Daniel Southerland Washington Post Foreign Service

January 3, 1988; Page a23


JAN. 2 -- Wang Ruoshui's voice is rarely heard in China these days, because no one dares publish his work. But this dissident Marxist's advocacy of humanism and his view that individuals are alienated from society not only in the West but also in socialist countries are still widely debated among Chinese students and intellectuals Fired in 1983 from his job as an editor of the People's Daily, the leading Communist Party newspaper, and stripped last year of his party membership, the philosopher steadfastly rejects demands that he renounce his opinions.

Wang says he will continue to speak out and has now done so in his first interview with an American reporter in several years.

The 61-year-old Wang's views have earned him the enmity of China's leading orthodox Marxists. But among his admirers, the unassuming Wang is regarded as the most courageous and most highly respected of the latest group to be ousted from the party.

Wang does not see himself as a dissident, arguing that he is loyal to the party's program and constitution and supports its policies of reform and opening up to the outside world. He says he remains a firm believer in Marxism.

But Wang contends that China must take steps toward democratization and allow its citizens more personal freedoms, including the freedom to speak out. He argues that China can learn much from the West about press freedom, checks and balances and the ability to criticize openly and debate the government.

"The party can't control everything," said Wang. "It has to loosen up a bit."

He believes that the new Communist Party chief, Zhao Ziyang, agrees.

Wang said he agreed to be interviewed by a foreign journalist because he was no longer a party member. He had refused interviews for many years, he said, because he did not want to give party leaders an excuse to attack him.

Friends in the party have told Wang that if he remains quiet, he may regain his party membership and his controversial works may again be published here.

But Wang said he would rejoin the party only if allowed to publish without censorship. "I should be allowed to publish anything I want to, about alienation, for example," Wang said.

Wang seems to offend the country's top leaders more than other critics not only because he has held high-level party positions -- his deputy editorship gave him vice ministerial rank -- but also because he argues in Marxist terms and refuses to compromise his philosophy.

Wang is a close friend of Liu Binyan, the muckraking journalist who was expelled from the party a year ago. Liu now appears to have been partially rehabilitated and may begin publishing again.

But Wang's sins appear to have been graver than Liu's. Whereas Liu has attacked corruption on a local level in China, Wang has disagreed with leaders at the pinnacle of power in Beijing.

Wang says that Deng Xiaoping, the country's senior leader, does not like him because he goes further than others in openly and directly criticizing the late chairman Mao Tse-tung.

The official line on Mao is that he made mistakes in his later years but that his intentions were basically correct. Wang not only questions Mao's intentions, but holds that the destructiveness of the Cultural Revolution of 1966-76 showed that Mao lacked personal virtue.

Wang served on a high-level Communist Party committee that evaluated Mao's role in history and produced a 1981 resolution on "certain questions in party history." He clashed with Hu Qiaomu, the ideologue who was Mao's former secretary and who chaired the group.

Wang said he has not yet finished his debate with Hu Qiaomu, who recently was retired from the party's Politburo. He has tried without success to publish his latest article on alienation, in which he once again opposes Hu's ideas.

"No one comes right out and says I can't publish an article, but editors are simply afraid to accept them," said Wang. He said he has sent the manuscript to be published abroad, in Hong Kong.

Wang is a small, wiry man, built like a bantamweight fighter. He is a devoted practitioner of the gentle art of taijiquan, Chinese shadow boxing, which he describes as much more effective than western physical exercises and to which he attributes his youthful appearance.

"With taijiquan," said Wang, "a weak person can attack a strong one. Even a small person can knock down a big one."

All his life, Wang has been opposed to, and opposed by, forces much larger than himself. As a student of philosophy at Beijing University, he joined the communist movement in 1948 to oppose the Nationalist Chinese government.

After the Communists came to power, he was denounced as a "rightist" in the 1950s and sent to the countryside. He spent the period of the Cultural Revolution doing manual labor on a farm outside Beijing.

He was one of the main targets of the 1983 campaign against "spiritual pollution" and was fired from his job as deputy editor at People's Daily.

Wang gives the country's paramount leader, Deng Xiaoping, credit for opening up China and taking a creative approach to the question of "reunification" with Hong Kong and Taiwan.

But he believes Deng is a liberal only when it comes to economics and a conservative when it comes to politics.

"In some ways, Deng is like Mao," said Wang. "He wants sole power . . . . He won't admit his mistakes. He doesn't like democracy."

Wang said his ouster from the Communist Party was illegal because it violated requirements of the party constitution. Wang said he was given no chance to reply to the charges leveled against him and that there was no discussion of the decision.

He has distributed a 10,000-word self-defense "internally" to party leaders. "The Communist Party controls everything," he said. "But who controls the Communist Party?"

Wang said he did not agree with another dissident, scientist Fang Lizhi, when Fang declared that the Communist Party had accomplished nothing for China over the past 30 years. But he said he would defend Fang's right to say it.

Speaking of the party's record, however, Wang whispered sadly, "It's not much to boast about."

"I'm not putting my hope in the party," he said. "My hopes for China are in the people and the intellectuals.