Epic ex­pe­di­tion

Eighty years af­ter the end of the Chi­nese Red Army’s epic ex­pe­di­tion, the mass mi­gra­tion is still ca­pa­ble of stir­ring the hearts of mil­lions across the globe, Liu Jing reports from Huai­hua, Hu­nan province.

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - Con­tact the writer at li­u­jing-4@chi­nadaily.com.cn

For­eign eyes of­fer new view of the Long March, 80 years af­ter the end of the Chi­nese Red Army’s mass mi­gra­tion.

In Oc­to­ber 1934, hun­dreds of thou­sands of RedArmy sol­diers set out on the Long March, a strate­gic shift from the forces of the Kuom­intang, or Na­tion­al­ists.

Af­ter two gru­el­ing years spent trekking through in­hos­pitable coun­try­side, the troops and their fol­low­ers ar­rived at Yan’an in North­west China’s Shaanxi province, which would be their base for the next fewyears.

The world largely got a glimpse of the Long March and the Com­mu­nist Party of China in 1936 thanks to Edgar Snow, a jour­nal­ist from the United States who spent months with the Red Army in the north­west and later wrote Red Star over China, the de­fin­i­tive ac­count of the CPC’s tra­vails at the time.

Set­ting out

Since Au­gust, four China Daily re­porters from over­seas have been part of a larger group of journalists from more than 40 na­tional and lo­cal news por­tals and plat­forms in­vited to re­trace the Red Army’s 12,500km route to bring a fresh per­spec­tive to the his­toric event for read­ers world­wide.

“Be­fore go­ing on this trip, my knowl­edge re­gard­ing the Long March was no more than a few gen­eral is­sues,” said Tyler O’Neil, dur­ing a trip to Hu­nan province, from where the Sec­ond Front Army of the Red Army de­parted for the Long March.

“Now, I have come to re­al­ize that the de­tails are very im­por­tant. I ap­pre­ci­ate the op­por­tu­nity very much,” said the United States na­tional, who also vis­ited Long March sites in Gansu province in China’s far north­west.

The for­eign re­porters’ tour is not only de­signed to mark the LongMarch, but also to record the progress achieved by lo­cal peo­ple in re­cent decades. It is hosted by the Cy­berspace Ad­min­is­tra­tion of China, the na­tion’s in­ter­net watch­dog.

By Sept 30, the group will have vis­ited Jiangxi, Hu­nan, Guizhou, Sichuan, Gansu and Shaanxi— six of the 15 prov­inces, mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and au­ton­o­mous re­gions the Red Army tra­versed dur­ing the march.

In ad­di­tion to the six prov­inces fea­tured in the main tour, the re­main­ing nine prov­inces, mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and au­ton­o­mous re­gions or­ga­nized their own me­dia vis­its to re­trace the marchers’ route.

“(We in­vited the for­eign­ers) to in­herit ‘Red Genes’. Eighty years ago, there were for­eign­ers such as Edgar Snow, who recorded the Long March, or Ru­dolf Bosshardt from the United King­dom, who par­tic­i­pated in the march,” said Jiang Jun, direc­tor of the Bureau of In­ter­net News and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions at the Cy­berspace Ad­min­is­tra­tion of China.

“We in­vited our for­eign friends to join this press tour to ex­pe­ri­ence the Long March spirit, to wit­ness the dra­matic changes tak­ing place along the route and, through their ex­pe­ri­ences, to tell China’s sto­ries,” Jiang said.

Ar­du­ous progress

Bri­ton Greg Foun­tain vis­ited Sichuan from Sept 9 to 14. The snow-clad moun­tains and bar­ren grass­lands made the province one of the most ar­du­ous sec­tions for the orig­i­nal LongMarch par­tic­i­pants.

Even to­day, the route is gru­el­ing. Foun­tain had to rely on thick clothes and bot­tled oxy­gen to avoid feel­ing light-headed at the 4,600-me­ter sum­mit of Ji­a­jin Moun­tain, the first snow-capped peak the Cen­tral Red Army en­coun­tered dur­ing its mam­moth trek.

I hope to pro­vide an out­side per­spec­tive on a part of his­tory that my Chi­nese coun­ter­parts have known all their lives.” Tyler O’Neil, a China Daily re­porter from the United States

Dur­ing a visit to Guizhou province, In­dian jour­nal­ist Faisal Kid­wai said the Long March is de­fined by the self­less spirit of the par­tic­i­pants, even in the face of daunt­ing dif­fi­cul­ties. Af­ter their two-year strug­gle, barely a quar­ter of the 200,000 sol­diers who be­gan the trek made it to the end.

“Most of China, es­pe­cially the western part, was un­der­de­vel­oped 80 years ago. To put it mildly, the in­fra­struc­ture was not world class and the army wasn’t the strong force it is to­day. Find­ing even es­sen­tial items was not easy. Given all those fac­tors, it’s truly re­mark­able that such peo­ple vol­un­teered to face the sac­ri­fices, suf­fer­ing and heartaches just for love of their coun­try,” Kid­wai said.

Foun­tain and Adam He­garty, an Aus­tralian na­tional, echoed that sen­ti­ment. In Jiangxi province, the start­ing point of the Long March, He­garty spoke with a 101-yearold Red Army vet­eran and found in­spi­ra­tion in the hard­ships he re­called.

The re­porters have been im­pressed that the Long March spirit has been in­her­ited and adopted by lo­cal peo­ple in their “New Long March” to shake off poverty.

“One of the things that im­pressed me the most is the trans­for­ma­tion that hap­pened in Shibadong vil­lage in Hu­nan, where the peo­ple worked re­ally hard for a bet­ter life. This is such a dy­namic way of show­ing the in­trepid char­ac­ter of the Chi­nese peo­ple,” O’Neil said.

In the vil­lage, hid­den in the moun­tains, O’Neil was deeply moved by the story of 76-yearold Long Decheng, whose fam­ily was mired in poverty un­til 2013. Shortly af­ter Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping raised the con­cept of “tar­geted poverty al­le­vi­a­tion” in the vil­lage, the fam­ily be­gan to pros­per from the devel­op­ment of lo­cal tourism.

“She (Long Decheng) must have an in­cred­i­bly hard life liv­ing in these re­mote moun­tains, but she still has this great pos­i­tive en­ergy. This is the great­est tes­ta­ment to the Long March spirit— re­silience,” O’Neil said.

Re­cent achieve­ments

Kid­wai ob­served the same spirit in Guizhou. He said he was struck by how far the province has come in such a short time. In 1978, its per capita GDP was less than one-half the na­tional av­er­age, but now the south­west­ern province is post­ing dou­ble-digit growth and cruis­ing on the in­for­ma­tion su­per­high­way.

The press tour has been trend­ing on­line since it be­gan. As of Mon­day, 116,195 re­lated en­tries had been pub­lished on­line, and there have been 74,107 posts on Sina Weibo — China’s Twit­ter-like ser­vice — alone. The two of­fi­cial ar­ti­cles about the event gar­nered 640 mil­lion views.

China Daily’s for­eign re­porters have writ­ten a num­ber of ar­ti­cles to record their jour­neys, which can be found on chi­nadaily.com.cn.

“I hope to pro­vide an out­side per­spec­tive on a part of his­tory that my Chi­nese coun­ter­parts have known all their lives. I be­lieve I can shine a dif­fer­ent light on is­sues we en­coun­tered that have al­ready been framed in a cer­tain way by the me­dia that came be­fore us,” O’Neil said.

HUA XIAOFENG / FOR CHINA DAILY

A group of journalists hold a memo­rial cer­e­mony at a Long March mon­u­ment in Hongyuan county, Sichuan province, on Sept 13. The group was in­vited by China’s in­ter­net watch­dog to re­trace the route of the Red Army’s 12,500-km Long March.

ZHANGXINGJIAN / CHINA DAILY

Faisal Kid­wai pays a visit to a mu­seum in Mao­tai town, Guizhou province, to record sto­ries about the Red Army.

LIU ZHIQIANG / FOR CHINA DAILY

Adam He­garty, dur­ing an in­ter­view at a veg­etable green­house in Xing­guo county, Jiangxi province.

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