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64 China Review International: Vol. 5, No. 1, Spring 1998 Gregor Benton and Alan Hunter, editors. Wild Lily, Prairie Fire: China's Road to Democracy, Yan'an to Tiananmen. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995. xv, 361 pp. Paperback, isbn 0-691-04358-2. This important collection of documents intends to cover the whole course of the Chinese democratic movement with special reference to dissent and protest against the Chinese Communist Party from Yan'an days to the Tiananmen Massacre in June 1989. There are sixty-eight documents divided into six sections: Wild Lily, 1942; Hundred Flowers, 1957; Cultural Revolution, 1966-1976; China Spring, 1979-1981; Prairie Fire, 1989; and Intellectuals Critique, containing writings dating from the 1980s. The authors of the critique range from establishment intellectuals such as the novelist Ding Ling and the physicist Fang Lizhi to anonymous contributors to wall posters. The documents also cover the political spectrum from the liberal protesters, such as Li Xilin of the Hundred Flowers Movement, to the radical left, such as the "Hunan Provincial Proletarian Revolutionary Great Alliance Committee" of the Cultural Revolution. Although a number of the documents appear in English for the first time, a good deal have been brought out before in other contexts, for example in Benton 's somewhat similar volume of 1982. The section on the democracy movement of 1978-1981 is almost totally identical with the earlier volume. This is also the case with good portions of the lengthy introduction outlining and discussing the history of dissent and protest in China since the early 1940s. The selections are well-chosen and illustrate important aspects of the general theme. However, one may wonder why the authors have chosen to include Mao's famous "Bombard the Headquarters" from August 1966. This was written by the supreme power holder rather than by dissidents protesting against the power holders and the power structure. Is there an implication here that Mao himself was a dissident striving for democracy in the spirit ofWang Shiwei? Similarly, it is difficult to see the connection between Nie Yuanzi, whose wall poster from May 1966 starting the Cultural Revolution at Beida is included, and the early proponents of democracy. It is also somewhat curious that the important Human Rights declaration ofJanuary 17, 1979—one of the major documents of the democracy movement—has not been included. As reflected in the tide of the book, the compilers see a direct connection between Wang Shiwei's ideas of 1942 and the views of the 1978-1981 democracy move-© 1998 by University ment and of the 1989 student movement, and it is claimed that Wang Shiwei is ofHawai'i Pressme "CCP's first dissident" and the "forerunner and prototype ofthe democracy movement of 1957, 1978-81, and 1989" (p. 13). One may wonder why this great inspiration ofWang Shiwei is not direcdy manifested in the writings of the dissi- Reviews 65 dents. With the exception ofDai Qing it is difficult to find references to Wang Shiwei in the 1978-1981 wall posters and underground journals, and in 1989 the connection was probably even more unclear for the people involved in the movement. Goran Leijonhufvud has convincingly argued that one may find roots ofdissent in the Chinese tradition (Goran Leijonhufvud, Going against the Tide: On Dissent and Big CharacterPosters in China [London: Curzon Press, 1990]). In fact, the big character poster seems to be a modern successor to various forms ofregistering complaints against the emperor and the administration, which are known from an early stage of Chinese history. Leijonhufvud's emphasis on the past leads him to the argument that most ofthe participants in the democracy movement in China saw themselves as assuming the traditional role ofremonstrators, not only loyal to the state but forming an integral part ofit. They stopped short of attacking the socialist system, and in fact many ofthem professed to support it, only wishing to improve it. These are the "socialist democrats" who formulated a critique that did not go beyond the socialist system, but only sought to perfect it (see Kjeld Erik Brodsgaard, "The Democracy Movement in China: 1978-1979: Opposition Movements, Wall Poster Campaigns, and Underground Journals," Asian Survey 21, no. 7 [July 1981...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 64-66
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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