Writing about Red China with a rosy hue

Writing about Red China with a rosy hue
Mr Lu with his book which was released late last year. In writing it, he used his contacts with the CCP's organisation department - the powerful human resource arm of the party - to gain access to cadres' training centres across China.

When Mr Lu Chengyang immigrated here from Taiwan in 1972, he saw a "Made in China" sign on a cup and thought it referred to the home he had just left behind.

"China", to the then 10- year-old boy who accompanied his engineer father to Singapore, could only mean the "Republic of China", the official name of Taiwan.

"I was totally brainwashed by the Kuomintang and truly believed it represented the whole of China," he said, referring to the party which fled to Taiwan after losing a civil war to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 1949.

"It was only after coming to Singapore that I realised there was an entire China on the mainland, almost the size of a continent."

Thus began a lifelong fascination with China - the People's Republic of China, that is - which culminated in the writing of a book released late last year.

It is titled Adaptive Leadership - Communist Party Of China's Selection, Grooming And Renewal In The 21st Century, offering insights into the human resource practices of the ruling party.

Mr Lu, now 52, is well placed to write on the subject. He was the director of personnel at Singapore's Ministry of Education for more than a decade until his early retirement last year.

Using his contacts with the CCP's organisation department - the powerful human resource arm of the party - he gained access to cadres' training centres across China.

The product is 12 chapters examining the CCP's organisation and, in particular, personnel management.

They include interesting details of recruitment, such as the format of the entrance tests and examples of face-to-face interviews.

For instance, a question asked was: "In Beijing, one graduate cadre decided to contribute her first-year salary to the party finances, resulting in a strong media reaction. What will your reaction be?"

Mr Lu also devoted two chapters to the early days of CCP power, when it operated as a rebel force out of Jinggangshan and Yan'an in the impoverished rural central and north-western parts of China.

"I've always been fascinated with how the CCP rose to power," said the businessman and father of two boys, aged 23 and 21.

But the focus is overwhelmingly positive. When discussing the Yan'an Rectification Movement, the party's first ideological mass movement between 1942 and 1944, Mr Lu said it was Mao Zedong trying to do "the right things" by uniting the party.

Historical evidence is heavily stacked against such a sympathetic take. The movement has been widely documented as Mao's first major purge of rivals.

The book's glowing bent grows even brighter when it looks at the CCP after 1949, when it is in power. Mr Lu omitted the first three decades, brushing aside the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, major tragedies which killed at least tens of millions.

"There is not much point in studying these events because there isn't anything positive to learn from them," he said.

Even as the book focuses on the post-Mao era, it again chose to ignore the mistakes of the CCP, such as the Tiananmen incident of 1989 - an epochal event which many scholars believe has shaped the party and informed its decisions since.

Mr Lu explained that it is "too complicated" to delve into the crackdown.

He was prepared for criticisms that he has swallowed CCP propaganda wholesale. He devoted a page in the book titled "In Defence of Honesty" to pre-empt brickbats, saying he wrote with "a clear conscience".

He told The Straits Times: "Too many negative things have been written about China. I want to write something positive."

That, he has achieved. Asked if he is an apologist of the CCP, he replied: "In a sense, yes, I am."


The writer is this newspaper's former China bureau chief and author of When The Party Ends: China's Leaps And Stumbles After The Beijing Olympics.

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