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Update: Part II is published here and part III is here.

I was listening to the NPR news in the morning last week as I drove to work, and heard the promotion of a book by Ping Fu titled "Bend, Not Break: A Life in Two Worlds." It was an amazing story of someone who suffered through the Cultural Revolution in China, then succeeded in getting herself an education and made a fortune in the US. Truly amazing.

I was simply amazed when I heard the story. When I got home in the evening, I searched for more details about the story, wanting to know more because this story was simply too good. As I learned more details, some minor inconsistencies began to creep up. I explained them away by convincing myself that either the author remembered wrong, or the reporters who reported the story got the details wrong.

But as I found out about more and more details, the story made less and less sense. Finally, I saw the criticism by the Chinese freelance writer Fang Zhouzi (who just recieved the combined Nature and Sense About Science inaugural John Maddox Prize for standing up for science). His analysis convinced me that the whole story was made up.

I was a young child at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution. My home and those of my close relatives were all ransacked by the Red Guards. They took away almost everything from us. For a brief period afterwards, my parents were away from home and I was taken care of by one of my cousins who was the middle school age. When she walked me to the kindergarden before going to school herself, the other kids in the neighborhood would spit on her. This period was so brief that I have no memory of it. My parents came back very soon and we had a basically "normal" life, considering the circumstances.

The reason I told my own experience during the Cultural Revolution is to provide the background for my criticism of Fu's book. I did not read her book itself, but read the story told in the book from the Chinese version of the Forbes article and other reports on the book, including the NPR story.

The first incredible detail in the book is the claim that Fu was taken to the labor camp at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution while she was eight years old. She stayed at the labor camp for ten years. She also said that she had to take care of her four year old sister. This means that the labor camp had children as young as four years old. Of all the people who went through the labor camps before, during, and after the Cultural Revolution, there had not been a single person who reported seeing young children in a labor camp.

A photography of her from that period provided by herself in fact contradicts her story. The photo shows her with a group of children posing in front of a flag. The Chinese characters on the flag read "Red Guard Brigade". All of the children in the photo wore armbands indicating that they were members of the Red Guard. I remember these armbands because many children were not allowed to wear them due to their "bad" family background. The photo shows that they were in a park. In fact, this was a park in the city of Nanjing. This was probably a photo taken when this group of Red Guard toured the park, perhaps on a weekend trip. It is clear that instead of being sent to a labor camp, Ms Fu was a member of the Red Guard herself.

The second incredible detail was how she got into college. She said that she entered Suzhou University in 1977. This was incredible in two ways. First, Suzhou University did not even exist until 1982. Although it was first built in 1900, it was split into several colleges in 1952 after communists took over China. The main part of it became Jiangsu Teacher's College. In 1982 it was merged with some other colleges to form Suzhou University again. Let us be charitable here and assume that she entered Jiangsu Teacher's College in 1977. But then there is a bigger problem. In 1977 entrance into a college was a privilege reserved for the political elite. It required going through a political evaluation. People who had questionable political backgrounds were not allowed into college. If as she said that she spent ten years in a labor camp, that would definitely disqualify her from any college. Conversely, if she indeed entered college in 1977, it would mean that she was a member of the politically privileged during the Cultural Revolution. This would also be consistent with the possibility that she was a member of the Red Guard.

But let us be charitable again and assume that she remembered wrong again. She would actually take the first national college entrance exam after the Cultural Revolution in 1977, and entered college in 1978. But even then it would not be consistent with her story. There was still the problem of political evaluation which was still used in 1977 but dropped in the subsequent years. There was also a problem of how she was able to study for the exam. In 1977 because it was the first exam in more than ten years, there were many times more people who took the exam than what would be on average. The competition was fierce, and the admission percentage was extremely low (about 4.8%). It would be highly unlikely that someone without any formal education would have been able to pass the exam. I had several cousins who took this exam, and none of them passed.

The biggest question was how she came to the US. She claimed that she wrote an article about infanticide in China while she was in college. This article was said to be published on the People's Daily in 1981. Its publication led to an UN sanction against China's one-child policy. As a result, Fu was jailed for a few months, then was exiled to the US. This was just not something that could happen in China in the early 1980's. First of all, People's Daily would never publish such an article. Indeed, no one has been able to find such an article during the time she claimed.  Second, the UN never imposed any sanctions on China for its brutal birth control policies, as much as many people wished that it would. Third, exiling dissidents to the US was not a practice by the Chinese government in the early 1980's. A famous dissident of that period, Wei Jingsheng, was not exiled to the US until 1997, after spending 18 years in various Chinese prisons.

In the early 1980s, it was very hard for anyone in China to be able to get permission to leave China and study in the US. That Fu was able to do this would indicate again that she was from the privileged class, not persecuted as she claimed in her book.

Let me end by quoting a review by a reader Farside Z on Amazon:

There is a very logical explanation of the two extremely opposite reviews of this book. It's what your mother tells you - If something looks too good to be true, it ain't.

Taken at face value, the book is truly inspirational. The author's life experience is a triumph of human spirit in spite of overwhelming odds and adversities against her. It is simply out of this world.

The sad truth is - it is. The stories are more than perfect because the author is not inconvenienced by fact or historic accuracy. She made up most, if not all, her stories for sensationalism and personal gain. China was brutally dark and oppressive during the culture revolution, but what the author described plainly had no credibility with people who had lived through the period.

This is why people are speaking out and where the lowest ratings come from. Tragedy and suffering are not pretense for personal agenda, especially when they are false. Sympathy and admiration are to be earned, not manipulated.

People are rightfully outraged because the author's insincerity undermines the genuine catastrophe of the culture revolution. She takes advantage of people's trust and makes a mockery of their compassion.

By now, the author should have realized her stories have backfired. It's time to face your conscience and apologize to the people that are lied to.

Continued in Part II.

Originally posted to xgz on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 09:04 AM PST.

Also republished by Progressive Friends of the Library Newsletter and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Just saw this author ... (9+ / 0-)

    this morning on the Tavis Smiley show. I'm no expert on the Cultural Revolution, but there were details she provided that just didn't sit well with me. Two of those - the four year old sister in a labor camp, and the ease with which she entered college - are ones you touch on here. Thank you for this diary.

    •  Forbes is following up on her story (6+ / 0-)


      Her response so far is exposing more problems in her story. It looks very bad now.

      •  Actually, the flood of phony attacks (0+ / 0-)

        from Chinese "Info War" internet accounts is going quite far toward proving that she has told her story quite well and accurately.

        The Cultural Revolution killed millions. It tore apart families. It forced relocations on tens of millions more.

        Where is the lie?

        Murdering infant girls killed many, many millions. This remains among the worst mass murders of all time. And now we have a China that has tens of millions of extra boys and men who have no one but each other.

        Where is the lie ?

        Since her father was a professor, reinstated when the Cultural Revolution ended, it is not hard to put together that he could easily have requested special college admission for his daughter. Who you know... matters always.

        Using the modern name for the school simplifies matters for readers, who can be expected to use Google Map to see what it looks like.

        The complaints are quite stupid. Uniformly stupid. They spotlight the truths of this autobiography.

        Another bungled project from the "Info War" fools ??? Maybe they should emigrate and become Republicans !

        "Have you left no sense of decency, sir, at long last?" Army Attorney to Sen. McCarthy, 1954. "We have done nothing to be ashamed of. We have nothing to apologize for." NRA 12/14/2012.

        by bontemps2012 on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 06:00:11 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  All true-- but says nothing about the author (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          puzzled, xgz, Oh Mary Oh, Meteor Blades

          The Holocaust really happened and killed millions of people in an effort to wipe out the Jewish population of Europe. Nevertheless, there are many people who have lied about being in concentration camps and lied about suffering during the Second World War. It does not illegimitize the truth of the events that actually happened, but we still do need to out the fakers and liars, and that includes people claiming to be victims of the Cultural Revolution.

          •  You have a fact that contradicts (0+ / 0-)

            what she writes ???

            The 270 comments at Amazon include about a dozen ordinary comments. The rest of them are "liar" comments that fail to reflect reading the book.

            Ping Fu uses the current name for her university instead of the 1980s name. She got into university because... well, her dad was a professor there and her mother.

            The complaints are a hoot.

            There is one recent article by Fang Zhouzi attacking her that is cited over and over. They're allowed to read that one. Not the book.

            Apparently defending Red Guard participants is now a hot ticket in China.

            "Have you left no sense of decency, sir, at long last?" Army Attorney to Sen. McCarthy, 1954. "We have done nothing to be ashamed of. We have nothing to apologize for." NRA 12/14/2012.

            by bontemps2012 on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 09:04:23 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Is this how you view the whole episode? (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              You are conveniently ignoring the fact the Fu Ping was a Red Guard. Defending Red Guard is exactly what you are doing.

              She is a liar. By defending a liar and accusing others of being tools for the Chinese government, you have seriously damaged your own credibility.

              •  At age 12. (0+ / 0-)

                What would "Red Guard" have meant to a then-motherless 12-year old ? Maybe an extra ration of food once a week?

                The complaints are not based on fact.

                Try reading the book, then commenting on the facts.

                "Have you left no sense of decency, sir, at long last?" Army Attorney to Sen. McCarthy, 1954. "We have done nothing to be ashamed of. We have nothing to apologize for." NRA 12/14/2012.

                by bontemps2012 on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 11:17:03 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Of course I know what "Red Guard" meant (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  They were the ones who took everything from my home. They were the ones who spit on my sister (my cousin). We never got the justice after the Cultural Revolution ended. The leaders of the Red Guard became some officials in the local government. When my family asked for the return of our family properties, we received a letter of apology and 400 RMB. They said that they could not find any of the properties taken away from us.

                  The food ration was the same for everyone. There was no special treatment for people who joined the Red Guard. The only way that they could have gotten anything extra was to take them from the people they persecute!

                  She was only as motherless as I was - for about three months at most. It happened to everyone.

                  It angers me that you are defending the people who oppressed me, my family and many others. And these same people are now trying to take advantage of our sufferings for their own gains. You bastard! Shame on you!

                  •  So why are the 8-cent internet postings (0+ / 0-)

                    showing up defending the Red Guards ???

                    CPC has money, obviously.

                    Spending $20, 30$ to shill-paper Amazon is foolish, but they're doing it.

                    If you want to be effective, start by reading the book. If it's 8-cent shilling, don't bother.

                    "Have you left no sense of decency, sir, at long last?" Army Attorney to Sen. McCarthy, 1954. "We have done nothing to be ashamed of. We have nothing to apologize for." NRA 12/14/2012.

                    by bontemps2012 on Sat Feb 02, 2013 at 04:49:14 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Your are as despicable as the liar herself (0+ / 0-)

                      You have no clue about Chinese history, and its people. Shame on you.

                      I and some other fellow Chinese American kossacks are working to promote democracy in China on Chinese blogs. This kind of lying, and its support by ignorant Americans can seriously hurt our cause. That's why we are pushing back. You are helping the bad guys!

                    •  How can you be so blind (0+ / 0-)

                      You are the one defending the red guards. How can you not see it?

                    •  OMG. (0+ / 0-)

                      16-cents !!

                      (And it beggars credulity that anyone would think that the little kids drawn into the local Red Guard units were responsible for the crimes. These were not African child-soldiers.)

                      "Have you left no sense of decency, sir, at long last?" Army Attorney to Sen. McCarthy, 1954. "We have done nothing to be ashamed of. We have nothing to apologize for." NRA 12/14/2012.

                      by bontemps2012 on Sat Feb 02, 2013 at 06:25:37 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                  •  Everybody knows about "Red Guard" (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:

                    The problem with "Red Guards" was you never knew when they would come and you only had so many places to hide your valuables. I remember one day i went to play with my friends. When I came home, the "Red Guards" were there,ready to leave. They had put a cordon made of white paper on our door so we were not allowed inside the house. My grandmother was begging them to let her in because the Red Guards rushed her out of the house. She did not even have time to turn off the stove.
                    Quite painful memories...

            •  Your posts here have made me realize (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              that it is necessary to spread the words far and wide. I will continue to write new diaries exposing her lies until everyone recognizes her as the liar she is.

              •  You have no idea (0+ / 0-)

                what comes through with your writings.

                Do you know what a "fact" is ?

                We use a type of logic called inductive logic. It offers a broadly based tool set for acquiring evidence and then evaluating it.

                All of science falls under it's wings.

                "Have you left no sense of decency, sir, at long last?" Army Attorney to Sen. McCarthy, 1954. "We have done nothing to be ashamed of. We have nothing to apologize for." NRA 12/14/2012.

                by bontemps2012 on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 11:19:11 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

        •  Hide rated because of conspiracy theory (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          No allegations of conspiracy theory allowed in this diary. Thank you.

          The "attacks" are not phony. I am outraged by the lies of this woman.

        •  So many people suffered in the Culture Revolution, (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          but not Ms.Fu.  Her life at that time seemed not bad as she had the chances to join the Red Guard, worked as a worker and allowed to go to college which so many others could not have. She is just making up stories and taking advantage of people's compassion.

          I have a friend who once said a bad word about Mao, at that time he was just a teenager. He then was put under supervised force labor in his village for a year.  He was also not allowed to attend the college entrance exam in 1977.

  •  Well it was NPR (4+ / 0-)

    and to tell you the truth often major media gets some things very wrong. If you tell people what they want to hear, often they will believe you.

    Because you have an insider's view of the subject she's talking about the inconsistencies are plainly obvious, to the book reviewers and readers not so much so. You can find similar inconsistencies on many subjects as long as you are familiar with the material.

    The other day there was a post here about being stationed on an airbase in Alaska with a type of aircraft that didn't even exist until years later. With a skeptical view the rest of the story fell to pieces.

    I posted a diary about a famous author who made up huge pieces of his famous story about going to the arctic and studying wolves. People who had believed it didn't want to make the accommodation in their minds to the fact that they'd been duped. Some love to be lied to.

    How do they say it?

    How big is your personal carbon footprint?

    by ban nock on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 04:48:40 PM PST

  •  How come she can get attention from NPR and Forbes (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    xgz, Regina in a Sears Kit House

    at the first place?

    A democratic society needs truth not lies. Pushing China to democracy does not need help from any liars. On the contrary, Fu Ping's lies are very bad for chinese democratic movement.

  •  I hope millions of people read the book (0+ / 0-)

    and that every one of them go to Amazon and read the damn "Info War" complaints.

    -- Bend, Don't Break -- at Amazon with amazing complaint comments

    The comments are almost as good as the book.

    This is shill work at its worst. A typical excerpt:

    February 1981 was the first semester of her junior year. So by then she had already spent 2 years (yes, in INC's report, she used 2 years to do that) to investigate infanticides due to a , finished her senior year graduation thesis on that,...., and got arrested? How ridiculous this could be? Who to blame for this inconsistency with her book and the ridiculousness of the story?
    None of that adds up. Researching the Cultural Revolution had been an on-going project over years. Finding the infanticide mass murder was just part of what had been a much broader effort.

    The comment claims specifically and with full authoritarian certainty that the "policy... started 5 months ago."

    Really ??????

    That is an example of a construct lie.

    No one could even possibly know when killing baby girls got rolling. No records were kept. Every murder was hushed up.

    All we know is that Red Guard brutality ended up being transferred to newborn female children by the many millions.

    Another one:

    In traditional Confucius Chinese culture, children were considered as property of their parents. Parents had absolute rights to their children, including the rights to abuse or sell their kids. Since Mao's communists took over the power of China, parents can't sell their kids anymore, but all other rights were respected, including the rights of adopted parents (if the adoptions were legal and paper work complete). Culture Revolution didn't change any of that.
    Cultural Revolution didn't change a thing.

    That is such a Big Lie that it is beyond the normal parameters of what we call a lie. There is no effort to achieve believability.

    Red Guard cadres routinely kidnapped children. Those crimes have been recorded sufficently to conclude that they occurred millions and millions of times.

    Of course any number of the Red Guard's monsters went on to political careers in modern China. Crimes are no impediment to success.

    "Have you left no sense of decency, sir, at long last?" Army Attorney to Sen. McCarthy, 1954. "We have done nothing to be ashamed of. We have nothing to apologize for." NRA 12/14/2012.

    by bontemps2012 on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 06:19:53 AM PST

    •  You are terribly brain washed (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Ping Fu was a Red Guard herself. Did you even read my diary?

      Do you also consider me as one of those waging the "info war"? Go back and read my past diaries if you have any doubt.

    •  Hide rated because of conspiracy theory (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I will not allow allegations of conspiracy theory in my diary.

      Take it somewhere else. Thank you.

    •  I took off the hide rates because I just learned (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      the rule that I'm not supposed to hide rate in my own diaries.

      But still, conspiracy theory is a cheap way to attack people. I take it as an insult.

      Your allegations are all baseless. Your refutations are not reasonable. For example, the gap from 1981 to 1984 when she arrived in the US, she attended graduate school in Nanjing University, majoring in comparative literature. She had never investigated infanticide in China, and never wrote an article or thesis on it.

      Your other points are equally baseless. When I have time I will write another diary to address them.

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