When successful entrepreneur, Obama adviser and immigrant success story Ping Fu published her memoir Bend, Not Break in late December, it initially met with much critical acclaim. After a positive review from Forbes was translated and posted to their Chinese-language portal, Chinese netizens and academics sought to debunk Fu’s portrayal of her time during the Cultural Revolution, which they saw as exaggerated and, at times, completely fabricated. The author then defended her account by softening some of her claims. At his South China Morning Post blog, John Kennedy summarizes the debate that unfolded in web-articles and their accompanying comment sections:
[…]Meanwhile, press coverage of Fu and her book was almost exclusively as uncritical as it was patronising, led by The Daily Beast, Huffington Post, Forbes as well as others.
Exhaustive attempts were made in comment sections to explain the issue, but Fu’s supporters appeared unwilling to listen. Even senior Reuters editor Harold Evans (and husband of Daily Beast founder Tina Brown) turned out to vouch for Fu, calling online appeals to reason a persecution.
Of course by this time actual internet trolls, the ones who fabricate China’s history in the opposite direction, had joined in, but all of this appeared lost on Fu’s unquestioning cheerleaders who, variously, dismissed all the feedback as an attack by Chinese internet vigilantes, a coordinated smear campaign against Fu, now placed high “on the vituperative frontline of cyber hostilities between China and the West”.[…]
In his post, Kennedy points to a recent article from The Guardian, in which experts are quoted casting their academically informed doubt over many of Fu’s claims, a few of which are listed below:
[…]Fu also says she was arrested and criticised by Suzhou University authorities after Deng Xiaoping, then China’s paramount leader, met student publishers. She says Deng had seen a daring article from the popular magazine she edited.
Perry Link, an expert on modern Chinese literature at the University of California at Riverside, said student magazine representatives met in 1979, but added: “I do not believe for a moment that Deng Xiaoping ever came near the group.”
[…]The entrepreneur claims she was ordered to leave China after exposing female infanticide in the early 80s, writing that in a few months of research she “witnessed with her own eyes” drowned and suffocated female infants. Last month, she told a radio station she watched “hundreds of baby girls being killed in front of my eyes. I saw girls being tossed into the river.”
Therese Hesketh of University College London, an expert on population controls in China, said: “I have never heard stories of this kind. Infanticide did of course occur, but was not commonplace … It certainly was not done in public as even at that time to be caught meant a possible murder charge.”