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Common Knowledge 10.1 (2004) 154
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Zong Hairen, Disidai [The fourth generation] (New York: Mirror Books, 2002), 560 pp.
Since 1949, when the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) gained political power, it has undergone four changes, four generations, in its leadership. Mao Zedong (1949-76) was succeeded by Deng Xiaoping (1978-97), who was succeeded by Jiang Zemin (1989-). The leader of the fourth generation, Hu Jintao, is now assuming power. Each change in leadership was a transformation, unique in its meaning and not susceptible to general rules or principles written in any version of the party constitution. The transition from the first to the second generation took two years (1976-78) of serious struggle. The transition from the second to the third commenced at the time of the Tiananmen massacre (1989) and was not truly complete even by 1997, when Deng died. The most recent (2003) transition looks likely to be peaceful, but Jiang remains chairman of the CCP military committee, and it is important to recall that the People's Liberation Army belongs to the CCP and not to the state. Thus, while he serves as chairman of the People's Republic, Hu is the leader of China in name only. Seven of the nine people described in Disidai are now in the top rank of the fourth generation. It will be interesting to see when and precisely what will transpire when the true transition—and thus transformation—happens from the third to the fourth generation (and how many years it will take).
Fang Lizhi , former vice president of the University of Science and Technology of China, was named "most wanted counterrevolutionary criminal" by the Chinese authorities in 1989. Following a year's refuge in the U.S. embassy, he was permitted to emigrate and has since held positions at Cambridge University, the Institute for Advanced Study, and, currently, the University of Arizona, where he is professor of physics and astronomy. Recipient of the Nicholson Medal of the American Physical Society, the Freedom Award of the International Rescue Committee, and the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award, he is the author of more than 230 scientific papers and author, coauthor, or editor of twenty books.