Charter 08 – What’s Between the Lines?

I suppose rather than jumping right into my report I should give a quick briefing on my project. My research project will examine different documents of Chinese intellectual thought in order to understand the role of modernity, or lack thereof, in the context of social movements and intellectual thought. So far I have two primary sources for my research, those two being Charter 08 and the New Citizens’ Movement. For this post, as can be guessed by the title, I am focusing on Charter 08. 

Charter 08 definitely makes it clear what China needs to change, using a ‘in order to catch up in the international arena’ tone. That is, the author takes a tone that not only is China uncivilized, but also preventing the progress of China and all of human civilization. The Charter also does a great job essentially defining what it means to be a modern nation, to the Chinese intellectuals at least. I present a truncated excerpt from Charter 08 illustrating this:

This is a historic moment for China, and our future hangs in the balance. In reviewing the political modernization process of the past hundred years or more, we reiterate and endorse basic universal values as follows: Freedom…Human rights…Equality…Republicanism…Democracy…and Constitutional rule.

By the end of the Charter, the author is calling for the government to change to better fit the name of the state, The People’s Republic of China. Another thing to note is that in the recommendations to the government, the author is saying that they (the government) needs to turn towards “fostering the consciousness of modern citizens who see rights as fundamental and participation as a duty”. This is important to note because, what of the citizens that do not see rights as fundamental or participation as a duty? If this is what the modern citizen is, what is the counter?

Overall, this article provides a lot of content, there is definitely more to be found in this source as I comb through my other primary source and my secondary sources.

But enough about the good, lets see where Charter 08 falls short. The Charter focuses very heavily on China’s political action, I suppose this is kind of a ‘duh!’ moment. However, the Charter is predominantly calling for action from the “ruling elite” (I am taking note of the usage of this term by the way. I think it will be important down the road). So what are the modern citizens supposed to do in the meantime? I address what needs to happen, and what citizens should be able to do, but it does not focus much on what the citizens can do right now to speed-up the process.

To take a look at Charter 08 for yourself, or you can find it on the Charter 08 for Reform and Democracy in China website. The website offers more than just Charter 08 itself, it is definitely worth taking a look around.

Liu Xiaobo. “Charter 08.” Charter 08 for Reform and Democracy in China. Accessed February 27, 2014. http://www.charter08.eu/2.html .

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Jacob

March 14th


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