Letters from China
April. 12, 1963
As I return to Peking, three items hold the news: 1) Letters between Peking and Moscow have brought a "CEASE-FIRE" IN POLEMICS, pending plans for bilateral talks.
2) China's decision to RELEASE ALL CAPTURED INDIAN MILITARY, makes nonsense of Nehru's constant anti-China clamor.
3) For the first time in five years the WHEAT is GREEN in Honan!
I leave the Communist Debate for another letter and take up the Indian border here.
Peking, April 8. China's decision to release forthwith captured Indian military--Chinese shun the term 'prisoner of war" for no war was declared and the men have been treated as uninvited guests by circumstance--was hailed by the People's Daily April 3 as "another major attempt for peaceful settlement". It was sourly noted in the Indian press as "done for propaganda" which of course in part it was. For Chinese have made six spectacular moves in the past half year to tell the Indian people that they want peace and friendship. Such "propaganda" is today a sin in the eyes of the Indian ruling class.
The news is wildly cheered by the captured Indians by song and dance in centers in Sinkiang and Tibet, now featured for the first time in China's press. One learns that the men gained an average weight of 5.17 pounds in their five months in a Sinkiang center (western border); that in a center in South Tibet (eastern border) they lived "in large, light houses amid woods and villages, with no barbed wire or pill-boxes to restrain their strolls in forest and along the babbling brook". All centers have respected religious customs, including diets; I have seen photos of great heaps of canned oranges taken to Himalayan snows for Indian religious festivals that required fruit diet. The "captives" exchanged thousands of letters with the home folks in India; when India blocked the postal town toward Tibet, China flew the mail to Peking by special plane and thence airmailed it to India.
Probably no POW camps were ever run in quite this style, but it is an old tradition with the People's Liberation Army to make friends of captured soldiers. Thousands of Japanese captured during the Japanese occupation of China, are today China's best friends in Japan. One wonders how these Indians, so wishfully hailing their homes, will be treated in India.
Will Nehru welcome them back?
China proposed their return five months ago in that same Nov. 21st announcement of Cease-Fire and Withdrawal that astounded the world. China asked that Indian and Chinese officials meet in the border area to arrange details of the Cease-Fire and disengagement including return of captured men. India flatly refused. When Parliament thereafter raised questions about the prisoners, Nehru evaded. The 731 men already released last December--mostly sick and wounded with a few who attended them--were described by Hsinhua as they said goodbye to their doctors, whom many of them embraced. The Western press was not allowed to interview them in Tezpur.
If these men ever reached home or any place where they could talk freely, the Western reporters in India have been lax on their job. The only mention I have found was in the Sunday Telegraph, March 17 (British) which said that some people tried to get anti-China statements from the returned captives but gave it up, because the men had nothing but praises for their treatment and wishes for Sino-Indian reconciliation. If the Indians now released do more of the same they may run into trouble. Watch for them! Your watching may save them from the jails and concentration camps in which Indian Communists and Chinese civilian residents have landed, for embarrassing India's anti-China campaign.
There are 3,213 of these men, including one brigadier, 26 field officers and 29 officers of company grade. They are coming down through the passes from the Chinese to the Indian Red Cross, in batches according to location, weather and transport conditions. (As I write, the Chinese have been working hard to clear the snow from Bang La pass for trucks.) These men are only one in 100,000 of India's population but that is enough to dent the war propaganda, if they are allowed to talk. Even their mere appearance, if they have gained five pounds since leaving, might blunt the hate-China campaign!
If anything has become clear in the past six months, it is that China wants peace, a quiet border and Sino-Indian friendship, while the Indian ruling class wants tension. "Neither war nor peace", but tension and a hostile border where no Indians can make friends with Chinese. They want this for many reasons including the billions this policy gets them in Western aid.
Six times in five months China made spectacular moves--some of them unique in history--to reduce border tension. These were:
1) The cease-fire declared unilaterally Nov. 21 at the very climax of a military victory which experts considered outstanding in history.
2) The return of 731 sick and wounded Indians, December 1962.
3) The return of captured weapons in large quantities. (December)
4) The withdrawal of Chinese forces from vast areas they had taken, back to the positions they held Nov. 7, 1959, before the conflict began and then 20 km. further back, for "disengagement". (Completed Feb. 28, 1963)
5) The acceptance of the "Colombo proposals" "in principle", and the offer to refrain from even putting civilian check-posts in the four areas where Cease-Fire arrangements were disputed, provided India did the same. (Jan. 19, 1963)
6) The decision to release all captured military personnel. (April 3, 1963)
India's reply to all these moves was to step up the war clamor, to declare that conflict with China would last five, even dozens of years, to throw into concentration camps thousands of Chinese nationals, long resident in India, to refuse the Chinese Embassy access to these nationals, or even lists of their names, to close down Chinese consulates, and seize the branches of the Bank of China, to prevent Chinese nationals from disposing of their property. These and other measures, normally imposed only in major, declared wars, were imposed in India after China declared Cease-Fire and began Withdrawal.
Nehru gives as reason his "loss of confidence" in China, his shock at China's "massive, sudden aggression". India, he says, must be on guard for years and years until she is strong enough to win! Nehru knows this is nonsense! That he was shocked by China's massive thrust down the Himalayan slope stands to reason. But Nehru knows very well that Chinese were counterattacking after India had proclaimed and launched a "massive offensive" on all sectors of the border; he also knows the Chinese advance never went an inch beyond the territory all Chinese governments have considered China for centuries, and that most maps, including British-Indian maps, also considered China till very recent years. Where in all this is Chinese "massive, sudden aggression?"
That "massive thrust" on the eastern border that brought the Chinese "to the gates of Assam" was Tibetan territory for centuries into which Britain began to penetrate in the 1940's, claiming it by a line drawn by the British officer McMahon which no Chinese government ever recognized. Much of it was never even taken by Britain but by Nehru's troops in their surprise attack on Tawang in 1951. This was the area into which Chinese troops made "massive thrust" in their October-November "counter-attack" in 1962, and from which they then at once withdrew, refusing to recover even their own territory by force!
Nehru knows very well that the Aksai Chin plateau (western border) with the Sinkiang-Tibet Highway, was never in history out of China's possession. For a thousand years a caravan route ran here and neither Britain nor India touched it or taxed it. Not until 1954 did India map it as part; of Ladakh, and not until 1958 did Nehru officially claim it. Then for three years India built roads to reach and invade an area she had never been in before. In 1961-62 India set up 43 military posts in this area, harassing Chinese posts already there. The Chinese threw them out in November 1962.
These actions of China and India clearly show:
China wants a quiet border and Indian friendship. For these she will sacrifice much but not everything. She will not herself change the border by force; changes India made by force China does not recognize unless India negotiates them, but meantime India may continue to hold them as a "Cease-Fire" line if she took them prior to 1959. But China will not yield to India, even for a temporary Cease-Fire line, any territory where China in 1959 freed the Tibetan serfs, or any territory which India invaded in the past three years to attack and harass. This, says China, would reward India's aggression and be unjust to Tibetans.
This explains China's attitude to the "Colombo proposals". She accepts them "in principle" but makes two "interpretations" which she is ready to negotiate with India but not to accept in advance. The principles on which all the six powers that met in Colombo in December at Prime Minister Bandaranaike's personal invitation agreed, were that China and India should jointly negotiate the border, that China's "Cease-Fire" provided an opportune time, and that Western imperialists should not be brought in. To these China heartily agrees! But the proposals contained two "jokers" which would invalidate the "principles" and doom the border to constant tension. Most important was the suggestion that Indian administration share the 20-kilometer-wide corridor vacated by China in places where India had never previously administered. Nehru was not slow to tell Parliament that this was better than India herself had demanded. The Indian press gloated that it would give a base of legality for a new advance from which to plan, not peace, but a new war. Nehru himself rejects the "principles" and spirit of the Colombo proposals but seizes the territorial suggestions as an unexpected bonus, and makes China's refusal to accept them as preconditions of negotiation an excuse to refuse any negotiation at all.
Watch Nehru's words! He learned diplomatic doubletalk from Britain, no mean teacher! He says: "We cannot negotiate with China unless...." He never says: "We will negotiate if. .. ." This is the continuous blackmail that never settles permanently. Never has he proposed, or agreed, to settle the border by negotiation; always he proposes to take his claims by "positions of strength", by years of conflict.
Note also that Nehru's demands expand and set no final limits. In 1951 he seized Tawang in surprise attack, gaining territory Britain never held or administered. In 1959-62 he pushed the McMahon Line further north on his maps and also advanced claims--and roads--to Aksai Chin. And now, in 1963, militarily defeated but made bold by "aid" from the West, Nehru states India's interest in "Tibet" which Desai and other Indian leaders make explicit.
All this is evidence that Nehru's India wants
No quiet border, but expanding power!
Knowing,--and saying--that India cannot accomplish this alone, India's ruling class confers feverishly with American and British strategists, seeking "aid" from the West. And Western imperialists cynically seek their own aims through India: a new dominance of Asia by Western imperialism, using Indians as cheap cannon fodder. This is what worries Pakistan, Nepal, Burma and even at times Indonesia.
Projects already appear in the world's press that go far beyond the border conflict. The plans that appeared from Washington in early April from the visit of Patnaik, Nehru's special envoy, were not dreamed up in a few days or weeks to meet any "Chinese threat on the border". They are old plans that once were called "the American Century", now adjusted to use India instead of China as source of raw materials and cheap soldiers and labor. Some of them were published March 20, 1963 in Christian Science Monitor.
"The U.S.... will make India a 'deterrent weapon' against China." India will increase her army from the present half million to two million men and "put it in position on the Himalayas to exert steady pressure and keep China continuously occupied". For this the U.S. will supply all kinds of mountain equipment and also give training in "guerrilla fighting". But the plans go beyond pressures on China in the mountains. India must "safeguard the independence" of such countries as Burma, Nepal, Malaya. "Independence" was the well known word to cover Britain's penetration of Tibet!
A naval base planned for the Andaman Islands, east of the Bay of Bengal, with American and British warships admitted to the Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal, will "dominate" southern waters as far as the Straits of Malacca, between Malaya and Indonesia. Thus says the Daily Telegraph. The West German DPA adds that a fleet based there will be able to "stamp out local bushfighting quickly and efficiently". Are the peoples of southern Asia and the islands to be kept down by H-Bombs in the jungles? Or what?
"India has moved closer to the United States", says Mrs. Indira Gandhi, Nehru's daughter in early April on an American visit. The Hindustan Standard puts it more sharply in an article by Kurga Das, March 28, which declares that Nehru has made clear to his "American friends" that "his distrust of Red China is complete and that he lines up with Washington in dealing with the Chinese dragon".
Such are the long-range dreams of empire for which Nehru and the Indian ruling class keep tension alive on the Sine-Indian border and which demand not only permanent hostility to China, but the crippling of hundreds of millions of the Indian people under burdens of taxation and militarization, and the sacrifice eventually of millions in war. The Chinese leaders have a greater fellow-feeling for the welfare of the Indian people than the Indian ruling class shows. This appears not only in the many appeals by Chou En-lai for a peaceful negotiation of the border, for the sake of the more than a billion people in China and India, but even in details of the treatment of captives.
The dream of imperial power--in which the Indian ruling class, once the junior partner of Britain, now proposes to become junior partner of the U.S.A. --may bring great suffering and slaughter. Already the nearer nations--Pakistan, Nepal, Burma, Cambodia--have taken warning; their press denounces, not "China's aggression", but "Indian expansionism". Already the Moshi Conference of Afro-Asian Solidarity last February, took sides against India's demands, even when India tried to put them over by "walking out" of the conference for several days. Here is no space to report that conference, which was badly reported in the West, but one must note that it put the voice of the Afro-Asian people on record in favor of a joint negotiation of the border by China and India, and against any intervention in Africa or Asia by the West.
It is too late in the day for empires!
This past March 10 in New Delhi, a group of Tibetan nobles who once owned lands by the square mile and human serfs by the thousand, but who now are emigres sheltered by the Indian government and used by Washington and Indian leaders for anti-China campaigns, celebrated the anniversary of their Rebellion, four years ago in Lhasa, by announcing a new "Tibetan Constitution", in "the name of the Dalai Lama", in phrases tailored to affect the West! Except for this use, the act was farce! For these are the diehard serf-owners, who refused Peking's offer to buy their properties that the serfs might be emancipated, because they chose serfdom forever as the Tibetan "way of life". Their Rebellion was put down fast, having little support from the people, since many even of the nobles were ready to sell their property and enter the modern world. One of these "progressive" nobles gave me the reason: "Anyone who reads knows that you can get a better life from one modern power-plant than from a thousand barefoot serfs".
Thus was achieved a relatively bloodless "democratic reform" by Peking's generosity in purchasing lands and giving them without cost to the former serfs, and by Peking's quick suppression of diehards who rebelled.
When I visited Lhasa in August 1959, the only American woman who ever made that trip, with 19 reporters from a dozen lands, we were greeted at the airport, 15,000 ft. elevation, with oxygen flasks and the greater stimulus of words: "A million serfs have stood up! They are burying the old serfdom and building a happy tomorrow!"
This past March 10 in Lhasa, the Great Prayer Festival called Monlam, which in 1959 was made the cover for Rebellion, was celebrated with a blaze of lights. Not only the thousands of butter-lamps in Jokhan Temple, the holiest place in Tibet, but the brighter "lantern trees", three storeys high in the streets, for Lhasa has a new power-plant and many electric lights. The Panchen Erdeni, by holy tradition equal "spiritual brother" of the Dalai Lama, and presently spiritual leader and temporal chief of local government, spent the usual 15 days in meditation in his palace, and then emerged to read the Sutras and give alms to the Jokhan monks. Nine lamas were ordained to the highest rank of "geshi", top degree in Tibetan theology, and eight of these were "poor lamas" who formerly hardly dare aspire since "contributions" were mandatory to such high religious rank.
The year's event was the holding of the first elections ever held in Tibet by universal suffrage. These have been going on at township level since last October, and now the township congresses are electing the county congresses. Representatives of all classes sit in these governments, nobles side by side with former serfs. Women also are elected; in Loka area 30 percent of the district chiefs are women, many of them former serfs. Loka boasts the first election of a county government, with a woman former serf as chief!
Everywhere the harvests are better, since land is now in the hands of the tiller, the state gives better seed and iron implements, and the old superstition that "iron poisons the soil" is dead. Shigatse district, the seat of the Panchen Erdeni, reports the fourth consecutive bumper crop. Loka, granary of Tibet, on the borders of India has the same. Its grain runs 25 bushels per acre, which is 33 percent higher than in 1959; cattle have increased by 20 percent. Schools and health measures increase even faster. In Shigatse the one primary school, run in 1959 as experiment, has grown to 100 primary schools and the first graduates from the first middle school have appeared! Throughout Tibet, the long decline of the population has ended, for the starved, brutal life of serfs is over, while modern medicine brings epidemics under control.
Such is the reality of new Tibet!
For the first time in five years the winter wheat is REALLY GREEN in Honan, central grain-grower on the North China Plain. Sid Rittenberg, travelling south by fast express,--only half a dozen stops from Peking to Wuhan--wrote me in early April: "It is a green carpet, lush and thick, ankle-deep north of the Yellow River, and knee-high through South Honan! Often the rows march straight over the horizon, as if without boundary! One sees several kinds of collective labor in the fields: a production team en masse; groups of ploughmen, each driving two oxen with plough, several such teams in a field; ten to twenty women and old folk pulling around an old-style cart with manure, nobody tugging hard but all wanting to be out in the field. Despite the long cotton shortage, nobody seems ragged.
"Liberation clearly brought trees to the North China Plain. When I passed this way in 1948, the treeless land looked desolate even with crops. Now one is seldom out of sight of trees, in rows along roads or in orchards, now blossoming. Little stations where we don't stop show heaps of apples for sale. At every stop our passengers rush for the famous Honan roast chickens, luscious brown at 1.20 to 2.00 yuan. In front of the Wuhan restaurant a sign in fresh chalk read: "Good news! Rice and flour products sold upstairs without coupons; no advance in price!"
My own trip across China from extreme South to Peking confirms Sid's observations. Grain and vegetables are everywhere plentiful and cheap. Meat and fish seem everywhere available, meat more limited or expensive but fish abundantly bred in new reservoirs.
As result, the Peace Committee's staff no longer give time to raising vegetables, rabbits and "personal chickens", but plant apple and pear trees to beautify the yard.
I began these letters last September for a few friends. They expanded; I might even say "exploded"! Newspapers printed them in Djakarta, Colombo, Ghana, Australia, New Zealand; friends in the U.S.A. mimeographed them for discussion groups. Already I am accused of "subverting" Chile; somebody sent ten "Letters" there! All this is cheerful to hear. But now come people who want to "subscribe". I appreciate the compliment, but take it easy!
No money you could pay can make me write every month on the dot. The best we can hope is ten "Letters" a year--irregularly. These cost about 12 fen per copy to print and 54 fen to airmail; which totals about one pound sterling for ten airmailed issues. If you want to "pay your way" on that basis, make checks to "Letter from China". NOT to me personally; I don't want to. keep signing my name. Your letters may influence the subjects I handle, the choice between mimeographing and printing, and whether I also ask friends to write. No back copies available now; we may reprint them.
But--don't expect personal replies.
Special to U.S. AMERICANS! If you live blockaded in our good, old U.S.A., you can't subscribe! Don't try; it's against U.S. law to send money to China. Even if we go to some pains to deal through the two firms licensed to import periodicals from China, the money goes into an account blocked by Uncle Sam. What fun is in that?
Sometime somebody may publish in the U.S.A. charging to cover the costs. Till then, resign yourself to getting it as gift from me, not to you but to educate my country! Calm your conscience, if any, by doing as much for somebody else. You can have what copies you want on following rules. One to five copies go airmail; bigger bundles ordinary mail. Don't ask me to promote it to long lists of people; send for copies or reprint and promote it yourself.
Yours--and where do we go from here?