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"If you want food, find Ziyang"; If you want Ziyang, pierce the Golden Shield

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Zhao Ziyang is a remarkable man in life and in death; in the manner that official Chinese media studiously avoids public mention even as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) debates how to acknowledge his funeral, and thus his history, without being seen as mean or unappreciative; in how Chinese young and old, rural and urban may remember his accomplishments as well as his calls for reform that were so studiously ignored; and how some Chinese are outwitting the Golden Shield in order to acknowledge his death:

Whatever may be said in public, Zhao Ziyang cut a very sympathetic figure to many within the CCP, even at fairly senior levels. Probably the more so with the passage of time since 1989

While primarily a technology note, nothing or no one hot wired to both Tiananmen and the lurch from socialism into proto-capitalism can be pigeonholed as technology.

An administrator given to revisionist thinking or pragmatic solutions depending upon your political viewpoint, Zhao was tapped by Deng Xiaoping to revitalize the economy. Zhao created much of the 1980s economic package credited to Deng Xiaoping:

  • Coastal development with special economic zones, drawing investment and creating exports
  • Agriculture reform that disbanded communes, returning private plots to farmers while assigning production contracts to individual households.
  • Industrial reform that included expanded self-management for peasant farmers and some industries
  • Price reform allowing farmers and factories to set prices for their products

Zhao threaded the policy needle with a 1987 speech that declared China to be in a stable, "primary stage of socialism" that could afford to experiment with approaches to stimulate economic production. In a stroke, market economics appeared within the evolution of socialism.

Zhao's pragmatism led to his stepping on the third rail of political reform, thinking the "goal of Chinese political reform was to build up democracy and rule of law." Having acquired a legion of old school enemies, Zhao was said to have doomed himself by making public (to Mikhail Gorbachev, already a tainted reformer in communist eyes) that all major Central Committee decisions had to be approved by the nominally retired Deng, which implicitly showed Deng to be the stonewall of reform. Stripped of his posts, Zhao went immediately to Tiananmen, apologizing, asking them to leave, and warning that force was on the way.

Confined to house arrest, Zhao remained "steadfast that his views are correct, and their views were wrong," and he remained a remembered, if unheard, symbol that demonstrations were not a "counter-revolutionary rebellion" and that Tiananmen must be reassessed. Even in death, Zhao is a lightning rod of accountability.

Whereas Zhao and his generation made enormous contributions to individual wellbeing and thus much gratitude, e.g., "If you want food, find Ziyang," he is said to be less well known to younger generations either focused on wealth generation on the coast, or cut off in rural isolation.

Finding Ziyang requires piercing the Golden Shield.

Part 2 of Zhao and the Golden Shield

Beijingers mourn Zhao - warily
By Louisa Lim
BBC News, Beijing
2005/01/17 14:47:28 GMT

Zhao still powerful in death
By Tim Luard
BBC NEWS
2005/01/17 12:51:33 GMT

Chinese Leader Purged for Supporting Tiananmen Protesters Dies at 85
By JIM YARDLEY
New York Times
January 17, 2005

Gordon Housworth



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