Oppressed by the KMT in the 1940s, two students yearned for a better society under communism. Now, decades on, they remain disillusioned
When Yang Yuzhi and Zhang Zhenghuai were expelled from school in Henan in 1940, they did not realise it was only the beginning of their lifelong struggle for freedom and democracy.
Under the Kuomintang regime, 18-year-old Yang, 16-year-old Zhang and four friends formed an underground reading group to study liberal publications advocating democracy – a risky move at a time when such materials were seen as heretical and communist sympathisers were harshly oppressed.
Like many young people at the time, Yang and Zhang longed for the end of the dictatorial and corrupt KMT rule and aspired to the ideals of fraternity, freedom and equality – as championed by the Communist Party at the time.
So later, when they were studying journalism at Fudan University, then based in Chongqing during the second sino-Japanese war, they got involved in underground work for the Communist Party and helped set up a newspaper which acted as a front for clandestine communist activities.
In July 1946, with their names now on the KMT government blacklist, they escaped to the nearest communist base where they joined the newly founded People’s Daily – then operating secretly in rural Hebei .
To protect their families from persecution, they changed their names: Yang became He Yanling and Zhang became Song Zheng. They married a month later.
When the Communist Party won the civil war in 1949, the couple were ecstatic. He’s first article in People’s Daily after the establishment of the People’s Republic was entitled “From darkness into brightness”.
“We thought there would be a joint government made up of democratic parties … and we could focus on building a prosperous, democratic, civilised and happy new China,” He said in a recent interview.
But at the time, they could not have imagined that more than 60 years on, they would still be on the same mission when their hair had turned grey – after a lifetime of struggle, their dream of freedom, democracy and equality has still not been fulfilled.
Now aged 90 and 89, He and Song are among the few remaining torch-bearers of the early dreams of their generation and feel they have a responsibility to leave behind the stories of comrades who sacrificed their youth for a free China.
After their retirement, together with former journalists Mu Guangren and Tong Shiyi (who were also involved in underground work as young men), they spent nearly 20 years painstakingly researching historical archives and interviewing survivors across the country to produce three volumes of books entitled The Children of Hongyan. Hongyan was the southern communist base in Chongqing during the anti-Japanese war between 1939 and 1946.
The first two volumes, published in late 2005, recorded the stories of how idealistic students risked their lives to help spread communist ideals and garner support for the underground party during the war under KMT rule between 1939 and 1949.
The third volume, which no mainland publisher was willing to handle because of its political sensitivity, focused on the tragic fates of dozens of underground party members who became targets of countless political movements under the new government in 1949. A shorter version, Hongyan Children’s Sin and Punishment, was published in Hong Kong in 2008.
“After the liberation [in 1949], these people whom the party had nurtured became the targets of political movements,” Song said ruefully.
Many of them simply did not understand why they, who endured torture and jailing by the KMT, could suddenly be viewed with suspicion by their own party. Many were banished to hard labour in the countryside after the anti-rightist movement in 1957 and persecuted relentlessly as “enemies of the people” in the Cultural Revolution.
Then, in the course of research for the book in 2004, Mu by chance came across whisperings that it was actually Mao Zedong’s official secret policy to persecute former underground members and purge them from the party in the new regime.
Such information would have been classified as top-secret at the time but Mu was nonetheless able to confirm the authenticity of such a policy from several retired senior officials, including liberal party veteran Du Runsheng, who remembered seeing a relevant document
“And history attested to this,” said Mu. “The anti-right-leaning campaign, the anti-rightist movement, the Cultural Revolution … these were not against individuals but against the intellectuals as a group.
“This [policy] was the source of all this and there was no escape for people like us.”
In the foreword to the Hong Kong edition, He describes the poignant heartbreak of elderly people like himself who suffered tremendous physical and mental abuse during political turmoil in the past few decades, and their grief at being rejected by the party they loved.
They helped overturn an autocratic old regime, “yet what we have built is completely different from the one we had fought for”, he said, quoting Soviet writer Nikolai Ostrovsky.
“They did not care about losing their lives in the struggle against dictatorship … yet after overturning the dictatorial regime, they found it replaced by a new system where power is still highly centralised,” he writes.
He and Song said they felt a particular sense of urgency to record their former comrades’ lives, not least because many were old and frail, but also because their stories are rarely mentioned in the official narratives of the Communist Party history, which attribute the victory against the KMT to the armed revolution which was led by Mao.
“The stories of these people from the bygone democratic movement cannot be buried … and what happened to them after the liberation [in 1949] should also be passed on to the current generation,” He said.
“Noting down what they said and did is a duty to history,” he said, noting that many of their interviewees had since died.
He and Song said the contribution of underground party members has been downplayed because many had been accused of being “traitors” for signing confessions in KMT jail to protect their communist identities from being revealed.
This was used in later political movements as evidence of their collaboration with the enemy.
Their stories are still suppressed in the party’s official history, they believe, because the authorities are wary of student movements and their calls for democracy. The elderly authors lament that many of China’s problems that they had wished to rectify in their youth have not changed, but they are not yet prepared to give up their struggle.
“The problem of one-party has not been resolved, nor has dictatorship … there has been no fundamental change and the authoritarian system is still here,” said Mu.
“Therefore we still have to pursue our youthful dreams, and that is the purpose of writing the books. We have to continue our struggle. We must not forget that history.”
Yet why did those who were not afraid of torture, jail or even death for the sake of democracy under the dictatorial KMT regime later put up with persecution from their own party? And why did the once-independent-thinking intellectuals swallow their dignity to bow under Mao’s authority?
“It’s probably like one’s loyalty towards the emperor in the past – it is just as foolish,” wrote Zhao Hongcai, an underground Communist who had been jailed by the KMT, in Hongyan Children’s Sin and Punishment.
In his personal story, Zhao told of an occasion when he was sent to hard labour in the countryside in the 1950s, a peasant questioned why a righteous person like himself would be persecuted by the party, and he surprised himself by instinctively defending the party, even though he knew he was wrongly accused of being a rightist.
“No, brother, I deserve it, you can’t blame the Communist Party!” he said.
His own words pained him because “I was only doing it so that this farmer … wouldn’t think badly of the party just because I was wronged.”
Zhao was sent to hard labour for years as a “rightist” after heeding Mao’s call for honest criticisms of the party government in the 1950s.
He was later beaten and jailed during the Cultural Revolution from 1966-1976, during which he survived by begging for eight years. He died of cancer in 2003.
Zhang Lifan , a historian formerly with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the Confucian culture of loyalty and filial piety to the emperor was still very much in the minds of the intellectuals who followed the party. Having invested their youth in the party they associated with freedom and democracy, they remained loyal even when the party had changed, he said.
“It was this traditional mind-set, as if they were courtiers serving the emperor,” he said.
In the minds of the intellectuals who dedicated their youth to the party, “Communist Party was the exemplification of democracy,” He Yanling said.
“But what they did not realise was … that it was impossible to use the instruments of war to build an idealistic society that is in line with humanity and justice,” he said.
Source: “Elderly couple still fighting for freedom after six decades”
In its report titled “Migrant workers feel like outsiders in mainland cities, says survey”, SCMP says, “Many workers who flock to mainland cities feel alienated and have low self-esteem, says survey
“Despite spending years working in mainland cities, migrant workers still feel like outsiders and say their only sense of happiness comes from their families, a Renmin University survey has found.
“They also see themselves as the bottom of society and feel alienated because they have no influence on their lives or society in general, the survey found, with young migrant workers even gloomier about their prospects.”
In Chapter 10 of my book “Tiananmen’s Tremendous Achievements”, I pointed out in late 2010 that China may collapse soon due to the danger of Maoism.
In 2011, the popularity of Bo Xilai’s sing-red campaign, the restoration of Maoism brought about by him and his despotism seemed to make what I fear soon become a reality. Fortunately, in March 2012, Bo fell into disgrace.
I personally experienced the disasters of the Great Famine and Cultural Revolution caused by Maoism. I was at a mature enough age and regarded myself as having seen much of the Chinese society and people when the Cultural Revolution began. Still I was amazed to see the power of Maoism in turning educated youngsters and even students at prestigious colleges, into mad mobs overnight.
I was puzzled that a nation with 4,000 years of civilization was turned overnight into a self-destructive nation that negated all its culture and past.
I studied Chinese history and philosophy and conducted deep soul searching. I found there were quite some such self-destructive periods in Chinese history when mobs led by despots brought chaos to the Chinese nation.
Usually some wise leaders assisted by talented scholars emerged in the periods, rescued the Chinese nation from chaos and soon brought prosperity to China. What the despots rallied mobs around them was egalitarianism that has been deeply rooted in Chinese culture for thousands of years.
I sum up such major facts in Chinese history into two formulae:
despot + mobs = chaos
wise leader + talented scholars = superpower
The Cultural Revolution was a quite extreme case of the first formula where the despot was a charismatic, well educated and talented one and had developed China’s popular egalitarianism into a popular theory–Maoism.
I point out in my book that due to the yawning rich-poor gap, Maoism remains influential in China and may be the cause of another cultural revolution. I said in my book:
“Most rural people the majority of the Chinese population, have received no or little education. About 200 million of them are now migrant workers in Chinese cities. They are paid much lower wages than native urban workers and they are not provided with the subsidized housing and other welfare that native urban people enjoy, but cannot afford urban housing without subsidy.
“Their children cannot compete with native urban people for education opportunities because they are mostly left behind in rural areas without their parents to take care of them. Rural education facilities are inferior to urban ones. A few of the children live in cities with their parents. There are few schools for them in the cities and those schools are not as well equipped or staffed as the schools for native urban people.
“Migrant workers are looked down by native urban people. In fact, they are now second-class citizens in Chinese cities. However, in the past, the inequality was mostly economic. The social status of peasants in China was always high. Now in addition to the widening rich-poor gap, there is the inequality in social status, which hurts migrant workers’ dignity most.”
The uneducated underdogs may be turned into mobs overnight if a charismatic, well-educated and talented despot like Mao emerges. Bo is such a despot and almost succeeded in rallying Maoists around him to cause trouble.
CCP leaders know well the danger and are carrying out a 5-year plan to build 37 million units of subsidized housing for urban and migrant workers. Some cities including Shanghai are making efforts to allow migrant workers’ children to not only receive education there but also take part in the matriculation examinations there so as to allow them to enjoy the greater opportunities to enter prestigious universities and colleges.
However, according to the survey reported by SCMP, “Compared with a similar survey last year, migrant workers’ living standards had improved but their sense of happiness from social involvement and social standing had dipped.” The danger of despot + mobs = chaos remains though the charismatic, well educated and talented despot Bo Xilai has fallen into disgrace.
For details of SCMP report, please visit its website at:
SCMP carries AFP report in Chengdu: “A group of museums commemorating China’s violent Cultural Revolution is opening up normally tightly controlled discussion of the chaotic era — but only up to a point.
“Businessman Fan Jianchuan has opened six museums about the ten year period beginning in 1966 when China’s then-leader Mao Zedong called on ordinary citizens to struggle against entrenched interest groups — including government officials.
“The 55-year-old says he’s filled six warehouses with artifacts from the period, when young people formed often violent “Red Guard” groups and those labelled as ‘capitalist roaders’ were publicly tortured at mass rallies.
“‘I see myself as an archaeologist of the Cultural Revolution,’ Fan, a former government official who made a fortune as a real estate developer, said in his museum office in the southwestern city of Chengdu.
“But what he calls ‘political sensitivity’ has meant that he keeps the vast majority of his collection hidden from view.
“‘What I have on display is barely five per cent of what I’ve collected,’ said Fan, who plans to open a seventh museum on the era next year.
“The ruling Communist Party keeps detailed discussion of the Cultural Revolution out of mainstream Chinese media, worried that an open debate could be used to justify unrest and also undermine its official history of a period it refers to as a ‘serious setback’ for the party.
“Mao Zedong set the period of lawlessness in motion to boost his authority, previously undermined by the disastrous effort to modernize China known as the ‘Great Leap Forward,’ which led to a famine that killed millions in the late 1950s.
“China has never stated estimates of how many died in the decade of political campaigns, which saw citizens turning on their neighbours and caused half a million deaths in 1967 alone, according to US historian Roderick MacFarquhar.
“The spectacular downfall this year of Bo Xilai — former party boss of the southwestern megacity of Chongqing, who is set to face trial for corruption and other crimes — has thrust the Cultural Revolution into the spotlight.
“Bo’s revival of ‘Red culture,’ which saw Maoist quotes sent to citizens’ mobile phones and massive ‘Red song’ concerts, along with his charismatic leadership style, reminded many party insiders of Mao’s excesses.
“China’s Premier Wen Jiabao — lawyers for whom this week rejected a New York Times report on the wealth of his family members — hit out at Bo’s administration in March, when he also called the period ‘a historical tragedy.’”
For details, please visit SCMP website at:
A prime-time television series Zhiqing intended to pay tribute to the Communist Party has drawn the ire and even disgust of some viewers for its perceived white-washing of a key part of the Cultural Revolution.
Zhiqing or Sent-down Youth, which began airing at prime time on the main China Central Television channel last month, centres on the lives of a group of young people sent to rural Heilongjiang province between 1966 and 1976.
While much of the story, written by renowned novelist Liang Xiao-sheng, has so far been devoted to the growing attachment of the main characters to the locals, their friendship under harsh conditions and awakenings of first love, the production has been criticised for glossing over how a discredited political ideology wasted the potential of an entire generation.
This writer gives a true story of those youngsters’ miserable life and hunger strike for returning home in Chapter 14 Disgraceful End of Mao’s Reeducation of Educated Youth–Educated Youth on Hunger Strike in his book Tiananmen’s Tremendous Achievements. Excerpts of the chapter will be given in a separate post.
According to report by Hong Kong media including SCMP, Radio Television Hong Kong and Singtao Daily, 16 elder Chinese Communist Party (CCP) members in Shaotong, Yunnan wrote an open letter to CCP Central Committee on May 4, calling for the removal of Zhou Yongkang from the Politburo Standing Committee and the Central Committee’s political and legislative affairs committee and investigation and punishment of him by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection. They also request the removal of Liu Yunshan from his post as the Director of CCP Propaganda Department and prevention of Liu from being selected into the CCP Politburo Standing Committee as they believed that Liu advocated Mao Zedong Thought.
The letter condemns Zhou for supporting Bo Xilai and praising his Chongqing model which undermined judicial independence and justice, gave rise to lots of wronged and false cases and spread terror to the whole society. Together, the two turned Chongqing into a base area for “copying the Cultural Revolution”, the letter says.
The release of the letter follows online news such as a coup in Beijing by Zhou Yongkang and Bo Xilai after Bo’s downfall, which were denied as rumors by CCP media. It seems the impact of the rumors persist and Britain’s Financial Times even said that Zhou retained his titles, but had handed over his office power and confessed his errors before other central leaders.
However, CCP’s official paper and news agency tried to dispel the rumors by publishing the full text of Zhou’s speech at aBeijinguniversity last week.
Yu Yongqing, who drafted the letter, said that they had received support from hundreds of people but also threat from some people who told them not to publish the open letter. In their letter, they support Premier Wen Jiabao’s suggestion on political structural reform and regard it as a vital measure to safeguard and enhance the achievements of the economic reform and solidifying CCP’s leadership.
The letter also denounces the Anti-rightist Campaign, Three Red Banners, Cultural Revolution and the June 4 Tiananmen Incident and holds that those events have brought shame to the CCP.
The letter was published by the news website www.canyu.org on May 9.
SCMP says, according to Yu, all the 16 people had been questioned by local police about the letter, who else had signed it and where they had acquired the information it contained.
Yu said that the interrogators said that they won’t punish the 16 people this time, but they cannot promise anything next time.
China’s official TV station CCTV runs a 4.5-minute long report in its prime time news today on Zhou Yongkang’s current Xinjiang inspection tour with lots of clips showing a smiling Zhou quite at ease. This writer believes the rumors are not based on facts, but the persisting impact of the rumors about Zhou in spite of official clarification shows official media’s lack of credibility among Chinese people.
The most interesting part in this item is that the letter denounces Tiananmen Massacre and says that it has brought shame to the Party, but the interrogators seemed to have disregarded such bold view on a very sensitive topic.
SCMP.com – Writer’s family seeks halt to manuscript sale
Zhou Zuoren’s grandson recognises document taken by Red Guards in Cultural Revolution and wants auction house to abandon weekend sale
First, like Mao, a super tyrant is popular due to his charisma and creativeness in developing a false but popular theory and propaganda to deceive people. However, those were only the tricks to cheat common people whose wisdom was far inferior to a super tyrant’s.
The real issue is how he is able to subdue the high officials and generals. Take Mao for example, how could he be so successful in purging those high officials and generals who opposed his campaigns for excessive growth rate and Cultural Revolution? In addition, how is he able to make the leaders of superpowers regard him as a real tiger when China was in fact a very poor and weak country and was in chaos during the Cultural Revolution?
In their memoirs, Lin Biao’s close assistants believed that China was lucky so that it was not attacked by another country when Chinese troops were in chaos in 1967. However, it was also because there were no talented statesmen in other countries at that time.
When I was unemployed in China during the Cultural Revolution, I discussed with some talented intellectuals of the new generation mentioned in my book the question of how Mao could be removed. They said that judging by what Mao had done, Mao was a master of Han Fei Tsu’s art for being an emperor.
During the Warring State Period (475-221 BC), the sovereign power in quite a few states was usurped by powerful courtiers. Han Fei-tzu, a Legalist master, wrote a book Han Fei-tzu to teach sovereigns of state the art for being an emperor. He taught sovereigns to govern his subjects by law and control his officials by awe, power, tricks and intrigues. He gives the advice in his book that a sovereign must keep a distance from everyone including his family members, relatives and officials and trust no one.
Qin Shihuang praised the book highly and adopted Han Fei-tzu’s ways to maintain solid control of his empire. He followed closely Han’s advices and trusted no one. He killed his natural father Lu Buwei when Lu grew too powerful and sent his son Prince Fusu far away from him to be in charge of border defense.
Mao also trusted no one. Both Liu Shaoqi and Lin Biao he purged were his closest friends.
Mao’s mastery of such a sophisticated art for being an emperor and in addition his charisma and creativeness in developing ideas and propaganda to make quite a few people his mad followers made it even more difficult to remove him unless he made a mistake.
Mao did make the mistake in removing Luo Ruiqing, Mao’s loyal four-star general who he appointed as PLA chief of general staff as a balancing force to prevent Lin Biao’s full control of the PLA. However, he made the mistake knowingly as he was in desperate need of Lin Biao’s support in carrying out his Cultural Revolution to purge Liu Shaoqi and his supporters. It is common sense for a sovereign that he shall never allow any one to have full control of his troops.
However, Mao was lucky that Lin was a Confucianist loyal to him and did not use the PLA to carry out a coup to remove Mao. The well-known plan to assassinate Mao was Lin’s son’s childish plan. If Lin, the well-known gifted marshal, had wanted to remove Mao before Mao played the trick to remove Lin, Mao would have been Lin’s prisoner.
Mao was not only a master of Han’s art for being an emperor, but also knew Chinese history well. Faced with Soviet threat of armed invasion when he had remove Lin Biao and could not control the PLA, he adopted Fan Sui’s well-known strategy of “allying with remote states while attacking neighboring ones” to obtain support fromAmerica. (Fan Sui was a well-known strategist who taught the sovereign of the State ofQinthat strategy and thus enabled Qin Shihuang to reunify China.)
My talented friends said that since Mao had cleverly avoided the consequence of his mistake, we could only wait for his death. They said that there was a serious succession problem in Han Fei-tzu’s art for being an emperor. As a sovereign is not close to any one and trusts no one, when he dies, there will be no powerful loyal courtiers to ensure smooth succession.
Qin Shihuang’s chosen successor Prince Fusu could not succeed him. So will Mao’s chosen successor, according to them.
From the above we can see that when a super tyrant has established his rule, due to his perfect mastery of Han Fee-tzu’s art for being emperor, good knowledge of all the accumulated strategies, tactics, tricks and intrigues in Chinese history, charisma and creativeness, he is invincible in his country.
Powerful other countries may remove him when he has not soundly established his power, but there is no superhero there to remove him in order to prevent the disasters he may bring to the world.
For example, when Hitler began his militarization of Germany in violation of the Treaty of Versailles, there was no superhero in Britain, France or any other country to take action to remove Hitler or even to build enough airplanes and tanks to counter German force. Hitler’s ambition to revenge was already very clear in his book “My Struggle”. Why werre world leaders so stupid?
When America was very clear of Bin Laden’s terrorist activities, why President Bush and his high officials repeatedly ignored the warning from the officials in charge of national security? Why was America unable to remove Bin Laden before 911?
In our present world, super tyrants are invincible while superhero is an endangered species.
A Chinese super tyrant is not only invincible but also popular.
He need not worry about the disasters he brings to Chinese people. Chinese people’s ability to endure hardship is almost limitless while their enthusiasm for the ideal for equality is boundlessly lofty. As long as a super tyrant is charismatic and creative and able to invent some theory about his lofty ideal, he may remain popular in spite of the disasters he has brought to Chinese people.
Mao Zedong had indeed brought famine to Chinese people and caused the death of tens of millions of people. Still, educated students in prestigious colleges as well as uneducated workers and peasants responded with frenzy to Mao’s call to carry out his Cultural Revolution to help Mao seize back power from Liu Shaoqi.
Schools had to be closed and teachers, persecuted. There would then be equality between those who hated schooling and became illiterate and those who excelled in schools and became successful when they had graduated.
Production was disrupted. Economy was on the verge of collapse. Lots of young people were unemployed. Almost everything was in short supply. Wages never increased… We don’t care.
We have our lofty ideal: “We would rather have socialist poverty than capitalist well-to-doness.” (a popular slogan during the Cultural Revolution)
Long live super tyrants!
In films and TV series, whenever a super tyrant emerges, there is a superhero of almost the same strength to prevent the tyrant from bringing disaster to the world. There must be fights between them and quite some setbacks encountered by the superhero, but in the end the super tyrant is defeated and disaster, prevented. Otherwise, there is nothing thrilling or marketable in the story.
In imagination, superheroes are popular and invincible while super tyrants are always unpopular losers.
In real life, usually there is no superhero to defeat or contain a super tyrant when a super tyrant has emerged. Often disasters indeed occur and the super tyrant is not denounced, removed or punished. On the contrary, he may remain popular among quite a few people.
For example, when Mao’s campaigns for unrealistic high growth rate had been carried out for less than a year, there had already been clear signs of serious trouble.
A high ranking official Peng Dehuai wrote quite an innocent private letter to Mao to point out to him the problem, but was severely punished. A few officials who dared to express similar views were punished too. Almost all the officials who previously held similar views, switched to joining Mao in denouncing Peng. Three million people of similar views were persecuted in a nationwide campaign against rightists soon afterward.
Mao’s disastrous campaigns were not stopped. Instead, he was allowed to carry on his campaigns and brought about a serious famine causing the death of 20 to 45 million people. There was a dire shortage of food in China for 3 years.
Mao was not condemned, removed or punished. He was only mildly criticized in a meeting attended by 7,000 officials at various levels. Seeing that he was losing power to Liu Shaoqi due to the mistakes, he made secret preparations to seize power back from Liu. However, Liu had too many supporters in the Party and government. In order to remove Liu, he had to make all Party and government organizations dysfunctional.
He first punished Marshal Lin Biao’s four enemies and allowed Lin to have full control of China’s troops to win full military support. He then deployed troops in and around Beijing. Then he mobilized students and rebels to deprive all party organizations and governments of their power. Liu Shaoqi, the president properly elected according to China’s constitution was arrested and persecuted to death without any due legal procedure. (The recently published memoirs of three of Lin Biao’s close assistants reveal some details of the power struggle.)
Mao’s power struggle brought China’s economy to the verge of collapse. Shortage of food and most articles of daily use occurred. People had to apply for coupons for the purchase of a bicycle, sewing machine or even a watch.
In wet markets, fish, chicken and beef almost disappeared while pork, eggs and even bean curd were rationed. The most common vegetable was in short supply. As a result, when Deng Xiaoping returned to power, the problem of vegetable supply (called basket problem as people used baskets to carry the vegetable they bought) became one of national priorities.
Mao was a genius in inventing a false theory popular among the people and making lots of students and workers his mad followers to help him in his power struggle. In addition, he was a gifted propagandist to deceive people. Even the media in Western democracies forgot Mao’s absurdness and despotism in giving rise to the famine and almost unanimously praised Mao as a great idealist that had carried out the Cultural Revolution to turn China into a Utopia.
Mao’s image as an idealist remains though Mao’s large-scale cruel persecution of intellectuals, dissidents, cadres and unfortunate innocent people are well-known now. The image even remains in the world while his image as a tyrant is not well accepted.
Well-known American diplomat Henry Kissinger wrote a long book to market Mao’s image and even praised Qin Shihuan, China’s No. 1 tyrant before Mao, in justifying his argument.
It was marvelous that when Liu Shaoqi and his supporters were conquered, Mao found Lin Biao who controlled the troops, became too powerful. He again successfully deprived Lin of his power and forced Lin to flee.
It was even more marvelous that after removal of Lin Biao, Mao’s ability to control the troops and maintain their unity became questionable. There was the possibility of the Soviet Union exploiting the opportunity to invade China. Under the threat of Soviet invasion, Mao successfully sought US support and prevented the invasion.
Mao was invincible perhaps because China is a country with over 2,000 years of absolute monarchy. However there was no superhero to prevent a super tyrant Bin Laden with much less resources from attacking the United States and killing lots of people.
Bin Laden has been killed now but if the hatred he disseminated against the West is not eliminated, there will continuously be people who regarded him as an Islamic hero and willing to carry out suicide attack against the West. We still need a superhero to eliminate the threat to prevent the emergence of another Bin Laden.
Will there be a superhero in America to defeat a new Bin Laden before he brings disaster to America?
For China the danger of the emergence of another Mao is imminent. Bo Xilai was a clear example. He conducted his campaign against organized crime in the same despotic way as Mao’s and he tried to bring back Maoism by his sing-red campaign.
Like Mao, he has charisma and knows how to invent theory and handle propaganda to please lots of people including Western media. He may become an invincible super tyrant if he rises to the top. Luckily, he has now been removed from his post as Chongqing Party leader. But what about the future emergence of such a super tyrant? There are deep-rooted factors for the emergence of such a super tyrant in Chinese popular culture.
The removal of Bo Xilai proves the wisdom of China’s new generation of talented intellectuals. The recently-adopted amendments of China’s criminal procedure law in fact openly denounce without naming Bo his contempt of due legal process, use of torture to extract confessions and wonton persecution of defense lawyers in his campaign against organized crime in Chongqing.
Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao’s stress on rule of law aims at substituting the rule of law for the rule of person to prevent reemergence of the Cultural Revolution.
During the long process of the amendments, Bo who looks clever did not seem to realize that he was targeted by the amendments. Perhaps he knew but did not care as he had the support of the powerful conservative faction formerly led by his father Bo Yibo.
Bo Yibo was in charge of preparing the lists of candidates for the Central Committee, Politburo, Secretariat and Politburo Standing Committee for the 13th Party Congress in 1987. In 1997, he helped Jiang Zemin by forcing Qiao Shi to retire. His speech at the end of the 15th Party Congress stressing Jiang Zemin’s status as the core of the collective leadership of the Party clearly showed that he was the kingmaker. He died in 2007, but his influence remains. Defeating a princeling with such a powerful father was very difficult.
It is interesting that almost all China watchers fail to see the obvious power struggle in the amendments of the law between the factions against the Cultural Revolution and the conservative faction, but focused on what protection the amendments would bring to dissidents who fight for multi-party democracy.
They do not understand the current political system in China. As mentioned in my previous post “The Party’s Tiananmen Syndrome”, for a dynasty, the state is its most valuable asset and all successors to throne have their top obligation not to lose it. So is the case for the cores of leadership of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) Dynasty. A multi-party democracy means the lost by the CCP Dynasty of its most valuable asset the state. How can we cherish the illusion that the CCP will provide any protection for such dissidents!
As for the emergence and characteristics of the CCP Dynasty, it’s too long for this post. Those who are interested can find my description in my book “Tiananmen’s Tremendous Achievements”.
Since Bo was a Maoist who upholds Maoism, he did not mind that what he did in his anti-organized crime campaign reminded people of Mao’s defying laws both human and divine in conducting the Cultural Revolution. He went further and launched a mass campaign of singing red songs to spread the propaganda for leftist values. Last year, he organized a 100,000-strong rally to sing revolutionary songs to celebrate the party’s 90th anniversary.
Mao’s image and the Party’s revolutionary past are so important for the legitimacy of the CCP Dynasty that according to Bo, six Politburo Standing Committee members – Wu Bangguo, Jia Qinglin, Li Changchun, Xi Jinping, He Guoqiang and Zhou Yongkang – had given his red culture campaign positive assessments.
Carried away by his success, Bo even kicked off a campaign that sent quotations from Mao to millions of mobile phone users. The talented intellectuals who have grabbed dominance of the Party and state had to take action to eliminate the revival of rule of person and the personality cult of Mao because those were the major elements of the Cultural Revolution. They secretly found traces of corruption in Bo and sowed discord between Bo and his close assistant Wang Lijun. What happened afterwards was known to all but the trick and intrigue behind the scene may perhaps remain unknown forever.
“Sound of ax and shadows in candle light, eternal mystery.” This is a well-known Chinese saying about palace coups originated from the abnormal death of Emperor Taizu of the Song Dynasty and his succession by his brother instead of his son. People heard sound of ax and saw shadows in candle light the night the emperor died and suspected that he was murdered by his brother, but as no one saw what really happened, it remains an eternal mystery.
However, people can infer from the abnormal death of Emperor Taizu’s sons after Taizu’s brother came to the throne that the story about the murder is believable.
Top-level power struggle in the party is kept strictly confidential. No wonder China watchers are frustrated in gathering information about what really happened in China.
However, we can still find clear signs for inference if we view events without bias and avoid being diverted by what we are obsessed with: the expectation of CCP’s amendment of law to allow people to overthrow the CCP Dynasty.