Growing up in Mao’s China

Hot off the press! A close and personal look at the Cultural Revolution.

A timely reminder of the way communist regimes behave when push comes to shove.

The story of Amei’s life began in a warm and comfortable family in an inner suburb of Beijing. Her time in the selective high school is delightful until Mao reactivated the class war as a vehicle to retain his paramount leadership after the disasters of the Great Leap Forward (the Great Famine).

Then came the nightmarish rampage of the Red Guards and the ensuing ten-year debacle until Mao died and the Gang of Four, headed by his wife, was brought down.

Amei spent most of those ten years in a village, 850 km west of Beijing on a high plateau not far from Xian. She met two old scholars who were sent out years before and they became her personal tutors as she read voraciously in their libraries, including the classics of western literature in Chinese translation. 

She learned enough English to help the old scholars run a program for English teachers when the education system began to revive after it closed down for the duration of the cultural revolution. She managed to get to university to study English and then she became an English teacher.

She experienced some of the horrors of the Tiananmen Square massacre as her students came back from the square carrying their dead and wounded friends in their arms.

Eventually she seized an opportunity to come to Sydney where she studied maths and taught in high schools and a coaching college until she retired in2017.

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Patrick Kelly
Patrick Kelly
March 5, 2022 5:23 pm

Congratulations Amei and Rafe. My order is in for my new Hong Konger in laws.

March 5, 2022 5:53 pm

It will be interesting to follow the lives of those Chinese youngsters educated in expensive Australian private schools by wealthy residents of China, including those of high ranking members of the CCP.

Will they decide that democratic societies are more fun to reside in, or will they respect family traditions and adapt to their country of origin? From my personal experience (which I am reluctant to expand on since it involves a young friend of a family member), I suspect the latter.

Fascinating and very, very scary for China’s neighbours such as Oz.

Patrick Kelly
Patrick Kelly
March 5, 2022 7:29 pm

Don’t misunderstand me. My new daughter in law is in Australia. I would not dream of sending this type of material to Hong Kong and nor would they welcome it. Potential for all sorts of trouble. My in laws have been out here from HK but any attempt to engage in conversation about politics is met with a “nothing to see here” “no problems” sort of response. Call it fear, call it discretion. The result is the same.

March 5, 2022 8:47 pm

This bloke also has an interesting tale to tell:

Old bloke
Old bloke
March 6, 2022 2:33 pm

Rafe Champion says:
March 5, 2022 at 6:17 pm

Thanks Vicki, mixed messages come out of China, some say the new middle class has a fair proportion of people with a taste for more freedom but the taste has to spread wide and deep before anything will change.

I watched a video a while ago from Serpenza and his American buddy (can’t remember his name) and they were comparing life for the wealthy in China to the USA. They were driving around Beverley Hills in California looking at the fine houses with nice gardens etc., and compared their lifestyle to the equally wealthy in China.

They said that the Chinese millionaires, though they can afford to buy the best imported French cognacs etc., they still live in the grey, cramped apartment blocks and don’t have the lifestyle choices that the American wealthy enjoy (apart from a few in Hong Kong). They then went on to observe that even the American middle class and working class have more to enjoy than the average Chinese millionaire.

And we can’t offer the western world as a model to emulate.

It’s been heading downhill fast in the western world for a while now, particularly in the Anglosphere.

Patrick Kelly
Patrick Kelly
March 6, 2022 3:16 pm

It’s been heading downhill fast in the western world for a while now, particularly in the Anglosphere.

It would seem that the old bloke is not very familiar with the non-anglospheric west which only ever had a tenuous grip on role modelship for western civilisation. German genocide in South-west Africa anyone? The Belgian Congo? Spanish and Portuguese. Pick a spot on the map? The French occupiers of IndoChina did not consist of your friendly Pierres and jean-Baptitses. The were largely Algerian and Moroccan conscripts with as much identification with western civilisation as your average great white shark. Their legacy of rape and abuse has been passed down through generations in Vietnam. And once again, I remind all the celto-identifiers that it wasn’t the English who invaded Ireland, it was your new found French mates known at the time as The Normans.

March 7, 2022 10:21 am

And the “Normans” were displaced Vikings.

Norman; Nor-Man; Men from the NORTH. The Normans were rather aggressive tourists who set up a substantial operation in a part of France that still bears their name; NORMANDY.

The same boating enthusiasts who rowed and portaged their longships into the heart of Russia and on to the Mediterranean.


Rus, rot, russet? HAIR colour! Strong genetic marker. A Norse word. “Russian” for “red” is “Krazno” (ish) as in the soil-science term, “Kraznozem” for, literally, “Red Earth”.

March 7, 2022 6:57 pm

Wild Swans is the most memorable book I have read on any topic.

Patrick Kelly
Patrick Kelly
March 8, 2022 9:48 am

@Bruce. Well yes. As far as it goes. However more complex than that. From Britannica:

By 990, the Vikings, through intermarriage and assimilation with the Franks, had become French-speaking Christians. Normandy was no longer a Viking colony, but had become a region of France, with the Norse language extinguished.

And any way you cut and dice it, the language and civilisation, for want of a better word, brought to England by the Normans was French. Their legacy was entirelly different from that which their partial ancestors, the Danes, left in Ireland and northern parts of England.

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Oh, you think that, do you? Care to put it on record?x