National Will Should follow Individual Voice

By By Wei Liming
Published: 2010-12-30

Issue 500, December 27
Translated by Tang Xiangyang
Original article:

As 2010 comes to a close, the Economic Observer has created a special feature by inviting ninety public figures to write down their expectations for the coming year. We know that the prosperity and decline of this country relies on every citizen instead of its government. This country should be guided by the shared will of all its citizens.

Only when a country is rooted in its citizens will it become a real a country.

The Chinese people first acquired knowledge about what defines a "country" during the 1911 Revolution. Previously, during the Qing Dynasty, the citizens of China were dominated and enslaved by a family. The country paid no attention to its people and its people considered themselves as nothing but slaves. After the 1911 Revolution, the idea of a "republic" and a "democracy" began spreading across China and the Chinese people started to realize that a country should listen to its citizens.

However, during the following one hundred years, the expression of individual voices has been inundated by nationalism and collectivism. Chinese people have been repeatedly warned that the country is more important than any individual.

2,000 years ago, before the foundation of the Qin Dynasty, Yang Zhu, an ancient Chinese philosopher, once said that he would not sacrifice even a tiny part of his own self interest for his country. However, his philosophy was soon drowned out.

Under tyrannical rule, Chinese people dared not to express their personal opinions. They were disconnected from the state. Believing that citizens were to be enslaved but not informed, the ancient Chinese government installed a strict and exact system to separate its people from the state and make individual will insignificant, inferior, and even offensive.

One dynasty replaced another. Throughout Chinese history and various ascensions to the throne, the government consistently ignored the people while the people acted as silent viewers until the 1911 Revolution brought the concept of people's power to the Chinese citizens.

From then on, we have been on the path of modernization and we should be welcoming an era of enlightenment. Since we have framed a constitution, signed the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; since it is the 21st century and the age of the internet and since individual Chinese citizens have the power and confidence to send out their personal opinions, our government should respect such opinions and protect the rights of the people to deliver them.

However, today we still see athletes, after winning medals in international games, afraid of being criticized if they thank their parents before thanking their country. This type of fact tells us, whenever an individual Chinese citizen encounters the nation, he or she will still face implicit, even explicit government pressure when they are about to speak from their heart. Bragging, polite speech and gossip can easily distort human nature beyond recognition. The voice of an individual with their most important content of will, repeatedly encounters the desires of the nation to forcefully correct that will.

If we are honest with ourselves, we will clearly know which one of the above, parents our country, matters most in our hearts.

We need to examine the relationship between the state and individuals, between national will and personal expression. The nation is no longer naturally revered and individuals are no longer naturally inferior. Such an examination is human, free and real; this type of new system will not only help China integrate with the world but also will make the country stronger and give its citizens more dignity.

However, in today's China, some people choose to be silent. They choose silence not only because the truth is self-evident, but also because too many facts render them speechless.

As the engines of government bulldozers used to demolish citizen's houses roared, citizens only dared to refer to the constitution where it states that it is the country's responsibility and obligation to protect the property and dignity of its citizenry. When local officials stated, if we don't demolish your houses, what will you eat?, citizens only dared to state under their breath, "everyone is born equal."

Though no one speaks out about it that does not mean "personal will" does not exist. For those who choose to keep silent, their personal will will not conflict with its national counterpart. It is similar to a man only being able to love his country once he loves his parents; only when a man treasures freedom will he be able to treasure a free country. Only when people desire the truth can it be guaranteed that the world will not be distorted.

Time drives a nation to transform its national system. Only when a country respects personal will and provides clear channels to transform numerous individual aspirations into national aspirations, will it have a real future. On the contrary, if the country keeps placing individual citizens below the whole of a nation, and only weighs national interests and ignores individuals while only listening to national ambitions and neglecting personal voices, it is highly likely that great tragedies will be created. And it is the country along with all of its citizens that will suffer harm. This has been repeatedly proven by history.

Standing at the doorway of the second decade of the 21st century, we are surprised to discover that things that occurred one hundred years ago resemble the occurrences of today.

Beginning in the second decade of the last century, thirty years were dominated by world wars, during which countless individuals died at the hands of nations. Now, we are experiencing a worldwide economic downturn. With the prevalence of Keynesian economics, governments are playing an increasingly dominant role in economics, politics and social affairs. Under such a historical and current context, government, as a national machine that masters huge resources and power, should show more restraint.

We sincerely hope that humans will not make the same mistakes. But hope alone is not enough. Everyone should be aware that silence and watching from the sidelines is not a way out. To change the world, we must first change ourselves.

We need change and change calls for courage and wisdom. This type of courage requires citizens to speak out and requires countries to allow people to speak. This type of wisdom requires citizens to learn how to speak their mind and requires countries to listen to people's hearts and establish systems to allow people to speak.

Let us return the seemingly vast national will to the original state of personal expression and let the combination of personal wills become the shared will of this country. While running the country, our government should learn how to listen to individual voices. Such an idea may not sound pleasing to governmental officials, but it is the only way to avoid tragedies.

This article was edited by Rose Scobie