[THE FOUNTAIN] The ‘era of empire’ in ChinaThe books that Mao Zedong brought with him as he entered Beijing in 1949 were four. A vocabulary dictionary and an etymology dictionary were reference books. But the books that he really wanted to have with him were “Historical Records” and “The Comprehensive Mirror for Ruling a Country.” He intended to learn the ruling skills of emperors. There were no books related to communism. So journalist Harrison E. Salisbury, who reported on Mr. Mao and Deng Xiaoping, called them the “new emperors.”
There is a Chinese saying that “to serve the emperor is like living beside a tiger,” indicating the difficulty of being the No. 2 person. Lin Biao, who was a strong candidate to be Mao’s successor, died in a plane crash under mysterious circumstances, while both Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang, who were Deng’s successors, lost their positions.
On that score, President Hu Jintao of China, who concluded his 10-year apprenticeship as a successor and became a new “emperor,” is noteworthy. He is well-known for behaving humbly. As soon as he took office as party secretary of the Guizhou region in 1985, he enrolled in the computer department of a university and studied with students his children’s age. He seems to have demonstrated personally the importance of knowledge and the improvement of conditions for intellectuals. He also made a request to reporters: “To report my story is to reduce my political life. I am young yet. Do not give publicity to me.”
He became a member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party in 1992 when his political patron, Song Ping, handed over his own position to Mr. Hu.
But just to humble oneself is not enough. In the process of being promoted to the standing committee, Mr. Hu fully showed senior party members his determination for revolution.
Mr. Hu was sent as a regional party secretary to Tibet when a mass independence movement broke out there in 1989. He commanded troops wearing a helmet. Soon after, Mr. Deng purged Mr. Zhao, who was blamed for the Tianmen Square incident, and decided to form a line of succession from Jiang Zemin to Mr. Hu. Mr. Hu is said to have urged North Korea to give up its weapons of mass destruction, which is the basis for achieving results at the current six-party talks in Beijing. The era of empire has not ended yet.
By Oh Byung-sang
The writer is London correspondent
of the JoongAng Ilbo.