Dai Qing, 2003-04 Weissberg Chair
Dai Qing, prominent Chinese dissident intellectual, environmentalist and investigative journalist, was named the 2004 Weissberg Chair of International Studies at Beloit College. The veteran of the Tiananmen Square protests offered a series of lectures and forums and participated in panels examining recent developments in China covering her work as a journalist, and her involvement and jailing for human rights activities.
Trained as a guided missile engineer, Dai originally worked in Chinese military intelligence before becoming an independent journalist. Even she admits she expected to live her life as one of the party faithful until she drew the ire of the government in the mid-1980s when she became an outspoken advocate against the controversial Three Gorges Dam, a massive dam five times wider than the Hoover Dam that has raised major environmental concerns. Dai completely broke with the Communist Party after the Tiananmen conflict. "My mission is in China," Dai said. "I will not say, OK, I will leave China and have a better life. This is where I am supposed to be -- serving as the conscience [of the nation] in the spirit of the public intellectual."
In this inevitable time of re-evaluating the impact of the Tiananmen affair, Dai says she feels intense sorrow over the "setback" that the crackdown brought in China. Still, Dai is unusual in her analysis of the events surrounding Tiananmen Square. She is neither a whole-hearted advocate of those who protested nor a die-hard critic of the government. She is more of a historian and a pragmatist who lashes out with ample criticism at both sides. Back in 1989, when the standoff between the government and demonstrators seemed destined for a violent end, she and other journalists tried to act as mediators in the crisis by heading to the square to try to reason with the demonstrators.
As a columnist for the Enlightenment Daily and the author of several books, including Yangtze! Yangtze! and The River Dragon Has Come, she has helped to inform the world of the environmental issues raised by the construction of the dam.