Xu Jiatun, the highest-ranking Chinese official ever to flee to the West, ended a long self-imposed silence Monday with publication in Hong Kong of a vigorous defense of the Tian An Men Square pro-democracy movement.
Xu, who fled to the United States two years ago and now lives quietly in Irvine, Calif., praised the violently suppressed 1989 protest movement as "a demand by all the people for the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese government to implement comprehensive, far-reaching reforms in both economics and politics."
Xu's remarks, contained in a 10,000-character treatise abridged for publication in two Hong Kong newspapers, are his first substantive public comments since his arrival in the United States. They come just three days before the politically sensitive anniversary of the brutal June 3-4, 1989, military crackdown that crushed that spring's protests.
Xu, 76, has never portrayed himself as a dissident or publicly associated with exiled democracy movement leaders. His friends in the United States have portrayed his presence in California as a "visit" rather than a "defection," and it is conceivable that he could someday return as an elder statesman in a more politically liberal China.
A prominent reformist who had been Beijing's top representative in the British colony of Hong Kong, Xu framed his published remarks within the context of general support for senior leader Deng Xiaoping's efforts to introduce capitalist-style reforms to China's economy. He argued that in order to save socialism in China, these reforms must be accelerated and political democratization must be initiated.
Xu's motives in speaking out publicly now are not clear. But his action matches and supports a pattern of growing assertiveness by radical reformers who have remained entrenched in high Communist Party and government positions in China.
Xu lamented that in all the years after Deng first launched the economic reform effort in late 1978, "no progress was made in political reform." He warned that this failing could prove fatal to what is left of the worldwide Communist movement.
"Can China," he asked, "shake off the shackles of the Leninist and Stalinist models and go down a socialist road that fits China's actual conditions and has Chinese characteristics? Will China be able to transform utopian socialism into scientific socialism so that a high tide of the world socialist movement will arrive during the next century? Or will China stubbornly defend the ossified Leninist and Stalinist models and let itself and the international socialist movement sink like the setting sun?"
Xu blasted Chinese leaders who fear that Western influence will undermine communism, but he also criticized Westerners who think that worldwide events of recent years mean that communism is dead. China's current attempts at reform, he declared, should be viewed as an effort similar to President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal--an effort to save a system by adopting some useful elements of a rival system.
In the 1930s, Xu wrote, "many bourgeois academics and politicians, both in the United States and the world, believed that Roosevelt's New Deal amounted to America adopting Communist theories and implementing Communist policies. But the fact is that this did not change the capitalistic nature of American society. On the contrary, it gave American capitalism a new life and greater room for development."
For its part, China "has attained initial success in absorbing the experience of capitalist economic development," Xu wrote. "However, the reason why further development cannot be realized is that China still regards private enterprise as a (mere) supplement. China has not broken through the barrier to recognize that there is not enough capitalism in the country."