Freezing Point, the weekly supplement to China Youth Daily whose closure in January sparked an international outcry, reopened as promised this week, without its acclaimed top editors, Li Datong and Lu Yuegang, and with an essay criticizing the article by history professor Yuan Weishi which first raised the hackles of state censors.

Yuan’s article, which appeared on January 11, took issue with secondary-school textbooks on the nineteenth century Boxer Rebellion (1842-1860) that, he said, taught the superiority of Chinese culture. The article prompted harsh criticism for propaganda authorities, who issued an order for the supplement’s closure on January 24.

The much-awaited critique of Yuan’s January article was written by Zhang Haipeng, a researcher in the Contemporary History Research Center of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The critique ran to over 10,000 words and covered the entire front page of the supplement.

“How we recognize the theme of contemporary Chinese history and the many important attending events, is not only an important topic for research in contemporary Chinese history, but a question concerning China’s future path of development and the theory and practice of educating our youth”, Zhang began.

Then came the attack: “The views expressed in the essay, ‘Modernization and History Textbooks’, published in Freezing Point on January 11, sought to deny the basic intellectual gains made by Chinese scholars under the guidance of Marxist research, and severely misguided the youth of our country.”

The article took issue with Yuan’s claim that it was wrong to rally nationalist sentiment among children around the Boxer Rebellion. “The battle against imperialism and feudalism was an important theme in the development of modern China. Only after they had been basically routed, and after the people grabbed their own rule of the country could China relatively smoothly move ahead with modernization”, he wrote.

Quoted in Hong Kong’s Ming Pao Daily, former Freezing Point deputy editor Lu Yuegang said the relaunch of the supplement had resulted from the concerted effort of many people. He read its quick relaunch as a sign times were changing for the better.

Others continued to read the event as an ominous sign. An Apple Daily report quoted a Web-posted article by Chinese writer Fu Guoyong, who said “forces of political criticism should not replace normal academic discussion and criticism”.

[More about Zhang Haipeng, author of the Yuan Weishi criticism. Zhang is 66 years old, and is now a researcher at the Contemporary History Research Center of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS). He is a member of Executive Committee of Degrees at CASS, which decides on credentials for postdoctorates and other degrees, and is also deputy head of the Japan-China History Research Center at CASS. He is a delegate to the National People’s Congress (Source: Ming Pao Daily)].

[Link to Yuan Weishi article on Freezing Point]
[Scholar Lung Ying-tai’s open letter to Hu Jintao/discusses Boxer Rebellion]
[South China Morning Post on Freezing Point re-launch]

[Associated Press coverage via The China Post]
[2004 People’s Daily clipping with quote from Zhang Haipeng on Taiwanese history].