The Rise of Zhou En Lai. Part take

(I had a post all set to write, more of a personal one.  But it's need to read such things for now.  Still my indecisiveness has delayed this next post at least a week.)

I will first say that Zhou En Lai had more in common with Jiang Qing than Mao himself ever did.  More on that later.

I will also say that without Zhou China, so the narrative goes, would surely have slid into chaos.  Well, if the Cultural Revolution wasn't chaos than I'm flummoxed to understand what the word "chaos" means.

This is another post I've been thinking about for awhile now.  This will be Part One.

Zhou was overrated in so many, many ways.  If only because he failed to yield his influence when it was most needed.  When the country was literally at stake.  Indeed, its future up for grabs.  Yet he was the glue that kept China perhaps from falling into civil war.  But that's Part 2.

The story of the Rise of Zhou is the most interesting part of his life.  I will be lenient here.  Part 2 I will not be so kind.

To understand the rise of Zhou, one must know a bit about the elders of China's Reform Movement. Chen Duxiu (future post?) comes to mind.  .  He was one of the founders of the Communist Party.  Without the influence of those like Chen Duxiu, much less his patronage, there would be no Zhou.   I am tempted to say there would be no China as we know it either, but alas that is not the case.  I believe at the end of the day, if there was no Mao there would be no China as we know it.  But despite all Zhou's efforts, his input on China's history is greatly exaggerated. (Should I keep writing?)

The first similarity with Jiang Qing is that both were separated from their father at an early age.  JQ, if you remember, was the daughter of a concubine.  She was separated from her father for obvious reasons.   Zhou was separated from his father, because of the general perception within the Zhou Clan of his father's general lack of ability.   And was thus "given" to a childless uncle.

This is a second similarity with JQ.  The both wound up living with various family members.  As family members died, he was successfully shuffled off to another relative.  Perhaps the main difference here is that Zhou's relatives were simply more educated than Jiang Qing's.  Thus at the end of the day, his intellect was more fully developed.  But make no mistake; Jiang Qing's EQ was very, very high.  Her ability to manipulate men for her own survival became her MO.

She simply wasn't well learned.  Which perhaps was common for a Chinese Girl 100 years ago.

Still another similarity I found during the childhood of both was how both were heavily involved in acting and dramas.  Zhou more so as a school activity.  Jiang Qing of course more so as a career.

In 1917, Zhou found his way to Japan.  It was a bad experience.  In this regard, Zhou and I had a lot in common.  Zhou's time in Japan could clearly be marked as a "failure", if one regards "success" as academic accomplishment.

Zhou found Japan to be a deeply discriminatory place.  No surprise there.  I found Japan's attitudes towards Chinese while living there in the 90's to be unchanged.  Signs in all the pachinko parlors read "No Chinese allowed".    I of course also had problems learning Japanese.  A much harder language in my view than Chinese.

As I look upon my time in Japan, of which I spent four dreary years, I look upon it as a waste of my life, that I will never get back.  One year was enough.  Zhou spent two years there.  I hope like myself, he felt happy to leave, but also appreciative of the cultural education and experiences he had.  Like myself, I'm sure he returned to his native country a wiser person for it.   And his inability to master Japanese, much less go to a Japanese University, was probably the best thing that ever happened to him.

Japan in the 1920's was a rather militaristic society.  Perhaps this turned off Zhou.  But the power of the military eventually became paramount in China too.  Its role in China was especially vital in the 1960's.

Still, Zhou had an experience as common in China as one meeting the emperor; he had travelled abroad.   And was better for it.

And this brings us to the last strange similarity between both Jiang Qing and Zhou En Lai:  they both lived in Tianjin.  Albeit while she worked in a cigarette factory as a child, he was a student at the today famous Nanking school system, and eventually an editor of a university paper.  They did not simultaneously live in Tianjin.

Still while in Tianjin Zhou managed to do something that Mao never did;  he got thrown in jail.  All good Communist leaders spend time in jail.  Chavez of Venezuela spent time in jail.  Castro was imprisoned.  Lenin was imprisoned in Siberia.  Even Stalin spent time in solitary confinement.  But not Mao.  I could find no record of his ever being imprisoned.

Alas, Zhou's progressive ideals, his calls for equality went unheeded.  But his calls for the boycott of Japanese goods got him arrested.  Having just returned from Japan, the bad taste of his experiences still lingering in his mouth, and now this, no doubt gave Zhou a hard anti-Japanese bent. 

No doubt his exposure to another way of life, there was no foot binding in Japan, surely opened his eyes to what was possible in China.  Perhaps it even made him more patriotic.

Still, his travels were not through. 

Above I had mentioned Chen Duxiu.  There was another "Elder".  Another fellow from Tianjin, another fellow from Nankai University whom he had developed as a benefactor.   His name was Yan Xiu. Again I am convinced without the progressive mentorship and benevolence of those like Li Dazhao, Yan Xiu, and others, there would be no Zhou En Lai as we know him today.   It is obvious that these wealthy benefactors placed great hopes in Zhou.  Indeed, some could say as their time on this Earth was drawing to a close,  they placed great hopes on people like Zhou to bear the burden for a future China.  

While in Europe, Zhou traveled quite extensively.  It was a time of great economic stress, post WW1.  The Russian Revolution had transpired and quite frankly, while Socialist leanings were everywhere to be found, many countries, in particular Britain, were simply terrified of Communism.

We all know that it was in France that Zhou met Deng Xiaoping, then just a mere kid.  We all know the two formed a lifelong alliance, an everlasting friendship.  Indeed, the influence of the "French Chinese" was to last until death.   They formed an informal clique within China's leadership that peaked in the 50's and 60's.

Was it this clique that Mao wanted to break up?  Was this one of the driving forces behind his decision to instigate the Cultural Revolution?  If so, in my view, this makes the success of Mao, even his greatness as an early leader, stand out.  He was a through and through outsider, a late comer to the Party so to speak, who through pure determination and will, coupled with obvious charisma, climbed to the top.  

Maybe all those "sophisticated" early leaders simply were too elegant for their own good?  It is a fair argument to make.   Mao simply had a connection the others did not have.  The epiphany that true success of the Communist Party within China would come not through one's understanding of the West, or of France, but simply with one's ability to connect with the Chinese Peasants, of whom there were so, so many. 

We've yet to discuss the Comintern.  But if one is to know China, and the rise of the Communist Party within China, and how on Earth Zhou briefly became Chiang Kai Shek's "number two man", then we need to get this down and clear.  

That will be Part Two. 


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