After the death of giant of scientist Qian Xuesen over the weekend, millions of comments have been posted on websites, mourning the loss of the "father of China's space program". In online forums, which usually serve as a barometer of public sentiment, even netizens who grudge lauding great personalities have heaped praise on Qian.
They admire the scientist not only because of his great contribution to strengthening China's scientific and military power, but also for his moral integrity. Some of Qian's qualities that came to light in a reminiscence published by his former secretary in the People's Daily yesterday deserve more than mere admiration.
His former secretary writes that Qian always shunned fame and wealth, especially when it came to official positions and titles. In 1984, when the China Association for Science and Technology was planning its third plenary session for the following year, Qian applied to get his membership canceled. He did so because he did not want to be elected chairman of the association. It was a common understanding among association members then that Qian was the most suitable candidate to succeed the outgoing chairman, 80-year-old physicist Zhou Peiyuan.
Qian said that if he succeeded Zhou as chairman he would also have to take over Zhou's position as the vice-chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, as was the practice in China's officialdom then. "That is exactly the last thing he liked to do," writes Qian's former secretary.
When a leading official from the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) tried to persuade Qian to assume the chairmanship of the science association, the scientist and People's Liberation Army serviceman replied: "I've just retired from my post in the Ministry of National Defense. I want to concentrate on scientific research for the rest of my life. This is what I am good at. I don't have the making of an official."
He also requested that he allowed to resign from all the other positions he had been holding - for example, as vice-minister of the Commission of Science and Industry for National Defense and member of the State Council Academic Degrees Committee.
This is exactly why Qian has won the respect of the people from all walks of life. And this should serve as a reminder to all officials of the moral qualities they should possess.
Many officials today do not regard their positions as an obligation to serve the public but see them as a means to fulfilling their personal interests. Looking at Qian's examples, they should be ashamed of themselves. Instead, they regard corruption and abuse of power as something "one should not fuss about".
Chen Liangyu, former member of the Political Bureau of the CPC and Party chief of Shanghai, once told his subordinates: "So long as you have achieved results in promoting economic growth and ensuring social stability in your jurisdiction, it is not serious to have some 'specialty in economy' and go beyond certain limits in lifestyle." "Specialty in economy" and "lifestyle" is a Chinese way of saying material privileges and extra-marital affairs.
It is appalling that these words came from such a high-ranking CPC official. And it is even more appalling that Chen made the remark openly at a meeting of leading officials of the CPC Shanghai Committee.
Chen was sentenced to 18 years in jail in 2008 for taking bribes and being involved in other crimes. He was found to have deposited 274.1 million yuan in 53 bank accounts under false names, and had 11 mistresses.
Corruption among Shanghai officials under Chen was rampant, too. The investigation panel sent by the CPC Central Disciplinary Commission found 1,322 bank accounts with 9.86 billion yuan deposited under false names by officials of municipal, district, bureau and county levels.
And it also shows why the public respects an honest and dedicated person like Qian, who served the country as a CPC member for 53 years and set an example for the people, especially officials, to follow.