Army History Book Angers China's Leaders
IN a sign of bitter conflict within the military, China's leaders have detained an Army writer and banned his latest book for exposing Red Army atrocities and tactical blunders by Mao Zedong during the civil war in the 1940s. The Communist Party's ruling Politburo authorized the detention last month of Lt. Col. Zhang Zhenglong, People's Liberation Army (PLA) writer, and outlawed his book, ``White Snow, Red Blood,'' from bookstore shelves, according to Chinese military and party sources.Skip to next paragraph
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Published by the official PLA press in August 1989 as part of a series on the 1946-49 civil war, the 93,000 copies of the first edition quickly sold out, said an official at the PLA Publishing House. Calling the book a ``very sensitive issue'' the official confirmed that Zhang and the book's editor, Ma Chengyi, had been detained.
The book is a striking symbol of opposition to hard-line Communist Party leaders and their supporters among the top brass, who are attempting to rein in the Army with Maoist indoctrination.
A painstakingly documented history based on interviews with more than 100 Red Army veterans, ``White Snow'' is the first major attempt by a PLA writer to record objectively the communists' decisive 1948 campaign against Nationalist forces for control of northeastern China.
In the book, Colonel Zhang defies decades-old political taboos to reveal a Red Army that is fractious, sometimes brutal and degenerate. He mourns the suffering of common Chinese rather than laud the communist guerrillas who ``liberated'' them. He depicts revolutionary battles as destructive and tragic, unlike the glorious victories recorded in orthodox party histories.
``White Snow'' shocked Chinese leaders, sources say, by exposing for the first time in China the massive civilian death toll resulting from the Red Army's five-month siege in 1948 of Changchun, a major city in Manchuria.
Some 330,000 civilians died of starvation, suicide, and other causes when encircling Red Army troops kept them trapped inside the city with Nationalist forces, the 618-page book recounts.
The book further angered the party and military establishment by highlighting Mao's wartime mistakes while extolling two of the nation's most vilified men: Nationalist Gen. Chiang Kai-shek and Red Army commander Lin Biao. Mr. Lin allegedly plotted to assassinate Mao in 1971.
The publication of such a stark challenge to official history by the PLA's own press suggests that the party has failed to stifle dissent among moderate officers - dissent that Army sources say has intensified since the crushing of the pro-democracy movement in Beijing on June 4, 1989.
``There is a general trend in China today for those who oppose the party to attack party traditions,'' says a senior PLA officer.
``Military officers can express dissatisfaction with the party leadership by promoting a figure [Lin] who has been so maligned,'' the officer says.
Moderate forces within the Army strongly resent a campaign spearheaded last year by Gen. Yang Shangkun and other conservatives to step up Marxist indoctrination and tighten party controls over the 3-million-strong PLA, military sources say.
For example, the PLA recently announced the establishment of special organs to promote ``psychological warfare'' against foreign and Chinese anticommunist subversives. It is also waging an Army-wide campaign to promote Mao's military doctrines.