The Long March: The True History of Communist China's Founding Myth
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The Long March is Communist China’s founding myth, the heroic tale that every Chinese child learns in school. Seventy years after the historical march took place, Sun Shuyun set out to retrace the Marchers’ steps and unexpectedly discovered the true history behind the legend. The Long March is the stunning narrative of her extraordinary expedition.
The facts are these: in 1934, in the midst of a brutal civil war, the Communist party and its 200,000 soldiers were forced from their bases by Chiang Kaishek and his Nationalist troops. After that, truth and legend begin to blur: led by Mao Zedong, the Communists set off on a strategic retreat to the distant barren north of China, thousands of miles away. Only one in five Marchers reached their destination, where, the legend goes, they gathered strength and returned to launch the new China in the heat of revolution.
As Sun Shuyun journeys to remote villages along the Marchers’ route, she interviews the aged survivors and visits little-known local archives. She uncovers shocking stories of starvation, disease, and desertion, of ruthless purges ordered by party leaders, of the mistreatment of women, and of thousands of futile deaths. Many who survived the March report that their suffering continued long after the “triumph” of the revolution, recounting tales of persecution and ostracism that culminated in the horrific years of the Cultural Revolution.
What emerges from Sun’s research, her interviews, and her own memories of growing up in China is a moving portrait of China past and present. Sun finds that the forces at work during the days of the revolution—the barren, unforgiving landscape; the unifying power of outside threats from foreign countries; Mao’s brilliant political instincts and his use of terror, propaganda, and ruthless purges to consolidate power and control the population—are the very forces that made China what it is today.
The Long March is a gripping retelling of an amazing historical adventure, an eye-opening account of how Mao manipulated the event for his own purposes, and a beautiful document of a country balanced between legend and the truth.
Guangchang in April 1934 was an exception, when Soldier Huang and almost the entire Red Army were stuck in their trenches for a month up against the blockhouses. It was the first time this happened, but the battle was not Braun’s idea, as he made very clear in his memoir: The Party leadership considered it a strategically critical point because it barred the way into the heart of the Soviet area. The leadership also believed that unresisting surrender would be politically indefensible. Zhou
It mattered little that he had only 600 men. As Mao said, “A single spark can start a prairie fire.” He joined with two local bandit kings and managed to set up a base there. His reputation spread. In May 1928, Zhu De, the Nationalist brigadier who had turned to Communism, brought Mao the remains of his troops from the failed Nanchang uprising. Six months later, they were joined by Peng Dehuai, who defected from the Nationalist army with 1,500 soldiers. Together they had 5,000 men, and made up
in 1922 and was sold into marriage as a child by her father who, like so many men there, was an opium addict and a gambler. “You cannot imagine. In this little town, there were more than 200 opium dens,” Wu told me. “Every family grew opium and just about everyone was an addict, including the children. When the children were sick, their parents would blow the powder up their nostrils as a cure; when they cried, the mothers would give them a little sniff to quiet them down. The rich smoked the
not a big enough man. He let himself be rubbed up the wrong way, and lost someone who could have been very useful to him. He needed to win over the other Politburo members. Instead he angered them by launching a frontal attack on the Party and the Zunyi Resolution. He blamed the losses of the bases and the hardships of the Red Army not on military but on political mistakes, the very opposite of Mao’s tactics at Zunyi. Whether he wanted to clarify what had gone wrong, or to show them in a bad
asked, ‘What’s happened? Where are we going?’ ‘No questions, just get a move on and go! … No noise, no torches … follow me!’ We rushed for about 10 li and did not pause to catch our breath until after we crossed a mountain pass.” In the middle of the night, Braun was also told to go to the Red Academy camp and bring all the cadets out, but he did not know why. “He did what he was told. Their commissar was left behind, but there was no conflict. In the morning they joined the rest.” It was a shock