A Rising Democratic Thinking in Mainland China:
Restoring Republic of China Constitutionalism
Adela Lan (Xueli Wang) ‘s speech
at China Democracy Forum, NYU School of Professional Studies, Oct 2nd, 2016
Today is Oct 2nd. 67 years ago yesterday in Peking, the Chinese Communist Party officially declared its conquest of mainland China. Two months later, President Chiang Kai-shek took off from Sichuan, the base from which China had defeated Japan in the second World War, and moved to Taiwan, an island that he selected as the next base from where Free China – The Republic of China – would be restored.
“We will come back,” he said to his guards. “When Chinese people see through the lies of the Communist Party, they will welcome us home.”
He did not come home in his life time, for many, many bitter reasons. And all resistance movements under KMT leadership died out after President Chiang Ching-kuo passed away in 1988, leaving many followers assuming that it might take another 100 years for China to be reborn. What they did not know was that just 15 years later, in this 21st Century, a new democratic thinking would rise up among the youngest generation of Mainland China, aiming to restore the Republic of China’s Constitutionalism.
Why do we aim to restore the ROC’s Constitutionalism, instead of inventing a new constitution, such as Charter 08?
Because we believe that restoring the Constitutionalism of the ROC is the most cost-effective, the most efficient, the most realistic and the smoothest short-cut for China’s transition to democracy.
Why do we believe so?
Ever since the end of the Qing Dynasty, Chinese elites have been exploring, trying to identify a constitutional and democratic framework that fits China the best. In other words, a constitutional and democratic framework that can be installed in China with the least practical difficulty. After studying and translating the essence of Western constitutionalism and democracy, they tried to transplant it and root it soundly into the “earth” of Chinese local culture. Since its birth, the Republic of China had drafted, published and experimented with various constitutional designs until in 1947 it adopted a democratic constitution, based on a consensus reached by the widest possible participation. Unfortunately, its practice was interrupted by the Communist Party. Yet in Taiwan it has thrived and advanced until this day. It has proven to be a successful democracy. It has shown that it is not only westerners who can successfully implement and enjoy democracy. Chinese can too.
More than 100 years of evolution, more than 60 years of practice and correction, the widest participation and consensus, the marriage of what is good in Chinese culture and in Western culture – something which we refer to as common values – these are the sources of authority for ROC Constitutionalism. Such authority will give Chinese people confidence in new rules and can minimize unrest in the coming vacuum that will come when the Communist Party collapses.
Furthermore, we do not need to repeat through all the learning, interpretation process, and creative efforts that we had undergo during the past 100 years. This would be an unnecessary waste of time. We can reinstall ROC constitutionalism in the shortest time, and it can be the basis of a dignified fresh start for our country.
That is why we believe that this path is the most cost-effective and smoothest option for China’s future transition.
It is not just a belief, a theory. It has become a movement, a movement to restore ROC constitutionalism in mainland China, a movement to revitalize the Republic of China, the Free China, on our mainland.
It is certainly a political movement, but its genesis was as a cultural movement.
As we have seen that any organized movement on the mainland gets brutally crushed as soon as it gains any influence, we call ourselves “民國憲政派”, “the ROC Constitutionalism School of Thought”, or, we give ourselves the unpresumptuous nickname “國粉”, “Fans of the Republic of China”. Although we are often seen as the “underground, independent KMT of the mainland China”, we try to maintain a “decentralized”, “non-organized” character for this “School of Thought”, which has allowed it to survive and flourish during the past 15 years.
This group and this movement are rather new and different from the “traditional” democratic movements initiated from “within the system” by open-minded intellectuals, which the world has usually associated with China.
Why do I say that this new thinking, this new group and this new movement will be significant and attract the interest of the outer world?
First of all, it is made up of grassroots “barefoot intellectuals” who have been given a voice by the internet. We are not big influential figures rebelling from within the System. We are simply young and powerless internet users who became widely known just for the strength of our online writings. We play a constant cat-and-mouse game with the censors, in order to spread our words across the maximum range.
Secondly, it is the re-discovery, by Mainland Chinese, of China’s own democratic tradition. This makes it different from almost all other trends in Chinese democratic thinking, which have usually sought to apply and adapt – wholesale – foreign democratic systems to China. We, the ROC Constitutionalists, proclaim that democracy is not unsuitable for Chinese culture. Nor is it solely a foreign or western concept as the Communist Party asserts. For, China established its very own unique constitutional democratic system on the basis of learning from the west, before the Communist military conquest of 1949. We had it; we deserve it.
It is, I think, the only Chinese democratic thought that offers the hope of a legitimate plan for what China would look like after the fall of the Communist Party state. Rather than plunge into chaos and civil war, as many both inside and outside China predict if the Communists fall from power, the restoration of the ROC constitution is the potential rallying point, with legitimacy, that will resonate amongst all Chinese people, from mainland, from Taiwan, from Hong Kong and Macao.
And, most notably, this trend has its wellspring among mainlanders. We were neither funded by Taiwan nor by the USA. We discovered this path through our own extensive research into China’s history, and into China’s efforts of establishing constitutionalism during the past 100 years. Such historical research is more persuasive for the average Chinese than any translated abstract theories.
Finally, it is young. Most of us are between our 20s and 40s, and a huge number of teenagers are attracted too. Meanwhile, it is also mature, as it roots spring from deep down, from the work and achievements of our forerunners’.
Allow me to conclude with the following words:
A well-aged wisdom has been reborn.
Adela Lan (Xueli Wang) is the founder of “ROC Constitutionalism School of Thought” and a leading voice for the Restoration Movement of the Republic of China in the Mainland. She chairs China Strategy Institute and is Secretary-General of International Chinese-Tibetan Association that works closely with Central Tibet Administration.