Shanghai Life and Death(96)

A few days have passed since the guards tore up the preface to the book, and articles have begun to appear in the newspapers criticizing, without naming them, the people who “sleep around”, which for Westerners means a couple, but for Chinese people means someone very close to them. For Westerners, “sleeping around” means a couple, but for Chinese, it means a person very close to them. This term was also used in the criticism of Liu Shaoqi. It implies that Mao did not know that the person who was very close to him was an enemy who wanted to harm him. In another article, it is also mentioned that Mao once trusted a man whose mouth was not his heart. He claimed to be loyal to Mao, but in fact was plotting against him. In addition, the newspaper repeatedly mentioned the history of the Party, the war against Japan and the various military battles when fighting the Kuomintang. The Chinese people, including myself, are very familiar with Lin Biao’s personal history. Before the Ninth Congress, he was often referred to as Mao Zedong’s successor. Although I did not know the details of the struggle between him and Mao Zedong at that time, I was sure that he had been ousted from the position of successor. I watched the situation closely and read the newspapers carefully every day. I was relieved to find that the name of the head of the military control of the Municipal Public Security Bureau sent by Lin Biao had disappeared from the newspapers. Because the First Detention Center was part of the Shanghai prison system and was under the jurisdiction of the Shanghai Public Security Bureau. So the person whose name has disappeared is the top leader of this detention center. If my deduction is correct, then the person behind my persecution is Lin Biao’s military representative in Shanghai, so it seems that Lin Biao’s stepping down is to my advantage. In addition, I still guarded myself against continuing to pay attention to the development of the situation and not to express optimism prematurely. For I did not know: after Lin Biao’s stepping down, would his position be taken by the extreme leftists led by Jiang Qing, or would he be succeeded by the older generation led by Zhou Enlai?

One night at the end of October, the guards called the prisoners again to listen to an emergency broadcast. A man was speaking about “the good situation of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution”, mainly about the visit of U.S. President Richard Nixon to China in February next year. He said, “It is the Cultural Revolution that has raised China’s status internationally. The United States used to hold a policy of hostility toward the People’s Republic of China, but now they have come to their senses and understand that this was wrong.

“What is the significance of the fact that Nixon, the president of the world’s leading capitalist country, will soon be visiting China? If China is cowardly and incompetent, will he come? Of course not! Nixon is coming to China to pay tribute to our great leader, Chairman Mao. Because he must also face the reality and see that China is invincible under the wise leadership of our great leader Chairman Mao and after the exercise and consolidation of the Cultural Revolution. We must not forget that the United States is the most reactionary capitalist country in the world and our greatest enemy. The upcoming visit of the U.S. president to China will be a great victory for the Chinese proletariat, one of the fruits of the Cultural Revolution. This fact shows precisely that while decadent and declining capitalism is dying, our socialism is thriving and dynamic and plays an important role in the international arena.

“At first when he asked for a visit, many of our comrades expressed their unwelcome feelings because of his invasion of Vietnam on behalf of imperialism, his exploitation of domestic workers in the United States, and his long-held opposition to the People’s Republic of China, but our great leader Chairman Mao was magnanimous. He said, ‘Let him come, we will treat him with courtesy and listen to his views, and if he admits his past mistakes and honestly indicates a change of attitude, then we will still welcome him. We are Marxists, and we want to give people a chance to repent.’ Our great leader is so wise! So right! We want to receive Nixon. In the months to come, we will have to educate our comrades about this new situation and help them understand that accepting Nixon’s visit is not an abandonment of our principles, but an abandonment by the U.S. government of their wrong policies. Nixon’s visit was a great victory for us!

“In this context, I would like to warn many of the prisoners detained in Detention Center No. 1 that there are many among you who worship the imperialist capitalist world and underestimate the Chinese socialist system, and that you place your hopes in the capitalist world, hoping that one day capitalism will pass in China. The coming visit of the President of the United States to China is an education for all of you. Think about it: if the Kuomintang reactionaries had not been driven out of China, if the American army had not been defeated by the Chinese People’s Volunteers in Korea, if the American army had not been blocked in Vietnam, if we had not become so strong after the Cultural Revolution, would Nixon have come to Beijing from across the Pacific to pay tribute to Chairman Mao? “

His speech dragged on, repeatedly making a point about the U.S. president’s visit to China. I have listed the main points on his behalf. After I was released from custody, I learned that when Nixon’s visit to China was announced, the leaders at all levels similarly communicated these words to the entire population, and every factory, commune, and resident councilor discussed them, asking the people to “prepare” for Nixon’s visit and to use the opportunity to promote Mao as the most important leader in the world.

I felt proud of the new turn in Sino-American relations, which I thought would be decisive for the balance of power within the Communist Party, at least I thought that for a long time to come, Zhou Enlai’s position would be strengthened, and perhaps the moderate wing of the Party would prevail. If that is the case, then my own persecution will end, but in any case, experience has taught me that everything moves slowly in China, and that major policy shifts in the Party Central Committee in Beijing take at least a few months to reach the grassroots in my area. I also knew that the ultra-leftists, led by Jiang Qing, had a solid base in Shanghai, and that her old partner Zhang Chunqiao was the secretary of the Shanghai Municipal Committee.

After so many years of desperate delay in the detention center, I was very excited about this new development. For weeks I paid close attention to the newspaper reports and waited patiently. The guards were still working as usual, just as they had done since January 1967 when the rebels and Red Guards took over the Shanghai government. I thought they might be intensely engaged in political studies about the downfall of Lin Biao.

Winter had come again, and the leaks in the sleeves of my woolen jacket and the knees of my knitted pants could no longer be repaired, the cotton in my jacket and quilt had been removed to the bottom, leaving only two layers of rags, and the only shirt I had left was mended and repaired so that I could no longer tell which piece of cloth belonged to the original shirt. It was obvious that if I had to live another year in the prison, I urgently needed to buy some more clothes, because I had asked for more clothes several times in the past and never received an answer, I was determined to give it another try, maybe the situation outside could change and give me a different reaction.

“Report!” I called from the doorway.

“What do you want?” The slow footsteps of a guard stopped outside my cell and the small window hole pushed open.

I took the woolen coat and showed her the worn places and said, “The weather is getting colder, my clothes and bedding are torn and can no longer keep me warm, please look at all the holes on it, I need to add a cotton jacket and coverlet, and a shirt. Please look at my clothes, you know I need winter clothes that can keep me warm.”

“How long have you been here? How many years in all?”

“This is the sixth winter. I came here in September 1966, and the clothes and bedding the Red Guards gave me then were not new. After so many years and no additional cotton, they are no longer warm.” I said.

Now, at last, I saw a ray of light from the end of the tunnel where I had not seen daylight and had been imprisoned for years. I had the determination to live until the day when that ray of light might accompany me to the place where the light shines. Perhaps my words gave away my inner melancholy, which irritated her, and she slammed the window shut and left.