Sunday, April 21, 2013

Broken Fact: The Phantom Publicity of Fu Ping's Thesis Work

The Original Story:
On Page 255 of Bend, Not Break, Fu Ping tells how her research of infanticide got publicized and led to big political trouble for her:
When I completed my thesis in the spring of 1982, I never imagined that anything would come of my work. Unbeknownst to me, someone in my department sent a copy of my thesis to the Chinese press. My findings wound up as the editor's comment in the Shanghai newspaper, which called for an end to the madness. The editorial comment was then picked up by China's national paper, the People's Daily in Beijing.
She was more specific in her interview with Dick Gordon of The Story, providing the name of the Shanghai newspaper:
Gordon: So was this a college paper or was it the People's Daily? 
Fu: This was.. People's Daily picked it up from a different newspaper, the Shanghai Wenhui Daily, which is the biggest newspaper in Shanghai at the time. And People's Daily supported it too so they re-reported the same thing.
Yet in a later interview with D. G. Martin of NC Bookwatch, she changed People's Daily to Xinhua Newspaper:
DG: What was your problem about your research and writing about this topic?  
Fu: I was writing this for calling to a stop of killing baby girls for my thesis. One of my professor who took this material and gave it to a newspaper reporter because she is already aware this is happening. The reporter did an editorial comment. At that time, China didn't even have authorship. So she, out of compassion, wrote an editorial to call stopping killing. That piece got picked up by Xinhua Newspaper, which was an official government newspaper. That editor also wrote a syndicated editorial comment at his own, calling for a stop of killing baby girls. Unbeknownst to China, this was the first time Chinese official newspaper admitted this was happening. I actually didn't know how wide-spread it was. I think a lot. But now we know, during 78 to 82, in 4 years, 30 million girls were missing. It was... 
The Changed Story:
After many people searched and failed to locate any editorial that resembled her research of infanticide in People's Daily or elsewhere, Fu Ping issued a clarification:
In the 2005 Inc. Magazine article, you explained that your findings on female infanticide were later covered by Shanghai's Wen Hui Bao newspaper and later then by People's Daily, resulting in condemnation from around the world, sanctions imposed by the UN, and you getting tossed into prison. People's Daily archives for the period when your research would've been published have nothing regarding female infanticide in rural China. 
I remember reading an editorial in a newspaper in 1982 that called for gender equality. It was not a news article and not written by me, and I didn't know it had anything to do with my research (pp. 253-255). When writing the book, I did not name the paper, since I wasn't certain. However, I think that is where I read the editorial because it was the most popular and official newspaper. People who have not read my book made assumptions that I submitted the research to the newspaper, or I published the thesis, but that was not how I described it in the book. 
The Debunking:
It would be a wide, wild stretch to associate an editorial calling for gender equality to infanticide. But even so, there was no such editorial in 1982. There were, however, something close to it in 1983 which we should get to later, but by then Fu Ping had already been getting ready to leave the country.

In her clarification, Fu Ping blamed "people who have not read" her book for the misunderstanding. But her book, quoted above, clearly stated that a copy of her thesis was sent to a newspaper and served as the basis for the editorial. She has also repeated the same tale many times in her media interviews herself.

But apparently, now she does not even know if the news article, if existed, had anything to do with her research.

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