Home > Opinion, Philosophy, politics > Former Deng Xiaoping translator, Zhang Weiwei, on Chinese thinking

Former Deng Xiaoping translator, Zhang Weiwei, on Chinese thinking

Zhang Weiwei was a translator to former Chinese leader, Deng Xiaoping. We have a prior article (translated from Chinese) of his arguing there is a progression for which ‘democracy’ can be achieved, but more than that, China should borrow and adapt practices that are useful for China’s own conditions. In this interview (use this link if the embedded video below doesn’t show) with Al Jazeera (h/t Ray), Zhang provides a ‘Chinese’ response to strongly held notions in the West about “multi-party democracy,” explains how China is advancing her ‘model’ through localized experimentation, and details what he means by the ‘civilization state.’ (See also Martin Jacques.)


  1. January 20th, 2012 at 03:10 | #1

    Very interesting

  2. William
    January 20th, 2012 at 08:28 | #2

    Zhang Weiwei is a charlatan of the highest order. Not only does his politicking compromise his position as a freelance interpreter who is supposed to be neutral – he continues to work for the UN in Geneva and elsewhere – but his main selling point seems to be “I was in the room when Deng met so-and-so”. Yes he was, translating a mostly scripted exchange of national positions. He wasn’t part of any decision-making process, and has no claim to any greater insight than the rest of us. Intellectually his arguments aren’t worth much – his “so which other country’s system would you import into China instead?” rebuttal is, frankly, preposterous, and he’s only really paid any attention to by media, not (real) academics.

  3. zack
    January 20th, 2012 at 22:22 | #3

    goes without saying but i liked how Zhang Wei Wei handled the interview; it was almost amusing seeing how persistent the interviewer was in expecting China’s government to conform to Western standards and moulds-amusing considering his boss the emir of Qatar leads an autocratic monarchy-whereas China’s government is a modern people’s Republic based on meritocracy and specialists

  4. January 21st, 2012 at 09:43 | #4

    @zack
    Good point. As long as the absolute monarchies are our friends it is ok. If I am Zhang I will ask him when do you think the like of Qatar, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait etc is going to practice multi party democracy.

  5. zack
    January 22nd, 2012 at 01:24 | #5

    @Ray
    chances are that if Zhang did ask those questions, AJE will edit them out; they’re really no different to any other media mouthpiece, state or private, with an agenda and bias.
    AJE has been criticized for taking a rather partisan role during the libyan civil war, for eg overtly and publicly transmitting Gadaffi loyalist radio messages live on broadcast-which of course, NATO and the rebels would’ve been able to hear.

  6. January 22nd, 2012 at 09:49 | #6

    @zack
    The thing with many of those western interviewers (including BBC, CNN etc) like to pretend to be able to ask “tough” questions. However, if you throw one back at them they won’t be able to handle it.

    I believe it might be edited out but most likely they will canned the whole interview.

  7. February 8th, 2012 at 14:16 | #7

    Here appears to be the transcript of the debate / discussion between Zhang and Fukuyama referenced in the video.

    http://www.digitalnpq.org/archive/2011_fall/13_fukuyamaweiwei.html

    Overall it’s good discussion. Unfortunately, I think Zhang accepted Fukuyama’s assertion without much qualification that Mao is a “bad emperor.”

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