Red Crag martyrs

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.

The Discussion: 22 Comments

The book is much more anti-KMT than anti-American. Now that KMT and CCP are on the same side, this book is gathering dust.

February 2, 2011 @ 11:53 pm | Comment

Except that the CCP and the KMT are not on the same side. The CCP tries to present events as if they were, and the KMT tries not to disabuse them of this too much, but Ma’s congratulatory message to Liu Xiaobo, for example, shows the real truth of the matter. In reality the KMT is a modern democratic party which has no desire to ever concede power to the corrupt CCP clique.

February 3, 2011 @ 5:50 am | Comment

You lived in CHina for that many time and never heard of Red Crag? Never heard of Jiang Jie, Never heard of Ode to Red Plum? Come on. It’s like living in the USA for that many time, and never heard of “God Bless America”. Please stop joking me.

This song, the most popular revolutionary song in China, when I was a pupil, I performed it with a female classmate of mine, I wonder if she’s married today, very beautiful girl.

This is a clip from Red Creg

February 3, 2011 @ 9:58 am | Comment

@Red Star: You need to read the post again.

P.S. Along with you poor reading comprehension, your English writing proficiency seems to be slipping.

February 3, 2011 @ 12:18 pm | Comment

Yep, that museum is martyrrific! I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

February 4, 2011 @ 7:37 am | Comment

And we had a blast with Xujun! It had been many years since I’d seen Chongqing—seeing it with Xujun and her family was a wonderful experience.

February 4, 2011 @ 7:38 am | Comment


You let her escape?

February 4, 2011 @ 5:34 pm | Comment

If you want the observations of a liberal American who was on the ground at the time, it’s worth reading Graham Peck’s thoughts on SACO (in ‘Two Kinds of Time’) and what he saw of Milton Miles while he worked in Chungking in 1942. Peck was an itinerant in pre-war China who found himself working for the Office of War Information (OWI). Even then he could see that the US was backing the wrong (KMT) horse and he was eyewitness to may of the KMT’s repugnant acts. The US should be castigated for supporting the SACO torture chambers, but should also be given credit for building a new Burma Road and for “the Hump” martyrs – the many Americans who gave their lives to keep China in the war and the black marketeers in business.

February 4, 2011 @ 8:02 pm | Comment

In reality the KMT is a modern democratic party which has no desire to ever concede power to the corrupt CCP clique.

Unless the first half of this statement represents some thoroughly sophisticated irony, only the second half of this is correct.

February 5, 2011 @ 7:48 pm | Comment

Dear MT,

I know you and your pan-green echo-chamber chums never want to actually fully accept the KMT as valid political opposition to the DPP, and love to carry on about how “Marky-Mark” Ma is a CCP plant planning a secret deal with the CCP (evidence?). The truth, however, is that the KMT conceded power after losing the election back in 2000, and regained it in 2008 without too much unnecessary acrimony, and Marky-boy is just a middle-of-the-road statist Blair clone.

Yes, the old KMT was a G-Unit. Yes, gangs still have a lot of influence with the older KMT crew (Miaoli, where I used to live, was a classic example of this). Yes, certain individuals in the KMT (Elmer Fung, Li Ao etc.) have been dangerous-to-know, but the DPP is hardly spotless when it comes to gang connections and craziness, and the KMT has changed quite a bit in the last 30 years.

Meanwhile, 2012 is just a year away, where’s your annexation/coup?


your favourite “pro-China troll”,

Foarp F. Foarpestry

February 5, 2011 @ 9:22 pm | Comment

PS – shiat, Li Ao was pan-blue but never in the KMT, my bad.

February 5, 2011 @ 9:24 pm | Comment

@Mick – The British and the French also played their part, as did the Russians, not that anyone, especially not in the US, ever mentions this.

For the record:

1) The USSR’s Operation August Storm ended Japanese rule in the mainland of North-East Asia.

2) The British Empire and Commonwealth destroyed the Japan’s largest army in the field against the western allies in its offensive into Burma in 1944, and secured the base of the Ledo road constructed by Stillwell’s engineers.

3) The French supplied the nationalist regime via Vietnam until Vietnam was overrun.

4) The British supplied the Chinese via the Burma road until the Burmese end of the road was overrun by the Japanese, although there was a 3-month cessation at the request of the Japanese in 1940, this coincided with the period during which the road would naturally have been closed to traffic anyway due to the monsoon.

And anyway, as Xujun is slowly explaining, SACO had no real connection to the prisons/torture chambers.

February 5, 2011 @ 10:22 pm | Comment

FOARP, I have to agree with Michael in as far that it is not beyond the realms of possibility that the KMT will sell out to the CCP. Yes, they did concede power in 2000. But in 2004 they threw a temper tantrum of epic proportions. Remember the KMT mob that tried to break into the election commission’s building? That was intimidation at best and a thinly veiled attempt to change the result of the Presidential election at worst.

If the DPP won in 2012 I’m sure they wouldn’t try to arrest the victor or run him over in a “traffic accident”. But the KMT still believes it has the “God”-given right to rule Taiwan and only accepts democracy when convenient. Its legislators have unconstitutionally vetoed every pan-Green referendum proposal since they gave themselves the ability to scrutinise the process. None of them would have ever been put to the electorate had the DPP Cabinet appeals committee not been able to overturn the initial rejection. I say unconstitutional because the legislative committee is only designed to ensure technical compliance, but it makes political decisions.

Even when the referendum proposals have gone through, the KMT has boycotted them because it knows if it took part they’d pass the 50% threshold. Furthermore it appears that at least some election officials in KMT areas only gave ballot papers out for the referendums when asked, when they should have given them automatically to people.

I say this as someone who used to back the KMT. But several years ago I realised that it is the party of the Taiwanese elite, a party which has refused to hand back its assets stolen from the state (whilst screaming about the former DPP president’s “corruption” concerning relatively triffling sums) and could quite easily sell Taiwan out if it meant:

a) heap big money in ways of cushy business deals and directorships of Chinese companies; and/or

b) subsequent manipulation of the Taiwanese political system such that it was always in power. For example, as part of a political deal between China and Taiwan to “settle” the sovereignty issue, Beijing could gain the right to be “consulted” over nominees for the Taiwanese presidency. That in effect would mean a veto and ensure no one advocating Taiwanese independence could ever stand again.

Am I suggesting the KMT is DEFINITELY going to sell Taiwan out? No. But it’s possible some influential people at the top might, especially if it’s more subtle such as by tying Taiwan so closely to China economically that people always back the KMT for fear of China strangling the economy. Not that Taiwanese people would necessarily react that way, but many in Beijing certainly think that economic integration would mean an obedient Taiwan. Is it such a stretch of the imagination to think that some at the top of the KMT, who might look to enrich themselves in negotiating with China, might agree?

Ok, I now have a question for you. Assuming that the KMT keeps the presidency in 2012, do you honestly think that a DPP president in 2016 or 2020 would be able to forge their own agenda for Taiwan without having to consult or otherwise listen to China (more than they have to take note of it now)? Is it the case that a KMT presidency in 2012 will not result in political or further economic deals that will significantly change the constitutional/diplomatic/political situation between China and Taiwan?

February 5, 2011 @ 10:40 pm | Comment

I Believe Chinese intellectuals Are Much Worse than American Intellectuals

American upper level intellectuals are very careful to “play up the positive and play down the negative” when it comes to their nation’s culture and customs and history, when writing history, writing literature, making textbooks, making history curriculum for students, giving public lectures. For example, on the Civil War, if you read a elementary or high school textbook, it would spend many many pages talking about how the war abolished the slaves, and give you the impression that the Civil War was fought for the purpose of abolishing slaves. How great! How heroic! In reality, amongst upper level intellectuals and academcians, everyknows the Civil War was fought to maintain the union, and even Lincoln himself was never opposed to slavery, and suggested to the South that if the South does not succeed, slavery can be perfectly maintained. This very important part of the Civil war, of Lincoln, was not widely known amongst the general American masses. Do most elementary and high school classes emphasize the fact that Lincoln himself was not opposed to slavery?

Chinese upper level intellectuals, on the other hand, spent so much of their time repeatedly propagating the dark aspects of China, if you read their books, their novels, their public lectures, you’ll find this part of Chinese history is dark, that part of Chinese history is dark, everything is dark. This is even this b*llsh*t intellectual called Fen Ji Cai, who proposed building a memorial for the cultural revolution victims. Does America have a memorial for victims if Indian genocide, a memorial for victims of slavery, a memorial for victims of the Vietnam and Iraq war, a memorial for the victims of the atomic bombs in Japan? I don’t know of any such memorials built in America for any such victims. The Chinese intellectuals care only about their personal feelings, their personal emotions, and think that as long as their writing and their propaganda reflect their own personal feelings, then they’ve done their duty as intellectuals. They totally are negligent on their duties for responsible social propaganda, to play up the positives and play down the negatives, to inject positive interpretation of one’s history and cultures. They totally forgot Mao Zedong’s slogan of “Serving the people”.

Does a nation have no ugly and dark history? Of course it does. History and facts are ugly and dark. Truth itself is ugly and dark. And amongst academcians and amongst upper level researchers, it’s totally ok to talk about these ugly and dark things as openly as possible. But when propagading for the lower masses, for the plebians, for the “vast majority”, it must be propagated differently. The lower leve masses are busy with their daily lives, they don’t have time to concern themselves with details of your elititsts’ history, they just want some optimsim, some confidence in their lives. Is a society where everyone repeatedly is told how dark their own history is, how inferior their own culture is, how many crimes their own people committed in the past, will be a healthy society, an optimistic society, a up and coming society, a vibrant society, a vital society?

If today’s american history textbooks have 60% of their content filled with the crimes of American gov’t against natives, crimes of lynching against blacks, coopoeration with dictatorships in latin america, CIA plots to assassinate anti-American democratic leaders, crimes during Vietnam war, crimes during Iraq war, etc. If you open up an American textbook, turn on American TV, watch American shows, and the writers of these textbooks, producers of these shows, makers of these movies try at very opportunity to bombard you with these American historical ugliness and crimes, is it a healthy thing?

I’ve seen a higly zoomed in, un-photoshopped, picture of a beautiful celebrity, and that picture can only descrbed as “taken from a horror movie”.

In reality, the Chinese dictatorial regime is much superior to the democrazy system of the west. Its superiority is reflected in three things:

1) Keeping national harmony amgonst different ethnic minorities. Most over seas democracy activsts refuse to talk about this subjected when confronted by me.

2) Keeping prolonged high economic growth. No western democracy can achieve this.

3) Keeping prolonged peace. Give me a war China fought in the last 25 years. What about the US? On average one war every 2 years. Of the past us presidents: Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan. Which one did not start a war during his term?

4) Keeping tight control of the Army. The PLA is the most disciplined army in the history of mankind, this is due to the Chinese Communist Party’s policy of “the party controls the gun”.

China’s political system is not perfect, and has many shortcomings. But China can easily tell the world with full confidence: our political system is the best in the world today, both comparing to todays’ peers and historically. Comparing to peers with average per capita GDP of 3000 dollars, China’s system is the best. Comparing historically to American and European powers at their own past stages of development similar to today’s China’s, China’s system is still the best. This system helps economic development, maintains social stability. This system did not fall out of the sky, it is the results of 5000 years of searching and reflection and struggling by the Chinese civilization. This is a point that must be made loudly and clearly to the world. I believe our children, and children’s children, will be even smarter and even more capable than us and will for sure one day return China to the very top amongst the gallery of nations.

February 6, 2011 @ 2:31 am | Comment

Well, if Math is trying to say that American propaganda is more successful than Chinese propaganda, then he is actually right.

February 6, 2011 @ 3:23 am | Comment

KMT and CCP agree on major issues. There are differences and some bad history between the two. But never mind. Now is the centenary of Wuchang uprising and Xinhai revolution. A big joint celebration is in order.

Of course just because KMT overthrew the Qing dynasty, not everything about Qing was bad. Even on its death bed, the dynasty still produced noble statesmen like Zen Guofan and Zuo Zhongtang. I recently read the fascinating story of Zhao Erfang, an overlooked patriot from that period. This man fought British backed Tibetans, drove the British influence and the treacherous 13th Dalai Lama out of town, and started a process to integrate Tibet more closely to the rest of China. Unfortunately Zhao was killed by Xinhai revolutionaries and his work was interrupted. We had to wait until Mao and PRC to continue what Zhao started.

February 6, 2011 @ 3:32 am | Comment

Oops. Misspelled his name. Should be Zhao Erfeng.

February 6, 2011 @ 3:34 am | Comment

I say this as someone who used to back the KMT. But several years ago I realised that it is the party of the Taiwanese elite, a party which has refused to hand back its assets stolen from the state (whilst screaming about the former DPP president’s “corruption” concerning relatively triffling sums) and could quite easily sell Taiwan out if it meant:

Interesting claims. Regardless, you just described most political parties including the neo-cons beloved LDP

February 6, 2011 @ 7:41 am | Comment

Another interesting Math dissertation. Part of an encouraging trend.

I didn’t go to school in the US. I do find his assertion that the average American is unaware of the primary motivation for the Civil War to be rather improbable.

However, he does seem to offer some insight into the prevalent “victim” mentality of some pro-CCP commentators. Although he does seem to lay the blame on Chinese intellectuals, so Math is certainly well-trained in his indoctrination that intellectuals are a bad thing in the CCP realm.

Although a minor point, it did amuse me that a guy who calls himself “Math” can propose to list “three things”, only to then come up with 4 points. Gave me a little chuckle.

Rather than “keeping” national river-crabs among minorities, it seems the CCP has merely enforced it. Is enforced “harmony” a good thing? Well, to me, you shouldn’t require force to beget harmony. Maybe that’s not a distinction that Math can compute.

The CCP does deserve some credit for growth of the last 30 years, just as she should be accountable for the dire straits of the first 30. But her growth began with the assumption of a free-market economy, and you don’t need authoritarianism for that.

It’s true that China hasn’t engaged in a real war since Vietnam. That is commendable. Would a democratic China have done differently? Who knows. But then China was never in a position to project military power. She still isn’t.

The fourth point is the most objectionable. The PLA has nothing to do with the “people”, so she’s a misnomer. It’s the Party’s Lackey Army. The collusion with the Party is also one of the most formidable barriers to effective political reform in China, so it’s something that is hardly worth celebrating.

For a guy who likes to think that the CCP’s political system is the best, he is certainly loathe to put that system to the test. Part of Math not being able to put his money where his mouth is. If authoritarianism is “the best”, you also have to wonder why people aren’t flocking to that system the world over. Maybe PRC citizens know something the rest of the world doesn’t; or maybe the CCP is enforcing that knowledge with their PLA. My vote is for the latter. I wonder what the Chinese people’s vote would be.

I do find it interesting that Math would tap into the history of Chinese civilization to attribute the genesis of the current CCP. I guess, with a Freudian slip, he is acknowledging that it’s not much different than the dynasties of days gone by. Hopefully the CCP will one day meet with a similar fate.

February 6, 2011 @ 7:44 am | Comment

Math misses a key point. There are memorials, and then there are commercial extravaganzas. And I’d like to ask him how many memorials there are to the 30-40 million Chinese wiped out during the Great Leap Forward.

February 7, 2011 @ 3:22 am | Comment


Interesting claims. Regardless, you just described most political parties including the neo-cons beloved LDP

Aside from dictatorships like Libya and North Korea, autocracies, as well as some corrupt regimes in places like South America, what political parties in western Europe, North America or Japan have actually grabbed State assets to enrich themselves as the KMT has done?

Let’s start with the UK, which of the three main parties – Labour, Conservatives, Liberal Democrats – have grabbed State assets to personally enrich themselves?

February 8, 2011 @ 8:55 pm | Comment

Helloooo! yourfriend, where have you gone? 🙂

February 9, 2011 @ 4:40 pm | Comment

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