by Patrick Nohrden
In the early and mid-1970’s, bookstores throughout San Francisco featured what has become known as The Little Red Book, a collection of quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong, the founder of modern day Red China. You can still find copies of that book in eclectic bookstores, and you rarely hear the term “Red China” anymore. More correctly, the country is known as The People’s Republic of China. We have forgotten the “red.”
First published in 1964, the Chinese printed and shipped 6.5 billion copies of the book that became the “bible” for Chinese people during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) and as the harbinger of hope for those western young people extolling the Great Workers’ Paradise. Of course, this number may be exaggerated by the Chinese, as there is little evidence that the number was that high. Actual estimates place the number of copies sold at between 800-900 million copies. This is still an extremely high number.
Evidence of the book still lingers in American culture. Many college students and young people read it during the 1970’s. I was required to read it for one of my own college classes, along with the Communist Manifesto and other writings by Marx and Engels. These are the seminal works that created communism and changed the world. Too many people read these works and believed them. Those people now are in government, running multinational corporations, and controlling the media, including broadcasters and publishers.
And it seemed at one time that the whole world was turning communist, as the teachings, or preachings, of the likes of Mao, Lenin, Marx, Stalin, and Ho Chi Min painted lovely pictures of pastoral, egalitarian societies unblemished by the evils of capitalism. In fact, at one time 41 countries were bound to communist idealism until the crumbling of the Berlin Wall. Now, only five countries remain communist, Laos, Cuba, Vietnam, North Korea, and China.
We too often forget that China, our largest trading partner, has a political system diametrically opposed to the free market system of the West. We too often forget that China, our partner in Far East peace, has been building up its military for the sole purpose of defeating American armed forces in the Far East. We forget that China is not an ally. We forget that China has one of the world’s worst human rights records. We forget that China does not allow free expression of thoughts or free exercise of religion. We forget because we profit from China. And we do not complain because we do not want to embarrass or anger the big beast of the East.
I write about China. Even when I write about the Middle East, I somehow tie it into China. I have published three dozen articles or so about China. Anybody who reads my articles should realize that I do not hate China. In fact, I have a great deal of admiration for a culture that has been around 5,000 years, has produced some of the greatest inventions known to humanity, and whose people epitomize industry, self-reliance, and innovation. What I do not like is the government of China, and I am certain that hundreds of millions of Chinese will agree with me.
People in China are getting rich. In 2006, there were about 2,000 millionaires in China, and that number has grown. But it is still a poor country, and the average urban dweller in China still makes less than $100 a month. When you venture through Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenyang, or any city with more than a million people, you would think that China had more cars than anywhere else on Earth. So many of those cars are Bentleys, Rolls Royces, Lamborghinis, Ferraris, and Porsches, yet so many of them are Geelys or Xialis, cheap Chinese cars. Still, only about 85 people in a 1,000 own a car in China. In America, that number is closer to 800 per 1,000. Still, with the large number of millionaires and the open display of opulence, one might consider China to be a capitalists’ paradise rather than a workers’ paradise.
I love America, particularly the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights. And because I am a writer, I find the First Amendment sacred. I have the freedom to say what I want to say. I thought that all American writers shared this sentiment, but recently I learned how wrong I am. Over the summer, I wrote a book, a novel about a little Chinese girl who suffered through the deprivations of the Cultural Revolution, succeeding to achieve independence despite all odds because of her perseverance and diligence, standard Chinese traits. Now I am in the process of finding a publisher. My most recent rejection by Henry Hollenbaugh of Alondra Press in Houston said the following:
“Rice twice a week and meat once a year? I thought even the poorest of the Chinese ate rice every day and chicken or pork 20 or 30 times a year. Nevertheless, your gross exaggerations aside, I found your writing style very polished and pleasant to read.
“But I am amazed at your asseveration about loving the Chinese people and yet being capable of such anti-communist slanders. Do you ever intend to return to China? I don’t think you would be welcome. You sound very much like a republican, and I shun republicans like the plague. So I will have to pass on your intriguing and interesting novel (sincerely) and wish you better luck with a stronger house than ours.”
I suppose I should question any publisher who fails to spell Republican with a capital “R.” It is a proper noun. Or perhaps I should be wary of people who use words like “asseveration” rather than “assertion.” What galls me more is that every fact in my novel can be easily fact checked, but for some reason, Mr. Hollenbaugh does not want to believe that during the Cultural Revolution, Chinese were lucky to get rice twice a week. You can always ask my wife who lived in the Chinese countryside then. Perhaps he was more afraid of insulting the communists. After all, it has become increasingly unpopular to insult communists. Then there is the simple misstatement, that I somehow committed a slander against the communists. I suppose I should take refuge in knowing that the legal defense to slander is truth, and if it is truth, it is not slander at all, unless of course there is no First Amendment.
So long as we have a First Amendment, I will continue writing about China and the truth, and that means I will be writing about communism. And I will be welcome in China again, not by the government, but by my Chinese friends and associates who already know the truth. Back in 2003 when I first started teaching in China, one of those friends told me that China needed more foreign teachers because we do more than teach; we are windows to the world, because without those windows, China is destined to remain a repressed nation, repressed by its own government without basic human rights. Although I am no longer residing in China, I can still be a window, and so long as I have my First Amendment rights, I can keep that window visible from both sides. We still do have the First Amendment, do we not? I saw it around here before.
Follow-Up Note: Since this article first published in October 2013, Cedar Fort Publications extended a publishing contract for the same book mentioned above, The Crystal Monkey, which you can read about on this blog under the page by the same name.