Category Archives for "History"

Aug 08

Visiting Chonnam University – Day 10

By Mitchell Blatt | History , Korea Trip 2016 , New Writing

Yesterday I arrived in Gwangju to revisit the sites of the historic Gwangju Uprising of 1980 against military rule. On my first day here, I followed the May 18 Road to see where and how the uprising started out of student protests at Chonnam University.

I wrote about it in detail at Kim Chi Bytes, one of the top South Korean blogs, where I am now a contributor. In part:

Chonnam National University is credited with being where the events of the Gwangju Uprising actually started, and it’s where the first May 15 Road trail starts. When the students arrived on the morning of May 18, the day after martial law was declared over the entire country, they were met with paratroopers and told the university was closed. Students across the country, along with about two dozen opposition lawmakers, including Gwangju local and future democratically-elected president Kim Dae-Jung. According to the May 18 Memorial Foundation, the paratroopers “unconditionally beat the students who were being observed in study in a library.”

As the news spread, more began coming to the university to resist martial law. By mid-morning, about 300-500 students had gathered by the gate in contrast to 30 paratroopers. Yoon Sang-won, then a student at Chonnam, writes that the students chanted, “Soldiers controlled by political commanders, return to your army post.” Other chants by the fifty students who sat down included, “End martial law!” and “Withdraw the order to close the universities!” according to Gwangju News.

The paratroopers warned, according to the account by Na Kahn-chae in South Korean Democracy: Legacy of the Gwangju Uprising, “If you do not return home immediately, you will be dispersed by force.” Students began throwing stones, and the paratroopers attacked. But the students were eventually able to move their protests throughout the city by the afternoon and march to the train station.

The spirit of student protest seems to be alive and well at Chonnam today. Banners hanging from trees voice opposition to THAAD, a missile defense system the government bought from the U.S., and support for students’ academic freedom.

Read the full post here: Visiting the Place Where the Gwangju Uprising Started

Aug 06

Tyranny is all the same: How South Korea and Vietnam whitewash their history – Day 8

By Mitchell Blatt | History , Korea Trip 2016

Water torture, beatings, pins placed under one’s fingernails… Those were some of the torture methods carried out at the Seodaemun Prison in Seoul. In the basement of the complex, which is now a museum, visitors can see a display of a mannequins hung upside down with water being poured over their faces, and of prisoners waiting in a walled room where they would hear screams from other prisoners being tortured next door.

Korea was annexed by Imperial Japan and occupied from 1910-45. After 1945, the exhibition at the Seodaemun Prison Museum mostly ends but for a few vague notes that the prison remained in use until 1987. Nonetheless, the exhibitions on display might give us an idea of what took place in the prison–and other Korean prisons–between 1945 and 1987.

“The mission received evidence that the following kinds of torture had been used against individuals in Korean prisons:
i. water torture–cold water forced up the nostrils through a tube.

iv. beatings–particularly to the soles of the feet.
v. being hung from the ceiling and spun around.
vi. having a ball-point pen placed between the fingers…

xiii. intimidation by the use of screams from adjoining rooms.”

That’s from a report produced by Amnesty International based on a 1975 trip to South Korea. Seodaemun isn’t mentioned by name, nor is any other prison, but human rights abuses and political repression were the norm in South Korea for most of the years up until its democratization in 1987.

Compare and contrast Seodaemun Prison’s text with that of 1975 U.S. Congressional testimony on South Korean human rights issues:

Press Freedom

“Shortwave Broadcasting Listening Incident

This was an incident where groups … working at the broadcasting station propaganda the ‘Chongqing Broadcasting’ and ‘Voice of America’, made by the Korean Provisional Government [in exile], to the public. However they were detected by the Japanese imperialists in December, 1942. As a result, a total of 150 people were arrested and imprisoned.” – Seodaemun Prison Museum

“A handful (four) of top liberal reporters were fired. … One hundred forty men and women, including all the 1 day announcers of the radio station, and most of the producers, took over the presses and the radio on the eighth of March and held them in an attempt to save the one free voice in South Korea. These brave men and women held out until predawn, March 17, when a goon squad broke into the building and drove all the strikers into the street. … Each morning they gather in silent protest… …They pass out a mimeographed ‘True Dong A Il Bo’ stating their case and a little of the truth about current affairs. On April 29, I was there to see the chief of police of Seoul arrive and deliver the third and final warning to the silent and unmoving line of men and women. They would be arrested if they came back.” – Reverend James P. Sinnott, Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America, testimony before Congress, 1975


“There are some records regarding various torture methods. One such example can be described as ‘airplane torture’ in which a person’s hands and feet were tied back while being suspended in midair from an airplane. ‘Water torture’ was also used.” – Seodaemun Prison Museum

“Torture is frequently used by law-enforcement agencies both in an attempt to extract false confessions and as a tactic of intimidation. The methods of torture comprise, inter alla, (a) water torture-cold water forced up the nostrils through a tube, (b) electrical torture, often in conjunction with water torture, to sentivie parts of the body such as the toes and genitals, (c) the beating of persons tied hand and foot and suspended from the ceiling, (d) deprivation of sleep for prolonged periods–one case up to 15 days.” – Amnesty International report inserted into Congressional testimony, 1975

Brief Mention of Dissidents at Museum

“After the restoration of national independence Seodaemun Prison was a historical symbol of Korea’s democratization movement until it was moved to another area in 1987. The victims from the tumultuous political events manipulated by the dictatorship along with the students, laborer and democratization activists who fought against the despotic regime were imprisoned, tortured or died here.” – Seodaemun Prison Museum

(The display elaborates somewhat in Korean)

Here in Korea for two weeks,Continue reading

Jul 18

In my upcoming travelogue on Korea, I’m going to revisit the place commoners fought martial law with guns

By Mitchell Blatt | History , Promotions , Travel

The citizens were lined up in the park, holding machine guns and M-1 rifles. They had forced the authorities out after the police had brutalized and arrested peaceful protesters, and scared the military off after 700 soldiers who had been called to suppress the protests began firing on and killing citizens.

UPDATE: My trip to Korea is over, and my Kickstarter campaign unfortunately did not succeed. However, I am still going to be writing exclusive articles about my travels in Korea. These exclusive articles will only be available to email subscribers. Click here to visit the subscribe page, or sign up below:

The scene was Gwangju, the year 1980. Ever since the end of the Korean War, there had been sporadic protests for democracy against an ever-changing lineup of authoritarian regimes in South Korea. Elections would be rigged, opposition leaders arrested, the parliament dissolved, or the president would take some “crisis” as an excuse to declare martial law. Eventually the dictator would be disposed of by assassination or coup, and a new dictator would take his spoils. It went on like this through five republics and one period of military rule, but in 1979, the people would stand for it no longer. Demonstrations swept the nation in May 1980. On May 17, Chun Doo-hwan, who had used the assassination of strongman president Park Chung-hee to seize control of the military and domestic security security apparatus (and later the presidency) declared martial law over the whole country on the pretext of maintaining stability. The demonstrations in most cities were put down without bloodshed. But the people of Gwangju city in South Jeolla province, long known for its independent nature and history of rebellions, stood their ground.

For almost a week, the people of Gwangju held control of the city. They formed self-government committees, they printed a newspaper, and they raided police stations and automobile factories for arms and vehicles. On the early morning of May 27, their uprising came to an end. A line of tanks rolled in. The people had gathered on the outskirts of city the day before to try, with little success, to slow the advance of the military. Then civil militias faced down the tanks with weapons they had gathered. Their final stand lasted just one-and-a-half hours before the Korean military had regained control of the city. All told, at least 144 protesters and militants died, as did 22 troops and 4 police officers. Those are the numbers released by the government, but the Bereaved Family Association says at least 165 Gwangju citizens died, and some government critics argue the death toll is as much as 2,000*.
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May 20

Propaganda posters of the Mao era and a propaganda clock

By Mitchell Blatt | China , History

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the May 16 notification in 1966, which summarized Mao’s thoughts and led to the Cultural Revolution, a decade of chaos, attacks on intellect and culture, and state-sanctioned violence that China has never fully come to grips with.

While visiting Xuzhou, a city in northern Jiangsu, as part of the “Foreigners’ View of Jiangsu” series, which invites foreigners in China on tours around the province, we visited an interesting museum at Wolongquan Ecological Museum Park, which displayed Mao-era propaganda posters and items of daily life. I begin this introduction with an old fashioned clock just because it includes Cultural Revolution slogans.

In the yellow text on red stripes at the bottom, it says,

Long live immaculate Mao Zedong thought!
Long live Chairman Mao! Long live the Chinese Communist Party!
Long live the Great Cultural Revolution of the Proletariat! Revolution isn’t a crime

The clock was among many in a large room full of clocks:

Besides clocks, there were also a lot of propaganda posters from a time span including the 50’s and 60’s:

Many of the posters evoked the anti-American sentiment of the time. Mao Zedong thought of the world divided into “three worlds.” Unlike the Western theory, the world wasn’t divided between capitalist (U.S. and its allies) and communist (the Soviets and their allies), but rather between exploiter countries (both the U.S. and U.S.S.R.), in-between countries (Canada, Japan), and the exploited (China, India, Africa, most of Asia). Deng Xiaoqing expressed that view to the United Nations in 1974, but the idea of China uniting with other poor nations preceded it.

Other posters from 1951 expressed the deep scars of the early years of the Cold War. One poster shows Chinese soldiers shooting American planes down in flames in Korea, and another equates the United States with Nazis. (Note the swastika morphed with the dollar sign.)
Ironically, the poster takes credit for the Communist Chinese having defeated both Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany while at the same time lauding its success at relegating the Nationalist Chinese to the verge of defeat. The Nationalists, however, (to say nothing of the obvious case of the Americans) did most of the fighting against the Japanese on the Chinese side.

Oct 08

The Impact of the “Worker, Peasant, and Soldier Students” on China

By Mitchell Blatt | China , History

From 1970-77, admissions to universities in China were based on class background, not qualifications, as I wrote about in my article on the history of the “worker, peasant, and soldier students” campaign.

The impact of that campaign still holds some influence on views towards education in China. One is support for the gao kao college entrance exam. While many (including myself, including Chinese people) criticize the exam, which students focus on for their final year of high school, for fostering a culture of rote learning and arguably hurting creativity, many of the same Chinese critics also praise the exam at the same time for ensuring fairness. While I have pointed to some problems with that line of thought, it is true that the exam lets everyone be evaluated against each other on the same test (even if some people get extra points for various reasons, or have benefits based on their place of birth).

Civil service tests, which tested scholars for service to the emperor, have a long history in China, and the gao kao was implemented before the end of the Cultural Revolution, so it is by no means the only reason people support the gao kao, but the fact that college admissions were so recently based entirely on political and class-based discrimination, rather than merit, lends some to support the gao kao as a merit-based test with a level playing field.

In 2007, China Daily published an article that made the case:

One of my cousins, who was a top student at a well known Beijing high school in the early 1960s, received high scores on his entrance examinations, but his father had been stigmatized as a “rightist” in 1957.

As a result, my cousin was denied university education.

Determining whether or not a student could be admitted to university based on irrelevant standards denied many talented youth from receiving the higher education they deserved, but the exams were otherwise fair.

During the political upheaval of the “cultural revolution” , the college entrance exam was replaced with a recommendation scheme, which placed irrelevancies, such as a student’s family’s political background, before the applicant’s academic ability.

The exam system is so entrenched it is even used for assigning students to high schools. While there was corruption and relationship-seeking involved in getting people into college “through the backdoor” during the Cultural Revolution, that practice hasn’t been eliminated with testing either. Chinese use relationships for almost all aspects of life. They can also try to get their children assigned to a better high school by networking with their friends or relatives who are in a position to open back doors.

Oct 08

The “Worker, Peasant, and Soldier Students” Program at Nanjing University

By Mitchell Blatt | China , History

After the Cultural Revolution started universities closed their doors to new students. It wasn’t until years later that they began admitting students again—but those students were “workers, peasants, and soldiers” chosen on the basis of class discrimination rather than qualifications. Even those lucky few, however, never got proper educations from the politicized education system Maoism imposed.

This is the story of how the “worker, peasant, and soldier students” campaign worked at Nanjing University, as told by Nanjing University 100 Years of Rich History, a Chinese-language history of the school published by Nanjing University Publishing House.

In 1966, with the Cultural Revolution, the gao kao college entrance exam system was suspended along with admissions. It was said that the test favored bourgeois city dwellers. It wasn’t until June 1970 that the first major universities, Beijing University and Tsinghua University (also in Beijing), began preparations to reopen that year. On April 28, 1972, Nanjing University welcomed its first class of “worker, peasant, and soldier students.” 1,005 were invited, and 995 enrolled in classes, studying 26 majors. From 1972-77, 4,007 “workers, peasants, and soldiers” attended Nanjing University.

Students were chosen on the basis of “good political thought, healthy body, around 20 years of age, and being a worker, poor farmer, or People’s Liberation Army soldier or youth cadre with a level of cultural development equivalent to middle school of higher.” “Educated youths” who had gone “down to the countryside” (上山下乡) to work the fields and “learn from the peasants” were also supposed to be given consideration. But in August 1973, of the 2,149 students at Nanjing University, just 3 came from “exploiting class” households.

Some of the “workers, peasants, and soldiers” chosen were chosen on the basis of relationships, having entered “through the backdoor” (走后门). Zhong Zhimin, a second-year student at Nanjing University (the program was three years) dropped out of college in protest, writing an open letter on September 28, 1973 that said: “I am one of the students who got in through the back door. At my constant insistence, father called the military district cadres department and urged them to nominate me.”

People’s Daily published his report on January 11, 1974, and some other students who benefited from relationships also resigned from school.

Those who did get accepted had low intellectual standards and low educational attainment on average, prompting Nanjing University to start teaching basis skills in remedial classes, including “elementary level math.” This program was criticized by ideologues as a counterrevolutionary “revisionist educational road” designed to restore the old power bases.

One famous example of an unqualified student was Zhang Tiesheng, from Liaoning. He was held up by the Maoist Gang of Four, including Mao’s wife Jiang Qing, as a national hero after being recommended and submitting a mostly blank test paper in 1973 and was nonetheless accepted to a prestigious university. Instead of filling in the blanks he wrote a long missive extolling himself for working on the farm rather than spending time studying. After Mao died and the Cultural Revolution ended, he was arrested in 1976 on charges of supporting the Gang of Four as they tried to hang onto power. He recentlymade the news again these past two years by making a fortune with an IPO.

The classes the “worker, peasant, and soldier students” did take were heavily politicized. Mao’s writings were used as “the basic material for political study.” Students spent months on farms and at factories, even though most of them had come from those places. Arts students spent 3 months each school year away from school.

They were expected not only to learn but also to control the universities. As a history of Nanjing Normal University, Nanjing Normal University Record, 1902-1992 states: “[T]he role of the worker, peasant, and soldier students was to ‘attend university, look after university, and use Mao Zedong thought to transform university’ (上大学,管大学,用毛泽东思想改造大学).”

“This put the teachers in the position of being reformed and overturned the normal teacher-student relationship, causing the quality of education to drop substantially, and at the same time retarding the worker, peasant, and soldier students’ personal growth and development,” the history continues.

Yet most students were appreciative of the precious time they had for real education, the Nanjing University history contends. “The vast majority of worker, peasant, and soldier students already hated how the ‘Cultural Revolution’ delayed and wasted their youth.”

See More: The Impact of the Worker, Peasant, Soldier Students Movement on Chinese Thought

Jul 17

Merchants Praying to Chairman Mao for Riches

By Mitchell Blatt | Culture , History , Travel

IMG_4289 copyWhile I was in the courtyard of Mao Zedong’s childhood home, a tourist from Anhui asked if I “worshipped” the man. No, I said, do you? She said yes. At some shops nearby, people even burnt incense at the feet of large Mao statues. In Mao’s hometown of Shaoshan, some people still view him as more than a man.

After seeing his house, I walked into a large corridor of hawkers selling Mao statues (appropriately golden), tee shirts, pins, and other merchandise. Hawkers yelled for people to buy their wares. It was a hot day, so I bought water for the inflated price of 5 yuan, 1.5 times more than it costs outside of a tourist area.


The prayers of the shop owners when they placed the incense must have been for wealth. At Mao Zedong Square, many companies even left flowers for him, and a woman who recently opened a hotel walked around him three times, bowing her head and hoping for the hotel is a success that earns her family a lot of money.

I thought about the 5 yuan water as I ate dinner at Mao Jia Restaurant, a famous chain originating in Shaoshan in 1987. Mao once said, “Serve the people,” and the quote was printed on all the wait staff’s tee shirts with Mao’s face. The quote can be modified to say, “Serve the People’s Currency,” as the yuan is also called “People’s Currency” (RMB – 人民币) in Chinese.

At Mao Jia Restaurant, I ordered “cut pepper fish head” (剁椒鱼头), a famous Hunan dish. Maybe they overheard me talking on the phone, telling the above story about my day to a friend, because they later brought me complimentary dishes of pork braised in brown sauce (红烧肉), Mao’s favorite dish, and Chinese spinach. They apparently took the real quote seriously.


If you come to Shaoshan, you will see Mao when you arrive. His portrait adorns the outside of the train station and the inside of the bus station. His legacy has done much to help the tourism economy of Shaoshan. One tour guide estimated there were about 500 people employed as tour guides there.

Shaoshan Train Station

Shaoshan Train Station

The man on one hundred dollar bills (and indeed all denominations of one yuan or more) once said, “It is a very good thing, and a significant one too, to exterminate the bourgeoisie and capitalism in China.”

Chinese people are resourceful with their deities. Even if they don’t believe in Buddhism, many non-believers will still bow their heads and pray at Buddhist temples. Chinese religion, to quote what Matt Damon’s character in the Dogma boardroom scene said about voodoo, “is a fascinating practice. No real doctrine of faith to speak of, more an arrangement of superstitions.” The golden statue reigns.

Jun 27

Xujiahui Church in the Cultural Revolution

By Mitchell Blatt | History

In 1966, the Xujiahui Church (St. Ignatius Cathedral) displayed Mao’s image over the front door. The Cultural Revolution had just started, and Red Guard students were tearing down historical and cultural anti-revolutionary relics. On August 23, they arrived at the St. Ignatius Cathedral in Xujiahui district of Shanghai and attacked the church. Elements of the exterior were torn down. Propaganda slogans were put up. The congregation was told they couldn’t believe in both Mao and Jesus and labeled “cow, monster, snake, gods,” (牛鬼蛇神), a term for “bad characters” used during the time, and marched in the street wearing signs. This history is laid out in the book “Folk Images, Volume 4″ (《民间影像,第四辑》), a compilation of 20th century Chinese events published by Tongji University Publishing.

Xujiahui church in August 1966, with Jesus torn down and replaced with Mao.

Xujiahui church in August 1966, with Jesus torn down and replaced with Mao. (Source: “Folk Images, Volume 4,” Tongji University Publishing.


This year, I visited the St. Ignatius Cathedral during a trip to Shanghai. It looks like nothing happened. An article in the L.A. Times says that the Red Guards also smashed all the stained glass windows and that the church was used as a granary during the rest of the Cultural Revolution. The new stained glass windows, the L.A. Times reported, weren’t completed until the past decade.


None of that history is reported at the church itself. Tourists just take pictures, admire the inside, and read a sign that explains “the difference between Catholicism and Christianity” (“天主教与基督教有什么区别”). The sign explains the difference between Catholicism and Protestantism.

The district around the church has lots of old schools and other relics, old libraries and observatories. Xujiahui is named after the Xu family of Xu Guangqi, a wealthy scholar and Catholic convert who lived from 1562-1633. Xu worked with Italian Jesuit Matteo Ricci to translate books. Eventually their family donated the land for the church to be built. The large cathedral was built in 1910 after smaller churches resided there in the 1800’s.

Mar 21

Sidney Rittenberg and Communists’ Confusion About What “Democracy” Is

By Mitchell Blatt | History , Literature

During the campaigns of the Chinese Communist Party prior to the Cultural Revolution, Sidney Rittenberg recommended innocent people be forced into labor camps, unquestionably supporting the Party. During the Cultural Revolution, Rittenberg happily yelled at innocent people and spread propaganda supporting the dictatorship of Mao.

Reading his memoir The Man Who Stayed Behind, it is interesting to see why he supported the violent, conformist, closed-minded movement that was the Cultural Revolution: Because that’s what “democracy” and “freedom” is, according to his understanding of Communism at the time.

In Rittenberg’s view, as described in his memoir, the Cultural Revolution was the masses rebelling against the party. The Red Guards attacked party leaders, shackled them, put them into criticism sessions, and such. Of course, it was all being directed by Mao. Rittenberg supported the dictatorship of one, rather than the dictatorship of the Party:

It was Mao’s guidelines for the Cultural Revolution… This, I thought, was a program for the end of party dictatorship. (315)

Later on page 315, Rittenberg described how, “The party told us what to think,” and what would happen when the party is no longer telling us what to think and chaos ensues? Just follow Mao’s line, which he handily described in his guidelines.

All at once, there was no one to trust, no one to tell us what to do, how to think, whom to like, what to believe. We all had to think for ourselves, to decide was this good, was this right, was this revolutionary. Did it follow Mao’s teachings? (316)

In the space of two sentences, Rittenberg said “We had to think for ourselves,” then that they had to follow Mao’s teachings. Clearly, then, there was someone–just one person–to tell them what to do.

Rittenberg lauded the Cultural Revolution as a means for bringing about a democratic system involving the masses, but on page 317, he describes the story of a girl who was elected leader of her school’s Cultural Revolution Committee and overthrown by Mao’s wife.

But when Jiang Qing [Mao’s wife] declared the rebel radical minority the true revolutionaries, Morning Dove’s Cultural Revolution Committee collapsed.

The Man Who Stayed Behind documents the perplexing logical gymnastics and cognitive dissonance required of the Communists throughout history of China, worst of all during the Cultural Revolution. For page after page, Rittenberg describes how the Cultural Revolution will bring about democracy and civil rights while he is watching innocent people shackled, yelled at, and attacked by mobs. The Cultural Revolution would bring about freedom of expression, all while people who were not capitalists were accused of being capitalist class enemies and not given any right to respond. It would be a non-violent revolution, but the Red Guards would murder and torture people they thought disagreed with Mao. Forget even being theoretically allowed to disagree in such a movement that was about freedom and democracy.

It should serve as a warning, too, to anyone who wants to advance “non-violent” revolution through violent means, and to anyone who draws lines among ideological comrades between the so-called “establishment” and “base.”

Mar 09

The Tea Party’s Paranoid View of Politics and What A Real Revolutionary Looks Like

By Mitchell Blatt | History , Literature

Shortly after Barack Obama took office, a Department of Homeland Security memo warned about the possibility of violence from right-wing extremists. The Tea Party movement held this memo up as evidence that the government is engaging in an attack on conservatives. It was the first of many grievances and conspiracy theories that have caused the right-wing to cast themselves as victims of imagined government tyranny.

Right-wing activists, bloggers, and media have made up stories that the DHS is stockpiling ammunition to kill innocent Americans, that Obama is firing generals who don’t agree to fire on the American people, and that Obama wants to confiscate everyone’s guns so that they can’t fight back in the coming civil war that some, including a Texas judge, predict is coming.

But Rand Paul brought the government-vs-people narrative to new levels of exposure with his 13 hour rant against drones on the Senate floor. The view that the government will use drones to randomly kill innocent Americans or anti-government protesters has now been expressed by a member of the U.S. Senate, and Paul is being aggressively congratulated by conservative activists and politicians who have previously been on record of supporting enhanced interrogation, wiretapping, and indefinite detainment of terrorist suspects.

Tea Partiers think they are going to be the victims of drone strikes when the civil war begins. To hold such clearly-expressed fears when there is nothing threatening is tantamount to cowardice.

To some degree, the right-wing is trying to create a sense of martyrdom by inflating their own side’s heroism and the other side’s evil. It’s an old tactic. During George Bush’s presidency, Keith Olbermann was busy fear-mongering about Bush’s wiretapping “1984 machine,” and more recently, some Occupy Wall Street protesters have claimed that the New York Police Department sent criminals to Zuccotti Park to commit crimes, just like the Tea Party thinks the DHS is trying to label them as terrorists.

By establishing that the whole world is against you, you can rally the troops more easily. But it also creates a fake sense of heroism that the activists can never live up to, especially if there is a real fight.

The Tea Party is not the minute men of 1776, who were willing to put their lives on the line for independence from a real power. They aren’t the civil rights activists who went to jail for sitting at lunch counters and had dogs and fire hoses unleashed on them. Moreover, a real revolutionary doesn’t talk up the threat they are facing and doesn’t fear it.

Sidney Rittenberg was an American Communist Party activist who was drafted and sent to China during World War II. Afterwards, he stayed in China for more than thirty years and joined the Chinese Communist Party.

This is how he describes the Communist’s reaction to the Nationalist (Guomingdang) bombing of Yanan during the Chinese Civil War in his memoir The Man Who Stayed Behind:

Raising my arms, I immediately shouted, “Down with U.S. imperialism!” Immediately, there was an ear-splitting explosion, this time a direct hit on the mountain slope just above the roof of our cave. A section of the roof fell in, and our colleagues from the next cave came scurrying through the corridors of the shelter.

But rather than treating my act as a brave gesture of defiance, my colleagues seemed disapproving. One editor turned and said, “For us Chinese, the prospect of death holds no terrors. We are not afraid to die.”

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