Tommy DeCaro (ZENG YONGZHENG) Blog 2

My loyal readers,


Over the past few weeks, I have been praying that you are all alive and well. China has been attacked by the ruthless Japanese and after seeing the aftermath of what they did to Nanjing, my heart broke. I fear for my life as well as the people of China. Despite my fear, I have taken a huge risk. My publisher assigned me the task to “investigate and try to determine why so many people from all over China and from many different backgrounds are flocking to Yenan to live in that desolate, poor corner of China.  What is it about life in Yenan/Yan’an that so many find so appealing?” At first, I thought she was crazy and that there was no way I would travel all the way to Yenan, especially during times like this. I then began to think about my readers as well as the promise I made to myself to report on what is going on in our country. So…against my best judgment, I traveled to Yanan.


On my way to Yenan, I was able to get my hands on an interview with Mao done by an American journalist by the name of Edgar Snow. Snow’s interview with Mao has given me greater insight into who exactly Chairman Mao was and why so many people followed him across the country to Yanan. After his interview, Snow said that “the influence of Mao Zedong throughout the Communist world of China was probably greater than that of anyone else” [Cheek, 185]. Snow believed that it was Mao’s personality that played a role in his rise to great influence in Communist China. Snow said that “the role of his personality in the movement was clearly immense” [Cheek, 186]. It was who Mao was that attracted people and not just what he stood for. But was Mao just another pretty face that could attract people to his cause because of his personality or was he attuned with what was needed to prevail? In the words of Thucydides, “the society that separates its scholars from its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting by fools,” but as it turns out Mao is driven to succeed and help the people of China. Snow commented that he is an “accomplished scholar of classical Chinese, an omnivorous reader, a deep student of philosophy and history, a good speaker, […] a man of tireless energy, and a military and political strategist of considerable genius” [Cheek, 185]. So after reading this interview and learning about Chairman Mao, I can begin to understand why people are flocking to Yanan to be around this great man. When I arrived in Yenan I was surprised to see what it was really like. Rich and poor alike live in the same conditions. Wealth and status have been washed away. Although I didn’t see Mao when I was there I heard that he lives in a cave with a paper wall, the same as everyone else. Despite the “poor” conditions, the people are all in high spirits and do what they can to help each other out.


In Yenan wealth, status, and where you are from don’t matter. Everyone is treated the same from the top down. And with the leadership of Chairman Mao, everyone is happy to be in Yenan.


Until next time,


Blog #2 Yenan is Alright…

Dear loyal readers,

Who could have anticipated China would be in an even worse place than it was when I last wrote? Since I last left you all those years ago, I traveled the long, arduous journey to Yenan in 1937, hoping to leave behind the Japanese imperialists in Beijing. A group of like-minded students and I were lucky enough to leave the city prior to the Japanese invasion! The trip was exhausting and dangerous. I doubted I would even make it through. Our group started with 25 and ended with 11 of us in Yenan [China: A Century of Revolution – China In Revolution]. I was determined to make it after reading Edgar Snow’s interview with Mao in 1936. I felt that the CCP in Yenan was the obvious choice in this time of chaos [Snow]. Reading the tales of his intellectual background, his novel ideals, and his lack of ego, Yenan seemed to be the only option [Snow 185]. Unfortunately, Yenan is not the utopia it was made out to be.

I risk my life even writing this. While there are many things that are favorable in Yenan, it is in no way a paradise. Do not twist my words; I would rather be here than anywhere else. However, I need to set the record straight for others who are about to make the deadly journey in hopes of finding a heaven on Earth that doesn’t exist. There are many great things about Yenan. In comparison to our former dynastic regimes and even Chiang Kai-shek’s leadership, there is an absence of megalomania and ego in Yenan that China has been due for [Snow]. Currently, Mao Zedong and his wife live in a humble dwelling just down the road from me [Snow 185]. 

Additionally, women are given far more opportunities for themselves [Johnson 66-67]. As someone who left their home to shed the gendered mold set for me since birth, I was naturally drawn to the CCP. In fact, one of my first friends in Yenan was He Manqiu, a female Red Army doctor with a similar background as me [Young 531]. Furthermore, Mao Zedong’s emphasis and value placed on the masses is something China needs! Two years ago, Mao himself said, “The masses are the real heroes, while we ourselves are often childish and ignorant, and without this understanding, it is impossible to acquire even the most rudimentary knowledge.” [LBR 62]. Despite all of my praise, there are a few drawbacks I believe the population of China needs to be made aware of before they risk their lives like I did.

I have a list of concerns. Firstly, despite the importance placed on the masses, there is a coercive nature to get us to think how the leaders think [LBR 65]. Mao’s plan, in his words, is as follows: “Take the ideas of the masses (scattered and unsystematic ideas) and concentrate them (through study turn them into concentrated and systematic ideas), then go to the masses and propagate and explain these ideas until the masses embrace them as their own” [LBR 66]. Although this is somewhat unproblematic, the issue lies with what happens when the masses don’t subscribe to their regurgitated thoughts [LBR 66]. Re-education or murder is commonplace in Yenan when this happens. 

Second, gender equality is commonly swept under the rug or outright ignored to placate the feelings of the large male peasantry [Johnson]. One of the reasons I admired the CCP was due to their progressive feelings towards traditional marriage practices in China [Johnson]. However, these ideas have been scrapped to pacify the worries of married peasant men who are fearful their bought wives will finally have the right to divorce them to increase CCP numbers and soldiers [Johnson 68]. Furthermore, women are given opportunities outside of the home, and it is only because the men are not here to do it themselves [Johnson 65]. Once again, history continues, and I find myself, my feelings, and my rights worth less than a man.

Lastly, I was worried and eager to hide my intellectual history and background when I arrived in Yenan. There is an air of anti-intellectualism here. In fact, my friend He Manqiu hid that she was literate for quite a while to prevent the party from mistrusting her [Young 540]. To be able to think differently is a threat to a party in its infancy, like the CCP. While I agree with most of the Party’s teachings, I sometimes find myself at odds with the Party due to my background as a woman and a student. There are little issues here if you’re a peasant simply trying to survive, but if you are like me, keep these issues in mind before you leave everything behind.

Good Luck,

Cui Shuli

Blog 2 Life in Yan’an

Dear readers, Just as I have feared, our country has not modernized enough to fight off the invading Japanese, and our Chaing Kai Shek is more concerned with fighting the communists than dealing with the Japanese, embarrassing China once again. It seems our greatest hope to stand up against foreign invaders comes from the communist safe haven of Yan’an, where Mao Zedong and the communist party are preaching the way to defeat the enemy isn’t with firepower alone but with total reform. 

It is easy to see why people from all over the country are coming to Yan’an. It seems to be the center of a feeling of nationalism. Many are looking for a better life, and Mao sees the peasants and farmers as essential to the Chinese reform and fighting off the Japanese. Mao is urging intellectuals and artists to “Become one with the masses,”  and is educating these intellectuals by having them live, work, and fight with the uneducated peasants. This level of cooperation between classes and the people of China would have never happened in the old government. 

  In a Yan’an Newspaper Mao tells intellectuals of his own time since school and how he learned for himself during the revolution and the long march that clothing is clothing and that just because it is from a soldier doesn’t make it dirty and that the peasants and soldiers aren’t dirty, and that manual labor is not something to be ashamed of.

 Even more, peasants are fleeing from the Japanese as they pillage, kill, and rape their way through China in an attempt to root out communists, and Yan’an is a safe haven for all walks of life. 

This resonated with the peasants and soldiers from Chaing Kai-Shek’s army who have been mistreated. There are stories told by the ex-nationalist soldiers about starving conditions and five or six men being tied together to discourage escape. All of these men were drafted into the Nationalist army in order to fight for the homeland and fend off the Japanese. However, the soldiers who ran away from the Nationalist Army talk of having no food to eat and no clothing to fight in because of corruption and were very shocked to see the state of Mao’s Red Army. 

Unlike Chaing Kai-Shek’s army, Mao disciplined his army and ordered them not to steal or loot from the poor peasants, which boosted his support from the people.  In Yan’an, Mao had trained his army to do three things, all of which furthered the army’s popular support one was to struggle to death against the enemy, Two was to arm the masses, and three was to raise money to support the struggle. In creating these rules and enforcing discipline, the people saw Mao’s army move further and further away from the armies of the warlords, Chaing Kai Shek or the Japanese. Seeing the Army as a protector of the people that would defend China’s proletariat and peasant population saw many migrate to Yan’an to join the Red Army in the hope of helping reform the country.

Blog #2 by No Pah King

My dearest readers,

Is the grass really greener on the other side? Although this cliche can sometimes be true, in the case of mass migration to Yenan it certainly is false. Located in northern central China, Yenan, has become a hotbed for migration from all areas of the country including people from a diverse array of backgrounds. Although the rave and cry that Yenan is a mere utopia, findings show that on the ground realities overshadow any surrounding hype, that label this city, a mere utopia.

  1. On paper vs. reality. On paper, yes it is true that Yenan sounds terrific. The endpoint from the Long March, as we know, the Communist’s retreat from Nationalist forces. Mao, and others called Yenan to be the birthplace of equality, and fostering of revolutionary ideas. Instead, I suggest those be skeptical of dreaming up Yenan to be a magical haven. In my interview with Ting Ling, a migrant to Yenan, she spoke on this very issue, saying: “The male leaders should talk less of meaningless theories and talk more of actual problems. Theory and practice should not be separated.”
  2.  No room for critique. Essentially, women’s problems there were solved on paper, but the execution of the theories penned on paper, left significant room for problems to develop, with unfortunately no room allowed to criticize. For Ling’s verbalized criticism, she was relieved of her political duties. Ts’ai Ch’ang, a women on the committee of the Women’s Department, who was responsible for punishing her, said that her views were: “outdated, harmful to unity, and unnecessary in Yenan since full equality had already been established.” In fact this was not an isolated occurrence, and spreads beyond Ling’s story. Li Chien-Chen suddenly lost her position as director of the Women’s Department after being a strong advocate for educating people against women’s oppression.
  3. Your needs will not be prioritized. Tsai Chang, wrote: “Our current slogans for work in the women’s movement are no longer freedom of marriage and equality between men and women, but rather save the children and establish a abundant and flourishing family.” In my interview with writer Kay Ann Johnson, she says: “The narrow Party policy during the Anti-Japanese War showed little concern to directly tackle women’s rights issues.” The communists were more concerned with the threat of Japan’s invasion, and also staying clear and defeating the Nationalist KMT party. Further, Kay explains that: “To justify this policy and defend its narrow focus against its feminist critics, the directive developed the notion that it was not only necessary to the war…but the only way to further women’s own liberation.” Essentially if we put all our energy towards the war effort, and we are successful in that in itself  it will pave the way for women’s freedoms. The Communists knew that Yenan was far from a utopia land that fostered equality, but rather a place where theory is placed with greater emphasis than in practice; and the culture reflected the idea that your problems are not OUR problems. – By: No Pah King.


Readers, I need not lecture you on the intricacies of the ongoing war. It seems every day we hear of another crime committed, another battle lost in a war with seemingly no end. The Japanese invasion of China, which initially signaled a decisive Japanese victory with vast early gains, has ground to a halt in terms of territorial gain. At this point, it’s tit for tat, man for man, with the greatest victim being the Chinese people. Millions are dead, and for what? Confidence in the government of Chiang Kai-shek has never been worse, rampant corruption is the worst-kept secret in the nation, and to top it off he retreated in humiliation from the Republic’s capital, leaving the city to the brutal onslaught of Japanese troops. The Republic has continuously shown an inability to care for the needs of the public, drowning possibly hundreds of thousands of civilians in the name of tactical advantage. It is no wonder people have flocked, in droves I might add, to the Chinese Communist Party in Yan’an, as well as their various splinter cells across the frontlines. 

The Yan’an Soviet, as many have called it, is a result of the “Long March” led by Chairman Mao Zedong, so remote as to keep the prying eyes of the Nationalist government far away, using the mountainous geography as a means of defense and isolation. I have undertaken the trek to this remote place in order to report back to you, dear readers, so that you may understand the appeal of the Soviet, as well as the not-so-savory aspects. I visited the Jiangxi Soviet, the predecessor to the Yan’an Soviet, a number of years ago as well, in a journalistic capacity, and I was intent on seeing what has changed in the interim. 

Mao is leading a wartime government, I cannot mince words when describing the purpose of this government. The full force of the Soviet is pointed towards the Japanese incursion, the economy is entirely directed towards supporting the wider war effort, and every man, woman, and child seems to have a “nationalistic fervor” if you will. Although in Jiangxi the Soviet was largely characterized by constant Nationalist attempts at their destruction, eventually leading to their expulsion, Yan’an seems to have taken somewhat of a step back from that rivalry. A great many people still prefer Mao to Chiang, evidenced by the mass immigration, however, you don’t hear the same anti-Nationalist rhetoric present all those years ago. Here and now it is about expelling the Japanese. Mao is said to have said something to the effect “There can be no communist experiment without a China in which to implement it.”  People are extremely receptive to this view, focused on a patriotic fervor, centered on the identity of the “Chinese people” fighting off imperialist invaders. While the Nationalist government isn’t entirely opposed to this kind of view Chiang is seen by the people to be something of an imperialist-sympathizer. He resisted any cooperation with the CCP until his hand was forced by his generals, a compromise only found after the Generalissimo was kidnapped and brought to the negotiating table. The people are aware of his fascist sympathies and tendencies, receiving extensive assistance and aid from Nazi Germany, who we are now at war with, as late as 1937. Japan, although an enemy of Chiang’s government, was not as high of a priority as he should have been, instead quarreling with the communists at the most inopportune of times. It has even been whispered, although concrete evidence is scarce, that Chiang’s government continues to withhold troops from the frontlines in preparation for an attack on the communists, possibly before the Japanese are even driven away.

Although the communists seem to be the preferable alternative I hesitate to even remotely describe them as a “utopia”, or even approaching such a distinction, which is often the image they try to convey. Mao Zedong, although beloved by a great many people, has shown tendencies reminiscent of an authoritarian, intent on personal rule. Mao Zedong Thought, also known as Maoism, serves as the centerpiece of the Party’s ideology, entirely derived from Mao’s own thoughts and writings in the past few decades. In its ideal form Maoism advocates for Agrarian revolution, the redistribution of wealth to the masses, and the overthrow of imperialist powers. The democratic power of the people is brought up by many, used as a centerpiece justification, a mandate if you will, of continued Communist rule. In practice, if you don’t align with Maoist thought you are purged from any position of authority, and your discourse will not be heard at any level. The Russian-backed intellectualism that characterized the Chinese communists of the 1920s and 1930s, those whom I often found myself surrounded by, have been cast aside entirely. The rectification campaign, as many have described it, seeks to push orthodox Marxism out of the picture. This is Mao’s movement, thus his name is on the “cover”. Although one could understand this in the light of adjusting traditional socialist thought in the face of a foreign situation, China is by no means the industrial European superpower Marx had in mind when describing the revolution of the proletariat, the policy in practice would seem to suggest a more sinister intention. The party has used this opportunity to castigate, and sometimes execute, anyone who does not fall into the CCP-directed mold. If the ideology of a party is derived from a single man, and that man has also instilled mortal fear in the minds of any possible dissenters, someone could reasonably call that a tyrannical rule. All keys to power descend from this single man, he dictates the society as a whole. And, yet, people still by-in-large approve of the Chairman’s Actions. This is wartime, after all, a heavy-handed approach is sometimes necessary to outlast a dire and uncertain situation. However, I would pose the question, where does this lead? The growth of Communists could conservatively be described as “exponential”, the Nationalist Party seems to be waning by the day. A peaceable solution in the aftermath of a Japanese defeat seems almost impossible considering pre-war relations, as well as fundamental ideological differences. Chiang’s government does have the support of foreign governments, the United States has provided abundant monetary and material aid to the Nationalists, while the CCP has largely alienated their natural Soviet (Russian) allies with the rectification campaign. The people clammer for regime change, but is that enough to overcome the might and interests of sprawling imperial nations? History would say no, the Century of Humiliation suggests China no longer can take on such a larger, more imposing, force. However, support for Mao only grows, holding off the Japanese, one of the most advanced militaries in the world, has bolstered the confidence of the Chinese communists in any protracted war. Either way, it seems we may be stuck with a rule that is both uncompromising and undemocratic, a future that does not bode well for the health of China as a whole.

Why Yenan

Greetings from Yenan!

I am currently in the remote and desolate corner of northern Shaanxi province known as Yenan. This location has become the epicenter of a revolutionary movement led by the CCP, and is extremely open to new sympathizers. Today, we look into the reason why Yenan is so attractive to so many people and explore why so many are flocking to this place despite its challenging conditions.

Yenan acts as a sanctuary of stability in a nation torn apart by war and foreign invasion. It is the temporary headquarters of the CCP, and the CCP claims to provide security for those who have seen their lives shattered by the ongoing chaos tearing through China. The CCP’s promise of land reform and protection for peasants resonates deeply with those seeking refuge from the horrors of Japanese occupation and the political instability that plagues the rest of the country. This promise rings throughout China, and people who are unable to protect themselves, rely on the CCP’s protection from foreign invaders. Also, many people find Mao to be very charismatic and he comes across as a strong yet generous leader. During times of crisis, it is human nature to stick by someone who is like that. 

In Yenan, ideology becomes a powerful magnet. The CCP’s vision for a more equitable society, based on principles of land redistribution and social equality, captures the hearts and minds of people from diverse backgrounds. It offers hope in a world marred by injustice and oppression, drawing in individuals who dream of a fairer and more just China. Along with this, many people didn’t really have a choice to come to Yenan. The CCP was not forcing them to come to Yenan with them, but with all the chaos happening in China, their two choices were either following the CCP to their “sanctuary city,” or dying. I don’t know about you, but the choice would be pretty easy for me. 

The people who are able to fight back against the Japanese invasion also want to travel to Yenan. They have seen how well the Red Army’s Guerrilla war tactics are working against the invaders and believe the best chance they have to fight against the Japanese is by fighting with the Red Army.  

Many women also find Yenan a great place to flee to. Women have always been restricted to caring for their family and the house. However, in Yenan, while the men are busy fighting the Japanese and the Nationalist party, the women play an integral role in the survival of the people in Yenan. The women are expected to do agricultural work,  produce textiles, and sew since these tasks are no longer able to be done by men. Women would also create things like clothing and blankets for the army. Many women for years have felt very useless due to their low status in society, however, now they are able to contribute to the success of their society. This type of opportunity became very attractive to many women longing for a purpose. 

Yenan is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of revolutionary ideals. Despite the challenges and hardships that come with life in this remote location, people from all walks of life are drawn here by the promise of a better future for China. 


Miao Bing Rong

Blog Post #2

Hello all,


It’s 1943 and both the Japanese invasion and the Second World War is among us. My brother has joined the CCP in the fight in Yenan. He says he is fighting for a better world than he was born into. He believes in the social justice reform that Mao has the troops and honestly, most of the country believing in. My family and I have been nothing but supportive of him in this choice to fight for communism but we are scared of the uncertainty that is the life of a soldier in this chaos of a country. One reason why we are supportive of his decision is the leadership in the CCP. Yenan is serving as the wartime headquarters for the CCP and Mao and his cohort of leaders excel in organizing and mobilizing the masses. Their grassroots networks, land reforms, and rural cooperatives, empowering ordinary people eventually has paid off in the gain and trust of the majority of the population standing with the CCP. Yenan and the CCP has attracted a large amount of support from people all over the country even though Yenan is such a rural and remote place. A big reason for this is because its location is a relatively safe distance from the march of the Japanese army. This is a big attraction for those seeking refuge from the Japanese. More reason that Yenan is such a big destination for citizens looking to join the communist party is plain and simply the ideals of the communist party. The anti-corruption efforts, community spirit, educational opportunities, land reform, and economic opportunity all are reasons for China’s initial downfall referenced in my earlier posts. The Nationalist Party has fallen victim to corruption and mismanagement over the years of its control but the CCP’s commitment and promise to dig out this corruption in addition to actively not being corrupt (who knows if they will) has appealed to many of the CCP members. The situation in the camps in Yenan is fostering a really unique community environment. The leaders of the party are in the same sleeping arrangements as the peasants and workers. This has led to seemingly egalitarianism among the entirety of the party as my brother feels as if he can talk to Mao and other leaders because they are treated like equals. Lastly, the educational opportunities being awarded are also unique. There are schools, cultural institutions, and other ways to intellectually stimulate the residents. One other way is by the opportunity to learn to be a wartime medic. My brother has written to me that a girl he knows in Yenan came from Shanghai to join the revolution to care for the soldiers but she has never provided medical service before. The group at Yenan taught her how to care for soldiers and now she is able to provide medical attention when needed. There are plenty of reasons why Yenan, despite being such a rural desolate place, is being run to by so many in this dangerous time and I understand why my brother did.

Yenan: A Change In Lifestyle

Dear readers,

I am proud to say that not only have I grown as a person since my last report, but Chinese people from around the country have begun to grow out of the traditional confucian lifestyle. With pressure increasing from not only the Japanese but the Chinese nationalist party, the Communist party has been gaining popularity for a few different reasons. It is the year 1943 and I have been called to Yenan where I am reporting live to see this movement with my own eyes. Many people ask, why Yenan? What is different about this part of the country? Why not a big city to spread ideologies more easily? It was less about the land they were on and more about the community that blossomed under the leadership of the masses. 

While reporting on this phenomenon, it is integral to look into the Long March. Mao and the red army set on this march to relocate the Communist party without a set destination. It was easy for people to join this movement because many of them did not see a future at their home. Both men and women had been struggling for the basic living necessities such as food and clothes. The movement had emphasized equality for men and women as both genders were encouraged to join the army to help in any way. Even the rich peasants had a reason to join the communist movement because of the way the Guomindang soldiers would treat the locals. It is said that the soldiers would have two guns, a rifle, and an opium pipe and they “tried to take everything they could from our local people.” The Long March wasn’t about the destination, it was about creating a mobile city where people would come together based on what they wanted the future of China to be like. After Mao and the Communist party gained followers on the March, Yenan happened to be the place they settled and turned into the Communist Party Headquarters.

The leaders of the movement, specifically Chairmen Mao, was the reason why it gained so much traction. Mao lived a simple and natural life as if he was a Chinese peasant. In this sense, it allowed for the majority of the population to relate to him. Many leaders during this time are demanding and are straightforward with their orders while Mao emphasized on moderate social reform. He did this by listening to the masses and taking a theory-practice-theory approach which allowed the people to really drive the revolution. This was appealing to people as it would lead to more organization and discipline within the party and its army.

Furthermore, I see even more organization and coming together based on the daily lifestyles here in Yenan. Instead of having a divide between intellectuals and peasants people have started to come together around a change in art and culture. Mao had led with slogans which was easy to rally behind and which everyone could understand. Thought and emotions would be shown in artwork that would really reflect how the party thinks on a day to day basis. This ‘popularization’ brought the party even closer together and the soldiers, peasants and women would all be able to relate to each other. Schools would even be formed such as the Anti-Japanese University and more people would be literate and create an even more powerful social reform. With the reform movement of 1942, leaders would be able to optimize their units and the Chinese citizens would work together for their goal of liberation from the traditional confucian society.

Yan’an: A New Potential for Society & Fighting the Japanese

It seems that many here in Yenan share my sentiment of disillusionment with the Nationalist Party’s response to the brutal Japanese invasions. I was concerned before that the Communists were not stable enough to counter the Japanese, but now I see that they are the party that truly wants to defend China. Papers I read on the way here detailed Chiang Kai-shek’s rationale for destroying the dikes along the Yellow River, saying it was to stop Japanese forces, but it only goes to show how little he cares for the Chinese people, or rather the peasants that died in the process. He is too much a coward to endure what he puts his people through.


The same cannot be said for Mao. It is odd to hear so much about a man in the news, then see him sitting in plainclothes with people from all walks of life here at Yenan. It is said that he spends much of his time in his cave reading, but he is measured yet jovial when interacting with those around the camp.


Although I enjoyed my time at university, there was something stifling about academia that I cannot say I feel here. Everyone is filled with such exuberance for learning, building, fighting, and you do not feel the weight of hierarchy or academic competition pressing down upon you. However, the response to my education was rather jarring; I was hounded by young men and women around my age when they saw me writing in the dirt. I heard about the difficult lives that they had led, much like my neighbors back home in the countryside surrounding Chengdu. I learned quickly that they equate things that require learning, money and status to be bourgeois and thus, evil. Although I don’t think such essentializing is fair, it is understandable coming from their situation, and I choose not to share about my experience in university for fear of being ostracized.


I have, however, been instructed to teach basic reading skills to people here. The students are both young and old, and although it is bizarre to be teaching in such an informal fashion, I believe that I understand now why people come here. It is a new society, mostly free from the constraints of the old. Even former Kuomintang fighters are here; one young man told me of how he has more to eat here and is treated with more respect and freedom than he did under the Nationalists. It is clear that the appeal of the CCP in Yan’an is not only political, but interpersonal and even individual; one can foster relationships and have such opportunities here. There is still headway to be made for the rights of women, as the local women in this region of Shensi seem to be living decades behind. I hear from some women, who were previously in the Jiangxi Soviet before the Long March, that many communist men seem to be dialing back their efforts for gender equity. Yet, there is still hope.

Appeal of Yenan

Hello, fellow intellectuals. I am in Yenan, a remote part of the northern Shaanxi province. I am here observing Mao along with his fellow leaders and revolutionaries who settled in this poor, mountainous region after the Long March. Yenan became the headquarters of the communist party for the second united front with the KMT against the Japanese. I believe a variety of individuals have been attracted to Yenan because of the new communist leadership and the Red Army.

Mao’s ideas have drawn a wide range of individuals to Yenan, peasants seeking refuge from oppression, intellectuals who resonate with communist ideology, and ardent anti-Japanese sympathizers all are drawn to this magnetic place. This convergence creates a distinctive, uplifting atmosphere that stands in stark contrast to the harsh realities faced by the Communist Party. The work here is demanding, and the populace resides in modest cave dwellings, all while the looming prospect of resuming hostilities with the KMT hangs overhead. A spirit of self-reliance and sacrifice for the greater good permeates Yenan. Leaders of the communist party live in Yenan and are not distant figures, but a part of the community, approachable and able to be seen in everyday life. Mao in particular is respected by all who reside here and lives a simple life. An exciting atmosphere simultaneously exists as widespread social change seems imminent. Yenan’s foundation firmly rests upon three pillars of cooperative labor: workers, peasants, and soldiers. Experimental ideas are actively put into practice such as the mass line and training centers are established for the education of party values. Those who did agree were forced to study Mao’s work extensively creating a strong, ideologically unified party that has the potential to unite all of China.  

The livelihoods of peasants are superior to their nationalist counterparts. Peasants in Yenan pool all their resources, labor, and land, so they can achieve economies of scale, and increase agricultural productivity while reducing the risks associated with farming. In agricultural cooperatives peasants work collectively and share in the benefits of their labor. While gaining access to modern farming equipment and improved farming techniques.

Guerrilla warfare tactics that the Red Army employed are proving to be effective against the Japanese. Individuals with patriotism and a strong move here and join the Red Army, wanting to take up arms and fight on the front lines becoming a soldier of this impressive force. The Chinese especially those living in the northern and eastern parts of the country have had terrible experiences with the Japanese imperialists who follow the policy of “kill all, burn all, loot all.” and are sympathetic to the Communist Party which has always held the clear stance of anti-Japanese.    

Women are encouraged to do agricultural work and workshops for textile and sewing as these techniques have been lost to time in rural Yenan. Women would also create things like clothing and blankets for the army while the men are fighting to contribute to the war effort. Women are a key part of this town and have a path to economic self-sufficiency. Yenan is conservative and has a traditional view on marriage. Combined with the male soldiers’ desire for the continuation of the old marriage law, marriage reform is a low priority.

The Communist Party has proven it can unite a variety of people under the same ideology, for the shared vision of a more equitable society. Yenan is proof of this. It is also a glimpse of what a communist China could become.