China’s super blogger, Han Han.
If I had a blogger idol it would be Han Han – Chinese super-blogger, race car driver, and all around dreamy guy. My friend is down from Beijing and he says China is a land of paradoxes. It’s both more free and restricted than you would imagine. I think Han Han is the riddle within the enigma. He’s recently written three essays, On Revolution, On Democracy, and On Freedom. They’re quite interesting.
Han Han’s main point seems to be realistic fealty to the Chinese communist party, based on his understanding of the nature of the Chinese people, the trends within the party, and his own sense as a writer. He’s being hailed by the government and called something of a sell-out by some dissidents, but I think he’s neither. He seems like a dude trying to live and write in public.
On The People
Over the years, I have visited more than one hundred county cities of all types. They are not especially isolated and/or impoverished. I have spoken to people from all walks of life in those places. Their quest for democracy and freedom is not as urgent as intellectuals imagine. They hate the powers-that-be and corruption mostly because they wish that they (or their own relatives) have been the beneficiaries instead; they don’t care about restricting or supervising the authorities; they pick up the vocabulary about democracy and freedom only when ill luck befell them and they need to petition their causes. If the government pays them enough, they will be satisfied.
Any social conflict that can be solved by money is not a social conflict. Intellectuals typically think that these emergency invocation of the words (e.g. democracy, freedom) means that there is a universal demand, thus constituting a consensus. I do not believe that there can be a perfect revolution in a largely divided country. (On Democracy)
On this I concur. Democracy and freedom are not magic words. Politics isn’t Braveheart.
On The Party
I believe that a very strong one-party-system is the same as a no-party system. When the party organization reaches a certain size, it becomes the people itself. So the issue is not to deal with the Communist Party this way or that. The Communist Party is just a name. The system is just a name. If you change the people, everything changes. Therefore, it is more important to seek improvement. Rule of law, education, culture … there are the basics. (On Democracy)
In essence, he’s calling for change from within the system, not through oppositional politics. While it’s definitely easier to start change from within the system, it’s much harder to actually follow through and finish it. In the Chinese case, however, there aren’t very good alternate options.
On China’s Cultural Influence
Say what you want about the American empire, but they have produced some great media. Even if China becomes number one in every economic metric, their cultural exports will remain crippled without that secret sauce, creative freedom.
The restriction on cultural activities makes it impossible for China to influence literature and cinema on a global basis or for us culturati to raise our heads up proud. At the same time, China does not have any media with global influence. Many things just cannot be bought with money. (On Freedom)
In On Revolution, I said that different people want different kinds of freedom. In On Democracy, I said that democracy/rule-of-law is a negotiation process. No matter how much Christmas is discounted, the gifts won’t be for nothing. So I am going to start my negotiations now.
First of all, as a member of the culturati, I ask to be able to write more freely in the new year…
If this can be done, then I personally make these promises in the freer cultural environment: I will not try to settle old scores; I will look ahead; I will not discuss the sensitive issues in history; I will not discuss or criticize the senior-level groups or their families and their relevant interests; I will only criticize and comment on current social issues. It would be better for all if the culturati and the authorities can both take a step back and observe a pre-determined bottom line in order to create more space. (On Freedom)
What I find here is his empathy for the government and willingness to step back and not view them as an enemy all the time. In polarized environments with oppositional elites this is very hard to do, but I think it’s sensible and actually quite brave.
All in all, an interesting and complex set of essays, presumably missing a little something in the translation. Short, challenging and worth a read.