Public figures should avoid being the cause of social tensions

By Shan Renping Source:Global Times Published: 2013-5-7 0:08:01

Since being confronted at a forum in Shenyang on April 25th, Mao Yushi, one of the most outspoken economists in China, has triggered another war of words between his opponents and supporters, which has allegedly led to online threats and abusive phone calls.

Mao Yushi, who always amazes the public with stunning remarks, is a controversial public figure in China, distinguishing himself by agreeing with a "complete repudiation" of Mao Zedong and making harsh criticisms of the current political system.

Generally speaking, the public is not impressed with Mao's expertise. He is known for his politically controversial remarks.

The details of the recent conflagration remain murky. But there is no doubt that ad hominem verbal attacks, especially harassment and threats, should be condemned. Mao Yushi, who has the same rights as other scholars to voice his opinions, should be responded to in a civilized and law-abiding manner.

However, what needs to be noted is that Mao Yushi, unlike ordinary scholars who just concentrate on their academic studies, goes far beyond his expertise, instilling a set of moral values into his remarks when challenging Chinese mainstream political views. This makes him different to other scholars.

Most of his supporters are Chinese liberal intellectuals and Western elites. His opponents are mostly left-wing activists.

Undeniably, China has not developed a civilized platform on which "political arguments" can be carried out in a less judgmental manner. Arguments are very likely to become a battlefield where the left and right slander each other and fight wars. With the Internet fueling these conflicts, it is getting harder to conduct thorough and practical discussions. As for Mao Yushi himself, consciously or unconsciously he has become labeled as a "devotee of democracy and freedom."

Mao's stance rewarded him with the Milton Friedman Liberty Prize last year, causing controversies. But the alleged harassment isn't unheard of. Ai Weiwei, a well-known dissident, publicized several phone numbers of his opponents, calling for his supporters to stage "phone attacks."

The construction of Chinese political discourse is a gradual process in which mutually opposing parties depend on each other, which means progress needs to be achieved via dialogue between different parties. No one individual can prevail by attempting to monopolize the moral high ground.

Mao Yushi, with all the insightful wisdom of his 84 years, is supposed to contribute to the unity of Chinese society instead of being a fuse for social conflict. It is not his academic views but how he uses his influence that matters.

Posted in: Observer

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