Xujun Eberlein, one of my favorite bloggers (and one of my favorite people) is guest blogging for James Fallows. Don’t miss her great multi-part post about the SACO (“Sino-American Cooperative Organization”) concentration camp in Chongqing, where, in the 1940s, hundreds of communists were allegedly tortured and murdered by Chiang Kai Shek’s loyalists in cooperation with his allies the Americans. Not surprisingly, the SACO massacre, which took place in the village of Red Crag, has been exploited to the hilt for its propaganda value:
Twelve years after the massacre, in 1961, Luo and a co-author published the hugely successful novel Red Crag, eulogizing the Communists’ heroic struggles in the Refuse Pit and Bai Mansion prisons…. In the years that followed, a long-lasting Red Crag fever swept all of New China. In the 1960s and ’70s the novel was far more effective than any textbook for educating school children in both “revolutionary heroism” and anti-Americanism. It was the very first novel I ever read, when I was in the 2nd grade. Every Chinese I know from my age, to those ten years younger, has read it, and some are still fond of it today. The novel has lots of graphic torture scenes, and the shadow of a high-ranking American adviser representing SACO was often behind the torturers. But, with an upbeat heroic theme and sensational plot of underground struggles, I have to say the story was gripping to a young mind. I savored it then; only in retrospect do I realize how sentimental and propagandizing its language was.
A fascinating story of Chinese history, propaganda and education by someone who actually grew up in Chongqing and whose family knew one of the escapees from SACO.
When I was in Chongqing with Lisa a couple of years ago, Xujun was kind enough to take us on a tour of the outrageously commercialized SACO museum, described in stunning detail in these posts. They are not to be missed.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.