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.
蔣中正有生之年再未能「回家」—— 因為許多、許多苦澀的原因。不僅如此，所有中國國民黨領導下的抵抗運動，都在蔣經國總統1988年去世後歸於寂滅。這令許多支持者灰心喪志，認為或許還要再等待一百年，中國才有可能獲得重生。他們未曾逆料，短短十五年之後，就在這個二十一世紀之初，一波新的民主思潮就已經在中國大陸最年青的一代當中蔚然成風 —— 他們立志要在中國大陸復興中華民國，重建中華民國憲政體制。
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.
她已經不止是一種信念、一套學說而已，她已經成為一項運動 —— 一項旨在於中國大陸重建中華民國憲政體制的運動，一項復興中華民國的運動 —— 這項運動力圖在我們中國大陸的土地上復興「自由中國」。
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.
在我看來，民國憲政 —— 是在中共政權坍塌後，唯一能夠提供法統權威的方案。有了中華民國憲政的重建，中共倒臺後的中國不僅不會陷入混亂和內戰，中華民國憲政將以她法統之權威，釋放出和解、團結、抖擻一新、重振未來的集結號 —— 激蕩於所有，無分中國大陸、臺灣、香港和澳門...所有所有中國人的心中。
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.
最值得注意的是，這一思潮、這一歷史大勢是由中國大陸人民自發形成的。在這個過程中，我們既沒有台灣資助，也沒有美國資助。我們完全是本於自己對中國歷史，尤其過去一百年間中國憲政歷程的深切研究，重新發現了民國憲政這條捷徑 —— 與需要通過譯介的抽象理論相較，這樣的歷史研究成果對普通中國人而言更有具體的說服力。
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.