The China-India Comparison with Lots of Facts – Part 1/5

December 31, 2011

This post was originally a result of a comment on the China Law Blog, which chastised me because, “He wanted me to provide a super-quick summary of The Economist cover story comparing India with China, but it (I) did not,” which was correct then.

Returning to this subject is because of my twelve-part debate with Troy Parfitt. Mr. Parfitt claimed, “Corruption in India isn’t germane to the debate.” In fact, most if not all of the facts and comparisons used during the debate were not relevant according to Mr. Parfitt unless those facts supported his opinions of China.

At one point, Mr. Parfitt mentioned reviews of his book in Publisher’s Weekly in defense of his book not being racisit. He claimed the South China Morning Post didn’t say that. Neither did Publishers Weekly, the Korean Herald, The Vancouver Sun… and none of the Amazon reviewers [that may change].

However, Publisher’s Weekly [PW] did say this of his book, “The result is mostly travelogue told from an outsider’s perspective, contextualized with overviews of major events in Chinese history. Parfitt argues that China will not rule the world, because as a nation it is more interested in the appearance of success than actual substance. He suggests that culturally, China has little to offer…” In addition, PW says, “his book lacks the precise facts and figures that he decries in other books promoting Chinese dominance.”

Basically, this is what the China Law Blog complained of in my post, Comparing India and China’s Economic Engines.

The facts and figures missing from Mr. Parfitt’s “Why China Will Never Rule the World – Travels in the Two Chinas” are important as the China Law Blog says. To judge one country without comparing its government, economy and culture to other countries offers no balance for readers to make informed decisions.

Continued on January 1, 2012 in he China-India Comparison with Lots of Facts – Part 2

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Note: This revised and edited post first appeared on October 22, 2010 as India Falling Short


On the trail of Dr Li Zhisui’s illusive Memories – Part 5/5

December 19, 2011

As you have discovered, while many in the West praised Dr. Li’s memoir of Mao as an accurate portrait of a manipulative egomaniac with little tolerance of dissent and a penchant for young women, the book was also criticized in China by those closest to Mao and by both eastern and western scholars of China.

In addition, many in the West have rejected or ignored what Dr. Li wrote about Mao and the famine during the Great Leap Forward.

According to some of the people that knew Mao best, most notably Dr. Li Zhisui, Mao was not aware that the situation amounted to more than a slight shortage of food.

Li wrote, “But I do not think that when he spoke on July 2, 1959, he knew how bad the disaster had become, and he believed the party was doing everything it could to manage the situation” Source: Answers.com

While many in the West believe most of what Li wrote of Mao in his memoir, those same people do not accept what Li says about the famine because to do so would be to admit Mao wasn’t the butcher of 20, 30, or 40 million people due to famine and starvation during the Great Leap Forward.

This is known as “cherry picking”, which is the act of pointing to individual cases or data that seem to confirm a particular position [opinion], while ignoring a significant portion of related cases or data that may contradict that position.

This is also called “confirmation bias“, which refers to a form of selective thinking that focuses on evidence that supports what believers already believe while ignoring evidence that refutes their beliefs. Confirmation bias plays a stronger role when people base their beliefs upon faith, tradition and prejudice.

An example of this comes from Hong Kong-based historian Frank Dikotter’s book on the great famine where he claims that Mao was responsible for the famine and did nothing to save lives.

The point I want to make is if the West accepts the revised and sensationalized English version of Li’s memoir of Mao as accurate, how can anyone dispute what Li said about Mao not knowing the extent of the Great Leap Forward famine?  By 1959, Dr. Li had been Mao’s physician for almost three years and according to author Troy Parfitt was with him daily and knew intimate details of Mao’s life.

On the other hand, if we accept that Dr. Li’s memory was wrong about Mao and the famine in 1959, how many other claims in his memoir of Mao are inaccurate?

In fact, it was mentioned in Mao’s Alleged Guilt in the Land of Famines that Dikotter sensationalized his book [as Random House did to Dr. Li’s memoir of Mao] by increasing [inflating] the mortality numbers by 50% to allow for possible under-reporting and came up with a claim that 45 million died of starvation during the GLF famine when in fact, the numbers may have been much lower.

Is it possible that Mao’s image in the West has been unwittingly engineered by the media to be worse than it should be?

We know that memory is imperfect. Gore Vidal said, “A memoir is how one remembers one’s own life, while an autobiography is history, requiring research, dates, facts double-checked.” — from Palimpsest by Gore Vidal (Penguin, 1996).

In fact, “Memoir writers must manufacture a text, imposing narrative order on a jumble of half-remembered events.” — William Zinsser, “Introduction.” Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir. Mariner, 1998

However, in the case of China and/or Mao, many in the West do not trust what the Chinese claim unless told what they want to hear. Everything else is to be considered a lie.

Return to On the trail of Dr Li Zhisui’s illusive Memories – Part 4 or start with Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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On the trail of Dr Li Zhisui’s illusive Memories – Part 4/5

December 18, 2011

Troy Parfitt says, “To say Dr. Li Zhishui was bright, not to mention perceptive and articulate, would be an understatement. I would say he was exceptionally intelligent, and probably a gifted physician…  His book is mesmerizing, deftly penned, overflowing with interesting tidbits…”

However, Li cannot be credited with the “deftly penned” English edition of the memoir since the original manuscript written by Li was translated from his native Chinese into English by Professor Tai Hung-chao, before being edited by Thurston (whom Dr. Li later accused of cutting substantial parts of his original manuscript without his knowledge).

I was also told by a friend that read the Chinese language edition of the memoir that it reads as if it were an accountant’s ledger.

In addition, Professor Tai later said the English-language publisher, Random House, wanted more sensationalist elements to the book than that which Li had provided them, in particular requesting more information about Mao’s sexual relationships.

Despite Li’s own protestations, Professor Tai said the publisher overruled him, and put such sexual claims in the published text anyway.

Then there is the Open Letter published in April 1995, a statement protesting that many of the claims made in Li’s book were false and 150 people who had personally known or worked with Mao signed the letter.

Next there is Professor Frederick Teiwes, a western academic specializing in the study of Maoist China, who was also critical of Li’s memoir of Mao, arguing in his book “The Tragedy of Lin Biao: Riding the Tiger during the Cultural Revolution 1966-1971” (1996) that despite Li’s extensive claims regarding the politics behind the Cultural Revolution, he was actually “on the fringe” of the events taking place in the Chinese government.

Continued on December 18, 2011 in  On the trail of Dr. Li Zhisui’s illusive Memories – Part 5 or return to Part 3

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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On the trail of Dr Li Zhisui’s illusive Memories – Part 3/4

December 17, 2011

In 1994, a year before his death, Dr. Li Zhisui published his memoir of Mao, The Private Life of Chairman Mao: The Memoirs of Mao’s Personal Physician.

Li based the book’s contents upon his own memories of Mao several decades after the actual events, as he had burned all of his personal diaries during the Cultural Revolution in case something he wrote about Mao might get him in trouble with the teenage Red Guard.

In 1988, Dr. Li left China for good with Lillian (his wife), who was suffering from kidney trouble, and joined their sons, Chong and Erchong, and daughter-in-law Mei, near Chicago.

His decision to set down his account of Mao’s private life was not easy since he had destroyed the 40 notebooks of his private diary during the Cultural Revolution—almost thirty years earlier.

It wouldn’t be until after Dr. Li’s wife died of kidney failure in 1989, that he would start writing the memoir. “In her last days in the hospital, before she slipped into a coma,” says Li, “she urged me to write this book…”

One of Li’s collaborators involved in editing and revisions of the memoir, the western historian Anne F. Thurston, noted that because of this, Dr. Li’s claims were “fallible” and might “be wrong”.

One of the many critics of Li’s memoir was Qi Benyu, a former member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China that was connected with the left wing of the Cultural Revolution Group and the red-guard power seizures of 1967.

Qi had no reason to love Mao since he was arrested and imprisoned at Mao’s order in 1968 and stayed in prison until 1986—a decade before Li wrote and published his memoir. Before prison, Qi spent several years near Mao and says he never heard any rumors of Mao having extra-marital affairs despite the fact that other senior Party members were known to have done this. Qi also said that most of the Cultural Revolution part of Li’s memoir consisted of information gleaned from newspapers, journals and other people’s writings.

Continued on December 17, 2011 in  On the trail of Dr Li Zhisui’s illusive Memories – Part 4 or return to Part 2

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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On the trail of Dr Li Zhisui’s illusive Memories – Part 2/4

December 16, 2011

Mao’s personal physician, Dr. Li Zhisui (1919 – 1995), attended West China Union University in Chengdu [now called Sichuan University], which is one of the oldest in China.

Soon after graduating from the university as a Western trained medical doctor in his mid twenties, Li fled China in the 1940s to escape the ravages and dangers of the Civil War and ended up working as a ship’s surgeon out of Sydney, Australia.

Then in 1949, “Madly enthusiastic about the Communist victory in 1949, he gives up a promising young career in Australia to take part in the efforts to rebuild China after a century of warfare and internal struggle…” Source: The Lecturn

Since Mao officially declared an end to the Cultural Revolution in 1969 [its active phase lasted until the death of the military leader Lin Bao in 1971], we may assume that Dr. Li returned to Beijing from the destitute village in Zhejiang Province and/or rural Jiangxi Province where he was sent in 1965 as part of the Socialist Education Program.

By this time, Dr. Li may have become a bitter man as we discover when we read his opinions in Around the Bend With Mao Zedong.

“As Dr Li presented it, the Socialist Education Program amounted to an elaborate waste of time … given the disparity between the living standards of the city people and the poor-beyond-all-imagination villagers.”

By now, Mao has held power for twenty years and Dr. Li has only been with him for eight of those years. That does not sound like someone that was with Mao every day he was in power.

How do we know that Li did not become Mao’s doctor until 1957?

“In 1995, a Chinese language book was published in Hong Kong (which at that time was independent from the People’s Republic of China), entitled Lishi de Zhenshi: Mao Zedong Shenbian Gongzuo Renyuan de Zhengyan (meaning The Truth of History: Testimony of the personnel who had worked with Mao Zedong).

Three people who had known Mao personally wrote the book: his personal secretary Lin Ke, his personal doctor from 1953 to 1957, Xu Tao and his chief nurse from 1953 to 1974, Wu Xujun.

The three authors argued in this Chinese language book [I understand this book never saw an English translation in the West] that Dr. Li did not only not know Mao very well, but that he presented an inaccurate picture of him in his book. The trio attack Li’s claim that he had been Mao’s personal physician in 1954, instead presenting copies of a document from Mao’s medical record showing that Li only took on the responsibility for caring for Mao on June 3, 1957.” Source: Wikipedia

Continued on December 16, 2011 in On the trail of Dr Li Zhisui’s illusive Memories – Part 3 or return to Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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On the trail of Dr Li Zhisui’s illusive Memories – Part 1/4

December 15, 2011

“Memory is imperfect. This is because we often do not see things accurately in the first place. But even if we take in a reasonably accurate picture of some experience, it does not necessarily stay perfectly intact in memory.

“Another force is at work. The memory traces can actually undergo distortion. With the passage of time, with proper motivation, with the introduction of special kinds of interfering facts, the memory traces seem sometimes to change or become transformed.

“These distortions can be quite frightening, for they can cause us to have memories of things that never happened. Even in the most intelligent among us is memory thus malleable.” — Source: Elizabeth Loftus

For an example of what professor Loftus is talking about, we learn about faulty memories from Amy Chua when she discussed the writing of her memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.

“The book was in many ways a family project. Rubenfeld [Chua’s husband] and their daughters read every draft and tried to reconcile their different memories. The final version reflects “four different sets of memories,” Chua said. “It was like family therapy.” Source: Stamford Advocate

During the debate with Troy Parfitt, the author of Why China Will Never Rule the World – Travels in the Two Chinas, Parfitt mentioned Dr. Li Zhisui’s memoir of Mao to support his opinions of Mao and China.

Parfitt wrote, “Mao’s personal physician, Dr. Li Zhishui (1919 – 1995), a man who knew Mao intimately and saw him nearly every day he was in power, wrote a 736-page biography about the ruler called The Private Life of Chairman Mao. In it, Li describes Mao’s thought-process as “prescientific,” adding that Mao himself was “incapable of love and devoid of human feeling.”

It may come as a surprise to those that read Dr. Li’s memoir of Mao that Li was only one of Mao’s doctors. In addition, he wasn’t with Mao every day he was in power as Parfitt claimed.

In fact, Dr. Li did not become Mao’s doctor until June 3, 1957, and Mao became the leader of China in 1949.

Then in 1965, eight years later, at the start of the Cultural Revolution, Dr Li was recruited into what was called the Socialist Education Program. He and those Sent Down with him were assigned to a destitute village in Zhejiang Province. Source: Around the Bend With Mao Zedong

Another source, Mao’s Last Revolution” by Roderick MacFarquhar and Michael Schoenhals, puts Dr Li in rural Jiangxi Province, so maybe he spent time in both provinces during the Cultural Revolution.

Continued on December 15, 2011 in On the trail of Dr Li Zhisui’s illusive Memories – Part 2

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Discussion with Troy Parfitt, the author of “Why China Will Not Rule the World” – Part 12/12

December 8, 2011

Note from Blog host: Troy Parfitt’s closing statement of about 500 words appears first. To read Lloyd Lofthouse’s closing statement, you may have to scroll down this page.

Closing Statement [Parfitt]:

I would like to thank Tom Carter for suggesting and facilitating this debate. But most of all, I would like to thank Lloyd Lofthouse. True, this is his website, but Lloyd’s been key in getting this organized, and has been nothing but helpful, positive, and polite.

Between the episodes of verbal jousting, which hopefully have kept you interested and entertained, we’ve communicated amicably about China and related topics, which is great. Two literary publications have refused to review my book, one citing arrogance, the other controversy and bigotry. It’s a sign of the times (you have total intellectual freedom to say anything you want, except things people don’t want to hear), so good on Lloyd for being so tolerant of someone like me, whose views on China have little overlap with his.

China is a complicated subject, and because debate about it is so divisive, it’s sometimes difficult for people with only a casual interest to sort fact from fiction. To come to any kind of understanding, you’ve got to spend a lot of time reading about China, and it helps enormously to understand Mandarin and travel or live there.

The West has some serious problems; it always has and it always will. Somber problems are normal for human societies; we’re a troubled species. In light of Western inadequacy and hypocrisy, it’s tempting to see China as a land of answers and alternatives. China can appear as the great Other: the feminine to the West’s masculine; grace to aggression; cultivation to calculation. But that’s a romanticized construct located in the recesses of the Western psyche, with little basis in reality.

That’s not to say China isn’t a noteworthy subject; it’s a fascinating one. Nevertheless, determined and altruistic cadres, heroic Communist leaders, an overriding system of guanxi, a citizenry instilled with the wisdom and morality of Confucianism, a harmonious society, a glorious past, and a mission to help neighboring states, are concepts that exist largely in people’s imaginations. They are myths, both Chinese and Western, that mainly block the view.

People like myths; they’re easy to latch on to; easy to remember; they cover up what isn’t flattering; they justify, and can make you feel good. But they won’t bring anyone closer to understanding what China is, how it got that way, and where it might be headed. To do that, one needs to research, observe, and apply critical thinking. Counter evidence cannot be denied, dubious sources should be treated as such, and a sense of fairness must always be employed. Once you’ve got a working theory about China, its nature, and so on, you must test that hypothesis constantly; that’s how you’ll discover the wonderful and terrible truth.

Again, I’d like to thank Tom and Lloyd for setting this debate up. It was good for me to defend and reflect on my ideas, and China is such an important topic; debate about it is crucial.

Thank you very much.

Troy Parfitt

Closing Statement [Lofthouse]:

In the prologue of Lin Yutang’s My Country and My People, the author says few in the West understand the Chinese and their culture. He writes, “It is difficult to deny the Old China Hand (Note—foreigners that lived or are still living in China) the right to write books and articles about China…”

Lin Yutang says that only one in ten thousand of these “Old China Hands” understands China, while the other 9,999 results in a “constant, unintelligent elaboration of the Chinaman”. He mentions Sir Robert Hart and Bertrand Russell as examples of the few that understand China.

At the urging of Pearl S. Buck, “My Country and My People” was written and then published in 1935 and what Lin Yutang wrote then is still relevant today.

Pearl S. Buck writes in the book’s Introduction that when China was “not able to meet the dangerous and aggressive modernity of the West… They forced out of existence the old dynastic rule, they changed with incredible speed the system of education, and with indefatigable zeal they planned and set up a scheme of modern government”.

This metamorphosis of China that we have witnessed in the last few decades has almost eradicated severe poverty from more than 70% in 1949 to 2.5% of the population today in addition to the growth of a modern, Western style urban consumer middle class that is still a work in progress. This transformation took a literacy rate of 20% in 1976 and increased it to more than 90% today.

In 1949, we witnessed an element of that transformation as Mao declared war on Confucianism and then again as the age of Mao gave way to Deng Xiaoping’s “Getting Rich is Glorious” era, which turned China into the world’s factory floor. Then in 1982, China wrote a new constitution and started a process to reinvent its legal system to be more Western in its structure and laws.

I thank Mr. Troy Parfitt for his participating in this debate. However, he is not a Sir Robert Hart or Bertrand Russell.

In Part 1, he claimed that “face” was a license to behave however one pleases, which is not the case.

He then inferred that because Jonathan Spence never mentions Mao’s war on Confucianism in his biography of Mao that it never happened.

Yet, Henry Kissinger in On China made it clear that Mao was passionately and publicly anti-Confucian. Zhou Enlai even told Kissinger that Confucianism was a doctrine of class oppression.

Parfitt’s “gossip” includes his opinion of “Confucianism”, “face”, “Guanxi”, the “Mandate of Heaven”, corruption in China, and Mao being a monster that deliberately caused millions of deaths from a famine, which took place during the Great Leap Forward in a few of China’s provinces.

As Lin Yutang says, “It is difficult to deny the “Old China Hand” the right to write books and articles about China… Nevertheless, such books and articles must necessarily remain on the level of the gossip along the world’s longest bar.”

Return to the Discussion with Troy Parfitt – Part 11, author of “Why China Will Never Rule the World – Travels in the Two Chinas“, or start with Part 1.

See Discovering Intellectual Dishonesty – Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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