By Nancy Ng
The purpose of this essay is to examine Chapter 4, Social Causes of the Chinese Revolution in Lucien Bianco’s Origins of the Chinese Revolution (1971) and Chapters 3 and 4 of Jung Chang (1992) Wild Swan by highlighting some of the differences and similarities between them. Even though Bianco’s chapter is a well-researched scholarly paper, and Chang’s memoir of the social malaise in China is unmistakably captivating and emotionally provoking, these two accounts share many common incidents to complement each other and may vary in the way of their presentation only.
Both the accounts focus on the social causes of the Chinese Revolution, which in Bianco’s term – the misery of the peasants was out of poverty and brutalization (Bianco, p.88). The difference is Bianco’s historic account sees the social causes of the Chinese Revolution from a bird eye’s view which takes into account of the scarcity of arable land; over populated urban areas; economic disasters after years of wars (civil and foreign invasion); natural disasters and limited natural resources. Chang instead seems to zoom into a specified area having a focus view of Manchukuo where her parents and grandparents grew up, giving a detailed account of a personal experience of what happened to the rich and the poor before and beginning of revolution. They have similar intention, but a different approach towards describing the social misery at that time. Perhaps, it will be best to say they complement each other, if without Bianco’s accurate research Chang’s account maybe just another fictional novel. The same with Bianco’s historic account may be just another impersonal account without Chang’s memoir to validate it.
What role did the upper class play in rural economic life in the twentieth century (Bianco, p.96)? Bianco implies that from a small segment of the bourgeoisie…they did play a crucial role throughout the Chinese revolution (Bianco, p.86). Who is better than Chang whose family is the intelligentsia to explain the woes of the elite and intelligent? Chang’s account, which seem to expand on Bianco’s account of the intelligentsia in the form of her mother who was well educated of the elite when faced with arranged marriage (Chang, pp.108-102) did not yield to family pressure, but chose to leave the family. During this time the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) promised a change that she was very much attracted to. She was progressively disappointed by the KMT who viewed them as wanguo-nu, (slaves who have no country of their own) (Chang, p. 108) who were without a country and under so many brutal masters such as the Japanese, Russian and KMT (Kuomintang) who abused their power without changing the world for the better. She wants to see change. After seeing how corrupted the KMT officers who eat of the land (Chang, 116). Many of those around her seem to be working for the KMT intelligentsia at one time but had changed side. When one by one of her acquaintances and close friends began to become communist, she decided to follow suit.
What did the peasant masses contribute to the Chinese Revolution (Bianco, p.107)? He attributes to the misery faced by the peasants in their land shrinkage through the population explosion, the prescientific farming method, village class structure (Bianco, p.93-94) and also increase in land rent and taxes (Bianco, p. 99) that clearly leave the peasant without much choice but to follow anyone who can get them out of this mess. Clearly, Chang describes in her book that her parent’s involvement in witnessing what happened to the poor peasants who were mistreated, misrepresented, suffering brutality of all kind just like slaves who have no a country of your own – ruled by different masters (Chang, pp.101-125) needed the CCP to lead and to direct them in a Chinese revolution. To Chang, it is not only a problem of poor peasant masses it was also a problem of the elite and intelligent, too.