In August 1973 the pro-CCP media published an unverified letter from a rusticant who claimed to be withdrawing from college examinations to devote himself to agricultural production:
Since I was sent down to the countryside in 1968, I have always been enthusiastic about agricultural production, and spared no effort in my work. The strenuous manual labour and other work which last almost 18 hours ever day has prevented me from revising my professional studies. I only had time to hastily read over the mathematics teaching materials once after receiving notification on the 27th. As for the algebra questions. and the physics and chemistry on today’s examination paper. I can only stare at them, feeling that although the spirit is willing, the flesh is weak. I do not want to write nonsense that bears no relation to what is in the books, lest the leadership waste time going over it.
I am willing to abide by the discipline and persist in carrying it out to the end, and therefore I conscientiously withdraw from the examination. To tell the truth, I am not prepared to accept and even have a strong aversion to those bookworms who neglect their proper duties. and are leisurely and carefree. because the examination is monopolised by this bunch of college-fetishists. In this busy summer hoeing and production season, I cannot bear to abandon the production work for the purpose of worming myself into a small house, because that would be too self-seeking. If I did that, I would stand condemned by the poor and lower-middle peasants’ revolutionary devotion to their work as well as my own revolutionary conscience.
There is one thing that I can console myself with, and that is I have not held up at the work of the collective. I have overall and full responsibility for the [production] team. Since we have had a welcome fall of spring rain, everyone is indeed busy. In these circumstances where individual and collective interests are in direct conflict, it is a struggle (if I may say so)…
My political affiliations, family, social relations, etc. are all clean. To a boy like me, brought up in the city, the experience of the past few years has indeed had a great tempering effect, especially in reforming my ideology, emotions, and world outlook; you could call it a great leap. I do not feel ashamed about not answering the examination paper according to the requirements and rules (it has nothing to do with my fundamental knowledge and ability). I might have managed some of it, and glancing at the books could have got me a few dozen points (that’s meaningless). If I had done so, I would not feel happy in myself. What I feel honoured about is that under the new educational system, and with the whole hearted recommendation of the poor and lower-middle peasants and the leadership cadres, I have taken part in this study class.
Chang T’ieh Sheng”