Q & A With Hung Huang

Publisher Reflects on Politics, Money And Happiness in the New China

Hung Huang, whose mother taught Mao Zedong, publishes several glossy magazines aimed at China's new rich.
Hung Huang, whose mother taught Mao Zedong, publishes several glossy magazines aimed at China's new rich. (By Andy Nelson -- Christian Science Monitor Via Getty Images)
Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Hung Huang is regarded as a model by many young Chinese women. Her mother was Mao Zedong's English teacher in the 1960s, her stepfather was foreign minister in the 1970s. Despite her communist pedigree, Hung "jumped into the sea," as the Chinese say, taking advantage of economic reforms to try her luck in private business. It worked; at 45, Hung is emblematic of the new China. Her China Interactive Media Group publishes several glossy lifestyle magazines. Her flagship publication, Ilook, is filled with photos, articles and advertisements aimed at China's new rich. In a warehouse in Beijing's Dashanzi art district where she and 80 employees work, Hung shared her thoughts with Beijing correspondent Edward Cody on where China is and where it might be headed.

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Q Do you see any hope the leaders of China's Communist Party will ever loosen the authoritarian political system the way they have reformed the economic system?

A They're making gestures, to show people they want to change. I think for it to really change, it's going to take some time. But the gestures are so important, because for those of us who have so long been resigned to a certain way China works, this is very exciting, because with these gestures, it gives you room to push things forward . . . .

Can China's one-party rule evolve without violent upheaval?

We obviously hope that it can. You know, nobody wants a riot. When you talk to Chinese, there's an overwhelming feeling that they want "peace on earth." I mean, in a very selfish way. Most Chinese feel that they have just started to enjoy life, that they have just started to accumulate a little bit of wealth. Now they can take a breather. They can travel to Europe. They can see the world. They can build villa houses. They can have their little gardens. And they actually feel that, after 20 years of hysterical growth, now is the time that some people can take time off and smell the roses.

What is the biggest challenge to peaceful reform?

For society to promote change in a peaceful fashion, you have to bring enough opportunity and hope to people who are below the poverty line. Right now probably the most glaring problem in China is social inequity. The rich are extremely rich, and the poor are extremely poor. They literally live in completely different worlds. That imbalance is very dangerous.

But will the Communist P arty ever relinquish its monopoly on power?

In the West, everybody is looking to say, are the communists ready for bipartisanship and civil society, or groups of people who are organized and in some way challenge the government's political authority? You have to look at it in a two-step kind of way. Number one, think of the Communist Party as two soccer teams. There's the blue team, and there's the red team. . . . I think if they can institutionalize that kind of debate within the Communist Party and be able to give people transparency on the kind of debates they have in the Communist Party, it would be wonderful.

I think there are a lot more debates within the high offices of the government than we realize. Otherwise, how come the vice mayor of Beijing was arrested? How come there is this whole change of lineup in Shanghai's municipal government? I think being able to show the people the fact that there are different factions [would be] a sign of confidence of the Communist Party, rather than a weakness, and it really [would] enhance their legitimacy to rule. The fact that they haven't seen that is a sign they are not confident enough.

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