A NEW book attacking hard-line Marxism has touched off a new skirmish between Chinese reformers and conservatives.
"Memorandum on Preventing Leftism," a collection of 46 essays by liberal scholars, was published this fall in what is seen as a major test for the measure of intellectual leeway that emerged after the Chinese Communist Party Congress in October. Leftism is a euphemism for communist orthodoxy.
The book is the brainchild of Zhao Shilin, an enterprising bureaucrat in the Ministry of Culture, which, along with other government intellectual watchdogs, has begun to ease strictures following the crackdown on Beijing protesters in 1989.
"Memorandum" has been likened to a similar volume, "Trends of History," which was published in May and subsequently banned.
In the newer book, prominent writers, economists, poets, political activists, and journalists take aim at People's Daily, the party newspaper, and other bastions of conservative thought and call for a more open economy and democratic reform.
In an interview with the Monitor, Mr. Zhao said his idea was born following paramount leader Deng Xiaoping's watershed trip in early 1992 to southern provinces, re-igniting economic reforms.
"At that time, I thought some people were very thorough in carrying out Deng's instructions to guard against rightism," he said, referring to uncontrolled capitalism and political reform. "However, they didn't make any real efforts to carry out the patriarch's instructions against leftism."
Zhao says his book is under official investigation as both influential reformers such as Li Ruihuan and conservative propaganda officials in the party asked for many copies after the book was featured in the Hong Kong and Taiwan press. Zhao says he does not expect the book to be banned.
Recently, the watchdog State Press and Publication Administration said it would give publishing houses more freedom in choosing what to print, setting prices, and compensating authors. Still, the China Daily quoted a government official saying that publishing must be "run in line with the political restructuring and people's moral level."
Zhao says the first 70,000 copies of "Memorandum" are almost gone, and he plans to print another 50,000.