The Past and the Future

The Past and the Future

Concerning the Past:

  1. I have maintained that China should move forward with the reform of society. In many speeches before 1988, I openly expressed my advocacy of reform in China.
  2. I acknowledge that the following are my principal views:
  3. Marxism—whether viewed as a philosophy, a school of political economy, or a theory of socialism—is obsolete. Over time, science has shown that some of its basic principles are either obsolete or incorrect.
  4. Almost without exception, everything that has been done in socialist countries under systems of state socialism has led to failure. The Lenin–Stalin–Mao Zedong mode of socialism has almost entirely lost its appeal.

Forty years of socialist China under the rule of the Communist Party of China have been a disappointment. The constant waging of huge “class struggles,” year after year, has kept China’s economy mired below the top one hundred in the world in the elimination of poverty, while the Communist Party itself has grown increasingly corrupt.

There can be no true modernization without democracy and human rights. The Constitution should be amended to remove all mention of “class struggle.” The same goes for [Deng Xiaoping’s] Four Cardinal Principles and Mao Zedong’s Six Political Standards, which have extended the political system of class struggle. So long as the Four Cardinal Principles remain rigidly in place, there can be no hope for democracy and modernization.

The student-led political movement that arose in April 1989 at Tiananmen was peaceful in its approach and aimed to accelerate the reform of China’s government. I therefore completely agreed with it and supported it. I also agreed with the idea that the National People’s Congress should remove Premier Li Peng from office under Article 63 of the Constitution.

I take conscientious note of the fact that, beginning in June 1989, the Chinese government has regarded the foregoing political positions as “counterrevolutionary” and the accompanying actions as “commission of the crime of counterrevolutionary propaganda and agitation.”

Concerning the Future:

I plan to concentrate on scholarly exchange and research after I leave China. I have received invitations from more than twenty universities and research institutes in North America and Western Europe.

My concerns for China, as a Chinese citizen, will be for its peace, its prosperity, and its modernization.

Accordingly I will welcome and applaud any activity by the government of any nation of the world if the activity supports the progress of China’s society; and I will refuse to support the same organizations if their actions are not based on the principle of advancing China’s progress.

As soon as conditions allow, I will return to China to continue my service to Chinese science and education.

Translated by Perry Link.

Editor's Note: The statement above was written by Fang Lizhi after the meeting between Deng Xiaoping and Henry Kissinger, and passed on to the Chinese authorities while he was resident in the American embassy in Beijing in November 1989.


Fang Lizhi (1936-2012) was an astrophysicist and political dissident. Early on, the Chinese Communist Party considered him a valuable asset because of his scientific training and therefore allowed...

This article was first published in the June 23, 2011 issue of The New York Review of Books.



China: The People’s Fury

Richard Bernstein from New York Review of Books
It has long been routine to find in both China’s official news organizations and its social media a barrage of anti-American comment, but rarely has it reached quite the intensity and fury of the last few days. There have been calls from citizens on...

The Heritage of a Great Man

Freeman Dyson from New York Review of Books
Why did communism grow deep roots and survive in China, while it withered and died in Russia? This is one of the central questions of modern history. A plausible answer to the question is that communism in China resonated with the two-thousand-year-...

A New Language for Chinese Film

J. Hoberman from New York Review of Books
Kaili Blues, an eccentric, remarkably assured first feature by the young Chinese director Bi Gan, is both the most elusive and the most memorable new movie that I’ve seen in quite some time—“elusive” and “memorable” being central to Bi’s ambitions...