Freedom of Speech? Ha!

May 30, 2009

[First published July 6, 2005] Recently a professor returned from China and exclaimed about his freedom there. He lectured in several universities and said about it, “I could say anything I wanted.” This is typical of many Liberals and leftists who visit China and see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil, During the Cultural Revolution when there was blood shed across the land and maybe as many as 10,000,000 died, a member of the Sierra Club came through Hawaii and gave a speech. In it, he lauded what progress China had made and that there was much America could learn from them, especially on controlling population growth. Yes, kill a thousand here and another thousand there and it adds up.

China lovers have dominated discourse on China and since they have played a central role in communications and teaching, the public’s knowledge of the horrors of life under Mao and the massive megamurders of his communist regime, second only to Stalin’s [recent updating of the data has put Mao first], had never really reached public consciousness. Indeed, the general impression has been the communists made life better. No way. People in the later 1950s and 60s were worse off economically then they had been in the 1930s under the corrupt Nationalist regime, even though fascist it still allowed much more liberty than did the communists.

Anyway, here we have another Professor returning to extol his freedom of speech in China, and what do we soon thereafter find out. Bloggers and searchers on China’s internet are limited in what words they can use or search for. Words such as “freedom,” “democracy,” “human rights,” and “Taiwan independence” are forbidden. If one attempts to use them, or any other political speech, they get a popup which says “This message contains a banned expression, please delete this expression.”

Users will be fortunate if that is all that happens. Bloggers have been arrested, and now all Chinese websites and bloggers have had to register with the government (keep in mind that the government is the Communist Party) by the end of June, or be shut down.

The communists have created two planes of existence in China, the one hovering over the other. The bottom plane is the economic one, involving a more open and freer market system. Above it is the forbidden plane of political policy and activity run by the communist and military elite. It will be interesting to observe this duality, for by theory much accepted in political science, the lower plane with its growing middle class will gradually dissolve the upper one, like warm water undermining a glacier, or their will be a revolutionary outbreak that will shatter the upper plane.

What am I predicting? A “right wing” palace coup as took place in 1976 against the Gang of Four (including Mao’s widow Jiang Qing and her close associates) that eventually through Deng Xiaoping created the lower plane of economic activity we see now.

Remember. You read it here.

Link of Note

“MSN China Agrees to Ban ‘Freedom’ “ (6/14/05) By Tim Gray

Gray said:

Chinese bloggers are likely choosing their words a little more carefully this week after another American Internet behemoth gave in to Beijing’s restrictions regarding certain politically sensitive words.
Microsoft . . . agreed abide by censors banning the words “freedom” and “democracy” on its Chinese internet portal, MSN China, as well as other potentially politically charged subjects such as “Taiwan independence”, “human rights” and the “Dalai Lama.”

Microsoft is a business out to make money. And China with its huge mass of people, China has always been able to make Western businessmen forget their shame.
Democratic Peace Clock
Proof that More democratic
freedom = less war/violence

Rule by Decree Best for China?

April 22, 2009

click me^–>

[First published August 29, 2005] It is rare these days that I will be aghast at what I read in the press, but the article, “In China, democracy equals disaster,” by Gary Hogan in the Baltimore Sun (here) did it. At first I thought it was a parody and smiled as I read the first few paragraphs, but then it became all too clear that this was serious. For the rest of my reading I must have looked as though I was reading one of those beamed-up-to-an-alien starship stories. When I finished, I had to double-check my calendar to make sure indeed that I had not been transported by some quirk of nature back to the 1960s when this sort of article was popular.

Hogan begins by extolling the “Four Pests” campaign by Mao soon after the communists seized China. It was an attempt to eliminate sources of disease, such as flies and mosquitoes, by decreeing a daily quota to be killed and turned in. “And it worked,” says Hogan, and he uses this successful campaign as a model for the way China should be run. Oh yes, there was the “disastrous” Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution, “But rule by imperial decree was and is the best way to govern the planet’s largest nation. . . . For China must be controlled. Tightly. A centralized oligarchy is vital for this. Democracy would be disastrous for China, for the United States and for everyone.

He concludes this incredibly article this way:

Like it or not, communism – or to use the boilerplate popularized by Mr. Deng, a “socialist market economy” – with its matrix of failsafe controls strictly applied by the Beijing leadership elite, works for China. And a workable China is in the best interests of the United States.

There is no recognition that the eradication of pests by quota was coincident with the eradication of human beings by the millions and later by quota also. While he does recognize that the Great Leap Forward was disastrous, he seems not to see the human horror in it leading to the world’s greatest famine that may have killed 30-40 million Chinese. And while also recognizing the disaster that was the Cultural Revolution, he seems unaware of the human toll, which may have been as high as 10 million (my calculation is about 7 million). China’s Communist Party, the government of China, was and still is (with it being the greatest executioner in the world today) a killing machine. Living bodies in, corpses out.

Then Hogan seems content that Chinese have no freedom of speech, no freedom of religion, no freedom of association, no freedom to choose their leaders, no rule of law, no right to a fair trial. After all, they live in a “stable and predictable China, [which] is vastly preferable to the vagaries and vicissitudes of a 1.3 billion-strong democracy.”

I wish I could twitch my nose and as though a witch, whisk him off to live under this marvelously stable rule be decree.

Link of Note

China’s Bloody Century: Chapter 1: Introduction and Overview R.J. Rummel (1991)

I say:

Once control over all of China was won and consolidated, and the proper party machinery and instruments of control were generally in place, the communists launched numerous movements to systematically destroy the traditional Chinese social and political system and replace it with a totally socialist, top to bottom “dictatorship of the proletariat.” In the beginning their model was Stalin’s Soviet Union; Soviet advisors even helping to construct their own Gulag. Their principles were derived from Marxism-Leninism, as largely interpreted by Mao Tse-tung; their goals were to thoroughly transform China into a communist society. In this they were consistent with their beginnings, but they now had a whole country to work with, without the need to give tactical and strategic consideration to another force–the Nationalists or Japanese–seeking and capable of destroying them.

Now, beginning in 1950, carefully and nationally organized movement after movement rapidly followed each other: Land Reform, Suppressing Anti-communist Guerrillas, New Marriage system, Religious Reform, Democratic Reform, Suppressing Counterrevolutionaries, Anti-Rightist Struggle, Suppressing the “Five Black Categories,” etc. Each of these was a step towards the final communization of China; each was bloody. Self-consciously bloody. Witness what Mao himself had to say in a speech to party cadre in 1958: 

What’s so unusual about Emperor Shih Huang of the Chin Dynasty? He had buried alive 460 scholars only, but we have buried alive 46,000 scholars. In the course of our repression of counter-revolutionary elements, haven’t we put to death a number of the counter-revolutionary scholars? I had an argument with the democratic personages. They say we are behaving worse than Emperor Shih Huang of the Chin Dynasty. That’s definitely not correct. We are 100 times ahead of Emperor Shih of the Chin Dynasty in repression of counter-revolutionary scholars.

Only when these movements and especially the final, total collectivization of the peasants and “Great Leap Forward” destroyed the agricultural system, causing the world’s greatest recorded famine–[at least] 27,000,000 starved too death–did the communist begin to draw back from or slacken their drives. Shortly after this famine, in the mid-1960s, an intra-party civil war erupted between Mao Tse-tung and his followers, who wanted to continue the mass-based revolution, and a more moderate, pragmatically oriented faction. This “cultural revolution” probably cost near [10 million] lives. Mao won, but only temporarily. With his death soon after, the pragmatists and “capitalist roaders” regained power and launched China in a more open, economically experimental direction; even, until the Tianamen Square demonstrations and subsequent massacres of 1989, on a more liberal path.

So, overall, counting the democide, nondemocidal famine, and battle dead, the total cost of Chinese communism has been about 73 million lives. But, they did temporarily eradicate the flies and mosquitoes

China’s Cultural Revolution
A Docudrama

“Please Now, Rest In Peace:” A Docudrama on Mao’s China

April 8, 2009

[First published May 16, 2005] I was not at home when police arrested my husband, Peng. As I approached our home on my bicycle after shopping, I saw him, handcuffed, being pushed into one of two police cars. I knew immediately that I would probably never see him again.

All the scientists at the institute understood that arrest was a possibility. As scientists, they had interacted with foreigners, had read foreign publications, and therefore were always in danger of having such normal activities misunderstood or misinterpreted by the Red Guards. Peng and I had prepared, as had so many others, for such an eventuality.

I quickly pedaled my bicycle past the police cars and down a side street. I could hardly steer it, I was shaking so much. My feet shuddered off the pedals several times. My breath caught in my throat; my stomach knotted. The devastating thought, Peng, my poor, dear husband Peng, kept beating in my mind. I could barely see through the tears that stung my eyes.

I wonder now how I stayed upright on my bike and didn’t crash into the police cars or a tree. I knew if I did, the police would discover who I was and arrest me. The Red Guards often jailed whole families. I steered the wobbly bike around a corner, around another corner, and into some bushes. I dragged it behind the bushes and fell on the ground, beating the earth with my fists, and sobbed into the dirt for my husband and our lives, now totally destroyed.

Maybe an hour or two later, emotionally and physically exhausted, I used the bottom of my dress to clean by face and wipe my eyes. I ignored the food that had fallen out of the bike’s rear basket. I knew what I had to do.

I headed for my cousin’s small dim sum restaurant on Yunnan Lu Road. There, I hid my bicycle in the rear among the garbage cans. I entered through the back door.

My cousin, Ding Xiaoshuang, was in the kitchen preparing meals with another cook. He was too skinny to look like a cook—cooking made him lose all taste for food, he said. Lack of a good chief’s fat might cast suspicion on the quality of his food, but his friendly, outgoing nature compensated for that. About every fifteen minutes he toured the restaurant, asking customers how they were, what their children were doing, and how they liked his dim sum. He always suggested his custard tarts as a treat.

Ding looked at me without surprise when I came in the back door. This was one of the signals we had planned if Red Guards, soldiers, or some other faction arrested one or the other of us. Otherwise, I would have come in the front door of the restaurant.

No doubt my eyes were puffy and red. “Hello, cousin,” Ding said, as mindful of his cook working nearby as I was in hiding my face from him. Moving towards the stairs to his apartment above the restaurant, Ding added, “I have that present for Peng you wanted me to get. Come on upstairs and I’ll give it to you.”

I had so far not said a word. I followed Ding up the stairs. We moved towards the room at the front, where Ding’s cook and the waitresses hustling in and out of the kitchen would be least likely to hear us.

He put both his arms around me, and I quietly wept into his chest. He just held me tight and rubbed my back with one hand. He had never seen my tears before. He knew what would cause them. He didn’t hurry me, but he risked arousing his cook’s suspicion, so I knew I had to stop. I fought for control.

Peng and I had been married for only a year. I had met him at a conference at the institute, where I had served as a lab assistant. I had a degree in physics and had participated in experiments on magnetic propulsion, his chief area of research. I found Peng, with his tall, athletic build and his strong Manchurian features, handsome; he often attracted the stares and smiles of strangers when we ambled down the street—although he claimed they were admiring my willowy figure.

After we were married, we tried to reduce the risk of arrest. Only Peng worked at the institute, and we cleared our home of everything foreign. We concealed as much as possible from those at the institute the fact that we were married—as I mentioned, whole families were often arrested—and that both of us spoke and read English.

As I pulled back from my cousin and rubbed my eyes to clear them, Ding asked me in a subdued voice, “What do you want to do now? I haven’t touched what you and Peng prepared. Do you want to flee to Hong Kong?”

Wearily, I answered, “No. I first want to be sure about what happened to Peng.”

Ding had to lean forward to hear me. I tried to raise my voice but only increased its quaver. “This might only be a warning or harassing arrest, and he might be home within a week or so.” More firmly, I added, “I must find out. Can I hide here until I do?”

Ding hesitated. He took my hand and held it in both of his. “I think I can find out for you. You know my dim sum is famous,” he whispered proudly, “and I get many prison guards with their families coming here to eat. When one of them gave a party for his son’s graduation, I offered to cater it. There were over one hundred relatives, friends, and their families there. The food was sumptuous, I must admit, and I gave him a big cut on the cost. Now I can get my payment, yes?”

“How often does that guard eat here?”

“About once every one or two weeks, and I think he was here about a week ago.”

I didn’t have to think about that. I wanted to know. Absolutely. “Then I’ll wait. I’m leaving now, so that no one gets suspicious. I’ll come back after you close at . . . when, eleven?”

“Right.” He took a rag out of his back pocket and carefully wiped my face with it, and leaned over and kissed me on the forehead. “Be careful, now. Oh, here, take this package and make believe it’s the present I mentioned.”

I straightened up and went down the stairs first. At the bottom, I turned and yelled up with false cheer, “Thanks cousin, Peng will really like this.”

I headed for the waterfront on my bike, where I could bury myself and my heartbreak among the crowds.

Ding met me at the back door when I returned that night. “Peng’s dead,” he told me, reaching to hold me. “I’m sorry.”

I’d known it was coming. Now it was real. I staggered under the blow of his words, and sagged into his arms.

“You have to escape,” Ding continued. “Go to Hong Kong.”

Through his contacts in the Shanghai harbor market where he often bought fish for his restaurant, Ding knew a fishmonger named Wen who dealt with freighter captains that could be bribed. Much later, in his room, when I had stopped sobbing, he tore a small piece from a sheet of rice paper on his worktable and scribbled a message on it. He brought it back to me and, pressing it gently into my hand, said, “Give this to Wen. If the police stop you before you see him, you can easily swallow and digest it.”

I sought Wen first thing in the morning.

He was easy enough to find. He sold tuna filets at the market in the third stall nearest the dock. After looking over several filets, I asked Wen for one. When I paid him, I included the note. He took it with the money and placed it in the bottom of his moneybox, so that only he could read it. Closing the box, he told me to come back at 4:30, when he could give me a special deal on fish.

When I returned at the appointed time, a thin young boy stood with Wen. When Wen saw me approaching, he said something to the boy, who then moved from behind the fish table. As he brushed by me, he whispered, “Follow me.”

I followed him through the market crowd, out onto the Shanghai docks, and into Dadong Warehouse through a small side door. I found myself in a small room that smelled of long-dead fish and rotting wood. Rope, hooks, canvas, and bags of all descriptions were heaped in corners and against two walls. The place was so dirty that I halted and flinched back as I entered.

The boy spoke for the first time since we’d left the market. “Turn around and face the door and be still.” He studied me for a moment, eyes curious. He twitched his shoulders as though shrugging, turned, and swiftly disappeared out the door.

I could hear muffled sounds from the warehouse and occasional yells from dockworkers outside. An engine roared in the distance. I was beginning to worry about Wen setting me up to be kidnapped into the Chinese sex trade. This sometimes happened on the docks.

A door opened and closed on the other side of the room. Softly at first, then louder, I heard footsteps approaching behind me. As the person drew closer, I heard heavy breathing. The person stopped. The breathing got louder. I twitched my nose at the added stench.

I jumped at a sudden, unpleasant sound.

“Name?” a man’s voice rasped in the most awful Chinese. I thought I recognized a Portuguese accent.

“Gu . . . Gu Yaping,” I said, trying to keep my voice firm.

“Got jewel?” the voice grated.

“Yes.” In the emergency store that Ding had hidden for us, Peng and I had included most of our family jewels, especially several antique jade rings and miniature ivory statues left to us when our parents died. The items were worth thousands of dollars on the black market.

“Give me.”

I spun around and saw an older Caucasian man in a dark blue coat with two stripes on each sleeve. He wore an officer’s cap with salt-tarnished, fake gold braid. His face was barely visible, but its red complexion and his bulbous nose could not be missed.

“No,” I said, speaking pidgin Chinese, “you get when go on ship.”

The man asked, “You go Hong Kong?”


“You fuck on ship?”

I gasped. I felt my face get hot. I suddenly shivered in the warm room.

The man stared at my hips, trying to imagine me naked, I guessed. He then unhurriedly raised his eyes to my blouse, apparently judging my hidden breasts. I wore a shapeless white blouse and it hung loosely over my gray slacks. I had done my best to hide my femininity, not only out of traditional modesty in public, but so as not to invite any propositions in the docks, where many prostitutes worked their trade. But, I couldn’t hide everything.

I forced myself to stand still, stop trembling, and endure his lusty inspection. I had to. I was not dumb. I knew that, once aboard his ship, he could take my jewels, kill me, and throw my body in the Huangpu River as the ship traveled to the sea. All that would keep him interested in keeping me alive would be sex and the promise of more sex.

Now blushing at what I must do, I lowered my head a little and looked at him demurely out of the corner of my eye. I whispered, “Yes.”

“Do now. Take off clothes.”

Well, I thought, what choice do I have? This was not going to be a strip tease. I promptly set a personal speed record in taking off my clothes, and let them fall anywhere. I stood naked with a straight back, head high, looking into his eyes, willing my knees not to shake. He probed me with his eyes, hurriedly took off his coat, tossed it on the dirty floor, and motioned me to lie down on it.

As hasty as he was to gratify his lust, I was more anxious to get this over with. I dropped down and spread my legs, turning my head away from him. He did nothing more than pop the buttons on his trousers to spring his erection free and fall on top of me. Straightaway he tried to enter me, but I was too dry. It was painful. I motioned for him to stop. I might have had more success in halting the charge of a bull. I had to grab his shaft in one hand to get him to stop long enough for me to spit on the fingers of my other hand and moisten his penis as best I could. Then I guided him into me.

As he vigorously pumped back and forth, my body jerked in unison. It was nothing to me but forced physical exertion, but I knew to save my life I had to fake pleasure. I moaned and put my legs around his back and moved my hips in rhythm with his. Fortunately, the time he took to ejaculate was almost shorter than it took to pronounce the word. I had to rush to lower my legs, reach between them, and pull his quivering penis out. I slid down and managed to put it in my mouth a second before he came.

Damned if I’ll get pregnant, I thought, spitting everything out.

Afterwards, he lay on me and stroked my breasts. Finally, getting his breath, he murmured, “Good.”

I pitied this man’s frustrated girlfriends.

He got up, helped me to my feet, and again devoured my naked body with his eyes for a few minutes. Finally, he picked up his coat, shook the dirt off it, and motioned for me to get dressed. While watching me cover myself, he said, “Go to Longwu Port dock by Longwu Road. At 1 AM. You know?”

I felt sick and dirty. My tears seemed to have a will of their own. I struggled not to show them, but I felt one escape down the side of my face. “Yes,” I whispered.


“Yes, I be there,” I said, more loudly than I’d intended.

The man disappeared without another word.


When the Portuguese freighter Bartholomeu Dias docked in Hong Kong, among the many boxes unloaded was one labeled “Toys” in Chinese. Customs passed the box, as did a British inspector who beat on three sides of the box with his baton to make sure it was full and not hiding a refugee. A small truck picked up the box and took it to the bustling market on Tung Choi Street. There, two men unloaded the heavy box in front of a small women’s dress shop and lugged it through the front door and into the rear, where they dropped it on the floor with a loud thunk.

The owner of the shop, Wu Jin, a thin man in his thirties whose thick, black-framed glasses dominated his face, signed for the delivery, and then impatiently waited on two women in the shop. When they left, Wu closed and locked the front door, then rushed into the rear. He pried open the box, flung aside the toys and stuffed animals inside, and then saw me.

I was curled up in the box, my chin touching my knees. I turned my head slowly and looked up at him with what must have been weary, red-rimmed eyes. Suffering and fatigue had etched years onto my face, I’m sure. I whispered huskily, “Hello, third cousin. I see you got Ding’s message.”

I tried to get out of the container, but fell back. Wu bent over me and, with a grunt, lifted me out. I moaned and put a hand over my abused crotch as he carried me over to a Chinese low chest and set me down on it. I must have lost ten pounds.

Weakly bracing myself with my hands to stay upright, I looked over at the container and saw the label. “Toys from China,” I murmured. Yes, I thought, how appropriate. I had been a sex toy for half the ship. But I’m alive.

My hand trembled when I raised it to my lips. I kissed the palm, then tilted my head back and blew the kiss toward the ceiling. That’s for you, my sweetest. I made it and I will never forget you and what was done. Please now, rest in peace.

China’s Cultural Revolution–A Docudrama

December 23, 2008

[First published May 11, 2005] When Mao Tse-tung launched his so-called Cultural Revolution in China in 1966, it was nothing less than a bloody civil war between the Maoist faction and that of Liu Shao-chi, China’s president and Mao’s heir apparent, a battle between Mao’s revolutionary fervor and Liu’s moderate economic policies and relaxation of communist control.

Mao’s supporters mobilized secondary school kids, university students, and other young people into what the Maoists called the Red Guards. These youths beat up and killed people they thought to be bourgeois or counter-revolutionaries. They invaded homes at will, ransacking belongings while seeking proof of subversive activities. Just a shortwave radio, just some Western music, just foreign language publications, even photographs branded residents as traitors. This meant their death.” This terror, plus pitched battles as Red Guard fought Red Guard, “leftist” military units fought “leftist” military units, and “conservative” workers and peasants fought both killed upwards of 10,000,000 Chinese, a bloody toll that is about 18 times the 558,052 killed in the American Civil War, and even greater than the 9,000,000 killed in World War I.

Still, these are just indigestible statistics. Just numbers. So, as I did yesterday for Pakistan’s genocide in East Pakistan, maybe a little fictional story so typical of what happened to many will give some human meaning to the numbers.

As an aspiring chemist attending a university in Shanghai, Chen Ying was a very serious student. Although attractive, she shunned boys in favor of studying in her room — her solitary home except for classes and trips to the library or chemistry laboratory.

Her dedication to science made her suspect. While she attended classes, Red Guards invaded her room and rampaged through it looking for evidence incriminating her as anticommunist, pro-Western — a capitalist-roader. They found all they needed: physics and chemistry books in English , and her diary. The diary damned her; it contained critical remarks she’d foolishly written about the Communist Party.

Security police arrested Chen Ying as she left her chemistry class, and took her to the municipal jail. There, teenage Red Guards tortured her for the names of the accomplices aiding her in spying on the Communist Party.

A young girl, no more than sixteen years old, in a Red Guard uniform grunted as she forced the large butterfly screw on the thumb crusher another quarter turn. Chen Ying screamed hoarsely and jerked her head, spraying tears and mucus around her as tremors wracked her body. Slivers of bone glinted white in the ruin of her other thumb, which the Red Guard had already mashed into a bloody pulp.

Two boys held her down and took turns yelling at her, “Confess. You are a spy. Who do you spy for?”

Pain was her universe. She shuddered and quaked with it. It made her dizzy and nauseous. It had made her release her bowels and she squirmed in her own waste. Twice already she had vomited. One of the boys had cupped a rag in the vomit and smeared it over her face.

Between the shouted demands of the boys and her screams, she could hear bone cracking in her left thumb.

She struggled to remember that name, just that one name, that’s all she now desired. But the excruciating pain of the thumb crusher destroyed all Chen Ying’s thoughts, thwarted all memory.

Then the agony leveled off and receded slightly. Impossible agony now became unbearable pain as somehow her body fed her system enough endorphins. And just at the edge of her mind, almost within her grasp, it was there. She fought to pull that name through the agony.

A new burst of pain drove it away; desperate, she tried to change her focus to chemical formulas. She only could recall H2O — water. Agonizing seconds seemed minutes. She thought of CO2 for carbon dioxide, and bore down mentally. She battled the excruciating, burning pain. She struggled to imagine pushing the waves of pain aside with her hands to give her mind space to remember.

It was coming. There — the more complex formula for glucose. Then it almost escaped her in a new wave of pain. She caught it — C6H12O6.

Out of nowhere, the name she sought popped into her mind.

“Stop!” she screamed. “I will . . . confess.”

The girl at her side stopped turning the screw on the thumb crusher.

Gasping for breath, Chen Ying tried to get the name out before her pain submerged it. “Zhao Jin,” she whispered. Her voice broke on the last name. “I am . . . the . . . concubine of Zhao Jin.”

The girl looked shocked. Both boys leaned forward, staring at Chen Ying. One said, “Zhao Jin? You screw Zhao Jin?”

“Yes, I . . . spy . . . for him.” Now more strongly, she said, “That barrel of pig shit . . . said he would . . . protect me.”

“You lie,” the girl said, without conviction.

“Ask him. Why . . . would I lie? Nothing . . . can save me . . . I’ll soon die.”

The Red Guards said nothing more. The girl’s blood-flecked hands flew to unscrew the thumb crusher. She tossed it on a shelf with other torture instruments. Then she and the two boys left without a glance back.

Chen Ying waited for the inevitable. The pain lessened, and she was able to think. She imagined the results of her victory as she prepared herself for death.

A few minutes later, two uniformed policemen came in and lifted her by her arms. She screamed as the movement in her thumbs sent new waves of agony through her body. They force-marched her out to a small yard enclosed by high concrete walls.

One of the policemen forced her to her knees and pushed her head forward. The other took out his handgun and shot her in the back of the head.

There was the beginning of a smile on her face as it hit the dirt.

The next day, security officials invaded the home of Zhao Jin, the leader of the Maoist faction of Red Guards in Shanghai. A thorough search discovered a Japanese camera, an American radio, and a Western pornographic photograph. Security police arrested and tortured Zhao Jin, but he would not confess. Nonetheless, the items found in his home made Zhao Jin’s guilt clear. A week after police arrested him, they forced Zhao Jin to hang a large sign from his neck that proclaimed “I am a capitalist spy.” A cordon of security police led him to the Shanghai Workers’ Stadium. All along the way, people screamed at him and pelted him with stones, broken pieces of wood, and any other debris they could pick up. Finally, at the stadium, before a crowd numbering in the tens of thousands that the Maoists had gathered for this event, all beating the air with their little red Mao books and hollering revolutionary slogans, security police shot Zhao Jin to death.

Three days later, officials went to the home of Chen Ying’s mother. They told her that they had executed her daughter as a spy, and that the bullet was a waste of government money. The cost of the bullet, they said, was five fen — about three cents. Officials demanded she pay for the bullet the police had shot through the back of her daughter’s head.

Link of Note

”The Chinese Cultural Revolution: Autobiographical Accounts of a National Trauma” By Therese Hoffman

The best way to get a feel for the human meaning of a catastrophic event, such as the Cultural Revolution, is through autobiographies and refugee reports. Here is a good collection of the former, with context.

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“Now, Dearest, You Are Here (A Docudrama on Moa’s China)

December 21, 2008

[first published May 23, 2005] A Docudrama About Pol Pot’s Cambodian Communist Revolution. This is from Rummel” Book 1 alternative history Never Again Series (link here). Note that while the characters are fictitious, their experience is based on known facts and refugee reports. This is unbelievable enough without having to invent any of the horror.

April of 1975 was a happy day for Tor as she waited for Nguon beneath the torn awning on the ramshackle building where they lived.

The war was now over. After successive retreats, General Lon Nol could no longer even defend Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, against the Khmer Rouge guerrillas. The Cambodian Army had declared a cease-fire and laid down its arms. Soon afterward, the government conceded defeat and opened Phnom Penh to the Khmer Rouge and their leader, Pol Pot. An army of 68,000 guerrillas achieved victory for a communist party of 14,000 members against an army of about 200,000 men.

Naturally petite, Tor was skinny from lack of food–a common problem in Phnom Penh at that time. Her face was still round, though–“Just,” Nguon always told her, “as I like it.” She had kept her black hair cut short to keep it out of the way as she worked in her cousin’s small restaurant. On this day, she wore an orange blouse and a beige sarong.

Nguon was teaching, but she was sure he had heard the news about the great victory. No doubt he would cancel class and join her to welcome the guerrilla soldiers. They were supposed to arrive within the hour.

Tor heard people celebrating all around her. Many intellectuals and middle-class Cambodians, disgusted with the everyday corruption of the government, were willing to try anything that brought change, even communism. Tor was no less happy. She was already thinking about bringing her own mother from the northeast, where she had been trapped by the war.

There Nguon was, all smiles as he approached her in his common black shorts. He took her hands and, looking into her eyes, said, “My dearest one. During all these years of war we prayed to Buddha for peace, and now it’s here. The world will change today. What a great moment.”

They walked to Sisowath Quay down which they expected the major force of Khmer Rouge to come on their way to the Royal palace. Many people were out on the streets, laughing, talking, all waiting. Almost every other building had white material–clothes, sheets, or towels–hung from windows or poles.

A low rumble grew into the mechanical roar of trucks. Everyone stopped whatever they were doing and looked toward the approaching noise.

Down Sisowath Quay came the Khmer Rouge. Those soldiers in the vanguard rode in trucks and vehicles of all descriptions. Behind those, squads of guerrilla soldiers walked in single file down the center of the street. They carried an assortment of weapons. No guerrilla seemed older than eighteen. All wore black, pajama-like uniforms, sandals made from strips of tires and inner tubes, and black Chinese caps. Each soldier had wound a red-checkered headscarf around his cap or neck. None of them smiled or looked at the crowds of people lining the roads.

Some of the people cheered and clapped, but most just smiled and waited to see what the victorious guerrillas would do next.

After watching for a while, Tor commented, “They are so young. How could they defeat the army?”

“Well, they did,” Nguon responded. “Let’s go back to our place. I’ve seen enough.”

Tor and Nguon ambled back to their apartment climbed the worn steps and walked down the dim, unpainted hallway to their room. Although almost too excited to eat, they thought it best to get something into their stomachs before what surely would be an evening of celebration. As they ate some reheated rice and fruit and a little leftover ham Tor had saved from the restaurant, they discussed what they would do once the city settled down.

Shots echoed out on the street as they were cleaning up. Tor and Nguon rushed over to the small window and peered out. They saw people moving past their building, their faces creased with confusion. They were looking around and glancing often over their shoulders. Waving their guns and yelling, several Khmer Rouge soldiers pointed in the direction the people were moving.

Tor gasped. “What’s going on? I thought the war was over.”

“I don’t know,” Nguon replied. “Maybe some Lon Nol soldiers don’t want it to end. I’m going out to take a look as soon as we finish here.”

But when they finished cleaning up a few minutes later, the noise from the street had increased greatly. Babies cried; car horns blared; people yelled constantly. Nguon and Tor exchanged an anxious glance. They decided to take a look outside, but when they reached the street they couldn’t believe their eyes.

A mass of people of all descriptions, packed almost shoulder-to-shoulder, moved in the direction the soldiers indicated. The crowd eddied around the spots where the guerrilla soldiers stood yelling like a stream around boulders. Here and there, a crowded car, small truck, or motor scooter crawled along in the flow of humanity. Tor glimpsed several motorbikes loaded down with possessions.

“Move, move. Get out,” the Khmer Rouge soldiers shouted, waving their rifles.

Standing on their steps, Tor looked up the road in the direction all these people were coming from, and saw a body lying on the walkway two buildings down. Another body lay a little further away. Everyone in the crowd avoided them. The bodies created little eddies of their own in the stream of people.

A black-clad soldier with a red scarf around his neck rushed up, pointed an AK-47 at them, and screeched in the high, thin rasp of a teenage boy, “You must leave this evil place. Go now!”

He couldn’t be over fifteen years old, Tor thought.

Nguon didn’t understand. “Go where? Why?”

“Go! Go! Out of the city. Now!” he screamed at them, even louder.

Tor was scared now. Her voice trembled when she asked, “But can’t we get something to take with us? It will take just a–”

Nguon grabbed her hand and jerked her off the steps. He pulled Tor down the side of the crowded road. They were jostled and pushed by people and bumped by the heavy suitcases a few people carried. A short distance down the crowded walkway, Nguon, who was tall for a Cambodian, looked back. Not seeing any soldiers nearby, he pulled Tor into an alley with him.

“What are you doing?” she asked between gulps of air. She’d begun to shake.

“Don’t say anything,” Nguon urged, putting his finger on her lips.

Still gripping her hand, he pulled her with him as he cautiously rushed down the narrow, trash-filled alley. When he came to an intersecting alley, he peeked around the corner.

“No soldiers,” he murmured, and turned the corner with Tor still in tow. Several old people milled around in the alley, asking about all the noise and what was going on. Nguon ignored them.

Within minutes they reached the rear of their building without seeing any soldiers. Obviously, the soldiers were stretched thin in trying to cover all the alleys, roads, and buildings in Phnom Penh. He guessed, however, that the soldiers would began to search these buildings soon.

A small step at a time, Nguon entered the building through the rear entrance, peering down the hallway to make sure there were no soldiers inside. He motioned for Tor to follow him, and they rushed to their room. The hallway was deserted–others had also gone out to investigate the noise in the street.

Once they were inside, Nguon allowed his own fear to show. Looking at Tor, he said quickly, “I think that kid was going to shoot us. I don’t understand it, but I think we should prepare for the worst and get away before they search the building.”

“Where are they sending us?”

“I don’t know, but hurry now, let’s pack what we might need. Pack food, of course, and blankets, clothes, and the money we’ve hidden.”

Tor walked to the corner of the room and pulled out from under a glass topped rattan table a large, battered French suitcase that had been in her family for two generations.

“No, no,” Nguon said, stopping her. “That’s too clumsy. Just two bags, one for each of us, and not too hard to carry.”

Tor fetched her wicker shopping bag from their small closet and Nguon picked up the school bag he used to carry books and papers, and they began to fill them. Just in case they lost a bag, they split the rice and fruit between them, and each took a small bottle of drinking water. They also divided between them their family heirlooms and their other few valuables. Tor kissed her old gold locket containing a photograph of her mother and father, then tucked it into the side of her bag where she wouldn’t accidentally pull it out. She also threw in a box of tissues.

Nguon looked around, stood thinking for a moment, and chided himself, “I almost forgot.” He took an old Cambodian tourist brochure from a drawer in their one cabinet, tore out the map inside, and put it in his bag.

He stepped over to the sink they had used for everything from washing dishes to their bodies, picked up an old Japanese chef’s knife and handed it to Tor. “Wrap this in some of your old clothes and hide it in the bottom of your bag,” he told her. He picked up a six-inch French carving knife, wrapped it, and deposited it in his own bag.

“Okay, let’s . . . ” Nguon trailed off as they heard more shots.

Tor rushed over to look out the window. “No, they can’t be doing this!” she exclaimed.

Here and there in the stream of people, invalids were being pushed in wheelchairs. Others staggered along on crutches. People pushed hospital beds with their loved ones still in them. Tor saw an intravenous tube stuck in the arm of one of the invalids. The tube was connected to a bottle hanging from a pole being wheeled along beside the bed by a woman who was probably a relative.

“The soldiers must also be emptying the hospitals,” Nguon said. “We can’t do anything about it. Let’s go.”

They hurried down the hallway and paused on the stairs to look both ways before plunging into the moving mass of people.

More here

Books, articles, statistics

Love, Fear, And Death In Mao’s China

December 10, 2008

I urge those of you who are interested in China and what it is like to live under absolute communist totalitarianism to read any one of the many Chinese memoirs now coming out. Their virtue is that they provide feeling and insight into what it was like to live day-by-day under such a system. These memoirs get away from the cold abstractions of scholarly and journalistic books on China, and their sterile analyses and statistics. To understand Mao’s China, you have to take to heart and sense its reality for the people, and these memoirs help you do so.

The latest I’ve read is Son Of The Revolution by Liang Heng and his wife Judith Shapiro. It is not as well written as Jung Chang’s Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China, nor as historically far reaching, since her book covers the personal history of her family over three generations. But, Liang’s memoir is more detailed in its focus on his life and that of his mother and father. Moreover, unlike Chang’s parents and Chang herself, who were high Chinese Communist Party (CCP) cadre, Liang and his parents were nothing but ordinary small city dwellers. His father was a reporter for a local newspaper and his mother worked for the local police.

His parents suffered incredibly from the various attempts by the CCP to cleanse China of bad thinkers, rightists, spies, and capitalist roaders. Of most interest to me was Liang’s experience as a Red Guard during the Cultural Revolution. He lived in Changsha in central China, which was one of the more violent cities during this period. The Red Guards, nothing more than teenagers and even younger children, divided into enemy factions, each claiming to represent the true revolutionary spirit of Mao. Each had weapons handed out by the army or stolen from armories, including even cannon, machine guns, mortars, and so on. The Army and police were ordered to be neutral in the battles between factions, although they themselves often broke into warring groups.

Guns were everywhere, with young kids and even girls, strutting around with pistols tucked into their belts. The battle in the city was horrendous: bullets whizzing down the streets made it very dangerous for anyone to step outdoors. As happened throughout China, teachers, professors, high officials, and cadre were often beaten, tortured, and murdered as the Red Guards tried to purge the city of those whom they perceived as lacking proper support for the revolution, or who they saw as Mao’s enemies. Evidence of this could be owning a Western book, having distant relatives that escaped to Taiwan, a grandfather who had fought the communists during the civil war, a mother that let drop a criticism of the CCP, and so on.

Among the Red Guards and others involved, no matter the fighting faction, they fought for love of Mao. This is not a typo. It was for LOVE.

I have consistently pointed out how such totalitarian systems run on fear. That is well documented in this memoir. But there is something added, which was also there in Chung’s book and others, but I had not picked it up as I did here. That is love. Liang was born in 1954, just as the bloody “land Reform” campaign was completed, and before the establishment of the commune—the factorization of the peasant—and Great Leap Forward. From birth, therefore, Liang was subject to intensive and continuous daily brainwashing and the implantation of correct thought. Mao became everything: the “Red Sun,” the “Great Saving Star,” the “Great Helmsmen,” and the “Heart and Soul of China.” If I remember correctly, the second word he learned after that for his mother was Mao. The Chinese were taught that they owed everything good about their lives to him, and everything bad to the previous nationalist regime, American imperialism, rightists, or capitalist roaders. Hard as it is to believe, because of this “education” that he and other Chinese received, he loved Mao, as did Jung Chang, and as did everyone they knew. It was inconceivable to question or criticize him.

But with this love, there still was the constant fear. But not of Mao, since he was perceived, as they were taught, to have only their welfare and happiness in mind. But the fear was of the CCP cadre, of their classifying one as evil, or their accusing one of violating one of the plethora of rules that governed everyday life. The consequences could be horrendous: denial of ration tickets, being made to divorce one’s mate, being sent to the countryside, public denunciation, humiliation, lying confessions, arrest, torture, even execution. One had no protection against any of this, no media, no lawyers, no courts, and no constitution. Everyone was totally at the mercy of the communist cadre, even the cadre themselves were at the mercy of those higher up.

What a fantastic combination. Love for the man responsible for the daily horrors, while fearing the personal impact of these horrors. Of course, no one could conceive that these were Mao’s fault. It just had to be those bad people around him or lower down in the CCP.

A good review of the book by Xiaowei Zheng is here.

Links of Note

“‘20,000’ on death row worldwide”:

At least 1,770 executions took place last year in China, where a person could be sentenced and executed for non-violent crimes including tax fraud, embezzlement and drug offence….

“China’s military budget jumps 14%”:

China has said it will increase its military spending by 14.7% this year to 283.8bn yuan ($35.3bn ….)….China’s armed forces are the biggest in the world and have seen double-digit increases in military spending since the early 1990s…. Washington has several times accused China of understating its military budget. It said last year’s spend[ing] was not the $30bn stated but closer to $90bn.

“China’s role in genocide”:

At the United Nations last September, the Security Council passed Resolution 1564, threatening Sudan with oil sanctions unless it curbed the violence in Darfur. China immediately threatened to veto any move to actually impose sanctions, so the threat was rendered useless.

RJR: It has to do with Sudan’s oil.

“Feinstein insists U.S. not bound to protect Taiwan”:

In remarks certain to please visiting Chinese President Hu Jintao, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Thursday told a gathering of Chinese-American business and cultural leaders in San Francisco that the United States has no obligation to defend Taiwan if it provokes China into a military confrontation.”

RJR: If there is a hell for high officials that by their statements make war more likely, Feinstein is a strong candidate.

“Is the US asleep at the wheel?”:

US politicians and military officers think that Taiwan exists solely for the benefit of — or as a detriment to — US-China relations. This blissfully egocentric attitude has been the source of much confusion in cross-strait relations, and could lead Washington to make a major miscalculation jeopardizing its strategic position in the Western Pacific.

RJR: One problem is the near universal belief that Taiwan was before World War II part of China. It was not then or ever in the last century, nor did the treating ending the Japanese control of Taiwan (Formosa) give it to China. By treaty, its status is undetermined.

“Seeds of Fury”:

Protests are flaring across China’s countryside over everything from land seizures to corruption. In a nation of 900 million farmers, quelling this rising unrest may be Beijing’s greatest challenge…. By the central government’s own count, there were 87,000 “public-order disturbances” in 2005, up from 10,000 in 1994.

“Torture Exhibition:
Display of Crimes Against Conscience”
Not for the queasy.

“China’s Cultural Revolution — A Docudrama “

More Reviews of Chang and Halloway’s biography of Mao

November 26, 2008

[First published on November 22, 2005] On Chang and Halloway’s biography of Mao I wrote about yesterday, it is an educational experience to read the 38 reviews of the book on Some surely are by Mainland Chinese, and probably planted by the CCP. But those that are not show the depth of the Mao myth among Westerners and, many of them forgetting about Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Kim Jung Ill, and Saddam Hussein, the inability to believe that any ruler could be so evil. To give you a taste of this, I include one such one-star (the lowest rating) review below. It is not a parody:

This pure unadulterated piece of garbage is so unbelievably out-of-this-world in portraying the late Chinese Communist Leader as Lucifer incarnate becomes so so boring,and tedious, I (and along with other literary friends) had to just discontinue reading the book and pick something else to read far far more substantial. 

The author, who probably did not get a job in a Chinese take-away in London decided to write a book about Mao in connivance with her old demented husband (who probably married her out of pity and desperation when she was still a boat person) and the end result is a littany of lies whose main basis is her fertile imagination and hate for Chairman Mao. Their pens were already dipped in poison during conception of the book that one has to wonder why her literary sources ran a gamut of hundreds of pages that one can already write another book with it! 

The author’s style is extremely boring, filled with graphic descriptions of the “sufferings” and evilness of Mao , supremely exaggerated. And she blames the old man for the death of practically every Chinese individual (even those who died of natural causes or illnesses or poverty were included in her statistics.) It is sensationalistic from page 1. This person’s hate for Mao is so intense and personal, the book was written by someone with an axe to grind. 

The problem with some boat people is that when they have resources when the times comes, they seize the opportunity to write a book and lace it with personal agenda that they think they can claim fame from the foreign media.No way Jung chang! There’s an opening for a cleaning post in the Chinese Embassy, this job is more suitable for you! 

I myself is not a fan of Mao, I dont even know anything about him thats why I bought this book! However, Mao is nothing in this book except being described as a murderer and a devil. I’m so glad that this book is much disliked by many and I’m glad that a lot of Chinese people have spoken up and defended their old leader. 

Avoid this garbage! </blockquote>

Chang was not one of the “boat people,” that is, one of those who fled from Vietnam in boats during the 70s and 80s. She was born and raised in China, and as a young woman traveled on a fellowship to the reviewer’s home country of Britain, where she now lives with her husband and co-author. It would be interesting to be a fly on the wall were they to meet.

Go here for a favorable review in <i>Foreign Affairs</I> by Lucian Pye. More reviews are here.