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Reviews 141 Merle Goldman. Sowing the Seeds ofDemocracy in China: Political Reform in the DengXiaopingEra. Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London, England : Harvard University Press, 1994. ix, 426 pp. Hardcover $39.95, isbn 0-674-83007-5. What are the prospects for democracy in contemporary China? As the readers of her two earlier books on literary and intellectual dissent in the People's Republic might expect, Merle Goldman approaches this question through an examination ofthe words and deeds ofprominent Chinese intellectuals. Her tale is largely a chronological one, extending from the onset ofreforms in 1978 to the military crackdown on Tiananmen protesters in 1989, and it is artfully told. Two examples ofGoldman's artistry deserve mention at the outset. First, through variety ofexpression and attention to contextual detail, Goldman manages to avoid undue repetition and to infuse drama into an investigation ofwhat are, after all, a limited number ofcontending ideas. Second, to help the reader keep track ofwhat is nevertheless a considerable cast ofcharacters, she provides a useful set of organizing labels. Goldman dubs her protagonists "the democratic elite." This term describes a loose network ofapproximately thirty people (newspaper editors, writers , scientists, and highly placed Marxist-humanist theorists) who either directiy or indirectly benefited from the patronage and/or protection ofHu Yaobang during his 1981-1987 tenure as formal head ofthe Chinese Communist Party and who sought to limit the Party's power by trying to implant democratic concepts into Marxism-Leninism and to push the Party toward establishing more regularized and democratic procedures. The villains in the piece are "the revolutionary elders" (participants in the Long March and members of the Central Advisory Commission), their "disciples" (Li Peng and Yang Baibing), and the "elders' intellectual network," a group of about a dozen ideologists and literary associates. Finally, in addition to the democratic elite and the network ofelders, Goldman identifies a third group ofintellectuals . These intellectuals, generally younger and primarily concerned with economic policies, were gathered around Zhao Ziyang. In Goldman's tale ofpolitical (as distinct from economic) reform, the members of Zhao's network generally appear as bit players. What led members ofthe democratic elite to seek limits to the exercise ofpolitical power? Goldman considers a number offactors: a Confucian heritage that© 1997 by University stressed the responsibility ofliterati to speak out against the wrongdoings ofoffi- ' " s ciaYs an¿ to remind rulers oftheir duty to promote popular well-being, the sense that Mao's political system had made living conditions worse rather than better, the May Fourth legacy legitimating ideological and cultural pluralism and the ex- 142 China Review International: Vol. 4, No. 1, Spring 1997 ploration ofideas from abroad as potential solutions to China's problems, a growing familiarity with past periods ofreform in several Eastern-bloc countries, and, in the late 1980s, the stimulus provided by Solidarity in Poland, glasnostin the Soviet Union, and the movement toward a freer press and the emergence of opposition parties in the little dragons ofTaiwan and South Korea. But Goldman gives the bulk ofthe credit to the persecution experienced by the democratic elite during the Cultural Revolution. This persecution fostered in the democratic elite a fear of unrestricted power and ofideological fanaticism and a strong desire for political reform. How did political reform make it onto the agenda ofChina's top leaders? Here, Goldman emphasizes the role ofthe revolutionary elders. The revolutionary elders, too, had been persecuted during the Cultural Revolution and, anxious to undermine the authority of Hua Guofeng and other high-level Maoists, they sought common cause with members ofthe democratic elite, an alliance symbolized by the campaign-like discussion, launched in the spring of1978, ofthe slogan "Practice is the sole criterion oftruth." Yet for the revolutionary elders, the principal legacy ofthe Cultural Revolution was less a fear ofdespotism than of disorder ; they were less interested in democracy than in unity, stability, Party authority , and orthodox ideology. These differences between the revolutionary elders and their spokesmen and Hu Yaobang and his intellectual network began to emerge clearly during the theory conference held in the spring of1979. The subsequent decade ofconflict between these two groups, with Deng Xiaoping moving back and forth between them, provides the central narrative of Goldman's book...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 141-144
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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