Jung Chang on her mother’s involvement with the CCP (1986)

Writing in her 1986 autobiography Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China, Jung Chang explains how her mother became involved with the CCP during the 1940s:

“When my mother heard that her cousin Hu had been killed by the Guomindang she approached Yu-wu about working for the Communists. He turned her down, on the grounds that she was too young. My mother had become quite prominent at her school and she was hoping that the Communists would approach her. They did, but they took their time checking her out. In fact, before leaving for the Communist-controlled area, her friend Shu had told her own Communist contact about my mother, and had introduced him to her as ‘a friend’.

One day, this man came to her and told her out of the blue to go on a certain day to a railway tunnel halfway between the Jinzhou south station and the north station. There, he said, a good-looking man in his mid-twenties with a Shanghai accent would contact her. This man, whose name she later discovered was Liang, became her controller.

Her first job was to distribute literature like Mao Zedong’s On Coalition Government, and pamphlets on land reform and other Communist policies. These had to be smuggled into the city, usually hidden in big bundles of sorghum stalks which were to be used for fuel. The pamphlets were then repacked, often rolled up inside big green peppers. Sometimes Yu-lin’s wife would buy the peppers and keep a lookout in the street when my mother’s associates came to collect the literature. She also helped hide the pamphlets in the ashes of various stoves, heaps of Chinese medicines, or piles of fuel. The students had to read this literature in secret, though left-wing novels could be read more or less openly: among the favourites was Maxim Gorky’s Mother.

One day a copy of one of the pamphlets my mother had been distributing, Mao’s On New Democracy, ended up with a rather absent-minded schoolfriend of hers, who put it in her bag and forgot about it. When she went to the market she opened her bag to get some money and the pamphlet dropped out. Two intelligence men happened to be there and identified it from its flimsy yellow paper. The girl was taken off and interrogated. She died under torture. Many people had died at the hands of Guomindang intelligence, and my mother knew that she risked torture if she was caught. This incident, far from daunting her, only made her feel more defiant. Her morale was also boosted enormously by the fact that she now felt herself part of the Communist movement.”