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June 6, 2009 in The China Beat


Copyright June 6, 2009. Used by permission.


David Kelly, researcher at the University of Technology Sydney, translated the following opinion piece by overseas political commentator Liang Jing. He has published several previous pieces at China Digital Times, including, “Trigger for an Earthquake in Chinese Society” and “Where Does Wen Jiabao’s Faith Come From?”

One of the most significant cultural phenomena in Chinese society in recent years is the growing interest in history. Everyone—elite and general populace, leftists and rightists—shows an unprecedented enthusiasm for understanding China’s past. And in 2009 a series of major historical anniversaries, including the 90th anniversary of the May Fourth Movement, have pushed China’s “historical fever” to new highs. One of the major reasons stimulating the keen interest in history is that the “reforms” that followed June Fourth, returned China to a “pre-liberation” scenario almost overnight: bureaucratic corruption, moral bankruptcy, social injustice; to the point that, in some important aspects, such as higher education, the status quo in China is not as good as the KMT era, and many phenomena that people thought could not happen again, such as prostitution and the sale of official posts, not only occur, they do so on a far greater scale than in the past.

History has played a big joke on the Chinese, who having experienced countless sufferings and paid the price in countless lives, rather than gaining social progress with their bloody struggle, have turned full circle to find themselves back where they started. How exactly did this come about? Not only the elite, but also many ordinary people are puzzled by this problem. This historical puzzlement of unprecedented numbers of people is what drives China’s historically unprecedented “public history movement.”