Bend not Break: Truth or Fiction?
A Standard Atrocity story?
It appears that this ‘autobiography’ may be a complete fabrication.
This review is from: Bend, Not Break: A Life in Two Worlds (Hardcover):
As a Chinese, I lived through that period of time in China. I have similar family and educational background as hers and suffered during Culture Revolution as a child. I think her experiences in China mostly, if not all, are fabricated, imagined, overly exaggerated or deliberately missing leading. Too many things in her stories just don’t add up. I am amazed by her audacity of telling so many blatant lies in a well publicized book.
Here are some of the social and culture background of that period of time in China:
1. 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.
During Culture Revolution, many government officials, college teachers and professors, and intellectuals were persecuted or locked up. My parents were among those people just like Ping Fu’s parents(if her claims are true). There were a period of time that both of my parents were locked up. My parents arranged me to be taken care by relatives, family friend or to live in a boarding child care center. Many of my relatives’ children and other people in similar situation all had similar experiences as me. I had never heard of any kids being taken away by authorities, it is just against way of thinking. No one, including government could take people’s children away. There isn’t such agency to do that kind of job and no facility for that kind of children. That would cost money too and China was very poor at that time, children were burdens.
Red Guard were “revolutionists”, they were busy criticizing and persecuting people like my parents (or Ping’s parents), or fighting each other. They didn’t care about little kids, and didn’t interested in taking care of children. Kids like us were left alone, although often were discriminated in schools and in society in general. After Culture Revolution ended, Many people in China wrote about their horrible experiences during that time. All of those stories regarding kids that I’ve read of were similar to mine, or a little worse, I had never heard of or read about any camp like what Ping wrote in her book, nothing close to what she told. Ping’s story as a child just sounds impossible and did not add up with many things in that time.
2. The culture on sex in China have been completely different from the West. China was extremely conservative on sex before 80’s. Young people were very ignorant about sex and usually didn’t have any sexual experiences before they met the person they would marry. People don’t even talk or joke about sex. Rape committed by young men was rare at that time, especially in cities, and could be a very serious crime decades ago. Raping or molestation of little children by young people was even rarer. Gang rape was unheard of. In my whole 20+ year living in China, the only gang rape I had heard of were committed by foreigners in 80’s.
Red Guard were “revolutionists”, not street thugs or rapists, they might beat or persecute people, but not rape. Ping’s claim that she was gang raped by Red Guard at age 10 because she saved her little sister against their will is just so unimaginable, so against China’s sexual culture and thinking, especially against Red Guards’ way of thinking and behaving.
3. The schools were re-open in 1968 in most of the places, and were free, even for kids whose parents being persecuted like me. Najing is one of the biggest city in China. I just couldn’t imagine the reason that Ping could not go to school. Besides, in 70’s, most of high school graduates had to go to poor and rural countryside, there were very limited job for them in the cities. Factory jobs were considered very good jobs and extremely hard to get in 70’s. Many people had to bribe or use their connection to land their kids a factory job. And factory don’t accept child as employee or labor unless they finished their schooling. Schools may organize kids to work in factories for several weeks to get experiences though. I did that in middle school.
So Ping’s story of working in the factory as a child and not be able to go to school in one of the biggest and most developed city in China is just not impossible to be true.
4. China’s college didn’t admit any high school graduates from 1966 to 1976. The first college entrance exam after Culture Revolution was held in 1977. Any person who graduated high school between 1966 and 1976 could take the exam. The competition for limited college seats was fierce. In early 80’s, when only currently year high school graduates could take the college entrance exam, only 4% could get into college. So you can imagine how competitive to get into college in year 77. The study materials and books were very limited at that time. Unparented and unschooled Ping Fu could get into college in 1977, she must be a supper human.
5. All college students in China had to take 4 years of English classes. The supper human Ping Fu could only speak three phrases of English when she came to the US, one year after graduating from college: thank you, hello, and help. Give me a break.
6. China’s One Child policy officially started in later year of 1980. At that year, Ping should be a college junior. For a person grew up in city to think of writing her college senior year graduation thesis about killing of baby girls in rural countryside because of a newly started government policy, it is just sounds impossible for me. China’s one child policy and related abortion issue wasn’t caught international attention until 90’s. So, even if Ping Fu wrote something about that, I don’t think that government cared. Beside, after Cultural Revolution, Chinese government don’t arrest people for political reason anymore, except few rare cases. In early 80’s, there were several students at my college did something politically more influential and considered much more unacceptable to the government than Ping’s paper, they got some trouble but not arrested or detained.
In 80’s, China was still very poor. Ultrasound was rare and expensive medical equipment. Ultrasound exam wasn’t a routine exam for pregnant women even in the best hospitals in the biggest city like Shanghai or Beijing. People also didn’t have the knowledge that ultrasound exam can tell the gender of the fetus. I don’t know how Ping Fu could find that there were prevalent practice of forced abortions of young girl fetuses in poor rural China between 1980-1981, .
Besides, US and China were still in honey moon in early 80’s. China wasn’t demonized and criticized so much by the West like nowadays. Two countries were kind of allies against then Soviet Union. China didn’t started the practice of deporting dissidents to US until 90’s. And each time before the deporting, the two government had to negotiate extensively. US don’t accept nobody, they only accept those famous dissents. Ping Fu was nobody and unheard of.
She graduated from college in Spring of 1982, came to the US in 1983(some media says in 1982). In this short one year or even less, her college graduation paper reached media, gained domestic and international media attention(I was in China at that time, never heard of that story), she was detained by Chinese government and then deported to the US. None of the US and Chinese government was that efficient. Chinese media wasn’t that free to dig and report that kind of news at early 80’s. This is just impossible.
So this whole episode of imprisonment because of a paper and deportation to the US is just contradict with everything in that period of time.
7，”Child soldier”. I don’t know what this “Child soldier” she was. In China, there was no “Child soldier”. During Cultural Revolution, military soldiers and personnels had the highest social status and relatively better paid. It was hard for even high school graduates to join the army. The only “Child soldiers” that I knew of were kids with special talents, such as singing, dancing, playing music instruments, or acting. They were recruited by entertainment units of the military. They would study, be trained and taken care of in those military entertainment units. Those were considered extremely lucky kids and envied by every body.
Common sense told me that impossible thing may happen to a person once or twice, but not many times. In her case, there are too many uncommon impossible events happened to her in a too short period of time. Her experiences in China are extraordinary and unimaginable not only for Americans, but also for Chinese who lived through that period of time.
It is too bad that innocent American people have to learn about China, Cultural Revolution and Chinese people through this kind of books.