When word came that Chairman Mao Zedong had passed away, Mao Yushi was hand-copying a file in his office at the Ministry of Railways. He heard the sound of hurrying footsteps and people weeping outside his door.
Mao put down his pen and went home immediately. "This was the biggest news I'd heard. I knew China would have a big change," he recalled. At the same time, he said, he felt "a mixture of hollowness and sadness."
An era had ended. A country had a new opportunity to start over. It was a turning point for Mao Yushi, too. From the emotional darkness that had enveloped him for many years, he began to walk out to find a new fate.
An Inspired Leader
Mao was 20 years old and a junior student at Shanghai Jiaotong University when troops of the Chinese Communist Party arrived in the city on May 27, 1949.
People were shocked by the self-discipline of these troops. A photo later showed how these young soldiers spent their first three nights in the alleys of Shanghai � they crouched on the ground in lines in the drizzle, with their rifles leaning to the walls.
Locals cheered when they marched in the day. Girls hung flowers on their rifles. Young men shouted "long live the People's Liberation Army". Among them was Mao Yushi, a tall, thin young man from an intellectual family.
Like other college students in Shanghai, he was simple, kind, ignorant, and full of hopes for an ideal world. He made speeches to publicize the CPC's policies in the streets. He was one of the staunchest supporters of the new administration.
"The young people those days were very different from those today. They had less desire and were much simpler," Mao said.
As time passed, his passions began to wane. Doubts arose in 1952, when the new-born regime began fighting against "anti-revolutionists". Mao Yushi recalled thinking that no matter what, blood, cries and death were the opposite of an ideal world he sought to support.
In response to the government's calls for young men to contribute to the development of border regions, he chose to move to the northeast after graduating in 1950. He lived there for five years, during which he worked as a repair worker, a train driver, and later an engineer for in the railway bureau of Qiqihaer. It was also there that he contracted rheumatism.
The Anti-rightist Movement
After he married Zhao Yanling, Mao went back to Beijing in 1955. Two years later, he was labeled a rightist during a government-sponsered Anti-rightist Movement. Looking back, he said he was "correctly defined, because I indeed wanted to follow right-wing ideas, or, as they call it today, the primary stage of socialism," he said.
Though such ideas are highly praised today, they meant a salary cut by two levels, forcible education, road maintenance work in the suburbs, and more trouble in the future, including starvation.
Among the "wrong remarks" he made were "if we have nowhere to buy pork, then pork prices should rise", and "if Chairman Mao wants to meet a scientist, who should visit who?". Later, he called himself a "born liberalist".
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