我年轻时没有特别注意中国的事。小时候我只有几个华人同学,但他们和1949后的中国没有直接的关系,也许是跟着父母亲从台湾来的,也许他们的家庭已经有几代祖先住在美国,我从来没有特别问过。我在休士顿的同学中,白人、黑人、拉丁美洲人都有,越南战失败后也有很多越南难民移民过来,华人反而很少。1980年代我上大学时的情况差不多。yibaochina.com首发

1986年秋,我到了洛杉矶开始读博士。由于当地的租金特别高,我决定住在校外的宿舍。住在那里的租客每周都做一些工就能省些钱。很多大陆人也住在那间宿舍,我认识了几个。这是1949年以来第一代大陆人来美国学习。世界银行的数据显示,1979年的中国是世界上最穷的国家之一。如果说近来很多大陆人之所以来美国留学有特别实用的目的,首代的留学生则不同。根据我和他们的交谈,他们要脱离毛泽东时代的教育灾难,要恢复现代理工科的知识。我记得他们都非常认真,目标就是将来回去帮祖国建设经济以及社会发展,他们都知道那时中国还是一穷二白的国家,所以中国人必须认真读书,才能推动祖国的现代化。yibaochina.com首发

1989年春天的北京学生运动爆发以后,在UCLA(加州大学洛杉矶分校)很多人,包括我宿舍里的朋友们,都十分兴奋,而且不仅仅是中国人有这个感觉,多数在校外租住的美国人也是如此。应该记得,那时候西方人都认为违反人权是共产党国家根本的政治特征,而共产主义阵营正濒于崩溃,苏联和几个东欧国家已经开始民主化的过程。那时候,还要等到1989年秋天才能看到在东欧出现最后的革命时刻,然而在1989的春天,东欧各国都看得出已经有了要变革的迹象。在北京那一年的春天,气氛十分活跃,几乎每日都有游行抗议,在场的同学们都提出改革的要求。在这个背景下,正在苏联进行改革的戈尔巴乔夫到了北京。虽然他没有直接和大学生抗议者正式交流,不过这个访问好像引发了学生们继续努力追求同样的改革。无疑,我最钦佩的事件就是五月二十日政府宣布戒严之后有几十万北京人上街阻碍军人进入北京,这些军队是调动来平息愈来愈威胁中共统治的抗议运动。yibaochina.com首发

当然,中共不能让这个光明时刻继续下去。1989年六月四日是周日,我比较晚起了床,早上一打开收音机就知道发生了甚么。根据最近几个礼拜以来的新闻报导,到了这个时候中共用解放军来清除天安门广场是能够预测的结果,然而其对当地老百性的攻击还是意想不到的。yibaochina.com首发

据我观察,中国老百姓对于六四屠杀的反应经历了几个阶段。我要提醒一下,除了最后的部分,如下的解释只是基于我个人的认识。yibaochina.com首发

一是中国人和美国人的愤怒。根据BBC记者林慕莲(Louisa Lim)的英文书籍显示,屠杀的消息传出之后,在很多中国城市立即发生了大规模激烈抗议,这些都被政府强力镇压了。在美国也有类似的抗议,当然政府的反应不会是镇压。我特别记得在UCLA校园工程学大楼的旁边一直有示威活动。这样的抗议活动,很多美国城市都有,UCLA关注的是本校的一个研究生,他五月中已回国去支持学生运动,可是没有准时回来。与此同时,有一段时间,有的美国人,特别是政治人物,他们都觉得在西方价值观刚刚在全球获胜的情况下,只需大声抗议以及西方政府的经济制裁就能够纠正这一反人类罪行。(几个月后这个胜利在东欧这个就来了。)在我的中国朋友圈里,新闻报导和相关的图片反而让他们怵目惊心。而且尽管我知道有些宿舍的朋友们参加了抗议活动,不过六四后他们都对于我们美国同学都变得沉默寡言。yibaochina.com首发

六四后接下来的各国反应的转变可以说是与恶魔交易。1989过后几年我毕业了,不过我还继续关注中国的事。在我晋升为副教授之后我有机会恢复以前的中文学习,大概从2010年开始,我在寻找华人作为语言朋友。每年都有新的华人朋友,有一个是台湾人,其他的都是大陆人。这些大陆人来美的目的不是直接服务祖国而是获得职业必须的技能。我记得有特别多的语友来美学习商业。yibaochina.com首发

我感觉到这一群中国人比前一代的精神风貌差很多。我经常和他们聊天,在聊天中我们往往转换话题。不同语友教我很多,比如民国时代的文学人士,中国的经济状况、美国政治等等,可是只有一个华人自己谈到了大陆的政治话题。我记得这位的年龄比其他语友们的大一些,他四十岁左右,已经有一个小孩。有一次他说到西方民主政治价值观不符合目前的中国。这个人特别提到在当时的中国经济发展,甚至认为中国政治体制有些好处。我是美国人,当然不便批评。除了这位之外,我觉得这一代来我大学的大陆人内心有冲突。当然他们在新的中国有1949年后其他前代普通人没有的机会,那就是通过职业上的努力来致富。有几个语友,他们在工作方面很成功,他们是好父母,可是好像对于政治没有任何兴趣。yibaochina.com首发

后来我去中国大陆住了两个月来研究中国经济历史。那时有一次我和几个朋友们一起去一家饭馆。我们在雅间(private dining room)一边吃东西,一边聊着。在房间里他们十分喜欢谈中国的经济未来,他们为中国的未来担忧。然而每次服务员进来我们马上改变话题。我有另外一个朋友,他在两个月的交往过程中都对我很友好。有一次他开车带我去看当地附近的风景,那时他在车内突然犹豫地问我对中国的整体看法。显然他对中共的统治是怀疑的,但是在大陆精英群里这这样的质疑派能占百分之几呢?yibaochina.com首发

上述是我个人跟大陆中国人直接沟通的经验。由于几年来在我们大学的中国留学生数量大为减少,而且疫情从中国大陆蔓延至了全球,近年来只能根据新闻报导去了解大陆不少年轻人目前的心态改变。他们好像已放弃了两个由中共设定的目标。这些媒体报导说他们愈来愈拒绝生小孩,并且所谓“躺平”的现象到处蔓延。我当然不敢预测中国人未来的精神状态会怎样,不过值得一提的是,他们未了生存下去不得不努力逃避现在的政权。yibaochina.com首发

Evan Osborne
Wright State University, Department of Economics
以下英文版并非直接翻译,而是作者单独所写,内容有扩充。
Below is the English Version (Not exact translation of the Chinese version above)

China around Tiananmen Massacre in My eyes

When I was growing up in Houston I knew classmates who were ethnic Chinese, but they were either multi-generational overseas Chinese, or had parents who had immigrated from Taiwan. Even these I knew very few of, and I never inquired much into their background. Where I lived there were many African-Americans and Latinos, and after the South Vietnamese regime lost the Vietnam War a number of Vietnamese refugees arrived, but ethnic Chinese were not a noticeable community. When I went off to college in the early 1980s the situation was more or less the same.

In 1986, I arrived at UCLA to try to get a Ph.D. in economics. Housing in the vicinity of UCLA was very expensive, and so I ended up living in the so-called Co-op, an institution built ironically on socialist principles, but which allowed UCLA students, as long as they did their Co-op-assigned work, to live close to campus at an affordable price. At the UCLA Co-op (not affiliated with UCLA) I for the first time got to know numerous people from China proper — people born and raised in Communist China.yibaochina.com首发

The post-Mao surge of Chinese students into American universities had just begun. I got to know some in the Co-op, and we would chat about various things. Note that these were not the Chinese students of subsequent years, often children of the financial and political elite seeking the credential of an American degree. As far as I could tell these were genuine patriots, who knew the desperate state of their country (one of the very poorest in the world in the late 1970s, according to World Bank data), and wanted to learn what the rest of the world already knew about science, engineering, teaching English and other eminently practical fields. Since 1949 Chinese students had not been allowed to go to American universities to study, and Chinese universities, like so much of the country’s rich heritage, had been ransacked during the Cultural Revolution. So these were students who one the one hand were excited about the new opportunities denied to their parents, and on the other people eager to move not just themselves but their country forward.yibaochina.com首发

As the demonstrations in Beijing flowered in the spring of 1989, Chinese and American students alike were genuinely excited. While the final collapse of communism in Eastern Europe would not occur until the fall, the writing there was already on the wall. Indeed, the sense of excitement felt by the Chinese democracy movement and its overseas admirers was propelled by a visit Mikhail Gorbachev made to China in May.yibaochina.com首发

Even after the CCP decided to crack down, for a brief time hope remained. The first time PLA units were sent to Beijing to clear Tiananmen, they were stopped by local residents who poured into the streets to peacefully prevent them from advancing. This to me was the most electrifying moment of the entire movement. I sensed the possibility of change, and the Chinese I knew did as well.yibaochina.com首发

Of course the CCP could not allow this to continue. June 4, 1989 was a Sunday, and I woke up rather late in the morning in Los Angeles, turned the radio on and learned what had happened. The ruthlessness of it was shocking, both to Americans generally and to the Chinese in my building in particular. I had just begun to study Chinese less than a year prior, and have subsequently taken great interest in Chinese affairs. In my subsequent thirty-plus years of becoming more familiar with China’s people, and with the country’s history and culture, I have watched the former go through several transformations since June 4.yibaochina.com首发

The immediate reaction was one of anger, mixed initially with hope that the Chinese could achieve the reforms the students were striving for. In this the reactions inside the US matched those in China. Louisa Lim in her book The People’s Book of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited reminds us that after June 4 angry demonstrations broke out all over China, though they were crushed with equal violence. Such demonstrations occurred throughout the US as well. At UCLA they were focused on the fate of a UCLA Chinese student who had returned home in early May to assist the democracy movement, only to fail to return home. There were demonstrations near our engineering building, along with other campus efforts, to get him released. (Astonishingly from the perspective of today’s China, he was soon allowed to return.) As for the Chinese I had come to know personally, many were clearly shattered, although they never raised the issue, and I never pried. It was as though the country they were working so hard to serve no longer merited their sacrifice.yibaochina.com首发

I graduated, got a job teaching economics, and until I received tenure I had to abandon my earlier study of the Chinese language. But I continued to pay attention to Chinese affairs. In the 2000s for several years, my Chinese not yet having improved much, I still chose to teach a course on globalization to several cohorts of students who would come from China, and take MBA classes as a group. It was clear to me by this time that for some the primary motivation was merely the credential, although others asked me many questions inside and outside of class about course material. One day, I was teaching on October 1, post-1949 China’s national day, and before I began the lecture one of the students stood up and inquired whether he could lead the students in singing the national anthem. In a response I now regret, I agreed. (Singing the American national anthem before a class never occurs in American college classrooms.) Some years later I read about the Chinese government’s practice by that time of closely monitoring overseas students for disloyalty. Whether this particular student was charged with this task I cannot say, but I suspect he was.yibaochina.com首发

After my promotion to full professor I enthusiastically re-embraced my study of the Chinese language. After I spent nine months on sabbatical in Taiwan in 2010-11 studying Chinese full time I started an annual practice of looking for native Mandarin speakers at my university to engage in language exchange. Most were students, although one was a visiting scholar. One of the students was Taiwanese, the rest from China.yibaochina.com首发

This generation I characterize as the generation of the Faustian bargain. Whether speaking Chinese or English, I usually let them get the conversation rolling, and then it would just evolve  naturally, as conversations tend to do. The one year I had the Taiwanese student as a partner, both American and Taiwanese politics came up frequently. But they never did with the Chinese. This is not to say the Chinese only talked about trivialities. Quite the opposite in fact. One of them, with whom I am still in occasional contact today (she, like all of them, returned to China after graduation) taught me a lot about pre-1949 Chinese culture, particularly literature. But she and all were strongly focused on their careers, which flowered after they returned home. (Many were students in the business college, which includes my own economics department.)yibaochina.com首发

The very fact that they were so successful under the system they inherited — political despotism but growing economic freedom — meant, I think, that they did not want to rock the boat. At one point one told me a story that as an American I found extraordinary, about her father illegally migrating to a reform-era boomtown in the 1980s, marrying and having a child (my language-exchange partner), and a few years after his child was born having to go back to his hometown and pay a bribe to get his daughter legalized where she was born. That my partner, a person with this history, would not want to get involved in politics is not difficult to understand. To varying degrees all my language-exchange friends during these years had some version of this dilemma in their history.yibaochina.com首发

The one exception to this reluctance to bring up politics (again, I only discussed it if they brought it up) involved someone who was at my university as a visiting professor rather than a student. He was perhaps in his 40s, and was married and had a child himself. (They had not accompanied him to the US.) He freely spoke to me about the superiority, for Chinese, of the Chinese system, for the standard reasons. China had been poor, was still not fully developed, and so a strong political hand was necessary to protect what was then still-robust Chinese economic growth.yibaochina.com首发

But every Chinese partner I had was living in the US and was therefore capable of observing the operation of American society, in all its honor and dishonor. If they didn’t already come in knowing this, they must have sensed that things were done differently here then back home. That only one raised political matters at all, and that only to affirm the superiority of the Chinese system for China’s context, was a very striking experience. But China was developing rapidly, its place in the world was rising, its century of perceived humiliation was increasingly in the rear-view mirror, and so there were defensible reasons for satisfaction, even pride.yibaochina.com首发

My last face-to-face post-June 4 engagement with Chinese actually occurred in China itself. In 2018-2019 I had another sabbatical, and spent two months of it in China working on a book about post-1842 Chinese economic history. While researching it I once was invited to a celebratory dinner for a retiring faculty member from the university I was working at. Our party ate in a closed dining room, a not-unusual feature in Chinese restaurants. At the dinner most of the guests were economically knowledgeable, often economics professors themselves. That night many of them lamented the government’s refusal to further liberalize the economy, and bemoaned China’s corruption problem. This conversation was frequently very passionate. The striking exception was that every time a restaurant employee opened the door to the room to bring food in or take dishes out, all conversation ceased, and the room remained silent for perhaps 30 seconds after the employee left.yibaochina.com首发

I had another experience with a friend of a friend, the latter one of my colleagues at my American university who had given me this person’s contact information. This local and her family were extremely generous to me during my time in their city. As usual, while we always spoke in Chinese (by this point I could do this), we never discussed major Chinese social or political questions.yibaochina.com首发

The solitary exception occurred when my friend’s friend took me in her family car well outside of the city in which we were living to see a small, picturesque town that was popular with Chinese tourists. I enjoyed the trip, but in the car on the way back she suddenly raised for the only time the issue of China’s political and social situation, and what I thought about them. Once we returned I saw her and her family a few more times, but such issues were never raised again. That, like the university employees, she was concerned about these matters but never raised them in a space where others might hear was again something I found very revealing.yibaochina.com首发

My only information about China since I left the country has been acquired online. And so it is mostly online that I have learned about the latest stage of post-Tiananmen China, withdrawal. Chinese economic growth began slowing by 2015. And now it seems that Chinese, especially young people, are eager to discuss, to the extent they can amid the remarkable capacity of the Chinese government to censor the Internet, what is said to be the brutal psychological effects of excessive economic competition on the Chinese psyche (內捲, nèijuǎn) and more recently the resolve of many Chinese people, particularly young adults, to refuse to work hard or even have families, so-called “lying flat” (躺平, tǎngpíng). The latter idea has grown in prominence since COVID-19 exploded in Wuhan, China after the government had suppressed any discussion of it in the critical first few weeks, raising skepticism about China around the world and doing further damage to the Chinese economy’s already diminished prospects. Such behavior by young Chinese to a substantial extent seems to indicate a belief that “If the government and big businesses demands that we do X, then X is exactly what we will refuse to do.” Despite discussion of both of these ideas being subject to government censorship and to criticism by official media, they remain significant presences among young Chinese.yibaochina.com首发

It must be emphasized that the achievements of the Chinese people at home and abroad since economic reform began a few years after Mao Zedong’s death are astonishing. The right to earn a living and to buy and sell freely is a substantial human right on its own, and the greater space Chinese since the early 1980s have had to exert these rights has been a wonderful thing for the Chinese people, and for those in other countries who have benefited from their energy. But the massacres around the country in early June, 1989, combined with the government’s fanaticism about any discussion of these events, let alone its complete inability to reassess its own conduct, continues to damage the Chinese nation.yibaochina.com首发

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