[VIEWPOINT]Empty talk and failed policiesIn May 1989, Deng Xiaoping, chairman of the Central Military Commission of China, said, after he met Mikhail Gorbachev, secretary general of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union: “In retrospect, both sides were repeating the same empty talk.”
Mr. Deng looked back on the relations between the two countries, which had remained estranged for 30 years after Mao Zedong and Nikita Khrushchev had a war of words, criticizing each other as followers of revisionism and dogmatism.
Mr. Deng’s comments were a self-reflection that the two countries had been fighting over the color of a cat, not her skill at catching mice. They were arguing that one’s choice of color was better than that of the other.
A few days ago, Chung Dong-young, former chairman of the governing Uri Party and once named by President Roh Moo-hyun as a next-term presidential hopeful, said, “I deeply regret wasting time on empty theories and empty talk all of these days.”
However, Mr. Chung’s position is quite different from that of Deng Xiaoping. While Mr. Chung is in the position of using the empty talk to attack the opposition, Mr. Deng was one of the victims of the empty political maneuvers.
Mentioning the empty talk, Mr. Deng might have had a sentimental recollection in mind.
The Cultural Revolution swept over all of China like a giant wave. It was nothing but a frenzied struggle over empty talk. Deng fell from power because he was criticized by the Red Guards, the vanguards of empty talk, as the ringleader of the followers of capitalism, while he claimed to take the pragmatic road.
I wonder what kind of feelings Mr. Chung had when he made his comments.
I don’t mean to slight his contrition as crocodile tears. But his words of repentance are not enough to embrace and soothe the wounds of the people, who have been torn and beaten black and blue during the past three and a half years by immature reform experiments. Healing seems more unlikely when we see the attitudes of the government and the governing party. They don’t seem to have the will to heal the people’s wounds. Let’s take a look at China’s modern history.
The origin of the empty talk goes farther back in Chinese history. In 1961, five years before the start of the Cultural Revolution, the organ of the Communist Party’s Beijing City Council, Beijing Man Pao, carried a column which said: “They say in easy words, but still one cannot understand what they mean to say. The more they explain, the more it gets difficult to understand, and ultimately it becomes the same as having no explanation. These are the characteristics of the great empty talk.” (“Untold Stories of Mao Zedong,” published by the Literary Thoughts Publishing Co.)
The writer expressed his thoughts in a roundabout way, but he criticized, as being empty talk, the radical communization policies and the people’s commune that Mao Zedong pushed forward. Actually, these policies were “the great catastrophes” that caused 20 million people to die from starvation in three years. Ultimately Mao Zedong had no other choice but to approve the policy corrections made by Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping. Mao, who defended himself against criticism and attacks on him with all his might, launched an all-out counter-attack on the revisionists. That was the Cultural Revolution.
Now, South Korea is in a desperate situation. However, the government still tries to attribute the cause of its policy failures to others. Mao Zedong tried to blame the cause of failure of the Great Leap Forward on the followers of capitalism. The attitude of preparing to launch a counterattack while defending what has been done right is also similar to that of Mao. For what reason does the president visit Gwangju, appoint a large number of special advisors and regroup his personal fan club? His unreasonable insistence on the reappointment of the president of the Korea Broadcasting System seems apparent. And public relations authorities churn out incomprehensible empty talk incessantly. The emergence of a group of critics of policy failures from within the party resembles that of the Chinese Communist Party before the Cultural Revolution. The writer of the column, who was later branded as a villain, was the one who had published the selected writings of Mao Zedong.
The chances of the success of a counterattack by the present government seems very low. Deng Xiaoping gave his explanations earlier. After Mao’s death, there arose criticism that he committed mistakes during the Cultural Revolution, but Deng Xiaoping curtly said, “Mao’s achievements exceed his mistakes.” However, the fact is that the mistakes committed by the current South Korean government far exceed its achievements, and is the reason it has a very low chance of success, even though it might launch a counter-attack. Moreover, the whole people know that fact well. That is decisive for its failure.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Lee Hoon-beom