The Central Government is Correct
  (in response to the magnificent oration of someone named Zhu)

    by Zhu Yufu

“Rebellion,” you say—and that’s correct.
“A disturbance,” you call it—and that, too, is correct.
In times of repression, repression is correct.
When rehabilitation comes, then that is correct.

All the political campaigns were carried out correctly.
A number of historical questions were appraised correctly.
It was correct to amputate the remnants of Capitalism.
It was correct to invoke the theory of Socialism's early phase.

“There is no Savior” — The Internationale was correct;
“He is the star of our salvation” — The East is Red was correct;
The ‘campaign without historical precedent’ was correct;
To speak of a Great Catastrophe was correct.

All the newspaper editorials are correct;
Every position paper from the Central Government is correct;
In the Anti-Rightist campaign, it was correct to be Anti-;
When they were rehabilitated, the rehabilitation was correct.

The Eighth Congress, opposing Rightists within the Party, was correct;
The Ninth, eliminating hidden traitors, was correct;
The Tenth, for all its confusion, was correct;
The Eleventh, bringing order out of chaos, was correct.

The “Thought” of one brain was supremely correct;
The “Theory” integrating the profit motive was very correct;
The Communist ideal is the acme of correctness;
The capitalist model is also correct.

Public opinion, duly guided, is correct;
Power unaccountable to public opinion is correct;
The will of the people (coercively kept in line) is correct;
The “election” of appointed candidates is correct.

Under the Dragon Banner, they said the queue was correct;
Under the Five-Color Flag, they said its Republic was correct.
Today neither one is looking very correct;
Our Central Government alone shall be forever correct.

Spring 1998

Translator’s Notes

Correct This word is part of the boilerplate of self-congratulation in speeches delivered by CPC leaders, often in the phrase “great, glorious, and correct.”

Someone named Zhu Probably a reference to Zhu Rongji, who was appointed Premier in March 1998, around the time this poem was written.

Rebellion . . . A disturbance. Initially, the government characterized the demonstrations at Tiananmen in 1989 as a ‘counterrevolutionary rebellion’ (反革命暴乱). Then the approved term changed to ‘political incident’ (政治事件); eventually they settled on ‘a disturbance’ (风波). See the March 2010 statement by the Tiananmen mothers (original).

A number of historical questions were appraised. To a Chinese reader, this phrase evokes the titles of official documents taking stock of (and implicitly seeking to change direction after) historical episodes such as the Cultural Revolution.

the theory of Socialism’s early phase. Because true Communism has not yet been attained, certain accommodations (such as reliance on market mechanisms) are justified. This idea proved useful to Deng Xiaoping.

He is the star of our salvation Mao Zedong is thus praised in the panegyric “The East is Red.”

‘campaign without historical precedent’...Great Catastrophe The first phrase was the self-description of the Cultural Revolution in its early stage; the second was a judgment widely applied in retrospect, even in official documents

The Eighth Congress . . . The Congresses listed here were top-level strategic meetings of the Communist Party of China. The Eighth occurred in 1958 during the Anti-Rightist campaign which shattered so many lives. The Ninth Congress occurred in 1969, in the throes of the Cultural Revolution, and saw the (short-lived) exaltation of Lin Biao amid denunciations of the purged Liu Shaoqi. The Tenth was convened in 1973 and reflected the uncertain struggle between old-line cadres such as Deng Xiaoping, who with Zhou Enlai’s support were starting to make a comeback, and the extremists of the Cultural Revolution (the final member of the Gang of Four was added to the Politburo at this Congress). The Eleventh Party Congress took place in 1977 after Zhou and Mao had died and the Gang of Four had been arrested. Under Hua Guofeng’s brief leadership, the Party sought to put the Cultural Revolution behind it without yet repudiating anything. (Hua's signature policy pronouncement was the Two Whatevers: “Whatever policies Chairman Mao made, we will resolutely uphold; whatever instructions he issued we will steadfastly adhere to.”)

The “Thought” of one brain An allusion to “Mao Zedong Thought,” the ideology long asserted to provide the capstone to Marxism-Leninism.

The “Theory” integrating the profit motive. Deng Xiaoping’s revolution in economic policy is conventionally called “Deng Xiaoping Theory.”

Public opinion, duly guided The “guidance of public opinion” is an avowed aim of the State, and is the rationale for both censorship and the seeding of online discussion with paid pro-government commentators.

the Dragon Banner: The flag of the late Qing Empire, when all males wore the plaited pigtail or queue.

Five-color flag: A flag symbolizing racial harmony, adopted in the early years of the Republic of China (1912-1928).

translated by A. E. Clark