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Mao Zedong as a Father: Nianpu Notes from January 1951

In the six big volumes of Mao Zedong Nianpu (1949-1976) published in Beijing this past December 2013, a number of new texts can be located, and minor mysteries solved. I was fortunate to pick up copies of all six volumes on a recent trip to Shanghai. Chronologically organized, the writing in January 1951 is particularly interesting.

Having decided in October to go to war in Korea, and having been heavily involved in the planning and execution of that war, Mao in January 1951 was also consumed with interest in the campaign to suppress counterrevolutionaries, border consolidation, ongoing land reform in previously “unliberated areas,” as well as the occasional cultural policy — an area of great interest for Mao.

The first few days of January 1951 found him more taken than usual with his role as a father — not to the nation, but instead to his own children. Here, we learn how Mao was informed of his son’s death in Korea, and find him just a couple of days later writing a tender note to his daughter, Li Na.

Translations are often a bit rough, but they are my own.

1 January 1951

Mao revises an editorial for Renmin Ribao (People’s Daily) on improving the livelihood of the working masses. [Nianpu, Vol. 1, p. 275]  

2 January 1951

Mao complements officials in the south/southwestern province of Guangxi on their plan for anti-bandit work. [Nianpu, Vol. 1, p. 275]  

Mao, along with his wife Jiang Qing (who may be at a rural commune nearby) is informed by a communication from Zhou Enlai and Peng Dehuai that Mao’s son, Mao Anying, had been killed in the Korean War some five weeks prior on 25 November 1950. An excuse for the delay is tendered by Zhou and Peng, who write, referring back to 25 November: “Because at that time you all had colds  [当时我因你们都在感冒中], we decided to send this to you in the future; but Comrade [Liu] Shaoqi already had been sent [this information] to read.” Mao then says what has been known about his own loss; a laconic or terse response.  But then he goes on to praises Gao Ruishi’s idea for establishing cemeteries on the Korean battlefields for the Chinese People’s Volunteers once the war is over; this appears to be some solace and also perhaps appeals to Mao’s imperial or romantic imagination. [Nianpu, Vol. 1, pp. 275-276]

4 January 1951

Mao receives a note from Huang Kecheng [黄克诚] in his old home province of Hunan, explaining that reactionaries in old military schools remain a problem, partially because not many can be arrested, given that their crimes occurred before liberation and they had not committed any crimes since liberation. Does this mean they were puppet troops under the Japanese?  [Nianpu, Vol. 1, p. 276]

Mao writes two affectionate notes to his daughter Li Na, telling her he heard she was sick, and that he really misses her. “If you recuperate really well and get better soon, everyone will be really happy,” he writes, then noting “There was a huge snow, did you see it?” On January 6, Mao wrote to her again: “Are you or aren’t you feeling a little better? Daddy really misses you.” [Nianpu, Vol. 1, p. 277]

*All references are from Mao Zedong Nianpu, 1949-1976 [Chronology of Mao Zedong, 1949-1976], Vol. 1 (Beijing: Zhonggong zhongyang wenxian chubanshe, 2013).


Translations and Work Habits

I was pleased to find a volunteer had translated my Atlantic essay on the Unhasu Orchestra’s trip to Paris, and into Chinese, no less! 

Also, this is a fine essay on great writers and their work habits. 

Tibet on the Horizon

Chamdo in Paris

Tonight, wandering north toward the Rue Oberkampf in search of my little home for the week in Belleville (Parisian Chinatown), I ran across a Tibetan restaurant known as “Norbulingka.”  The establishment was on the ground floor of an average-sized building, yet it somehow seemed even more squat than an average restaurant, more insulated, more buttery.  So I went in and found a manager from Kham, and after some typical grappling for linguistic common ground, I coughed out what little remains of my command of Tibetan courtesies.   Like some tea houses in Lhasa or Chengdu, the place was certainly fine for a meeting of importance — quite unlike the German-influenced “Panic Room” where I had just before been hammering at a recalcitrant book chapter in the midst of orange and pink techno underneath a mural of African kids wearing East German military uniforms with stickers on their heads describing how stupid it was to have built the Berlin Wall.

Norbulinka beats techno every time.

“Tashi dele” duly bestowed, on the way out of the place, I fixed my gaze upon a poster of a handsome bald man wearing glasses.  It was of course the Dalai Lama, and the poster spoke of his upcoming appearance in Toulouse, France, in mid-August.

And speaking of the Dalai Lama….

McGranahan on Tibet’s Imperial Encounter

I found this paper by Carole McGranahan at the University of Colorado to be rather interesting:

Dr. McGranahan, whose anthropology home page is here, is the author of Arrested Histories: Tibet, the CIA, and Memories of a Forgotten War (Duke University Press, 2010).  She also has one of the more active Twitter feeds among academics with an interest in Tibet and clearly believes that the Tibetan government-in-exile has a strong case to make for state sovereignty and independence.

In the above presentation, she spends the first 3:55 on the gnarly theoretical question of post-colonialism; at about the halfway point (12′) she dives into the empirical research and the question of American intelligence (e.g., CIA) sponsorship of the Tibetan resistance in the 1960s.

Much food for thought!  And much thought there is, and more food for it, in this panel in Minnesota…

A Panel Rises in the East

As prognosticated, I will indeed be participating in the Midwest Conference on Asian Affairs / Himalayan Studies Conference this upcoming October at Macalaster College.  The panel, which runs on Saturday October 29 at 8:30 a.m., should be excellent:

Tibet, China, India: Mapping Connections across History, Politics, and Culture

Chair and Discussant: Geoff Childs, Washington University in St. Louis.

[Childs is an anthropologist with an impressive array of publications about demography in Tibet; his recent work with Melvyn Goldstein in The China Journal looks to be essential reading.]

1. Adam Cathcart, Pacific Lutheran University, “Liu Shengqi in Lhasa: A New Window Into Tibet and Chinese Assertions on the Plateau, 1945-1949”

2. Sarah Getzelman, The Ohio State University, “Imaging the Dalai Lama: Incarnations in Art and Practice”

3. Isabelle Henrion-Dourcy, Université Laval, “TV across the Indo-Tibetan Interface: Indian TV as a cultural mediator for ‘Newcomer’ Tibetans in Dharamsala?”


Photo courtesy Isabelle Henrion-Dourcy, click image for more details about her interdisciplinary fieldwork

Kim Jong Il in China: PRC Media Tropes

If there’s one thing we know about North Korea, it is that the DPRK is intensely mindful of how it is portrayed in foreign media.  Scrutinizing its own international image is something that the North Korean regime does not simply to hunt for materials with which to bludgeon the United States, Japan, and South Korea, but also to keep its nominal “friends” from becoming unrestrained in their complaints about North Korea.

In the recent past, the North Korean Embassy in Beijing has prompted the Chinese government to censor historical journals that asserted Kim Il Sung’s culpability for the Korean War, and earlier this year, China locked up an ethnic-Korean scholar for trafficking in rumors about Kim Jong Il.

At the same time, the Chinese media has become increasingly free to criticize the Kim family, even as references to Kim Jong Eun are now mostly preceded with his full military title and a nice “Vice Chairman.”

Why am I making these points and asking these questions today?  Because the Associated Press reports that Kim Jong Il is on his third trip to China in just over a year’s time.

China is covering this visit in its now-standard way: by second-hand summaries of South Korean media passed along in selected foreign affairs periodicals, namely, the Huanqiu Shibao.  No Chinese journalists have the right to tail Kim Jong Il, to interview anyone about the trip, publish a “scoop,” or get a quote from the North Korean Embassy in Beijing, or from sources in Pyongyang (where, by the way, Xinhua has a bureau).  Thus Chinese readers are left with South Korean speculations about his itinerary.

According to Huanqiu Shibao (whose passing along of South Korea reporting, in this case, indicates an endorsement of accuracy), Kim entered China via the extreme Northeastern DPRK city of Hamyang and went into Tumen, the small city on the frontier of the PRC’s Yanbian Korean Autonomous Region.  He is probably going further on, then, to Mudanjiang, where, as KCNA reported recently, North Korean tourism officials have been traveling.

As for Kim Jong Eun,  Huanqiu Shibao indicates that he may be studying the old “reform and opening up” techniques in Shanghai.  How detailed is this speculation?  Well, Kim Jong Eun’s name is not on the guest list at a guarded hotel in Mudanjiang, site of some anti-Japanese, pro-Korean resistance monuments.

Does this trip and the way that China is covering it testify, then, to a blossoming Sino-North Korean relationship where China pledges to continue to the flow of aid and back up the DPRK with its full military support?

Not quite: Witness this very unusual report which was released yesterday (two days ago in Chinese time) on Huanqiu TV, asserting that North Korea has 30,000 hackers in a special school whose purpose is to combat the United States. What is this all about?  Why does a Chinese Communist Party which is tightly controlling discourse about North Korea, and is certainly aware that the Kims are coming to town, release this report on the eve of that visit?  Is it possible they want to yell at someone?  Or is it fodder for China’s internet hawks, giving them another implement of proof that North Korea is a strategic asset for China because they can cause problems for the United States?

Perhaps the May 18 Global Times editorial, entitled “Dark Undertones of US Internet Diplomacy,” testifies that North Korea’s hacker army has its uses, so long as so long as it its ministrations are aimed Eastward and away from Beijing.  Now that unmanned aerial drones are reported (by both Huanqiu Shibao and KCNA) in the Sino-North Korean border region, it seems that cyberwarfare is more important than ever.

Of course, being ever “a shrimp between whales,” Kim Jong Il is again outflanked by other, larger, events: the  Chinese commentariat, as well as the netizens, seem  far more transfixed today on President Obama’s new Middle East speech than on the obscure itinerary of North Korean “politicians,” men who, after all, probably have far more in common with Mubarak and Qaddafi and than with Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao.  At the end of the day, even as Chinese leaders encourage or berate Kim to open up his economy, the preamble must surely be one wherein the lessons of past collapses are taken into account.

Kevin Garnett’s Chinese Blog

What Happens When NBA Culture Meets Chinese Political Culture -- image via HoopChina BBS -- click for a fascinating tribute to one Chinese fan's obsession with Kevin Garnett

Boston Celtics superstar Kevin Garnett, I found out yesterday from undisclosed sources, has been maintaining a bilingual (English-Chinese) basketball blog which is very, very popular in the PRC.

As described in this entry on LeBron James, NBA stars, including some in Cleveland, have been promoting shoes in China for while.  The fact that Kevin Garnett is now wearing Chinese shoes and shilling for a Chinese company (ANTA) has gone virtually unremarked in English-language media during the NBA playoff season.

A good overview, with some pictures of Garnett running the gauntlet of press events in Beijing in August 2010, is here.  He will be back in China in July and August, meaning in all likelihood he will be crossing paths with a handful of other NBA stars on the move on the mainland.

I suppose that the lack of criticism of Garnett for giving up his Adidas or Nikes for a Chinese brand is a positive sign, and reminds us that the National Basketball Association is one of the more proactive cultural groups in the U.S. promoting ties with China.  (Yes, I think we should link sports and cultural exchanges, in spite of the fact that the NBA is a multi-billion dollar business and does not appear to have much in common with the New York Philharmonic!)

Secretary of State Clinton, quite naturally, made sure to include NBA initiatives in her recent meetings on cultural exchanges with Chinese counterparts in Washington.

As for Garnett’s blog, it is bilingual by virtue of the ANTA translators, not Garnett himself.  (Garnett, in fact, never so much as went to college, but he has probably done more world travelling – “study abroad,” if you will — than the most globe-trotting undergraduate.)  So the translation is a bit rocky, and interesting.

How, for instance, do you translate “homeboy” into Chinese?  (哥们, it seems, is the answer.)

Here is the first paragraph of the entry:

As you know, we were knocked out of the playoffs by Miami. It’s unfortunate that we are out and in my mind didn’t reach our potential. Taking the last couple of days to think about things and the season was long. Their [sic] were ups and downs all season and dealing with teammates, leaving teammates, gaining teammates. Long hours, flights, practices, workouts, etc… Another season under my belt, but not satisfying. I’ll be getting back to the “lab” (workouts and court work) to work on my craft, so I can keep improving. I will be working on my skills and constantly trying to get better.


A big challenge for any translator is to capture something ephemeral, which is to say, the whiff or the aura of an unconventional sentence.

Garnett, for instance, goes positively literary with this complete sentence:

 Taking the last couple of days to think about things and the season was long.

The translator renders it as 最后几天,我们花时间回顾了这个漫长的赛季, something literally like “In these most recent days, we spent time to look back on this long season.”  花 (hua, to spend) is added to the sentence to make it more grammatically feasible to Chinese readers.  Further rendering KG’s impressionistic writing into grammatically correct Chinese, the translator also has to add a “we” to describe who is “thinking about things,” a revealing cultural choice — faced with an individual reflecting on performance and a team reflecting on its performance, the Chinese translator will chose the group, naturally.

Specific word choices are also wonderful.   花 (hua, to spend) gives the sentence an air of futility which, I think, captures KG’s intent.  And the season is described as “漫长” which I think of along the same lines as the German word “unendlich” or (almost) “endless.”

Finally, it was instructive for this author to get out of the trenches of reading Huanqiu Shibao bulletin boards — where, presumably, one can find some insights into mass views (or the CCP-endorsed and often created “mass view”) on North Korea, Japan, and the U.S. — and understand better who is really on the Chinese internet.

Kevin Garnett’s last entry of the season has, in three or four days, amassed more than 90,000 readers and collected 2227 comments, almost all of which are completely positive.  After all the name calling and mud-throwing over at Huanqiu, it was almost redeeming to feel the positive energies of thousands of Chinese basketball team telling Kevin Garnett — Kevin Garnett! — to hold his head high and keep going.  加油!

Kevin Garnett with Anta Shoes Rep. at Press Conference in Beijing, August 2010 -- image via sneaker-supply.com

Additional Reading: Gady Epstein, “Investors Profit on Chinese Answers to Nike, Adidas,” Forbes, 27 August 2011, http://blogs.forbes.com/gadyepstein/2010/08/27/investors-profit-on-chinese-answers-to-nike-adidas/ 

Zhu Feng on North Korea

Recently the Seoul newspaper Joongang Ilbo (中央日报) carried an intriguing item which hasn’t received the attention it deserves:

Zhu Feng [朱锋], a professor at the School of International Studies at Peking University, told a seminar in Seoul on Wednesday that Pyongyang has gained increased confidence in its nuclear technology after two underground nuclear tests and will proceed to test with a nuclear warhead. “The Chinese leadership believes that the North has sufficient nuclear [weapons manufacturing] capability and is now entering a stage where it is focused on minimizing the size of a warhead,” Zhu said….

Zhu [further] said that if North Korea collapses, China would only allow South Korea to take control over the North if Pyongyang launched a pre-emptive attack on the South. China otherwise will try to deal with a collapsed North Korea in the United Nations Security Council.  He denied a claim that China wants to absorb the North if it implodes, saying such a scenario is incompatible with China’s global geopolitical strategy.

The full article is available in English here.

Zhu Feng, file photo from China Digital Times

Since Zhu Feng is such a significant figure in the PRC when it comes to prognosticating North Korean behavior and seems to have close (if still, for me, undefined) ties to the CCP leadership, it’s probably a good idea to see for ourselves what he actually said, particularly on the topics in the article which are merely paraphrased.  Fortunately a full Chinese-language version of the article is available and contains much more extensive documentation of Zhu’s direct remarks and contains a healthy dose of the type of derision for North Korea which appears to be becoming increasingly standard in the PRC. [Translations by Adam Cathcart]

Zhu Feng on Kim Jong Il: “中国(领导人集体)认为,金正日国防委员长似乎正在逐渐失去判断力和统治力”,“有代表性的例子就是(去年11月坚决进行的)货币改革事件。如果金委员长状态很好,就不会有这种荒诞行径” [“Chinese leaders believe that Defense Chairman Kim Jong Il is gradually losing his faculties of judgement and his political power…There are signs of this in last year’s currency reform incident…Had the situation with Chairman Kim’s been actually good, it’s truly impossible that this kind of fantastic misstep would have been taken.”

Zhu Feng on North Korean Succession: “如果金委员长逝世,3子金正银将会暂时建立接班体制,也许会走向领导班子体制,但这需要相当长的时间”,“在毛泽东主席逝世后,中国也用了16年时间才确立了领导班子体制。 在今年9月召开的党代表者会上,金正银的接班体制可能会初现轮廓”。 “If Chairman Kim dies, his third son, Kim Jong Eun will be established as provisional successor which will allow fpr movement toward (change of) the leadership structure, but this will take a long time…After the death of Chairman Mao Zedong, China needed 16 years to establish such a leadership system…In September this year, the party will hold a meeting; here we see the silhouette of Kim Jong-il’s succession system.”

Zhu Feng on a North Korean Endgame: “万一朝鲜崩溃,中国基本上会通过联合国安理会介入”,“中国的立场是,只有在朝鲜首先攻击韩国时韩国才可以单独介入(崩溃时朝鲜)”。 “如果朝鲜崩溃中国就会向朝鲜派兵或将朝鲜吸纳为’东北四省’的说法子虚乌有,这是对中国战略性利益的无知。” “In the event that North Korea collapses, China will basically intervene/get involved [介入] via the UN Security Council…China’s position is that South Korea can only independently intervene in the event that North Korea has attacked them first…Those who emptily say that  China would send troops to the DPRK in the event of a North Korean collapse with the wish to absorb the so-called ‘fourth Northeastern province’ reveal their ignorance of China’s strategic interests.”

Zhu Feng on North Korea’s Roguish Nature: “虽然我本人认为朝鲜是’流氓国家(rogue state)’,但同流氓(朝鲜)争斗时,如果拿着刀冲过去,双方都会受伤,而问题却得不到解决”,“所以韩国的对朝政策将失败,对朝制裁似乎不会使朝鲜崩溃或解决核问题”   “Although I, as an individual, consider North Korea to be a ‘hooligan state’, but whenever one fights with the hooligan, one needs to be aware that he’s holding a blade and can wound both sides, and the societal problem doesn’t get solved…Therefore, South Korea’s policy toward North Korea has failed, because sanctions have been unable to collapse the North Korean system or solve the nuclear problem.”


Merkel in the Middle Kingdom//German State Reports on China//经济合作,人权批评:近日的中德关系

If Sino-German relations cross your radar screen as a topic of significance, then it is certainly worth your time to read JustRecently’s link-rich roundup of the recent state visit to China by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.  I would only add to his comprehensive rush of sources that this Spiegel investigative piece on alleged espionage by China in Germany got quite a bit of play in the month before the visit, including a front-page piece in the Frankfurter Allegemeine Zeitung on June 21.  Fortunately for the PRC’s trade representatives and diplomats, Germans seemed to be much more engrossed in the World Cup at the time.  But the idea of “economic espionage” (which is admittedly not something I understand a great deal about) has the potential to grab a hold of certain sections of German public opinion which are engaged in the China trade.

Incidentally, along the lines of adding even a small grain of value to the discussion, I went to the Chinese Embassy in (old East) Berlin earlier this month and was impressed (but not surprised) at the number of bilingual copies (English-Chinese) they had about the March 2008 events in Tibet as well as of the 2009 report on Human Rights in the USA.  The People’s Daily overseas addition was, of course, still wrapped in plastic.

The Falun Gong protesters were outside the Embassy, as they have seemingly been outside of every Chinese consulate or embassy I have ever visited since the year 2000, in fact, handing out literature across the bridge.  It appears clear from the Spiegel report, referenced in this summary Epoch Times piece, that Falun Gong practitioners in Germany have played an important role in the recent China controversies in Germany.   Please note that the link contains some rather familiar attacks on China’s anti-Falun Gong apparatus and a particularly heavy-handed description of a Chinese state security organ as “Gestapo-like”.   Really, Epoch Times?  Is that adjective necessary?

Primarily the previously referenced article is useful for its link to Germany’s newly released report from the Department for the Protection of the Constitution (Verfassungsschutzbericht), whose English-language site is here. China has been taking some hits in Germany, and this is one of the more overt ones.

Since the report probably won’t be translated into English (or Chinese) anytime soon, here are some excerpts and my summaries of the hot spots in the annual report for 2009 which relate to Chinese intelligence gathering in Germany to at least give you a vague idea of its contents, particularly the stuff on pages 294-300.  I’ll start with the headers, and please excuse the translation:

Entwicklung in der Volksrepublik China [Development in the PRC / 中华人民共和国的发展]

Diktatur und wirtschaftliche Stabilität [独裁制度和经济坚固性]

Die von der Kommunistischen Partei Chinas (KPCh) diktatorisch regierte Volksrepublik ist ein kommunistischer Staat, der jedoch seit zwei Jahrzehnten seine Wirtschaft zunehmend nach marktwirtschaftlichen Prinzipien entwickelt und einen steilen Aufschwung verzeichnet. Chinas Ökonomie zeigt sich in der globalen Finanzkrise relativstabil, was seine stetig wachsende Bedeutung für den Welthandel belegt. [Although the People’s Republic ruled by the dictatorship of the Communist Party of China is a communist state, for the last twenty years the Party has developed the economy along market principles and marked a style of growth.  China’s economy has remained relatively stable in the global financial crisis, which has testifies to its importance for world trade.]

From here forward, I’ll mostly just do headers, as time is of the essence…

Aufrüstung und Machtdemonstration [Armaments and Demonstrations of Power / 升级和力量表达]

Unterdrückung und Aufruhr in Xinjiang [Suppression and Revolt in Xinjiang / 镇压和动乱在新疆 ed: note the sequencing/cause and effect!]

The report then describes the function of Public Security Bureau in China and other organizations…Then it hits the heavy stuff.

Wirtschaftsspionage [Economic Espionage / 经济间谍活动]

Bekämpfung der „Fünf Gifte“ [Struggle Against the “Five Poisons” / 反对‘五毒‘的斗争]

Die chinesische Regierung diffamiert die als größte Gefahren für die eigene Macht bewerteten Personengruppen als so genannte Fünf Gifte. Sie bekämpft diese nicht nur in der Heimat, sondern späht auch die in Deutschland lebenden Anhänger aus. Betroffen sind vor allem die von China des Separatismus verdächtigten Uiguren und Tibeter sowie die Angehörigen der Meditationsbewegung Falun Gong. Darüber hinaus betrachtet die KPCh auch Mitglieder der Demokratiebewegung und Befürworter einer Eigenstaatlichkeit Taiwans als Staatsfeinde. [The Chinese regime defames these groups of people as the greatest dangers for the maintenance of their power, the so-called “Five Poisons.”  They struggle against these not only in their homeland, but also conduct surveillance of members of these groups living in Germany, among whom in particular those suspected of separatism: Uighurs and Tibetans, as well as members of the meditation movement Falun Gong, and beyond those, the CCP also watches members of the (presumably Chinese) democracy movement and advocates of Taiwanese independence, treating them as enemies of the state.]

The report goes on to note the special interest taken by Chinese intelligence agencies in the Frankfurt Book Fair, the control over the internet, the surveillance of foreign visitors in China (particularly their internet usage in hotels) and the role of non-diplomatic in the Chinese embassy to collect economic intelligence.

Perhaps in response to the criticism, although it’s a bit hard to believe, the Huanqiu Shibao put out a 56-photo gallery of Hitler enjoying time with children the day after Angela Merkel arrived in Beijing.  Isn’t that a bit much, Huanqiu editors?  And why not Erich Honecker instead?

But Merkel is finally enjoying a bit of respect from the newspapers in her home country, particularly this article in Suddeutscher Zeitung, which notes that the Chancellor didn’t hold back from criticizing China for its stance toward the Dalai Lama, human rights questions, and the cases of specific dissidents.

Merkel with "the neat Wen Jiabao"; courtesy Suddeutsche Zeitung -- click on image for link to Heinrik Bork's article overviewing Merkel's visit within the long view of Sino-German relations after 1989