Yang Baipeng, the chairman of Beijing Shen Long International Travel Agency, attended high school in Beijing No. 4 Middle School, where there were many children of high cadres, during the Cultural Revolution. He also wrote about his “red memories” in the book “Memories of the Storm: Beijing No. 4 Middle School 1965-1970” edited by Bei Dao and others. In the article, he mentions some people and events of his family.
In the article, he writes: “Our family is huge, and we have all kinds of people. From the former Qing Dynasty to the Republic of China, there was no shortage of prominent people. From the conversations of the old people, it seems that Sun Yat-sen, Yuan Shikai, Li Yuanhong, Xu Shichang and Feng Guozhang, the great presidents of the Republic of China, are all related to our family”. Of course, there is also someone in the family who became a high ranking member of the Chinese Communist Party. This person is “my aunt, my grandfather’s sister”, who was once Zhou Enlai’s main secretary and also in charge of the People’s Daily.
Yang Baipeng’s impression of this unseen aunt comes from a family member’s description: “I heard my aunt say that this aunt had given a presentation to all the staff of Xinhua News Agency, speaking precisely and ably, and smoking one cigarette after another on stage. The aunt committed suicide in the 1950s, probably because she was disappointed with the atmosphere of the party’s political life in the late 1950s. ‘Because it was a suicide, the memorial service was not big enough,’ my grandmother said.”
Yang Baipeng, the aunt who committed suicide, was the secretary to Zhou Enlai’s office director at the rank of deputy minister during the early years of the Communist Party’s political establishment, and she was the only deputy ministerial secretary among the office’s many staff members, and Zhou Enlai put her in charge of external propaganda. On the morning of October 7, 1957, she was found dead in her dormitory at the People’s Daily in Cinder Hutong, Beijing, having swallowed a large amount of sleeping pills. Why did she choose to take the path of no return?
Talented girl who went astray and joined the Chinese Communist Party
Born in 1905, Yang Gang, formerly known as Yang Ji Hui and Yang Bin, was originally from Xin Yang, Hubei Province. Her grandfather, Yang Donglu, was a country showman who practiced medicine and sold words to support his family. With the help of his uncle’s family, the Yang brothers pursued their studies. Yang Jiekang won the 1892 scholarship and became a local official in Guangdong Province; Yang Huikang started as a guard in Wuchang and served as a provincial governor in Jiangxi Province, and the director of the Department of Finance and the Department of Government Affairs in Hubei Province. Yang Huikang is Yang Gang’s father.
In Yang Gang’s eyes, his father was irascible and stubborn, while his mother was kind-hearted, loyal, generous, and courageous, so Yang Gang inherited his father’s irascible and stubborn character and his mother’s resolute and bold one.
According to the article “The Life of Yang Gang, the Red Talented Girl” in the ninth issue of the Mainland’s Literature and History in 2008, Yang Gang entered the family school at the age of five and began to read the Four Books and Five Classics as well as the new textbooks and geography published by the Commercial Press. In his autobiography, it is mentioned that they “had to read for eighteen hours a day, with no breaks in between, and only in summer were we allowed to go home in between to take a bath and drink green bean porridge”.
In 1922, Yang just entered the Bao Ling School for Girls, founded by the American Methodist Church in Nanchang, Jiangxi Province, and immediately changed her name to Yang Bin and began writing under the pseudonym “Zhen Bai”. In 1927, after the Kuomintang’s “purge”, the Communist Revolution failed and Yang Gang graduated from the Baoling Girls’ School.
In 1928, while studying at Yanjing University, Yang Gang joined the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and actively participated in the student activities organized by the CCP to protest against the Beiyang government. During this period, she also participated in the left-wing literary movement and co-founded the Northern “Left Union” with Xie Bingying, Pan Xun (Pan Mohua), Sun Xizhen and other writers. At the same time, she also gained a friendship with a devout Christian, the American professor Bao Guisi.
“The Episode of “Quitting the Party
In the autumn of 1932, Yang graduated from Yanjing University and married Zheng Kan, a student of economics at Peking University. On the eve of her graduation, she had an altercation with the head of the Chinese Communist Party, which led to her resignation from the Party (she rejoined in 1938), a “minor hiccup in her political career. In the fall of the year she graduated from college, all the members of Yang Gang’s class had already left school, and the party group was headed by a Shandong comrade with an old-fashioned personality and hard working methods. At that time, Yang Gang was weak after his illness and needed to lie down to rest from time to time, so he could not carry out his work properly, so he asked the Shandong comrade for leave. The person in charge of Shandong did not agree and criticized her for “neglecting her work”. Yang Gang said, “If you say I’m slacking off, I’ll let it go. If I can’t work, I’ll quit the Party!” This is the detail of her “resignation” from the Party, and it may be one of the reasons why she later went to the end of her rope.
Writing for Communist propaganda
At the end of 1932, shortly after her marriage, Yang Gang went to Shanghai, where she joined the Chinese Left Wing Writers’ Union in the following spring and met Smedley, an American left-wing writer who was working for the Chinese Communist Party. Afterwards, Yang and her wife participated in the editing of the magazine Popular Knowledge, which was chaired by Professor Gu Jie Gang, and published creative works and reviews.
After the outbreak of the war, Yang arrived in Hong Kong in the summer of 1939 and replaced Xiao Qian as the editor-in-chief of the “Literature and Art” supplement of Ta Kung Pao. Yang Gang used the newspaper to continue her propaganda on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party, and according to the official statement, she “held on to this relatively independent position, breathing with the revolutionary people and uniting progressive and revolutionary writers to fight against the reactionaries in every possible way”. The essays, novels, and poems she wrote during this period also had the same main theme of opposing the Kuomintang and propagandizing for the Chinese Communist Party.
During his stay in Hong Kong, Yang Gang also vigorously carried out united front work among cultural celebrities and, together with Xu Dishan and Qiao Guanhua, was elected as a director of the Hong Kong branch of the All-China Literary and Artistic Anti-Enemy Association. After the outbreak of the Pacific War, Yang Gang smuggled himself across Huizhou and entered the guerrilla zone of the East River, and later arrived in Guilin, where he continued to edit the “Literature and Art” supplement of Ta Kung Pao and carry out united front work in the cultural sector.
In 1943, Yang just arrived in Chongqing, still editing the “Literature and Art” supplement of Dagong Bao, and his talent was highly valued by Zhou Enlai, a senior Communist official, who gave him the job of liaising with the U.S. Embassy staff and American journalists in China as an editor and reporter. Obviously, this was the CCP’s way of using Yang, who was fluent in English and had personal charisma, to carry out foreign unification warfare. In the same year, Zheng Kan, who worked for the Kuomintang Fujian Central Bank, died in a Japanese bombing raid.
In her grief, Yang Gang was sent by the CCP to study at Harvard University in the United States and was also the correspondent of Ta Kung Pao in the United States. Before staying in the United States, she sent her daughter Zheng Guangdi to Yan’an. During her stay in the U.S., she wrote a series of American newsletters for publication in Chongqing and Shanghai newspapers on the one hand, and propagated to the American intellectual community on the other hand, and participated in the leadership of the CCP’s working group for party members staying in the U.S., according to the instructions of the CCP.
After the victory of the war, Yang just wrote another article criticizing the U.S. government for supporting the Kuomintang government. Her letter of condemnation to President Harry S. Truman is now in the archives of the Truman Library’s Postwar China Policy in Independence, USA.
In September 1948, Yang returned to Hong Kong from the United States to serve as an editorial board member of Ta Kung Pao. Following the instructions of the Chinese Communist Party, she continued to work with then General Manager Hu Zhengzhi and Editor-in-Chief Wang Yunsheng, so that they eventually moved to an anti-Chiang and pro-Communist position. After listening to Yang Gang, Wang Yunsheng, who had defected to the CCP, was also severely criticized during the Cultural Revolution.
Subsequently, Yang Gang arrived in the Communist-occupied areas and then went south with the army into Shanghai, where he served as a military representative to take over the Shanghai Ta Kung Pao newspaper.
Became Zhou Enlai’s secretary, lost his diary and was transferred out
In 1950, after the outbreak of the Korean War, Yang became the chief secretary of Zhou Enlai’s office, where she worked on a variety of important matters. It was also in this year that she lost a diary.
An article by author Lai Xin titled “Why Yang Gang, Former Deputy Chief Editor of People’s Daily, Committed Suicide” published in the 2014 issue of Party History Expo of the Communist Party revealed that in October 1950, Yang Gang lost an important notebook with some Chinese Communist Party secrets, for which she was under great pressure and asked Zhou Enlai for disciplinary action. Zhou Enlai said that the notebook would not be lost far away and would be found. It turned out that the person who picked up the notebook gave it to Zhou Enlai, who had already read it.
The notebook contained not only CCP party secrets, but also Yang Gang’s intimate experience with Fei Zhengqing, the head of the U.S. Information Service in China, and especially the way she contacted Fei, at a time when the U.S. did not have diplomatic relations with China.
Zhou Enlai told An Ziwen, head of the Central Organization Department, to talk to Yang Gang, and subsequently transferred her to People’s Daily as deputy editor-in-chief in charge of international propaganda. Although she was transferred to the People’s Daily as deputy editor-in-chief in charge of international propaganda, Yang Gang was very sad. She knew that this was a distrust of her.
Nevertheless, after arriving at the People’s Daily, Yang Gang continued to carry out the CCP’s instructions and propagate the CCP’s foreign policy and views on international affairs. However, less than a year after her arrival at the newspaper, Yang Gang suffered a severe concussion caused by a car accident, from which she never recovered due to poor treatment. He has since changed to head the literary propaganda of the People’s Daily.
The Mystery of Suicide
On October 7, 1957, Yang Gang committed suicide at the age of 52, while his only daughter, Zheng Guangdi, was still studying in the Soviet Union. The reason for his suicide is still a mystery, but we cannot avoid the “anti-rightist campaign” launched by the Chinese Communist Party at that time to defeat intellectuals.
Like other units, on May 6, 1957, the People’s Daily set up a “Rectification Leading Group” with seven members: Deng Tuo, Hu Jiwei, Yang Gang, Wang Zhuan, Huang Cailiang, Chen Jun, and Xiao Feng. Yang Gang was the third in command. In June, the “Rectification” turned into an anti-rightist group, and the former Rectification Leading Group was transformed into an “Anti-Rightist Leading Group”, with the addition of a new editor-in-chief, Wu Lengxi.
According to Lixin’s article, the day before Yang Gang committed suicide, he had just attended a conference to criticize Ding Ling and Chen Qi Xia as an “anti-Party group”. The theme of the conference was to criticize Ding Ling and others for their “historical mistakes” in their early years, and it was a tragic scene. This event may have been the final blow that ended Yang Gang’s life.
Speaking about the situation, An Ziwen said that it must have been Zhou Yang, then vice minister of the Propaganda Department, who informed Yang Gang to attend the conference, “He probably wanted to expand the battle.” That scene made Yang Gang feel that she might have to be criticized like Ding Ling, especially since she had an episode of quitting the Party, so she committed suicide.
According to an article entitled “The Mystery of the Suicide of Yang Gang, the Red Talented Woman” by Pei Yiran, published on March 3, 2014 on Consensus.com, the reason for Yang Gang’s suicide is still a mystery, and there are three reasons: first, the cause of the disease; second, the loss of the book; and third, the politics.
The author believes that Yang Gang’s suicide had deep and complex political reasons. The illness factor is not significant and can be ruled out. The “loss of capital” may be a cause, but it is never the main cause. “The reason why the “political theory” was not accepted or avoided for a long time was that once it was admitted, it was not a denial of the “anti-right movement.
The article mentions that in 1928, Yang Gang joined the CCP at Yanjing University. After the July 7 Incident in 1937, Yang just rejoined the party. Two days before her suicide, Yang attended a conference to criticize the “Ding-Chen Anti-Party Group” and witnessed the criticism of Ding Ling’s “historical mistakes”.
Ye Yao, editor of the People’s Daily, also questioned in an article published in Yanhuang Chunqiu, No. 12, 2006, whether Yang Gang’s death had nothing to do with the extremely abnormal and serious political situation created by the “anti-rightist” struggle. Many of the leading figures in society at that time, including famous newspaper personalities, writers, artists, and so on, were branded as “rightists,” and among them were her old colleagues and friends whom she had known for many years, so did it not touch her?
It is certain that even if Yang Gang could escape the “anti-rightist”, she would not be able to escape the Cultural Revolution. Her daughter, Zheng Guangdi, who was the vice minister of the Ministry of Communications, was implicated by Zhu Xiaohua, Zhu Rongji’s favorite, and was sentenced to five years in prison in 2002 for taking bribes under the direction of Jiang and Zeng.
Death of Yang Zao, the fourth brother of Yang Gang, who was introduced into the Communist Party
After Yang Gang joined the CCP, he propagated Marxist-Leninist ideas to his fourth brother, Yang Guangming (later renamed Yang Zao), who graduated from Shanghai Jiaotong University and worked for the Shanghai Railway Bureau, and told him that only the CCP could save China. Under his spell, Yang Zao determined to “never leave the CCP” and joined the Chinese Left Writers’ Union in 1933, which had a CCP background, and then joined the CCP.
In the autumn of 1934, Yang Zao took charge of the propaganda department of the League. For more than two years, she wrote a large number of articles, some of which were about the Soviet Union and exposed the “darkness” of Kuomintang rule. During the war, she began writing military commentaries and international political essays in the Shanghai Concession, following the instructions of the Chinese Communist Party. In 1939, he went to Hong Kong, where he wrote military commentary for Sing Tao Daily and articles for the China Business News. Subsequently, Yang Zao worked for Guangming Daily, the organ of the Democratic League.
In 1944, Yang Zao came to Fujian to work as a researcher at the Provincial Institute of Social Sciences, and at the same time, he was the director of the Chinese Department of the Southeast Branch of the Press Office of the U.S. Embassy in China and the chief writer of the privately-run Democracy Daily. In 1944, Yang Zao was arrested by Kuomintang General Gu Zhutong on charges of “treachery and banditry” and died in prison a year later at the age of 46.
Before he committed suicide, did Yang Gang regret that he had led his second brother into the evil cave of the Chinese Communist Party?
Cousin Yang Xindong’s death during the Cultural Revolution
Yang was also led to the path of no return by his cousin, Yang Xiandong, a scientist. Yang graduated from Nanjing Jinling University with a degree in agriculture, majoring in cotton and sericulture. Later, he studied in the United States and received his doctorate.
In 1937, Yang Xiandong returned to China and joined the Chinese Communist Revolution. He accepted the instructions of Zhou Enlai and Dong Biwu, and cooperated with Tao Chuan and others in founding the Tangchi training class, which trained a large number of CCP guerrilla backbone; during the civil war between the Communist Party of China and the United Nations, he served as the deputy director of the Hubei branch of the United Nations Relief Administration, and used his special status to obtain a thousand tons of grain to support the CCP army; before Shanghai was occupied by the CCP, a batch of grain imported from the United States arrived in Shanghai, and the Kuomintang army was about to retreat to Guangzhou to transport this batch of grain to Before Shanghai was occupied by the Chinese Communist Party, a batch of grain imported from the United States arrived in Shanghai, and the Kuomintang army was about to retreat to Guangzhou.
After the establishment of the Chinese Communist Party, Yang Xiandong served as Vice Minister of the Ministry of Agriculture and Vice Chairman of the Chinese Association for Science and Technology, and joined the Chinese Communist Party in 1956. During the Cultural Revolution, he was purged and had his bones broken and fed to pigs to clean the cesspit for more than ten years. After the Cultural Revolution, he took the lead in lifting the lid on the “Dazhai” counterfeiting. His son Yang Yuanxing, chairman of the Chinese Art Photography Society, is married to Liu Yandong, a former Vice Premier of the State Council.
Yang Baipeng’s family was raided
The family of Yang Baipeng, who was related to Yang Gang, was also raided during the Cultural Revolution. According to Yang Baipeng’s recollections, after the outbreak of the Cultural Revolution, he went out with a few friends to visit many places in a “big group”. When he returned home, his home in a courtyard in Changtangmen Hutong was also raided: some Red Guards rushed into the house, rummaged through the boxes and left after filling a truck with “fifty-six boxes” of stuff.
What happened to Yang’s family once again shows that anyone who is compelled by the Chinese Communist Party to follow it will not escape its ultimate persecution, and Yang Gang’s death is probably the result of his realization that he has fallen for the Chinese Communist Party’s trick.