Communist dictator Mao Zedong defamed one of the most dedicated revolutionary families of the twentieth century, but the Chens determined to record their part in the birth of modern China. They were forced to work at night, hiding their activities from their closest neighbors. The Chens’ escape to Hong Kong in 1971, and Yuan-Tsung Chen’s eventual move to the United States, allowed for the publication of Return to the Middle Kingdom.
Disfavored by Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution
Yuan-Tsung Chen arrived in Beijing in 1950 to take a job in the Department of Film Scenario Writing. Jack Chen (they shared a common Chinese surname) also arrived in Beijing after establishing the first New China News Agency in the West in London. They were married eight years later.
When Jack Chen fell into disfavor with Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution of 1966-76, he and his wife were ordered to write a confession of crimes against the Chinese revolution spanning three generations. The result became Return to the Middle Kingdom.
The Political Life of Eugene Chen
Yuan-Tsung Chen focuses mainly on the life of her father-in-law. Eugene Chen was born in Trinidad in 1878 to Chinese ex-patriots. Around the age of 33 he gave up a successful law practice and his family and moved to Peking where he wrote propaganda for the revolution.
He mixed elements from Marxism, Confucianism, and Communism to create an ideological base for the revolution. When Russia sent representatives to assist the young Chinese Communist Party, Eugene Chen worked closely with them to bring the CCP into the revolutionary government.
From 1926-34 Eugene Chen served as the foreign minister for three different Chinese governments in turn, interrupted by a brief exile in Paris. During that time he signed the Chen-O’Malley agreement, regaining land conceded to Britain and setting a precedent for Hong Kong to be returned to Chinese control in 1997.
His actions indirectly allowed for the ascension of Mao Zedong, who was a young member of the CCP. In 1946, at his mountain fortress in Yanan, Mao Zedong thanked Jack Chen for the work he and his father had done for the revolution.
He was driven to exile in Hong Kong by political rivals in the mid ‘30s. The Japanese arrested him in 1942, and he died under mysterious circumstances two years later.
An Insider’s View of the Birth of Chinese Communism
Yuan-Tsung Chen excuses Eugene Chen’s abandonment of his family, whitewashes his involvement with Russian communists, and justifies his exploitation of the Chinese people to further his political agenda. In spite of her political stance, Mao Zedong’s government tried to silence her and her husband.
Madam Chen gives an insider’s view of the Chinese revolution and the birth of Chinese communism. Her unique insight and excellent writing skill ensures Return of the Middle Kingdom’s value to modern historical studies.