovered painfully in both cases what was the new class -- the oppression of the people by a group who were originally supposed to be looking after them.

            In another speech that Wang made in America in 1993, he said, “In this way, the party forced you to be dependent on it.  Without the party you could not survive.   You could not choose your job freely.  You could not transfer to another unit without the permission of your leader.  If you were allowed to transfer, your personal archive would go with you.  This would decide your future in the next unit. The party endowed you with all your means of survival, so it had the right to control you and you had the responsibility to submit to it.  This is a patriarchical and paternal party-state.”  In short, this is a new class.

            Then on humanism he starts, I think, and this was fundamental to many of the things that have been said about him today, was the title of an article that became the title of an edited volume, not edited by him, “Man is the departure point of Marxism.”  This was so central to his idea that individual human beings are absolutely vital for thinking about Marxism.  And it became a focal point of course of the criticism that was leveled against him.  In his article “In Defense of Humanism,” he wrote, “I concluded that the practical implications of socialist humanism for China include a rejection of the total dictatorship and the cruel struggle of the Cultural Revolution, an abandonment of the personality cult which deifies one human and degrades the people, the upholding of the equality of every person before the truth and the law, and support of the sanctity” – and here we come to something that Joe Fewsmith mentioned – “the sanctity of personal freedom and dignity.”

            In Wang’s article on the legacy of Mao and the party-state, which he gave to a conference that Tim Cheek ran at Colorado College in 1993, he makes the point, and this is where we see where we was coming from originally to become a Marxist, that Chinese intellectuals have a different opinion about communism to western ideas of it being equal to totalitarianism.  And he draws very strongly on the rightness of the Communist Party in claiming to be rooted in the May Fourth movement.  That clearly was his view of what communism should have been about. But the democratic revolution of the Communist Party soon disappeared. “The promises of the party turned into bubbles, quickly to be burst.  How was it possible that an ideal for a democratic republic turned into a party-state?  How were we betrayed?”  And again one recalls Communists in other cultures who wrote about the god that failed -- many Western and Eastern European Communists who wrote about how they had, like Wang Ruoshui, been so idealistic in going into a system that they thought would bring democracy and freedom to the people, only to find that it had brought the opposite.

            And so we come to his reactions to being kicked out of the party. “After my dismissal I felt free.  In fact, I did not care about my party membership.  I felt quite relaxed, relieved.  I slept very well.  I had been a party member for thirty-nine years and during the course of all those years I felt great pressure. Now, finally, the pressure had been lifted.  I had witnessed how the party had changed from a truly revolutionary party to a bureaucratic, corrupt, and degenerate party.  Sometimes I woke in the night to ask myself, ‘Is this the new China I had envisioned and struggled for?’ If that party didn’t want me, then I didn’t want it either. But even though I was no longer a party member, I still considered myself a Marxist and I refused to remain passive.”  (Again recalling something that Joe Fewsmith was saying.) “During my years at the People’s Daily I felt that I had always been a tool of the party, and I had to write many things which I did not want to write.  And there were many things that I did want to write which I was not allowed to write.” Perhaps it didn’t matter quite as much that I didn’t read his articles all that carefully from the 1950s and 1960s.

            “During this period there were three cultural currents in the country.  The outright westernization as spearheaded by Fang Lizhi, the second current was the New Confucianism which Tu Wei-ming played a big role in those arguments in the 1980s, and the third was the free and humanistic Marxism to which we were committed.  Our main target was the official Marxists, and of course of the three currents, we were their main adversaries.  In their eyes, heretics were more despicable than atheists.”

            In one sense this account in his own words gives one a sense of a wasted life and I think in some sense he felt that those years had been wasted.  But in fact what I was enormously encouraged by when I was down at the memorial service for him in New York on February 2 was the way in which all the dissident intellectuals who are now in exile in this country, Liu Binyan of course but many others as well, all of them were there.  All of them wanted to speak.  All of them wanted to give their tribute to Wang Ruoshui.  As others have already indicated today, those early years weren’t wasted because out of them came an understanding of what communism was about, of what the party was about, and why he had to lead the way, as he did, so strongly against what it had come to be.  And his legacy will live forever among Chinese intellectuals and eventually among the people who will be able to read him.  


            I now call upon Richard Baum who is visiting Cambridge, fortunately for us,


Richard Baum:

It is a distinct honor to join my colleagues in this celebration of the life and work of Wang Ruoshui.  Unlike many of you in this room, I did not know Wang well personally.  We met only a few times; I did not spend hours and hours with him, hearing his tales of inner-party struggle and political liberalization that he so deeply believed in.  But in the course of my various researches over the last twenty years, I came to know a great deal about him and his role, his works, and his place in a socialist system with which he became increasingly discomforted over the last two decades of his life.

Like many intellectuals of his generation, Wang Ruoshui as a young man was deeply committed to the revolution, to his vision of the Chinese Communist Party, and to the towering wisdom and virtue of Chairman Mao Zedong.  From the time of the 1949 revolution until the mid-1960s, he faithfully adhered to the Chairman’s line and policies, seldom stopping to question the strength of his commitment.  In his early career he never questioned the Chairman’s judgment and he came to the Chairman’s defense whenever an attack was launched -- for example, in the famous and ill-fated campaign against Yang Xianzhen in 1965.  But with the decade of darkness that began a year later in 1966, the scales began to fall away from Wang Ruoshui's eyes.  Repelled by the scale of human suffering that had been unleashed by Chairman Mao in the name of proletarian virtue, and repulsed by the blind, hysterical worship of Mao as a near deity, Wang Ruoshui was led to reassess his own path of commitment to Mao and the strength of his own worship of Mao as a younger man.

His philosophical studies of the early Marx, especially Marx’s writings on alienation, now led him, beginning in the 1970s, to see people not in terms of impersonal classes (jieji), nor in terms of heroic but vaguely abstract masses (qunzhong), but as individual, sentient human beings.  And as he began to question in this manner the roots of the political chaos and the personality cults of the Maoist era, his thinking began to converge with others in the emergent school of socialist humanism, some of whom are here in this room today -- people like Liu Binyan,  Su Shaozhi, Zhou Yang, and Guo Luoji, among others.  In thus breaking with Maoist orthodoxy, Wang Ruoshui and the others incurred the bitter wrath of such self-appointed guardians of the faith as Wang Zhen, Hu Qiaomu, and Deng Liqun.  It took a great deal of courage to stand up against these powerful conservative forces.  And the struggle that Wang Ruoshui waged beginning in the early 1970s inevitably took its toll.  He was criticized first in 1971-72 for urging that the emphasis in the anti-Lin Biao campaign be placed on Lin’s true leftism, not his spurious rightism.  A decade later, in 1981, Wang Ruoshui was again attacked by party conservatives, this time for allegedly maintaining relationships with illegal organizations and illegal journals, including the infamous April Fifth Forum, during the Democracy Wall movement of 1978-79.  These charges were firmly denied by Wang Ruoshui but they nevertheless left an imprint. 

In 1983 Ruoshui, along with his boss Hu Jiwei at People’s Daily, lost his job in the wake of the campaign against spiritual pollution.  Among other things, he was attacked for writing “In Defense of Humanism.”  Others have commented previously on that essay.  Here I would just like to briefly cite my favorite passage from this essay, which I think captures the essence of Ruoshui’s evolving position on Marxist humanism and also clearly reveals why the conservative elder statesmen were so enraged at him.  In his essay, written early in 1983, he noted that certain well-meaning comrades within the party disapproved of humanist values, regarding them Marxist heresy.   “They set Marxism and humanism in opposition to one another,” he wrote, “thus they are unable to see any universal relevance in the idea of human worth.”  Rejecting this argument on the grounds that it falsely conflated the concepts of human worth and bourgeois humanism, Wang proposed an entirely different kind of humanism. “Socialist humanism,” he wrote, “implies resolutely abandoning the total dictatorship and merciless struggles of the ten years of chaos, abandoning the deification of one individual, upholding the equality of all before truth and the law, and seeing that the personal freedoms and human dignity of citizens are not infringed upon.  Why should this sort of socialist humanism be treated as a strange, alien, or evil thing?”  For this he lost his job in the 1983 anti-pollution campaign spearheaded by Deng Liqun, Wang Zhen, and Hu Qiaomu. 

Later, in 1987, Wang Ruoshui and other members of the philosophical humanist school, along with pro-democratic theorists Wang Ruowang, Fang Lizhi, Liu Binyan, Su Shaozhi, Zhang Xianyang, and Wu Zuguang, were forced from the party in the campaign against bourgeois liberalization that followed the student demonstrations of December 1986By the time he reached the United States after these very discomforting episodes of the early and mid-1980s, he had become quite disillusioned about China’s recent history, though he never lost his humanist outlook or his irrepressible optimism. 

I last saw Wang Ruoshui three years ago here at Harvard at a meeting commemorating the twentieth anniversary of the Third Plenum of the Eleventh Central Committee.  At that time he spoke nostalgically about the hopes for a better future that he and his comrades had entertained in 1978-79. Those were intoxicating times, when the notion of thought emancipation (sixiang jiefang) and the debate on the "criterion of truth" ushered in a period of great optimism that things were about to change. 

Undeniably, China has come a long way in the twenty-three years since that initial wave of humanist optimism was embedded in the reforms of the Third Plenum.  Unfortunately, however, the hopes raised in 1978-79 for a brighter political future, in which the dignity and worth of the individual human being would be valued as highly as  historical abstractions of class or mass, remained largely unfulfilled at the time of Wang’s death. Though Wang Ruoshui was slight of stature, soft of voice, and mild of temperament, his contribution to the struggle for human dignity in China was immense, as he spoke out tirelessly on behalf of the individual human tree within the impersonal socialist forest. He will be sorely missed.



We now turn to our other panelist Merle Goldman who writes about the 1980s in her book Sowing the Seeds of Democracy in China


Merle Goldman:

So much of what has been said I am going to go over again, but it is so much a part of Wang Ruoshui it is hard not to avoid it.  Let me just say that I think that, and Feng Yuan would know much better than I, there were major influences on Wang Ruoshui that made him into the Marxist humanist he was in the post-Mao era. 

One certainly, as Rick has talked about, as Liu Binyan has talked about, and as Joe has talked about, was his experience in the Cultural Revolution.  Another was the fact that he was exposed through his access to internal publications to the debates on Marxist humanism going on in Eastern Europe. I am sure that this also must have influenced his views to infuse Marxism with humanism and divorce it from Leninism -- which is the way I see Wang Ruoshui's thinking.  Third, there was the fact that in 1964 he was appointed to a commission to launch the attack against Soviet revisionists.  This happened to many Chinese intellectuals.  In the process of learning more about a particular subject, in this case Marxism, he came into contact with works of Marx he had not been exposed to before.  And that of course was the younger Marx and particularly the manuscripts of 1844 in which Marx touches on this issue of alienation. So that in the post-Mao era it would seem to me that what would lead him in this direction of humanism and concern about the issue of alienation came out of this earlier period. 

Rod talked about the definition of alienation.  This is the one that I have from Wang Ruoshui.  “A thing originally of our own creation has become an estranged force, which has gotten out of control and has turned around to dominate and oppress us.”  In many ways I think that this is a very personal statement.  He and his generation, or the group that has come to be called the new enlightenment group, had enthusiastically joined the party, built the party, established the party, and then they found that this party

 -- which they had worked so hard to establish -- then came to oppress them.  This is what I believe led him to an attraction to the concept of alienation.  I think the concept was something that he understood, and his fellow intellectuals understood, but I don’t think the party leadership ever had a clue.  I cannot believe that Deng Xiaoping had any sympathy with this concept of alienation. 

Wang defined alienation in various terms.  It had three aspects to it.  He first talked about ideological alienation.  This, of course, was the “cult of the personality which turned one’s leader into a god.”  He blamed this cult of the personality not only on Mao, but on himself.  Very few intellectuals did this.  He said, “We joined in this.  We helped to bring this about.”  Ba Jin wrote a very moving statement on this, in which he too said that he was partly responsible for bringing about this cult of the personality.  But this was something that Wang felt very deeply.  The political alienation he talked about, and you have heard this many times, was when the political leaders of a country who are supposed to be the “servants” of society become its “masters.”  And again, here I quote Wang, “As a result, servants of the people become lords of the people, who ride roughshod over the people.”

He went further to say that this political alienation exists in the post-Mao era.  This is again a quote from him.  “Present-day cadres act as high and mighty officials and are indifferent to the interests of the people.”  This alienation between the leaders and the led is something that greatly concerned Wang.  What was he going to do about it?  How do you reduce this alienation?  And there he came to the idea, in addition to that of humanism, of democratic procedures, competitive elections, freedom of speech, rule of law, and the abolition of life-long tenure for high officials. So he moved through his view of alienation for the need for some kind of political reform.

            Then, of course, the third kind of alienation was economic alienation. This he defined as the imposition of bureaucratic controls over the economy and giving priority to heavy industry.  He said, “This form of economic development did not meet the needs of the people.”  To overcome this, the government, the party, must be more responsive to people’s everyday concerns and everyday needs.

            Perhaps foremost Wang felt that a humanism was necessary to counter this alienation. Almost everyone here has talked about the essay he wrote “In Defense of Humanism.”   It was written in January 1983.  But what I find so fascinating about this is the way in which he opens this essay.  It is a dramatic variation on the opening words of the Communist Manifesto. He replaces communism with humanism.  In other words, where the Communist Manifesto says “the specter of communism is haunting the land,” Wang writes, “the specter of humanism is looming large over the land.”  So you already see this transformation in his thinking in 1983.   He goes on to define humanism as the elimination of dictatorship and again upholding the principle that all people are equal before the truth and law and then -- an issue that everyone has mentioned -- “the citizen’s personal freedom and dignity should not be violated.”  These became his definitions of humanism. 

            I come to a conclusion somewhat like that of Liu Binyan.  Wang called himself a Marxist, and he said he was very much influenced by the younger Marx.  He certainly was influenced, he said, by the European Enlightenment.   But as I see Wang Ruoshui, he epitomized to me the upright moral Confucian literati -- or at least the Confucian literati as interpreted by our teacher Ben Schwartz.  Wang might not be happy with this comparison.  Or his colleagues might not be happy with this comparison. But in many ways he really epitomized this Confucian literati.  He sought to infuse a spirit of humanism into the state ideology.  He had a commitment to what he saw as “the truth,” even if it displeased the political authorities.  And, like the ideal Confucian literati, he made independent moral judgments and had the courage to criticize repressive rulers.

            I would like to conclude with a quote from Wang which I think in some ways represents this.  He wrote, “The truly emancipated person is not one who spews forth patent lies to please the authorities.  He is the one who speaks the truth at the risk of being labeled a ‘rightist’.”  Of course one would not be called a rightist in Confucian times, but everything else I think is appropriate.  And that is what I think Wang did in the post-Mao era.  He spoke the truth, and he was criticized for it.  In many ways what he did resonated so much with this old tradition of the Confucian intellectual.


In the next panel we will discuss the impact of Wang Ruoshui on the younger generation.  We have two members of the younger generation, Wang Juntao and Liu Junning.  Wang Juntao I believe does not need an introduction, but let me say that he participated in the April 5, 1976, movement; he participated in the Democracy Wall movement; and he became one of the leaders of the Beijing Spring group that was a major factor in introducing democratic ideas and more important democratic actions into China.  It was not so much what they said, but what they did.  They built their own think-tank that dealt with political issues. They published their own newspaper.  They set up their own publishing house and their own public opinion polling company.  And they did all of this as an independent institution.  This seems like a natural thing for us in the West, but for somebody in China in the 1980s it was not at all natural. 


Wang Juntao:

When I think of Mr. Wang Ruoshui, not only do I feel sad about the death of a close friend, my feelings are the same as those of Mr. Li Shenzhi, one of China’s leading intellectuals. In his moving article in memory of Ruoshui, he wrote, “We lost Ruoshui just at the very moment that we needed him the most.”  Upon first hearing this, it may be difficult to understand these thoughts.

It is easy understand that all of us, like many of his friends who are present here today and who knew Ruoshui, miss him very much. Mr. Wang Ruoshui was a remarkable person, kind, thoughtful, a true moral model for all of us.  In addition, he was also an important figure who made an important contribution to China at a crucial turning point at the end of the Cultural Revolution.  But on top of these, I think there is still another significant issue that we should talk about if we want to discuss the role of Mr. Wang Ruoshui in contemporary China.  We have tended to pay too much attention to his role in Deng Xiaoping’s reform and opening.  But in fact, I don’t think this is Ruoshui’s most important contribution in its full sense.  Although we know that he did initiate important new ideas at the moment of the great historical transformation, this was not his main focus.  He himself rarely talked about this aspect of his work. I think that there is something missing from looking at Ruoshui’s contribution in terms of a rational framework, from looking merely at the concrete policies, strategies, or tactics he supported.  What is missing is a soul.  Perhaps this is a different way of looking at his contributions from how western scholars may evaluate them.  In the West, there is little need to take care of the soul since it has been working stably there for a long time.  But in China the system to maintain the soul has been destroyed at least three times – in the late 1910s when we destroyed Confucianism; in 1949 when we destroyed the Western-oriented system; and after the late 1970s, when the communist ideology collapsed. Now, for many Chinese intellectuals, the most serious problem is an absence of the soul.  Specific strategies, projects, or tactics on their own cannot solve all development problems.  Without a soul, whatever the strategies, they are likely to become tricks and lies, and the institutions become dirty games. We Chinese have already suffered too much from such occurrences because of the absence of a soul.

It is only when we evaluate Ruoshui’s contribution in terms of his efforts to take care of the Chinese soul and to build up a system of conscience in China can we understand Ruoshui’s full contribution to the Chinese intellectual community. The rational cannot work well without a soul, because the rational can improve the soul but the soul always coordinates the progress made by the rational in development. From the time of Confucius to the contemporary period of modernization and development, mainstream Chinese intellectuals never believed in any religion.  Thus, there was no supreme creator to look after us and thus we have always had to take care of our souls by ourselves.  As a result, only a very few people who practice moral lives and cultivate the full potential of human beings become the models to look after the rest of us.  Their lives have been models for all the people and they have provided examples of the existence of all the good in this world.   This is the most important role that Ruoshui has provided to contemporary Chinese intellectuals. 

Although I am from a different generation from Ruoshui’s, and many of his approaches and strategies are indeed quite alien to most of my generation, nevertheless his spirit and virtuous intellectual life always provided us with a very deep inspiration.  This transcends mere issues of technological innovation, material development, and institutional reform.  This is because in the final analysis a soul is the underpinning to all rational progress.  Ultimately, our world must be built upon the foundation of the best moral examples.

Today, most of the people gathered here are interested in understanding China and the Chinese from an academic perspective. Rational strategies and tactics have attracted a lot of your attention.  But I think many Chinese intellectuals would be surprised at the lack of attention to the paramount roles of conscience and the soul in China’s development. This is understandable because of our vastly different experiences.  But I think if we really want to follow the progress of China, such important figures as Ruoshui who are models for the Chinese should never be neglected.   Some people may argue that figures like Ruoshui are no longer popular among the younger generations of Chinese, that their heroes are now rich businessmen and popular cultural figures.  

My last point is that we Chinese critically need Ruoshui and all the good he stood for.  But I am not pessimistic about his future legacy to all Chinese.  There have been many periods in Chinese history when people like Ruoshui were forgotten or temporarily ignored.  But after much suffering and immorality, the Chinese always returned to these exemplary models.  Ruoshui is indeed one such model because he insisted on the best throughout the worst of times.

So, in my conclusion, I think I can say that it is still too soon to see the full blossoming of Ruoshui’s invaluable contribution to Chinese society because mainstream Chinese are still too busy focusing on their economic well-being to the neglect of their souls.  But this is the best time for all of us to follow in Ruoshui’s example to attempt to build a better and more moral Chinese society. Although I know Ruoshui never thought of himself as a superman – he was far too modest and unassuming --  I am very confident that he is smiling in his heart as he hears these comments from a member of the next generation who has learned so much from his example.


And now from another member of the younger generation, Liu Junning, who was a member of the Institute of Political Science of the Academy of Social Sciences and has spent the year here at the Fairbank Center.


Liu Junning:

It is a great privilege to talk here this afternoon about Mr. Wang Ruoshui.  If I am asked to use one phrase to summarize Mr. Wang's influence on the younger Chinese generation, I would say it is "back to humanity." 

Let me start my talk with a political joke in the former Soviet Union.  In the universities of Communist societies, there has been a compulsory course designed to indoctrinate Communist ideas into students.  Once in such a class in a university in the former Soviet Union, the professor wanted the students to answer the following question orally: "Is communism really 'scientific'? " A third-year psychology student stood up and answered in this way, "Communism is by no means 'scientific'. Otherwise, it should be tested first on dogs in a Pavlovian way before being implemented in human society." (I bet every student in China has been required to answer a similar question.)

Was this student's answer correct? According to the official answer, this student could not be wrong since communism does not differentiate between human beings and dogs. By saying this, I mean communism and its founders do not recognize anything humane. According to Friedrich Engels, the greatest contribution of Karl Marx is that he turned utopian socialism into scientific communism by replacing bourgeois humanism with scientific communism as the only objective law of history.

What does this story have to do with Mr. Wang Ruoshui? It seems to me, just

like this psychology student, Mr. Wang kept challenging scientific communism and tried to bring back the lost dimension of "humanity" to Chinese society -- since there is no place for humanity and individual value in the official ideology of Marxism. Wang's painful experience within the Communist Party told him that the Communists are supposed to be made, not of flesh and blood, but of special stuff without individual free will, dignity, integrity, or mercy. They are denied the right of individual thinking. Their work is just to "do and die, and never reason why." It seemed to people like Mr. Wang

that the fatal error of scientific communism is that it has lost the sight of man, or in Wang's term, "humanity". Therefore, Wang declared himself to be a Marxist humanist.

But in the eyes of Mr. Deng Xiaoping and his followers, a Marxist humanist is

not a Marxist in a "genuine" sense, but a bourgeois humanist, a bad element of the bourgeois liberal intelligentsia. Deng was in fact correct. Marxism as scientific communism denounces humanity. Deng was also right in making no distinction between Marxist humanists such as Wang Ruoshui and other non-Marxist liberal intellectuals. According to Communists like Deng Xiaoping, the official version of scientific Marxism will not tolerate Wang's Marxist humanism. This is for two reasons. First, Marxist humanism is not “scientific." Second, any calls for humanity and individual worth are dangerous. A Communist regime is only safe and stable when humanity and individual worth are extinguished. Any attempts and efforts to bring "humanity" back are considered to be subversive to the Communist rule. But Wang, with his extraordinary courage and conscience, embraced this impossible mission and got his due. He was dismissed from his position at the People's Daily in 1983 and he was expelled from the party in 1987.

People might say, since Deng Xiaoping is gone and China has changed so much,  the CCP might have changed its negative attitude toward humanism and individual worth. No, not yet! Deng's successors have inherited his political legacy of anti-bourgeois liberalization and so far have shown no intention to rehabilitate Mr. Wang and to resume his party membership. Ask those people who were banned recently from organizing a seminar in honor of Mr. Wang in Beijing's Peace Hotel! Ask those people who have been persecuted in recent years because of "spreading" bourgeois individualism and liberal ideas.

Wang Ruoshui was not alone in his efforts to bring back "humanity." Instead, to a

very great extent, Wang's humanism pioneered the way for the reemergence of

liberalism in today's China.. People of the younger generation have been very much influenced by his concern for humanity and individual worth, encouraged by his courage to work for them. Wang's humanism has been echoed very favorably from the Chinese liberals, both young and old.  All liberal intellectuals, in my view, share his aspirations for a humane alternative to scientific communism, and are continuing on with his mission to bring back "humanity" and individual freedom, which are the franchises of a free and humane society. He will be remembered as a great humanist in a society where humanity and individual dignity are so scarce yet so invaluable.



Additional Comments:


I am Bob McGuire.  I am here representing an organization of Marxist humanists in the U.S., News and Letters Committee.  It was our sad duty to memorialize Wang this year in our newspaper, but it was our privilege to have a dialogue with him in the last years of his life.   Even before we met him he was a beacon in showing that Marxist humanism was a universal and not just a local phenomenon.  I myself met Wang just once when he had come to Chicago, but he was instrumental in getting the works of Raya Dunayevskaya translated and published in China, and he wrote the introduction to Marxism and Freedom.  

When we were taking him and Feng Yuan to the train station on the way out – there was an endless line for the train headed west – my colleague Peter Hudis happened to see a freight handler whom he knew who then whisked them around directly to the train. So Wang said at the time, “Well, so the back door isn’t only in China!”  


I’m Lisa Stone and I am a Nieman Fellow with Feng Yuan.  I just wanted to say that on behalf of my colleagues, the Nieman Fellows this year, we got to know Wang Ruoshui as the spouse of our colleague Feng Yuan.  They both added so much to our year.  We deeply appreciate her fellowship and we appreciated knowing Wang as a person. 

I’m Bob Giles.  I am the curator of the Nieman Foundation.  I just wanted to remark on the great dignity that Walter carried himself with.  When he came here with Yuan, he was ill at the time, but he still participated in many of our Nieman events and impressed us all with his gentleness and his great dignity.  We became very fond of him – though because of his illness we were not able to get to know him and the wonderful tradition of journalism that he represented as well as we might otherwise have.

About Wang Ruoshui Book Fund:  By June 30, 2002, the balance in the book fund is $5721.54.

Contact information:

"Wang Ruoshui Book Fund"

  Fairbank Center for East Asian Resesarch

  Harvard University

  1737 Cambridge Street

  Cambridge, MA 02138