Monthly Archives: May 2015

Book Review: The Power of Tiananmen

On my very first day of college, my roommate, who was a Hong Kong local, asked me her all-time favorite question for mainlanders:”Have you heard of liusi (six-four)?” To her delight, I haven’t. The word – a number alluding to the date of the military repression in Tiananmen – has been largely invisible in the Chinese public sphere during the past twenty-five years. Any mention of the event seems jarring to the people who are used to living in silence. Yet rumors find their way to the insubordinate city of Hong Kong, which has witnessed waves of indignant protests after its handover to China in 1997. Deficiency of information facilitates various colorful descriptions of the tragedy. One of the most outrageous version I’ve heard claims there are thousands of death that night.

Prof. Dingxin Zhao’s book helps upend such rumors and set the record straight. With his scholarly attitude and extensive interview data, Zhao reconstructs the movement as a series of chaotic interactions between idealistic students and a desperate state. Both sides were inexperienced in such a crisis. The absence of formal movement organizations made dialogues ineffective, and both groups radicalized. In Zhao’s words, students and the state thought they were playing the same chess game, but in fact they were following different rules. The repression was thus inevitable.

But the book has a more ambitious theoretical thrust in mind. Zhao tries to fit the movement into his state-society model, a theoretical construct that seems grand and parsimonious. There are three elements in this model: nature of state, nature of society, and state-society linkage – or legitimacy. In the case of Tiananmen movement, “the state was authoritarian, society was poorly organized, and state legitimacy was based on its moral and economic performance” (p. 8).

Several empirical characteristics then emanate from this state-society relation. First is of Zhao’s actors. He discusses opportunistic intellectual elites who craved Western electoral democracy after repression of Mao, naive rank-and-file intellectuals and students who were discontent with their status loss during the market reform, and a hardcore state who clung to its old ideological legitimacy. Irritated by the state’s bad economic and moral performance, the former two thought of democracy as a panacea of all their problems, but the state refused to let go of its power.

Such political characters of actors then determined their strategies in the mobilization process. For example, students frequently used discourses of moral examplars in traditional Chinese culture. On the one hand, this challenged the corruptions of the state on a moral basis; on the other hand, they also justified their protest as morally acceptable. On the contrary, the state named the uprising as “antirevolutionary”, a term used to attack political enemies in Mao’s era. This attempt of ideological control no longer worked, and the people was largely exasperated.

Perhaps more worthy of noting is Zhao’s famous observation about ecology-based mobilization. His paper on this topic was published on American Journal of Sociology and was cited over a hundred of times. During the 1950s, to facilitate political control over university students, the communist party established a giant university district around the Haidian District of Beijing and put hundreds of thousands of students around that area. Such dense living environment provided great convenience for the movement to enlist participants. For example, some student leaders led tens of hardcore radicals marching around campus, and the number of participants would grow to hundreds. This would not be possible had students lived far away from each other.

Parsimonious as Zhao’s state-society model might be, it can also be over-deterministic. Compared with resource mobilization and political opportunity approach, which were more prevailing in the field of social movement, the state-society seemed grand and ambitious. By isolating state out as an actor, it subjugates political opportunity as a mere derivation of its assumption. The same happens to resource mobilization. But such a giant construction should employ richer data to account for variations, and a single case of Tiananmen is not enough. What about democratic state? Also, seventy formal interviews could hardly support such a bold claim.

More severe critique was made by Craig Calhoun, now at London School of Economic and Political Science, who published his review on Mobilization. Calhoun doubt the scope of Zhao’s data because, firstly, the interviews were all from Beijing. And secondly, sometimes Zhao was not attentive in handling claims by students leaders. He also criticized Zhao for omitting other variables, dismissing other literature on Tiananmen, and presenting amplification of earlier spatial mobilization studies as brand new.

Overall, the book provides some insights on the movement, at least from a narrative level. It also offers interesting reading for general readers who were avid to know exactly what happened. But allow me to warn you that Zhao sees himself as a realistic – that is, he portrays the students as idealistic, if not naive. If you would like to befriend a Hong Kong local who is fond of denigrating mainland youths as being “brain-washed”, do not mention to them conclusions from this book.

好大的流氓

常常地,一句话就可评判天才,譬如说:“黑夜给了我黑色的眼睛。“

然而评判流氓则要听多些。也许是酒过三番,面红耳赤你听见不堪;也许他是满腹经伦,你要守株待兔;也许他竟要装作放浪不羁,你得陪笑许久,守着他终于吐出自己的见识。小流氓背书,中流氓卖傻,大流氓又背书又卖傻。

号称诗人的芒克是一个流氓,这大概是”众所周知“的。我起先只听说他评论顾城,事后诸葛,刻薄得很。又听闻他不懂绘画,而敢开卖作品,甚是惊讶。但直到洋洋洒洒两百页纸拿在手里,从头到尾是流水账一般不负责任的语言,我才亲眼见识诗人竟可以流氓至此。

《瞧!这些人》是我手贱从冯平山图书馆里拣来的。黑色封面上芒克一张大脸作沉思状,封角赫然注明“名家随笔”。偷来这样大的书名,不知芒克要写些什么才配的上?据其扭捏的自我交代,哦,原来是个回忆录。为免推销自己之嫌,干脆写朋友。然而写的也并不是朋友,而是我的朋友,我与朋友。所以说到底还是个回忆录。因为名气不够,扯来朋友作陪。专拣名气大的,也不管认识不认识,人家承认不承认。

七十年代之后的四十年里,是要有多空虚,才会每逢出场必谈《今天》?碌碌无为的大半辈子,写起回忆录来也就只有当诗人的那十年。

而芒克竟不把这唯一的黄金岁月认真对待。从头到尾,毫无章法,一篇篇像是流水线作业:XX是个优秀的诗人;XX人品不错;XX我不喜欢。语言更是不负责任,“爱谁谁”,”出门去了“,”众所周知“ - 诗人怎么可以这样说话呢?

读三句话你就知道,芒克根本不在乎自己写的玩意,匆匆和出版社签合同大概只为圈钱。是画不出来,还是人脉用尽?我不知道。然而这书我是看不下去了。我不知道诗人竟可以流氓至此。好歹也要贴上一点创作谈来装装样子吧?然而芒克竟连这点面子工程也省去了。最后附上朋友互捧臭脚文章几篇,甚至还有年表:这都是一群什么样的人啊。

天安门的力量:广场上与广场下

住进大学宿舍的第一天,我美丽的香港室友便问我:“你听说过六四吗?”之后的两年半内,这城市一次又一次地提醒我勿忘国殇。港大校园内骄傲地立着的纪念雕像,六月维园的烛光晚会,民主墙上屹立不倒的大字报,还有香港同学们闪烁着怀疑委屈的眼睛。
而在来香港前,我确实没有听说过六四。当所有人都沉默,我又能去哪里听说呢?然而她既问了,我也就去找来看。这一找发现版本五花八门。有的控诉暴力镇压,有的描绘高层分裂,还有的指责学生领袖。然而对于广场上到底发生了什么,学运更深层的原因,这些论述似乎都是观念先于事实。
赵鼎新教授的《天安门的力量》(The Power of Tiananmen),此时读来就更显客观翔实。此书出版于2001年,作者时任芝加哥大学社会学系教授。赵教授先于加拿大麦吉尔大学获生态学博士,后因八九民运影响,弃理从文,于同一大学获社会学博士。他以研究社会运动知名,关于天安门学运的论文被引用超过百次。
即便刨去学术理论部分,《天安门的力量》读来也很有意思。 篇幅所限,只能挑些特别的观点,在众说纷纭里,传递一些学者的声音。宏观结构上,运动发生的关键政治经济背景如何?参与者是什么样的群体?此乃“广场下”。微观交互上,坊间流传的事件版本里,可能会有哪些疏漏?不愉快的声音,绝不是要为人开脱。只是谈论六四时,非黑即白的价值观流毒甚广,复杂的事件常被简化得只剩框架与观点。愿悲剧不要沦为流言。

广场下
八十年代经济改革导致许多社会问题,诸君都已耳熟能详:通货膨胀,官员腐败。在大框架里较关键的一点是中国共产党合法性的转变。改革开放前共产党靠意识形态统治(ideology-based),大家背着语录,期待着美好的共产主义社会。然而文革已打破信仰,改革又尝了甜头,八十年代末期很少有人再相信共产主义了。相对应的,此时大家更在意政府在经济和道德上的表现(economic and moral performance)。因此通货膨胀和腐败的问题,正好是踩了雷区。
赵教授的描述里,精英知识分子和学生是运动的急先锋。八十年代的精英知识分子,仍有劫后余生的惊惶,再不敢相信独裁政府,而把眼光放到西方的民主上。例如当时意见领袖之一的方励之,似乎认为西方民主下大学便是完全独立于政府的思想中心,政府制定政策时还要看学者脸色。从未尝过制度民主的知识小青年如我,听见这样的好事当然忍不住热血沸腾,把民主自由奉为万灵药。因为信息贫乏,威权社会里的政治观念往往比民主社会更易走极端。二十年后的今天,五毛和美分可不还在吵得热火朝天么。
但在当时,共产党三十年的统治使民粹主义(populism)和马克思主义(Marxism)的烙印已深。文革时大字报的传统,八九时又卷土重来。青年们又一次跳上火车,如全国大串连时一样,奔赴北京。知识分子相信“经济基础决定上层建筑”,认为经济改革必须依附政治改革,没有民主就没有富强。说来惭愧,读至此处,终于发现自己脑中深植的政治观念,原来来自当时的前辈们。
于是二十五年前的北京校园里,这样激进的民主观蔚然成风,刚巧吹到一群不愿读书的大学生身上。改革开放初期小型民企先富,同时高校大扩招导致高等教育人才供大于求,于是“造原子弹的不如卖茶叶蛋的,拿手术刀的不如磨菜刀的。”照古时的标准,考上北京的大学几乎是范进中举,结果赚得倒不如隔壁胡屠夫。强烈的精英意识遇到如此反差,该有多绝望。赵教授考据,当时大学生们一部分考托福,一部分开聚会,一部分谈恋爱,剩下的实在无事可做,便打麻将。参考娄烨的《颐和园》,确实如此。

广场上
常听说的版本里,赵紫阳是悲剧英雄,李鹏和邓小平则是幕后黑手。然而当时中共党内改革派与保守派虽确有分裂,在天安门事件上的分歧却可能没有那么大。双方的底线都是守住江山,军事镇压是下策。四月二十六日人民日报措辞严厉地把运动定性为反革命,赵也支持要结束骚乱。四月三十日之后赵又逐渐认为温和策略可以缓和局势,邓亦被说服。之后赵五月四日的讲话效果良好,据说连李鹏也曾应和。但绝食突然开始后,事件愈演愈烈,温和策略于是失去支持。对绝大部分高层来说,问题变成要么下台,要么镇压。部队最终开进了北京。
同时,流传的版本常常夸大了王丹,吾尔开希等学生领袖的影响。卡玛的《天安门》更是让柴玲臭名昭著。事实上,整场运动里的学生组织是很混乱的,更多时候学生领袖根本没有掌控局面的权威。“高自联”,“对话代表团”和后期的“绝食委员会”,成立时仅经过草率的选举。相应的,学生领袖乃至组织本身的号召力并不强。组织与组织,个人和个人之间,也存在权力争斗。因此,四月底政府与学生的对话,并未达成共识,对广场上的大众来说也收效甚微。到五月底,广场上许多是外地来京的支持者,学生领袖更是无力控制。事实上,柴玲等人如果不支持绝食,马上就会失去领导地位。
最后,围绕六四,谣言很多。威权社会里官媒失去可信度,流言于是大行其道。“新华门流血事件”宣称警察殴打学生,甚至成为“历史记忆”被写进维基百科。但据赵教授比较多名当事人论述和官媒报道,冲突很可能没有那么严重,学生流血是因为试图砸破大巴车窗。卡玛《天安门》里也记录,柴玲宣称六月四日凌晨坦克将天安门广场上的学生碾压致死,但据亲历者侯德健回忆,天安门广场上并无屠杀。赵教授考证,大规模的死伤,是发生在北京街道上,遇难人数大约在260至400名之间。

二十五年前的青年们,有的无奈逃离,有的习惯沉默。二十五年后的青年们,仍然是有的期待逃离,有的选择沉默。占中的时候,更多大陆同学在忙着考GRE或找工作。偶尔的时事讨论里,政治问题也常变成民族认同感问题。时过境迁,中共降低了出国门槛,一方面把最忿忿的民众输出国外以减压,另一方面,信息流通后社会也就不易走极端。同时民族主义兴起,抗战剧火遍大江南北,香港人争取民主变成了“不想做中国人”。中港冲突频起,双方自尊如此敏感脆弱,大概也有着民族主义的原因。