Deng Xiaop­ing in historic trans­for­ma­tion

China Daily (Canada) - - COMMENT -

A TV se­ries that tells the story of for­mer leader Deng Xiaop­ing dur­ing China’s historic trans­for­ma­tion in the late 1970s de­buted on China Cen­tral Tele­vi­sion this week. It re­veals many sen­si­tive de­tails of that pe­riod for the first time through an of­fi­cial me­dia out­let.

The TV se­ries, with Deng as the lead­ing fig­ure, presents a panoramic view of China’s lead­ers be­tween Oc­to­ber 1976, when the “Gang of Four” was ousted, and 1984 when the coun­try fully launched the re­form and open­ing-up drive.

The end of the “Gang of Four” marked the end of the 10-year po­lit­i­cal up­heaval of the “cul­tural revo­lu­tion” (1966-1976), and the years that fol­lowed saw China grad­u­ally open­ing up to the rest of the world, which led to its mirac­u­lous eco­nomic growth.

This is the first time that de­tails on how the “Gang of Four” was ousted have been en­acted on TV. For in­stance, one of the key roles played in that strug­gle was by Hua Guofeng, then prin­ci­pal leader of China, whose char­ac­ter ap­pears on TV for the first time in years.

Hua had set a di­rec­tion for China’s devel­op­ment dif­fer­ent from the path en­vi­sioned by Deng. In a coun­try that val­ues har­mony and unity, is­sues con­cern­ing Hua were rarely dis­cussed in of­fi­cial doc­u­ments that were made pub­lic.

In this sense, the TV se­ries has achieved a break­through by dis­cussing long-stand­ing sen­si­tive his­tor­i­cal is­sues. It has opened up the dis­cus­sion on his­tor­i­cal fig­ures that ear­lier was deemed sen­si­tive. In times of di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion and wide ac­cess to the In­ter­net, many po­lit­i­cal taboos are giv­ing way to open dis­cus­sions.

But such dis­cus­sions can take place only un­der cer­tain con­di­tions — that they do not threaten the main­stream ide­ol­ogy, do not give rise to ma­li­cious spec­u­la­tion, do not sow the seed of con­flict be­tween dif­fer­ent groups, and do not dis­rupt nor­mal pub­lic life.

Other sen­si­tive is­sues in China’s his­tory are also likely to be opened up for dis­cus­sion, but that will hap­pen at the right time.

Since a so­ci­ety ben­e­fits from open dis­cus­sions on sen­si­tive is­sues at the ap­pro­pri­ate time, bring­ing the is­sues to the fore will have a har­mo­nious ef­fect on the peo­ple be­cause they will feel that their views are be­ing heard and re­spected.

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