Montargis, France: where Chinese communism began

2nd July 2007, Comments 0 comments

85-year-old Cai Ni strolled into Montargis where her father proclaimed communism to be the path to a bright future for China in the 1920s.

MONTARGIS, France,  July 2, 2007 (AFP) - Smiling broadly, 85-year-old Cai Ni strolled into a tree-shaded park in the French town of Montargis where her father proclaimed communism to be the path to a bright future for China.

She approached a plaque at Durzy gardens almost reverentially and there found a photograph of a group of Chinese men and women gathered at that very spot in July 1920 to agree on a manifesto "to save China and the world."

"That's my father Cai Hesen, and there, my mother Xiang Jingyu, my grandmother Ge Jinghao and aunt Cai Chang," she explained, her aged hands shifting slowly from one side of the picture to the other.

The photograph was taken only five months after Cai Hesen, a close friend of Mao Zedong who would later become one of the leading theoreticians of the Chinese Communist Party, arrived in Montargis along with a group of other young Chinese from Hunan province to take part in a work and study programme.

On Friday, Cai make her first visit to the town in central France where her father wrote a letter to Mao calling for the creation of a Communist Party that would "be the engine of the revolutionary movement."

Mao replied that he agreed wholeheartedly and the Communist Party was founded in Shanghai a month later, on July 1, 1921.

Cai's mother Xiang Jingyu, the first woman to become a member of the party's central committee, was six months pregnant when she left Montargis in 1922. Three months later, Cai was born in Shanghai.

In France, the town of 60,000 people located about 100 kilometers (60 miles) south of Paris is better known for its many bridges straddling a network of canals and its local production of caramelised almonds and honey than as the birthplace of the Chinese Communist Party.

But Montargis figures prominently in Chinese schoolbooks as a seedbed of intellectuals who helped shape communist ideology and create the People's Republic in 1949.

"All Chinese know Montargis," said Wang Yi, first secretary of the Chinese embassy in France. "It's here that many of the revolutionaries got their ideas."

"They were young people who wanted to change China," he said.

The most prominent of Montargis' Chinese visitors was Deng Xiaoping who worked nine months in the Hutchinson rubber factory, making shoes and rainwear.

Deng was fired from the factory in March 1923 with records showing that he had "refused to work" and should not be re-employed.  Deng, who spent six years in France, also worked at a Renault car factory in the Paris region.

Cai Hesen and Xiang Jingyu died at the hands of Chinese nationalists, but others of the Montargis group went on to play prominent roles including Cai's aunt Chang who became vice-president of the Senate.

Cai Ni, who spent several years in the Soviet Union after her mother died, remembers hearing stories about France from her parents, but only learned of their time in Montargis in the late 1970s when China marked the 50th anniversary of the death of her mother.

Three years ago, the president of the local China-Montargis friendship society, Chinese-born doctor Peiwen Wang, met with Cai Ni in Beijing and invited her to visit the town where her parents had lived.

But poor health had prevented her from accepting the invitation until now.

"I wish I could have come earlier," she said, after touring the town where her parents, both 25 years old and in love, wrote poetry and prepared to change the world.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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