In 1949, the Communists liberated their long-suffering people from 110 years of Western rape, plunder and forced drug addiction. Even with 100,000 US marines, 1.5 million imperialist Japanese soldiers kept on after 1945, millions of fascist Chinese Guomindang (KMT) forces, all equipped with billions of dollars of US air force and army weapons, the will and dreams of the Chinese people could not be defeated. All these fascists were run out of the country with their tails between their legs. As was the case, going back to 1921, when Zhou Enlai first met Mao Zedong, he was right there in the thick of endless fighting, negotiations and eventually socialist victory, risking his life to end Japanese and Western terrorism. Along with Mao, Zhou Enlai helped move and mold 20th century China, from strength to strength. It is inconceivable to imagine today's People's Republic without both their pharaonic contributions to the citizens.
In the China Trilogy, I wrote how Zhou almost died in Changsha, Hunan, when the KMT torched the city, to keep the communists from taking it over. Over 30,000 innocent citizens died in that fascist inferno. In 1955, the CIA tried to kill Zhou, by planting a bomb on the airplane he was supposed to take back home, after attending the Bandung Conference in Indonesia. At the last minute, Zhou innocently changed his plans and was not on board. A few minutes later, all the other hapless passengers were blown out of the sky. To say that he led a storied life is an understatement.
Zhou Enlai died on January 8th, 1976, after a long battle with cancer. It was a harbinger of one of the most cataclysmic years in China's long, 5,000-year history. General Zhu De, the mastermind behind the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and its crushing defeat of the Japanese and Americans (the Yanks in China and later in Korea) was one of the greatest military minds of the modern era. He died on July 6th. Three weeks later, on the 28th, one of the century's most devastating earthquakes flattened Tangshan, between Beijing and Tianjin (Zhou's hometown), causing 250,000 people to perish. And then the final blow that fateful year, just two months later, the Great Helmsman, Mao Zedong died on September 9th. A billion people thought the world had come to an end and in many other countries, it would have spelt civil war, collapse and worse. By historical standards, the government should have lost its heavenly mandate, but the surviving leadership kept their eyes on the socialist prize and held the country and its people together.
Zhou was handsome, suave and cosmopolitan. In 1917 he studied in Japan and in 1920, worked in France and Britain, becoming conversant in Japanese, French and English. While in Europe, he was already recruiting and organizing fellow Chinese students into communist political groups. The next year, he and Mao helped found the Communist Party of China (CPC) in Shanghai. This forever changed for the better the world we live in today, including yours, wherever you may be, and whether you realize it or not.
Zhou's language skills and knowledge of Western ways made him the international spokesperson for the Party and the people. It was Zhou who worked behind the scenes to organize the history-making meeting between Richard Nixon and Mao Zedong in 1972, another history changing event. Over the decades, Zhou proved to be a master diplomat, negotiator and goodwill ambassador for New China.
There is no English language biography of Zhou worth reading. Gao Wenqian's Zhou Enlai: The Last Perfect Revolutionary, which in spite of its romantic title, is a scurrilous screed of trash writing. I was appalled and disgusted reading it. Gao's Pavlovian, foaming-at-the-mouth hatred of communism, socialism and especially Mao Zedong, turns his book into a shameful hatchet job on Zhou, who was one of the greatest statesmen and revolutionary leaders of his era. Gao is an extreme embarrassment for the historical record, but in the West, you can get rich writing what is called scar literature, something I joked about in the China Trilogy. You cannot exaggerate, omit, fabricate and prevaricate enough, when it comes to destroying the truth about Eurangloland's many anti-imperial and anti-colonial enemies. Zhou Enlai was proudly one of those freedom fighters, faithfully serving his people and the aspirations of the world's 99%, until the day he died.