Political upheaval in China is "inevitable and not far in the future," said Chinese-American writer Bette Bao Lord during a speech yesterday at Longfellow Hall.
Lord, who is an author of several best-selling books and wife of former U.S. ambassador to China Winston Lord, gave Radcliffe's second annual Rothschild Lecture on the topic, "Great Walls: Stories of Chinese Women Opening Doors."
Born in Shanghai, Lord emigrated to the U.S. as a child. In 1985, she again came to China, this time moving to Beijing.
After her husband's term as ambassador ended, Lord served as a consultant to CBS during the seven-week-long student uprising that culminated in the Tiananmen Square massacre.
The author opened her remarks with an analysis of the uprising's causes. She attributed much of the discontent to a cycle of modernization and rising expectations.
In addition, she said that television played an important part in this process. Calling it an "incredibly powerful...revelation," she cited television as an important instrument in making ordinary Chinese aware of the world situation outside China--especially the revolutions in European communist states.
Lord added that widespread anger at the corruption of the Communist government fueled the protests.
"Everyone encountered corruption when trying to accomplish the smallest task. The Chinese people felt unclean," Lord said.
Although she compared the task of analyzing Chinese politics to "reading tea leaves," Lord said she was confident that the current crackdown on dissent would not prove effective in the long run.
She said that in the eyes of ordinary Chinese, the central government has lost its authority. She also said that many civil servants and provincial officials frequently "ignore or dilute" its orders.
Addressing the position of women in China, Lord said that many of them initially embraced Communism as a possible solution to the problem of their inequality. Before the communist revolution, "they were praised for not being seen or heard," she said.
Now, however, many women are unsatisfied with the formal equality they have gained, she said.
Lord said that Chinese women have an arduous life which usually includes a full-time job that is "rarely of their own choosing" and that rarely has any future. She added that because of their experience, Chinese women "would not rally behind feminist slogans" and "would choose to stay home" from work if their families did not need "two paychecks."
Lord said that because ousting the hard line government must be a top priority, the Chinese have deemphasized women's issues in the struggle for liberalization.
"So long as the system is closed to talent and ideas, both sexes will be its victims," she said. "In China today human rights must come before women's rights."