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  • Tiananmen and BeyondPeering Over the Great Wall
  • Fang Lizhi (bio)

Our goal at present is the thorough modernization of China. We all have a compelling sense of the need for this. There is a widespread feeling of dissatisfaction with the status quo among people in all walks of life. We in science and academia feel extremely strongly about this. Modernization has been one of our country's main goals ever since the Gang of Four was overthrown ten years ago, but we are just beginning to understand what it really means. At first we were aware primarily of grave shortcomings in our economy, our productivity, our science, and our technology, and knew that modernization was needed in these areas. But now we understand our situation much better. We realize that grave shortcomings exist not only in our "material civilization" but also in our "spiritual civilization—our culture, our moral standards, our political institutions—and that these also require modernization. [End Page 32]

The question we face at present is: What kind of modernization is required? It seems obvious to me that we need total modernization, not just modernization in a few areas. People are busily comparing Chinese and Western culture—politics, economics, science, technology, education, the whole gamut-and there is a lot of argument over this subject. The central issue is whether we want "complete Westernization" or "partial Westernization." Should we continue to uphold the century-old banner of "using Western methods for practical applications but maintaining Chinese values for the essence," or is there some other "cardinal principle" on which we must stand fast? This debate certainly did not begin in this decade. Insightful people a century ago realized that China had to modernize. Some wanted partial modernization, others wanted complete modernization. This debate continues unabated today.

Personally, I stand with the "complete Westernizers." What this means to me is complete openness, a lifting of restrictions in every sphere. It means that we acknowledge that if we look at our culture in its entirety, it lags far behind the world's advanced cultures—not in any one specific area but across the board. To respond to such a situation we need openness in every sphere, not the establishment of a priori barriers. Attempting at all costs to preserve some inviolable "essence" of our society before actually coming to grips with the outside world makes no sense at all to me. Nor, again, am I inventing these ideas. A century ago people said essentially the same thing: open China up and run head on into the world tide, confronting the world's advanced cultures in every area-politics, economics, science, technology, education, and so on. When this happens, what is good will remain and what is not so good will be swept away. This situation has not changed.

Why are we so backward? Let us take a clear look at the facts of history. China has been undergoing revolution for a long time, but despite all the changes in this century, we are still very backward. This is especially true since Liberation, these decades of the socialist revolution that we all know firsthand as students and workers. Speaking quite dispassionately, I have to judge this era a failure. This is not just my opinion by any means; many of our leaders are also admitting as much, saying that the whole socialist movement is floundering. Since the end of World War II, socialism has by and large been a failure in socialist countries. There is no getting around this. As far as I am concerned, the last 30-odd years in China have been a failure in essentially every aspect of economic and political life.

Of course, some will say that China is a big, poor country, and therefore that progress is hard to come by. Indeed, overpopulation, our huge geographical area, and preexisting poverty do contribute to our problems. This being the case, some say, we have not done badly to get to where we are today. But these factors alone really do not account for the situation. For every one of them you can find a factual [End Page 33] counterexample, a refuting instance. For example, population...


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