Great Leap

Interview with Jin Jingzhi
Chinese Citizen, Shanghai

Jin Jingzhi Q: What was life like before 1949?

Jingzhi: At the time, I was not really sociable. Later, I went to learn how to dance, and went out with my husband to social occasions. He enjoyed playing Ma-jiang, and I thought it was better than dancing. Dancing could always cause other problems. For Ma-jiang sessions, I could invite people to play at our home and cook some delicious dishes for them. What I feared most was my husband having affairs with other women outside. In the old society, before '49, it was not uncommon for a husband to have several wives. At the time, a husband with several wives was a glorious thing. I thought I should prevent him from having extra-marital affairs. Before the Liberation we had many social engagements, but my husband... didn't have several wives or concubines.

My husband had always paid great attention to his clothes when going out. I took a lot of trouble preparing shirts and ties for him everyday. I would get everything ready for him so he didn't have to bother himself. When he returned home in the evening, I made him really comfortable, and made sure everything was in place. I was very happy.

Q: Why didn't you trust the Communists?

Jingzhi: I was very worried at the time. There were rumors that the Communists shared property as well as wives. I thought that the Communist Party spoke on behalf of working class people, but I didn't know how well people like us would be treated. So, after the Liberation, I went to take part in a public meeting presided by the household committee. I wanted to know how well the Party would treat us. After the residents' meeting we had a better understanding about Party policies. The party policy regarding national financiers and businessmen was through peaceful reform and redemption (buy-out). Afterwards, our worries gradually disappeared. Later, I began to work for the household committee and came to recognize its importance.

Q: How was your husband's business affected by the Liberation?

Jingzhi: After liberation, the Communists didn't like businesses like my husband's, so he was in trouble. Then we studied the Party's policies, and decided that joint ownership with the state was the only solution.... After it went into effect, the state would look after us.

Q: Did you think about leaving China?

Jingzhi: We didn't think of leaving China before the arrival of the Communists as we didn't have any overseas relations. We also had five children, and it would be difficult to live overseas without any family relations there. We also thought that if other people could survive, we could too.

Q: What kinds of new responsibilities were you given in the People's Congress?

Jingzhi: I felt that it was a great honor for someone like me, a housewife, to attend the People's Congress, and to participate in decision-making for national affairs...

During the time of the second People's Congress, the masses again elected me as the representative. I was a non-voting representative for the first Congress. In the past I hadn't given my full attention to national affairs, but now, on behalf of the people, I was to take part in the administration of national affairs. I felt a strong sense of responsibility upon my shoulders.

Q: Did you find life difficult at this time?

Jingzhi: There was a difficult period at the time. The company didn't even have money to pay the staff salaries. So, the management on the private side had to secure loans to pay salaries. The situation gradually improved.

Q: How did your life change?

Jingzhi: Although our family had many kids, in general, our standard of living was better than that of the working class people. But we never squandered money. Because we had many children, we had to plan everything to keep our life going. Whatever political campaigns came, such as the "three-anti and five-anti" campaign, I always comforted my husband. I thought that I should always safeguard my husband. Without him, I would lose my financial means. So I would always comfort him, telling him not to worry about anything. I told him, now even a street vendor selling spring onions and ginger can make a profit... I told him that if these ginger vendors could earn a living and support a family, our situation was still better off than theirs. I would always advise my husband not to worry. I told him I would sort out anything that should happen. It solved his worries.

Q: How were you affected by the Cultural Revolution and the Red Guards?

Jingzhi: During the Cultural Revolution, my family wasn't what was called a "10,000-yuan family" (e.g., a very rich family). But the people who came to search our house didn't believe our claim. They said, "Your family lives in such a good house, and has a highly-placed job. How could you not have money?" They searched our house for ten days. The "task team" just refused to leave the house, and carried on with their searching. They also searched our relatives' houses. But they didn't find any money.

Q: How were the house searches carried out?

Jingzhi: When the task team suspected something was hidden inside the ceiling, they simply opened the ceiling; when they suspected something was hidden underneath the ground, they dug into the ground. All the trees in my garden were uprooted. But they found nothing, and they finally withdrew.

While the search team remained in our house, I was confined to one room, and my husband was confined in another room. They didn't allow us to have any contact. The search team bombarded us with questions everyday, and then carried on with their searching.

Q: What other effects did the Cultural Revolution have on your husband?

Jingzhi: At the time, they wanted to denounce my husband as an anti-revolutionary. I told him not to listen to the rumors. We had even sent our children to be educated by the Party so why should people think we were against the party? I had faith that we had done nothing wrong. We didn't understand what was going on during the campaign. In the beginning, the party treated us relatively well. It wasn't until later that we began to realize why things had changed.

Q: Could you describe what happened after your husband's death?

Jingzhi: My husband died in December 1982. Two months after his death, someone from the Policy Implementation Office of the Shanghai Municipal Government came to visit me again. [Translator's note: the Policy Implementation Office was in charge of the rehabilitation scheme that was established after the Cultural Revolution.] He told me that the government was going to fully rehabilitate my husband. He said that it was wrong to accuse my husband of slandering the "three red flags," and what my husband did at the time, by exposing his thoughts, was actually a sign of personal progress. I told him that it was too late and my husband had died two months earlier. But, relating to my husband's case, the government has tried to seek the truth from facts.

Q: What was your husband's prison experience like?

Jingzhi: I asked the person in charge of my husband's case if could I visit him. He said that I could go. I almost couldn't recognize my husband. He was locked up in a small room, about the size of two single beds. A straw mat was laid on the floor. He looked very pale from the lack of exposure to sun. He was confined to the room... The rebel member told me that my husband had serious problems to confess, and he would be subjected to an isolated investigation. They also asked me for my opinion. I said that I had nothing particular to say, and it would be a good thing if the problem regarding my husband could be cleared up.

Q: Were you afraid your husband would be harmed in prison?

Jingzhi: I told them to look after my husband, and not to let him commit suicide. In the past, during the "four clear-up" campaign, he once thought about committing suicide. After his release, my husband told me that there were two big holes on his door. One hole was for food; the other was for surveillance to prevent him from committing suicide.

Q: What was it like when your husband was released from prison?

Jingzhi: I was surprised when I saw him. I told him that the rebels had tried very hard to help him. Now, more than half a year had passed and he still hadn't confessed his problems. He answered that he had no problems, so he didn't know what to say. My husband was released after a year, but the case was still unsettled.

Rebels asked me to pick him up... then they asked my husband to continue his soul-searching when he went back home. The rebels asked me to pick him up when he was released because they feared he would commit suicide.

My husband said to me after his release, "Having read Chairman Mao's writings, I always find that they are not in accordance with the actual situation. Why?" My husband couldn't figure out... I asked him whether he thought about committing suicide during the imprisonment, as he did during the time of the "four clear-up" campaign. But he said he didn't want to die. He said that he thought the Communists were different. Otherwise, the Communists would be no different from the Nationalists... He studied Mao's works. He wanted to see how China would change under Communism. So, he didn't want to die.

Q: Do you think you were you treated as scapegoats?

Jingzhi: ....I asked myself if I had done anything wrong or shameful to the Party or the people, and the answer was no. At that time, at the beginning of whatever political campaign occurred, they usually targeted financial or business communities or capitalists... We always became the targets because we were at the bottom of the political society. We were the living targets. Every campaign would eventually target us. Why? It was mainly because of Mao's "whatever" theory: political reform should be handed down from one generation to other. During the Cultural Revolution, while many landlords or rich peasants were already dead, their sons and daughters, regardless of their good working records, were summoned back to villages for receiving denunciation on behalf of their ancestors. They had a bad family background. We were only in our 40s, but even people in their 70s and 80s . . .

Q: Was your house ransacked during the Cultural Revolution?

Jingzhi: When the Cultural Revolution started, I thought that this time we wouldn't be affected because I thought my husband was cleared in the "four clear-up" campaign. At the beginning... the rebels came to my house to have a look. They said to me, "Life is not easy for you. You have already sent two children away to Xingjiang. . ." They said that they came here for the "anti-four old" campaign. . . At the time, I was also on the household committee. I saw things found in some households, such as hand guns or pictures of Chiang Kai-chek. I thought there was something wrong with these families. Why on earth would they want to hide those things? Our family was also searched. . . Later, I realized that families like mine were at the bottom of society, and were targets of the class struggle. Whenever political campaigns came, they would always land above our heads.

Q: How did the Communist Party affect your self-image?

Jingzhi: I considered myself an ordinary housewife, but believed that the Communist Party had fostered my growth. Chairman Mao said, "We must unite any possible social forces that can unite." I thought I was once a negative social element and apart from leading a parasitic life, I was useless. But the Party had even cultivated a person like me, and invited me to take part in social work. Even though I was politically progressive, I couldn't understand what was behind the Cultural Revolution.

. . . I think that perhaps I wanted to repay what I owed the Party. I was a housewife from a capitalist family. Without the cultivation of the Party at all levels, I would have remained a housewife. . . Although I haven't taken a formal job, I now have a strong foothold in the society, working for the people. I feel my work is worthwhile.

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