Skip to content
Subscriber Only

Why 2,500-Year-Old Tale Gives Ma Hope for Chinese Democracy

  • Taiwan leader says ancient statesmen shows heritage of dissent
  • Change on mainland accelerating, but still very slow, Ma says
Ma Ying-jeou at the presidential palace in Taipei.

Ma Ying-jeou at the presidential palace in Taipei.

Photographer: Billy H.C. Kwok/Bloomberg

Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou said history gives him hope for political change on the Communist-ruled mainland. He’s not talking about the rise of a liberal democracy like in the West, but ancient China’s own lessons on dissent. 

Asked about the prospects for political change in modern China, Ma cited the example of Zichan, a statesman who lived during the country’s Spring and Autumn period some 2,500 years ago. Zichan, so the stories go, refused to close a public forum where citizens criticized the government, arguing the state needed to hear the people’s complaints. Confucius later praised him as an exemplary leader.