According to Xi Jinping, “One cannot negate the historical period before the reform and opening-up by the historical period after the reform and opening-up, nor can one negate the historical period after the reform and opening-up by the historical period before the reform and opening-up.” However, that recently changed in “A Brief History of the Communist Party of China,” published in February this year, which combines the Cultural Revolution with the first 17 years of Mao’s regime. “The 27 years between the founding of New China and the end of the Cultural Revolution were the 27 years in which the Party led people from all ethnic groups across the country to work hard, to strive for improvement, and to proactively seek ways to accomplish great achievements in socialist revolution and construction.” The denial of the Cultural Revolution and the vindication of Mao’s wrongdoings have been the hallmarks of reform and opening up. Chinese writer and activist, Bao Tong, once said, “Reform is the correction of mistakes, the correction of Mao Zedong’s mistakes.” Yet, just like playing mahjong, the table of tiles has been single-handedly shoved to the center of the table and reshuffled. Can this not cause strong reactions from the public?
In the intense political atmosphere of the party’s centennial, some people are feeling overwhelmed while others are exhilarated. Tao Siliang, the daughter of Tao Chu, who was once No. 3 in the Party during the Cultural Revolution but later attacked by Mao Zedong and left for dead, has mixed emotions. She changed her career from medicine to politics in the late 1980s, and became the deputy director of the Sixth Bureau of the United Front Work Department (the Bureau of Intellectuals outside the Party). She had paid a visit to neo-Confucian philosopher Liang Shuming with a modest gift. She had used her 20 years of professional experience as a doctor to “counsel” Fang Lizhi, a Chinese human rights activist who was wild and untamed, to try to change his position. In February this year, she stayed in Hainan and wrote a reminiscence article, which immediately overshadowed prominent neo-Maoist, Professor Zhang Hongliang’s praise of the centennial “Brief History.”
The article, titled “Meet with a smile in Meizhou,” recounts that in May 2007, the children of Ye Jianying, former Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, invited more than 130 descendants of the founding marshals and generals, and former provincial and ministerial officials to Ye’s hometown in Meizhou for his 110th birth anniversary. Tao Siliang called it “an unprecedented gala,” and one of the marshal’s sons said, “Only the Ye family could have pulled it off, no one else can!”
Ye Jianying was a high-profile figure who was not attacked by Mao during the Cultural Revolution. After Mao’s death, Ye helped Hua Guofeng to bring down the “Gang of Four,” thereby changing Chinese history. Tao Siliang described the Ye family as “a thriving family with several hundred members spanning five generations. Ye Xuanping and Zou Jiahua were high-ranking state leaders; Ye Xuanning was a divine dragon, whom even former president Jiang Zemin jokingly called ‘boss’; Ye Xiangzhen is a renowned film director; Ye Xuanji and Ye Xuanlian...they are all extraordinary.”
Then there were the visitors: “Mao Yuanxin came, Liu Yuan, Deng Lin and I represented ‘Liu Deng Tao,’ and the children of ‘Peng Luo Lu Yang’ also attended. Lin Xiaolin came (Lin Doudou was also invited but did not come). Peng Dehuai’s niece came. The sons of Marshal Liu Bocheng, General Su Yu, and Commander Xiao Ke, who were wrongly accused of “dogmatism” in 1958, also came. The Hu, Zhao and Hua families were invited and had sent their descendants. Ye Xiangzhen’s ex-husband, the famous virtuoso pianist Liu Shikun, was also invited.” The princelings of the Chinese Communist Party have more or less come, except for the children of the Northwest Gang who either had no time to spare, or were obstructed by the mountains. The children of Hu and Wen were missing, because they do not belong to the red second generation and can only be called the “official second generation.”
Almost all of the guests knew each other, either from school or from family and friends. The one theme of the gathering was to let go of the grudges from the Cultural Revolution with a smile.
At the sight of this showdown, all Chinese people, whether they are bureaucrats, businessmen, those who make a living with knives or guns, scholars and celebrities, or wage earners, will feel that they are mere “cannon fodder.”
After Tao Siliang posted the article among her WeChat circle of friends, the response was tremendous, but of course her circle of friends includes very few ordinary people and the general public saw it only through re-posts. Zhang Jiujiu, daughter of Zhang Dingcheng, fired back criticizing Tao’s perspective: The aim of communism is to eliminate things like emperors and princesses. The “a smile article” is precisely a princess perspective, enclosing oneself in a clique of “red aristocrats” to feast on oneself. On October 1, 1966, Zhang Jiujiu went to Tiananmen Square and denounced that the People’s Liberation Army had fallen behind in the Cultural Revolution to the face of Mao Zedong. This put pressure on Marshal Lin Biao who promptly issued the “Urgent Directive about the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in Military Academies,” a directive that all military academies and institutes were to dismiss their classes and allow their students to become fully involved in the Cultural Revolution. This document was the first time that a policy was given to support the rebel faction, and the author was the main force of the rebel faction led by the leader of the struggle. Zhang Jiujiu’s post has unveiled ancient cultural revolutionary underpinnings.
Both Ma Xiaoli and Luo Diandian, who advocated reflection on the Cultural Revolution, sent private messages to Tao Siliang. Ma Xiaoli, a former colleague of Tao Siliang in the United Front Work Department, had divorced Lin Yanzhi, son of Lin Feng, because of their different stance on the 1989 Democracy Movement. She thinks that some people will always live in the most glorious time of their lives and will never seriously self-reflect! If Mao Yuanxin and Li Na could take the lead to reflect a little, it would set a good example for the Maoists in the general public. They are eternally stuck in the lust of imperial power. She also criticized Tao Siliang: Liang Liang’s confusion and inner entanglements were all laid out in the open. She always wants to bury the hatchet and reconcile the grudges and grievances of the red second generations by taking on the identity of a bricklayer. As a matter of fact, because of their unique experiences before and after the Cultural Revolution, they have long been divided, each on one end of the spectrum.
Luo Diandian, who had reached out to seven generals in 1989 to write a joint letter against opening fire, posted on WeChat, arguing that reflection on the previous generation should go back to 1921, which is exactly one hundred years this year. Friends forwarded me the reply from Tao Siliang to Ma Xiaoli, in which she said, “I have nothing better to do than to eat melon seeds. My right-wing friends are determined to topple a wall, and I am a wall repairer. This is probably the root of my “red second generation” complex expressed in my post. Yet to say that I am “privileged” and “superior” is not in line with my values, otherwise I would not have been doing charity work for 30 years. I didn’t expect that by posting this article, I’d be bruised and battered. In addition to criticisms from the right, there were also abuses from the left, saying that I was “consistently anti-M” and that “Mao’s sacrifice is a great loss to the Chinese people! Otherwise, none of you bastard grandchildren would never have been allowed to behave like this!”
Under attack from the left and right, Tao Siliang deleted her own article which not only caused a storm among the red second generations, but also flooded the internet with curses. You can imagine how heavy a storm is being stirred up as a result of “A Brief History” that credits Mao Zedong’s 10-year Cultural Revolution to his merits. Though what has emerged may just be the trigger to a fire, the will of the people cannot be desecrated!
(Lui Yue, veteran Chinese journalist)
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