Category: Opinion

Opinion letters
by Various Authors

The object is to provide a larger forum than can be possible via the newspaper opinion pages where a limit of 300 words precludes much thoughtful response.

Articles are numbered 1,2,3...etc.
Letters in response are labeled 1-a,a-b, ...etc.
1a China celebrates 50 Years of Communist rule.

Article #101 Please refer to it with e-mail letter.
then article
China Marks Communism Half Century

.c The Associated Press

BEIJING - It's just a YMCA meeting, Feng Lanrui recalls telling her parents when they asked what their 16-year-old daughter was whispering about with friends in her bedroom back in 1937.

The Y meeting was a cover. Feng, daughter of a minor official in China's Nationalist government, and her friends were talking about the urban underground communist movement, fired by a passion to save their country from Japanese invaders.

Far from Feng's comfortable city home, poor, teen-age cowherd Xia Jingcai joined Mao Tse-tung's Red Army on its 6,000-mile Long March from south China to the north, drawn by the communist force's recruiting slogan: ''Kill the rich to help the poor.''

China's communist revolution was born of urban intellectuals like Feng and nurtured by rural peasants like Xia. Behind today's patriotic fervor celebrating communism's triumph 50 years ago - on Oct. 1, 1949 - lie lives of tumult and dedication.

Feng, Xia and other veteran revolutionaries lived through the heady years of communism's early promise, famine and political persecution that killed millions. And then the capitalist reforms that have brought rapid development and improved living standards but also an epidemic of corruption and other social ills.

''I was a pretty strong-willed person. My parents gave us a lot of freedom and didn't mind much what we did,'' Mrs. Feng, now 79, said in an interview in her dim, high-ceilinged study, where glass-fronted bookcases are packed two books deep and the walls are decorated with calligraphy and a portrait of the late Premier Zhou Enlai.

Feng's independence offended strict traditional Chinese teachers and foreign Protestant missionary teachers alike and got her expelled from three schools. An uncle once imprisoned by the Nationalists gave her books from the Soviet Union. At a book group, she read articles about Chinese revolutionary leaders.

''At first we didn't understand it, but we knew it was secret. I hid it under my pillow,'' she said.

After Japan's full-scale invasion in 1937 forced the Red Army and the Nationalists into an uneasy alliance, Feng and her friends openly tried to rally support for the fight. At night at her home in the southwestern city of Chongqing, the Nationalists' wartime base, they printed communist propaganda.

Feng joined the Communist Party secretly in 1938 at age 17. Three times she evaded arrest once the Nationalist authorities learned she was a party member.

''The third time my comrades told me, 'Look, Zhou Enlai would negotiate for you if you were important, but you're not, so you have to get out,''' she said.

She was smuggled to Yan'an, Mao's base in the northern province of Shaanxi, in 1940. Feng spent nearly five years there studying, teaching and writing.

Long Marcher Xia arrived in the arid hills near Yan'an in 1935 amazed to be alive. Only about 8,000 of the 80,000 soldiers who set out with Mao on the trek were alive when it ended just over a year later. Of the 30 men who started with Xia from his part of southwestern Guizhou province, only one other made it.

Red Army soldiers retreating from the Nationalists subsisted on one meal a day, usually little more than pumpkins, coarse sorghum and red-hot peppers or grain seized from rural landlords. Even Mao and the other commanders slept on roughhewn wood beds covered with straw. Men fought with spears when they had no guns.

Many drowned crossing rivers, froze to death or suffered altitude sickness in snow-covered mountains, Xia remembers. Severely wounded men were often left behind.

''I never saw shoes. Just straw sandals,'' said Xia, a thin and vigorous man of 78 who lives in a retirement home for revolutionaries in Ji'an, in Jiangxi province in southern China.

Too young at 14 to be a soldier, he was a messenger, bugler and nurse's assistant. He was never seriously wounded, but once got so sick he fell behind. Luckily, he managed to catch up while his platoon took a break.

''The commander said, 'What's wrong with you? Here, grab this horse's tail and hang on.' He saved my life.''

While Xia later fought the Japanese and then the Nationalists, Feng worked in communist-held areas as a writer. She left Yan'an on foot with friends, singing and chatting as they walked 20 miles a day for a month to the communist-controlled city of Zhangjiakou. She married Li Chang, a Yan'an alumnus and soldier, but saw him only a few times during the civil war years.

Feng was setting up a youth newspaper in Shanghai when Mao stood atop Beijing's Gate of Heavenly Peace to announce the founding of communist China on Oct. 1, 1949.

''I was 29, not old and not young,'' she said. ''We didn't think then that establishing a country would be all that difficult. We were so simple then.''

After working as a reporter and editor, in the mid-1950s Feng studied economics at the Communist Party School in Beijing and researched Marxist theory.

Like many veteran communists, she and her husband suffered during the Cultural Revolution, when the aging Mao pitted various factions against each other in vicious political campaigns.

Feng had been the only person to speak up for a colleague who was condemned in the anti-rightist campaign of the late 1950s, which targeted those who had dared to criticize Mao. That was used against her during the Cultural Revolution, the decade-long upheaval that began in 1966 when Mao stirred up zealous youths to attack teachers, government officials, intellectuals, religious believers and those associated with traditional culture.

Feng's husband was a government official in charge of foreign liaison. He and his wife suffered for his association with high-ranking officials who were purged.

''We were accused of many things: Being 'capitalist roaders,' opposing socialism and Mao and the Communist Party,'' she said.

Radical Red Guards ransacked their house six times, hauling away research materials and mementos. She was sent to a work camp for officials. Her husband did hard labor in prison. Their 3-year-old son went to a baby-sitter in another province. Three older children and Feng's little sister, whom she was raising, followed millions of other youths to the countryside.

''We always believed it would all someday be resolved. If you got angry, you would be angry to death,'' Feng said.

After Mao died in 1976, Feng and Li were among the many whose names were cleared. They went to work at the government-run Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. She focused on economics and was one of the first to warn about unemployment - formerly a taboo topic.

Xia also suffered during the Cultural Revolution, despite his Red Army background. He had just quit the army and been named director of a paper mill when the Cultural Revolution began. Radicals jeered at him in public and forced him to wear a sign around his neck branding him an opponent of the revolution.

Xia allows that the Cultural Revolution was ''a little excessive,'' but says that at the time he felt he was being tested.

''For the Chinese revolution to succeed it has to go through struggles,'' he said.

He still hopes for an egalitarian China and has no complaints about living simply.

After more than 20 years of successful capitalist-style reforms, few Chinese still share Mao's vision of a communist utopia. The gap between rich and poor is widening. Today's goals are to make a decent living, get ahead, get rich.

Feng worries about the ill effects of modernization: corruption, income disparities and inadequate social welfare. But after 61 years in the Communist Party, she remains optimistic.

''There's always change,'' she said. ''History always develops.''

Return to Issue in Depth: Communist China at 50

The events that have taken place in the last fifty years since Mao
Zedong declared the People's Republic of China on October 1, 1949 have
not only shaped that country's social, political and physical
landscapes, they also serve to illustrate the impact China has had and
still has on the world stage. Over the years, The New York Times has
chronicled these important events, and by using past articles, the
following timeline will attempt to provide a proper historical


Post-Maoist China Gropes For New Faith
Share Trader: 'I Believe in the Power of Money. That's It'

By Jeremy Page

BEIJING - Liu Baoqin recalls choking back tears of joy as he stood in Tiananmen Square 50 years ago to hear Mao Zedong proclaim the birth of the People's Republic of China.

Part of an elite troop of People's Liberation Army guards assigned to protect the Chairman on that grey October 1 afternoon, 70-year-old Liu can still picture the sea of flags and ecstatic faces.

''Everybody was shouting 'Long live Chairman Mao! Long live the Communist Party!'. Some couldn't shout any more and just wept and jumped up and down,'' he said as his eyes misted over.

Half a century on, that kind of socialist fervor will be in short supply.

Capitalist-style economic reforms have stacked Chinese supermarket shelves with consumer goods and strewn cities with skyscrapers, but left a huge gap where there was once an unquestioning belief in the Communist Party that founded the New China.

''Communism? Ha!'' said Zhang Weixun, 28, a share trader sitting in a Beijing restaurant. ''Do I look like a Communist Party member?''

''I believe in the power of money. That's it.''


While Zhang puts his faith in China's fickle stock markets,
others are turning to a colourful cocktail of religions, superstitions and cults to fill the spiritual void.

And, as the ranks of believers swell, so do the fears of the atheist Communist Party that its authority will be undermined.

Communist leaders were jolted in April when more than 10,000 adherents of the Falun Gong spiritual movement staged a bold demonstration right outside their office and residential compound in central Beijing to demand official recognition.

The group of aging practitioners of the ancient Chinese arts of meditation and calisthenics was suddenly deemed a threat to the survival of the Communist state, and the movement was swiftly banned.

Authorities offered a reward for the arrest of the group's self-exiled leader, Li Hongzhi. Fifty other Falun Gong leaders were detained and are now awaiting trial. Hundreds of ordinary members have been rounded up.


Falun Gong, which claims 100 million members, is just one symptom of China's spiritual malaise.

Peddlers of faith find their easiest recruits among the middle-aged, who feel betrayed by the retreat of socialism; and the young, alienated by the Communist Party's outdated slogans -- and from their parents, who grew up in a distant world of ''class struggle'' and political campaigns.

''I think there is a real crisis of faith in China,'' said Li Jianze, a 39-year-old artist in Beijing. ''People are looking for something to hold on to.''

For Wu's generation, which grew up in the chaotic years of the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution, the material gains of the last two decades are tempered by bitterness over a wasted youth.

''As a young girl, I thought Communism was the most beautiful thing. It was like a religion to me,'' she said.

''Then, I guess in the 70s, I became disillusioned. It still makes me angry that I spent so much time studying Marxism, Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought. What use is it now?''

Resentment is fuelled by reforms to the state welfare system that will deny Wu's generation the free medical care, schooling and cheap housing the state once guaranteed.


In a spiritual void, Christianity is flourishing.

Outside Beijing's officially approved Chongwenmen Protestant Church, two young men said an American teacher at their university had transformed their lives by introducing them to Bible studies and Christian prayer.

''Before I turned to Christ two years ago, I just used to go out with my friends and waste time,'' said Peter Li, 24. ''My parents used to scold me, but they didn't understand.''

China says it has 10 million Protestants and four million members of the officially sanctioned Chinese Catholic church, but possibly double that number meet regularly for unofficial prayer services.

''We didn't learn anything in school or at home about spiritual things,'' said Zhu Wenjie, 22. ''God is now my guide.''


None of this deters the Communist Youth League, which still plods along with Marxist theory classes and urges its 68.5 million members to foster a spirit of ''revolutionary self-sacrifice.''

''There is a minority of young people who believe in religion,'' said Liu Kewei, vice director of the Youth League's publicity department. ''Our policy is not to support them.

''Our job is to teach young people they can realise their value by contributing to the construction of the nation.''

Indeed, appeals to patriotism may be the Party's best hope of holding the attention of young people distracted by Hollywood movies, the Internet and Taiwan pop songs.

For Liu, the violent protests that erupted outside the U.S. embassy in Beijing after NATO's May bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade are a sign of hope.

''When our country is threatened, young people demonstrate that their sense of patriotism and socialism is still very strong,'' he said.


As tanks and trucks carrying missiles trundle past Beijing's Gate of Heavenly Peace on October 1, there will be genuine emotion among those who remember the day Mao declared that ''the Chinese people have stood up.''

''These celebrations will be even more moving than in 1949 because of everything we have gone through,'' said Jia Xulin, 69, who will be in the giant parade involving 500,000 people.

''Our lives were inextricably linked with the life of the country,'' he said. ''When the country suffered, we suffered. Now that it prospers, we prosper.''

Younger generations facing growing unemployment, a slowing economy, and an uncertain future, may have less cause to celebrate.

''Marx said religion is the opium of the masses,'' said Li, the artist. ''But people need that opium now, otherwise life in China can be unbearable.''

Letter #a1

Readers of the reproduced articles found here should notice and make several observations about what the stories report and fail to notice:

First, the article “China Marks Communism Half Century” By RENEE SCHOOF.c The Associated Press

BEIJING - It's just a YMCA meeting, Feng Lanrui recalls telling her parents when they asked what their 16-year-old daughter was whispering about with friends in her bedroom back in 1937.....”

This article is a fine representation of the agony, dedication and determination of several of the original intellectuals and peasants that survived not only the great struggle to destroy Chiang Kai Shek in his effort to build a unified China, but also managed to survive the communist revolution’s automatic tendency to self-destruct and kill its own as well as the ignorant masses.

Unfortunately, the author shows little awareness of these facts or that we can only muster pity for these communist heroines who have never figured out that the price paid in terms of human freedom, dignity, safety, and opportunity has been a lot larger than the meager benefits rendered by the stealing of wealth for redistribution and/or the appointment of slaves of the state to do whatever the infallible leaders decree.

Post-Maoist China Gropes For New Faith
Share Trader: 'I Believe in the Power of Money. That's It'

By Jeremy Page

BEIJING - Liu Baoqin recalls choking back tears of joy as he stood in Tiananmen Square 50 years ago to hear Mao Zedong proclaim the birth of the People's Republic of...

This writer does a good job of exposing the continuing failure of the Chinese communist leaders to understand that their Godless state can embrace only a little of the free enterprise tools of capitalism to feed the people and build consumer goods that work and are affordable vs those of state run enterprise that are shoddy, expensive and not wanted, but built by workers that don’t have to perform as long as they are paid with tax money.

“You Can’t Escape God”, found on this site needs to be translated into Chinese!

Richard Tryon 10-1-99

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