Getting Wang Huning Right
Happy New Year! May 2022 be better than 2021!
Fake news on Reading the China Dream! Over the holidays, I received an email from Ryan Mitchell, Professor of Law at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, informing me that one of the Wang Huning texts we translated and published over the course of the fall of 2021 was a forgery. We’ll attempt to set things right in this update. To that end, please find:
The corrected version of Wang’s 1986 article on the Cultural Revolution, with a revised introduction by Matt Johnson;
The forgery, not quite “debunked,” because I have no idea who the author was, but with indications illustrating what part of the text is Wang’s and what parts are the work of others;
The translation of an 2012 online discussion on constitutional rule and inter-Party democracy featuring Cao Siyuan, a Liberal scholar and politician who died in 2014. Most of the forgery drew directly from an article Cao published in a Taiwan journal in 2012. I found the online discussion on Cao Siyuan’s Aisixiang page, and translated it because it shows that Cao said the same things in a public forum in China proper.
Reading the three texts together is fascinating, because no one working on Chinese establishment intellectuals now would be tempted to put Wang Huning in the same basket with Cao Siyuan. As Matt Johnson has persuasively argued, Wang Huning is powerfully connected with the idea that the CCP sees itself as the "engineer of China's soul," while Cao Siyuan is a classical liberal like Gao Quanxi or Ren Jiantao. At the same time, there are many compatibilities between what Wang Huning said in 1986 and what Cao Siyuan said in 2012, a reminder of possibilities lost and of the complexity of the Chinese thought world.
Personal note: I am back in the (Zoom) classroom again for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, so I may have less time to devote to translation and curating until the end of term, but I will continue to update the site every two weeks.
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