This is the difficult and controversial Blog I have ever had to write. It will be considered heresy by some in America and treason by others, if it is understood at all by our undereducated public that obtains its information from Cable TV which thought that Whitney Houston’s death was worth covering non-stop for 10 days. It will also incur the attention if not the ire of the censors in China, as certain of the topics I raise in this Post are still somewhat taboo.
From an American point of view, I was also raised (as a result of the information provided in the press and taught in the school, with a undeserved fear and generalization of all Communism. Some of that was warranted, for indeed Stalin, cloaking his authoritative and brutal regime in the name of Communism, was nothing more than an murdering dictator. Possessing nuclear weapons, there was much indeed to fear and loathe from a Stalinist Russia.
But Communist China was not the same as Communist Russia, not politically, not spiritually, not strategically, and not culturally. Our conservative Republican President Richard Nixon recognized this. The Chinese broke with Russia a half century ago, and until Russia’s demise, considered them an enemy. They even specifically differentiated their brand of “communism” as “Chinese Socialism” or “Communism with Chinese Characteristics” in an deliberate effort to differentiate themselves from Russian Communism. This relates to the way they govern(ed) their respective countries? They also have radically different histories and cultures, including different circumstances by which each country’s Communist Party came to power. So how can we paint them with the same broad stroke or condemn them as being the same? More evidence is apparent when considering the increasing strength of China and her Party compared with the disintegration of the CCCP and the virtual dissolution of the Russian Communist Party. Many attribute the later to the exposure of the west and eventual ability to travel to the West, from which few Russians return. Yet the Chinese are generally free to travel abroad, including to westernized and so called “free” Hong Kong, and China is absolutely westernized and modernized, to an extent few Americans want to comprehend.
But while Americans have been forced to recognize the People’s Republic of China for military (strategic) reasons and for economic reasons, the have declined to do so on political reasons, (meaning on the basis of the moral authority of the leadership of the Communist Party of the People's Republic of China). It is time to do so now. Actually, the time past a long time ago, and our support of Taiwan and Chang Kai-shek’s brutal dictatorial regime was a moral disgrace and economic waste.
[Especially in this election year] it is also time for an introspection of the flaws in America's "Capitalism" and “Two party theory of "democracy" which has, at best, become paralyzed, and at worst, has been come more of an illusion for Americans then an actual "American Dream." Comparing America and her political system critically, along with a critical analysis of China’s Communist Party will help Americans [at what I believe to be a time of social, political, and economic crisis], to have a chance of saving ourselves instead of falling like so many great nations before us [like the Romans, the ancient Chinese, the list is endless]. It will also help us understand the world we live in, and the mistakes we made, and thus help guide our future foreign relations with others. Finally, although the People’s Republic of China has its seat on the Security Council, and although we borrow a substantial portion of our budget deficit from them, they still don’t have the respect and trust they deserve. China is and was a very advanced country, socially and culturally, which has always valued invention and innovation, the rule of law, education and hard work, and in fact shares many many of the values we once had and seemed to have recently lost. I have spent much of my time in China and have found the people to be at least as kind, generous, civilized, cultured, educated (again the list goes on and on) as Americans, if not more. If China is different, it is because of her lack of natural resources and tortured history of foreign intervention and exploitation which caused her people to suffer tremendous injustice and poverty which resulted and necessitated the Chinese Revolution and the supremacy of her Communist Party.
That is why the incredible story of the "Search for the Soul of Lin Zhou" is telling, interesting, and important. It is a compelling story of China at its worst. But like all facts, they need to be put in context, both temporal and relative. In fact, as I have learned, there are usually two valid ways of interpreting the same “set of facts.” For if we can reconcile the tragic story of Lin Zhou with a complete understanding of the moral authority of the Communist Party's governance in China, if we can understand China at her worst, then we can see China at her best, and China as she really is. China is a dynamic country where politics and economics are working very well, while America has become a country where both are failing, and failing fast.
Her story also spans much of the period in which China was at her worst, and none of the periods in which China was at her best. Lin Zhou was not alive during the time of Sun Yat-Sen (or the imperial period prior to his revolution). She was not around to make the heroic “Long March” or to fight the Japanese during World War II. She was not alive to benefit from the reforms of Deng Xiaoping, or during the modern economic prosperity, westernization, and individual freedom existent in modern China. She was around from the period of necessary “land distribution” almost through the dark period of the Cultural Revolution” and suffered most during the dark periods of the Anti-Rightist Campaign and also the disastrous “Great Leap Forward.” Unfortunately, the things Lin Zhou suffered and lived through (only the dark chapters are what we still, in America today, associate with Chinese political authority and the issue of the moral authority of the Chinese Communist Party.
We have not been taught about the tremendous poverty, social and legal injustice, and virtual enslavement of women which preceded the Revolution which brought the Communist Party to Power. We view with suspicion and fear the modernization and economic prosperity of modern day China yet are ignorant of, and choose to ignore, the tremendous increases in legal and social justice, the decrease in poverty, and the liberation of women which has occurred in a relatively very short time due to China’s Communist Party and her leaders. We view only where we think she should be (in terms of politics and law) and ignore where she came from, the tremendous positive changes in a very short period, and the tremendous hurdles China has had to face from both within and from without. We also have a false illusion of where we are and where we are headed.
Through helpful self-criticism [a method employed by China’s Communist Party], at a time when political and economic change are imperative, we may be able to survive our current economic and political crisis . We need not abandon either democracy or capitalism, but we need to redefine those words, as they no longer stand for their intended definitions. We also need to stop scapegoating China, because she is entirely innocent of causing our problems, and instead, deserves our respect, which she has never enjoyed.
The fact that my Blog concludes with an optimistic prognosis for China and its Party, and a pessimistic view of America and its two-party alleged "democracy" is simple analysis of real facts and simple logic. Americans who don’t like our future need to understand the inherent problems we face, need to stop believing in propaganda and magical fixes, such as by electing politicians who know little and care less (aside from caring about their own political future, power and wealth). It is not too late for America, but the deadline is fast approaching. Given the rhetoric and issues currently being debated in Congress and by the politicians, I have no reason for optimism.
Regarding China, yes, we have taken her government loans, bought her goods, and toured her lands. During World War II, we used her as an ally against the Japanese, tying up more than a million Japanese soldiers on her mainland who would otherwise been able to defend the islands our marines were dying on. Before that, we exploited her (although not to the same extent as the Japanese, French, Portuguese, Russians, and especially British) as a source of wealth, including especially through the sale of opium, and after the slave trade was abolished, a substitute form of cheap labor, the "Chinese Coolie."
But as we failed to recognize in Vietnam, which was not about Communism but was more about independence, the label "Communism" is no more than a label than does not fit all sizes and shapes. To many extreme rightist fascist dictatorships have cloaked their selves in the name of "anti-communist" to justify regimes and actions which suppressed freedom and democracy.
Chaing Kai-Shek did this with his Nationalist Kuomintang government, both in China before World War II and thereafter in Taiwan. He hijacked the revolution begun by Sun Yat-Sen and murdered his allies in the war against Japan (the Communists) as well as installed a corrupt dictatorship which stole billions and billions of dollars intended as US aid to fight the Japanese, US aid to help China, and finally, US aid to Taiwan. At the same time, he brooked no dissent, suppressed opposition groups, and tolerated no individual freedoms.
At the same time, a fact that we in America are now facing because of economic necessity but should have recognized due to factual accuracy and moral integrity, the Chinese Communist Party did represent the people of China and their legitimate interests. It was the will of the People of China that the Communists took over China, as Sun Yat-Sen would have envisioned (as a reformer and revolutionary.)
America supported many dictators in the fight against "Communism," only to have the people of the governed and eventually our own people pay the price. We did this with the Shah in Iran. We did this with Pinochet and Batista in South America. In China, this would be phrased an “error to the right” or an act supporting fascism which is inconsistent with our own values and political system. Slavery and the discrimination and exploitation of minorities were acts of extreme civil rights abuses (again inconsistent with our own Bill or Rights and thus our own political, legal, and social values) and were again “errors of the right.” The misuse of political processes and the power of the government (i.e. police riot at the Democratic Convention in Chicago in 1968, the Kent State massacres, the failure to investigate and prosecute civil rights violations, and even recently, racial profiling scandals) all constitute errors of the right.” Unfortunately, America’s errors on the right are so numerous and continuing (and many relatively unknown – the complicity of America in giving safe passage and/or immunity to Japanese war criminals and Nazis whose horrific scientific research was deemed beneficial to American interests after World War II) that they cannot be listed.
An “error on the right” is when one, in order to resist change or those who would force change upon us, we commit an act which is repugnant to one’s inherent political and moral values. An “error on the left” is, in when the desire for change causes overzealous actions which are also repugnant to one’s inherent political and moral values. Because China needed to and did change so much, her errors were more on the “left” while our prosperous country tended to commit errors on the “right.” China’s political history is wrongly disproportionally associated and thought of in connection with her errors on the right. Unfortunately, to be newsworthy, a story has to be compelling and interesting. Stories about hundreds of millions of people getting an education, eating well, and receiving health care are not news worthy, even when they would not have received these basic necessities absent some event or occurrence. But like the death of a toddler at the hands of her mother in Orlando or the death of a Pop Star at the hands of his doctor in Los Angeles, scandals sell newspapers. So China’s “errors on the left” make the news, while little else about China does. The story of Lin Zhou is one of China’s errors on the left which did not make any news.
Lin Zhou was one of the prettiest, smartest, dedicated, and most charismatic Communist Party (the “Party”) Members (or “Party Cadres”), even though she was one of its youngest and a low-level member. She sought to follow the true spirit and "soul" of the Party, for which she was ultimately imprisoned, punished, tortured, and ultimately executed.
Such a premise may seem odd in a Blog which begins with the story of Lin Zhou. The mere mention of her name would have once labeled me as a critic of China and the Party. But times have changed for the better in China, while they have failed to change at best, or changed for the worst, in America. But it is really a search not for her soul, but to for the soul of the Party to which she was once devoted and ultimately destroyed her, as well as the soul of America's two party system. It is a dynamic analysis. For too often, American’s focus on what was (the America we once were and the China that once was) and fail to see that each are evolving in different ways, the former for the worse and the later for the better.
Those who know of Lin Zhou's story who work for the Party may cringe at the mere mention of her name. But there is much to learn from her story and the changes in China since her story, as well as the changes in America since that time. While China has reformed and progressed, America has stagnated and regressed.
At the time of Lin Zhou, China was labeled by the West as a land of Communist Repression and Oppression. Capitalism was viewed as the keystone of Democracy. But these were arbitrary labels made my mere humans who neither understood the Party and its history nor the repression and oppression that Capitalism would ultimately bring to America. "Capitalism" in America is really a misnomer. The definition has changed over the years. Capitalism once allowed and promoted slavery. For a while after that, while slavery was abolished, Capitalism flourished on the continued discrimination of Black Americans and also of other minorities, such as that of the immigrants who flocked to the new world. Our abundant fee and cheap natural resources gave out economy (and the phrase “Capitalism”) a distinct competitive advantage. China was, at the time America was settled, far more culturally and intellectually advanced., albeit far poorer and more populated. She was also surrounded by hostile foreign enemies, as she had been since her inception, unlike America which was virtually an isolated fortress. Now “Capitalism” stands for nothing more than unashamed greed. But a look beyond the surface and a look to the future is warranted.
Lin Zhou was a party member who engaged in land distribution and executed oppressive landlords. Why should her courage and brilliance not be part of the legacy of the Party? There were many Lin Zhous in the Communist Party, forgotten or never recognized. We all know the names of a handful of top Communist Party officials, most of whom went on the Long March, but there were thousands of people on that heroic march, including thousands who never had a chance at greatness because they perished, often heroically, and tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands, who risked their lives and suffered to create an egalitarian society in a feudal land with more class distinction and class oppression then any country elsewhere in the world. A country where women were worth less than the family dog, and where foreign countries contributed to the social oppression through military and economic invasion and interference. A land invaded by the Japanese and their foreign dictatorship (where again, the Chinese were viewed as inferior to the pet dog). A land where as many as 40% of the people had been addicted to opium as a result of the British importation of that drug from India and their invasion of China to secure the right to sell that drug (against the will of the authorities who wanted to ban the sale and distribution of the drug). This was the status of China up until World War II, which is extremely recently. The changes in China must be viewed in the context of the time required for evolution and development. The Party has been in charge for less than a century. In America, slavery was legal for a century even after the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights.
It is especially hard to painful to write this Blog as I face my own legal troubles due to the failure of those in charge to follow the "Rule of Law". I have done nothing wrong, but have stood up for the truth and demanded that those responsible follow the "rule of law." As a result, I have been punished and lost much. Even my children have suffered at the hands of a system who blames the innocent victims rather than accept that it is flawed.
It seems that China is not the only country where people are imprisoned (more so in China’s past) for demanding that the authorities follow the rule of law. I pray that I will have the strength of Lin Zhou and sacrifice my own self-interests for the pursuit of truth and to demand that those in power follow the law.
The progress made by the Party in a relatively short period of time is remarkable. Why is the legacy of the Party tied to certain leaders (despite their mistakes) and not to the actions of the entire membership of the party, and their accomplishments and the actions of many other leaders who did nothing but sacrifice everything for China on behalf of the Party? Why is China judged by the actions of a mere handful of Party officials, almost all of whom are now dead? How will dead men affect China’s future. Since their death, the change in China has been almost instantaneous.
Before I say more, who was Lin Zhou? I have read so many many books about China, both banned in China and also sold and promoted in China. I have read of her accomplishments and of criticisms of her (China). I have read of her cities and people. I have travelled throughout China, and made many friends there. I have known love there, and the love of my life resides there as a native Chinese citizen. Yet I never heard of Lin Zhou.
Yet Lin Zhou had a remarkable ability to make people fall in love with her. But what is "love?" The Party has posthumously rehabilitated people. Can others posthumously fall in love with someone?
It is even harder because, I love and revere China, her people, her history, her culture and even her government, yes the Chinese Communist Party. Yet, in writing this, I am faced to confront one of the darkest moments in that Party's history. It is my hope to reconcile that dark chapter, and some dismal chapters which follow, with her bright and brilliant future. I can only hope that some enlightened readers will understand that I seek not to destroy or criticize the Party, nor to betray America, but to recognize all that it is and was and give it and us a guide for the future. For no one can deny China is a dynamic fast moving country with inherent contradictions. It has engaged in economic reform, for example, but has been criticized (often unfairly) for resisting democratic reform. [More on that later, because resisting democratic reform is not necessarily bad, one has to understand what "democratic" means in real life – and there in fact has been substantial democratic reform in China.]
Chairman Mao was a contradiction. One the one hand, he decried the ancient system of Confucius and many of the old ways, old books, etc., yet he followed many of the examples of Confucius and learned much from the past. He as an avid promoter of Wei Qi, and it is said he made his generals learn the game. A wise move, as some of the most effective military strategies have parallels to Wei Qi, strategies which Mao himself successfully employed.
But I am in love with Lin Zhou. At least the account of her. Her picture is beautiful. I will bring it with me to prison for inspiration, if I am allowed. Her story is even more addictive. Let me state that, with all my reading, all my Chinese friends, all my travels in China, I have never heard of Lin Zhou. What I know of her is from the last book I read by Philip P. Pan titled Out of Mao's Shadow. The chapters about Lin Zhou were extremely compelling. It was an interesting book with many compelling stories and a lot of points, many accurate and some with which I disagree, but like so many facts, capable of leading to different albeit logical conclusions.
Author Pan did not know Lin Zhou either. But he met and wrote about an unemployed underground documentary film maker named Hu Jie, a hero in his own right, who also never met Lin Zhou. Hu Jie heard about Lin Zhou's persecution under Mao's Anti-Rightest campaign and became obsessed, perhaps in love, with Lin Zhou, even though she was long dead before he ever heard of her. It appears she was executed in the 1968, when I was six years old. I have never even seen this documentary, and suspect it is in Chinese, but am desperate to obtain a copy. Perhaps a reader of this Blog can help me. It is probably in Chinese, so I will have to watch it with a translator.
So who was Lin Zhou? Why are we searching for her soul, and what does this search have to do with the search for the soul of the Chinese Communist Party? What does the analysis of the Party’s role in the Lin Zhou story and how it has changed (for example how it changed as exemplified by the benign treatment of Hu Jie) tell us about its future, and what does that say for America? How can this search lead the Party to follow the "correct party line" and resume its role as the legitimate representative of the people of China? You see the story of Lin Zhou appears, at the surface to be a criticism of the Party in China. It is certainly perceived as such by the Party. But it is not. Lin Zhou was a true Chinese Communist Cadre. She participated in the re-distribution of land and the execution of the oppressive landlord class. She did so with pride and without regret. She should be held up as an example of the very rare and extreme bravery, intelligence and integrity of the Chinese people and the Party Cadres. Many view her as a one who betrayed the party. In truth, the party betrayed Lin Zhou, but did so during an aberrant time when the Party had gone astray.
Even hard line party members recognize the injustices done during the rule of Chairman Mao, especially during the anti-Rightist movement and then again during the Cultural Revolution. These injustices were aberrations in the Party, not the essential direction, soul, and “party line” of the Party. The actions of the people who perpetrated these injustices were those who betrayed the Party by seeking to put their own welfare in front of that of the people of China and the Chinese Communist Party. Fortunately, they are gone from power, and the party has evolved, like every major country, including America (who sanctioned slavery for over a century).
So much of what follows comes directly from the book by Mr. Pan which in turn comes from the work of Hu Jie. The credit comes for the facts goes to them. But the quest for the truth entitles me to steal their efforts and discuss them. For the right to freedom of speech, the quest to improve society, and the need to fight for social justice is the most paramount law that I respect. Other laws made by man, like copyright laws, are just that, "Man Made" and thus arbitrary and second to a higher need.
Lin Zhao was a young woman who grew up in Suzhou, not far from Nanjing. She was born "Peng Lingzhao" in 1932. In physical appearance, she was a true beauty. The personification of a beautiful Chinese girl, who was described by Pan as "pretty and still girlish, a slender young woman who wore white blouses under tailored workman’s overalls and braided her hair in long pigtails with ribbons tied to the end."
But her physical characteristics were the least of her attributes. From the outset, she was described has having a sharp tongue, quick wit and filled with graceful poetry." She was also as devoted to the Communist Party.
In the early 1950's she worked in a land reform team that dismantled the unequal system of land ownership, abusive rents, and high taxes that had enslaved the Chinese population for centuries if not millenniums. Often, the tenants, who had suffered so severely at the hands of the landlords, would beat or torture the oppressive landlords, occasionally to death. Women were also given property for the first time. Before the automatic reaction of modern people at hearing of the death of landlords, it is essential to understand that the landlords in ancient China had great wealth and power which they used and abused to torment, enslave, impoverish, humiliate, and degrade their tenants in abusive ways which are beyond the comprehension of our modern society. That the land reform and executions were justified is not in question and needs to be judge not by today’s standards but by the conditions and time and standards of the time. Chaing Kai-shek, the supposed representative of democracy, was in fact an oppressive tyrant who was more oppressive and murderous then the Communists were every accused of. Her allowed the Opium trade to continue, and condoned and participated in the abuse of women, abuse which was tantamount to slavery and forced prostitution.
The beautiful and smart Lin Zhou was a dedicated cadre and unapologetically actively participated in the land reform as a member of the Party. In 1954, Lin Zhou took the national college entrance exam and achieved the highest score from her Jiangsu Province. She was admitted to the prestigious Beijing (Peeking) University [known as "Beida"] to study Chinese literature. She distinguished herself not just because she was the youngest member of her class, the smartest, or the prettiest or even the most popular, but because she seemed "different," more daring, and more "stylish." She as blunt and had a "cutting intellect and dialogue.”
Then came the "Hundred Flowers Movement," initiated by Chairman Mao himself. He felt that the party had drifted away from the people it served. He had witnessed uprisings in Poland and Hungry in 1956 and was concerned that discontent, especially among China's intellectuals, could lead to an erosion of the Party's control and influence in China. To allow students and other intellectuals to "let off some steam" he ordered the Party Cadres to encourage people to express their dissatisfaction with the Chinese Government. The chairman proclaimed, “Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools contend." As a loyal Party Cadre, Lin Zhou complied and urged her fellow students to air their discontent. She even co-authored a beautiful and inspiring poem urging her fellow students to air their grievances and to not be afraid to do so.
Chairman Mao grossly miscalculated the amount of discontent and the subsequent explosion of discord. It posed a serious threat to the legitimacy, power and control of the Party. The students who aired their criticisms and suggestions also miscalculated the consequences of airing their discontent, even despite the promises and urging of the Party.
Mao commenced, first secretly, the Anti-Rightist campaign. Second only to the Cultural Revolution in the oppression and upheaval inflicted on China, those who had expressed criticism or discontent began to be attacked. At one debate which was part of the Hundred Flowers campaign, one of the people who had been urged to offer suggestions and criticisms of the Party, a friend of Lin Zhou's, Zhang Yuanxun, started to discuss his opinions, when he began to be attacked and berated by Party thugs.
Lynn Zhou jumped to the defense of the critic and hushed the shouting students. She boldly and daringly denounced the thugs and said,
"Aren’t we calling on people outside the party to offer suggestions? When they didn't we [the Party] pushed them again and again to speak up. So when they finally do, why do we fly into a rage? Take Zhang Yuanxun. He isn't a party member, or even a member of the Youth League. He wrote that poem [critical of the Party], but is that enough for these people to get so angry and rise up like this to attack him?
What kind of meeting are we having tonight? Is it a meeting for speeches or a struggle session? It shouldn't be a struggle session, because we don't need to denounce anyone. Who are we denouncing? Zhang Yuanxun? Why should we denounce him? You sirs [the party thugs] who spoke just now, I know all of you. You are all Party Members in the Chinese literature department."
This was, apparently, the beginning of the break between Lin Zhou and the Party. She had followed the Party's instructions, and encouraged others to criticize the Party. She had assured the critics, as the Party had assured her, that there would be no repercussions for the airing of dissention. Now that the Party was betraying its assurances to the critics, and Lynn Zhou was caught in the middle. On the one side was her loyalty to the Party and its new direction to punish the critics. On the other side was the promises she had made to the critics on behalf of the Party that they would not be punished and that the party wanted the airing of dissention and suggestions.
Mao formally commenced the Anti-Rightist campaign, and began labeling and punishing those critics as Rightists. Many Party Cadres decided that the Party was right all along in tricking the dissenters. Mao argued that the deception was necessary to expose enemies of the Party. Others resolved the conflict between their conscious and their loyalty to the Party by following the course which as in their best interests, going with the Party.
Lin Zhou stood alone and followed her conscious despite the obvious peril. She found the Anti-Rightist campaign sickening. She saw the Party's behavior as a betrayal of those who trusted it the most.
She could have escaped criticism and any serious punishment as her role had been limited and she had been following Party orders. But her conscious tortured her at the thought of those who had listened to her and to her Party being punished for doing what the party had requested. She became more defiant. She refused to admit any wrongdoing and continued in defense of the critics (who were now labeled as Rightists). In China, the easiest way to mitigate the punishment of a political crime was to admit your wrongdoing and to condemn and/or implicate others. During the Cultural Revolution, people who confessed and offered a "self-criticism" were often freed from prison or elsewhere while those who refused were held indefinitely.
Years later, Nien Cheng [see Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Cheng] was held in Shanghai prison for many years because she refused to confess and offer self-criticisms when in fact she was completely innocent of any wrongdoing and the authorities had no interest in her or her alleged crimes. The real target was a much higher Party official, perhaps Zhou Enlai himself, who had approved certain aspects of the industry she worked in. She was accused of treasonous activities because she worked for a foreign firm which in reality had operated in accordance with Chinese law, rules, and regulations and had nothing to do with espionage. Certain Party officials (perhaps reaching to Zhou Enlai himself] had approved these foreign firms to operate in China. Had she confessed that they, and her, were engaged in espionage, the inquiry and accusations would have gone further up to those who had approved their operation. Once having confessed, Nien Cheng would have been rehabilitated. Nien Cheng paid a terrible price for her defiance. In addition to the physical torture and years in prison, her daughter as murdered by thugs who either wanted her to pressure her mother to confess or to provide information condemning her mother.
Lin Zhou also refused to admit wrongdoing or to denounce Zhang and others who had been labeled as Rightists. But Lin Zhou was a Party official. And she was popular, outspoken, and willing to speak her mind in public and even in prison. And her talent at speaking and winning people over made her real threat to the party. Her persistence, in the face of almost suicidal danger, made her a serious threat to the Party. There is even some evidence that Chairman Mao himself may have visited Lin Zhou in prison and threatened and berated her. That could not be proven.
There is much more to the Lin Zhou story. All of it is even more heartbreaking, at least cumulatively. There is the part about how she was isolated in prison to keep the other prisoners from hearing her protests. There is the part about how her pen was taken away so she couldn't write her protest letters, so instead she wrote them by cutting her finger on broken glass and wrote her letters in blood. I could tell you much more, and perhaps tears would well up in your eyes like they do in mine. Perhaps you would also want to keep a picture of Lin Zhou so that she would never be forgotten, as I do. But I have borrowed enough from Mr. Pan's book who in turn got much of his material from Hu Jie's documentary.
The Party was divided over Lin Zhou. There were many who tried to help her. Some were severely punished themselves. More severely than Lin Zhou would have been had she simply confessed early on. One official reported, off the record, that some had lost their lives trying to protect Lin Zhou.
Word of her execution was made public only when a policeman appeared at Lin Zhou's mother's doorstep and demanded a five-fen fee. He explained that it was the cost of the bullet that had been used to execute Lin Zhou. Five Fen was the equivalent of less than a penny, but this was the Chinese way. I do not condemn it. I condemn the execution of Lin Zhou and the way her family was notified.
But, decades ago, this story would have been viewed as a virulent attack on the Party. But things have opened up in China, and even Hu Jie was allowed to make his film. Two State Security officials had been questioning his friends for some time about Hu Jie. He finally received a knock at his door in 2005, and his film was already an underground success. One officer told Hu Jie that there were many stories like Lin Zhou's across the country, and that people like Lin Zhou were victims of an "Error of the Left." The State Security officials’ criticism was that there was no use talking about such stories because no one would ever be held responsible. They also questioned Hu Jie on why his films dwelled on the negative.
But that as the extent of the Party's intervention with Hu Jie. A frank, friendly, and honest discussion. No beatings. No forced interrogation. No threats. No attempts at censorship. Most importantly, no imprisonment.
While this was no renewal of the Hundred Flowers Campaign, Hu Jie's film, and the Party's tolerance of it, can be viewed as a single yet big and beautiful flower. Just as Hu Jie was looking for the soul of Lin Zhou, had the Party found its soul? Had it ever totally lost it. I would argue yes and no, respectively.
It is clear that, many years ago, there were many "Errors of the left." The Tiananmen square massacre may have been the last significant error "Of the left." In the west, we don't view it as an "Error of the left" but as an act of a dictatorship suppressing its people. That is a simplistic and incorrect analysis altered by media coverage. I do not defend the death of the students. But it was not the action of the entire Party. Most certainly, it is not the actions of the Party which rules China today. There is no doubt that Chairman Mao often exercised the powers of a dictator and used them to suppress his people. Yet, to condemn the entire Party of today and its current rule for the actions of a few dead leaders is a grave error and absolutely unfair.
Lin Zhou was a Party member. Should she be condemned for her membership and the Party not given credit for having members like her? Liu Shaoqi was a high ranking Party member (second in hierarchy only to Chairman Mao). He stood up for the people of China and sought to bring the party in line with the interests of the people. He paid with his life as well for his efforts, as Chairman Mao viewed his criticisms and concerns as a threat to Mao's authority and legacy. Deng Xiaoping was a high ranking Party member, and he paid dearly during the cultural revolution. Once rehabilitated, after Mao's death, he did so very much to reform, liberalize and open China up to the West.
During Mao's rule, it was impossible to communicate with the West or to receive information from the West. Now almost every Chinese person, even many poor ones, have cell phones that can call America. I can walk down any block in China and, for a minimal payment, purchase a cheap phone and pre-paid Sim Card and then call America without anyone knowing who I am. I can receive information and share information without any fear of anything. The internet and e-mail are prolific. Less anyone be concerned in my next trip to China about my use of the cellular system, my phone calls are almost exclusively to my family to ascertain their health and happiness. I occasionally call my divorce lawyer to find out the status of my own oppression at the hands of the American Justice System.
How can the Party be accused of suppressing information when it has allowed this to occur?
The Tiananmen Square massacre is used as an example that "nothing has changed in China." But again, such criticism frankly, totally incorrect. First, the Tiananmen Square (which occurred more than two decades ago) protest began as the mourning of the death of Hu Yaobang, a former Party leader and also a reformer of China. But who was Hu? Not only a high ranking Party member, but also a survivor (in fact he was injured) of the Long March, the Party's heroic and triumphant escape from the tyranny of Chiang Kai-Shek (a corrupt dictator) and which ultimately led to the Party’s liberation of China, the emancipation of women and the liberation of the Peasants. In fact, there were many heroic high level Party leaders on that Long March who were eventually persecuted. Liu Shaoqi, as previously noted. Peng Dehua1, He Long, Deng Xiaoping, and countless others. Thousands more died heroically on the March and there are lost.
Zhou Enlai, considered one of the greatest statesman of all times, was a Party Member and a leader in the Long March. What were the Communists doing on that March, and did it reflect the interests of the Chinese people. Absolutely. They redistributed land and gave people who were living in abject poverty a means to make a living while punishing a cruel and oppressive landlord class (people who would be convicted of major crimes in America had they done here what they were doing in China like torture, rape, murder, false imprisonment, slavery). They freed and educated women who were sold as child brides to be the literal property of their "in laws" destined to toil in slavery of the fields of their in-laws, clean their clothes and filth, and perform the most degrading and menial tasks even at very young ages. Beatings and degradation of these young woman were the norm, not the exception. It mattered not if the intended husband even lived to marry the child bride. She was still the property of her in-laws. She could even be sold as a concubine or worse. Many young girls and baby girls were murdered as considered useless and burdens. The Party stopped that and gave these girls freedom, education, and equality. They ended the pervasive and highly destructive trade in Opium. They did in a few short years more than America did in the hundreds of years it took just to emancipate the slaves, not that they were truly free and equal after the civil war. We are still fighting, and loosing, a war on drugs which is almost identical to the war the Chinese Emperors fought for two hundred years but which was won in a few short years by the Party.
China is often criticized for having a "one party" rule while we are indoctrinated to believe that the two party system is so much better. Yet our two party system has paralyzed our country and stopped our progress, including in the area of social justice. In the time that our Congress was debating the issues of slavery, the Communists were liberating the women and peasants. It took America, and its endless congressional debates, until the LBJ administration to enact the Civil Rights Act, which was not effectively enforced for even decades longer (and some would say enforcement is still lacking).
The decision to use violence in Tiananmen also split the party, and was opposed by Zhao Ziyang, then the leader of China. Force as only able to be used because Zhao was in North Korea when the decision was made (and it was made in his absence). Back then, the decision to use violence was promoted by some hardliners who were hold outs from the era of Mao. They are all dead now, as is Chairman Mao. Even Deng Xiaoping, who ultimately endorsed the decision to use force against the Tiananmen protestors, and thus possibly tarnished his splendid reputation as a liberal reformer, is deceased. It also must be understood that Comrade Deng was being fed misinformation by some hardliners and also had suffered greatly during the political instability of the Cultural Revolution. It seems he may have mistaken the protests and turmoil in Tiananmen square for the type of instability which led to the atrocities of the Cultural Revolution, and a repeat in China of this period could not be tolerated, as all reasonable minds would be agree.
Yet the Party and system of government is now attacked for its one party rule and the past errors of a few dead men who deviated from the “True Party Line.” Not only are the actions and leadership of Lin Zhou, Zhou Enlai, Zhou Ziyang, Hu Yaobang and so many others, and countless of other unknown Cadres forgotten and ignored in this criticism, but this criticism is flawed for so many different reasons.
First, to put it in the politically correct terms of those Chinese Security Personnel who interviewed Hu Jie, there were "many errors of the left." That some of these errors may have been committed by such people as even Chairman Mao does not mean that they were not aberrations of the system of government in China.
All governments have their aberrant leaders. In America, where we have our beloved two party system, we had to impeach our own President, Richard Nixon.
Philip Pan points out in his book several examples of more recent injustice and the failure of Party officials to follow the rule of law in the cities, provinces, and countries. But he ignores the fact that these Party Officials are deviating from Central Party directives. For example, he notes that the use of coercive methods to comply with China's birth control program was banned by the Central Party Government. But he points out that in some areas, local Party leaders still use those coercive methods. He implicitly indites the entire party for the aberrant actions of some local minor party leaders. This is grossly unfair. The policy of the Party is set by Beijing. Often these officials are punished, denied promotions, etc. It is not the Party or the one party rule which is to blame, but instead, those minor officials who deviate from the Party Line.
The same goes for the plight of the farmers and peasants. Beijing has tried to grant relief. Many of the injustices perpetuated were caused by regional party bosses who deviated from Beijing’s directions and orders, including on such matters as taxation. Other times, the local Party Cadres were simply corrupt and stole. But to condemn the Chines Communist Party, and its one party system, on the basis of the actions and injustices perpetuated by a few low level crooks who deviated from the Party Line is grossly unfair to China, the Party, and her system of Government.
Any argument that the two party system enjoyed in America is an answer to such injustice is severely misplaced. For one, it ignores the fact that in many local counties and cities, there is no effective "two party rule." Many counties and cities are entirely dominated by a single party, who exercises its power with no less oppression, corruption, cronyism and wrongdoing than in China.
I have lost everything by a lawyer and Judge who blatantly flaunted the evidence and rule of law because both my “prosecutor [my ex-wife’s lawyer] were Republican cohorts in a county which was Republican controlled. I was attacked for exercising my constitutional right to campaign against this Republican lawyer who was running for Judge by the Republican Judge who was deciding the case. As a result of this and other injustices committed by this duo, I have been stripped of everything in flagrant violation of the legal procedures and substantive law which any law student would comprehend.
In what is probably the most recent sever example of the abject failure of America's two party rule, Illinois Governor Rod R. Blagojevich (one of the highest elected officials in one of America's most important state) was sentenced to 14 years on prison for corruption in office,
He had 18 corruption charges, including, incredibly, trying to sell the Senate seat made vacant when President Obama was elected.
They are many other corrupt, hypocritical and despicable people who enjoy power and reputation in America despite tremendous wrongdoing. Take Ralph Reed and his misconduct with Jack Abramoff (mentioned in another Blog) when he betrayed his own constituents and took money in return for lobbying for repugnant issues, such as the perpetuation of slave labor in Saipan.
Second, even assuming those involved in America's two party system don't break the law, don't act slow in correcting such social injustices, one has only to look at the recent paralysis in Congress. Passing a simple two month extension on a minor tax break turned into a major political crisis. We are paralyzed while China moves forward. We have all but given hope on such issues as social welfare and balanced budgets. Our elected officials care only about being reelected, getting more power, or promoting fanatical causes which are contrary to the principles enshrined in the United States Constitution and its Bill of Rights.
Obviously, in this short article, I can only mention but a few examples of people and occurrences in China. Suffice it to say that there were many more Lin Zhou stories, but many many more Cadres who devoted their lives and showed extreme devotion, bravery and selflessness towards the betterment of China through the Communist Party's egalitarian goals. Lin Zhou was also one of them.
I can also only mention a few of the countless examples of social and legal injustice in America, both current and historic. There are many examples of social and legal injustice that have existed for the more than two hundred years that America has existed, and I would warrant, economic oppression still exists here as does the aberrant rule of many government officials.
On the other hand, the Chinese Communist Party has governed for less than a hundred years, and due to the "errors on the left" and (I apologize for saying it, the rule of Chairman Mao who often deviated from the correct Party Line) China would have progressed and reformed even faster.
Yet our country stagnates and is in fact regressing, in my opinion.
So let's talk about lost souls. Whose souls were lost and when. Lin Zhou lost her life but her soul lives on in eternity through her actions and her deeds. It has not disappeared. Her story was almost lost to the obscurity which swallowed up the names and many of the heroic Party cadres, but all of their souls live on through their actions and deeds.
The Party started out with a soul that was unmatched by any group in history that I can recall. Even General Washington’s troops suffered less and showed less devotion to the cause of democracy then the Cadres on the Long March. The Party appeared to have lost its soul through the actions of some aberrant Party members, like those who persecuted Lin Zhou, caused the Anti-Rightist Movement, and finally the Cultural Revolution. But to conclude that the party lost its soul would be to ignore the Cadres, including the high ranking Party members, that stayed loyal to the principles of the Party, even when such loyalty and integrity, such as Lin Zhou's and Liu Shaoqi’s, cost them their lives, reputations, and/or careers.
The Party of today seems to be more promising then every, with a bright, energetic and well intentioned leadership, from the Politburo, its standing committee, to the Central Committee itself. The injustices, disturbances, and protests, which are published in Western publications seem to be local disturbances caused by aberrant local and regional party officials who deviate from the Party Line and principles, not by those who follow the true guidelines and principles of the Party itself and its leadership.
I remain very optimistic about the future of China, especially under the rule of the Central Party leadership. When I visit China, I am amazed at the cleanliness, safety, and modernization of China, not to mention its economic prosperity. The social conscious and generosity of the Chinese is almost entirely absent from America. People talk about freedom in China. I have never felt freer then when in China. While it is true that I don't stand on a street corner with a bullhorn advocating some crazed political cause, I don't do that in America, either. The day I wrote this, two "Occupy America" non-violent protests were forcibly dismantled and disbanded (with accompanying arrests). Where is our freedom of assembly, protest, and speech in this land of liberty? They were protesting social and economic injustice, and in our land of “Freedom of Speech” they were arrested and censored.
Today, the Republican Primary in Florida was held. While the field of candidates has narrowed some, and Romney and Gingrich seem to be the front runners, it seems that there is not a single Republican candidate with a soul. They are all selfish self-promoters with no legitimate agendas, other than the agendas of greed and religious fanaticism, and thus without souls. The same goes for Congress, who has paralyzed our political process and ability to move forward with their concern for re-election.
While China builds the Three Georges Damn, we could not build a public works project if it would require the demolition of a few rich suburbanites’ swimming pools. George Bush, and his policies of invasion, torture, and fiscal irresponsibility was the worst politician and most soulless leader who violated the rule of law, including the Bill of Rights [i.e. the Patriot Act, “Torture Light, Abu Ghraib, and the rendition of suspected terrorists], to an extent equal to the worst criticism of China at its worst.
President Obama is our last hope, the only politician still standing with a soul. If he is not reelected and given a congressional mandate such that he can pass the desperately needed legislation he supports, then America's two party system will truly have lost its soul. The question will then become, how can we state that our two party system, which is frozen and stalemated, is better than China one-party system which is moving forward dynamically and impressively. Even applying moral and philosophical principles, how can we criticize China’s one party system on democratic or legal principles when our system is an abject failure. It is true that both countries need to enforce the “Rule of Law” especially at local and regional levels. But to condemn China, her system of government, is absolutely self-serving and wrong.
Lin Zhou is dead, but fortunately not forgotten. Her soul lives on as an inspiration to us all, in every country. In China, we would state that she leads to the conclusion that errors on the right and of the left must be avoided, and the correct Party Line must be followed. In America, we need to understand that there is as much lawlessness and injustice at the hands of our government as that which caused Lin Zhou’s death. Innocent people are executed from death row. By sheer luck, the West Memphis Three were finally freed after two decades in prison (one who was on death row).
We must also follow her soul as a guidepost for speaking up against lawlessness and oppression, especially at the hands of Judges, Prosecutors, Police, and elected officials. To modify a quote from one of my favorite movies, “When a criminal breaks the law, there is nothing worse than simple lawlessness which is expected, common, and has occurred from the earliest days of recorded history. But when those charged with enforcing the law break the law or refuse to enforce it, there is no law.” That is an unacceptable tragedy, and applies in both countries. Lin Zhou sought to follow the law, even when the Party sought her to deviate from it during an aberrant period. Her rare and unprecedented actions and deeds show us how we ought to behave, in each country, as individual citizens regardless of our respective nationalities, and as citizens of a humane world.
Lynn Zhou, you are not forgotten, and you are still admired and respected. You serve as an inspiration to us all. Your soul lives on in the soul of people of good conscious everywhere.
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