Saturday, March 9, 2013

Chris: Her Story doesn't Agree with the Photo She Provided

The following review of Bend, Not Break was published on Amazon on January 29, 2013

Fabricating suffering for personal gain is a true insult to those who did suffer. 
[A promotion photo from the author that tells a different story from her book] 
Search google image using the words "Ping, in the bottom row, second from the right along with the other children forced to live in government dormitories during China's Cultural Revolution. 
Image: Courtesy of Ping Fu.", you will get a black/white photo of the author (at 
The author was among a group of kids posing happily under the banner "platoon of red guards". That means Ping was one of the red guards herself during the culture revolution. In the background stood an ancient style tower and incense burner, both were very rare during the culture revolution and usually found in parks or tourist sites, I cannot believe "government dormitories" looked like that. It turns out that the picture was taken in the city of Nanjing. The tower was Ling Gu Ta (memorial tower). Chiang Kai-shek's handwriting was carved on the incense burner in memory of fallen heroes for the Republic of China. Now I am certain that the photo was taken at a tourist site, not "government dormitories". (on 2/1/2013 at huffingtonpost, Ping Fu explained that the photo was taken at her school. The incense burner alone refutes her explanation.) 
[A surge of negative ratings at amazon] 
There is a reason for the sudden surge of the negative comments here at amazon. Her book promotion was translated into Chinese at Forbes' Chinese website a few days ago, and picked up on 1/28/2013 by Dr. Fang Zhouzi (Fang Shiming), a freelance writer who is famous for cracking down fraud in China. Before Dr. Fang's questioning Fu's story, not too many Chinese-speaking people actually knew who Ping Fu was. Dr. Fang just opened a floodgate. Fang is by no means any favor of the Chinese government. The claims Ping Fu made were just too outrageous. 
[The author and publisher's backtracking] 
One of Ping's claims turns out not to be reality. In the book, the author stated: "On one occasion,the Red Guards gathered us to watch a teacher be thrown head first into a deep well, and another quartered by four horsemen on the soccer field." At huffingtonpost on 2/1/13, Ping explained the four horsemen claim: "To this day, in my mind, I think I saw it. That is my emotional memory of it. After reading Fang's post, I think in this particular case that his analysis is more rational and accurate than my memory. Those first weeks after having been separated from both my birth parents and my adoptive parents were so traumatic, and I was only eight years old. There is a famous phrase in China for this killing; I had many nightmares about it." 
Ping Fu blamed her ghostwriter Meimei Fox for "exaggeration" in an International Herald Tribune report on 2/20/2013. Here is part of the report: In the interview, she volunteered an example of an error: a widely criticized account of the ''period police,''the authorities who checked a woman's menstrual cycle to ensure she wasn't pregnant in the early days of the one-child policy. To stop women substituting others' sanitary pads for inspection, they were sometimes required to use their own finger to show blood. Through a misunderstanding with Ms. Fox, Ms. Fu said this was portrayed as the use of other people's fingers - an invasion of the woman's body. Ms. Fox "wrote it wrong,'' she said. ''I corrected it three times but it didn't get corrected.'' Women used their own finger to show blood, she said, but the mistake went into print anyway. In general, Ms. Fox may have ''just made some searches on the Internet that maybe weren't correct,'' Ms. Fu said. (I have to point out that the whole "period police in college" story is absurd even with Ping Fu's "correction".) 
Many experts in China Study casted doubts over the truthfulness of the stories in this book in a guardian report on 2/13/2013. Publisher Adrian Zackheim responded: "Sometimes, despite everyone's best efforts, minor mistakes appear in nonfiction books. Whenever they are brought to an author's attention they are corrected in future printings. Ping has already acknowledged several of these, and if any additional corrections are required, of course those will be made as well." it is as close you can get for a publisher to admit "mistakes". 
[The book's defenders] 
Katie Baker from Daily Beast failed her job as a journalist. in her 2/4/2013 piece about this story, she picked and chose those emotional and non-informative sentences from the amazon negative reviews and hide the name of the single most important figure in the whole story from her readers: Fang Zhouzi. Once the name "Fang Zhouzi" enters google search, Ping Fu's house of cards will simply collapse. 
Here comes the master! Harold Evans published an article at the daily beast on 2/11/2013, accusing the critical reviewers at amazon "hired by the Chinese government" basing on anecdotal evidences, internet rumors and speculations. He was not bothered by the photo showing Ping Fu posing as a red guard, nor did he take notice of Ping Fu's own admission that her "research" was not published anywhere in 1982. If you cannot argue with facts, accuse your opponents communists, have we seen that movie before? He even thought amazon's openness for book reviews "naiveté". What is the alternative? Media monopoly under Sir Harold Evans? 
The publishing campaign of Ping Fu's memoir is a typical case of publicity malpractice, yet Harold Evans decided to silence the critics by resorting to wild accusations and name callings. As a highly respected journalist, Sir Harold Evans managed to sink so low that he felt obliged to describe an amazon reviewer's gender as "Male, female, or hermaphrodite". 
[Thoughts on the story] 
Who is the winner of the whole story? Ping Fu's credibility has already been damaged, it is very unlikely we will hear from her after this. Chinese communist party emerges as the surprising winner here. On the one hand, Ping turned serious issues and historic events into cheap cartoons, muddled the water, tempered the history records, and transformed the ruling party of China's wrong doings in the past into easily disputable logic holes; On the other hand, frustrated Chinese witness some of the western media paying no attention to facts, they are just much more skillful in crafting and selling messages than the Chinese government propaganda. Negative ratings here are ferocious, they are the desperate cries in the dark when facts have no place in China under the name of "stability", while they get lost in the west in the jungle of "political correctness". 
[A lighter note] 
The English language opera/musical "Nixon in China" is available on DVD/Blu-ray here at amazon. The second act basically re-staged an entire ballet from the Culture Revolution. For those who want to get inspired, I highly recommend it. The ballet in the opera has almost all the elements of the Ping Fu story, the original ballet was supervised by no other than the ultimate Cinderella of all time, Madame Mao, a movie star used to name Ping Lan.

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