Speaker discusses upbringing in communist China

It was standing room only at Smith Hall for the first guest speaker put on by the Institute of Asian Studies, who spoke about her life in Communist China.Qui Jin, an associate professor and director of Asian studies at Old Dominion University, spoke Thursday about her struggles to overcome the obstacles surrounding the Chinese Cultural Revolution in the 1960s.

Qui said she came to the U.S. to study a part of Chinese history that was forbidden by the Chinese government.

“It is still dangerous today to study the mystery of the Lin Biao Incident in 1971,” Qui said. “My interest is not just because of the politics, but the way it affected me personally.”

Qui said her father was the associate chief of staff in the People’s Liberation Army and the commander and chief of the air force. He was arrested after the death of Lin Biao during the purge of more than 1,000 one-star generals for plotting a coup d’etat of chairman Mao Zedong, the leader of China at the time, she said.

Lin Biao was a general in Mao’s army and his best student, and was also Mao’s chosen successor, Qui said.

During the Cultural Revolution, Mao encouraged students to rise up and destroy the old world to begin a new one, Qui said.

“There are no actual statistics for how many people suffered and how much was lost during the Revolution,” Qui said.

Qui said she does not believe the government will ever admit that there could be other theories in the death of Lin Biao.

“In my book, I came up with my own theory and emphasized the family role in politics,” Qui said. “It was published in 1999 and it’s still banned in mainland China.”

The mystery of Lin Biao’s death is comparable to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Qui said.

Jesica Severson, a junior political science major, said, “I have studied these events in textbooks, but it is another thing altogether to hear it firsthand and see pictures of her family.”

During her presentation, Qui mentioned the names of the people students learn about in textbooks as if they were ordinary people, not some of the most influential people in China.

Carrie Currier, director of Asian studies, said the Institute of Asian Studies is planning on having annual speakers to increase interest in the Asian studies minor, as well as interest in Asia and China particularly.

“She spoke so openly about her personal struggles, emotional or political, and her family struggles – of everything (that) affected her mother and her siblings,” Currier said. “None of us have this experience, but we have the interest.”

Qui said she knows that she is very lucky to be where she is today.

“It was very hard sometimes to know that I had done nothing wrong, but I was being punished because of my father,” Qui said.