China defends Long March

By Deng Xiaoci Source:Global Times Published: 2016/9/26 23:58:40

Challenging interpretations seen as attacking Mao

A top military publication has defended the official accounts of Communist Party of China (CPC) history as the country commemorates the 80th anniversary of the Long March, a legendary expedition by the Red Army that ended in October 1935.

The Chinese military's official newspaper, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Daily, last week strongly refuted a range of challenging interpretations on the Long March, including ones that dispute Mao Zedong's leadership at the Zunyi Conference and during the Long March and rumors that claimed Chiang Kai-shek had "gone easy" on the Red Army. The newspaper called such interpretations "historical nihilism."

According to, the official news website of the Party, it was at the Zunyi Conference, which took place in January 1935 in Zunyi, Southwest China's Guizhou Province, that Mao established his leadership of the Party and of the Red Army.

"Some people have been maliciously tailoring historical facts or fabricating lies to distort the Long March, to smear the reputation of the Red Army and to vilify our leader," the PLA Daily said. 

"It's safe to say that the glorious history of the Long March and the heroes in Party history are still highly regarded by the overwhelming majority of the people, although there is a minority trying to stir up public opinion with distorted and baseless stories," Zhang Dongming, a research fellow at the Party History Research Center of the CPC Central Committee, told the Global Times.

Zhang said some of the believers of the so-called historical nihilism use the discussions of Party history to question the leadership of the CPC.

Others, he said, are those who are not familiar with history and are easily swayed by others and those who worship everything from overseas and seek attention by making bold statements.

However, the lack of proper research, education and publicity on the history also contributed to the birth of historical nihilism, said Zhang Xixian, a professor at the Party School of the Central Committee of the CPC.

"Questioning the Long March, especially the Zunyi Conference, is essentially attacking the legitimacy of Mao's leadership, who was chosen by those at the conference," Zhang told the Global Times.

Standing up for facts

The Long March is not the only historical event that China is being forced to defend.

In June, a court in Beijing ordered Hong Zhenkuai, the former chief editor of Yanhuangchunqiu magazine, to apologize for challenging an official account of the "Five Warriors of Mount Langyashan," a story about five soldiers who allegedly jumped off a cliff rather than surrender to Japanese troops during World War II.

Likewise, the official account of another wartime hero, Qiu Shaoyun, a soldier who chose to burn to death rather than betraying his fellow soldiers' positions in a Korean War (1950-53) battle, was mocked by a popular blogger, who said satirically on Sina Weibo that "consumers refused to pay for [Qiu's meat] as it was only roasted on one side." The blogger was required by a Beijing court to apologize.

"It was said in 1935 that the Long March is an unprecedented epic feat in human history. But it's a shame that no Party member could illustrate it well with written words," Zhang said, adding that so far the two most influential books on this period in the international community are respectively written by Edgar Snow and Harrison Salisbury, who were both US journalists.

Liu Tong, a professor with the Department of History at Shanghai Jiaotong University, who in September recently republished Beishang, a book dedicated to research on the history of the Long March, pointed out that the current skeptics on the Long March could mainly be traced back to Mao: The Unknown Story, a book written by Jung Chang.

Liu told the Global Times that the book seems to include abundant sources but "in fact is a work of fabricated lies."

"Drawing lessons from the collapse of the Soviet Union, destroying history is the first step to destroying a party, as it serves to shake people's beliefs," Liu said.

"Times have changed, the situation has changed, but the ideals and causes that we communists have been fighting for have not changed," said Chinese President Xi Jinping during a visit to an exhibition on Friday marking the 80th anniversary of the end of the Long March, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

The president called for remembrance of the Red Army's achievements and carrying forward the Long March spirit, in education, in patriotism and in revolutionary ideals.

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