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About this Issue

December 21, 2012

In November 2012, the Communist Party of China completed its latest once-in-a-decade leadership transition during its 18th National Congress. In his report to the Congress, outgoing president Hu Jintao issued the Party’s prescription for incoming president Xi Jinping to administer China: the Party will not tread the old path (of the Cultural Revolution) or the evil path (of democratization). That is to say, maintain the status quo, and there will be no political reform.

This issue of the China Rights Forum presents snapshots of the country that the new CPC leadership will govern. It is a country where the security apparatus and the censors attempt to maintain social stability at great costs; where, at the same time, the expansion of the Internet—of Weibo, microblogs, in particular—is overwhelming the censorship and surveillance regime, and enabling greater connectivity among the people of China and between them and the outside world at ever faster speeds; and where young people, particularly the privileged and educated young of the “post-‘90”  generation, are increasingly engaged in citizen activism, against the stereotype that they are spoiled, self-centered, materialistic.

Section One, “Leadership Transition, Social Control, and Citizen Activism,” maps three dimensions of the domestic landscape. In the coming decade, will it be possible for Xi Jinping to govern by the Party’s prescription? (Gao Wenqian, “Dancing in Shackles: On Xi Jinping and the 18th Party Congress”) Does pouring more money into maintaining stability in fact make the country more stable? (He Qinglian, “China’s Stability Maintenance System Faces Financial Pressure”) Is it even sustainable? What is new about Chinese citizen activism in recent years? And what are some implications of its expanded diversity and scope? (Paul Mooney, ”Citizen Activism”)

Section Two, “Citizens’ Responsibilities and Challenges,” explores issues facing Chinese citizens in building an open society and a collective future: the missing elements in China’s civil opposition—organization, moral cohesion, liberal ideological resources (Liu Xiaobo, “The Poverty of China’s Civil Opposition,” 2002); the opportunities and challenges posed by new frontiers of Internet censorship (Bei Feng, “Microblogs Have Become the Focus of Internet Censorship in China”); using law to subdue unlawful authorities (Zheng Jianwei, “Taming Lawless Officials with Citizen Oversight”), the right to choose as a person’s most basic right in society (Jiang Wuji, “Diversity of Values and Our Right to Choose: Reflections on Charter 08”).

Section Three, “Good News from China,” features the powerful stories of Chinese citizens organizing and uniting around issues as diverse as providing concrete support to rights defenders (“‘The bird is out of the cage’: Helping Chen Guangcheng Reach Freedom,” and Paul Mooney, “Be a Creditor of Ai Weiwei”), fighting land grabs (“Wukan: Citizens Fight to Keep Land”), keeping the environmental safe (“Shifang: Citizens Choose Clean Environment over Promise of Jobs” and ”Qidong: Citizens Say No to Industrial Waste”), helping HIV/AIDS victims (“Seeking Compensation for AIDS: Tainted-blood Victims Join Forces with Advocates”), helping find kidnapped children (“Take a Photo, Save a Child”), and demanding accountability for past abuses and respect for human rights (“Passing the Torch of June Fourth: Demanding Accountability for the Past, Claiming a Democratic Future”).

The “Culture Matters” section of this issue presents reviews of three major books on China’s Great Famine (Roger Garside, “The Killing Fields of China”); a collection of essays about Liu Xiaobo, Charter 08, and political reform in China (Andrew J. Nathan); a new biography of Mao Zedong (Jonathan Mirsky); an English edition of Han Han’s blog posts (Jonathan Mirsky); as well as an experimental concert in Beijing (Yan Li, “A New Listening Experience”).

An overarching question is evident in the diverse voices in this issue: will the CPC leaders be able to maintain the status quo for the next 10 years—to block a future already being shaped by citizens who, empowered by the Internet, are ever more connected to each other, to universal human rights values and debates, and to uncensored information?