In the series Tainted History, Nspirement focuses on stories about the fates of famous Chinese people around 1949, at a time when the Communist Party occupied China after winning the civil war. Before the Republic of China retreated to Taiwan, President Chiang Kai Shek took a tremendous effort to rescue scholars and social elites. We will bring you stories of those who remained in China and those who left with President Chiang.
During the period of the Republic of China in the mainland, when Marxism was publicized and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was developing, several insightful academic masters, such as Chen Yinke, Fu Sinian, and Qian Mu, had already learned about the harm of communism and the Chinese Communist Party. Their predictions all came to pass after the Chinese Communist Party took over the governing of China.
Subscribe to our Newsletter!
Receive selected content straight into your inbox.
Chen Yinke (陳寅恪) understands Marxism
Known at Tsinghua University, the Chinese equivalent of MIT, as one of the “Big Three” and honored as “Professor of Professors,” Chen Yinke was not only gifted with technical knowledge, but he was also fluent in more than 20 languages. During the Second Sino-Japanese War, he once told his graduate student Shi Quan: “In fact, I am not afraid of communism or the Communist Party. I am only afraid of the Russians. When the Revolution of 1911 took place [overthrowing the Qing Dynasty and establishing the Republic of China], I was in Switzerland. After learning this news from the newspapers, I immediately went to the library to borrow some books [about revolutions]. Regarding revolutions, the most important things to pay attention to are Marx and communism, which was very obvious in Europe. I have been to many countries in the world. I have been to Europe, America, and Japan. But I have never been to Russia. I have only seen exiled Russians in Europe and the United States, and I have also read many books describing the Tsar and their secret police. They are very powerful and cruel. I feel terrible.”
In the early 1950s, Chen wrote a poem to illustrate his understanding of the harm of Marxism-Leninism. In his poem, he described: “Marxism-Leninism is the fictitious doctrine and corrupting system; it aims to imprison the freedom of personal life and thought. When the intellectuals compete to learn Marxism-Leninism, they indeed walk themselves right into the ruler’s trap.”
After gaining power, the CCP initiated the ideological transformation of intellectuals in the early ’50s. A few years later, the CCP launched an even more devastating movement against the intellectuals, the Anti-Rightist Campaign. Following that came the Cultural Revolution. These all took their toll on Chen, who died in 1969 after enduring years of persecution.
Fu Sinian (傅斯年) believes that the CCP is a gang of thugs
Fu Sinian was widely known as a genius and a genuine master of Chinese literature and history in the 20th century. He was often compared to Chen Yinke. His staunch and unyielding character was rare among intellectuals.
Fu Sinian’s opinion of the Soviet Union and the CCP was never positive. In 1932, he publicly stated that the Communist Party “was largely a gang of thugs.”
Fu Sinian was uneasy seeing that many young people gradually had evolved into fierce leftists. He once said: “If I were a 17-year-old youth, I could have been drawn by the Communist Party. But since I have had contact with the Communist Party, I will never be a member of the Communist Party!”
It is precisely because of his sober understanding of communism and the Communist Party that Fu Sinian did not hesitate to act. He left the mainland and became the president of National Taiwan University. In December 1950, he died of a sudden cerebral hemorrhage.
Chien Mu (錢穆) indicates the CCP is ‘a corpse with bones, flesh, and blood’
Known as one of the “Four Greatest Historians” in contemporary Chinese history, Chien Mu also had a clear understanding of the Communist Party. In the spring of 1949, when many intellectuals were tempted into staying in the mainland by the CCP, Chien Mu decided to go to Hong Kong.
In 1949, when the communist army crossed the Yangtze River and began to advance toward the south, Chinese intellectuals were faced with a dilemma between leaving and staying. Mao Zedong issued a proclamation after crossing the river. After reading the proclamation, Chien Mu told his friend that he did not see the ruler showing any panorama of generosity and tolerance. He suspected that the new ruler would not be able to accept him at all.
After leaving the mainland, Chien Mu founded New Asia College in Hong Kong, which produced many great scholars and elite members of society.
In his book History of Chinese Philosophy (中國思想史), Chien Mu wrote: “The communism that spreads in China at this moment will be at most a corpse with bones, flesh, and blood… The regime is like a big rock rolling down a very high mountain. The closer to the collapse, the greater its power… However horrifying are the three red flags, however horrifying are the Red Guards and the Cultural Revolution, there are only more horrible things to follow.”
Chien Mu passed away at the age of 96 in 1990.
Although these three scholarly masters shared similar insights into the dangers of communism and the CCP, different choices led to different fates. Chen Yinke had the most miserable life because of staying on the mainland.
What’s interesting is that Mao Zedong publicly criticized both Fu Sinian and Chien Mu. In August 1949, in his article Throwing Away the Fantasy, Preparing for the Struggle, Mao named them both “the very few” among “those who are controlled by imperialism and its running dog, the reactionary Chinese government.” The reason is probably that they had the wisdom to see through the CCP and that left Mao with endless hatred against them.
Translated and polished by Melody Zhen