Jingbei Hu: A Chinese Scholar Reckons With His Past





January 27, 1971: "If we dedicate all our lives to the socialist revolution, letting the Communist Party and the People decide how we can make the most of our time, our futures are sure to be affluent. Thinking of this, how can I possibly feel blue?"

Jingbei Hu winces now when he reads that, recognizing how that "socialist revolution" led to the murder of countless scholars and the shuttering of many schools. Still, he is determined to share the words he wrote in his diary with anyone willing to read them. Now an economics professor at Tongji University here, his goal is to show how the Communist government bent his will during the Cultural Revolution, more than 35 years ago.

"If we don't work on this problem, on understanding how this brainwashing occurred, we will have another Cultural Revolution," Mr. Hu says while eating dinner in a student restaurant at Tongji. He is a wiry man who finishes every scrap of the oversized portions then eats the leftover pizza on others' plates.

Through a fellowship, Mr. Hu spent January and February at Stanford University's Hoover Institution doing research for a Chinese-language book that will examine the impact of Communist ideology on Chinese children. In the long term, he hopes, his research will help pave the way for greater tolerance and freedom in China.

But in the meantime, Mr. Hu has put online the diaries he kept as a teenager during the Cultural Revolution — diaries that he now compares to those kept by Hitler Youth members in Nazi Germany. And he is on a personal mission to understand how, as a young man of 18, he was so absolutely convinced that Mao Zedong was a hero worth putting all his faith into....



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