Yu Hua

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What lies at the far reaches of the universe? This is a question that science has yet to answer, but most young people in China today already have an answer. According to them, at the end of the universe is not the Milky Way, the Andromeda Galaxy or the Canes Venatici Constellation, but a government job.

Observing changing attitudes about government jobs among young people in China over the course of the past four decades of the reform era can reveal the deep-seated changes that have taken place in the structure of Chinese society.

During the early days of the reform era in the 1980s, there were three categories of government jobs for urban residents: the collective positions (jiti bianzhi), the general positions (quanmin bianzhi) and the cadre positions (ganbu bianzhi).…  Seguir leyendo »

After Mao Zedong announced the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the Communist Party began to get rid of all the vestiges of the “feudal” society that had preceded it.

This process culminated during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) with the campaign to “Destroy the Four Olds”: old thought, culture, customs and habits. Cultural relics and temples were feudal, and so, too, were traditional celebrations, like the springtime Qingming (tomb sweeping) and Dragon Boat Festivals and the Mid-Autumn Festival.

In Beijing, restaurant names like Donglaishun (East Come Smoothly) and Quanjude (Consummate Virtue) were written off as feudal, and Tongren (Equal Kindness) Hospital and Xiehe (Assisting Harmony) Hospital were renamed Worker-Peasant-Soldier Hospital and Anti-Revisionism Hospital, respectively.…  Seguir leyendo »

A peculiar feature of Chinese society is that a complaint process runs parallel to, but outside, the legal system.

Victims of corruption and injustice have no faith in the law, and yet they dream that an upright official will emerge to right their wrongs. Although a complaint mechanism is in place at all levels of Chinese government, petitioners seem to believe that the central authorities are less susceptible to corruption, and so make Beijing their destination. By some estimates, more than 10 million complaints are filed around the country each year, far more than are heard by the regular courts.

Law in China, at least on paper, is more firmly established than it once was, and some legal experts propose doing away with the grievance system.…  Seguir leyendo »

When the young Mao Tse-tung agitated for revolution, he found a vivid way to get his point across to an uneducated audience: He picked up a single chopstick and snapped it in two. Then he picked up a handful of chopsticks: They would not break. Thus he showed that so long as everyone stood side by side, no force could withstand the tide of revolution. By gathering together China's scattered, indignant chopsticks, Mao finally was able to ascend Tiananmen — the Gate of Heavenly Peace — on Oct. 1, 1949, and announce the establishment of his republic.

Whether chopsticks come singly or in a handful is now an issue in China again.…  Seguir leyendo »

Lord Ye, it is said, loved dragons so much that he had them carved on his wine vessels and personal accessories and even made them the theme of his interior decoration. One day a real dragon came down to check things out, pressing its nose up against Lord Ye’s window while its tail swished about outside. Lord Ye, scared out of his wits, turned around and fled.

I am reminded of the story as I observe the centennial of China’s 1911 revolution, the series of uprisings that brought down the Qing dynasty and established a democratic republic. The government loves the hoopla, which culminates Monday, as long as it can invent it and control it.…  Seguir leyendo »

Two decades ago, China's largest pro-democracy protests ended when military tanks rolled toward Tiananmen Square and troops opened fire on the crowds. For this anniversary, the Op-Ed editors asked four writers, who were students or working at the time, to reflect back on the event.

1.- China’s Forgotten Revolution. By Yu Hua.
June 4, 1989, means little to young people.

2.- Dance With Democracy. By Yiyun Li.
After the crackdown, fear trumped friendship.

3.- 'Here Come The Workers'. By Lijia Zhang.
Notes from the protests outside Beijing.

4.- Exiled To English. By Ha Jin.
Why I left my native language behind.

This is the first time I am writing about Tiananmen Square. I am telling my story now because 20 years later — the anniversary is June 4 — two facts have become more apparent. The first is that the Tiananmen pro-democracy protests amounted to a one-time release of the Chinese people’s political passions, later replaced by a zeal for making money. The second is that after the summer of 1989 the incident vanished from the Chinese news media. As a result, few young Chinese know anything about it.

But most important of all, I realize now that the spring of 1989 was the only time I fully understood the words “the people.”…  Seguir leyendo »