Zhou Enlai Quotes

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Asked what he thought was the significance of the French Revolution, the Chinese Premier Zhou En-lai is reported to have answered, “It’s too soon to tell.
Simon Schama (Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution)
Traffic was in confusion for several days. For red to mean "stop' was considered impossibly counterrevolutionary. It should of course mean "go." And traffic should not keep to the right, as was the practice, it should be on the left. For a few days we ordered the traffic policemen aside and controlled the traffic ourselves. I was stationed at a street corner telling cyclists to ride on the left. In Chengdu there were not many cars or traffic lights, but at the few big crossroads there was chaos. In the end, the old rules reasserted themselves, owing to Zhou Enlai, who managed to convince the Peking Red Guard leaders. But the youngsters found justifications for this: I was told by a Red Guard in my school that in Britain traffic kept to the left, so ours had to keep to the right to show our anti-imperialist spirit. She did not mention America. As a child I had always shied away from collective activity. Now, at fourteen, I felt even more averse to it. I suppressed this dread because of the constant sense of guilt I had come to feel, through my education, when I was out of step with Mao. I kept telling myself that I must train my thoughts according to the new revolutionary theories and practices. If there was anything I did not understand, I must reform myself and adapt. However, I found myself trying very hard to avoid militant acts such as stopping passersby and cutting their long hair, or narrow trouser legs, or skirts, or breaking their semi-high-heeled shoes. These things had now become signs of bourgeois decadence, according to the Peking Red Guards. My own hair came to the critical attention of my schoolmates. I had to have it cut to the level of my earlobes. Secretly, though much ashamed of myself for being so "petty bourgeois," I shed tears over losing my long plaits. As a young child, my nurse had a way of doing my hair which made it stand up on top of my head like a willow branch. She called it "fireworks shooting up to the sky." Until the early 1960s I wore my hair in two coils, with rings of little silk flowers wound around them. In the mornings, while I hurried through my breakfast, my grandmother or our maid would be doing my hair with loving hands. Of all the colors for the silk flowers, my favorite was pink.
Jung Chang (Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China)
But this was not enough on its own to generate the kind of terror that Mao wanted. On 18 August, a mammoth rally was held in Tiananmen Square in the center of Peking, with over a million young participants. Lin Biao appeared in public as Mao's deputy and spokesman for the first time. He made a speech calling on the Red Guards to charge out of their schools and 'smash up the four olds' defined as 'old ideas, old culture, old customs, and old habits." Following this obscure call, Red Guards all over China took to the streets, giving full vent to their vandalism, ignorance, and fanaticism. They raided people's houses, smashed their antiques, tore up paintings and works of calligraphy. Bonfires were lit to consume books. Very soon nearly all treasures in private collections were destroyed. Many writers and artists committed suicide after being cruelly beaten and humiliated, and being forced to witness their work being burned to ashes. Museums were raided. Palaces, temples, ancient tombs, statues, pagodas, city walls anything 'old' was pillaged. The few things that survived, such as the Forbidden City, did so only because Premier Zhou Enlai sent the army to guard them, and issued specific orders that they should be protected. The Red Guards only pressed on when they were encouraged. Mao hailed the Red Guards' actions as "Very good indeed!" and ordered the nation to support them. He encouraged the Red Guards to pick on a wider range of victims in order to increase the terror. Prominent writers, artists, scholars, and most other top professionals, who had been privileged under the Communist regime, were now categorically condemned as 'reactionary bourgeois authorities." With the help of some of these people's colleagues who hated them for various reasons, ranging from fanaticism to envy, the Red Guards began to abuse them. Then there were the old 'class enemies': former landlords and capitalists, people with Kuomintang connections, those condemned in previous political campaigns like the 'rightists' and their children.
Jung Chang (Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China)
When asked if he thought that the French Revolution had been a good thing, Zhou Enlai famously answered that it was too early to tell, which is trite about the Terror, but it would be true about America. It’s too early to tell. If you take a timeline from the first settlements in the 1600s to the present, and compare it with the foundation of modern Europe from the end of the Roman Empire, at the same point in our history the Vikings are attacking Orkney, and Alfred is the first king of bits of what will one day be England.
A.A. Gill (To America with Love)
Meanwhile, Mme Mao and her cohorts were renewing their efforts to prevent the country from working. In industry, their slogan was: "To stop production is revolution itself." In agriculture, in which they now began to meddle seriously: "We would rather have socialist weeds than capitalist crops." Acquiring foreign technology became "sniffing after foreigners' farts and calling them sweet." In education: "We want illiterate working people, not educated spiritual aristocrats." They called for schoolchildren to rebel against their teachers again; in January 1974, classroom windows, tables, and chairs in schools in Peking were smashed, as in 1966. Mme Mao claimed this was like "the revolutionary action of English workers destroying machines in the eighteenth century." All this demagoguery' had one purpose: to create trouble for Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiao-ping and generate chaos. It was only in persecuting people and in destruction that Mme Mao and the other luminaries of the Cultural Revolution had a chance to "shine." In construction they had no place. Zhou and Deng had been making tentative efforts to open the country up, so Mme Mao launched a fresh attack on foreign culture. In early 1974 there was a big media campaign denouncing the Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni for a film he had made about China, although no one in China had seen the film, and few had even heard of it or of Antonioni. This xenophobia was extended to Beethoven after a visit by the Philadelphia Orchestra. In the two years since the fall of Lin Biao, my mood had changed from hope to despair and fury. The only source of comfort was that there was a fight going on at all, and that the lunacy was not reigning supreme, as it had in the earlier years of the Cultural Revolution. During this period, Mao was not giving his full backing to either side. He hated the efforts of Zhou and Deng to reverse the Cultural Revolution, but he knew that his wife and her acolytes could not make the country work. Mao let Zhou carry on with the administration of the country, but set his wife upon Zhou, particularly in a new campaign to 'criticize Confucius." The slogans ostensibly denounced Lin Biao, but were really aimed at Zhou, who, it was widely held, epitomized the virtues advocated by the ancient sage. Even though Zhou had been unwaveringly loyal, Mao still could not leave him alone. Not even now, when Zhou was fatally ill with advanced cancer of the bladder.
Jung Chang (Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China)
once took a Chinese ambassador in London to a high-end French restaurant in the hope they would repeat Prime Minister Zhou Enlai’s much-quoted answer to Richard Nixon’s question ‘What is the impact of the French Revolution?’, to which the prime minister replied ‘It’s too soon to tell.’ Sadly this was not forthcoming, but I was treated to a stern lecture about how the full imposition of ‘what you call human rights’ in China would lead to widespread violence and death and was then asked, ‘Why do you think your values would work in a culture you don’t understand?
Tim Marshall (Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Tell You Everything You Need to Know About Global Politics)
For years, Zhou had been a follower of Mao Zedong, careful never to utter a word of opposition. In this sense, Zhou had assisted in the creation of the very totalitarian system of which he became the victim. Yet in terms of historical legacy, it is Zhou Enlai who has emerged the victor over Mao. Zhou’s death not only struck the death knell of the Cultural Revolution, but also announced the bankruptcy of the Communist myth. If someone so devoted and loyal as Zhou ended up suffering such pathetic treatment at the hands of the Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party, how could anyone trust in the aims of the revolution?
Gao Wenqian (Zhou Enlai: The Last Perfect Revolutionary)
Mao asks Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping, “How do you get a cat to bite a hot pepper?” Zhou says, “You hold him down, pry his jaws open, and shove the pepper into his mouth.” Mao says, “No, that’s force. We want the cat to bite the pepper of his own free will.” Deng says, “You take the pepper, wrap it in a delicious piece of fish, and, before he knows it, the cat has bitten the pepper.” Mao says, “No, that’s trickery. We want the cat to know he’s biting the pepper.” Zhou and Deng say, “We give up. How do you make a cat bite a hot pepper?” “It’s easy,” Mao says. “Stick the pepper up the cat’s ass. He’ll be glad to bite it.
P.J. O'Rourke (Eat the Rich: A Treatise on Economics)
It is too soon to say.
Zhou Enlai
Minister of Public Security Xie Fuzhi approved an infantile demand by the Red Guards that traffic police replace their batons with Quotations of Chairman Mao, claiming that only Mao Zedong Thought could point people in the correct direction. Zhou Enlai managed to talk the Red Guards out of their demand to change traffic lights because red was the symbol of the revolution and should not be the color for obstructing progress. He and the commander of the Beijing Military Region, Zheng Weisan, were also able to convince the Red Guards to abandon their demand to march from west to east (i.e. away from capitalism) when being reviewed by Mao at Tiananmen Square, pointing out that reversing the direction would require Red Guards to salute Mao with their left hands and force Mao to look right rather than left from the gate tower.
Yang Jisheng (The World Turned Upside Down: A History of the Chinese Cultural Revolution)
Ever willing to use the dead to suppress the living, these tough old fighters now operated under the banner of Zhou Enlai’s memory to pressure the Central Party leadership into diverting the attacks on Deng Xiaoping that Mao had personally inaugurated.
Gao Wenqian (Zhou Enlai: The Last Perfect Revolutionary)
One Politburo meeting had an important topic to discuss, but before the meeting began, Jiang Qing raised a fuss, saying, 'Premier, you need to solve a serious problem for me, otherwise there will be real trouble!' Zhou Enlai asked, 'Comrade Jiang Qing, what is this serious problem?' Jiang Qing said, 'The toilet im my quarters is so cold that I can't use it in chilly weather - I'll catch the flu the moment I sit on it, and once I catch the flu, I can't go to see Chairman Mao for fear he'll catch it. Isn't this a serious matter?' Zhou Enlai said, 'How shall we deal with this? Shall I send someone to have a look at it after the meeting?' Jiang Qing found this unacceptable, saying, 'Premier, you lack class sentiment toward me; the class enemies are just waiting for me to die as soon as possible!' Zhou Enlai had no choice but to cancel the meeting and take us all over to Jiang Qing's quarters. Zhou Enlai looked at Jiang Qing's toilet and rubbed his chin thoughtfully without coming up with a solution. Finally he said, 'Comrade Jiang Qing, how about this: We don't have the technology to heat this toilet, but we could wrap the seat with insulating material, and also pad it with soft cloth, and that should solve the problem temporarily.' Jiang Qing agreed to this, and Zhou Enlai immediately told the Central Committee Secretariat to send someone over to deal with it.
Yang Jisheng (The World Turned Upside Down: A History of the Chinese Cultural Revolution)
rebels from the Foreign Ministry, who wanted to hold a discussion about launching a struggle meeting of their own
Gao Wenqian (Zhou Enlai: The Last Perfect Revolutionary)
At the meeting, Lu Dingyi made self-criticism, admitting that it seemed unbelievable that he could have lived with Yan Weibing for twenty-five years without knowing about her letters, but insisting on his innocence. 'Yan Weibing is now at the Ministry of Public Security, so please ask her. If I knew anything about her letters before reading the Ministry of Public Security files, please treat me like a chief conspirator and accomplice of counterrevolution and punish me more harshly.' In reply to Lin Biao's grilling, Lu said: 'isn't it quite common for husbands not to know what their wives are up to?' Lin Biao said: 'I'm itching to shoot you right here and now!' He went on, 'I've always had a liking for some intellectuals, and I've been especially fond of you, Lu Dingyi. So why do you engage in this kind of mischief? What's your intention?' When Lu Dingyi said he really didn't know about the letters, Lin Biao smacked the table and said, 'How can you not know when you're in bed fucking every day?' The denunciation turned farcical as Zhou Enlai hurled a a tea mug in Lu Dingyi's direction, and Yang Chengwu shook his fist under Lu's face and said, 'This is the dictatorship of the proletariat!
Yang Jisheng (The World Turned Upside Down: A History of the Chinese Cultural Revolution)
When asked his opinion of the French Revolution, Chinese Premier Zhou En-Lai in the 1950s famously remarked, “It’s too early to tell.
Graham E. Fuller (A World Without Islam)
Of course, to the Iranians, with a history spanning thousands of years, the events of 1953 were like yesterday, and the support the United States gave to the Shah and the SAVAK up until the bitter end in 1979 were even fresher wounds. This calls to mind the story about Chinese premier Zhou Enlai being asked by Richard Nixon in 1972 about the significance of the 1789 French Revolution, whereupon Enlai, also from a country with an ancient history, quipped, “too early to say.” In truth, the well-documented amnesia that Americans have about historic events is selective, with Americans usually able to remember the tragedies they have suffered and the crimes committed against them, like the attacks of September 11, 2001, or the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. Of course, in all fairness, Americans are kept in the dark about the less savory episodes in our collective history by both our schools and our press. At the same time, it seems to me that in addition to a lack of knowledge is a lack of empathy for others’ suffering, as well as the complete refusal to accept the truth about the suffering our nation has inflicted on others even when we are told about it.
Dan Kovalik (The Plot to Attack Iran: How the CIA and the Deep State Have Conspired to Vilify Iran)