Shanghai Life and Death(84)

When the anti-rightist campaign began in 1957, the party secretary saw it as an opportunity to get rid of my disobedient brother. They collected a lot of materials about his research work in England, held struggle meetings with him for several hours, kept him in isolation in the office for several months, and forbade him to go home. He was interrogated day and night by a combat team of activists, who did not allow him to sleep, in what was called “fatigue bombing”. In the end, they could not make him a rightist, mainly because there was no evidence that he had ever criticized the Communist Party. But the ghastly experience gave him a stomach ulcer and erased what little smile he had left on his face. His hair began to gray, and his eyes grew old. In fact, at that time, he was only thirty-seven years old.

He understood that he could not stay in this unit, so he asked to be transferred to another job. The party secretary was annoyed that he hadn’t been beaten into a rightist. He said that because my brother was too arrogant, he needed to live with the peasants for a period of time to raise his socialist consciousness, so he was sent to a rural area on the outskirts of Beijing to raise chickens. Life there was very backward and he was only allowed to go home once a month, but he also felt good because he could get away from the bureaucratic leaders. He took raising chickens very seriously and did a good job. So the chickens he raised were fatter than other people’s, and they laid extraordinarily large numbers of eggs. Whenever he returned to the countryside on leave, he always brought back a large pile of reference books and several boxes of experimental equipment to improve his breeding work. Many farmers flocked to his residence to learn from him and ask for advice. This made the rural leaders angry again, and they asked the Ministry of Foreign Trade to transfer my brother.

It so happened that China was going through a difficult period after the failure of the Great Leap Forward. Generally speaking, the Communist Party gives some care to intellectuals during difficult times. The Ministry of Foreign Trade asked my brother what kind of work he wanted to do, and my brother asked to be an English teacher. Then he was assigned to the English Department of the Foreign Trade Institute as a professor. He worked hard in his new unit and did a good job. By the time the Cultural Revolution began, he had become a recognized authority on English teaching and was responsible for the training of young teachers. And he also wrote books and did a good job anyway.

Later, after I was released from prison, I tried to contact my brother, but he would not correspond with me. He said that a person like me, who had a lot of ties with the Western world in the past, was still a “dangerous person. It was not until the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, followed by the arrest of the Gang of Four, that my brother invited me to Beijing. I found that he had aged completely. During the Cultural Revolution, he had been brutally tortured because he was a professor. He and his wife worked for several years in the May 7 Cadre School, where life was very hard. I could not bear to mention again why he said we had taken a picture in front of the Kuomintang flag at the Zhongshan Memorial Hall in Nanjing. I could not bear to let him perceive that I was blaming him for succumbing to the ultra-leftists, because he had suffered too much and had been persecuted for too long.

After being forced to close down for a few years during the Cultural Revolution, the Beijing Institute of Foreign Trade was revived. He and several other professors were busy again in getting the Foreign Language Department reorganized. It seemed that he was satisfied to be able to do something meaningful again after having stopped working for many years. His small apartment was always full of guests and people discussing work together. I did not want to remind him of the Cultural Revolution. But just a few minutes before I left Beijing, he himself suddenly brought it up.

He said, “Did you send me a picture in 1962?”

“I sent you an enlarged photo of my mother, which was developed at the Wanxiang Photo Studio in Shanghai.” I said to him, “That’s the only picture I sent you in 1962.”

“Only one picture of my mother? I remember there was another one. The rebels insisted that it was taken in front of the Kuomintang flag at Zhongshan Memorial Hall, and they were so sure about it. I had no memory of the photo, but they kept saying it over and over again, and I seemed to get such a vague impression that I finally thought maybe it was true.”

“No!” I said angrily, “There is no such thing. We’ve never even been to Zhongshan Memorial Hall. The rebels are all liars. They are determined to fight us, so they are desperately trying to make us effective as loyalists to the KMT. If so, we can be punished.” He put his hand on my shoulder, showing an easy-going look, and said to me, “Don’t get excited, and don’t get angry. What’s the use of being angry with them? It’s up to them. If they say there is such a thing, just go along with it. What is the use of resistance? I have learned this from my own experience. I think you must have learned it in prison.”

“No, I haven’t learned anything, and I don’t want to learn that.”

“You will slowly come to accept that we should likewise deal with the world in this way. I’ve met many people who are like that. I’m the same way. You will slowly become like that too.”

“I don’t want to become like that myself.”

“I’m sorry to hear you say that, very sorry. I am afraid you will suffer again.”

Then my sister-in-law came in and told me that the cab to the airport was waiting outside. As my brother and I said goodbye, all I could feel was a shiver running through my body. I don’t know if it was anger at the horrible situation we were in, or sadness that there was no other way out but to take it easy. When I turned around in the car to wave goodbye to my brother, he had already gone into the house. I think he was also a little disappointed in me because I hadn’t learned the art of “going against the grain” like the shrewd Chinese.

In March 1984, I went to Arizona to meet with my brother. He was sent by the Beijing Institute of Foreign Trade as an exchange scholar to lecture at the American Institute of International Relations. By this time, he was an old man suffering from emphysema and looked ten years older than his actual age. As he introduced himself to me, his eyes flashed with a touch of wit and humor that had been missing for some time. He said he had finally regained his title as a professor of economics and had come to the United States to lecture on China’s new economic policy. I asked what would happen if the Communist Party’s policy turned left again, as it had done in the last thirty years, from left to right and from right to left, as it had replaced left and right. He just sighed deeply, and after a while, said, “I am physically ill, and every change in policy takes years. We all hope that when another change comes, I will be blind to it.”