lørdag 18. desember 2021

Wei Jingsheng’s ‘fifth modernization’: Democracy

“What is true democracy? It is when the people, acting on their own will, have the right to choose representatives to manage affairs on the people’s behalf and in accordance with their will and interests of the people. This alone can be called democracy. Furthermore, the people must have the power to replace these representatives at any time in order to prevent them from abusing their powers to oppress the people.”

A paragraph from the Declaration of Independence? A commentary on the state of American politics in the wake of the Trump presidency? Neither. This is an excerpt from an essay by Wèi Jīngshēng 魏京生, titled “The Fifth Modernization,” posted on Beijing’s “Democracy Wall” in the early hours of December 5, 1978.

Democracy Wall was in the neighborhood of Xidan, just west of Tiananmen Square along Chang’an Avenue. Walls in public places had long been spots for posting notices and spreading news in China, and before television (never mind the internet) people would assemble in city or town centers to gather news and announcements. The Kangxi emperor had his Sacred Edict posted across the Qing empire in this way; more recently, newspapers would be posted in their entirety at city intersections (in the 1990s, I would trek each week to the center of town in hopes of seeing the China Daily with the latest scores from American baseball and football.) The wall at Xidan was part of this tradition, and it was one of the most prominent in China — a 12-foot-high, 200-yard-long gray brick wall at an important transportation hub near the center of the capital.