How Mao molded Communism

Source: NYT (10/23/17)
How Mao Molded Communism to Create a New China
Roderick MacFarquhar

Mao Zedong in 1961. CreditLyu Houmin/VCG, via Getty Images

Toward the end of his life, dying of Lou Gehrig’s disease, Mao Zedong claimed two achievements: leading the Communist revolution to victory and starting the Cultural Revolution. By pinpointing these episodes, he had underlined the lifelong contradiction in his attitudes toward revolution and state power.

Mao molded Communism to fit his two personas. To use Chinese parlance, he was both a tiger and a monkey king.

For the Chinese, the tiger is the king of the jungle. Translated into human terms, a tiger is a high official. The agency running President Xi Jinping’s anticorruption campaign today likes to boast when it has brought down another “tiger.” By leading the Chinese Communist Party to victory in 1949, Mao became the top tiger. Continue reading

Cross-Currents, no. 24

New China-Related Content: Cross-Currents: East Asian History and Culture Review (September 2017 online issue)


Special Issue: “Naming Modernity: Rebranding and Neologisms during China’s Interwar Global Moment in Eastern Asia”
Introduction to “Naming Modernity: Rebranding and Neologisms during China’s Interwar Global Moment in Eastern Asia”
Guest editor, Anna Belogurova (Freie Universität Berlin)

Li Yujie and the Rebranding of the White Lotus Movement
David Ownby (Université de Montréal)

China as the Leader of the Small and Weak: The Ruoxiao Nations and Guomindang Nationalism
Craig A. Smith (Australian National University)

Networks, Parties, and the “Oppressed Nations”: The Comintern and Chinese Communists Overseas, 1926–1935
Anna Belogurova (Freie Universität Berlin)

New Revolutionary Agenda: The Interwar Japanese Left on the “Chinese Revolution”
Tatiana Linkhoeva (New York University)

“Awakening Asia”: Korean Student Activists in Japan, The Asian Kunglun, and Asian Solidarity, 1910–1923
Dolf-Alexander Neuhaus (Goethe University Frankfurt)

From Revolutionary Culture to Original Culture and Back: “On New Democracy” and the Kampucheanization of Marxism-Leninism, 1940–1965
Matthew Galway (University of British Columbia) Continue reading

“Dividing up the [Chinese] Melon”

Dear colleagues,

Perhaps the (exceedingly long) article “Dividing up the [Chinese] Melon, guafen 瓜分”: The Fate of a Transcultural Metaphor in the Formation of National Myth,” Transcultural Studies 1 (2017), 9-122. (open access) is of interest to members of the MCLC list.


Rudolf G. Wagner <>

Women in the communist revolution

Source: NYT (9/25/17)
How Did Women Fare in China’s Communist Revolution?
By Helen Gao

A workers delegation marching in Yumen, China, in 1958. CreditHenri Cartier Bresson/Magnum Photos

BEIJING — My grandmother likes to tell stories from her career as a journalist in the early decades of the People’s Republic of China. She recalls scrawling down Chairman Mao’s latest pronouncements as they came through loudspeakers and talking with joyous peasants from the newly collectivized countryside. In what was her career highlight, she turned an anonymous candy salesman into a national labor hero with glowing praises for his service to the people.

She had grown up in the central province of Hunan, where her father was a landlord. She talks about her mother as a glum housewife who resented her husband for taking a concubine after she had failed to give birth to a boy. Continue reading

“Youth” release postponed

Source: NYT (9/25/17)
Touching on History, a Chinese Film May Have Been Burned by It

Feng Xiaogang after winning the best director award for “I Am Not Madame Bovary” at the Golden Horse Awards in Taipei, Taiwan, last year. The release of his new film, “Youth,” has been indefinitely postponed.CreditTyrone Siu/Reuters

BEIJING — One of China’s most popular directors, Feng Xiaogang, was determined to triumph at the box office with the release of his new film “Youth” during the weeklong National Day holiday.

In the run-up to the film’s expected release later this week, Mr. Feng and his actors had been touring China, promoting the romantic drama set against the Cultural Revolution and China’s brief, harrowing war against Vietnam.

But then Mr. Feng’s premiere was abruptly canceled. Continue reading

Sha Fei exhibition

Source: China Daily (9/19/17)
Exhibition focuses on work of noted army photographer
By Lin Qi

Exhibition focuses on work of noted army photographer

Sha Fei, Chinese photographer [Photo provided to China Daily]

Two gunshots were heard at the Bethune International Peace Hospital in Shijiazhuang, Hebei province, in December 1949. A Japanese doctor was shot dead by Sha Fei (1912-50), a patient of tuberculosis and a noted photographer of the People’s Liberation Army.

Two months later, Sha was sentenced to death by a military court in China.

A retrial in 1986 acquitted Sha posthumously saying he was in mental distress as he was reminded of the cruelty of war scenes when seeing the Japanese doctor, and he thought the doctor had attempted to poison him.

Sha took up photography in the 1930s and became the first full-time photographer of the Eighth Route Army led by the Communist Party of China around 1937.

But, Sha’s career as a photographer was short lived, and his work was not studied or presented until in recent times.

A Tower of Light, an exhibition now on at the museum of Beijing Fine Art Academy, sheds light on Sha’s contribution to 20th-century Chinese photography. On show are some 100 images from Sha’s oeuvre, which are printed from the negative plates owned by his family. Continue reading

Wu Feng’s downfall

Source: Taipei Times (9/10/17)
Taiwan in Time: The drastic downfall of Wu Feng
Revered for almost a century, the man who sacrificed himself to stop the Aboriginal practice of headhunting was removed from history textbooks in 1989, and slowly fading into obscurity
By Han Cheung  /  Staff Reporter

A painting of Wu Feng arriving on a white horse wearing red, per the legend, hangs on the walls of the Wu Feng Temple in Chiayi. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

For almost a century, Wu Feng (吳鳳) was known as a selfless, compassionate hero. Under both Japanese and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) rule, every child read in school about how Wu sacrificed himself to stop Aborigines from their “savage and backward headhunting practices.”

Here’s the gist of the story: Wu spent much time with the Tsou Aborigines in what is today Chiayi County, teaching them how to farm and make crafts. After trying to delay their headhunting ritual to no avail, Wu told them to decapitate a man in red clothes who would pass by the next day. They did so, only to find that the man was Wu himself. Shocked and deeply saddened, the Aborigines vowed to give up the practice forever. Continue reading

Network of Concerned Historians 2017 report

Below find the China section of the 2017 annual report from the Network of Concerned Historians.–Kirk

Source: Network of Concerned Historians
Annual Report 2017

In 2013, historian Hong Zhenkuai, a former executive editor of the history journal Yanhuang Chunqiu (China Through the Ages), challenged in two articles the official narrative about the Five Heroes of Langya Mountain, whose reportedly heroic defense of the area against invading Japanese troops and ensuing suicide in 1941 became part of the revolutionary mythology of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). In August 2015, the sons of two of the five men sued him. On 27 June 2016, the Beijing Xicheng District People’s Court ruled that Hong had defamed the heroes and that he should apologize publicly on websites and news outlets to the complainants. In its verdict, it wrote that Hong’s articles failed to portray the five men positively and, “based on insufficient evidence,” cast doubt on the CCP’s narrative of events. According to the verdict, “The national sentiments, historical memories and the national spirit reflected in the five heroes of Langya Mountain and their story are important sources and components of modern China’s socialist core values … Thus, it also damages the Chinese nation’s spiritual values.” On 15 August 2016, the Beijing Second Intermediate People’s Court upheld the ruling. In a reaction, Hong declared that he would not apologize, saying that the plaintiffs had not provided any evidence that disproved his findings: “This is basic academic freedom, and I need to maintain my dignity as an intellectual.” The court would probably publish the verdict in the news media and order Hong to pay the publication costs. In July 2016, one of the plaintiffs, Ge Changsheng, had said in an interview that Hong’s articles negated CCP history and heroes and constituted “historical nihilism”. Continue reading

Twenty-Two’s popularity (1)

I would like to share a news article about the film Twenty-Two that was translated from Chinese and posted on the city hall official website of Jinhua, Zhejiang.

Marco Lovisetto <>

Source: (8/30/17)
Documentary on Comfort Women

August 14, 2017 marks the fifth International Comfort Women Day, which is also the day of the release of Twenty-Two, the first documentary about comfort women allowed to be officially released in China.

On August 12, two days before the film’s debut, 90-year-old Huang Youliang, the only survivor in mainland China who once sued the Japanese government for levying comfort women, passed away at her home in Lingshui Li Autonomous County of Hainan Province.

Su Zhiliang, a professor of Shanghai Normal University and director of the Research Center of Chinese Comfort Women, delivered the news to Jinhua Daily immediately when he saw Huang’s obituary. He urged Jinhua Daily to take good care of the one former comfort woman in Jinhua and keep him informed about her well-being. Continue reading

Twenty-Two’s popularity

Source: Sup China (2/28/17)
Documentary on World War II ‘comfort women’ might become most profitable Chinese movie of all time
Pang-Chieh Ho gives you the latest news from one of China’s most dynamic industries.
By Pang-Chieh Ho

A promotional photo for Twenty-Two

When Twenty-Two (二十二 èr shí èr), a documentary that interviews 22 surviving World War II sex slaves, debuted in mainland Chinese theaters on August 14, nobody had expected that it would be such a big hit with Chinese moviegoers. Made from a paltry budget of 3 million yuan ($450,000), Twenty-Two managed to buck expectations. Not only is it the first documentary to make more than 100 million yuan ($15 million) at China’s box office, according to Mtime (in Chinese), but if it ends up grossing 300 million yuan ($45 million), a goal that analysts are confident the documentary will attain, it will also become the most profitable Chinese movie of all time (in Chinese). Continue reading

China’s manipulation of history is infecting the West

Source: Washington Post (8/23/17)
China’s odious manipulation of history is infecting the West
By John Pomfret

A man takes a selfie last year near a picture of Chinese President Xi Jinping on display at an exhibition at the military museum in Beijing. (Andy Wong/Associated Press)

The announcement last week by Cambridge University Press that it had removed some 300 articles from a Chinese website hosting the China Quarterly, one of the premier academic journals on Chinese affairs, is yet another example of an assault on history by the People’s Republic of China. Censorship is a key element in the Chinese Communist Party’s strategy to stay in power. In so doing, it aims, one scholar has written, “to control China’s future by shaping consciousness of its past.”

Cambridge made the decision to block access to these articles after China’s General Administration of Press and Publication threatened to cut access in China to all of the journals published by Cambridge University Press. The offending articles in question appeared in the China Quarterly as far back as 1960 and concerned a range of topics considered sensitive in today’s China. There were pieces on the disastrous famine sparked by the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, the Tiananmen Square crackdown of 1989, the suppression of the Falun Gong religious sect and the troubled legacy of Mao Zedong. Continue reading

Cultural Revolution Selfies

Source: NYT (8/19/17)
When Self-Criticism Was an Order, These Portraits Were Revolutionary
查看简体中文版  /查看繁體中文版

Wang Qiuhang in Beijing in 1966. A new book of Mr. Wang’s photography is called “Cultural Revolution Selfies.” CreditWang Qiuhang/New Century Press

BEIJING — China’s Cultural Revolution, the decade-long campaign remembered for its fanaticism and upheaval, began in 1966 and was enforced by radicalized students who pledged to put the Communist Party ahead of self.

Mao Zedong’s army of young cadres was encouraged to suppress individuality in favor of a greater communal cause — no matter how dangerous the mob became.

At a time marked by forced confessions known as self-criticism, one young photographer, Wang Qiuhang, turned his camera on himself, subversively celebrating the self rather than suppressing it. Continue reading

Documentary about comfort women

List members might be interested to know that a documentary on Chinese comfort women opened in cinemas in China this week. This film is the project of a young director named Guo Ke 郭柯 who filmed his interviews with the survivors of comfort women for Japanese soldiers during WWII. Financial assistance was provided by a TV drama star who sought the support of TV and film celebrities in China, including director Feng Xiaogang 冯小刚, her husband Yuan Hong 袁弘, also a hot TV drama personality and other friends to help promote the film. The documentary shows the now elderly women plainly and let them speak for themselves. When Guo began the project, thirty of them were still alive. By the time the film was completed, only twenty two were left. That is why the film is titled Twenty Two. By now, when the film is ready to be shown, only eight were still living.

Lily Lee <>

China’s quest to end its century of shame

Source: NYT (7/13/17)
China’s Quest to End Its Century of Shame

CreditMatt Chase

SHANGHAI — At an ocean research center on Hainan Island off China’s southern coast, officials routinely usher visitors into a darkened screening room to watch a lavishly produced People’s Liberation Army video about China’s ambitions to reassert itself as a great maritime power.

As enormous, new naval vessels plow through high seas, a deep male voice intones: “China’s oceanic and overseas interests are developing rapidly. Our land is vast, but we will not yield a single inch to foreigners.” Continue reading