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Where have all the Flowers/Heroes gone?

Growing up in the 60s with all the music from Beatles to Rock’ n ‘Rolls, I gravitate more to folk songs by Pete Seeger and Joan Baez. The song “Where have all the flowers gone” is always one of my favorites. Today with the younger generation or millennials questioning all the values, knocking all heroes from their pedestals, decry all politicians for their failure to be authentic, worshipping only make believe super heroes from Marvel Comics or movies like “Star Wars”, or even feeling the Bern of Bernie Sanders, I wonder whether they carried their cynicism too far. Two recent movies by HBO, “Confirmation” and “Going All the Way”, About Anita Hill and Lyndon Johnson, both affected politics in U.S. very much for the last 50 years, generated excellent reviews, but little resonance to the market place.
This phenomenon of questioning everything seem to be infecting China also. Yesterday I read an article from NYT (Sinosphere), “Chinese Court Orders Apology Over Challenge to Tale of Wartime Heroes”. Mr. Hong Zhenkuai questioned the validity of narrative of 5 martyrs of Langya Mountain, on whether they really jumped or slipped, or whether many Japanese were killed or just injured during the engagement. There were others in Weibo questioning other heroes during the Korea War. I wrote a comment back;
“Does it really matter whether any Japanese died there? Does it matter that someone else was identified as raising the flag in Okinawa? Mr. Hong is not really interested in debunking the narrative of 5 martyrs, he’s more interested in debunking the whole narrative of Chinese Revolution. For that he should be more than required to apologize for defamation, maybe expelled to U.S. for a faculty position in Ivy League.”
This questioning of war time heroes generated large backlashes in China from the left, not only on the specific questions, but also on the economic reform of the last 35 years, whether China is on the correct path, and of course the historical evaluation of Mao and Cultural Revolution.

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  1. July 5th, 2016 at 11:51 | #1

    There are basically two ways to challenge a widely accepted historical narrative. One way is to come up with new found evidence. The other, is to challenge the narrative by simply using doubt, character assassination, or even fabricated evidence. For example, it is only until recently that even US academics can raise character faults with historical figures such as Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln etc. Nevertheless, despite using evidence these academics are careful not to use character assassination and invalidate the founding of the US as a nation.

    However, as the PRC is viewed as a threat, and thus an abomination. CCP, PLA and above all Mao has been portrayed as monsters. In the case of PRC it is common to see detractors use the following narrative to describe the founding of the PRC:

    The Nationalist do the lion share of fighting the Japanese invaders but was outfought by the crafty Communist. Then the CCP help in the invasion of peaceful South Korea. The power crazed Mao also started the Great Leap Forward, then the CR to consolidate power. To prevent their power slipping away, the CCP committed the Tiananman massacre. And until this day, the CCP is the biggest murderer and oppressor of the Chinese people. Nevertheless, the CCP is not contented with oppressing their own people, because China has build wealth by taking away jobs from the rest of the world it is now preparing to conquer the world, starting with bullying its weaker neighbours.

    Well, imagine the same standard being apply to the US, which is unimaginable:

    When the European first settled in the continent, they don’t know how to cultivate the local food crop. The naive native helped them but for a few hundred years the colonists celebrated Thanksgiving by pretending it is the other way round. And to repay their kindness, the new settlers committed genocide on the natives. They also went to Africa and kidnapped the local people to be sold as slaves. Their founder Washington is one of the largest slave owner in Virginia. And Jefferson raped his own slaves and didn’t free his own children until on his death bed. Lincoln also killed more of his own people, than the German or Japanese in two world wars. Their crazed general Sherman even burned down Atlanta and many cities and town. To this day, the US is a rogue nations starting wars all over the world, and is a slave nation where more people are in prisons than any country in the world.

  2. N.M.Cheung
    July 6th, 2016 at 02:55 | #2

    Yet the narrative in China today as the celebration of 95th party anniversary showed, it can’t avoid mentioning the contribution of Mao and do justice to that history. Just as the fight against corruption can’t continue without studying the damage of Deng’s black/white cat theory did to the party and caused income inequality. Mao and CR maybe divisive as a legacy and inconvenient for social harmony, but it is as unavoidable as mentioning Marxism without Marx or Mao.

  3. Rhan
    July 6th, 2016 at 08:22 | #3

    “The Nationalist do the lion share of fighting the Japanese invaders but was outfought by the crafty Communist.”

    I always thought this is the case, I mean relatively if compare against CCP, even the recent many tv series start to acknowledge this.

  4. N.M.Cheung
    July 6th, 2016 at 09:31 | #4

    I have to disagree with you on that. The Nationalist did the lion share of fighting is true only in the sense they control most of the territory that Japanese were invading, hence they were in more contact by default. It was the communists that did most of the damage to Japanese in the rear actions.

  5. July 6th, 2016 at 10:15 | #5

    There is a Chinese saying, “If the water is too pure a wish can’t survive.” Sometimes you can’t have one without the other. In market economy system, the flaw of human nature simply meant that greed, corruption, prostitution cannot be prevented. So even in Scandinavia and very efficient Chinese cities like HK, Singapore, they exists, albeit in a much lower rate.

    Rhan and Cheung
    I really hate to discuss the issue of who contribute more in the Japanese, as it is pointless dick measuring but I hated the distortion even more. Most people simply miss a major point in that it is the common Chinese soldiers that did the lion share of the fighting not the generals or political party. And most forget that the Nationalist soldiers that did the lion share of the fighting switched sides during the civil war in 1947-49. During that period more than 2 millions Nationalist soldiers joined the Communist. The Communist army rank was around 1 million in 1945 but swelled to over 4 million in 1949. So if we want to say who did the fighting more, it is the mainland side since former Nationalist soldiers now swelled its rank.

    And another point most Communist detractors missed was should fighting be counted in the form of losses or effectiveness. The Communist troops numbered just 50,000 in 1937 but increased to 1 million in 1945 and controlled a large territory surrounding Japanese occupied cities. The Japanese at its peak have over 2 million troops and 1 million puppet troops (Chinese collaborators) but despite invading since 1931 was unable to controlled more than a third of Chinese territory. The Communist got most of its arms by capturing them from the Japanese and was able to win control in pretty much 3 years after WWII. So this is a good yard stick of contribution and effectiveness. And it is this same army that fought the US led forces numbering over 500,000 in Korea to a stand still. Tell me how many army can do that? We can have theory and “what if” but why can’t we just judge the effectiveness by looking at the results.

    Since 1949, the new China has made many positive contribution but why only concentrate on the negatives. I am not saying we should ignore it but if we study US history that way how can it be constructive? The main reason I support the CCP is not based on ideology but on the result and comparison. During the CR, the US is also going through a very turbulent period. The US was getting itself stuck in the Vietnam war where over 10 million people lost their life. That period ushered in the civil rights movement which is actually very violent; politically, John, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King were all assassinated. If we look at SE Asia, things are pretty bloody as well.

    However, even during CR, China made tremendous gain in life expectancy and large population increase. And the end of it brought the largest economic development in human history. China was only able to achieve that by creating a detente with the major powers of the world. And it is the Communist that did that through their effort and backing of the Chinese people. I don’t believe in the fairy tale that if the Nationalist won, China would be country which is richer than US and Europe combined and getting their admiration and respect. Pretty much all CCP haters bear this assumption.

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