Share this story
Close X
Switch to Desktop Site

China tries to use once-scorned intellectuals for modernizing

''Why am I thinking of applying to leave China?'' asks a Chinese chemical engineer in a recent issue of the People's Daily. ''How I love my country and my work. The only wish I have is to return to my work. Yet, no matter how many times I appealed to the leaders, I was not given back my work. On the contrary, the pressures on me grew more severe day by day, '' the engineer wrote. The individual in question had experienced resentment due to her success on the job - in fact, she had been fired.

The case of Mrs. Jiang Yungxu, front-paged by the People's Daily Jan. 31, illustrates resistance to the government's policy of better treatment for intellectuals that is found throughout the country.

About these ads

It is now officially acknowledged that without intellectuals, particularly those trained in science and technology, China cannot achieve economic modernization within this century. Among other objectives, the modernization program aims to raise the living standards of its billion people to a modest level of $800 to $1,000 per capita, from its present level of about $290.

While this is accepted in principle, carrying out the policy has been fitful and slow, especially at the local level. Many party and government bureaucrats at this level are former Maoist revolutionaries of peasant background, with little formal education. They no longer apply the term ''stinking'' to intellectuals, as Chairman Mao Tse-tung once encouraged them to do. But many of them still think of intellectuals as people whose talents are to be used, but not to be fully trusted.

As for the case in point, Mrs. Jiang was born in Saigon and returned to China in 1956 as part of a wave of young overseas Chinese enthusiastic about political changes and eager to serve their country. She studied chemistry at Yunnan University and was eventually assigned to a chemical laboratory in the Hengyang automobile spare parts factory in Hengyang, Hunan Province.

Here she worked diligently for more than a decade, receiving many commendations, and was electhe Communist Party were ignored.

Her troubles began two years ago, soon after local news media wrote up her successes as a chemical worker. Others in her section, afraid that she might surpass them, suggested she had cooked up some of her chemical test results from thin air. They opposed her attempts to eliminate waste and get better worker performance. They charged her with seeking personal power and glory.

The factory and municipal authorities sided with these people, and she was ousted from the factory. Instead of giving her a proper new assignment, the authorities left her case pending. She was left in limbo with no work to do and her appeals ignored.

Her relatives living abroad became concerned and tried to get her to leave China. Her brother who is a nuclear physicist working in an unspecified country abroad wrote her to say she could come to visit his institute.

About these ads

Mrs. Jiang's letter was received by the People's Daily in last July. The newspaper asked the Hunan Communist Party Committee to make an investigation. That investigation completely upheld Mrs. Jiang, and was recently published in the local Hunan Daily.

The report found that Mrs. Jiang and her retired worker husband live frugally with their two children. Although her eyes were badly injured in a chemical experiment, she has never asked for special treatment, the report said. She took without complaint a temporary work assignment to a salt mine 15 miles from her home, which meant she had to rise at 5 a.m. to catch a long-distance bus.

On one occasion she attended an evening reception for a colleague going abroad. Because her home was six miles away on a rough road, and because she was a woman alone, she asked for a car on this single occasion. Her request was ignored and she had to walk home, getting back at 2 a.m.

People's Daily has asked its readers to comment on the case, focusing on three points. First, why, when the party Central Committee has repeatedly called for better treatment of intellectuals, do cases like that of Mrs. Jiang continually arise?

Second, how can policy toward intellectuals best be carried out? What are the specific signs of good implementation?

Third, what more needs to be done specifically so that intellectuals can play their full role in promoting the four modernizations of industry, agriculture, science and technology, and defense?

Follow Stories Like This
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.