TRANSLATION: 我的歷程 – 伍修權 "My Journey" - General Wu Xiuquan's Autobiography

September 18, 2012

I, long ago, from 1986 to 1988, translated these 90 pages of  PLA General Wu Xiuquan’s(伍修權) autobiography, “My Journey” (or “My Career” or “My Curriculum Vitae” or something)  我的歷程. . . . then got distracted and in the meantime have misplaced my copy . . . 


I translated it because, having read it once, I thought, “Well, well, what have we here?  This fellow was a top military, intelligence and diplomatic official of the PRC . . . and even this admittedly quotidian description of the life of a Chinese Communist revolutionary is really, really interesting . . . to me, at least, well . . ..”    Wu’s book “Eight Years in the Foreign Ministry” 在外交部八年has already been published in English . . . two other books, “Eight Years in the International Liaison Department” (在中聯部八年) which covers his time as chief of the CCP’s foreign intelligence operations and “During Eight Years of Turmoil” (混亂中八年) which describes his imprisonment and interrogations during the Cultural Revolution; have not been released to the public . . . as near as I can figure . . . If any Pangos know otherwise, please tell me.


This book, “My Journey”我的歷程, was distributed in Hong Kong in 1985, but I’m not sure it was on the market for long . . . I snatched it up  . . . it was the 50th anniversary of the Zunyi Conference, and for some reason, I thought I would write up a review of it . . . never did.


“My Journey” covers his life from birth through the end of the Chinese Civil War . . . and it was (for me) an eye-opening tale of how and why young, idealistic Chinese steeped in Manchu Confucianism actually became Party Members, how they were trained, their obsession with secrecy and clandestine tradecraft, and the pervasiveness of underground work, secret agents, agents of influence and psychological operations in the CCP (well, in all CPs aligned with the Comintern) across China . . . His descriptions of studying in the USSR, his infiltration back into China via Manchuria, his duties in the Jiangxi Soviet, his impressions of Comintern Envoy Otto Braun, the confusion of the Long March, the Zunyi Conference, Yan’an, and I sort of lost momentum when I was assigned to State INR in 1992 (the last chapter I finished was as Wu was assigned to Lanzhou as Eighth Route Army liaison to the Soviets . . . imagine!).


I read the entire book, and I remember that there was more juicy stuff . . . but as I say, I’ve misplaced the book . . . I’d like to continue.


If you have any colleagues who are researching the Early CCP, please let them know  . . . I have transcribed this from a hard copy of my translation . . . a copy of which I actually gave to General Wu Xiuquan when I was in Guangzhou – he was visiting the South during Deng Xiaoping’s “Southern Progress” 南旋 as it was called . . .  And I may have the rest of the translation on five-and-a-half inch- floppy disks, but I don’t have a computer anymore that can read them ancient floppies.



 Wu Xiuquan Autobiography

"Wode Licheng" - My Experience (1908-1949)

People's Liberation Army Press 1984


Very many years ago, some of my comrades suggested that I write my memoirs saying that I had been involved in quite a few important events both inside and outside the Party as well as in international affairs, and that I really ought to write down all the things that I experiences, and all the things I've seen and heard, and preserve them as a reference resource on revolutionary history, and as basic educational material for future generations. At the time, I considered the fact that there were several proletarian revolutionaries and comrades of the older generation who were still in good health. They participated in historic events and knew far more about them than I, and the things they could write would be far more valuable than anything I could put out. So, I suggested that we wait until their memoirs came out, and then I would write whatever appropriate and complementary bits I could. That would do.

And at the time, I had a lot more to do than I have now. I never had any time to myself and, in fact, I was never able to so much as pick up a pen and write down my thoughts. It continued this way for years until, before I knew it, I was a septuagenarian and if I didn't capture on paper those facts of history as I understood them, then they would very likely follow me when I went off to see Marx. If this were to happen, it would be regrettable. It so happened that at the same time, the Party Center issued a series of directives designed to preserve the Party's historical materials and encourage older comrades to draft their memoirs of the revolutions. In this way, the leadership gave me my marching orders. I was inspired by the memoirs of a succession of old comrades. By bringing back to me old memories and connected thoughts, their writings moved me to action. Moreover, when I discovered in these writings that certain historical events which I personally had experienced had not been recorded with sufficient clarity or precision, I felt that I had a responsibility to set down these events as factually as possible. This would give those concerned some research references and provide other comrades with additional data on which to base their own memoirs.

I therefore obeyed the relevant directives from the Center, and with concrete arrangements made by the leadership, I used my free time to begin this work. At the outset, I decided to divide it into two parts. First would come the course of my own life from beginning to end in one continuous narrative. Next, I would choose some important events and do some further narration and description. In the spring of 1981, in order to help me better recall events, I used the opportunity afforded by my vacation following the trials of Lin Biao and Jiang Qing to make a special trip to western Fujian province, Zhangnan, and my hometown of Wuhan to collect some historical reference materials, and visit some of my friends and comrades-in-arms from the old days. In the course of this vacation I put my important experiences of the several decades from my youth to the founding of the People's Republic in 1949 in a chronology from which I could form my memories, and in this sequence I composed a first draft of an autobiographical memoir.

Not long after that, the Central Party Historical Materials Collation Commission was officially established. In compliance with the Party's call, I turned over my recently completed first drafts during a Commission work conference. My original intention was to submit the manuscript to the appropriate leadership cadres for them to check, and with some more concrete guidance and opinions from them, I would either completely rewrite the manuscript of at least do some added revisions. However, several comrades who had read the original version immediately expressed their appreciation and encouragement. They found it to be a narrative which, using the personal life and experiences of one man as the main thread, was an ingenuous, natural and gentle autobiography describing historical events and personalities as they had been experienced and witnessed by one man. The comrades of the Central Party Historical Materials Collation Commission, after having proofread and researched the draft, decided that the compete text could be published in the volumes of "Historical Materials of the Chinese Communist Party."

At the time, I protested that my book was an incomplete and artlessly written first draft in which many of the "facts" were based on my own memory, that there were certainly omissions and inaccuracies, and that the prose needed considerable polishing. But in order to use the rough-cut memoirs as a means to draw out more valuable contributions from its readers, I hoped to use this opportunity to hear some critical views from my readers, particularly from several old comrades, which I would use in rewriting it more completely and elegantly.

Sure enough, after these first memoirs were published in volumes 1 and 2 of the "Historical Materials of the Chinese Communist Party" in 1982, I received many constructive and valuable opinions. Some of these provided corrections which filled out facts which I had recorded, others discussed my description and outlook toward certain questions, still more simply encouraged me to continue my writing. I found that I derived considerable personal satisfaction from all this, from the fact that my surplus experiences had been used in just the right place, and I felt that in a new way, I had made a contribution to the Party.

With the urging of my comrades, I continued this endeavor of journaling and collating important experiences since the establishment of the People's Republic in 1949 in books called "Eight Years in the Foreign Ministry," "Eight Years in the Central International Liaison Department," and "Eight Years of Chaos." Of these, my memoirs of work in the Foreign Ministry were published in serial, and later in book form under the title "My Eight Years of Experience in the Foreign Ministry" by the editorial department of the World Knowledge Magazine Press. Simultaneously, some comrades in the People's Liberation Army Press proffered the suggestion that I might give them this portion of my pre-Liberation memoirs, particularly the reminiscences from the Great Revolution, the Red Army period, the periods of the Anti-Japanese War and the War of Liberation for publication in a single volume. Considering that they were the military publishers, that my experiences of this period were relevant to the army and could possible benefit military readers, I accepted their suggestion, and based on the suggestions and opinions of several comrades, as well as some of my further recollections of events and additional historical documents, I was able to revise and expand this part of my memoirs completely rewriting some chapters altogether. Originally, I wanted to ponder my prose a bit more, but the at the publishers' requested that I preserve the straightforward and simple character in the language of the original draft as much as possible and, besides, they hadn’t had the manuscript very long and it must still contain certain unsettled emotions. So I ask the readers of these inarticulate and incomplete chapters to adjudge it with a critical eye. (?)

The above is the story of the genesis and progress of how this volume came to be written and published. Compared to the majestic epic of the history of the Chinese Communist Party, the Chinese Army and our new nation, this is a mere literary drop in the ocean. My memoirs are just a few historical jottings from a great epoch. They merely describe how an unremarkable street urchin nurtured by the Party and tempered by the struggle, matured. If these jottings can provide some useful historical resources to the reader ort to Party or military historians, or help young people to gain a better understanding of the long and winding road which my generation travelled and thereby cherish all the more how difficult it was to obtain the benefits which we enjoy today, encourage them to strive to create an even more ideal future and continue the courage to struggle, then the purpose of drafting and publishing this book will have been realized.

The editorial staff of the Central Party Historical Materials Collation Commission gave me quite a lot of guidance and assistance in drafting this portion of my memoirs. The Political Department of the General Staff also gave me active support in organizing this work. From beginning to end, Comrade Liu Hong of the Liberation Army Daily and Comrade Peng Jiajin of Literature and Arts Daily gave me help in recording and compiling my memoirs for this manuscript. Finally, the enthusiasm of the colleagues in the Liberation Army Press enabled this book to be published. To all those colleagues who devoted their long term efforts and industrious labors to this book, I express my deepest gratitude.

/signed/ Wu Xiuquan
December 1983

Chapter I

Years of My Youth

Wuhan, on the middle reaches of the Yangtze River, is my home. In the second month of the lunar calendar at the end of the reign of the Guangxu Emperor of the Manchu Dynasty, March 1908, to be precise, I was born into the family of a minor clerk in Wuchang. At that time, my grandfather, Wu Lunkui and my father Wu Lizhao, were both minor scriveners in an adjunct branch of the Yamen of the imperial governor of Huguang province. Economically speaking, our family was fairly well off. My mother Zhu Sangu gave birth to ten children altogether, of which a son and a daughter died in childhood. I was the fourth of the surviving eight. The older relatives say that the Wu clan is from Daye County in Hubei province. That's where our clan's temple is. In the old days, as was the custom, they would go there every third year to trace the family genealogy, and all the recently born male children in the family had their names inscribed on the family tree.

With the successful conclusion of the 1911 Revolution led by President Sun Yat-sen, my hometown of Wuchang became famous. It was the first city to launch a successful revolutionary uprising. But, as far as that revolution was concerned, I only heard about it long afterwards from the mouths of my parents. I heard that on October 10 of that year, the entire city rattled with gunfire, and there was an attack on the imperial governor's Yamen and its garrison. Since our Imperial overlords were mostly Manchus, all the Manchus in the city tried to flee elsewhere after the uprising. The mutinous soldiers guarding the city gates began to stop each person exiting the city to see whether or not he was a Manchu. The guards asked everyone to repeat the phrase "six hundred and sixty-six," and anyone who couldn't repeat it with a proper Hubei accent was detained as a Manchu. Unfortunately, in the end there was a lot of indiscriminate killing and many people died. In those days, men wore their hair in long queues, and after the uprising, a few self-styled revolutionaries stood in the streets pulling men aside and forcing them to cut off their queues. In a very short time, every man in the city had cut off his queue and the streets were swept clean of traditional braids. Anyway, after the revolution our own family life was affected very directly. The doors of the Imperial Yamen had been closed and my grandfather and father lost their jobs. My family had to live of the little bit they had put aside as savings. I was only four years old at the time, and didn't understand why we were faced with such hardship. Things went from bad to worse. In 1913, my grandfather died and it wasn't long before we found ourselves numbered among the city's paupers.

In 1915, when Marshal Yuan Shikai restored the imperial monarchy and set himself up as the new emperor, my father got a job as "clerk of the court" handling all sorts of formal correspondence in the home of an old acquaintance, Wu Yuanze, and then made a little money to live off of. (Mr. Wu was from Xiangyang county in Hubei. He was a graduate of the Japanese military academy, and was the uncle of Wu Defeng.) Afterwards, when Li Yuanhong became the president, Wu Yuanze took my father alone with him to Beijing and sought out Li Shucheng, who was then serving in the Army Department. Li Shucheng, by the way, was the older brother of Li Hanjun, who was one of the delegates to the First Party Congress [of the Chinese Communist Party], he himself was named as the first Minister of Agriculture of the Central People's Government after the end of the Civil War in 1949. While Wu Yuanze himself was looking for a position, he also managed to secure a commission for my father. Through his intercession, my father managed to get a temporary "brevet rank" which he hoped would yield a permanent salary but he saved money by living in the Hubei Association Hall. All the while in Beijing, my father scrimped and saved and was able to send a little money back home to us. In the end, his hopeful waiting came to naught, and all he could do was return home dispirited to Wuchang. I remember him coming back home from Beijing then. As presents, all he brought were "sweet-in-the-core" radishes and some herbal medicines which, at the time, I thought were very expensive: one kind was Beijing "Tongren Tang" medicinal eyewash; another was "golden rat pellets" which were really gold colored pills made from a common digestive medicine. When I think of the thousands of miles he travelled only to return home with such "treasures" as presents, I remember just how poor we actually were.

By 1918 when my father returned home he found job hunting even more hopeless. Everything in the house had been pawned and there was nothing else to live on. Father helped out at the local school transcribing lesson materials and copying stencils, and they paid him a few pennies per page. But there were often days when we literally had no rice to put in our pots. Needless to say, there was no money to send me to school. I was only ten at the time. I remember that we'd often have nothing but sweet potatoes to eat just to keep body and soul together. Even then, sweet potatoes were expensive, so my elder brother and I would run the dozen or so miles to the banks of the Yangtze River where farmers sold them to the river punters. Buying directly from the farmers we could get them a bit more cheaply. Even though it would take us two of three hours to make the trip to the riverbank (we'd be out of breath from the run), buying sweet potatoes just a little cheaper made us feel like we'd accomplished something. To keep ourselves busy we'd do odd jobs, like pasting matchboxes together for a local factory. That was something everyone in the family helped with feverishly morning and night. At that time local elections were held, so we all got jobs folding the ballot forms. Nevertheless, even though we never missed a chance to earn a few pennies or save on expenses, it was still very hard trying to make ends meet. We couldn't keep up with the rent and had to move to another house that was lacking in amenities, to say the least. In the end, we wound up moving four separate times, from one house which was already pretty bad to an even worse place in the poorest section in town. There, we started out in a four room house, but when we couldn't afford that any longer, we gave up a room to someone else, leaving ourselves with three rooms.

Imagine, a ten-person family living in a three room house with thin tiles covering the roof, cold in the winter, hot in the summer, leaky when it rained. Every evening we put up our temporary bed planks, and in the mornings we had to take them down and lean them against the wall lest there be no place to walk. In those days, I slept with Grandma. My mother did everything from cooking the food to washing and mending the clothes. She even had a special razor that she used to shave our heads (we didn't have the luxury of haircuts). No one in the family wore leather shoes, we all wore cotton slippers which mother made with her own hands. My earliest memories are of seeing my mother making shoes. All day long without resting she would paste together the cotton panels, make the uppers, fashion the soles and stitch them all together. It truly was because of that beautiful old woman that I was able to survive and grow. Our address was on the eastern wall of the Wuchang "Peasant Movement Study Hall", but the house has long since been torn down. We had a lot of neighbors in those days. One was a worker at the Hanyang Armory, another was a fruit peddler, and a third was a barber who carried his stool and paraphernalia on a long shoulder pole. They were big hearted lower class laboring people. Their children were my best friends from whom I learned about life and living.

In 1919 as the May Fourth Movement was sweeping Wuhan, students from every college and high school were brought into the streets in massive demonstrations. Wuchang has two main streets, one is the aptly named Long Avenue running north-south through the city, the other is the east-west boulevard toward Chayuanpo. They were both packed with demonstrating students as far as the eye could see. That day, I was on my way to a place called "Snake Hill" to dif clay for charcoal brick molds. I came across thousands of these students all demonstrating with such enthusiasm that I joined with them. I didn't understand much about politics but their excitement was contagious bringing me along with them with unbounded fervor. That evening, students form every school in the city organized a lamplight demonstration and again I went and joined in the commotion. Those activities left a deep impression, not just on me but on everyone in Wuhan.

I had not had any formal schooling before that time. At home, my father and uncle taught me parts of the "Four Classics" but that was mostly by rote memorization. I only managed to learn a few characters because the texts were written in such archaic syntax that I could not understand the sense of the passages.

One of the neighbors, a laborer, had a son who attended the "single class school" organized by the Primary School of Wuchang Superior Teachers’ College. He asked me if I had any desire to go to a real school and explained that the school didn't charge any tuition. I said of course I'd like to study. The family had no objection because no money was involved, so right after Chinese New Year in 1920, I went to the school with the neighborhood children to take a placement examination. Because I could read some characters and could manage simple arithmetic, the school accepted me into the second semester of second grade. I was twelve, much older than the normal age for that class, but I was in a formal school, I could see a new future before me, and I was ecstatic. In this school, there was only one teacher who taught four ten-student classes at the same time. The teacher would first teach one class. For instance, he would teach arithmetic to the first and second graders, while the third graders would study their grammar, and the fourth graders would write essays. Then he would switch. Surprisingly enough, this arrangement worked quite well. Indeed, the teacher was overworked running back and forth between us all the time.

In the summer of 1921, the province closed the single class school for lack of funds. My teacher, seeing that I had been a serious and successful student, recommended that the Teachers College primary school grant me a tuition waiver to enter the fourth grade, which the school did. I used to wear a simple peasant child's cotton tunic to school because the family was in dire straits and couldn't afford a school uniform. Nevertheless, my grades were good, I got along well with the others and my relations with the teachers and other students were excellent so I generally avoided the taunts and insults that might have been expected since I came from a poor family. At the Teachers’ College Primary I studied another three years and graduated.

The Teachers’ Primary was a very simple school. My fourth grade teacher was Xiong Qishu, a Hunanese who graduated from the Changsha First Normal College. He was quite progressive in his outlook, hardworking and an excellent teacher. All the students loved him. One reason was that he was the proctor of the after-school activities. Every other week or at least once a month, we'd have an assembly which we called "after school delight." Usually we'd have elocution contests or perform vaudeville acts, do skits or dramatic readings which the teacher organized. He picked me as his favorite orator and leading man in the little skits he produced. His attention to me during these after-school plays meant a great deal to me. In fact, they deeply influenced me in my career later on.

In 1922, during fifth grade, a new teacher was assigned to us. He was none other than Chen Tanqiu, one of the founding members of the Chinese Communist Party and a delegate to the Party's "First Plenum." This teacher's interaction with his students was close and constant, and his impact on their thinking was persuasive. As my first mentor, Chen had a profound influence on the development of my own outlook toward the revolution and, at the end of his second year there, when I was in fifth grade, he personally introduced me to the "SY", the "Socialist Youth League". It was because of his personal guidance and help to me that I started along the way of the revolutionary.

My own participation in the revolution was a perfect example of how, in Marx's words, “poverty gives rise to a demand for change.” Ruined by the chaotic times following the 1911 Revolution and caught amid contradictions in society, my family descended into the lower classes. Poverty and bitter dejection led me to demand a change of the status qui, to search for a way out, and there appeared to be no other way to do this than by joining the Revolution.

From a socialist materialist point of view, my family background was the first important element which started me down the way of a revolutionary. The second element was my new spiritual consciousness which was drawn out by Chen Tanqiu and my other progressive teachers. The fire of their revolutionary truth was set to the dry tinder of poverty-stricken youth who demanded revolutionary change. Quite naturally, it exploded into flame. The third element was the practical education given us by the social environment of the times, the reality of semi feudal, semi colonial China everywhere and constantly aroused our inchoate revolutionism. This was what crystallized our consciousness, this was that third element which impelled us along the road of a revolutionary.


Chapter II
The Way of a Revolutionary 

My Mentor and Revolutionary Guide

After Chen Tanqiu arrived at the Wuchang Superior Teachers’ College Primary School in the autumn of 1922, my alma mater very quickly became the cradle for the revolution in Hubei. Directly and indirectly, it drew progressive teachers and students toward revolution. I was there during his tenure as fifth grade teacher, constantly absorbing an education in revolution in the peacefulness of the classroom. He was a brilliant orator, a serious and solemn worker. And given the conditions that prevailed at the time, he used every method at his disposal to instill in his students a revolutionary ideology. In history class, for instance, he would repeatedly exhort us to look at history not simply as the constant ebb and flow of dynasties and kingdoms, but rather as an examination of changes in society and the development of economic structures. He lectured us on the history of societal development. He showed us that a new form of social organization completely supplants the old social order and that this is an immutable law of societal development. This was an enlightened education in which he explained the complex and profound theories of historical materialism and dialectical materialism to us in simple and lucid terms. He was able to integrate the grim realities of society with our youthful idealism and exposed to us the multitudes of inequalities which existed in real life. He showed us that "National Salvation through Education" and "Industry Saves the Nation" were meaningless slogans; that only a complete change in the social order would eliminate the abuses and corruption that existed then in the society. I once asked him what could be done about us poor children who had no education. He responded that this was not a question for an individual, but one that had to be answered by society as a whole. The problems facing the rest of society would still remain, and only when the old order had been completely overturned could the string of questions, including the matter of educating poor children, be answered.

He often used real life examples to stimulate our anti-imperialist convictions. In those days, Hankou had a foreign settlement and there I used to see the outlandish potentates lording it over others, throwing their weight around without regard for the common people. Once I saw a rickshaw man pull a foreigner up to their destination and ask for his fare. The foreigner didn't gently put the money in the cabby's hand, he simply cast it on the ground. That was insulting, but the cabby swallowed his pride – what else could he do? He bent over and picked the coins out of the dirt. Yet, when he counted the pennies, he had been shortchanged. Naturally enough, he called after the foreigner asking for the rest of his fare, but this fellow simply ignored him – arrogantly and imperiously ignored him. He just rubbed his belly and walked off.

And then there were the foreign gunboats that plied the Yangtze River. These were symbols of imperialism, all sorts of patrol boats and cruisers. Sometimes they stopped at the docks, sometimes they steamed on the river, but back and forth they swaggered before us Chinese as if they owned the place. These things I saw with my own eyes, and they moved me deeply: how was it that China, a great and ancient nation, was always oppressed and humiliated by these imperialists? I was a young lad then, strongly influenced by Chen Tanqiu, and these were things that began to awaken my revolutionary consciousness.

December 1923 was an important time in my revolutionary career. For over a year Chen Tanqiu taught me and watched me and together with He Kong, who was responsible for League work, personally initiated me into the Socialist Youth League. Two other classmates entered the League with me, and I was named the leader of our cell. At that time, people referred to Communist Party Members as "CP" while Socialist Youth Leaguers were called "SY". In early 1925, the SY's name was changed to "Communist Youth League" and we became known by the abbreviation of "CY." In those days, it was a very secret but rather extraordinary thing to join the CY or the CP. From that point on I was not just a typical poor child. I was a revolutionary youth with a goal, an ideal and an organization, and my heart was filled with a certain feeling of self-esteem.

Our most important task after entering the League was to develop the League's organization by seeking out like-minded youth to join our ranks. In no time, our cell had expanded to ten members. In the tortuous course of the revolution which lasted several decades, those ten League members all underwent awesome changes. I value deeply my memories of two of them. One was Wu Chezhen. He was from Huanggang County in Hubei. After joining our cell, he went off to Whampoa Military Academy and joined the Northern Expedition in 1926. He had an honest and optimistic outlook on life. Yet sadly, he gave his life during the Tingsiqiao campaign in the attack on Wuchang. Then there was another man named Fan Zhengsong from Huangpi County in Hubei who was arrested at the time of the failed Great Revolution of 1927. At the time he was a full fledged Communist Party member. His relatives discouraged him from acknowledging his membership thinking that it would give them some time to save his life. But Comrade Fan was absolutely fearless. He openly announced that he was a Communist and was subsequently shot by the Kuomintang. With the failure of the Great Revolution, the vast majority of the others sooner of later departed the revolutionary ranks. Of the ten original members of my cell, I am the only survivor. Whenever I think of them, my heart wells up with emotion.

In the autumn of 1923, I was promoted into sixth grade at the elementary school. It was at that time that Chen Tanqiu again left Wuchang for Anyuan in Jiangxi to work in the labor movement there. The following summer he returned to Hubei where he continued his work in leading the Party. I was still in sixth grade then, and our teacher was Zhang Langquan, a progressive intellectual. I don’t know whether he had entered the Party at that time but he was very deeply influenced by Chen Tanqiu’s ideals. He had written an article refuting the philosophy of Zhang Junmai and I helped him transcribe it onto stencils for copying. He was always very good to me. Later on, when the Party sent me to the Soviet Union for studies and I needed money to get from Hankou to Shanghai, it was he who helped finance me.

I was always among the best students in school, in fact, from fourth grade right through to the time I graduated I consistently tested first in the class. Yet I was not just a bookworm. I was so sturdily built that my schoolmates called me “Taipao” which is how Hubei people describe particularly heavyset physiques. Heedless to say, I was quite athletic. I remember in 1924 we had a sports meet and the students were divided up by age into two groups “A” and “B” I was assigned to the younger “B” group and was always included among the “B” champions. Events included the normal ones like high jump, long jump, sprinting and high/low hurdles, but we also had “arithmetic walking” and relay walks. In the former, you had to walk fast and do arithmetic problems in your head, and at the end, you had to write the answer on a board testing both your physical as well as mental abilities. The latter demanded that you walk fast and keep a lit candle from blowing out. This exercise helped train physical steadiness and coordination. I liked sports and I did will in all of them.

There were all sorts of talent shows in Wuhan’s colleges, high schools and primaries, and every time our school put on a performance, not only was I an old trouper, but very often I was given a leading role, and always a “positive” one which may have been due to my reputation as a fairly straight fellow. I remember that once I played a judge who was sentencing a number of outlaws, little knowing that several decades later I would be playing the same role again . . . this time for real . . . in the trial of the anti-Party conspiracies of Lin Biao and Jiang Qing.

Early Revolutionary Activities

The revolutionary atmosphere was thick in 1920s Wuhan. Even we elementary school pupils participated in a few demonstrations. Some demonstrations were even organized by our teachers. In the spring of 1924, our school organized a protest march of all pupils third grade and above. All the pupils held little paper pennants on which were written such revolutionary slogans as “Strike Down Imperialism” and “Down With Warlords.” We also carried the KMT’s Nationalist Party flag with its white sun on a blue field. At that time, the KMT was led by Dr. Sun Yat-sen who was beginning the first interparty cooperation with the young Communist Party. Leading the parade was our teacher, Qian Jiepan, and bringing up the real was a “fife-and-drum brigade” made up of students of which I was one. We tooted and banged our way down the streets often shouting out revolutionary slogans and when we crossed busy boulevards we became especially enthusiastic. During the May Fourth Movement of a few years earlier, I stood on the sidelines and admired the demonstrating students as they marched by. Now, I was not only one of the demonstrators, I was one of the core cadre, and I couldn’t help feeling very proud. Our fife and drum brigade even drew in quite a few bystanders. This protest march went smoothly and without the slightest incident. It had the effect of confusing the enemy, and it let us gauge the effect that the revolutionary movement was having on the reactionary warlordists.

In 1924, I graduated from my grade school and left the Wuchang Superior Teachers College Primary School forever. This school was highly significant not only in my own development but as a memorial in the history of our Party as well. Every one of the many revolutionary movements in Wuchang, in all of Hubei in fact, were planned and carried out there. Comrade Chen Tanqiu, the first Party Secretary of the Hubei branch, made the Wuchang Superior Teachers College Primary School his base. From there he brought together the strength of the revolution, carfully nurtured the revolution’s core cadre and turned the Teachers College Primary into a center of revolutionary activism. The Fifth Party Congress of April 1927 and the Yourh League’s Fourth Congress were both convened in the school’s auditorium. Party leaders such as Mao Zedong, Chen Duxiu, Qu Qiubai, Cai Hesen and Liu Shaoqiu as well as representatives from the Comintern, M.N. Roy, Mikhail Borodin and Vyshinsky (Weijinsiji) all converged upon this little school to participate in the meetings.

The school is still there. It’s now called the Wuchang Municipal Zhonghua Road Middle School, but I’ve heard that some of the building has been torn down. Some comrades think that every effort ought to be made to preserve the school because it was one of the important centers of revolutionary activities in the early days of the Party, I fully approve of this suggestion.

At the Teachers College Primary, this tiny cradle of revolution, I started a career as a revolutionary. Nowadays, when I look back, I’m amazed at my good luck to have had direct instruction and guidance from that great revolutionary Chen Tanqiu at the Wuchang Superior Teachers’ College Primary School.

After graduating I still had no chance of going on to high school because the family was still facing some economic difficulties so I had to go off to find work. I was expected to use my own two hands to support myself as well as to help out the rest of the family if I could. It just so happened that the Wuchang “Commonwealth Book Store” was recruiting trainees at that time. Commonwealth was a progressive bookstore that sold books on the revolution and welcomed students to come in and browse. When I heard the news, I signed up and got a job. There were other CYL members at the bookstore. With my arrival, we had three altogether so we organized a CYL cell. Besides myself, there was Bei Yunfen and a woman whose name I have forgotten. At first, I wasn’t much good at selling books, I did some heavy work around the shop and delivered books to a few of the primary schools in the neighborhood. During hot weather, I pulled the punkah fan for the manager. That was also part of my job. In those days, they didn’t have electric fans, and in the rooms, they hung flat framed curtains from the middle of the ceiling, and someone had to make them swing back and forth by pulling a rope all day long to create a breeze. I was the primary “motive force” for this fan. Aside from these odd jobs, I was also assigned to help copy stencils. This was my work. I kept my nose to the grindstone and did the best job I could.

Just as I was trying to console myself with the thought that at last I was able to earn a living, my life took an unexpected turn for the better. Some of my former classmates from Teachers College Primary were regular customers at Commonwealth Bookstore, and some of them had always been good to me. I had done quite well in school and had given them quire a bit of tutoring. I was their “little teacher” so to speak. When they saw that I had left school and become a bookstore apprentice, they sympathized with me and insisted that I continue my studies. They finally offered to help with my tuition. I discussed this with my parents who saw it as an opportunity. They agreed and soon, with the voluntary support of my classmates I returned to the Teachers College Middle School as a freshman. The Middle School was about ten miles from my house which I dutifully marched every day, taking about two hours each way. At noon, it was too far to walk home for food and I didn’t have enough money for the school meal, so I spent some small change on toasted buns just to kill my hunger. There was a time when not only was I hungry, but the entire household had run out of food. For days at a time, the family rive pot was empty. We were in dire straits. Every so often, I would explain this to one of my closest classmates. He would immediately help out with a silver dollar which I used to buy rice for the whole family and we’d manage to get through yet another hard time.

My life was marked by such unblemished hardship that I found it almost impossible to study, yet I found that I began to participate in revolutionary activities with ever greater enthusiasm. I spent much of my spare time with my friends in the CYL cell rushing about town handing out our revolutionary tracts and pasting revolutionary posters on walls. On International Labor Day in May 1924, we marched in a procession sown Wuchang’s main avenues. When we saw humbly dressed people on the street cars which passed nearby, we gave them our handbills. However, when we saw rich fellows with their gold-rimmed glasses, we didn’t bother. They obviously wouldn’t accept our offerings. One could say that this was a rather superficial way of looking at a problem, yet it was an uncomplicated form of class outlook. We spent time pasting up our “Down With Imperialism” and “Down With the Warlords” signs on the walls of Wuchang’s busiest street corners. Before we went around pasting up our posters, we would always send someone over to the police station to pester the police and divert their attention; meanwhile another of us would climb aboard the trolleys and quickly past up our notices. Aside from these rather routine tasks, we would also participate in some other more important activities. After Lenin’s death in 1924, Chen Tanqiu and Dong Biwu convened a Party meeting of 20 or so people in an auditorium near the Teachers College Primary. Both Chen and Dong gave speeches and I remember that Comrade Chen spoke about the relationship between Lenin’s death and the consolidation of Soviet political power and the International Communist Movement. The dynamic Lin Yunan, Liu Changqun, Li Zifen and He Kong were also there. This was the first time I had participated in this kind of meeting and it impressed me greatly.

When Dr. Sun Yat-sen died in 1925, Chen Tanqiu and some other comrades organized a memorial service for several thousand people at the Wuchang Hippodrome (yuema chang) which turned into a large scale propaganda effort using every method available to publicize Dr. Sun’s three policies of “Uniting With Russia”, “Uniting With the Communist Party” and “Supporting the Peasants and Workers.” They also organized sales of pamphlets and other materials introducing the concept of the “Three Principles of the People” and photographs of Dr. Sun and his wife Song Qingling. These activities and others like them were extremely effective because they made a mockery of the bans imposed by the warlords Wu Peifu and Xiao Yaonan and broadened the influence of the Communist Party. I am proud to say that I was among the active participants in these actions.

The May 30th Massacre in Shanghai very quickly affected life in Wuhan. The Party organization department mobilized the entire CYL and part of the progressive youth movement to join the fray. We were quickly divided into three-man cells and dispatched into Hankou city to carry out street-corner propaganda work. We exposed to the masses the butchery of China’s workers and students as crimes of imperialism. We mobilized them into a boycott of Japanese goods in an effort to fire up their patriotism. There was a progressive folk song called “Fight the Eastern Ocean” which went something like:

“Land of Koryo, Ryukyu Isles and Taiwan, are not small lands yet they have all been annexed by the Japanese. As slaves and servants they see before their eyes their nations’ humiliation. When will it end?”

On street corners, our speeches and papers drew big audiences. In fact, as soon as we started our speaking, we would immediately be surrounded by scores of listeners. They were mostly young people, workers, clerks and students. Whenever the police tried to interfere, we’d simply change our venue and continue our performances. At night we would seek out a nearby in or hostel and rest there. Those places weren’t much. They were swarming with bedbugs and mosquitoes so no one could ever really sleep, but I didn’t mind in the least. It continued on like this for several days, but I was in excellent shape, my morale was high. I was exhilarated. Every day, the throngs of people who came to hear us speak gave us tremendous encouragement. What did it matter if we were tired?

The CYL organization continued to coordinate frequent study sessions. Comrade He Kong used to organize outings and hikes to Mount Hong to get us to accept the Party’s educational efforts. At that time, there was a fellow by the name of Peng Zexiang, responsible for Party work who lectured us on dialectical materialism. There were about ten people in his audience including Comrades He Kong and Xu Zhizhen. Although I really didn’t completely understand this “dialectic” and afterwards I couldn’t say that I really studied it well, nevertheless, that was the first time that I had heard these new terms and they greatly influenced my way of thinking. During the outings at Mount Hong, I remember He Kong buying several loaves of bread and some butter with his own money and handing it out to all of us to eat. That was the first time I had ever eaten something foreign. Well, other than these collective study activities, we also frequently read all sorts of revolutionary magazines and monographs. The ones that made the deepest impression on me were “New Youth,” “China’s Youth,” and “Guide.” We often procured magazines published by the nationalist faction, such as “Awakened Lion” to use as “negative example” reading. We also read Bukharin’s “ABC’s of Communism” which was the first book I had ever read on Communist theory. Qian Jieban (who later changed his name to Qian Yishi) was another teacher who educated and guided us then. At that time, he surfaced as a Communist Party member who had been in the status of a KMT leftist. Our original teachers from the Teachers College Primary, Zhang Langxuan, He Chunqiao, Liu Jiliang and Jiang Zilin all greatly influenced our thinking and our studies. Several of Wuhan’s major colleges and high schools were in Wuchang and the Party and CYL organizations at those schools were getting very active. Wang Ming was also in Wuchang at that time. He was a student at the Commercial Sciences University when he began to participate in the student movement, but in those days no one paid much attention to him or got to know him. Lu Chunshan was responsible for coordination and guidance of the Party and CYL organizations at all of these schools. A CYL member at my school assisted him in handling the liaison work. At that time, most of these activities were organized and guided by Comrade Chen Tanqiu and the others.

At the same time as he was leading the Party and Youth League on the campuses, Chen Tanqiu was also leading the work in Wuhan’s Labor Movement where his achievements were numerous. I remember seeing Chen set up a school for laborers’ families in a blue-collar ghetto outside of Wuchang called “Xu Clan Sheds” (Xujiapeng). There weren’t any buildings there, so he fabricated a bamboo shed and made a single potato-crate table and a bench, enrolled a few laborers’ children around ten years old and began to teach them the basics of how to read and write. Chen then very deliberately dispatched some of us Youth League members to the laborers’ ghettos to see for ourselves the sorry state of their living conditions and of their children’s education, undoubtedly a vivid lesson in class education. In our research and observations, we met many laborers, deeply penetrated their households. The lessons of how society is formed and the knowledge we picked up during out time in the ghettos were unobtainable in school. The experience deepened our education and further aroused our revolutionary determination.

Far from Home – Studying in the Soviet Union

It was the autumn of 1925 and I was a sophomore at the Superior Teachers College middle school. As I was walking home one day after school I passed the home of my teacher, Qian Jiepan. With a call from his front door he stopped me. He had something to talk to me about, he said. The death of Dr. Sun Yat-sen earlier that year had drawn the attention of the Soviet Union. In order to commemorate Dr. Sun and promote world revolution as well as to cultivate revolutionary cadres from all over the world, the Soviets had decided to open “Sun Yat-sen University” in Moscow. That fall, when their preparations were more or less complete, they had the Chinese Communist Party Center mobilize and select Party and CYL members and other progressive young people for studies at the university. Qian Jiepan had been authorized by the Party Organization to talk it over with me. He told me of the significance of the school’s commencement and of studying in the USSR, solicited my thoughts on it, and asked if I’d like to go. Upon hearing him, I immediately expressed my desire to go. At that time we greatly admired the Soviet Union, thinking it to be a paradise for poor people. To be able to study in the Soviet Union was naturally a rare opportunity. Qian declared that if I wanted to go, he’d put my name down on the list. I cautioned that I still needed to talk it over with my family, but I predicted that there would be no problems there, he shouldn’t worry.

When I got home, I gleefully told my mother and father about it. They raised no difficulties and agreed that I could go. It wasn’t clear just exactly what they thought of their son going so far away from their home. Because there were many sons in the family and life was difficult enough as it was, they may have felt that my departure relieved them of some extra worries and they could entrust their hopes for my future to someone else. My father spoke to me encouragingly, take care, and not to worry. Neither my mother nor elder brothers were opposed, in fact they all approved of my going to Moscow to study. It was thus that I very easily jumped the “family hurdle.” But not all of us were able to jump this hurdle so easily. There were three of us who were equally qualified and nominated by the Party organization, but one, being an only child, couldn’t go, and another’s family opposed it and he couldn’t go either. I was the lucky one. But I had a problem too, and one not easy to resolve. At that time, the conditions of my acceptance were such that I would have to provide for my travel from Hankou to Shanghai as well as my clothing and necessities. My family, as poor as it was, couldn’t get its hands on such an amount. In the end, I had to rely on the help of some revolutionary comrades before I could resolve the issue. When my old sixth grade teacher, Zhang Langxuan, heard of my predicament, he very generously handed me forty silver dollars and told me to use it for the riverboat fare to Shanghai. I could also use the money to buy a student’s uniform, underwear, rubber shoes and other necessities. My classmate, He Liren, gave me his old padded jacket in which I quite peacefully passed the severe Siberian winter after I left China. I have always been deeply grateful to my wonderful teachers and generous friends for all the important help they gave me in my time of difficulty. 25 years later, after liberation, I went back to look for them. I saw my old teachers He Chunqiao and Jiang Zilin. Teachers Zhang Langxuan and Qian Jiepan had passed away, but their bonds of friendship in the revolution have always comforted and encouraged me, and always will.

Mid-Autumn Festival of 1925 with the bright moon shining everywhere was a day that I’ll never forget. That evening my mother fried up one platter of meat and another of eggs, my father ladled out two ounces of wine and my entire family gave me a farewell dinner. Although I never talked to my family about my revolutionary activism, they nevertheless knew about it, yet they never opposed it or tried to interfere. Once, when my father discovered a Youth League seal which I had left in the house, he just discreetly cautioned me to be more careful. This time, as I was preparing to set off across the sea to study, they still gave me all their support. My mother never said a single word of regret, but io only too well understood her feelings.

After the farewell toast at the end of dinner, my father and three of my older brothers got up and accompanied me down to the Pier No. 6 in Hankou where I joined ten other people who had also been chosen to go to the Soviet Union. There was no question but that I was the most modestly dressed of the group. Their families were all better off than mine, and I was a bit younger than they – only seventeen and a half at the time. Yet the needs of the revolution had called me far away from my home and family. Later that night, under the brilliant light of the mid-autumn moon, we boarded our riverboat and glided out into the rippling waters of the Yangtze. Now, when I think back, it seems that I was moved by a mood of excitement and thought of little else. I felt almost none of that “sorrow at parting” of which the ancient poets wrote.

We started out from Hankou, eleven of us in all, led by Hu Yanlin (also known as Hu Yimou). The eight men were Bei Yunfeng, Xiong Xiaoyuan, Liang Zhongmin, Pan Wenyu, Pu Shiduo, Gao Heng and myself. There were three female students, Huang Li, Du Lin and Zong Wei. We all embraced the same goal in our journey to the Soviet Union. Later, as the situation evolved and things changed, we did not follow the same road. Unfortunately, some comrades were sacrificed in the struggle; others continued to work for the Party after Liberation; still others went over to the other side and became Kuomintang Party members. I should mention one in particular, Comrade Huang Li who, when we started out from Wuhan, was a progressive member of the Kuomintang. After we arrived in Moscow, she joined the Communist Part. In October 1931, she returned to work in China, She was arrested in Shanghai in April 1933 and put into prison, and in July she died heroically. Faced with the butcher knives of the enemy, she said disdainfully and contemptuously “Revolutionaries don’t fear death, you’ll never be able to kill all revolutionaries, the days of the Kuomintang government are numbered!” She was just 28 when she died.

Chapter III
Five and a Half Years in the Soviet Union
(Autumn 1925 to Summer 1931)

The Long Slow Journey

It was just at the time of the Warlord rebellions that our riverboat passed through Nanjing and was boarded by soldiers of one private army or another, I don’t know which. They wanted to use our boat so they put all of us travelers ashore. But to keep up with appearances, they arranged for us all to get on the next train to Shanghai.

In Shanghai, we lived in a small traditional style hostel where the Party had made arrangements for us. It was located in the French Concession and was just a large room which had been subdivided with wooden panels into small cubicles housing three of four people each. The Jiangsu and Zhejiang Warlord Battles were raging at the time. With sandbags piled up and fortifications erected all along the French Concession boundary, the atmosphere was quite tense. Understandably, we weren’t inclined to go out much. We spent the days in the hostel studying books and reading newspapers, just waiting to leave the country. Our group leader, Hu Yanbin maintained frequent contact with the Party Center and finally, at the end of October, we received the notification to embark on our voyage. They said we would travel on a Soviet coal steamer to Vladivostok, and in Vladivostok we would board the train for Moscow. That evening, carrying our own simple bags, we walked down to the pier at the Huangpu River. Under cover of the vast night sky, we climbed aboard a tiny sampan and rowed out of Wusongkou anchorage to the Soviet steamer which was anchored up at the mouth of the Yangtse River. As night progressed, more than a hundred people boarded the ship all being transferred out from Shanghai, Jiangsu, Anhui, HJiangxi, Hunan, Hubei, Henan, Shanxi, Shaanxi and the Beijing (then called “Beiping”) and Tiajjin area. Among the passengers were Zhang Wentian, Wang Jiaxiang, Ulanhu, Wu Liangping, Sun Yefang, Pan Zili, Yang Fangzhi, Liu Shaowen, Shen Zemin, Zhang Qinqiu, Li Peizhi, Ma Jun, Ma Hua, Yu Shugong, Liu Hui, Zeng Hongyi and Luo Wenbing.

In order to meet possible unforeseen situations, we had all prepared cover stories that we had been recruited as laborers in the Soviet Union. In fact, with the exception of the indigent students like myself, there were well-dressed intellectuals in our group, some were even university professors. While my own clothing was sparse, some of my fellow passengers carried big classy leather suitcases which certainly would not give anyone the impression that they were stoop laborers. In those days, we revolutionaries weren’t experienced but fortunately the counterrevolutionaries weren’t experienced either. The warlord regimes then weren’t as tightly organized as the KMT reactionaries later became, so we didn’t run into any trouble and managed to board the ship without incident. The Soviet steamer, a 3,000-ton class ship, carried no coal and most of us were able to sleep in steerage. Because we were from different provinces none of us knew each other. This was a particular problem for me. I was young at the time, not well-educated, and I was a pauper, a “third-class citizen.” Adding to my troubles was my outlandish Hubei accent, so I didn’t talk much with the rest. Everyone was afraid of getting seasick so they slept in the lower cabins and would come up on deck only to get fresh air and enjoy the ocean views.

Our ship left Shanghai at the end of October 1925 en route to Vladivostok. The two people leading us at the time were an Overseas Chinese from the Soviet Union called Yang Mingzhai who spoke Russian very well. He had accompanied the Director of Comintern’s Far East Division, Vyshinski, to China in 1920 and had participated in the events surrounding the establishment of the Chinese Communist Party. The other person was Zhou Dawen from Guizhou province. He was a protégé of Qu Qiubai and studied Russian at the old Russian Language Center in Beijing. This time, they had been assigned by the Party Center specifically to lead our group to the Soviet Union, to liaise with the Soviets in handling our affairs.

After we had been at sea for a few days, we celebrated the eight anniversary of the October Revolution. The ship’s captain presided over the festivities by giving a speech on the revolution’s significance and asking the Chinese passengers to speak. We elected a veteran Shanghainese Party member, Yu Xiusong, to represent us. In his speech, he praised the great victory of the October Revolution and its influence on the Chinese revolution. When he finished, he invited our shipmates from Japan and Korea to speak. When the speeches were over, the ship’s deck was redolent of a feeling of Proletarian Internationalism friendship. In fact, the first time I had ever heard the “Internationale” sung was that day on the ship. The stirring melody immediately gripped me. At first, I just hummed, then I gradually picked up the words and started singing along.

Every day on board ship, we ate bread with a dollop of syrup. Some of us couldn’t get used to this sort of life. They got seasick and threw up, they couldn’t eat anything. Nonetheless, I managed quite well and got used to the ship fairly quickly. Although this was my first time far from home, I felt as if I were a bird just free of its cage. My head was filled with wonderful images. I thought only of getting to my ultimate destination, Moscow, as quickly as possible, the monotony and exhaustion of the trip were the furthest things from my mind.

It was about November 10, 1925, that we arrived in Vladivostok. The Soviet ship captain escorted Yang Mingzhi and Zhou Dawen ashore to make contact with the appropriate Soviet office which quickly made train arrangements for us. At dusk we disembarked from the ship and boarded the train. That same night, we started off for Moscow. The train was just like in the movie “The Communist,” in every compartment was a potbellied lard stove and the engine was stoked with firewood. Every few stations we had to stop for a new supply of logs lest we get stranded. Every compartment had three levels of wooden slat bunks, but no blankets at all. Fortunately, I had the heavy winter jacket that my friend had given me before leaving Wuhan. Consequently, I didn’t freeze crossing the frigid wastes of Siberia. Looking back, it’s hard to imagine that I ever went through that experience. I was young in those days, physically fit and in high spirits, so I guess I just barreled on through without thinking about it.

Things were extremely difficult in the USSR at the time. Food on board the train consisted of bread, butter, sugar cubes and boiled water. That was it, and that counted as preferential treatment. Come of the Chinese travelers weren’t used to this food, particularly the butter. I, on the other hand, found it quite palatable, though I had my own way of eating it. I mixed the butter with crushed sugar in a cup and poured on boiling water. It was sweet and fragrant, tasty and nutritious; certainly a lot better than much of the food I had at home. And so, I sipped my specially-made butter soup and ate my bread while station after station receded into the distance behind us along the Trans-Siberian Railway, and Moscow, Shrine of the Revolution, drew closer and closer. In keen anticipation we looked forward to a new life of the future. We struggled though all sorts of inconveniences and unfamiliar situations, kept our spirits very high, and in the end we finally completed this long, slow journey.

At Sun Yat-sen University in Moscow

Our train arrived in Moscow at the end of November after about two weeks of rumbling on the tracks. Already, the weather in Moscow was extremely cold as we were escorted to Sun Yat-sen University Hall on Volkhonka Uletsa where we were to live. The school fronted on the broad boulevard and directly across from it was a huge square in which stood a famous old Russian church. After the semester began, we would there early in the morning every day to do our exercises. I understand that the physical education teacher was specially recruited in Sweden. At the far southern end of the square was a sizeable public park which immediately became the place where we would go for quiet strolls and to relax. Right in front of the classroom building there was a small flower garden where we would go between classes to get fresh air and chat with classmates. When we first moved in, the Sun Yat-sen University building was a huge broad structure a few floors high which housed the dormitories, classrooms, cafeteria and canteen and the administrative offices. Not long afterwards, a student club was added. From my contemporary perspective, it was truly a luxurious edifice. In the beginning, students were few, and all lived in the school.

The first order of business after registering at the University was the individual interviews with school officials and instructors. They asked us our names, native place, family composition, educational background, previous schools and employment, what books we had read, which revolutionary activities we had participated in, etc. They also had a tailor come in to make a suit of clothing, great coat and leather shoes for each of us. Next, they started to organize us into classes and issue student identification cards. I remember that Comrade Li Peizhi’s ID card was number 1, mine was number 73. In my life, there have been only two numbers which I clearly remember; my student ID number at Sun Yat-sen University and my prison ID number 42 when I was locked in a “cowshed” during the “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.”

After our group of students arrived, there appeared two more groups of students. One came from Guangzhou in China, also by ship via Vladivostok. Among them were Comrade Zhang Ruxin and Comrade Zhu Rui (who later became the artillery commander of the Northeast Military Region and lost his life during the War of Liberation). The composition of this group of students was rather complicated. Kuomintang Party members were in the majority, in fact, there were quite a few rightists such as the future chief of the KMT secret police, Zhang Ke, and Zhang Zhen who was the commander of the Chungking Garrison during World War II. There were also future stalwarts of the Japanese Puppet Regime in Nanking, Lin Bosheng and Chen Chunpu, and their beautiful fiancées.

The other group was made up of Chinese students from France, Germany, Belgium and other West European counties, among whom were Comrades Deng Xiaoping, Fu Zhong and Xu Bing as well as the brothers Gu Zhenggang and Gu Zhengding. Pan Zili was the cell leader of our Youth League group, and Liu Zhongrong was the head of the Student Association. At various times, I shared classes with Ulanfu, Zhang Ruxin, Zhang Xiyuan and Zhang Zhen (a member of the first class at Whampoa Military Academy) who, because he was from Hubei, had a pretty good relationship with me. Much later, I tried to undertake “United Front” work with him in order to bring him over to the Communist side, but I was not successful.

The school divided us up into several classes according to our academic background, with each class comprised of about twenty students. Because the students arriving from France and Germany had relatively high foreign language competences, they were assigned to classes which were taught in French and German. The students who had arrived from China with a good command of Engliush were put into an English-speaking class. All were taught directly in those foreign languages. Our group which arrived together from China, including Comrades Zhang Wentian, Wang Jiaxiang, Wu Liangping and Shen Zemin, all progressed in Russian very quickly and inside a year we were all studying and translating in Russian. Later, Zhang Wentian, Wang Jiaxiang and Zhen Zemin passed the entrance examinations for the Red Professorial Institute (Hongse Jiaoshou Xueyuan).

Our curriculum included Marxist-Leninist philosophy, politico-economics, scientific socialism, history of the Communist Party, history of Western revolutionary movements, history of Oriental revolutionary movements and Russian language. In my class, I had the least academic preparation. Others generally had a university education or at least upper-middle school, whereas I had only finished freshman year in junior high. Nevertheless, my class standing was usually in the middle. Because some of the students with a college background didn’t care about studying, they didn’t seriously apply themselves; moreover, some brought an anti-communist hostility to their studies, such as Zhang Ze (?) and Gu Zhenggang, so naturally they didn’t learn much. I knew my disadvantages but, as they say, “the caged bird flies first,” so I was especially serious about my studies. In the end, my class results were not the best, but they were far from the worst.

Of all the courses in the school’s curriculum, I was most interested in Russian language and politico-economics. At the time, I summed up my three experiences in studying Russian thus: first, it was getting down the grammar; I remember that the only grammar text available was one compiled by Mr. Liu Zerong which we would all fight over when we returned to the dormitory to do our homework. I memorized noun, pronoun and adjectival declension endings and verb conjugations until I nearly died. The second stage was memorizing vocabulary; writing down in my notebooks every new word I came upon, and then using it over and over again until I was completely familiar with a whole set of words, and after memorizing one set then going on to a new set and repeating the process. By this continuous memorization I accumulated a massive vocabulary. The third stage was taking advantage of every possible opportunity to listen to, and speak Russian; going through this practical use of the language to raise my level of proficiency was a somewhat more difficult than the first two stages because there really weren’t many such opportunities.

I also liked politico-economics. The discussions in the texts of the theory of surplus value interested me greatly so I sought out great numbers of texts and tutorial materials on this subject for further reading. Consequently, when I went on to be an interpreter for that course I was able to give relatively accurate translations of the instructor’s lectures. My classmates who listened to them found them quite satisfactory.

Not long after I arrived, a Sun Yat-sen University, the 14th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolshevik) convened opening the struggle against the Trotskyite elements. The newspapers announced the programs of the CPSU Center which differed from those of the Trotskyite faction and we students at Sun Yat-sen University were drawn into the field of contention. Although my level of political understanding wasn’t really very high at the time, I did possess an outlook of traditional orthodoxy and throughout that time I very clearly supported the line of Stalin and the CPSU Center. Yet, among the students at the university, there were some who were not at all like me. The supported the Trotskyite view. These people mainly fell into two groups; first were those who particularly appreciated Trotsky’s literary and intellectual style. All the students at Sun Yat-sen University had heard Trotsky speak. He could speak English, French, German and Russian and his eloquence quite entranced those intellectuals who had lost contact with reality. The second group was represented by people like Kang Ze and Zhang Zhen who started out from the Kuomintang’s reactionary standpoint. They wholeheartedly endorsed Trotsky and opposed Stalin. During heated debates, the students who supported the Trotskyite positions would thump great volumes of Lenin’s writings, translate passages and orate to the audiences, telling us in which volume and on which page Lenin said this or that, quoting chapter and verse, and going on very persuasively in their defense of Trotsky. The situation was very volatile.

From that time, not long after we arrived in Moscow, until November 1927 when Trotsky and Zinoviev were expelled from the Party, there was a very tense atmosphere at Sun Yat-sen University. The students were all, to varying degrees, sucked into the struggle. Some students, like Lu Xiang who had sailed with us on the boat to the USSR, had become the leaders of the Trotskyite faction on campus; and there were those who, as a result, lost their Party membership, their membership in the CYL and were sent back to China or were otherwise harshly dealt with. Nevertheless, this struggle had very little effect on me. I still expended the major part of my efforts on studies. Regardless of how fierce the campaigns became, I was able to maintain a normal study routine. Naturally, I wasn’t completely without eyes and ears at the time. I had my own views on these issues. Although I was completely out of step with certain of my classmates who were of the Trotskyite persuasion, we still had our personal interactions, and I was fairly close friends with a few of them. Among them was my classmate from elementary school, Pu Shiduo. When I was in elementary school, we were the best of friends, I even stayed overnight in his home at times, and he sometimes stayed at our house. Every month we would get a ten ruble allowance. I was very thrifty, and besides, I never had any passion to buy luxuries, so I always had a little extra. Whenever I saw that Pu Shiduo was low on tobacco money, I would always give him my leftover change. Later on, as he became deeply influenced by Trotsky’s views, we drifted apart politically. Yet, on a personal level we always maintained our friendship. By the time he returned to China in 1927, we had gone completely separate ways. He went over to the Kuomintang side, finally joining the “Revolutionary KMT” after liberation. He may still be alive today, living with his son out at Beijing University.

Once, for Western Revolutionary History, the School invited an octogenarian comrade who had survived the Paris Commune to give us a lecture on his experiences in the Commune. Acting as his interpreter was Ye Qing, then known as Ren Zhuoxuan, who was one of the students from France. I understand that after he returned to China he served in a very responsible position, was captured by the KMT but not executed and then went on to become an important member of the Trotskyite faction.

Our lives as students were quite privileged. In May 1926, the School sent us to a sanatorium in the Moscow suburbs. The surroundings were pleasant and attractive, and while the facilities were run-of-the-mill, breakfasts – milk, cocoa, eggs, bread and butter – and other meals were very good. After breakfast, there was an instructor who was assigned to read us the newspapers and discuss the news of the day. The rest of the time we spent relaxing, taking walks and exercising. You must remember that at the time the Soviet Union was not even a decade old. By organizing these activities, we felt that a socialist system truly cared for each individual, and each person lived very well. Uniformly, the School had made excellent arrangements for our studies and livelihood. They had even sent people to the Far East especially to buy seafood, Chinese mushrooms and other delicacies in order to improve our mess food. Our dormitories and living conditions were also handled very well. At the beginning, we were few in number and were concentrated in the Main Dormitory Hall on campus. Later, when there were more students, we were distributed among several placed off campus to live.

Later, we lived in a place that was not far from the Kremlin and there were times when we would bump into Stalin himself while walking to work. He always walked casually, wearing a Red Army greatcoat, with no sign of bodyguards. Of course, it’s possible that there were bodyguards in mufti who were concealed from view. He occasionally came to our school to give speeches so everyone recognized him. Whenever he came to Sun Yat-sen University, he wore his modest army greatcoat, and always smoked his huge pipe that was to become his trademark. Owing to the fact that he was Georgian, he did not speak Russian with a particularly good accent so he was inclined to speak slowly. Yet his choice of words was precise, and his voice burst with deep and decisive strength. Regarding his speeches, I believed they were, of course, correct. But we always heard them after they passed through a layer of interpreters and were not all that clear to listen to. It was only until one had seen the official translation afterwards that one could get a deeper comprehension of it. For example, on May 13, 1927, he gave a speech “Answering Ten Questions from Sun Yat-sen Students”, yet it was only afterwards that I grasped its significance.

At that time, Karl Radek was the president of Sun Yat-sen University. He was a famous figure in the International Communist Movement. He was a Pole who spoke German and Russian fluently and could give speeches which lasted three or four hours without any notes or outline. A very learned man, he later became one of the most important members of the Trotskyite faction. The vice president was Pavel Mif who later became the Director of Comintern’s Far East Department and twice visited China, in 1927 and again in 1930. The famous Sixth Plenum of the Fourth Chinese Communist Party Congress was completely directed by him. The CPSU party secretary at the University was a fellow called Agell, also a Pole. The dean of studies was called (Bo-gu-lang-ye-fu).

After the defeat of the Great Revolution in 1927, Li Lisan came to Sun Yat-sen University and made a report telling us of the three uprisings of Shanghai’s workers and of Chen Duxiu’s opportunist line. Tan Pingshan also came to the Soviet Union after the failure of the Great Revolution. He reported to us in the University’s library where he made a self-criticism of his handling of the Peasant Movement in China. During the First KMT-CCP Cooperation, he was the KMT’s General Secretary and Director of the Party Organization Department. In 1927, after the Ma-Er Incident when Chen Duxiu gave the order to halt the attack on Changsha, the order went through for Tan to be executed. He gave his speech orally, and peppered each sentence with “y’know” from beginning to end. His ceaseless interjections of “y’know” gave us all excellent material for humorous stories.

The news of Chiang Kai-shek’s betrayal in 1927, the launch of the White Terror, the failure of the Great Revolution, all arrived swiftly at our school causing great discussion and debates among the comrades. The Soviet newspapers published news of the Zhong Shan Gunboat Incident, the Peasant Movement and articles criticizing Chen Duxiu’s opportunist line. Some of my classmates scribbled Anti-Chen Duxiu commentaries on the newspapers displayed on the walls. At the time, I was not very sophisticated nor was my understanding of the substance of “opportunism” deep. Nevertheless, Chen Duxiu did not permit the peasants to put Changsha under siege and told the workers in Wuhan to lay down their arms, and I expressed my dissatisfaction. In our class on the Foundation of Marxism-Leninism, we summed up the historical and actual struggles, including China’s Northern Expedition and Chiang Kai-shek’s betrayal and especially the anti-Trotsky struggle going on in the Soviet Union at that time, to help us analyze and more deeply understand the subject. This not only raised my level of ability with theory but also more firmly strengthened my own revolutionary determination. Through studied of politico-economics, I saw clearly the relationship between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat as a relationship between the exploiting and exploited classes, I understood the theory of surplus value and clearly understood the trend of historical development in which capitalism must necessarily be supplanted by socialism. Although these studies were, for the most part, like stuffing a Peking Duck, knowledge simply poured into the brain, yet inasmuch as they established in me the outlook of a revolutionary, they were of absolutely fundamental value.

Among the students, there existed complicated struggles; one was against the minority who were Kuomintang elements; another was against the vacillating faction within the Communist Party members. Everyone’s thinking was dynamic, their attitudes obvious. Those who supported the Kuomintang position went about propagandizing their old “Three People’s Principles,” and some Party members were influenced by this, eventually going over to the KMT side. My impression is that very few who were originally KMT came over to our side.

After we finished, Wang Ming, Bo Gu and others studied at various times at Sun Yat-sen University. Wang Ming and that group looked down their noses at comrades who had actual work experience in China. They promoted disunity, controlled the school party organization’s “Communist Party Branch Bureau” which they formed into a rather dogmatic little sect. Their most active period was 1929 well after I had departed Sun Yat-sen University and had gone on to military school.

During that period of time, there were still discussions among the students of some “Jiangsu-Zhejiang Natives Association,” but since it didn’t concern me I never paid any attention to it. With regard to the Trotsky question, because my level of understanding was not high, I never made any systematic statements on the subject. Whenever I exchanged views with fellow students, my support of the CPSU (Bolshevik) and Stalin and my opposition to the Trotskyites were consistently clear. Even so, quite a few students at Sun Yat-sen University supported the Trotskyites. Afterwards, some were sent to Siberia and other frontier areas for labor reform, while others were sent home where one after another they were investigated and disposed of. After I returned to the Soviet Area in China, I never ran across any true Trotskyites, although I saw many who had been investigated on that charge.

By September 1929, our group of students had completed this phase of their studies. With the successive betrayals of Chiang Kai-shek and Wang Jingwei’s KMT “Leftists” and the complete destruction of the Great Revolution, the School began to let several students return to China. The first tranche was made up of KMT elements and those who shared their views. They transited Mongolia on their way home. The second tranche was mainly composed of some very capable CCP and CYL members who had studied well and had chosen to be in the vanguard for the return to China. They also transited Mongolia.

Initially, we all wanted to return home as our turns came, but when the route through Mongolia was blocked, we were left in Moscow. Finally, the Party Center decided that we should o to military schools to study in preparation to return home and participate in the armed struggle that lay ahead. I was one of the ones left behind in Moscow.

At the Moscow Infantry Academy

Partially because the route back to China had been cut, but more due to Chiang Kai-shek’s sudden purge and the lessons of the Great Revolution’s failure which caused the Party to realize that eschewing armed force simply would not do, the Party Center decided that I should remain behind in the Soviet Union for military studies. At the same time, a group of veteran comrades from the recent Nanchang and Guangzhou Uprisings as well as some worker and peasant “backbone fighters” from Shanghai arrived separately from China for training at the various military schools in the Soviet Union. Moreover, we were told that whatever we were interested in, ranging from infantry, cavalry, artillery and engineering to navy or air force, we could choose our own training goals. Given my situation at the time, I would have been happy to report for duty anywhere. But given the choice, I considered naval or air force training incongruous with China’s contemporary practical needs, and only in the infantry would there be ample opportunity to use my training. So I was all the more determined to go and sign up for the infantry school.

It was the autumn of 1927. Eleven of us Sun Yat-sen University alumni arrived at the famous Moscow Infantry Academy. If you recall, there were eleven who started our journey from Hubei in the autumn of 1925, and this time there were also eleven who went off together for military training. The Academy organized us into a special class – the China Class. The class leaders was Liang Zhenhong, a very straight-arrow Cantonese and a fairly good student. His father had a relatively close relationship with Comrade Ye Jianying, and when Ye came to Moscow, Liang Zhenhong went to call on him. Other classmates included Gan Rui and Fu Yulin who had come from their studies in France, Guo Jingchun and Luo Wenbing from Jiangxi, a Henanese named Li Xingruo, a Shanghainese post and telegraph worker named You Chi, Dong Yucheng from Shaanxi, a Whampoa Military Academy graduate named Peng Wenchang and myself – ten in all, and then there was an eleventh whose name I cannot recall. We eleven fell into two groups. Some supported the Trotskyite perspective and every Sunday they would go to Sun Yat-sen University and meet up with fellow Trotskyites. In modern slang, one would say they were “networking” (gao chuanlian). Among us, we often had debates. In our brigade, Russian students comprised the main body, and then there were Korean students. Our brigade commander was a Korean named Kim Guolong. Relations among all of us were exemplary and our drill formation commander became a Red Army Hero and a recipient of the Order of the Red Flag.

On the tenth anniversary of the October Revolution, November 1927, we students at the Infantry Academy participated as fighters in the Soviet Red Army in the annual review of troops in Red Square. It was a Moscow November and already snow season. In fact, on that day snowflakes were swirling in the air, yet my heart was throbbing and I was bubbling with heated excitement. From early morning, high-spirited army ranks began arriving in Moscow’s broad boulevards. At the appointed time, the ranks formed for the march-past. Led by the Red Flag and marching to the rhythm of military music, we shouldered our rifles and paced in lock-step past Lenin’s Tomb in Red Square where Stalin and other Party and government leaders reviewed our parade. Several decades later, standing on the Tower at Beijing’s Tiananmen, I participated in the review of the troops on the tenth anniversary of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. I could not help but think of that time in Moscow when I myself was in the parade. From that memory, I not only saw the growth and strengthening of my own Party and country but also saw myself maturing. That I was able to assume a certain responsibility in the army and in government later on was inseparable from the fact that I underwent rigorous training as a common soldier back at the beginning of my career. That stage of my life spent at the Moscow Infantry Academy, I feel, is still worth recalling.

We underwent an entire year of military training at the Infantry Academy, with a curriculum that included tactics, weaponry, map reading, artillery and military engineering as well as political work, politico-economics and Russian language. An elderly Chinese gentleman who lived in Moscow was our interpreter but he wasn’t really up to it. There were quite a few military terms that he couldn’t translate and this created a situation where we were forced to practice listening to the lectures directly in Russian. Life at the Academy was somewhat more intense than at Sun Yat-sen University. Beyond listening to classroom lectures, we had parade formations, target practice, grenade throwing, horseback riding and field maneuvers. In the summer, we camped in tents, and in the winter we slogged through foot-deep snow. Just about every morning, we woke early, put on heavy Red Army greatcoats and thick leather boots and went out to run our drills. It was extremely fatiguing but it was very realistic training for later on.

In 1927, after the failure of China’s Great Revolution, another group of Chinese students arrived in Moscow from Shanghai and other places. They first went to the Oriental University for a year of political training, and in the autumn of 1928 they were sent to the Infantry Academy. The School had established a “China Company” with three platoons. The company commander was a Korean comrade. Of the three platoon leaders, one was Wang Zhitao, who now serves as an advisor to the Academy of Military Sciences, and Tian Dexiu (Jihe), and there was another called Peng Wenchang. Of the other comrades then in my class, some were assigned to various work, others were being sent secretly back to China to work. Liang Zhenhong and myself were left behind to serve as interpreters. Others working as interpreters included four who were transferred from Sun Yat-sen University: one was Qiao Picheng who had arrived for studies in the Soviet Union from France, one was Fu Qinghua, of the other two I vividly remember smiling faces but simply cannot remember their names. So all together, here were six interpreters. We worked for a year, sometimes as political interpreters and sometimes as military interpreters. I most dreaded interpreting military engineering terms like “breastworks,” “backwalls” and such because I lacked a broad military knowledge and I had no Russian-Chinese reference dictionaries, moreover, I didn’t quite understand the concepts very well, so how could I do a good job? Well, I just bit the bullet and did it. At Sun Yat-sen University, I had studied political-economics so I was most interested in interpreting for the politics class. Our professor was the director of the Infantry Academy’s political department. He was a Pole who read aloud from a book without imparting the slightest bit of new knowledge. I had memoriced these books thoroughly and when he lectured I was able to translate everything very clearly. I believe my attitude was very serious. When students asked questions, I helped him answer each one of them. My studies and general work situation there weren’t bad at all. We Chinese students were pretty hard workers and our instructors were fairly satisfied with us.

During the winter of 1928, after the Sixth Party Congress had drawn to a conclusion, our CYL branch contacted Comrade Qu Qiubai through the relevant comrades and invited him to speak to us at our school. He generously accepted. He spoke about the events which transpired during the Sixth Congress and made a self-criticism of “putschism” which was very educational for us. He was a man of great erudition without the slightest pretension. With us students he was right at home.

In August 1929, Qiao Picheng and I traveled down to Anapa (Anlapu) on the shore of the Black Sea for vacation. We had accepted the invitation of a collective farm in the area to join in one of their evening gatherings and give a speech on China’s revolutionary situation. My speech was well-received by the masses at the farm because it was an expression of the Internationalist Movement. The Soviet people at that time were very much concerned about the Revolutionary Cause in China.

The Large Scale Purge Movement (da guimo qingdang yundong) carried out in the CPSU also spread to the Infantry Academy’s China Company. The China Company ceased all normal drills and the entire Party and CYL membership came together to carry our our own Purge Movement which, all tallied, took over a week. Because we came from all over China’s interior, we really didn’t know each other very well and in our organization we never set up any materials which could help us in this activity, each Party and CYL member had to talk individually about his situation, including his past history. Those comrades who had a bad family background then had undergo rigorous scrutiny and accept merciless criticism, the contents of which were entirely fictional and overly exaggerated. Because I was a CYL member and had an unremarkable family background, they never raised any questions against me, and I never participated in dealing with anyone else.

At the Soviet Army’s Far East Command

The China Eastern Railway Incident occurred in October 1929 and China’s reactionary army provoked a war on the Sino-Soviet border. The organization decided to transfer a group of interpreters to the Far East to assist the Soviet Army’s work. A total of ten men, led by Zhou Daiyun, were transferred. Zhou was left at Khabarovsk, Peng Wenchang went to Chita, Wang Maojian went to Blagoveshchensk and there were others who were assigned to other places.

The Soviet Army had just engaged in battle with a unit of Zhang Xueliang’s army stationed in Heilongjiang when the battalion I was with as an interpreter arrived in the region. The battalion boarded a naval riverboat and sailed into Chinese territory. We steamed for a full 24 hours and approached Fujin on the shores of the Sungari River. After disembarking, our units occupied the streets and alleys of this county seat. Chinese soldiers in the area had already withdrawn. I accepted the job of mobilizing the townsfolk to get wheat and flour from the local granary. They were to take however much they wanted. They were all very happy, of course, and throughout the day one could see people hauling home bags of flour.

That afternoon, since we received a communication from the upper echelons announcing that the hostilities had terminated, we boarded our boats and returned to Khabarovsk. It was arranged that we would work in the Soviet Far East Republics Defense Bureau with the rank of “probationers.” At the Defense Bureau I dealt with three major issues: the first was the matter of prisoners of war. The several thousand-man force of the Northeast Army which had been captured along with their commander, Han Guangdi, was being held at the Honghe POW camp. Zhou Daiyun and I, along with several Soviet comrades, were sent to the camp to carry out investigative and registration work. This took close to a month and not long afterwards, when China and the USSR signed a peace agreement (Mo Dehui was the Chinese representative), they were all repatriated to China.

The second issue was intelligence. Whenever the Soviet Army entered a county seat (like Manzhouli or Hailaer) they would send all the local government’s official documents and files and ship them back to the Soviet Union. They wanted us to review these materials, every document had to be read and anything valuable had to be translated and transmitted to the relevant offices for their reference. This was like “panning for gold” because there was very little of value. Only a few things, like high-level communiqués, contained anything at all.

The third issue was smuggling. At that time, there was an extraordinary amount of smuggling across the border. The Soviet economy was in difficulty and some people were able to make big money shipping used clothing, household sundries and foodstuffs into the USSR. The Soviets feared that smugglers were also engaged in their intelligence collection, consequently the Soviets made the anti-smuggling struggle an important component of their work. They assigned me to assist in smuggling investigation work. I discovered, however, that the vast majority of smugglers were ordinary economic criminals, and so long as they were not spies or political criminals, I dealt leniently with them. Once their problems were clarified, we immediately repatriated them to Chinese territory.

February 1930 was the tenth anniversary of the establishment of the Far East Frontier Defense Bureau and the Defense Bureau leadership wanted to publish a commemorative booklet. They directed me to write an article about the Chinese Revolution which would be included in the booklet. Well, I suppose you could say that “young calves don’t fear tigers.” I was young and readily accepted their invitation to write an article in Russian which discussed and critiqued the development of the Chinese guerrilla war and the state of the revolution throughout the country. One of the responsible officials of the Defense Bureau helped me edit and revise the grammar. In the end, the article was printed in the booklet and one might still be able to find it in the Soviet Union.

During the time I worked in the Far East, the leadership had a fairly good opinion of my work. In fact, I did do pretty well. While there were quite a few overseas Chinese in that locale, most of them were peasants who spoke a sort of pidgin Russian, sometimes it sounded like Chinese, sometimes like Russian. On the other hand, I had been through the rigors of specialized studies and interpreter work and had reached a certain educational level. Moreover, I had some initiative which the leadership naturally appreciated.

I was still in the Communist Youth League at the time. I knew that in the Soviet Union, entering the Party was pretty difficult, so I thought I would wait until I returned to China before deciding whether to join. The question of joining the Party never entered my mind. In the Soviet Union, however, they have a traditional practice on important anniversaries of accepting into the Party a certain number of outstanding Youth League members. It was during the festivities marking this anniversary (i.e. the Defense Bureau’s Tenth) that my CYL organization actively sought me out and nominated me for entry into the Party. A total of five CYL members were nominated of whom one was Chinese – and I was the one. I subsequently forgot whether I had three Party sponsors or five. When I was under investigation during the “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution” there was, in the end, only one unanswered question, which in fact could be answered by a perusal of the Soviet Party Constitution in force at the time. Based on my faulty memory, I’d say I had five sponsors. Anyway, it certainly was at that time that I changed from a CYL member into a Party member. I remember that it was during that anniversary assembly that it was announced that: comrade so-and-so, a member of the Communist Youth League has been accepted as a candidate member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and I was directed to give a speech for a few minutes at the assembly to express my deepest gratitude to the CYL organization for its care and to say that I would study diligently, and work ever harder, for the Chinese Revolution and for World Revolution. After the assembly, I went down to the Khabarovsk municipal Party headquarters to pick up my Party certificate. From that time on, I was a candidate member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolshevik). Later on, the Chinese Communist Party Center decided that whoever had joined the CPSU or was a CPSU candidate would automatically become a CCP member upon returning to China, therefore my own CCP membership also started on that date.

The good evaluation of my performance also led to my promotion from “probationer” to official interpreter. The Soviets then highly valued interpreting work and accorded me very good treatment. Aside from my salary, I was also able to do part time translations of important Soviet newspaper and magazine articles into Chinese which the Soviet propaganda departments printed in small pamphlets and distributed to the overseas Chinese living in the region. On any given Sunday, I would translate about 10,000 characters and managed to collect publication fees on the side.

Life then was very comfortable, and my comrades would often come knocking at my door suggesting a night out at a café for mutton kebabs – with me picking up the tab, of course. That was the time of the Soviets’ First Five Year Plan. Life was still very difficult, eggs were scarce, meat rare – only in your lunch time cabbage soup would you find a lump of beef. Some of the resident Chinese would go out into the countryside to buy eggs and sell them in Khabarovsk.

In a Chinese village near Khabarovsk there was a little theater devoted exclusively to Peking Opera which was quite popular among the people there. Chinese students from Moscow ran a small community club there which I often went to. The club’s director was a Mr. Song Faming and the deputy director was a woman named Liu Fengxiang who had arrived in the Soviet Union in 1927. Her husband was Wang Yifei, a graduate of the second class of the Whampoa Military Academy and, at the time, was “man of the hour” since he was assigned to work in the Soviet Far East Army Headquarters staff. Decades later, in the middle of the “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution,” they were savagely struggled for this. Wang Yifei died of illness and Liu Fengxiang was expelled from the Party and demoted in cadre rank. She was evicted from her flat to a small damp room where her existence was marked by uncheckered hardship. When she spoke of it, it brought tears to one’s eyes. After the “Gang of Four” had been smashed, she came to see me and I submitted the materials that she wrote to the Veteran Cadre Bureau of the Party Organization Department. The cadres there treated her with warmth and sympathy, telling her that “not only are you a veteran cadre, but more than that, you are a veteran from the first generation of cadres.” Upon hearing this mere sentence, there in front of the Party Organization – in front of her mother – she broke down in a ceaseless stream of hot tears. Ah well, just as the sun comes out after rain, all her problems have now been resolved appropriately. Now, at long last, with all the torments and sufferings she endured during the “Great Cultural Revolution,” her physical frailty, she can live her later years in happiness.

During my time working in the Far East, I regularly joined in the Saturday volunteer labor work. In the summer, the CYL organization went to the collective farms in the outskirts of the city to help harvest the crops. By 1930, the Soviet collective farms already had heavy farm machinery like tractors, reapers and the like. There were things I had never seen before, and seeing them, I couldn’t help being envious. When would China ever be like that? In the evenings, we slept on wheatstraw shakedowns and, sighing deeply, we thought of China far away – China today, and China tomorrow.

In winter that year, we went to the train yards to load lumber. Our office organized all personnel to participate. Everyone lent a hand cooperating together and, board by board, the heavy lumber was hoisted onto the flatcars. Hardship couldn’t intimidate hardened soldiers, in fact an atmosphere of the revolution surrounded the work, so every time we had this type of work to do, I actively joined in.

Chapter IV
Returning Home 
(Summer 1931)

By 1931 I had been in the Soviet Union for over five years. During that time we regularly saw newspaper reports of the progress of China’s guerrilla war. I had just turned 23 years old, certainly the age of hot-blooded exuberance and the flowering of revolutionary spirit. Very uncomfortable with my relatively easy life in the Soviet Union, I made repeated requests in the hope of returning home to work. Our leadership, however, kept coming up with more work for me to do saying that we were internationalists; wherever we worked, our work was for the international revolution; regardless of whether we worked in the Soviet Union or in China, it was all the same. Nevertheless, I still insisted on my request to return to China. My organization said that the local authorities would not make this decision. Only sending the request to the Communist International and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Center in Moscow would do. Still, my leadership was sympathetic and reasonable and after the May First celebrations, I was able to go directly to Moscow to make my case.

The reason things went so smoothly for me had to do with a certain episode: I told them that I had a girlfriend in Moscow whom I wanted to see. After I saw her I would either return to my work in the Far East or I would bring her with me. Soviets, I found, were relatively concerned about, and accorded some importance to, these matters. So, when my leadership heard me talk in these terms, they were quite happy. They immediately helped me get a train ticket and arranged a room for me in Moscow. Every aspect of my journey, in fact, was completely taken care of. I really hadn’t expected my plan to be such a slick move. With my introduction letters in hand, I went to Moscow and stayed in the guest quarters of the Soviet Bureau of National Security (now the “KGB”). I found the Guest House people very police. With a place to sleep and eat, I went about my business as I pleased.

First, I found the Chinese delegation at the Communist International. I explained that as China’s revolutionary situation developed there was a need for cadres. I had studied military affairs and therefore requested to return home and join the struggle. The comrades in the Chinese delegation were very supportive, but as I was already a member of the CPSU, I still had to talk to the CPSU’s Central Organization Department. They wrote me a letter of introduction, sealed with the official cachet of the Chinese Communist Party Delegation, and sent me off to look for the CPSU Organization Department. The leadership there promptly interviewed me. The person who saw me was probably an office director, a very solid woman in her forties. Her office was very proper. At the wall facing the street she had placed her desk. At another side she had a round table, a large sofa, settee and other furniture. She was very polite to me. She read my letter of introduction from Comintern, heard that I spoke Russian very well, that my conversation was logical and reasonable, my attitude signified and respectful. I spoke of my own desire to return to work in China and because I was a CPSU member, I especially sought the views of the Party Center.

She appreciated my discussion and said “what you’ve said is reasonable and I support your views.” She promptly wrote a short note, imprinted the Party seal and sent me back to Comintern. I showed it to the Comintern Chinese delegation who said it was very good, and they agreed that I should return to China. I asked them if it was necessary to return to the Far East and take care of matters there. They said there was no need to, and that they would handle everything. I could return to China directly from Moscow. They very quickly handled all the procedures and issued me a letter of introduction for my return. It wasn’t long before I boarded the train in Moscow and started on my journey home.

My first stop was at a secret Party liaison station in Chita, and they arranged for my entry into China. There were quite a few Chinese comrades there all of whom were preparing to return home. The liaison station organized us into small groups to depart the Soviet Union. The fellow with me was a Manchurian comrade who went by the Soviet name of “Kutuzov.” We all had Soviet names then, mine was “Pyatakov.” It was because I had used the name “Pyatakov” that, during the “Great Cultural Revolution,” Kang Sheng made his ridiculous and irresponsible accusations against me saying:

Is, or is not, Wu Xiuquan a Trotskyite? Did he not publish anti-Party articles in Pravda?

Yes! At the time, there was a Trotskyite named Pyatakov who was a member of the CPSU Central Committee and governor of the Narodny Bank. He most certainly published the anti-Party articles in Pravda. I read them myself. Because I had the same name as this Pyatakov, I came to Kang Sheng’s attention. But at the time I was a young student. How on earth would I have been able to link up with the real Pyatakov? Now, Kang Sheng would have been very familiar with the situation in the Soviet Union then, but it was just like him to think up a thousand and one ways like this of framing innocent people, desiring nothing less than his victim’s extermination. Needless to say, he didn’t begin his investigation in ignorance.

In June 1931, Kutuzov and I boarded the train at Chita bound for the Chinese border. At the border we located a secret transit station. When dusk fell, a horse cart came along with a few Russians on it. They told us to hop aboard and blend in among them. It was summer and we wore thin black tunics secured by a broad sash in which we secreted fifty (or maybe a hundred) American dollars and a small amount of Chinese notes to serve as our travel money. We also prepared our stories in case of a cross-examination since the residents of both sides of the border used to cross back and forth all the time. Some had homes on one side of the border and farmed land on the other side, others had work that took them across the border all the time. All we needed to say was that we were lumberjacks, we could admit to no more than that.

Shortly afterwards, we crossed the border. I remember very clearly the crossing which went by with a blink of an eye. Up ahead of our cart on the right was a low hillock topped by a Chinese sentry post. As we crossed, the sentry asked who we passengers were, and our Russian driver answered with three words: “Just Old Beards.” And that was that. It was wonderful luck that we were able to cross so easily. About one kilometer outside of Manzhouli, there was another secret liaison point run by an expatriate Russian who welcomed us into his home and bade us sleep that night on a carpet in his parlor. Early the next morning, the responsible person at the liaison station sent a little ten-year-old Russian girl to take us to the train station in Manzhouli. She walked about fifty meters ahead of us at all times and no one could tell by a casual observance that she was guiding us. Once we arrived at the train station her job was done and she disappeared. At that point we began to move independently inside Chinese territory.

The station was crowded that day with people and quite a few policemen. As far as we were concerned, the key was in the two words “blend in.” In this situation, we could not afford to panic or to run away. We had to pass in and out of crowds right in front of the police in a most natural manner. Beijing overcautious would make it very easy for accidents to happen. We very confidently bought our tickets and boarded the train for Harbin. Our first order of business in Harbin was to go to a bank and exchange some of our American dollars for Chinese currency. After changing our money without incident we went to a pawn shop and bought some Chinese clothes. They were all cotton tunics, thin jackets, open fabric sandals. We changed clothes and looked just like anyone else.

We moved to a small inn, but when w entered the manager struck up a conversation. He cross examined us about where we had come from. Because I had a thick Hubei accent, I pretended to be a deaf mute and let my Manchurian buddy, Kutuzov, do all the talking. He explained that we had come looking for a friend who would help us get a job, but because we couldn’t find him, we planned to return to Dalian in the south. To avoid further troubles, we quickly got out of there and went immediately to the station for a ticket on the evening train to Dalian. For unexplained reasons, after the train arrived in Shenyang the leg to Dalian was cancelled and the train was diverted to Yingkou. We simply went on to Yingkou and boarded a ship to Qingdao. At Qingdao, we immediately bought a ticket to Shanghai. The entire journey was uneventful. In Shanghai, we went to a prearranged hotel where the two of us shared a room and waited for the Party organization to send someone to establish contact.

Under existing rules, personnel returning to China from the Soviet Union were not to carry any sort of identification documentation. Comintern would cable our Party Center introducing the returnees and agree on the contact point and the mode of contact. Following our instructions, we settled into our hotel room, hung up our names (actually our code names) and our room number on a card outside the door, and then sat back to wait for someone to find us. However, the Gu Shunzhang Turncoat Affair destroyed the apparatus in Shanghai and we waited for a day, then another day and so on until nearly a month had passed and still no one sought us out. We were getting a bit worried.

It just so happened that on the very evening that we dared to venture out into the city, we bumped into another comrade near the Sincere Department Store. It was Zhang Zhenya, another Sun Yat-sen University graduate who had done intelligence work at the Khabarovsk Far East Defense Bureau in 1930. He regularly crossed from Khabarovsk into Manchuria in those days, and that was when I got to know him. He was quite an accomplished intelligence officer. He had been aide de camp to the warlord Feng Yuxiang, he was ten years older than I and very experienced. He called out to us “Hey, brothers, so you’re back here too?” “Yes,” we answered. He then asked whether we had found our Party contact yet. By that time we didn’t care about anything, so we carelessly blurted out that we had not and asked him if he could help us. He got us to tell him where we were staying and told us to sit tight for a few days until we heard from him. I knew we were taking a risk, but under the circumstances, it was the only thing we could do.

Sure enough, a few days later Comrade Wu Defeng arrived. He was a fellow from Hubei who, in his early years, was engaged in Party work in Wuhan. At the times, however, he was in charge of clandestine communications for the Party Center. Upon finding us, he debriefed us separately. Neither “Kutuzov” nor I knew the content of his discussion with the other. Comrade Wu told me that the organization had determined that I should return to Wuhan for underground work because they had recently sent a fellow called Cheng Qike to Wuhan, but unfortunately, he had been arrested. (Cheng was another Whampoa graduate who had subsequently been sent to the Soviet Army Academy and was a classmate of Comrade Liu Bocheng’s there.) The Party organization in Wuhan had been demoralized, and people needed to go there to start up work again. After thinking it over for a while, I said that I was from Wuhan myself, I was born there and grew up there. There were quite a few people there who knew me. It might be hard for me to establish myself there clandestinely. Moreover, now that I have returned to China, I thought I would want to do military work, so I would really hope I could be assigned to the Soviet Areas. He said that they could consider my views, and then he left. A few days later, the organization consented, and approved my assignment to a military position in the Soviet Area. As for my travelling companion “Kutuzov,” he was assigned to underground work and, in the decades since, I have not heard any more news of him.

Chapter V
In the Central Soviet Area
(1931 – 1933)

Entering the Soviet Area

One month after I had arrived in Shanghai, I established contact with the Center and was dispatched to the Soviet Area for a military assignment. After a few days, Wu Defeng came to me with another comrade from the Jiangsu-Zhejiang area named Zheng Zhong who, by that time, had already been working in Shanghai for a long time. (After the establishment of the PRC, in 1965, I saw him again in Dalian,) Comrade Wu Defeng said to me that the organization considered my case and since I had just returned to China and didn’t understand the situation in China, they had arranged for Comrade Zheng to make the journey with me.

We purchased Shanghai-Hong Kong steamer tickets, and sailed together for Hong Kong. Comrade Zheng made contact with the underground Party organization which sent us a Cantonese transportation specialist and arranged for us to buy yet another ship ticket for Shantou. There we all boarded the train for our destination, Dapu in nearby Fujian province.

As we got off the train we carried a few small valises in which we each carried, besides our personal items, a few handkerchiefs, on one of which were written our secret letters of introduction in invisible ink. I had written a mark on my letter of introduction and placed it in among my soap, toothpaste and other sundry personal items. It wouldn’t have aroused the least bit of attention that way. When I was inspected by the Kuomintang police at Dapu train station, I relied on the two words -- “blend in” – so I boldly opened my valise and let them poke around as they wished. All they saw were my toiletries and a few handkerchiefs. It didn’t look like anything special to them, so they let me proceed unhindered on my way. Outside Dapu, there was a small river. It looked as if the Party organization has fixed things up just fine; we had only gone a short distance on our route when we saw a single boat awaiting us at the river’s edge. Our transport specialist had us board the boat which, after spending several hours sailing upriver, arrived at Qingxi in the border area between Guangdong and Fujian provinces. The Party Center had a liaison station at Qingxi. The people at the station arranged for us to seize time for a short rest. They also told us that we couldn’t take our valises any farther. We could only take the most necessary items and carry them in a small rucksack.

That night was as black as ink. There was no moonlight. Fortunately, our guide was deeply familiar with the route. He clearly knew every stream and every little footbridge by heart. He walked ahead of us, giving us advance warning as he jumped each stream and crossed each footbridge. We anxiously followed behind him the entire night. When dawn broke, we had arrived on the frontier between the Soviet Area and the white area. In order to evade the Kuomintang Encirclement Regiment sentry posts in the frontier area, we sought out a particular mountain path which had no travelers. Along that route, we came to a small hamlet where we bought some tea and dome rather ordinary dumplings, later we stopped occasionally to rest. In all, we walked one night and the entire next day before finally managing to make our wide arc around the enemy Encirclement Regiment sentries and arrive at Tiger Mountain – the revolutionary base camp in western Fujian province.

The red sun was sinking in the west; the evening’s air was fine and glowing. As we crossed a mountain peak, we beheld the gratifying panorama of a broad flat valley in which a large group of boy scouts were parading in well-ordered ranks. Their high spirits deeply impressed me. For such a long time I had been seized with anxiety and tension, yet all at once it dissipated. I breathed deeply several times, the air was fresh and sweet. I felt that I had finally arrived in the virtual paradise of the Soviet Area.

Upon descending the mountain, we sought out the “Min-Yue-Gan” (Fujian-Guangdong-Jiangxi) border Area Provincial Committee. The Provincial Committee Secretary at the time was Lu Daguang (who, in 1932, forsook the Revolution and scampered off to Hong Kong). The first thing they did was to arrange for us to stay at the guest hostel. The following day, some work personnel took us to meet the Provincial Committee Secretary General, Comrade Xiao Xiangrong. I took out my handkerchief on which was written my secret-ink introduction letter and gave it to Comrade Xiao. He promptly washed the cloth with the invisible rice-water lettering in a tincture of iodine solution and, one by one, the characters emerged. I also orally briefed him on my own situation. He let me continue to stay at the hostel for a few days until the Provincial Committee assigned me to a job. Shortly afterwards, I received word that I was to be assigned to the Min-Yue-Gan Military Region to work. I took my introduction letter with me. Comrade Xiao Jingguang was the Chief of Staff of the Military Region. He chatted with me for a while and then he said: “It’s settled then, you’ll go to the Military Region Headquarters to work on the operations staff.” So naturally, I obeyed the order. The Operations Chief was called Yang Ying who originally was a division commander but had been wounded in battle. His assignment as Chief of the Operations Staff let him work a bit and recuperate. Under him, there was no one. When I arrived, it was just the two of us. We got along quite amicably. He understood that I was very familiar with firearms and other military equipment, especially the Maxim heavy machine gun, so he sent me down to the Headquarters Battalion machine gun company as an instructor. There I instructed the company troops on the use, trouble-shooting and maintenance of the weapons. I had studied this very thoroughly at the Soviet Infantry Academy so I was very pleased to take on the mission of carrying out instruction and training in this area.

My First Time in Battle

At that time the Min-Yue-Gan Military Region was organizing a small military campaign to coordinate with the main force of the Red Army in Jiangxi in crushing the enemy’s “Third Encirclement Campaign.” The objective was the KMT’s local force under Zhong Shaokui which was called a “brigade” though it was manned by more than 2,000 troops. The campaign theatre was in the town of Lufeng, southeast of the county seat at Shanghang. Our main force in the campaign comprised the “Pengyang Military Academy” and units of the Min-Yue-Gan Military Region which included the machine gun company that I was in. Comrade Xiao Jingguang was in direct command.

Upon receipt of our combat instructions, our troops made a night march to the battleground. Just before dawn we launched our attack against the enemy. Since this was my first time in battle, Comrade Xiao Jingguang called me aside during the march and admonished me to maintain contact with the others no matter what. When a column is on the march, he said, losing contact with the people up ahead, even for a short time, makes it very difficult to catch up with them again. So I took not one relaxed footfall and stuck with the comrades ahead of me. As the sky brightened, our vanguard opened fire. My machine gun company occupied our position and set up our four heavy Maxim guns. I both participated in the fighting as well as continued to give our fighting men battlefield instruction on how to fire the guns. Some of the guns wouldn’t fire, so I had to help dislodge the obstructions, fix the weapons and continue firing.

The Maxim guns blasted away all day from dawn to near dusk. They were of great help in giving cover to the command position and beating back several enemy penetrations. During the heat of the battle, I myself took over one of the machine guns and fired at line after line of advancing enemy which I watched drop to the ground. In my heart I was feeling very moved yet fulfilled. I was fighting a battle, I was training our fighting men to shoot, and I was commanding them in battle. But right after noon, as I stood up to shout out a command, suddenly from the flank a bullet shot out which hit me in the left cheek below the ear. That force was shocking. The next instant, I crashed to the ground and lost all consciousness for over a minute. A moment later, I became conscious of faint images. At first I didn’t know where I was. I rubbed my hands all over my body but couldn’t figure out where I had been hit. Then I stroked my face and felt the damp stickiness there. When I saw my hand covered with blood I realized that I ha been hit. The next thing I thought was that, although I had been wounded this first time in battle, I wasn’t killed. I wasn’t crippled in my arms or legs so I could continue fighting. I couldn’t help but rejoice inwardly at my fortune.

Two of my troopers helped me move ever so slowly away from the battleground. As we passed through the headquarters unit, Comrade Xiao Jingguang who was in the process of giving orders to someone, saw that I had been hit and handed me over to some other soldiers who escorted me to the rear area dressing station. At the dressing station I came across Comrade Chen Zhifang who was director of the health department (after Liberation, he became China’s ambassador to Switzerland and later to Vietnam). He ordered a nurse to clean my wound and bandage my face with cotton and gauze. When the wound had been bandaged, he let me ride his horse to the health station in the rear area.

In the rear areas we wounded were separated and assigned to live in the homes of some of the peasants who lived in the vicinity. Our country brothers were very kind to us. They brought rice porridge for the badly wounded and assisted the nurses in ministering to our needs. By that time, our withdrawing forward forces came down through our village. This battle had hit the enemy hard but was unable to annihilate him, while our own casualties were relatively heavy. Even the “Pengyang Military Academy” dean of studies, the returned student Comrade Li Lin who personally directed the operations, was killed in action. When all the units received the retreat order, the wounded were then rerouted for the relatively better-consolidated position of Caixi. Interestingly, as we wounded were all preparing for the withdrawal, the townspeople suspected that I might be too heavy because of my stocky build and my health was somewhat more robust than the others’. So they first selected short stretchers and carried off the other wounded until only I remained. In truth, I colluded in this. But in the end, there was a local cadre who organized four men to carry me in rotation (all the other stretchers were carried by two men), and this was the way they managed to get me to the rear area hospital in Caixi.

Once we arrived in the rear area hospital, our living conditions and morale were becalmed. There were quite a few wounded in the hospital but things were efficient and orderly. The hospital director was very concerned for us and made a point of personally giving me a check-up. In those few days, my wound began to leak pus so it had to be disinfected daily. When this director learned that I had recently arrived in the Soviet Area, he said I simply had to give a mass-meeting speech on the international situation. I felt that I was not an expert, he repeatedly urged me to give the speech, and in the end I felt it would be ungracious not to accept his generous invitation. I gave the speech. It wasn’t a big town and it wasn’t easy to collect more than a thousand people, including both soldiers and townsfolk, to attend. I remember the important part of my talk was that the capitalist world was facing a great economic crisis, that this was beneficial to the development of the revolutionary movement in each country and that the situation for the revolutionary struggle was very good.

In reminiscing about this speech, I feel that it was both humorous and interesting. I didn’t speak from an outline, so when I stood there before over a thousand listeners the words poured forth without much thought. Of course, I didn’t completely fail to use my brain. These were all issues which I had been pondering deeply for a long time. While I spoke, however, my wound was still oozing, the fluid truckling down the side of my mouth. As I spoke, I would unconsciously wipe it off with my hand. I was quite young, and I didn’t think anything of this – exhilaration and pride just kept me going.

I had been at the hospital for several days when I got word that many of the principal wounded were being transferred to Tingzhou where conditions were better and the base area was more consolidated. I went together with some first level battalion cadres. In Tingzhou, I met Comrade Fu Lianzhang. He had been the director of Fuyin Hospital in Tingzhou when the Red Army arrived. Out of a spirit of humanitarianism, he turned the hospital over to serve the army’s wounded. In the entire Soviet Area, his hospital was the big hospital. As I got to know Comrade Fu Lianzhang, we had long talks and were on friendly terms. He was very good to me and personally ministered to my wound with especially attentive treatment and care. At my arrival, my wound was still leaking pus, but under Comrade Fu Lianzhang’s meticulous treatment, it gradually got better.

That was the time of the Moon Festival, Mid-Autumn in the Eighth Month of the lunar calendar. Comrade Fu bough moon cakes and fruits and delivered them to all the wounded. That evening, those of us who were well enough got up to join him in the corridor outside the ward where we chatted with him about everything. In the normal course of events, his medical treatment was quite satisfactory, but owing to the fact that there were many wounded and the hospital facilities were, after all, primitive, the doctors at the hospital including Fu Lianzhang were unable to find the bullet that had drilled into my cheek. As time went on, it migrated from my cheek into the back of my throat where I carried it for more than a year thereafter. Aside from a gust of pungent halitosis which would regularly issue from my mouth and cause those people who gagged on the smell to avoid speaking with me, it didn’t feel particularly different. AS I regained my health ahd the healing muscles in my cheek gradually forced the bullet out into the light of day, I asked the doctor to again take a look into my mouth, he squeezed out the bullet thus purging from my body a long hidden “mole.” My relations with Fu Lianzhang were uniformly good. Later on, in Yan’an, we frequently saw each other and I frequently received his help.

To the Red Army Academy

I continued to stay at the hospital for some time after Mid-Autumn Festival. The Center decided that Comrade Wang Jiaxiang would lead a part of the General Political Office in a move from Tingzhou to Ruijin and informed me that I was to travel together with them to Ruijin where I would be separately assigned to other work. From Changting to Ruijin was an eighty “li” (24 miles) route from east to west which would take a full day’s forced march.

Although I was still considered a patient, I was determined to complete the march. After arriving at my destination in Ruijin, I was assigned to the Red Army Academy which was still under construction at a site in the eastern part of the town located in the Xie Family Ancestral Shrine abutting the town wall. When I reported for duty at the Academy, the commandant, Comrade Ye Jianying, called me in for a talk. His questions about my studies in the Soviet Union and my personal experiences I answered one by one. It was my first contact with Comrade Ye Jianying and I was deeply impressed by his humility and gentleness and his attentiveness to understanding the cadres. He debriefed me in great detail about how well I did in my studies in Moscow, which courses did I find most interesting and so forth. I responded that I was most interested in “weaponry” and “marksmanship”. He said “very good, we’ll send you down to the Red Army Academy to teach marksmanship and lecture on the principles of ballistics!” So I began my instruction, lecturing on the theory of line of fire, the line of aim and the degree of deviation, et cetera, which was all quite new to most of the Red Army cadres.

When I first met Marshal Ye in 1931, I felt that he treated people with sincerity and that is an impression that has never changed. For a long time afterwards he and I worked very closely together and understood each other completely. In 1975, when he recommended me for duty in the High Command he proved that his attitude toward me had never changed either. His ability to choose the right people marked his workstyle for several decades.

At the time, the Party Center had shown great determination to set up the Red Army Academy. Chairman Mao had said that the Kuomintang had its White “Whampoa Academy” so we have set up our Red “Whampoa” and will make the Red Army Academy into a base where we will cultivate our Party’s military talent. In the course of its existence, such famous generals as Ye Jianying, Liu Bocheng and Xiao Jingguang were assigned as commandants of the Red Army Academy. He Changgong and Deng Ping were two other army commanders who were assigned to the academy together with a number of division commanders.

In the beginning, Comrade He Changgong was in charge of all political work and Party work at the school and Comrade Deng Ping was the dean of studies. Chief of academic affairs was Comrade Yang Zhicheng. In the first semester, we were organized into four infantry companies with the cadres in each company under the authority of a newly assigned division commander or division level cadre. They were: the commander of First Company was Long Yun (no relation to the famous Yunnanese political figure) and the political commissar was Zhang Hua; the commander of Second Company was Peng Shaohui and the political commissar was Shi Hengzhong who was originally a division political committee chairman; the commander of the Third Company was Su Yu and the political commissar was Liu Xiping; and Fourth Company commander was Lin Ye who was previously the Chief of Staff of the Red Twelfth Army, and I was appointed Fourth Company political commissar. In addition to us, there was an engineering company under the command of Tan Xilin.

Compared to the other comrades, I felt that their abilities were much superior to mine, and that by giving me the same responsibilities as they, they were just filling the position which whomever was available. I did have some advantages. I was young, I studied hard, was eager to learn and I happily assumed my duties. The Red Army Academy was officially opened that winter and outstanding platoon and squad leaders, and superior soldiers were transferred to the school from their frontline units for training. Each course took about four months and by the time the school disbanded, several classes had graduated. By 1933, the Red Army Academy was reorganized into the Red Army University with Comrade He Changgong as the commandant.

Red Army Academy training was intense. Each morning we would get the cadets out of bed very early and do calisthenics under the canopy of the moon and stars. We jogged, mustered in parade formation and did other basic training. Comrade Ye Jianying himself was Commandant. He was in his thirties then, and every morning he awoke with the cadets to participate in the physical training like everyone else. On the horizontal bar, he could do complete circles putting many of the youngsters to shame. In doing our political work, we would talk to the cadets to get a feel for trends in their thinking, encourage everyone to study diligently so as to overcome incorrect thought.

When the four months of the first class came to an end, the cadets were reassigned to their units in the forward areas and a second tranche was transferred in. With the second class, things were more advanced. The school had expanded, an infantry regiment was established, and a political battalion was added with Guo Yaoshan in command. He used to be a blue-collar worker in Shanghai and when he arrived, he assigned me as an instructor. At the time, the important topic of study was infantry tactics. Military courses were about sixty percent of the total curriculum; of which about three-quarters of the time was used in nighttime combat training. In response to the Red Army’s combat doctrine and needs, we trained the cadets in the principles of offensive assaults, defensive maneuvers, pursuit and retreat, reconnaissance and perimeter security and other combat tradecraft. Systematic classroom instruction accounted for only about a quarter of the course. Although they comprised only forty percent of the coursework, political classes were important and rich in content, particularly education of the classes; party leadership; nature of the Chinese revolution; the aims of the Red Army; Red Army discipline; “land revolution”; the significance of the Soviet Movement; the world-wide significance of the Chinese Revolution and our Internationalist Obligation.

The focus of the political battalion’s studies was how to do the Party’s political work. In addition to the general coursework, they added studies into the founding of the Chinese Communist Party, Party history and the international situation. That session also finished in four months. In the Third Class of the Red Army Academy, the school continued to expand, a new Special Branch Battalion was formed and there continued to be recruitment of the regiment’s students. During this semester, the regimental commander was Zhang Jingwu and the political commissar was He Changgong while I was the director of education with responsibility over military education. Besides we three, there was also Yang Meisheng, the late Deputy Commander of the Guangzhou Military Region, who was the chief of the Administrative Department. We all got along very well in those days, we took our work seriously and although conditions were harsh, we had no other thought than to use all our hearts and strength to teach our students well for the victory of the revolutionary war. This was everybody’s goal.

The cultural life at the Red Academy was fairly lively with the center of activity being the Red Academy Club where there was a group of artistic talent from Shanghai as well as from among the returned students from the Soviet Union which included Zhao Pinsan, Liu Bozhao, Wei Gongzhi, Shi Lianziang and a Korean comrade called Cui Yinbo who composed songs. They often organized evening gatherings where they performed their amateur productions of Chinese opera, song and dance numbers, “cross talk” comedy routines and other traditional vaudeville acts. These performances were held about twice a month and our dean, Ye Jianying, actively promoted these activities. We often held ballgames at the Red Academy. Even though we only had a few beat-up balls which were patched with stuffing to make them heavier, all of our ball players played vigorously. All of the companies continuously published wall newspapers which were the most substantive in content and the liveliest in style. I was still in my twenties at the time, and it was a time when I had an interest in all sorts of cultural and physical activities. Not only was I an active participant in every type of sporting competition but I was also one of the most enthusiastic of our amateur actors. The Red Academy put on several plays, and I had a part in every one of them.

Inasmuch as these activities encouraged morale and complemented the classroom lessons in stimulating the troops’ lives, their utility was not inconsiderable. To this very day, I cherish the memories of that life of youthful exuberance. I still remember when the First Congress of the Chinese Soviet was convened, our spirited Korean songwriter, Comrade Cui Yinbo, wrote a special celebratory ballad which we all sang in full-throated excitement”

The All-Soviet Congress of hard-toiling workers and peasants has begun; the tocsin of the Soviet victory reverberates! Mobilize! Arm Yourselves! Expand the Red Army of Iron a million-fold, Consolidate the Soviet . . .

The sound of that powerful and heroic song to this day still rings in my ears.

Since our Red Army Academy had no proper school building, in fact, it didn’t even have simple classrooms, our commencement and graduation ceremonies, very solemn and moving affairs indeed, were usually held in Ruijin with Party, government and military leaders as well as representatives of all walks of life in attendance. First, the Academy Commandant made his report. Speeches by our leaders and other guests came next, and the ceremony ended with a magnificent military parade. Then all the cadets fell into formation as a brigade and strode past a temporarily constructed review stand. For the Soviet Area, it was certainly very grand and inspiring. Although our review paradews couldn’t compare with the Red Army formations in which I marched in Moscow’s Red Square, this was China’s first and strongest armed force of workers and peasants. It was armed completely with weapons wrested from the hands of the enemy. As a part of this force, I couldn’t help but feel happy and very proud.

There was a broad field outside the Academy, and flowing south from the field was a river which we often crossed at a wooden bridge on our way to drills out in the countryside. Running westward from the field cutting right through the little alleyways of the town was a main avenue lined with little shops and eateries. Our lives then were very difficult, so every time a comrade arrived from the White Areas we would “beat the evil landlord”, as we called it. When comrades from outside first arrived in the Soviet Area, they would still have some money on them, so we’d cajole them into buying us lunch at one of the food stalls. I remember Wu Lianping, Zhu Rui, Wang Zhitao and others were some of the “evil landlords” we “beat up” after they had just arrived from the Kuomintang-controlled areas. I spent exactly one year at the Red Army Academy and helped train three classes of cadets.

It was during my time at the Red Academy that I first saw Mao Zedong, Zhu De, Zhou Enlai and other leadership cadres. I was in my twenties at the time, Chairman Mao was in his thirties – ten years older than I – but I remember that he seemed to be a whole generation older. Chairman Mao once lectured at the Academy, on how imperialist aggression had destroyed China’s economy, as I recall. I remember that when he spoke of how imperialistic encroachment into China had bankrupted China’s handicrafts economy, he gave an example: in the past, wooden basins in China were all rimmed with bamboo strip, but then metal wire was introduced from outside, the bamboo rims were done away with, and the rim-makers all lost their jobs. All his speeches had similarly simple examples of profound ideas. He had deeply investigated and researched China’s social structure and had personally experienced all manner of privation. Accordingly, he was able to synthesize the truths of Marxism-Leninism and the realities of the Chinese Revolution. His words were both profound and moving. He was a man whom I held in the highest esteem.

In 1931, after Zhou Enlai arrived in the Soviet Area, he too spoke to the cadres. He never spoke from notes, yet he spoke eloquently. He could captivate an audience for hours. He was erudite. He knew English, Japanese, French and German. Having served at Whampoa Academy and experienced the Great Revolution, he had been through a lot. His memory calls forth in me feelings of deep respect. At that time, Chief of Staff Zhu was directing the fighting at the front lines while his wife, Comrade Kang Keqing, was in the rear areas studying. Because she sometimes stayed at the Red Army Academy, Commander Zhu often visited and we got to see quite a bit of him.

With the Model Regiment and the Red Third Division

The fourth session of the Red Army Academy was held during the spring of 1933. It was at that time that my duties changed again. The Center established a Model Regiment, and transferred to it a number of promising soldiers for training in an effort to cultivate a basic level of cadres among the troops. The regimental commander was the former commander of the Red Seventh Army, Gong Chu, who was quite well known at the time. His assignment as commander showed how seriously the Model Regiment was viewed. I was assigned as one of the Regiment’s political commissars. The director of the political department was Zhuang Tian, originally known as Zhuang Zhenfeng, a resolute fighter on Hainan Island during the Anti-Japanese War, who after 1949 was named as deputy commander of the Guangzhou Military Region. He is now an advisor. Our regiment was headquartered near Wuyangwei, some forty li from Ruijin. We trained in both military and political affairs.

During training, the Center ordered a battle at Qingliu in Fujian province with Comrade Ye Jianying holding a unified command. The Independent Division and our Model Regiment also participated. This battle was a pincer movement in coordination with the main force of the Red Army to counter the Kuomintang’s fourth “Encirclement Campaign.” One of our regiment’s battalions struck the enemy about a hundred meters from camp but repeatedly failed to overcome them. The overwhelming enemy firepower pinned our battalion to the ground. They kept calling for support from the rear, but we felt that throwing troops in to help them would only raise our casualty levels so we reported the situation to Comrade Ye Jianying. The fighting had lasted from early morning to noon, and Comrade Ye believed that the situation was already clear – continuation of the fighting meant that the casualties would be even greater – so he ordered the unit to hold on to their position and wait for dusk. He had a plan to cover their retreat, after which they would move to Tingzhou to regroup.

Another season passed. As we moved into the summer of 1933, our troops underwent a reorganization with the Model Regiment as the core unit, and two other independent divisions transferred in and were reorganized into regiments. Thus we had three regiments designated as the Third Division under the direct command of the Military Affairs Commission. Gong Chu was still regimental commander and Zhou Kun was division commander. I was assigned to the position of divisional political commissar and Zhuang Tian was director of the Political Department.

The Kuomintang’s 19th Route Army had just occupied three towns on the edge of the Soviet Areas, Liancheng, Pengkou and Xinquan. We launched a reconnaissance of the enemy dispositions facing us and discovered that the enemy strength in Pengkou was only one regiment. The report was sent to the Military Commission with the recommendation that by taking Pengkou, the middle position of the three occupied towns, we could weaken the enemy threat to the Soviet Areas. The Military Commission approved our plan.

First, we sent a regiment to attack the town. After the fighting had started and we made contact with the enemy, we discovered that the enemy had also occupied a hilltop just outside Pengkou where it had earlier dug hardened battlements. With their superior firepower, they pinned down our attacking force. We had run into a very hard nail. It appeared that there were quite a few things we had neglected to examine clearly beforehand, and only with our attack did we realize that we weren’t attacking just any old regiment. Rather, it was a strengthened regiment which coordinated its engineering with its firepower surprisingly well. To make matters worse, our attacking force had no cannon, so it naturally was unable to make headway against the enemy’s hilltop fortifications.

Although Pengkou township was not large, we were unable to break into it. I studied the situation with the commander and realized that we had incorrectly judged the enemy’s dispositions from the start. We had attacked blindly, we fought blindly, but could not continue fighting. We left behind a few men to monitor the enemy, while the rest of us began our withdrawal at dusk. Now, the enemy could not discern our movements or intentions and they dared not rashly counterattack. Fortunately, our casualties were not heavy, and in time, we had returned to our base for rest and recuperation.

In the Tinglian Subdistrict

In 1933 at the height of summer, I was reassigned yet again. Reassignments were getting to be common occurrences in those days. I received orders to report to the Tingzhou-Liancheng subdistrict as commanding officer. I had heard that the previous commander, Comrade Li Shaojiu, had been transferred to a position in northeast Jiangxi province, The structure of the Tinglian headquarters was rather rudimentary, there were only two headquarters staff personnel and an archivist; the political department had a director and two cadres, one in charge of party work and the other in charge of Youth League work; there was a chief of the administrative branch with two administrative personnel, a communications unit and a security unit, all commanding an independent division and a guerrilla unit of nearly 100 men. The division came with a divisional structure, but in fact it was low on the people and the organization was very relaxed. I reorganized the division into four strengthened companies but did not change the divisional title. The division still had direct command of the four companies and this yielded somewhat greater combat effectiveness.

I was bringing the independent division to the Liancheng sector to reconnoiter when we arrived in the small hamlet of Tongfang situated between liancheng and Tingzhou and straddled the line between the Red and White Areas. Most of the townspeople had fled leaving very few behind who were extremely poor, so provisioning our troops presented a thorny problem. We had to move ahead to Liancheng. Tongfang and Liencheng are separated by Humeng Ridge several thousand feet high (that area is called “Huma Dong”). Not wanting to make the same mistake twice, I insisted on good intelligence before moving, so I accompanied some troops forward to reconnoiter.

When we neared the ridge, I took out a pair of binoculars and scanned the landscape. To my chagrin, I spotted the enemy engaged in extensive defensive battle construction on the mountaintop. Security was extremely tight and there was no way that our force could pass the enemy’s defensive lines. It would be very hard to continue our advance. We were low on provisions so we couldn’t stay put. We had no choice but to retreat to the rear areas where we could find food. There we could also regroup and continue to monitor enemy movements.

I took a few men back to Tingzhou and instructed our guerrilla unit to penetrate deeply into the White Area where they were to attack some of the local bosses and wealthy landlords. Hopefully, we could raise some money this way. The guerrilla leader was a very capable comrade. He accepted the mission and bravely enetered the White Area, but he could only raise a limited amount of money. All told, they made three sorties, but other than a little cash for rice, they couldn’t get funds for anything else. It wasn’t a whole lot of use.

At the time, Zhou Zikun was the Fujian Military Region Commander and Tan Zhenlin was the political commissar. They made their headquarters in Hetian, about forty li south of Tingzhou. I took our military operation plans and disposition map to Military Region headquarters, made my report and requested instructions. Unfortunately, the “Leftist” errors of the Provisional Center had already been carried out in the Soviet Area. Using the excuse of countering the “Lo Ming Line,” they attacked quite a few cadres – with the comrades in Fujian’s suffering the most. The predicament that the Military Region found itself in was especially perplexing. It was terribly difficult to get anything done in this abnormal atmosphere and, quite naturally, it was hard for them to offer me any clear or effective guidance.

A few months later, the Military Commission transferred me back to the Red Army Academy. After I left, I was seized with a kind of self-critical attitude and, to this day, thinking of it still makes me feel uncomfortable if not ashamed. During the few months I was in Tingzhou, I was unable quickly to control the situation and that, basically, was a failure of duty. Of course, this failure had a few objective causes which I don’t need to go into right now. I later learned that the man who replaced me, a Comrade Zhou Biquan was no more successful than I, which just goes to show that the whole determines the parts – the parts cannot change the whole.

The Academy had already moved into its fifth session, with a regimental unit and a political brigade which trained rather more senior cadres. When I was appointed as the Academy’s regimental political commissar, I felt that the Party had reassured me of its continued confidence. The regimental commander was Zhong Weijian, a graduate of Whampoa Academy and an old Party member who had worked in KMT ranks before coming to the Soviet Area. I taught politics at the Academy, and also lectured to the Political Brigade, mainly on Problems of the Chinese Revolution, the core of which was how, under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, would the transition from a bourgeois democratic revolution to a socialist revolution be made. At the time, I thought I was quite familiar with the subject, but looking back, I realize that my mastery of theory was, in fact, very deficient. Nevertheless, there wasn’t anyone else at the time, so I just kept on playing the part, doing the best job I could.

At the Red Army Academy I also spent a rather lengthy period working together with Comrade Liu Bocheng who had also served as the Academy’s Commandant. In fact, I know him as early as 1928 when I was at the Moscow Infantry Academy. After the defeat of his unit in the Nanchang Uprising, he arrived at the Soviet Army University in Moscow. At the Infantry Academy, I received a monthly stipend of thirty rubles, and because I didn’t smoke, I used the extra money to improve my diet. Very often, I would take Sunday off and go to a Chinese restaurant where several times I chanced to bump into Comrade Liu. I remembered that we loved to eat Pepper Chicken and Fried Pork Slices which tasted very much like food at home. The Chinese fellow who ran the restaurant was truly an operator because, even in those difficult times, he managed to get out to the countryside and find chicken, pork, eggs, and even rice. Now, the Liu Bocheng we knew from the restaurant was about fifteen years older than I was, and we knew he was a veteran commander from the Sichuan Army, so we considered him to be of the older generation. At the Red Army Academy in the Soviet Area, we were frequently in direct contact. He ran a very tight ship. He would personally listen to the operations reports of every company and each unit. He had a no-nonsense attitude, he paid attention to every detail and would note down every question raised. At the conclusion of these reports, he would refer back to his notes to give clear, systematic instructions on each issue. He was a quick study who was much more diligent than the rest of us. One of his eyes was permanently injured during the civil war between the warlords, yet his health was otherwise robust and his spirit full of vitality.

Since ours was just a backwoods school, we had absolutely no up-to-date teaching materials, only a few copies of old Kuomintang Army lectures and some Soviet Red Army battle manuals, most of which weren’t much use in our courses. Comrade Liu Bocheng guided us in preparing our own teaching manuals, drafting quite a few himself. Often he would spend all night literally burning the midnight oil though to the break of dawn working on these projects. Given the special circumstances of the Soviet Area and the Red Army, we compiled a completely new set of infantry, artillery and engineering training manuals geared toward the battle objectives and social environment which faced us. We wrote materials on principles of offensive and defensive tactics, night fighting and completely new lectures on mortars, heavy and light machine guns, bayonet charges, and demolitions. In addition, we translated from Russian to Chinese some Soviet Red Army combat manuals which became our reference texts. I participated in the proofreading of these translations. Comrade Liu, however, developed the military terminology. He decided every single military phrase and term for our army. He recast terms from the old military lexicon; “officer” (jun guan) became “commander” (zhihui yuan); “trooper” (shi bing) became “fighter” (zhandou yuan); “messenger” (zhuanling bing) became “courier” (tongxin yuan); “mess cook” (huo fu) became “commissaryman” (chuishi yuan); “stable boy” (ma fu) became “stockman” (siyang yuan), “bearer” (tiaofu) became “transporter” (yunshu yuan). Virtually every old military term was changed. In fact, the set of military terminology that we use today was entirely Comrade Liu’s work. In this alone, it can be said that Comrade Liu Bocheng made a special contribution to the development of the Chinese People’s Army. Unhappily, after Liberation in 1949, there was a group of people who criticized him for being a “military dogmatist.” This was obviously unfair. No one can ignore all the very real contributions that he made to the reconstruction of China’s Army.

Chapter VI

An Awkward Responsibility – As Otto Braun’s Interpreter
(October 1933 – January 1935)

Otto Braun Arrives in the Soviet Area

I was serving as the regimental political commissar during the fifth session of the Red Army Academy in October 1933. Just as this class was about to graduate, the Chief of Staff of the Military Commission, Comrade Liu Bocheng, notified the Academy that I was to be transferred I was advised that this time my post of assignment was secret and that even after my arrival I still would not be able to have any contact with outsiders. At the time, cadre assignments were highly mobile; organization and discipline were extremely tight. When someone was reassigned to a new job, he simply did it without asking whether his new position was a high one or a low one. When they said “go,” you just went. I immediately rolled up my bedding, packed a few quilted uniforms – anyway, it was just me, packing was quite simple – and promptly presented myself to the Military Commission where I reported to Comrade Liu.

Chief of Staff Liu informed me that the military advisor sent to our Party’s Center by the Comintern, on “Li De” (Otto Braun), had already arrived in Ruijin. The Center had decided to assign me to be “Li De’s” interpreter. Comrade Liu encouragingly said that my Russian was rather good and that I was completely capable of undertaking the task. He gave me some specific guidance on the situation, explaining that presently there was a need to maintain strict security, but that after I arrived in Ruijin, the need for security wasn’t as great. Soldiers and civilians there all knew who “Li De” was, so I would be able to have contacts with the people there. With this, Comrade Liu led me off to Li for a formal presentation and introduction.

When we met, “Li De” was dressed in one of our Red Army uniforms and looked severe. In those days, we all believed that he was a military advisor that Comintern had sent to help our revolution, and he was probably an extraordinary person. So at first, I was very respectful toward him.

Li De’s real name was Otto Braun, and I had heard that he was an Austrian. During the First World War when Austria was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Braun joined the German Army in the war against Czarist Russia, so some also consider Braun to be German. Braun was captured by the Russians and was sent to Siberia as a prisoner of war. After the USSR’s October Revolution, Braun joined the Soviet Red Army. Because he already had some experience as a noncommissioned officer in the German Army he advanced rapidly, his highest position being chief of staff in a cavalry division. He was subsequently selected for advanced training at the Moscow Army University. Again, he performed well academically and after his graduation he moved smoothly through the officer ranks. Finally, the Comintern sent him to China as the military affairs advisor to the Chinese Communist Party Center.

The CCP’s temporary center was still in Shanghai when Braun arrived there in the autumn of 1932. Upon first arriving in Shanghai, Braun had an opportunity to get a general idea about the situation in China and in the Soviet Area. Comrades Bo Gu and Zhang Wentian had frequent contact with Braun at that time. They both had returned to China from the Soviet Union and could speak directly to Braun in Russian without using interpreters. In early 1933, the temporary Party Center was forced from Shanghai and out to the Soviet Area. In October of that year, Braun was secretly escorted into the Soviet Area. I had heard the he held an Austrian passport when he entered the Soviet Area. Posing as a tourist, he boarded a steamer at Shanghai bound for Shantou and then headed for the frontiers of the White Areas on the border between Guangdong and Fujian provinces. One night, the Party liaison station arranged for a small boat to paddle him upstream under cover of darkness to the fringes of the Soviet Area. Another liaison station prepared a horse for him to ride and assigned a small rifle column to escort him the rest of the way. With this considerable expense of effort, Braun was conveyed to Ruijin.

It had been said by some that Braun was not an official advisor sent by the Comintern. At the time, there was another General Advisor in Shanghai who had never visited the Soviet Area and who was later transferred back to Moscow. As a result, he let Braun become the official advisor. Wang Jiaxiang had said that Braun had, in fact, been dispatched by the Chinese representative at the Comintern, Wang Ming, in order to seize military power in the Chinese Communist Party. In any event, I never quite understood the situation. Throughout, I considered “Li De” to be the Comintern’s military advisor.

Not long after I had gone to work for Braun, the Center assigned Comrade Wang Zhitao to be his military training interpreter. Whenever Braun lectured to cadres in military classes, Wang always interpreted for him. I was to be his combat operations interpreter and his interpreter at every Central meeting in which Braun was present. Comrade Wang and I had been together at the Moscow Infantry Academy in the 1920s. He also spoke very good Russian. We were used to each other and understood each other.

Braun’s arrival in the Soviet Area was followed immediately by the “Fifth Encirclement Campaign.” Since he had considerable power in his hands, as soon as he arrived a problem arose. At the beginning of the “Encirclement,” Comrade Xiao Jingguang was the commander of the Min-Gan (Fujian-Jiangxi) Military Region. He only had a small training unit of seventy or so men defending Lichuan township when the enemy’s attacking force suddenly burst onto the scene. The enemy used three or four divisions in an attempt to surround Xiao’s position and our main force couldn’t reach them in time. Comrade Xiao had no alternative but to pull his small force out of Lichuan, steering clear of the enemy’s attack columns. Braun was fully aware of the situation, he didn’t ask for an explanation, he simply said that Xiao had “broken and ran.” He announced that he would carry out a trial against Comrade Xiao, and then sentenced him to five years imprisonment.

Xiao Jingguang was a veteran. He’d twice been to the Soviet Union. He went with Comrade Liu Shaoqi once in 1921; and in 1927, after the failure of the Great Revolution, he was sent for advance training at the Lenin Politico-Military Institute, one of the highest level military institutions in the Soviet Union. He had seen action numerous times, only now to become the object of Otto Braun’s unjustified disciplinary action. After Chairman Mao learned of this, he expressed firm opposition. Chairman Mao was the Chairman of the Chinese Soviet Executive Committee. He used his position to ignore Braun’s decision. Moreover, Comrade Wang Jiaxiang was the Director of the General Political Office (Zongzheng Zhuren). Wang refused to sign his name to the sentencing document. In the end, to protect Xiao, Wang transferred him to the Red Army Academy’s cadre corps to be a military trainer.

This incident demonstrated to us that Braun’s style was not just simpleminded, it was crude. However, because Braun was a foreigner, and because he was the Comintern’s military advisor as well, he enjoyed rather high status and everyone maintained a fair amount of respect for him. We carefully looked after him and saw to it that he lived well. In fact, we built an independent house just for him to live in. Later on, “Independent House” became our codename for Braun’s house. The house was surrounded by rice paddies. It had three main rooms, with the living room in the middle. We used it as a conference room, its walls were covered with maps. The room at the eastern end was Braun’s bedroom, and Wang Zhitao and I shared the room on the western end. The first bodyguard was Zhu Liansheng, later on it was Huang Yingfu. Braun also had a commissaryman and a stockman to care for his horse.

“Independent House” was about two li from the Military Commission compound at Shazhou Dam and perhaps only two or three hundred meters from the General Political Department’s village which you could walk to through the fields via a little dirt road. “Independent House” was not far from Party headquarters and Youth League headquarters.

Braun loved horseback riding. Frequently, after dinner, Braun would go riding with his bodyguards, Wang Zhitao and me. Sometimes, for amusement, we would play cards. Besides Braun, myself and Comrade Wang Zhitao, Bo Gu would also join in. He was particularly close to Braun.

At the time, the base area economy was impoverished and this was especially true in the Party and government quarters where living conditions among the cadres were often harsher than those of the fighters out in the field or of the civilians in town. Under the rationing provisions in force then, rations for office personnel were limited to ten ounces of rice a day parceled out in straw wrapping which we ate during two meals. It made no difference whether you had a big or small appetite, everybody got the same. In cooking our vegetables, not only was there no oil, but there was no salt. To give them taste, we would soak our green vegetables in vinegar and then cook them in boiling water.

Nevertheless, the organization saw to it that Braun was given extra consideration. His food and clothing was far better than ours. He enjoyed a continuous supply of chicken, fish, meat, eggs and other products produced in the Soviet Area. Cigarettes, either captured or smuggled in from the White Area, coffee and other luxury food items were also supplied to him. Yet, he was never satisfied. Not only did he accept the special privileges and dispensations from regulations, but quite often, he would personally go to the Quartermaster bureau and look for the chief, Song Yuhe, of anyone else available, and ask for things. Even during the Long March, the organization assigned two mules to him, one he rode and the other carried his things.

How “Li De” Commanded

At the time, my work routine was as follows: regardless of the time of day or night, whenever a telegram arrived from the front, the communications center sent it posthaste to “Independent House.” I then translated it immediately into Russian, and then on the basis of the information in the telegram I would locate the area of operations on a map and quickly sketch a rough map illustrating the situation. I would then take the telegram and the map to Braun. When Braun finished perusing the cable and made his relevant suggestions, I translated his comments into Chinese and sent them to the vice chairman of the Military Commission, Comrade Zhou Enlai. Depending on the situation’s level of importance, Zhou would either handle it himself or, in the case of very grave events, he would place it before the Military Commission for discussion. In any case, it was still Vice Chairman Zhou who shouldered the responsibility for implementing any decisions. At the time, comrades in the leadership frequently came up to “Independent House” and Braun often went down to the Military Commission. Besides Russian and German, Braun also spoke English, so Comrade Zhou Enlai could carry on a direct conversation with him while Bo Gu, Zhang Wentian, Wang Jiaxiang and other comrades then spoke to him in Russian.

During his tenure as the Military Advisor to the Chinese Communist Party, the policies that Braun promoted were military orthodoxy from beginning to end. At bottom, he did not understand the national situation in China, nor did he make any serious effort to analyze the actual facts of battle, but rather relied on the conventional ideas of his military science classes which he studied at the Institute. Likewise, after moving to China and later into the Soviet Area, he remained blind in command. That turned out to be just when the “Leftists” line of Wang Ming had reached its peak. Braun was quite cozy with them and their coordination was extremely tight. When Braun and Bo Gu got together, they didn’t need us interpreters, but we could hear them distinctly in the next room. The two of them would talk, then laugh. Very friendly they were. Bo Gu was acting General Secretary in the Party Center, but he didn’t know beans about military issues. He had enormous military authority which he virtually handed over to Braun. The two were mutually supportive. Braun had general secretary Bo Gu’s support in the Party Center while Bo Gu had the military advice from Braun, the Comintern representative.

The misguided leadership in the Center combined with Braun’s imperious temperament to make him a perfect “Imperial Regent.” They completely usurped Comrade Mao Zedong’s command authority over the Red Army, ignored the correct policies advocated by Comrade Mao and others leaving Braun’s arbitrary single-mindedness to supplant the collective leadership in the Military Commission. They cast aside the Red Army’s successful experience purchased with several years of bloody fighting, and replaced it with Braun, all by himself, holed-up inside his room relying on his maps to direct battles. And these maps were, for the most part, a collection of hand-drawn sketches, loaded with errors and insufficiently accurate for our purposes. Yet Braun never asked for details, and as a result, his commands time and again were vastly out of step with the realities at the front lines.

For instance, the map might show a distance of one hundred li but Braun would never ask whether it was mountainous or flat in the area; he would never take into account time for eating or resting, nor would he consider intelligence about the enemy, or weather, or other conditions of nature. He would only look at the scale on the map and calculate the distance to come up with his determination of how long it should take a unit to arrive at the front and throw itself into battle. Moreover, he would never allow for unforeseen circumstances. This caused enormous difficulties in directing the movements of soldiers in the field. Many of these difficulties were fundamentally impossible to overcome leading to frequent strings of defeats for the troops. These were all the product of Braun’s subjectivism and his rather confused command style. Yet whatever the cause of a defeat, he would reprimand and dress down people at every turn. He would always fly off the handle, screaming and shouting insults at people. Nor would he even listen to opposing views. We who were nearby always bore the brunt of his temper.

Constantly faced with his imperious demeanor and his arrogation of a posture above that of even our own Party’s Center, we were all very put off, and no one wanted to work with him. There were a few comrades who were seriously upset and several times requested transfers. But the Party organization always tried to calm them down and told them to stay. Truth be told, for us individually, Braun’s shouting at us was a small matter. The great matters were the disasters his mistakes brought upon our Party, our Army, and on the Soviet Area.

During the entire “Fifth Encirclement Campaign” we fought under Braun’s strategy of “short, swift thrusts,” “fighting with two fists,” “keeping the enemy beyond the gates,” establishing a regular army, fighting positional warfare – a military line that was completely erroneous and with no foundation in reality.

Chiang Kai-shek, using a plan drafted by his German military advisors, Hans von Seeckt and Georg Wetzell, absorbed the lessons of his failure in the Fourth Encirclement Campaign, used a new fortress strategy of advancing slowly, digging in, consolidating the position, and advancing again, and from these solid positions he could strike sure blows against us in an attempt to nibble away at the Soviet Area territory and in the end devour us completely. As soon as their troops advanced one step, they immediately constructed fortifications for their artillery. Then, under cover of artillery fire, they advanced another three to five kilometers, stop again and construct another fortress. Following this routine, they steadily closed in on us and bit by but they enveloped the Soviet Area.

At that time, Comrade Mao Zedong had suggested that we seize the opportunity presented by the Fujian Incident which erupted from internal contradictions within the Kuomintang party. The main force of the Red Army should either attack into the Jiangsu-Zhejiang-Anhui border area or turn the battle into central Hunan in an effort to shatter the enemy’s Fifth Encirclement Campaign. According to his plan, the maneuver would break open the enemy’s front and enable us to attack Chiang’s army from the flanks. Nevertheless, Wang Ming’s “leftist” line of military orthodoxy spurned Comrade Mao’s valid suggestion and persisted in supporting Otto Braun who opposed guerrilla attack and wanted to fight hard regular battles. Under this flawed command style where strategy guided thought, our units were obliged to make frontal assaults against a strong enemy’s hardest points.

We were even less capable of turning to our advantage the anti-Chiang “Fujian People’s Government” affairs. Braun had once mentioned to Bo Gu that Cai Tingkai’s Fujian People’s Government was the most dangerous enemy, even more dangerous than Chiang Kai-shek and much more treacherous. He said it was a matter of a “minor warlord opposing a greater warlord” and that the Red Army was absolutely unable to assist Cai Tingkai. At that time, we should have moved our force toward northern Fujian to threaten Chiang’s flank from the rear as well as to assist and rescue the Fujian People’s Government which Chiang had surrounded. Braun, however, opposed this and ordered the Red Army to move west. It would not attack Chiang’s rear and it would not assist Cai Tingkai. As a result, the Fujian People’s Government fell. Chiang Kai-shek had defeated Cai Tingkai’s forces, then he turned and concentrated his force strength for an attack against the Central Soviet Area. The Red Army lost its last good opportunity to shatter the enemy’s fifth “Encirclement Campaign.”

During the fifth “Encirclement,” we used our advantageous position at Gaohu Knoll to the south of Guangchang in Jiangxi to score a victory. Comrade Peng Dehuai commanded the Third Group Army in the fight. They fought tenaciously, repeatedly attacking the enemy. The news of the victory spread far and wide and was an example to all of us. Songwriters in our cultural troupes came up with a ballad, “The Battle of Gaohu Knoll. We are Victorious!”

Unfortunately, our victory in one sector did not change the overall situation, and our attempts to carry through the momentum of the Guangchang victory were unsuccessful. In the midst of the subsequent fighting, I accompanied Braun and Bo Gu up to survey the situation at the front lines. Our forces had just suffered a defeat when Braun came upon Comrades Yang Shangkun and Peng Dehuai who had been extremely dissatisfied with Braun’s feckless command. Right to Braun’s face, Comrade Peng asserted that Braun was completely ignorant of the Red Army’s combat doctrine and that Braun was a “subjectivist and an armchair warrior who fought battles on maps.” He continued, “if the Red Army doesn’t shake itself out if its reverie, it will have you send the First and Third Group Armies right over the cliff!” He bitterly compared Braun to “the son who sells off his father’s fields without remorse.” I had interpreted everything accurately up to this point, but I wasn’t clear on this last metaphor. Only when Comrade Yang Shangkun broke in to explain it to me did I realize that this was a Hunanese epithet criticizing Braun for bringing a needless defeat upon the Red Army and then not giving a damn. When I then interpreted this sentiment to Braun, he was furious; shouting that Comrade Peng was a “feudal-brain.” Nevertheless, Braun realized that Peng was slow to anger, and that it would be best to suppress his own ire and listen to him.

Now, Lin Biao’s attitude toward Braun wasn’t quite the same. When Braun first arrived at the First Group Army, Lin Biao convened a staff meeting of regimental-level cadres and above and invited Braun to lecture them. Braun specifically lectured on “short swift thrusts” which I interpreted. After the lecture, several cadres reacted with bewilderment commenting that they didn’t understand Braun’s presentation. Lin Biao immediately spoke up in Braun’s defense. Braun had given an excellent class and that the more one didn’t understand the more one had to study, research and put his ideas into practice. Subsequently, Lin wrote his own article “On Short Swift Thrusts,” in which he expressed his wholehearted support for this “left” dogmatist combat doctrine. He even elaborated on the theory, earning Braun’s deep appreciation. Nevertheless, I did not have a bad impression of Lin at the time. I felt that he was quite adept at mobile warfare while Comrade Peng Dehuai was good at positional warfare. In fact, the Center used these two group armies for just these two purposes. The positional battles at Gaohu Knoll and at Gongcheng city in Fujian’s Shaxian county were both fought under the command of Comrade Peng Dehuai. Up until Braun was relieved of his responsibilities after the Zunyi Conference, he maintained an interest in Lin Biao. On his own initiative, he asked to accompany the First Group Army in its movements, but it was Lin Biao who tried to keep his distance from Braun (zhi shi Lin Biao yi bu da jiejin ta le).


Preparations for the Long March

Because of the flawed leadership of the provisional Party Center and Braun’s blundering command, we saw the Soviet Area shrink day by day, the enemy threateningly advance step by step, and the situation get worse and worse. In the spring of 1934, Braun told Bo Gu that he wanted to make a single major strategic shift. Nevertheless, at the time there was no plan to go so far, certainly there was no talk of any “Long March.” There were merely preparations to move to the western reaches of the Hunan-Hubei border region in order to join forces with the Red Second and Sixth Armies. There they would establish a new revolutionary base. About six months before the Long March started, we began implementing out all the various preparatory work.

The first preparations were for the Soviet Area’s desperate expansion of the army and the organization of new fighting units. During that period, we assembled several new divisions of troops with Zhou Kun as the commander of the Sixth Group Army and Zhou Zikun as the commander of the 34th Division. There was also a Young Communist International Division and other units. In support of this shift to an active expansion of the army, we also reorganized the local guerrilla units to augment our main force units. Moreover, we mobilized virtually all of the able-bodied men in the Soviet Area to join the army leaving some peasant villages with only women, the weak and the elderly. Certainly, the people of the Soviet Area made this massive contribution to the Revolution, and many made massive sacrifices because of the erroneous line.

The second area of preparations was amassing weapons, ammunition and explosives for the campaign. At the time there was a small arsenal in the soviet Area which manufactured ammunition and hand grenades. Otto Braun once took me to observe the testing of some newly assembled grenades. Good grenades exploded with a shattering force and were highly destructive; when others hit the ground, they just broke in half without the slightest force. Later on, when the time came for the great move, we had prepared to carry with us the arsenal’s equipment and machinery, as well as all the equipment from the printing plant, including dies and plates for printing currency. We would take everything that we could. The only thing we couldn’t take were food rations. Wherever we were, we would just eat the food that was there. In fact, it took us about six months to make preparations for dismantling all this machinery.

There were also preparations for military dispositions that had to be made. In June and July of that year, the Red Seventh Army was moved north to the northeast Anhui base area to link up with the Red Tenth Army under the command of Comrade Fang Zhimin and others to form the northern Anti-Japanese Vanguard Force. In August, the Hunan-Anhui Area Red Sixth Army was ordered again to leave their base area and transfer to the western area along the Hunan-Hubei border region to join forces with the Red Second Army commanded by Comrade He Long. These two movements were designed to coordinate with the great shift of the First Front Army main force.

At the time of the Great Shift – which was the beginning of the Long March – five group armies made up the main force of the Red Army; the First, Third, Fifth, Eighth and Ninth Group Armies. Additionally, there was the 34th Division. For the Shift itself, we also established a military commission and party center column under the code name of “Red Star Column” with Comrade Ye Jianying as the commanding officer, and Comrades Lou Mai and Deng Fa as political commissars. Old Dong (Biwu) and Old Xu (Xiangqian) and other veteran comrades were assigned to the column as well and moved with the rest of the Army. All told, I remember the entire force was over 80,000 people, but we called it the “Great Army of a Hundred Thousand.”

Insofar as the Central Leadership was concerned, this great strategic Shift had been planned well in advance, so one could not say that it had been thrown together in complete haste. Nevertheless, from the viewpoint of the rank and file, even including that of high level cadres and the commanders of the broad range of army units, there had really been no preparation whatsoever. Under the erroneous leadership of the Wang Ming line, not only had there been no mass ideological mobilization, neither had the Politburo discussed the plans. Just the opposite. Such strict secrecy had been maintained that even high leadership cadres like Xiang Ying and Chen Yi had no idea that there was any intention to make a major change in strategy. In fact, the “leftist” leadership used this as an opportunity to get rid of cadres they did not like. They were ordered to stay behind and fight as guerrillas. For example, they left behind Comrade Qu Qiubai whose health was not suited to a guerrilla war environment, and in the end he was captured and killed. Comrades He Shuheng, He Chang and Liu Bojian were also sacrificed by this move. The facts proved that high cadres in bad health like Old Dong and Old Xu all safely made their ways to North Shaanxi because they moved with the Red Army main force.

At the very beginning, they also planned to leave Comrade Mao Zedong behind. At the time, they had already excluded him from the core of the Central Leadership, and he had been sent off to do investigation and research in Yudu, about 35 miles due west of Ruijin. Later on, because he was the chairman of the Chinese Soviet Executive Committee and enjoyed high prestige among the military, he was finally permitted to join the Long March. It is hard to predict what the result would have been had he been left behind. No doubt the history of our Party would have been quite different. In this light, Chairman Mao’s work and historic contributions were indeed colossal.

The early days of the Long March

It was the middle of October 1934 when the Military Commission headquarters set out from Ruijin and began the Long March. I remember that day very well – it was “Double Ten.” Up to that time, I and some of the security guards had been raising ducks which daily drilled their bills into the soft mud of the rice paddies surrounding “Independent House.” On their diet of green paddy frogs the ducks very quickly grew fat. Several days before we launched the Long March, we started eating as many ducks as we could. Finally, on the day we set out, we ate the very last one. More of less at that same time, Red Army troops positioned at Yudu in Jiangxi and Changting and Ninghua in Fujian began their separate movements. So, one could say that those places were the same as Ruijin; they were all starting points for the Long March. But the beginning date of the Long March is counted as the day the Military Commission headquarters moved out of Ruijin.

Right after the Long March started, Brain and others ordered the columns to adopt a “Corridor Tactic” in moving through enemy lines. This meant that the First and Third corps formed the left and right flanks at the front of the column, and the Eighth and Ninth corps covered on our two sides with the Fifth corps bringing up the rear. In the middle was the column for Army Headquarters and the Party Center together with all of our pots and pans and other worldly possessions. There were about 3,000 bearers. This responsibility was indeed cumbersome and the column’s movement was sluggish. Danger was compounded by the enemy who snapped at our heels seeking to block us here and cut us off there. The units could only be passive and try to avoid battle like a beggar beating a dog – walking hurriedly while swatting it away. This tactic made it easy to pass through the enemy’s four lines of envelopment, yet our forces got quite beaten up and suffered tragic losses. Finally, it became clear that there was no way we could continue to porter the unwieldy heavy equipment. So in the interests of more effective marching and fighting, we had no choice but to take all the heavy things we had and chuck them into the nearest mountain ravine. In crossing the Xiang River, we reluctantly had to bury or jettison our storage batteries and X-ray machines, our printing presses and several small mountain cannons, and even the generators for the radios.

There were some transporters who, when they joined us, were not completely of one mind with us, and when we dumped the heavy equipment they automatically high-tailed it back to their homes. Then there were the casualties. Our units very soon had lost two thirds of their troop strength. By the time we had crossed the Xiang River, we had only 30,000 people left.

Already Braun had found it impossible to continue any kind of overall command and could only offer his personal opinions when the reports came in from the individual units. The one who really handled combat operations and dispositions was Comrade Zhou Enlai. At that time, reports came in from every unit which said that the casualty roles were unceasingly growing. This was particularly true of the steady stream of reports from the central column which said that everyone was dispersing and the equipment was all lost. When Braun was presented with these facts, he went into an utter and hopeless panic. To this day, I can still picture him in those dire straits with his despair-filled face and his anxiety-ridden moans. Yet, this man had no self-knowledge. On the contrary, he would blame all setbacks on others.

There were two major units then, 8th Corps under the command of Zhou Kun and the 34th Division under the command of Zhou Zikun. Their units were made up primarily of local Red Guards and peasants who newly had been recruited into the Red Army and who were neither trained nor combat-seasoned. As a result, when they suffered a succession of privation and hardships on the March practically all of them deserted. Before we reached Zunyi, and while Braun still had some authority, we stopped somewhere to rest. Braun sought out the 34th Division Commander, Zhou Zikun and mercilessly berated him.

“What sort of soldiers have you hired?” he screamed. “You destroyed your unit yet you brought your old lady along!”

In fact, Zhou Zikun’s wife, Comrade Zeng Yu, was supposed to have stayed behind in the Soviet Area when the Long March started. She didn’t want to remain, so she took it upon herself to join up with the unit. Her husband paid no attention to her and she endured much hardship. Nevertheless, on account of this Braun immediately ordered the security unit to arrest her husband, Zhou Zikun, and take him directly for a court martial. When the comrades in the security unit declined to do anything, Braun flew into a rage. Now, Bo Gu didn’t say a word. It was Comrade Mao who spoke up to resolve the issue. He said that Zhou Zikun should be placed in his custody for handling. Only then did Braun come down off his high horse.

When the army had advanced to the Tongdao Area in far western Hunan province we received intelligence which indicated that Chiang Kai-shek had become aware of our plan to link up with the 2nd Corps and 6th Corps. He had positioned a force in front of us five times our strength which formed a large pocket and was now waiting for us to drive into it. Faced with this situation, Braun nevertheless insisted on holding to the original plan and take our already decimated and exhausted 30,000 Red Army fighters and send them into the tiger’s jaws of the enemy which numbered well over 100,000 strong. At this critical juncture, Comrade Mao Zedong proposed to the Central Politburo that the force ought to change its strategic direction and immediately turn west toward Guizhou where the enemy’s strength was weak. Certainly, the force could no longer advance northward. If the Red Army continued to move north, the entire force would be annihilated. Under the pressure of events, the Center accepted this obviously correct suggestion, and Comrade Mao’s proposal was passed. Our troops then changed course for Guizhou, and this was to be the initial deployment that marked the defeat of the enemy thereafter. From that point on – the breakthrough at Wujiang River and the attack on Zunyi – the strategic situation turned to our favor and the Red Army’s morale revived. This was indeed a case where Chairman Mao’s ideas had taken hold and were implemented under Zhou Enlai’s solid command.

This was the situation in the early stage of the Long March just prior to the Zunyi Conference. Throughout this period, we worked with Otto Braun every day and put up with his rude and imperious character. It was not a happy experience. I once said to the director of the Center’s Organization Department, Lo Bian (Li Weihan), “Braun simply is an imperialist, it takes all the Party Spirit I can muster to work as his interpreter.” In fact, this was true. He often would berate, even insult Party cadres without making any sense. From as high a cadre as our Commander in Chief, Comrade Zhu De, to the lowest working officials and service personnel, practically no one was immune from his arrogance. Once, he was criticizing Chief of Staff Comrade Liu Bocheng quite unreasonably saying that Liu wasn’t a chief of staff of even average competence, and that Liu had wasted his several years studying in the Soviet Union. These were very ugly words. In order to try and paper over this confrontation, I purposefully softened his words and translated only that the Chief of Staff’s work was not entirely satisfactory. Comrade Liu, of course, understood Russian, and afterwards told me, “you were a good fellow, you interpreted none of his insults.” But there were many instances such as this. Braun’s words which served cooperation and unity, I translated. Whatever he said that insulted of scolded, I would not interpret fully. Why should anyone other than I have to listen to Braun’s temper tantrums?

Chapter VII

The Zunyi Conference: An Historic Turning Point

(Early 1935)

The Zunyi Conference and the Events Leading up to It

From the beginning of the long March, our ranks suffered continuous losses and became completely demoralized. Talk about the failed military leadership at that time first arose among the leadership where early on dissatisfaction had begun to ferment. I remember that as early as the Fifth “Encirclement Campaign”, Comrade Zhang Wentian asked me how we could put with Braun’s commanding like this. Could we ever win a battle like this? During one Military Commission meeting, Comrade Zhang had courageously challenged the erroneous policy of fighting the enemy to death as causing unnecessary casualties. Then Bo Gu spoke up accusing Comrade Zhang of adopting the same attitude that Plekhanov had toward the 1905 Russian revolution. Naturally, Zhang wouldn’t stand for this and the two argued with each other. Braun hastily made himself the peace-maker (though he was more interested in stopping the argument than in resolving the issue). He said that the matter was something to be handled by those sent from Moscow, and it needn’t be a cause for internal wrangling. Zhang didn’t put up with this line of talk either. He asserted that these were critical issues facing China and in considering them, Bo Gu shouldn’t confine himself to Braun’s advice, he ought to have some though of his own. From this incident, I could see that Zhang’s later support for Chairman Mao was not just a sudden impulse on his part.

Nonetheless, objectively speaking, the real force pushing for the Zunyi Conference was Comrade Wang Jiaxiang. At the time, he was Vice Chairman of the Military Commission and Director of the General Political Office. Because he had been seriously wounded and was in ill health, he had to be carried in a litter every day of the Long March. He and Chairman Mao were in the same condition, and during their rest stops and bivouacs they frequently discussed problems with the military policy. In these continuing discussions, Comrade Wang began to agree with Chairman Mao’s views. Later, he exchanged thoughts with Comrade Zhang Wentian and the others and they all ultimately supported Chairman Mao’s position. Comrade Zhang had long had his own thoughts about Braun, and Comrades Zhou Enlai and Zhu De had respected Chairman Mao from the first, so naturally they were supportive. Moreover, there was a widespread feeling in both the Party and the Army that there were serious problems with the military policy. In this sense, ideological preparation for the subsequent Zunyi Conference had already been made while the army moved through that first part of the Long March. Again, it was no accident that Chairman Mao had everyone’s support when the Conference was convened. While Comrade Wang Jiaxiang was the most instrumental in bringing about the Conference, Comrade Zhang Wentian also played a very important role. Throughout the Conference, from the preliminary preparations to the reorganization of the leadership, Braun was totally excluded.

In January 1935, the Red Army successfully attacked and occupied Guizhou’s second largest city, Zunyi. The Party Center decided to hold an enlarged Politburo Conference in a small building in the old city which had been the residence of a minor warlord. This was to be the famous “Zunyi Conference.” Participating in the conference were members of the Politburo, Comrades Bo Gu, Zhou Enlai, Mao Zedong, Wang Jiaxiang, Zhang Wentian, Chen Yun and Zhu De. Alternate members of the Politburo who also participated included Liu Shaoqi, Deng Fa, and Kai Feng, Chief of Staff Liu Bocheng, and acting director of the General Political Office, Li Fuchun. The Conference was also expanded to include class-one cadres from the various army corps. From First Corps came its commander Lin Biao and political commissar Nie Rongzhen; from Third Corps came commander Peng Dehuai and commissar Yang Shangkun; and commander Li Zhuoran of Fifth Corps arrived at the conference after it had started because his troops had been engaged in some heavy fighting.

Comrade Deng Xiaoping at first attended the meetings as an observer in his capacity as the chief editor of Red Star newspaper but during the conference he was elected secretary general of the Party Center and became an official delegate. Braun was only an observer, as was I because I had to interpret for Braun. Comrades Peng Dehuai and Li Zhuiran both had to leave before the conference closed because their troops had run into more fighting. Neither Ninth Corps commander Lou Binghui nor Corps Commissar Cai Shufan were able to attend the conference because Ninth Corps had not managed to cross the Wujiang River in time.

During the time of the conference, the meetings began after supper and continued until the small hours of the morning. This was because the Party Center and the Military Commission had their routine business to attend to during the daylight hours. There were three sessions in all, the Conference lasting from January 13 to 15. On January 15, when we received the wire that Comrade Peng Dehuai had reached the front line, the Conference was still going on. A mimeographed copy of the Conference Resolution which I have saved is dated January 8, but I think it was a misprint for January 18. [In his memoirs, Braun claimed never to have seen a copy of the Resolution until after his return to the Soviet Union in 1939 and questioned whether there ever was a written document. Otto Braun, “A Comintern Agent in China, Hurst, London, 1982, pp. 105-108.] Because the Red Army entered the city on January 8, the central leadership organs weren’t in place until January 9. When the Conference convened, Bu Gu presided. He sat in the middle seat of a long conference table. Unlike meetings nowadays, the others did not sit according to a prearranged seating plan, but rather found stools and sat wherever they wished. During the meetings, the seating changed several times. The Conference agenda was to resolve the problems with the military policy, the central points being: the criticism of the errors of the “leftist” military line; a summation of the lessons learned from our defeat in countering the Fifth “Encirclement Campaign” and; the exposure of the harm done by military dogmatism.

The main report of the Conference was presented by Bo Gu. He gave his view of the present situation and offered a self-critical examination of the military line. Yet he emphasized several “objective elements” by way of defending the second report which was likewise very self-effacing and included a formal self criticism in which he quickly assumed responsibility. He was quite severe in blaming himself and lenient in dealing with others who were involved.

A little later, Chairman Mao gave an important speech. Frequently at meetings such as this, he would be listening to the views of others, but when he got up to speak, his speeches seemed to bring the proceedings to a conclusion. This time, he spoke for almost an hour. In comparison with the other speeches, his seemed to be a magnificent essay. The main thrust of his speech was that we must first resolve the questions of military policy by criticizing all errors of the so-called “leftist” military line and their manifestations in every corner (such as the conservatism in defending our positions, our reckless adventurism in our offensives and our “flight-ism” in beginning the Long March.

The commanders at headquarters, said Chairman Mao, could only see soldiers on paper maps. They never considered that the fighters had to walk on roads, that they had to eat food, and that they had to sleep. Commanders never asked whether the roads were through mountains, flatlands or across rivers. They only saw distances on maps and told the soldiers that they had to cover those distances quickly and begin combat at a specific time. Naturally, when the time came, our soldiers couldn’t fight well. He also used the lessons of our victories in the first, second, third and fourth “Encirclement Campaigns” to discount the objective “we’re-weak-and-the-enemy-is-strong” factor in the exculpating excuses for our defeat in the fifth “Encirclement.” Chairman Mao’s words reflected the consensus of opinion and they were enthusiastically endorsed by the vast majority of the conferees.

Immediately following the speech, in came Comrade Wang Jiaxiang whose position clearly supported Comrade Mao’s. He sternly criticized Bo Gu’s and Otto Braun’s military errors and appealed to Comrade Mao to take command of the Red Army. Comrades Zhang Wentian and Zhu De were also in clear support of Comrade Mao. Comrade Zhou Enlai also expressed complete approval of Mao’s criticism of the “leftist” military line. Comrade Zhou wholeheartedly pushed to have Comrade Mao lead our army from then on. His proposal won the active support of the great majority of the conference delegates. Other speeches which left a fairly deep impression on me were by Comrade Li Fuchun and Comrade Nie Rongzhen. They had no patience with Braun and scathingly criticized the “leftist” military line. Comrade Peng Dehuai’s speech was deeply impassioned. They all were very forceful in their support of Comrade Mao’s correct views. Initially, Lin Biao supported the Braun group. Lin Biao also ardently promoted the “short quick thrusts” and other strategies which were criticized at the conference. He had, after all, written an article called “On the Short Quick Thrust” and actively supported Wang Ming’s “Leftist” military line. Although he wasn’t criticized by name at the Conference, everyone knew that Lin Biao was the “Golden Boy” of the Wang Ming line during the fifth “Encirclement.” All through the Conference, in fact, Lin found himself in a very vulnerable position, so he basically didn’t say a word. Now, Comrade Nie Rongzhen had served with Lin for quite some time and got to know him well very early on. At that time, Comrade Nie saw Lin’s deficiencies.

The main focus of the Conference was the criticism of Bo Gu and Otto Braun as well. Accordingly, when the Conference began, Braun was out in the cold. All the other participants sat at the long conference table, while Braun was seated over by the door looking exactly like an accused defendant sitting in a courtroom dock. As others spoke, I sat at his side interpreting word-for-word for him to hear. He listened and chain smoked, one cigarette after another, his head downcast, his chest sighing. He was a picture of complete dejection. Because these sessions were very long, I could just maintain strength for the first half of the proceedings and gave very detailed translations. But in the latter hours, I lost steam. People felt the constraints of time and spoke with some urgency, so my translations became simpler and shorter. During the course of the conference, Braun had an opportunity to make a defense of himself and the mistakes of the “leftist” dogmatist military policies of Wang Ming and the others. He said that he himself was merely an advisor who offered suggestions. It was the Chinese comrades themselves who botched things up. He tried to push the responsibility onto the backs of the temporary Party Center and others. He would not acknowledge his own errors. But in the final analysis, he was left completely shattered. He had said nothing of consequence. Sometime later, people began saying that Braun had lost his temper at the conference, that he had kicked over a heating stove and overturned a table. I did not see any of this. Although the atmosphere of the conference was grave and the struggle was very sharp, nevertheless the speeches were measured and well reasoned. Braun was quite conscious of the fact that “the bloom was off the bud” as far as he was concerned, so he had no alternative buy to listen to everyone’s critical judgments of him.

The Results of the Conference

This conference brought to an end the leadership of Wang Ming’s “Leftist” military line and confirmed Comrade Mao Zedong’s basic principles regarding how the Red Army should wage war. The conference nominated Comrade Mao as a member of the Politburo, abolished Bo Gu’s and Otto Braun’s supreme military command authority, and decided to give command to Comrades Zhou Enlai and Zhu De who still held positions of major responsibility in the Military Commission. Subsequently, the Standing Committee redistributed work assignments in accordance with the spirit of the conference, replacing Bo Gu with Comrade Zhang Wentian who took over general affairs, and giving Mao and Zhou responsibility for military matters. Later, as we continued on the march after withdrawing from Zunyi, Mao, Zhou and Zhang formed a three-man military command group which established Comrade Mao’s leadership position over the entire Party and the entire Army. This then became a critical turning point for the Chinese Communist Party and the Red Army of the workers and peasants.

Regarding the mistakes of the “leftist” military line: this conference had already resolved them and news of the leadership reshuffle had already been transmitted to the troops. Yet there was one man who clung to the errors to the last and attempted to defend them. That man was Comrade Kai Feng. His attitude during the conference wasn’t sufficiently good, and after the conference I personally heard him tell Bo Gu “I still cannot accept the criticism of the line; the Party Center’s great seal simply can’t be passed around like this.” While Bo Gu had his faults, he nevertheless could see the bigger picture. He responded that the situation was settled and it served no purpose to discuss it further. Bo Gu concluded, “the Party Center’s bearing pole (at that time, the Party archives and seals were carried in litters) will be handed over.”

During the conference, Otto Braun’s military advisory duties in the Party Center were abolished, and I was still with him when we pulled out of Zunyi on January 19. He himself made a request to join 1st Corps, and when the Center approved this I went with him to 1st Corps. We passed through Tongzi (about 50 kilometers north of Zunyi) and continued onward. At that time, although Braun had not been in much contact with Lin Biao, he nevertheless insisted on going to 1st Corps. So he obviously was interested in Lin Biao. Lin Biao assigned a tall fellow, the chief of the Corps administration department to see that Braun was comfortable. Whenever we bivouacked, the chief would order the porters to carry their best hut to the most suitable and secure spot and then he personally set up camp for Braun. The troops would also seek out whatever local delicacies there were and would give Braun the best. But his temper was still very bad. Once, after we had entered Zunyi the second time, I went to Braun’s room and noticed a pile of walnuts and a small mallet on the table before him. Braun had been breaking them oven and eating them. I thought nothing of cracking a nut myself and eating it. How could I know that he had a case of heartburn or something? All of a sudden he grabbed me and hissed “why are you eating my walnuts? You and I have a working relationship, not a walnut-eating relationship!” I didn’t know whether to cry or to laugh. When I was later transferred to an assignment in Third Corps, one of the field headquarters acquired some condensed milk, coffee and cigarettes. Yang Shangkun told me to take them to Braun, and I did in fact deliver them to him. When he saw me, he said I was truly a good fellow. He found it very easy to berate people and lecture people, yet he seemed to found it easy to forget. I hadn’t forgotten him.

A Zunyi Epilog

After the Zunyi Conference I ran into Braun several times during the Long March. Once, after the March had crossed the steppes of Western China where Zhang Guotao had made his break with the Party, Mao and other comrades were arguing with Li Te who had originally been the deputy chief of staff of the Fourth Front Army. Li wanted to entice troops to join Zhang Guotao and head south. Both Braun and I witnessed the incident. Some have said that Braun also opposed going south then. However, I don’t think that Braun was necessarily impelled by a desire to support the Center’s or Mao Zedong’s guidance, but rather he simply wanted to head north as quickly as possible where we would be close to the Soviet Union and he could reestablish his relationship with the Comintern. Braun accompanied the Red Army all the way to Northern Shaanxi, and there he assisted in the training of cavalry troops. In October 1936, when Edgar Snow interviewed him in Baoan he was still unhappy with the way that the Zunyi Conference had criticized him, and he bellyached about his removal as a military advisor. When the Center attached Braun to the Red Army University as a lecturer in campaign warfare, Comrade Zhou Enlai ordered me to be his interpreter again. I very sourly told Comrade Zhou, “send me anywhere to do anything, but the last thing I want to do is be Braun’s interpreter again.” Comrade Zhou was understanding, but he ordered me to do it anyway. So in the end, I came around to his point of view. Subsequently, Braun and I worked together again without hassling over our previous unpleasant relationship.

In the summer of 1939, our Party sent Braun from Yan’an back to the Soviet Union via Lanzhou. It happened that at that time, I was in Lanzhou as the Director of the Eighth Route Army Liaison Office responsible for receiving him and making concrete arrangements for his onward travel to the USSR. He arrived in Lanzhou on the same plane that was taking Comrade Zhou Enlai to the Soviet Union for medical treatment. After bringing him the office, I immediately contacted the Soviet representative office in Lanzhou, acquainted our Soviet comrades with Braun’s situation and asked them to make the next set of arrangements to send Braun back to the Soviet Union. The Soviet representative had already been contacted and agreed to arrange to get him back home. In Lanzhou, he and I made our final farewell. He had arrived in China in 1932 when he was only in his thirties. He lived in China for over six years, of which he and I had worked together for almost two. I saw him with my own eyes at the height of his vigor and in the depths of his despair. I was not to take my official leave of him, and I thought that we might make some sort of mutual expression of our feelings. But I saw that he was a completely demoralized man. He no doubt felt that, under receipt of orders from the Comintern, he had come to China for several years but had not completed his mission with any distinction, and that upon returning his failure would not be indulged. His morale undoubtedly was abysmal. At our parting, I said to him with a slightly ironic tone, “I wish you good luck when you get back to the Soviet Union, and hope that everything works out okay.” He just laughed when he heard this. I understand that both the Comintern and Stalin were harsh in their judgment of him and indeed he had no luck or smooth sailing after his return. He was sent to the Soviet Foreign Languages Press where he did editing and translating of the works of Marx and Lenin. After World War II he was sent back to East Germany where he was involved in cultural work and published a volume of his memoirs of the Chinese Revolution, entitled “Chinese Memories” (Chinesche Aufzeichnungen, Dietz Verlag, Berlin, DDR, 1973)

The book is a complete confusion of fact and fiction and a distortion of reality which continued to insist on the validity of the “leftist” dogmatism and oppose the Chinese Communist Party’s correct line and the thought of Mao Zedong. In this, it exposes itself as an apology for Braun’s own failures. We can see that even to his death, Braun never acknowledged his own mistake. As far as we are concerned, this book gives us a rare “negative example” for our own study. It should be pointed out that these memoirs, written between 1964 and 1973, are part and parcel of the Soviet Union’s Anti-China chorus. Accordingly, I composed a critique of Braun’s book which was published in the 1981’82 issue of Red Flag.

Because of my professional position as interpreter for Braun, I had quite a lot of contact with Comrades Wang Jiaxiang, Zhang Wentian and Bo Gu. I had gotten to know them fairly early on since I had travelled to the Soviet Union on the same boat with Wang and Zhang, and had studied with them at Sun Yat-sen University. Bo Gu arrived at Sun Yat-sen University a year after us. I was fairly familiar with them. Wang Jiaxiang and Zhang Wentian were very active students at the university. They had a good foundation in English, Zhang Wentian having studied for a time in the United States, and Wang Jiaxiang being a graduate of a missionary middle school in China and also a university graduate. Again, they were extraordinarily industrious students at Sun Yat-sen, but the rarely participated in sports or recreational activities. In this respect, I was not like them. From a young age I had always enjoyed sports, so whenever there was some sort of competition, I generally participated. Well, this wasn’t quite the academic equivalent of reading as many books as they did, so they very quickly grasped the fundamentals of Russian and became interpreters. They subsequently pursued advanced studies at the Red Professors Institute.

Bo Gu arrived at Sun Yat-sen University in 1926. Now, this guy was really active. As soon as he arrived on the scene, one began to hear his voice everywhere. He also was well-grounded in English and picked up Russian quickly, but compared to Zhang Zentian and Wang Jiaxiang, he wasn’t as steady as they. While he held a student’s demeanor, he was not one to hide his light under a bushel. Everywhere he went, he carried with him the air of a political activist. He was like this in school, and after he had returned and achieved a responsible position in the Center – right up to the time of the Zunyi Conference – he was still this way.

Even though Bo Gu and other comrades had joined Wang Ming’s Dogmatist faction while at Sun Yat-sen University and had committed mistakes of the “leftist” line, they all nevertheless quite quickly acknowledged and rectified their mistakes, accepted the Party’s decision and once again rejoined the correct group. There ought to have boon no doubt of their loyalty to the Revolution or their moral character. Chairman Mao said several times that “Comrade Wang Jiaxiang was the first one to come over from the Dogmatist faction.” He helped bring about the Zunyi Conference, and he was instrumental in correcting the mistaken aspects of the “leftist” military line. Comrade Zhang Wentian also played an important role in this. Chairman Mao also said “if we hadn’t had Luo Fu’s (Zhang’s pen name) or Wang Jiaxiang’s support, we couldn’t have had the Zunyi Conference. Bo Gu’s attitude toward his own errors was also very mature and proper. He served as the editor-in-chief of Liberation Daily in Yan’an in which he wrote editorials and articles which effectively propagandized Mao Zedong’s though. After the Zunyi Conference these comrades exerted themselves to a very great extend and made their contributions to the democratic revolution, and after the founding of New China, to the Party and to the People. Therefore, they ought to have their rightful places in the history of the Party.



The Treacherous Road of the Long March

From Zunyi to Huili

Because I had no further work with Otto Braun after our second pullout from Zunyi, and because I really had no desire to continue working with him, I requested a transfer. After looking into the matter, the leadership comrades at the Party Center decided to assign me to Third Corps where I would serve as the deputy chief of staff. Comrade Yang Shangkun was the political commissar. Formerly, the corps chief of staff was Deng Ping, but he was killed in the second assault on Zunyi and the Center transferred Comrade Ye Jianying in to replace him. The headquarters operations chief was Li You who originally was a division commander, but when his division was reorganized after heavy casualties he was sent up to be a department chief responsible for cadre quality. The chief of the division administrative department was Hu Liguang, and his deputy was Tang Yanjie who had also studied in the Soviet Union. After Tang’s return to China, he was arrested while working in Changsha. He was liberated from prison when our troops attacked Changsha, but his Party membership had not yet been restored. Comrade Peng Dehuai commented that “if his Party membership isn’t restored, it will be a bit difficult to make assignments. The best thing would be to make him deputy chief of the administrative department, and when his membership is resolved we can assign him to a combat unit.”
At the time, I was very uneasy with my job assignments. I had always respected Comrade Peng, and when he had me come up to be his deputy chief of staff, I felt that I wasn’t up to it. I had thought I would be better off doing more practical, lower-level work than this headquarters job. I talked this over with Comrade Yang Shangkun, and he merely responded that “it’s already settled, get back out there and do the best job you can!” Maybe the leadership had considered my background and felt that my past experience had basically been staff work. At any rate, Comrade Peng was quite happy to have me, though there may have been some superstition in his attitude. He seemed to think that since I had studied in the Soviet Union I was sure to understand things a bit better.

After working directly with Comrade Peng Dehuai, I was left with tome very powerful impressions of his style: first, he was a truly hard-working and plain-living man. Second, he was a methodical fighter in battle, not given to common heroics. Third, he cherished his cadres. When they made mistakes he would rip them up one side and down the other, but when he finished, well, then, that was it. He never held a grudge. As a result, those he chastised never hated him, on the contrary, they were devoted to him. Fourth, he was honest, upright and strongly principled. Toward those below him he was fairly close, and to those above, he never hesitated to voice a differing opinion. I suppose this would explain why he wrote his dissenting opinion at the 1959 Lushan Conference.

He insisted on principle but still maintained a heartfelt respect for Chairman Mao. While still back in the Soviet Area, Chairman Mao presented Comrade Peng with two books that Lenin had written, one was Two Strategies of Social Democratic Parties During Democratic Revolutions, and the other was The Infantile Disorder of ‘Leftism’ in the Communist Movement. In both books, Mao had written an autographed inscription. Comrade Peng deeply treasured those books. He read them constantly while on the Long March until one day when we had to destroy excess files at Wuci village, a careless staff officer incinerated them. Comrade Peng resigned himself to the loss, but always suspected that I was the one who had given his books to the officer to burn. He ran into me once after Liberation and the first thing he said was “you old so-and-so, those two books that Chairman Mao gave me, you had them burned!”

After the Zunyi Conference, Comrade Peng Dehuai loyally and actively carried out Chiarman Mao’s instructions as he commanded Third Corps. His troops won a battle on the Wujiang River which enabled them to break out of Guizhou and move into Yunnan province. At that time, I served as Comrade Ye Jianying’s staff officer and stood at his side the entire time. Every evening as we arrived at a bivouac site and set up the telephone cables, the telephone sets invariably were set up at my bedside. Whenever any sort of situation developed, it was reported directly to me, likewise with all cables, and I handled routine issues as they arose. I’d bother Comrade Ye with the weightier things, and when a particularly serious matter came up, I would immediately awaken him, and he would either make a decision on it or report higher up.

During the crossing of the River of Golden Sands, our troops received the order to string a bridge at a place called Hongmendu, several dozen li downstream from Jiaopingdu. I was dispatched to the 13th Brigade (which was to undertake the mission) as the Corps deputy chief of staff to help with the bridging work. The brigade commander was Peng Xuefeng, the political commissar was Gan Weihan, and the three of us immediately started working on this extremely import and but formidable task. Now, the south bank of the River of Golden Sands was a precipitous cliff, the river was wide and the current was dangerous. To make matters worse, we didn’t have all the bridging equipment we needed. The troops even had to unwrap their puttees from their legs and twist them into ropes. (We began building the bridge out into the river) but no sooner had we stretched the structure into the center of the river than it was swept away in the torrent. Time and again we stretched the ropes and wood into the rapids, each time without success. We reported the predicament to headquarters, and just as things were getting tense, we received our orders from the corps HQ to cease working on the bridge. That afternoon at about four or five o’clock, we withdrew the unit from the riverbank, rested a bit, ate a little, and then received a second order: all Third Corps units were no longer vanguard units; they would become rearguard units and return to Jiaopingdu where they would cross the river under starlight. We began the forced march at dusk. It was dark, the road tortuous, the troops had spent days working on the bridge and they were fatigued. Officers and men were falling out of formation by twos and threes to rest by the roadside. When we finally arrived in Jiaopingdu, the entire column collapsed in sleep. I took a few corps couriers with me and we headed back down the road trying to get all the stragglers to catch up with the main force. I, least of all, could afford to rest. We needed to get back onto the march, we needed to keep working, it was extremely exhausting.

We finally arrived at Jiaopingdu ferry just before dawn. By that time the central column had already passed through and I was assigned responsibility to oversee the ferrying of the troops across the river. I recall that we only had seven boats, each of which could only hold ten or so men. Because enemy aircraft were harassing us from the sky above, our men concealed themselves in a hilly escarpment that abutted the eastern edge of the ferry landing, and there they remained awaiting their orders to board the boats. There was a stretch of sandy beach at the landing so it was fairly easy for each unit to board the boats in an orderly manner. As one group embarked, the next prepared itself to climb aboard the subsequent boat. Boarding had to be fast and precise, the less time it took to get on, the better. I was in the last Third Corps boat across the river, but there were still other units after ours which continued to use these watercraft for their crossing.

When I finally arrived at our bivouac after crossing the River of Golden Sands, I found that the headquarters unit had assigned me to a fine house, probably the home of a large landholder, which even had a canopy bed. The first thing I did was fill my belly with food, and then I fell asleep for a good long while. As our force occupied the Huili area, we began to prepare for our attack on Huili city itself. The defending force was one of the Sichuan warlord Liu Yuantang’s divisions. Now, there was a wide field to the south of Huili city and we used the corps’ engineers to dig a tunnel under it to the city walls where they would plant explosives. We selected a residential area northeast of the field to cover us, and secretly began work. Li Tianyou and I were put in charge of supervising the soldiers excavating the tunnel. I’d say we spent about a week digging and when we’d reckoned that we had gotten it finished, we packed in the explosives. Immediately, three main force units were sent for the assault on the city. One was the strike force and the other two were the second wave assault units. When all the units were in place, the corps chief came down to take command. But when the charges were detonated there wasn’t enough of an explosion. There was indeed a huge blast and a cloud of smoke, but the city walls remained intact. Well, the strike force couldn’t attack, so they all withdrew.

Anyway, while we had been preparing for the attack, the Central Politburo convened another enlarged conference, the Huili Conference, which was held outside Huili city in a place called “Iron Field.” I understand that at this conference, Lin Biao came under severe criticism from Comrade Mao and others because of his earlier opposition to Comrade Mao.

Crossing the Snow Mountain Meadows and Crushing General Zhang Guotao’s Mutiny

A few days later, our troops left the Huili area and progressed north through Xichang and through the lands of the aboriginal Yi Tribes arriving at the Dadu River. First Corps seized the Luding Bridge and by the time Third Corps had arrived hard upon, wooden slats had already been laid on the bridgespan. Crossing the bridge and entering Luding township, we beheld a town that looked completely like a war zone with all its shops and private homes closed up and the civilians rare to be seen. Given this, our troops moved on through to Tianquan and Lushan where we could raise money and stock up on food before attempting to cross Snow Mountain. Before crossing up into the mountains we halted at Jintang hamlet for a day of rest. I didn’t have a horse then, I was drained and weary, and I was accompanied only by a security officer. The next morning, we left at first light, and at first the going was easy. The road was wide and not at all steep. Several column of troops had moved out before us, whoever felt strong enough started off ahead. But it wasn’t long before I began to lag behind, and though I wasn’t the last I can say that the main force of fighters had already passed me by.

Things started getting tough just before reaching the crest of the mountain. My security officer and I depended on each other’s help to endure the ordeal; we tried counting our footsteps as a way to keep moving. At first we agreed that after each hundred paces we would rest, so we counted each step and right at the hundredth we halted and caught our breath, but we quickly changed to a rest every fifty paces. Even later, we shortened it to thirty paces but we didn’t have the nerve to shorten our walking periods any more than that. We kept ourselves moving even though we could barely walk. Had we done otherwise we probably would have stopped dead forever. In painful exertion, I’d say it was about three or four o’clock in the afternoon, we finally made it to the crest of a mountain ridge. Reaching the top was a bittersweet experience. Sweet, because we had hope of catching up with the troops, but bitter because so many comrades had died on the trailside in the snowfields. With my own eyes, I saw one of my exhausted comrades stop by the side of the trailway thinking he would take a rest. But after he collapsed to the ground, he found he couldn’t get up, he couldn’t move, and he took his last breath for the revolution.

Our own morale was marked by deep grief, but there was truly nothing we could do. Everyone was bone-tired, yet they felt confidence and hope. Climbing the mountain was difficult, but going down was much smoother and our spirits revived. Despite the changing mountain weather – one minute it would rain, the next snow, then the sun would come out – despite all this, we came down the slopes very quickly and this roused us. Yes indeed, even though most of us were not even 30 years old, we still had plenty of fight left in us. We descended Jiajin Mountain and followed along a long gorge for a while, and when we emerged from the gorge we were at a small river, on the opposite bank of which was a little hamlet called Dawei. Ahead, not far from a wooden bridge that spanned the river was a small flat field whence throngs of fighters from the Fourth Front Army came out in welcome. Behind us, even more arriving comrades followed. This was the famous linkup of the First and Fourth Front Armies at Maogong. At the linkup, the Fourth Front Army had more men, was better equipped than our First Front Army, and their uniforms were more complete. Our Party Center, the First and the Fourth Front Armies were gathered there in one place and immediately the leadership convened a series of meetings during which there erupted considerable controversy on several questions of principle. I later learned that this was to be the struggle against Zhang Guotao’s right-leaning escapist line.

From Maogong, the troops moved out to Heishui and Luhua where they stopped for a time to get ready for the crossing of the steppes. At the time, infected pustules and blisters had grown on my legs and feet and were extremely painful. The medics popped them one by one, squeezing all the pus out. Then with cotton they rubbed in a sulfur ointment which was almost unendurable. Fortunately, I was young and my resistance was strong, so during the week of rest there my infections cleared up and I was ready to head across the grasslands. This turned out to be another torturous experience. The army marched every day with the scout units out in front looking for potable water, short grass and trees where we could bivouac. Whenever we made camp, the security officer and I would gather up a pile of grass for padding. We had one old carpet and an oilcloth. We put the carpet on the grass and between two trees we could string a rope over which we could drape the oilcloth as a tent. That was where we slept. In the middle of the night, it generally rained in a fine spray that fell on our faces waking us up abruptly. It was a good thing there was never a downpour, the minor nuisances we could always bear. Because of my physical condition, I was assigned a mule but I walked as much as I could, often giving my mule to others weaker than I. In crossing some rivers which had strong currents and were waist deep, it was easy to get swept away. We had one propaganda unit of several dozen young boys, all little fighting demons of thirteen or fourteen years old. I had the shorter ones climb on the animal and told the taller ones to hold onto its tail as we forded the rivers. We managed to cross streams and rivers much more quickly and safely that way. During the four days crossing the steppe, I came across Comrade Huang Yukun who had been working in Third Corps headquarters. He was so weak and frail he couldn’t keep up with the march, so I used my animal to bring him into camp that evening. Comrade Huang has already written about this incident in an article for Single Spark Lights a Prairie Fire. This is the way it was on the Long March. We all looked out for each other. Incidents of people helping each other were too numerous to record, but all this became an outstanding tradition of our army.

We had lost many men up to that point in the March. I took it upon myself to volunteer to return to a corps organization and Comrades Peng Dehuai and Yang Shangkun agreed. They assigned me as the Tenth Regiment chief of staff where Yang Yong was political commissar. Ye Huangzhen had been commander, but he was lost in battle before we reached Wuqi township. Our corps moved on to Banyou where I recall we occupied a haystall and were attacked by a detachment of Tibetan horsemen. In those days, virtually none of our troops had any experience in a cavalry battle, so in order to keep unnecessary casualties at a minimum, commander-in-chief Peng came down to our corps headquarters and outlined a few ways to handle horse-mounted attacks: the first way was to keep absolute quiet; the second was to use our firepower against them, concentrating our gunfire on the horses themselves because horses were a big target and easy to hit and when a cavalryman lost his horse, he was useless; finally, after striking the cavalrymen, do not counterattack, to not give up good terrain, only use firearms to fight them. When Commander Peng gave us this solid advice, it established my own views. I passed these few precepts on to all the company cadres in the Tenth Regiment and they really used them against subsequent cavalry actions. Not only were they able to wipe out a portion of the enemy, but they also killed a number of horses giving us and the rear guard troops quite a lot of horsemeat to eat.

In Baxi, the differences between Zhang Guotao and the Center became even sharper. It was said that he sent a telegram to the Right Route Army ordering Chen Changhao of the Fourth Front Army to bring the Right Route Army around to the south, and he said that if Chairman Mao didn’t agree, he would arrest him and settle the matter by force of arms. When the Right Route Army Chief of Staff, Comrade Ye Jianying, received the telegram, he immediately set out under nighttime starlit skies for the Party Center where he reported to Chairman Mao and helped the Party Center avert the danger. The comrades of First and Third Corps absolutely were enraged by Zhang Guotao’s separationist behavior. Our Tenth Regiment was selected as the security detachment for the Party Center, and our commissar, Comrade Yang Yong, hopping-mad with outrage averred indignantly that if Zhang Guotao sent his forces up, we would fight him to the finish! Chairman Mao hastened to put it in perspective: “We can’t fight, we can’t fight!” Very early one morning, Comrades Mao, Ye Jianying, Peng Dehuai, Yang Shangkun and others consulted and decided to continue northward.

I was there. As the discussion was in course, the deputy chief of staff of the Fourth Front Army, Li Te, galloped up on a horse. He yelled out, “comrades who were originally with the Fourth Front Army, turn around, stop going forward!”; “Don’t follow these opportunists to the North; go south where we can eat rice.” Chairman Mao tried to persuade him to keep quiet, but Li started quarreling with Mao. The Chairman was very cool, he pulled Li into a small nearby chapel and had him sit down in a pew while they discussed the matter. Le Te insisted that “you all are frightened, retreating opportunists.” Chairman Mao continued to reason with him, guide him, explaining that the move north was a decision of the Central Politburo. Li didn’t listen, he just wanted to drag all his Fourth Front Army comrades away with him. Chairman Mao let him go, “if you really want to go south, okay then, I’m sure that we will have a chance to get back together again later.” Then he went back outside to the troops and said “we’re all soldiers of the Red Army, we all belong to the Communist Party, we are all one family, and family members don’t kill family members. Those who want to go north can go with the Party Center, those who want to follow Zhang Guotao can go back. We can still be together in the future.” There were quite a few comrades who were angry with Li Te. Chairman Mao reminded them that “ropes do not make a marriage. If they want to go, let them go. They will return to us of their own free will.” This was how we let go of the reins and parted ways with the Fourth Front Army. Not a few men, reinforcements in Third Corps, were “mobilized” by the Fourth Front Army to return south. My stockman had been a Fourth-Fronter and he was taken back with them, so I was left to care for my mule all by myself as I continued northward with First and Third Corps. During the course of this struggle, Comrade Xu Xiangqian rendered meritorious service. As Zhang Guotao was attempting to use armed force to resolve the Red Army Center problem, Comrade Xu said “there has never before been any sense in the Red Army fighting the Red Army!” He opposed Zhang Guotao’s splittist behavior but at the key moment he intervened to prevent a disaster.

Victoriously Arriving in Northern Shaanxi

The key battle after the Central Red Army continued its move north was the battle of Lazikou. The engagement was fought by Yang Chengwu’s First Corps regiment, they made the major contribution to the victory. After Lazikou, the troops underwent a reorganization at Hadapu in Gansu province because Fifth Corps, with Comrades Zhu De, Liu Bocheng and others had been left behind with the Fourth Front Army and the Central Red Army was reorganized into the “Chinese Worker and Peasant Red Army Northern Anti-Japanese Vanguard Troops” also known as the “Shan-Gan Support Troops” (for Shaanxi and Gansu provinces). Shan-Gan was commanded by Peng Dehuai and Maozedong was the political commissar. Ye Jianying was chief of staff, and Yang Shangkun was director of the political department. I was transferred to the Support Troops staff as the operations chief. For the rest of the journey, the troops marched and fought until we linked up with the North Shaanxi Red Army.

It was during that period that Chairman Mao had me draft a political directive praising all command personnel for their tenacious efforts and uring them to continue their struggle to push forward toward North Shaanxi. I finished my initial version and gave it to Chairman Mao who went over it word by word and sentence by sentence with his revisions (which seemed to me to take more time than if he had written it himself). At last, he issued the directive under the name of the “Shan-Gan Support Troops Political Department.” This was one of the ways that Chairman Mao used to nurture the cadres.

When we reached Wuqi township on the edge of the Shaanxi-Gansu border area, the Central Red Army comprised only six or seven thousand people. By this time, even Chairman Mao’s spirits were sagging as was the morale of everyone else, yet the Chairman was able to reawaken in us our sense of purpose. Again, the slogan “down with all local tyrants, divide the land” not only revived us but made us feel that we had at last reached our destination. It was then that Comrade Peng Dehuai, using Chairman Mao’s strategy of “if we can’t draw the enemy into the Soviet Area, then at least we can cut off his ‘tail’” directly commanded the battle against the four cavalry brigades of Ma Hongkui and Ma Hongbin just outside Wuqi town. Chairman Mao exhorted us to fight this battle well in celebration of our linkup with the North Shaanxi Red Army. During the initial part of the battle, Chairman Mao was at a secure point, but at about four or five in the afternoon he became concerned about the combat situation, so he brought his bodyguard and a courier along to the command position to see what was happening. We accompanied the Chairman to the operations zone where he pulled out his binoculars and continuously scanned the battlefield dispositions and listened gravely to the sound of rifle fire. As he heard the gunfire recede into the distance, as it gradually became 
sporadic, he returned to camp a bit more relaxed than when he came. This was the last battle before our forces entered the Shaanxi-Gansu Soviet Area. Once we had entered the Soviet Area, the enemy did not dare to follow us further. Chairman Mao has since written a poem eulogizing Comrade Peng Dehuai saying “who sits saddled, his spear at the ready? None but my great General Peng.” Obviously, he respected and appreciated the commanding general. When the battle near Wuqi township was over, we pressed on to Baoan and the First Front Army’s Long March was declared to have been concluded in victory. It was October, 1935. From the time of our start at Ruijin in October 1934, we had marched exactly one year, traversed eleven provinces. This was the “Long March of 25,000 Li” which has become famous the world over.

By October, it had already begun to snow in northern Shaanxi and we were still wearing a single layer of clothing and short trousers. The houses in Baoan were very small, there were only cave-like dwellings carved into cliffsides. With the arrival of our troops, the first person to come out and greet us was Bai Rubing, the chief of the North Shaanxi Red Army Rear Services Department. He had already prepared supplies of food and clothing for our men and each person was issued a set of padded cotton clothes. This was really manna from heaven! From the start of the Long March, the army had been on the road and had not eaten a proper meal in a long time. Because of the errors of the “Leftist” line, we lost our base area, we had nowhere to set our behinds, we endured untold suffering. When we ate our first bowls of rice porridge brought to us by the people of the area, it was just as it had been over a year before. We were very happy cupping our rice bowls, but in our happiness tears began to well up in many of our comrades’ eyes.

Immediately upon our arrival in the North Shaanxi area, Chairman Mao began to organize the Zhiluozhen Campaign. Taking part in the fighting would be our force, Liu Zhidan’s North Shaanxi Army and Xu Haidong’s Red Twenty-fifth Army. In that battle, the enemy’s 105th Division was completely destroyed and the division commander Niu Yuanfeng was killed in action, giving us our first major victory. I had an interesting experience during the battle. At the start of the fight, Third Corps headquarters organized two echelons with Peng Dehuai and Yang Shangkun leading the vanguard echelon while I was in the second echelon a few dozen miles from Zhiluozhen. When the fighting ceased, I was contacted by headquarters and ordered to go to the forward area, so I took a security officer and went. Wouldn’t you know it, about halfway up the road we bumped into four enemy soldiers coming out of a nearby forest in flight from the fight. There were only the two of us. I only had my pistol and the security officer had his sidearm, while each of the enemy soldiers had a rifle. Well, I considered the situation. We couldn’t ignore them because they soon would see us. Fighting it out with them wouldn’t work because we couldn’t match them in weaponry. But they were now inside our territory and we had just beaten them in battle. They were like birds, targets of the arrow, like fish caught in the net. The overall situation was unfavorable to them and favorable to us. We seized the opportunity. We called to them exhorting them as countrymen: “Hey, boys, come over here, we’ll take you to headquarters.” Of course, this had its risks , but we felt we could use our political superiority to prevail over them. We waited for the four of them to come over and we spoke with them very nonchalantly. In the event, they listened, slung their rifles over their shoulders and came with us. At this, I was full of confidence. We had walked about a half hour when we saw a headquarters security company from the front echelon. My comrades in the company took me aside to tell me that I had taken them a bit too much of a risk. At the very least, I should have had them surrender their weapons, otherwise we would have been up a creek had they suddenly turned on us. Anyway, I still thought that the way I had handled it was the correct one. Had we tried to force them to disarm, we would have failed, and had they resisted, we really would have been in trouble. We with our two small sidearms couldn’t have held them down, but by using our political means, we gained the upper hand. I guess this counts as a rather exciting episode.

During the Zhiluozhen Campaign, we captured a group of mid- and junior-level officers of the Northeast Army whom we sent to a collection point at Anzhai where we prepared to put them through reeducation before releasing them. Since Comrade Ye Jianying had been one of the leaders in Chiang Kai-shek’s “Northern Expedition” he had a certain reputation among the Kuomintang rank and file. The Center sent him to do some political reeducation work among the captured officers. I was also in Anzhai at the time and, at Comrade Ye’s request, I participated in part of the work and led some of the political classes for this group of POW officers. In accordance with the Party’s guidance, we were very patient in our persuasion, convincing them of the importance of the interests of our nationality, the need for unity in resisting the Japanese, and opposition to civil war. In this we achieved results. Among them was a Northeast Army Corps commander named Gao Fuyuan who indicated that he wanted to return to his original unit, convince his commander Wang Yizhe and, through him, influence Zhang Xueliang to participate in the resistance movement against Japan. And this is just what he did. This group of officers eventually proved to be more or less useful. Gao Fuyuan and I had direct contact. I remember that he was a veteran officer of about forty or fifty years, middling height and a healthy build, and filled with vitality. He was honest in dealing with others, and he was very open and candid. He seemed to be sincere in his advocacy of uniting with our Party in resisting the Japanese.

Not long after the Zhiluozhen Campaign, Commander Peng led our force in enveloping Ganquan. We still used our old method of excavating a tunnel under enemy lines and blasting a hole in their defenses. Ganquan’s southern field was a flat meadow and we dog from the northeast. We dug a long time, and dug a far piece, but because our surveys weren’t precise, our positioning wasn’t correct. Our direction and depth were all wrong. To make matters worse, our explosive material was of poor quality and insufficient. We weren’t successful, so we just abandoned our attempt to attack the city.

Chapter IX

From the Eastern March to the Shaan-Gan-Ning Border Area Government 
(February 1936 – February 1938)

It was February 1936. The Red Army had crossed the Yellow River in its Eastern March. The Center decided that the First Front Army would send cadres to assist Xi Haidong’s Red Fifteenth Corps: they assigned Zheng Zihua as the Fifteenth Corps political commissar, Zhou Shidi as the Corps chief of staff, Chen Xihan as the deputy chief of staff. And there was a Korean comrade, Hua Shiti, who was assigned to the 73rd Division as chief of staff, but he was lost at the river crossing. Hua Shiti was also known as Yang Lin, and was an officer-instructor at Whampoa Academy. During the Great Revolution, Hua did underground work and was a veteran Party comrade. This Korean comrade sacrificed his own life in the cause of the Chinese Revolution. With Hua’s death, Peng Dehuai received orders to send another Third Corps cadre to take Hua’s place, and he chose me to take over duties as the 73rd Division’s chief of staff. The 73rd Division was the main force division of the Fifteenth Corps. The division commander was Zhang Shaodong who was not well-educated but was an experienced fighter. The political commissar, Zhao Lingbo, had been an enemy bugler who was captured in battle but was not a bad sort. He was capable in battle, he was well-spoken and he therefore quickly rose through the ranks to become the political commissar of a main force division. Yet, he suffered from a certain “warlord” mindset. Every time he opened his mouth to talk to his men, he spoke like a father does to his children. Nevertheless, we all held each other in mutual respect, appreciating each others’ strengths and downplaying shortcomings. Among us all, I was the better educated one, basically the tallest of the dwarves, except that my health was still very bad and I had to carry my illness with me as I worked.

From the evening of February 20, 1936, to early morning on the 21st, the Fifteenth Corps managed to cross the Yellow River to occupy the city of Yidie and then surround “Stone Tower” (Shilou) where we destroyed many of the enemy, all within a space of about twenty “li”; then we engaged in combat at Wenshui, Jiaocheng and Yuci, and then wheeled in a great circle around the Fen River Basin. The Fen River Basin was a prosperous region where the towns and villages were all pretty big. The fighters all wanted to break open the county seat in an attempt to capture the entire area. It was difficult to effectively employ our usual tactic of attacking the towns after dusk and using ladders to scale the town walls. Not surprisingly, we sometimes couldn’t avoid losing the initiative. Nevertheless, we sometimes fought well and captured quite a few towns. We kept on fighting well into the month of May until the Red Army stopped fighting a civil war against the Kuomintang and turned its efforts exclusively on resisting the Japanese. The Eastern March was called off and the division returned to North Shaanxi. Before recrossing the Yellow River, we loaded all our pack animals with provisions for shipment back to the Base Area. Our return march took just one night. My health was still poor. I had been through a continuous string of battles, I was still carrying my illness with me on the return march and I was absolutely exhausted. On that nighttime march, our route was shrouded in darkness with only a little weak moonlight in the sky. IN the mysterious darkness, shapes and shadows along the road materialized into images around us. Before my very eyes, mirages appeared like undulating castles in some undersea city. At every new turn, I saw new visions. That night, I felt, was uncommonly long. Men walked as if in a dream and truly looked like they were walking in their sleep. To this very day, I can still recall the hallucinations which I endured that night.

After we regrouped in Northern Shaanxi, the weather began to get hotter. I was finally laid low by a major relapse of my illness and days of high fevers. Seeing that I was completely crippled, the corps and division leadership put me in a stretcher and had me carried to the rear area field hospital in Wayaobao for treatment. Conditions were below par there, too;. Meals consisted of rice gruel, steamed buns and some vegetables. Medicines were in short supply, but the environment was calm and peaceful. After a while, I slowly recovered my strength and finally received orders to return to the General Staff headquarters where I would be given an onward assignment. But the Kuomintang’s regional army under that well-known local snake, Zhang Rongqu, suddenly attacked Wayaobao forcing the Party Center to make a quick decision to withdraw and turn towards Baoan. I left Wayaobao with Comrades Zhou Enlai, Li Kenong and others. On the road near Baijiaping, we came upon Comrade Huang Hua who was escorting Edgar Snow and George Hatem. The Locals found some clean rooms for them to rest in, and afterwards we continued on to Baoan where we had a chance to get together. We had a very friendly and harmonious relationship with Snow and Hatem and we became the earliest friends that they made on that trip. My classmate at Sun Yat-sen University in Moscow, Wu Liangping, was Snow’s interpreter, and when Snow interviewed Chairman Mao, he did the interpreting for them. When the Red Army Academy moved to Baoan, classes continued and Otto Braun taught campaign warfare. I received orders to go back and act as his interpreter again.

After settling down in Baoan, the Party Center established a Liaison Bureau which was responsible for united front and representational work for visitors. Comrades Zhou Enlai and Ye Jianying were in charge, Comrade Li Kenong was the bureau chief and I was assigned to the Liaison Bureau where I was to collect books, newspapers and magazines and periodicals from Xi’an and other places, review them for important news and edit a regular “Book and Press Briefing” which was provided to the leadership for their reference. This work lasted for a few months during which time I also handled some reception duties for visitors from the White Areas, both Party members and non-Party people. Party visitors included Wang Feng and Sun Zuobin, leaders of the underground Party organization in Shaanxi who came back regularly to report to the Party Center. The authoress Ding Ling also came to the Border Area at that time, the autumn of 1936. Aside from taking care of guests, United Front work also involved sending a steady stream of people to the outside.

Not long afterwards., the December 12, or “Double Twelve,” incident (also known as the “Xi’an Incident”) occurred and the Center dispatched Comrades Zhou Enlai and Ye Jianying to Xi’an to take care of the matter. The Liaison Bureau sent Li Kenong, Bian Zhangwu and myself to Xi’an at the same time. In view of the situation, the Party Center devised contingency plans should there be a falling out with Chiang Kai-shek. The plan included the establishment of a joint general staff for our army and the troops under Zhang Xueliang and Yang Hucheng. We all were poised to form a military headquarters staff in Xi’an. In the event, Comrade Bian Zhangwu and I did not directly participate in the resolution of the Xi’an Incident. We merely served as a reserve force awaiting new orders. Comrade Li Kenong was appointed as secretariat chief at the Central Representative Office in Xi’an where he took care of internal administrative business. Zhou Enlai was located elsewhere, and I was with Comrades Ye Jianying, Li Kenong and Tong Xiaopeng in the main compound. I remember seeing them overworked in that highly stressful time. During those several days, they didn’t get back to their living quarters until about eleven o’clock at night, while we who waited for them couldn’t breathe easily until they returned. Comrades Luo Ruiqing and Xu Jianguo also arrived in Xi’an and served as advisors in the Xi’an Public Security Department with responsibilities for bodyguard work. Zhou Enlai and Ye Jianying were feverishly involved in work between the three sides – Chiang Kai-shek, Zhang Xueliang and Yang Hucheng. The situation was extremely tense, but in the end they pushed through a peaceful resolution of the issue and Chiang Kai-shek was released to return to Nanking. Zhang Xueliang, in a fit of misplaced chivalry, escorted Chiang Kai-shek back to Nanking and was imprisoned for his troubles. At the same time, there was a rumor that Zhang Xueliang’s bodyguard captain, Sun Mingjiu, was engaging in leftist activities, and was murdered by Wang Yizhe. Elements in the Northeast Army were dissatisfied with the way things had turned out and Comrade Zhou Enlai did a prodigious amount of work before he managed to smooth things over.

With the peaceful resolution of the Xi’an Incident, the civil war was temporarily suspended. Our original mission was perforce cancelled, and we received orders to return to Yan’an. I was ordered to bring to Yan’an a number of youths, primarily a group of expatriate students from the Northeast including Liu Jiaozhan, Fang Min and Zhu Hui. Among this group were the democratic personage Zhang Yuhuan and his wife. We treated them as VIPs and brought them in an automobile – don’t forget that at that time riding in a car was fantastic. This was certainly a log more comfortable than beating our retreats on the Long March. At the time, there was an office in Yan’an called the Chinese Soviet Northwest Office, of which Bo Gu was the director and served concurrently as the director of the Foreign Affairs Office. After I returned to Yan’an, the Center wanted me to work there as the secretariat chief of the Foreign Affairs Office and chief of the Social Exchange Department. It wasn’t worth haggling over at the time. Once the organization made its decision, it had to be carried out unconditionally, so I immediately went up to take the job. The Social Exchange Department occupied a few one-storey buildings where we frequently housed comrades visiting from Yan’an from various places. Zhou Yang, Ai Siqi, Chen Yu, Chen Jiakang and the popular science writer Gao Shiqi had all, at one time or another, been the guests of the Social Exchange Department. Non-Party personages included Liu Zhongrong who was a fellow student in the Soviet Union. He had later left the Party but continued to carry out United Front activities in the Kuomintang Party under the guidance of the Communist Party. His arrival at the Party Center was to report on his activities and upon his departure I arranged for him to safely leave the border area. The Second Front Army brought an enlightened gentleman, Zhu Suyuan from Guizhou, and a captured KMT division commander, Zhang Zhenhan, both of whom stayed at the Social Exchange Department guest quarters. Zhou Suyuan later returned to Guizhou and Zhang Zhenhan was cortially escorted out of the border area. Both Zhou and Zhang subsequently proved to be of great help in the later war against Japan. We also entertained the progressive American writer, Agnes Smedley, and Edgar Snow’s first wife. Show’s wife was quartered in a church which was considered our most comfortable guest house at the time. They were both the direct guests of the Party Center and we saw them quite often.

In the aftermath of the July 7th Incident in 1937 (The “Marco Polo Bridge Incident”), the Red Army was reorganized into the Eighth Route Army and the New Fourth Army and opened up a new front against the Japanese. The Soviet Office was reorganized into the Shaan-Gan-Ning Border Area Government with Lin Boqu as the Chairman. With the inauguration of United Front work, Old Lin was deputized by the Party Center to carry on United Front work as the Party Center’s representative in Xi’an. He simultaneously established the Eighth Route Army Liaison Office in Xi’an with Wu Yunfu as office director. The job of acting chairman of the Border Area Government was taken by Zhang Guotao. I was named secretariat chief for the Border Area Government, a job which was given me by the chief of Party organization, Li Fuchun. The job had a certain significance – to see whether Zhang Guotao was up to his old tricks. He and I shared a place with three rooms, he living on one side, I on the other, and a guest parlor in the middle, so I knew all his many comings and goings. From August 1937 on, I spent about a half-year with Zhang Guotao. The work of the secretariat centered on managing the internal affairs of the Border Area Government. Id did not involve a lot of document drafting, it was all solid work including assisting Zhang Guotao in his work as I was deputized by the Party Center to do. At the time, I worked as hard as I could and maintained a certain vigilance toward Zhang Guotao. He was the same towards me, and there was a tacit understanding that the two of us were keeping an eye on each other. Zhang was not particularly conscientious in his work, and didn’t pay much attention to details. The Border Government had a heavy routine workload; establishing grain levies, guaranteeing supplies to support the effort at the front lines and that sort of thing. Reception duties were exceptionally heavy, with a steady stream of cadres and students arriving from the White Areas, as well as a number of United Front workers and Kuomintang officials always passing through. I was responsible for all this reception work as well. In the deep fall of 1937, Zhang’s wife, Yang Zilie and their nine-year old son Zhang Haiwei (who was born in Vladivostok in 1928 while Zhang Guotao was participating in the Ninth Congress of the Chinese Communist Party) arrived in Yan’an. When husband and father were reunited with wife and son, they were all very happy, and I did all I could to take care of them. Chairman Mao once said half-jokingly that “the KMT has its ‘Zhang-Yang’ (meaning Zhang Xueliang and Yang Hucheng), and the Communist Party has its ‘Zhang Yang’ (Zhang Guotao and his wife).” Yang Zilie’s younger sister came to Yan’an a little later and was assigned to the North Shaanxi Public School where, I understood, her fluency in English was pretty good and she was reputed to be an excellent student.

Another incident happened to me at the time, Yang Zilie thought she would introduce her younger sister to me and desisted only after I demurred that I was already married. Other than that, nothing special happened while I was secretariat chief. It wasn’t until April 1938 that Zhang Guotao used the opportunity afforded by his inspection in Huangling to establish contact with Kuomintang secret agents and defected from the Border Area. His betrayal of the Revolution inspired absolutely no confidence in anyone else. Not even his personal bodyguard defected with him. Subsequent consideration by the Center resulted in letting his wife leave the border area to find him, but in the end, they both wound up betraying the Revolution. Later, in exile, Zhang Guotao wrote his memoirs in which he spent a lot of time puffing himself up and making excuses for his betrayal. He attacked Chairman Mao and many other comrades, and even spoke about me, talking about how I spied on him, but reality wasn’t quite as he painted it. He was simply up to his usual tricks.

Chapter X
At the Eighth Route Army Liaison Office in Lanzhou
(February 1938 to May 1941)

Setting up the Lanzhou Office

After the Xi’an Incident, Chiang Kai-shek was obliged to accept our Party’s recommendation to cease the civil war and unite against the Japanese. The July 7 Incident signaled the eruption of total war against Japan. To fully implement the policy of a united front against Japan, we and the Kuomintang government reached an accord under which we could sooner or later establish Eighth Route Army liaison offices in the major cities of Wuhan, Xi’an, Lanzhou, Taiyuan, Chongqing (Chungking), Changsha, Guilin and Urumqi. The Party Center then specially deputized Zhou Enlai, Lin Boqu, Xu Teli and Xie Juezai as the comrades responsible for representing the Party Center and Chairman Mao and for giving direct guidance in the work of the offices in Wuhan (later Chongqing), Xi’an, Changsha, Lanzhou and other areas. In February 1938, I received my assignment as the director of the Eighth Route Office in Lanzhou where I worked for over three years.

Owing to special circumstances, the work of setting up the Lanzhou office began, in fact, before the July 7 Incident. At the end of 1936 and the beginning of 1937, a part of the Red Fourth Front Army had arrived in the Northwest on the Long March. They received orders to cross the Yellow River and move westward and organize a “West Route Army” which would move into the Gansu-Hexi Corridor. In the end, they were surrounded by heavy warlord infantry under Ma Bufang and Ma Buqing and were annihilated. Unfortunately, with the exception of a small number of people under Li Xiannian’s leadership who had made a sudden breakthrough into Xianjiang, the vast majority of the force lacked both ammunition and rations and were either killed or captured. At the beginning of 1937, Comrade Zhou Enlai suggested that we establish an office in Lanzhou to repatriate the captured men from the West Route Army but specifically to find out what had happened to the senior officers of the West Route Army whose fates at the time remained unclear. In mid-May, the Center sent Zhang Wenbin, Peng Jialun and five other comrades to Lanzhou to establish the Red Army Office there. The Kuomintang government, which was then urgently trying to united the country against the Japanese, agreed to let us set up a semi-public instrumentality at the forecourt of No. 54 Nantan Street in Lanzhou from which we could conduct external liaison work and repatriation operations for West Route Army personnel.

At the time, the Kuomintang governor of Gansu province was He Yaozu, formerly the leading warlord in Hunan. During the period of the Great Revolution, our Party sent Xie Juezai (in the status of a Kuomintang Party member) to work on He Yaozu, and Xie got him to join the National Revolutionary Army. Not long after the July 7 Incident – toward the end of July, the Party sent my esteemed Comrade Xie to Lanzhou as the representative of the Party and of Chairman Mao because Old Xie had had this friendship with Governor He. Comrade Xie was tasked to begin conducting United Front work in the Gansu area, to get Governor He and other KMT political officers to participate in the united opposition to Japan, as well as to strengthen the leadership in the Lanzhou Liaison Office itself. After Comrade Xie arrived, and in accordance with the reorganization of the Chinese Workers and Peasants Red Army, they hung a large sign outside of the office proclaiming it as the “Gansu Office of the Eighth Route Army of the National Revolutionary Armed Forces,” which later became the Gansu office of the “Eighteenth Group Army.” Zhang Wenbin had other duties and very shortly thereafter departed Lanzhou. Peng Jialun took over as the first director of the office representing the Eighth Route Army headquarters in carrying out internal and external liaison work. Xie continued on as the special representative of the Center and Chairman Mao with primary responsibility for United Front work among the upper levels of the Kuomintang hierarchy as well as among leading personalities of the region. At the same time, he was in charge of the overall direction of all underground Party work in the Gansu region.

Developments in the international situation heightened the need for a liaison office in Lanzhou. After the Anti-Japanese War started, the Soviet Party and people, with Stalin as their leader, strongly aided us in our war of resistance by sending a volunteer air force to China, and their main aerodrome was in Lanzhou. Great amounts of munitions in air to China were transported through Xinjiang to Lanzhou where they were forwarded to their final destination thoroughout China. The Soviet Communist Party also made Lanzhou an important liaison station for their contacts with our Party, and in order to coordinate the work of the Chinese and Soviet sides, the Soviets established diplomatic offices and a military representation office in Lanzhou. Consequently, Lanzhou became an important hub in the external contacts of both our country and our Party. Although the Eighth Route Army office had continual contacts with the Soviet offices in Lanzhou, Peng Jialun and the other comrades didn’t speak Russian and this hampered their external contact work. Comrade Xie and Comrade Peng cabled the Center to send a Russian-language cadre to work in Lanzhou. The Center considered the fact that I had studied and worked in the Soviet Union for many years and that after my return to China I had served as an interpreter for Braun, I was fairly comfortable with Russian, so they decided to send me to Lanzhou to replace Comrade Peng as the director of the office. It was during Chinese New Year of 1938 that I arrived in Xi’an from Yan’an. In accordance with the Center’s directive, Lin Boqu, who was in Xi’an charged with United Front work, wrote a letter introducing me to the commanding officer of the Eighth War District in Lanzhou, and would later be Gansu governor, Zhu Shaoliang. The letter requested all assistance in my work with the Eighth Route Army office. I remember Comrade Lin was overworked, and when he had finished writing the letter with his ink-brush, he realized that he had written the wrong character for my surname. He started to ink up his brush on his inkstone to write the whole letter over again, but I just took the original one – “oh, that’s good enough,” I said. However, not only had he written my surname wrong, I discovered that he got my whole name wrong, changing my name to “Wu Zhouquan” using characters completely different from my real name. So, during my years in Lanchou, I was always known by the name “Wu Shouquan” in my external activities.

According to Comrade Xie’s published diary, I arrived in Lanzhou on February 6, 1938, and very quickly completed the transition work with Comrade Peng. Old Comrade Xie accompanied me on my official calls on the KMT Party, military and government officers and to many of the important civilians in town, and thus I began that new stage of my wartime experiences. Aside from Comrade Xie and myself, the Liaison Office had a secretary, a deputy, a communications technician, a courier who was also our factotum, a cook and others. All together, we had eleven or twelve in the office. They were all superior cadres hand-picked from the ranks of the Red Army, and most of them came from the countryside, some from the real backwoods. Even though Lanzhou at the time was a small and tumbledown city of 80,000 (it claimed 100,000), and the downtown district had only low, one-storey houses with only a handful of two-storey buildings visible across the city’s entire skyline, as far as we were concerned it was a bustling metropolis. In fact, Lanzhou was a northwest town well-known throughout China. At any rate, when we “Bumpkin Eighth Routers” arrived in the city, we still maintained our Red Army’s proud tradition of austere living. Our entire monthly operating and living expenses were 700 yuan, later increased to 1,000 yuan, and each month we sent one of the staff to Xi’an to pick up our cash allotment. Accordingly, our lifestyles were rather Spartan, none of us received a salary, but we did get some small change as pocket money, at most, five yuan in near-worthless “paper” – well, more often three or four yuan, with the soldiers and service personnel getting two yean. I remember our dear Comrade Xie, he was aging and frail, his duties were intense, yet he insisted on keeping himself to the same work standards as the rest of us. At dinner, he would eat out of the same rice pot and vegetable platter as the rest of us. And there was no “transportation” to speak of. If you went out on business, you walked. With Comrade Xie, it was the same. He could face the farthest distances in town and he still he would walk.

Not long after I arrived in Lanzhou, the office’s location became insufficient for our purposes as our activities expanded. Moreover, we were located in the same compound as one of the Kuomintang provincial bureaus and thus we had KMT agents looking in on us from all sides. It was not a satisfactory state of affairs. We naturally opted to move to a compound at No. 32 Xiaoyou Street just inside the city wall at Nanshao Gate. There we had our own compound and our own gate with ten or so rooms of varying sizes making up the perimeter walls and a rickety old two-floor building in the middle. It was spacious and convenient. The owner of the compound, in his patriotism and his respect for the Communist Party and the Eighth Route Army, let us stay in the compound rent-free, he never took a single cent. I don’t care whether we’re talking about the old days or right now, that kind of dedication is hard to find. We all should be eternally grateful to people like him who were so sincere in helping us.

Old Comrade Xie and Comrade Wang Dingguo were married at that time and had a child not long after, and I also had my own wife and child join me in Lanzhou. Grownups and children, we all lived together in the compound in harmonious hubbub. I often went out on calls but it wasn’t appropriate for me to wear my Eighth Route Army uniform all the time. Moreover, I often met senior level Kuomintang people, and it wasn’t right for me to show up in shabby clothes. I went to a second-hand clothing store and bought an old heavy woolen overcoat which, after I got home, I discovered was a little too small. I didn’t have enough money to get another coat that fit, so I just wore it. I couldn’t button up the buttons, so I always walked around with my coat flapping in the breeze. People who didn’t know me thought that I was just a naturally open and relaxed fellow, but in fact, I was too poor to be otherwise.





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