“Conversations With an Old Comrade on the Eve…” (Part 1)

The following is a translation of a blog post called “Conversations with an Old Comrade on the Eve of the 60th Anniversary of the PRC“. The China Media Project has already done a piece on this, which everyone should read, but we thought it would be valuable to translate the entire piece. It’s long, so we’re going to break it up into three or four pieces and translate over the next week (hopefully). CMP has more background, but the post was supposedly written by a senior Party official, and many netizens apparently believe this is true.

We have taken a piece of CMP’s translated excerpts in the interest of saving ourselves time; that segment is in quotation marks.

Translation (Part 1)

It’s been sixty years since the founding of the P.R.C. I’ve heard they’re already busy preparing for the review of the troops, but I am old and my legs don’t work; this year I may not be able to watch from the top of Tiananmen Gate.

A few days ago, a young professor from the Central Party School came here to chat. He was very young and opinionated.

A few days later, he came again, saying he wanted me to teach him about history. The questions were not his, but those of the students studying to be cadres at his school. He said he couldn’t answer them, and thus wanted to pose the questions to me. The question they were discussing was: It’s been sixty years since the PRC was founded; in that time, what hasn’t changed? Why have they not changed? Will they change?

I told the young professor that in the sixty years since our founding, there are many many things that haven’t changed. The most basic fact is that this country is still led by the Communist Party. This is something that everyone knows, but what lies behind this fact?

“For example, the CCP is a party of 70 million members. It is the world’s largest political party. And yet, the party has not yet been registered with the government authorities responsible for managing social organizations [namely, the Ministry of Civil Affairs]. And why is that? Our country still has no Political Party Law (政党法). After 60 years, this is something that has not changed. Our country still, to this day, does not have a political system in the modern sense. It is truer to say, in other words, that “the nation belongs to the CCP” than to say that “the CCP is the party of the nation.” After 60 years the concept of “party and government leaders” (党和国家领导人) has not changed. And in terms of national finances, no barriers whatsoever have been erected between the CCP treasury and the national treasury.

Look further and you see that China’s millions of soldiers are still called the People’s Liberation Army. In this area too nothing at all has changed. We still have no national armed forces in the true sense. The highest member of the armed forces is the highest leader in the CCP . . . After 60 years, nothing whatsoever has changed on this front.

Look within the CCP itself, and you see also that in 60 years no competitive system in the true sense has been established [to determine leadership positions]. It goes without saying that the same is true of the government.”

A few years ago, an old comrade fell ill. I went to see him and he spent an hour telling me all kinds of worries he had about the present state of the nation and the Party, and said he really wanted to speak to a central leader directly. He said he didn’t have the opportunity to do this, and I promised I would pass it along to them. Afterwards, when a member of the Standing Committee came to see me, I passed along [the old comrade’s] words. What I really can’t forget is that the old comrade specifically asked, how can a lifetime of revolution be explained to the people and to history with so many doubts still unclear?

After sixty years, we should celebrate, but we should also rethink, the whole nation and the whole Party should rethink things. A ruling party, the only ruling party of a large nation, should always have the basic courage to reexamine things. Actually, this is a kind of responsibility, the responsibility of political parties. This rethinking will inevitably lead to many differing opinions, and what is so strange about that? If the atmosphere is tense and there is lots of ‘shutting out’ going on, then that reveals the CCP is not magnanimous. In my opinion, these four things should be carefully listened to and mustn’t be shut out: the opinions of the people, of people in democratic parties, the opinions of experts, and the opinions of people who didn’t make it into the government.

There is an old comrade who worked with the Secretariat at the beginning of the 1980s and lived in Shenzhou for a few years late in his life. I once went to see him. We spoke of life experiences and he said that concerning the nation and the Party, he has one great gratification and two great regrets. The great gratification was that the economic reforms and opening up that he personally pushed forward in southern China became the forerunner for national reforms; one regret was that he wasn’t able to redress a great injustice in the Party’s history; the other regret was that he didn’t push forward policies of tolerating dissenting opinions in the Party. He didn’t say a whole lot, and when he was finished, both of us said nothing.

It’s been sixty years since the founding, and in the early days there were policies with their roots in the political situation [at that time], but it wasn’t likely that things would end up like this [i.e., be the same] sixty years later! Those reasons, do they still exist today? Are they still tenable? If they are, then after sixty years of building the nation, the ideology, and the culture, can we still call it “glorious”? A mechanism for tolerating different opinions still hasn’t been built; this only proves that Stalinism and that kind of thinking are still making trouble. As the building of revolutions gets more successful, so too does the opposition of enemies get more serious. Otherwise, how could it be that after sixty years there has still been no change in this aspect of things?

That old comrade passed away a few years ago, his long-cherished wish still just a wish. How can this be explained to the people, and to history? From the first split between the Nationalist and Communist Parties, the Nationalists suppressed us for 22 years, shutting out our publications, catching and killing our members, and inhibiting differing opinions in schools. History has proved that they lost. We must not take those kinds of measures when dealing with differing opinions, or different people. Sixty years to twenty-two years, what kind of idea of time is that?

Continue on to Part 2.

0 thoughts on ““Conversations With an Old Comrade on the Eve…” (Part 1)”

  1. Thanks for the translation Charles! In the email version (a Word doc of unknown origin) the “Old Comrade” is identified unequivocally as Wan Li (万里) but who knows. The version I have has some differences too — that, or you dropped some unnecessary bits from your translation. For example, the first line in my version reads 建国六十周年了,听说正忙着阅兵准备,我已经老了,腿脚不灵了,可能去不了天安门城楼了。(Your translation omits “I’ve heard they’re already busy preparing for the review of the troops.”)


  2. @ Kaiser: thanks for the heads up. My version reads exactly the same and I recall reading that line, I must have just accidentally forgotten to translate it. Sometimes I get a bit ahead of myself…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s