Shanghai Life and Death(86)

Since the end of the Ninth Communist Party Congress, all provinces and cities have established and restored party committees, thus strengthening the monolithic leadership of the Communist Party in all areas. This made it more difficult for me to find out from the newspapers what was happening outside the prison walls. At the height of the Cultural Revolution turmoil, the fierce criticism of the “capitalists” often revealed the inner workings of the Communist Party leadership’s fierce struggle. Most of the rebels’ writers were non-Party members at that time, so when they propagated the correct line of Mao Zedong, they inadvertently leaked some inside information that was not generally available to the general public. Since then, such articles have not been seen in the Liberation Daily. All the critical articles were written by professional writers appointed by the Communist Party’s propaganda department. The content of the articles was the same old official language, clichés and outdated theories. These are used as a propaganda tool to say what the ultra-leftists want to say, but in a nice and smooth way so that no one can get a hold of them.

I think the idea that the Central Committee is engaged in a new struggle was first discovered from the list of the Politburo of the Central Committee published in the newspaper. Chen Fada, one of the first leaders of the radicals who concocted the Cultural Revolution, could not find his name. What followed were critical articles against him, without naming him, which began to appear in the newspapers. The articles accused him of claiming to be a “little commoner”, but in reality he was a “fake Marxist”. The fact that the name of an important national leader suddenly disappeared from the newspaper meant that he was in a very bad way.

I was puzzled by this incident. It is well known that Chen Boda was close to Mao Zedong and had served as his close secretary for a long time. During the Cultural Revolution, although he did not act so incandescent as other leaders such as Jiang Qing and Lin Biao, the common people identified him as Mao’s close confidant.

When I asked several friends and acquaintances about Chen Boda’s downfall long after I was released from the detention center, they told me that it seemed to be at the end of August 1970, at the Second Plenary Session of the Ninth Central Committee held in Lushan, a new constitution for the People’s Republic of China was discussed. One of the main items on the agenda was for no one to succeed as the President of the People’s Republic of China after Liu Shaoqi’s downfall. Was this position abolished? Chen Boda nominated Lin Biao to succeed him as President. At that time, the Ninth National Congress had been held for only one year and four months, and Lin Biao’s power seemed to have expanded too fast. Therefore, he said that he did not want to set up a state chairman anymore and suggested that the chairman of the National People’s Congress should act and execute this post. After a heated debate, Mao accused Chen Boda’s proposal of being a counter-revolutionary maneuver and a conspiracy to restore China to the pre-Cultural Revolution situation.

I was also told about another agenda item discussed at the Central Committee members’ meeting, which was about Sino-American relations. Since U.S. President Richard Nixon indicated that the United States was willing to improve relations with China through a third country acting as an intermediary, Premier Zhou convinced Mao that if the United States would recognize the People’s Republic of China and abandon the government of Taiwan, then most of the other countries in the United Nations would recognize China. This would not only enable China to join the United Nations, but would also lead to the speedy liberation of Taiwan at a relatively low cost. But both Lin Biao and Chen Boda strenuously opposed reconciliation with the United States. They stressed that the United States, as a premier power in the Western capitalist world, was by nature the main enemy of socialist China.

But from what I have heard, the defeat of Chen Boda actually meant a warning to Lin Biao. From this Lin Biao also concluded that Mao’s reappointment of him had come to an end. This led to the subsequent failed coup of Lin Biao. In any case, the series of facts that followed proved that the Second Plenary Session of the Ninth Central Committee had an extremely important role to play. It put an end to Lin Biao’s short-lived dynasty and caused his power to fall in comparison to that of Premier Zhou Enlai.

In 1970, when I was still detained in the First Detention Center, I realized that the downfall of Chen Boda must not be ignored. I kept watching the situation, expecting perhaps even the slightest sign that the situation had improved. On National Day that fall, I saw a picture in the newspaper of the American journalist Edgar Snow with Mao Zedong, watching the ceremonies from the Tiananmen Tower. On such holidays, Mao was a frequent spectator alongside some prominent foreigners. But for the first time ever, such an honor was bestowed on an American. Snow was an old friend of Mao and the Communist Party. His book “A Journey to the West”, published in the 1930s, was instrumental in making the world look at the Chinese Communist Party in a sympathetic and more objective way. Because I had already experienced this, every action and word of Mao Zedong often had an inscrutable effect and meaning. So I paid particular attention to this news report: On China’s National Day, he joined an American on the observation platform of the Tiananmen Square to review a parade of thousands of fervently devout people holding his portrait, shouting slogans in his honor, and singing his quotations.

Shortly after the National Day, it was reported in the press that Beijing and the Canadian government had formally established diplomatic relations based on the five basic principles of peaceful coexistence. The five principles of peace are: mutual preservation of the integrity of their respective territories and sovereignty, non-aggression, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, equality and mutual respect, and peaceful coexistence. Canada pledged to sever diplomatic relations with the Nationalist government of Taiwan and recognize the Beijing government as the sole legitimate government of China.

I think Mao used the move to establish diplomatic relations with Canada to show the United States that he would be willing to make peace with the United States if the United States would give up Taiwan. He used the establishment of diplomatic relations with Canada as a sign that he was willing to do the same with the United States. I couldn’t help but feel excited and hopeful inside. I thought it was possible for China to lean toward the West, and that was wonderful.

The wind had picked up again, but this time the onset of winter did not dampen my will. For the first time since the Cultural Revolution, I felt as if things were moving in a good direction. After a bitterly cold wind, a fallen leaf was scraped into my cell, and I picked up the golden yellow leaf and gazed at it for a long time, thinking that it was an omen of hope and good luck.

My mood began to grow more peaceful, not so gloomy. I looked forward to another arraignment in my cell, thinking that my suffering had come to an end, and that if they had any more arraignments, things would surely change for the better. But I was wrong.