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Short bio: My grandfather was born in 1938 in Dalian, which was a coastal city in China that was subjected to heavy Japanese and Russian influence throughout the early 20th century. As a result, my grandfather learnt to speak both Japanese and Russian (though not as fluent as his Chinese).
During WW2, Dalian was under Japanese occupation. My grandfather claims he remembers Japanese officers living in Dalian along with the families they brought.
In August of 1955, he went into the PLA military academy at the age of 17. He graduated in 1958, February. He claims that he had to study 18 courses. Apparently, he became an artillery officer.
He finally retired in the 1990s (not too sure when). He is now living a relatively comfortable life in China. I am currently visiting my relatives in China right now and I have told him about the AMA. Due to his declining heath conditions over the years, he has agreed to pass down some knowledge regarding his life and his service in the hopes that he could teach the younger generations not to take their lives for granted.
I will be the one doing the translating, so ask away!
What is his proudest moment during his career?
"I was put in charge of some anti-aircraft guns for a training exercise. The aim of the exercise was for the ground crew to hit the target trail left by the planes in mid air. Being a careful person, I double-checked the calculated co-ordinates of the anti-aircraft fire the day before the military exercise. It turns out that the co-ordinates would actually hit the plane itself. That day, I prevented a fatal accident, which I am very much proud of."
Has he had any interaction with the US Military? If he has, what where his impressions and was the experience positive or negative?
Haha, touchy subject. He has never met a US serviceman.
But yeah he says something along the lines that he has an overall negative impression with the US Military. He believes that the US Military is doing the bidding of a self-interested government.
However, keep in mind that he has been fed loads of negative propaganda about the USA.
Thanks for the response! I kinda figured it would be a touchy subject.
I completely understand why he has that impression. But, then again the same thing can be said for any army for any government.
I do have another question (well I'm a military buff so I could ask your grandfather questions for hours). How where his rations? Like the food he ate in the field. How had they improved from when his first joined to when he retired?
Like the US went from K-rations (stuff in cans and boxes) to MREs.
Haha m8 ask away! It's why I posted in the first place.
But yeah he says that his rations were quite different from the 1950s to the 1990s. When he first joined, he was fed mantou (Wheat bun with no filling), salted vegetables and cabbage soup. Occasionly, he was served boiled eggs and salted fish on good days. As you can see, the quality wasn't that good but it was a great improvement to the food at home. He says that he was starving when he was younger and that one of the prospects about joining the army was that he would be fed.
In the field, he recieved some kind of biscuits during field exercises. Of course, things got better as time progressed. By the latter half of his career (80s and onwards) garlic beef and Chinese spam was issued.
Funny enough, I tried to draw a comparison by wearing his clothes from different times. I fit perfectly fine into his 1980s uniform but I could absolutely not fit into his uniform from the 1950s or even the 1960s. (I am pretty skinny at 180lbs).
Interesting. Thank you for answering.
I guess I'll just list a few then:
What rank did your grandfather retire at?
Did he ever see combat?
Was he ever trained by the Soviets or did he join after the Sino-Soviet split?
What were his favorite and least favorite things in the PLA?
I believe that he retired with a rank to the equivalent of a Colonel.
He himself never saw combat but he has several friends in the army who died in Tibet.
He wasn't actually trained by the Soviets but he throughout his early life and his early army career he did interract with a lot of Soviet troops. He told me that a lot of the equipment at the time used by the PLA was Soviet. However, after the split he no longer saw them but despite that he views them quite positively. He even tells me than "Soviets are good people." In contrast, he really doesn't like me joining the Australian army (I'm enlisting soon) because he viewed them as his enemy.
He really enjoys the predictable life in the PLA. My grandfather doesn't really like change that much apparently.
His least favourite thing about the army is the danger. Military deaths from accidents were quite common. As a result, his time in the military has turned him into a very careful person.
What did he think of the cultural revolution?
He just told me that he doesn't want to answer this question. srry
What does your Grandfather think of China changing since 1990 as far as turning into a super power?
"I am very happy that China is becoming much stronger. This will mean that other countries will respect China more and realise that we will not be so easily trampled on. I am also very happy with the prosperity of the common people, who are now much richer than in the past."
What is his view of Japan today, after the apologies it has given for its government in WW2?
"I have nothing against the Japanese people today, but I do not like the Japanese government very much."
TBH he never seemed to hate Japan that much. The Japanese officers in Dalian never treated him badly. Also, I have a ton of Japanese friends and he hasn't really complained.
Did he have any experiences with the Soviets?
My great uncle apparently escaped Nazi Germany and joined with the Soviets. I am wondering if he ever interacted with them during the time relations were favorable and what that was like. I understand sometimes there were joint training exercises.
Here is a photo of him meeting with the Chinese. I couldn't tell you the context of the photo or an exact date but I believe this was taken in the 1950s:
Indeed he did. Growing up, he remembered Soviet soldiers everywhere in Dalian taking over the Japanese. Also, during his early days as a soldier (1950s) he interracted with plenty of Soviet troops. However, he didn't really do joint training exercises with them. Later on, there were no more interractions due to the Sino-Soviet split. Despite this, he has quite a positive impression of the Soviet Army for some reason.
What standard gun did he use?
He says that when he joined, he was given a rifle that had 5 rounds. He can't actually remember the name of that rifle though. He also says that they were issued with submachine guns that shot very fast with a round disk. He knows the name but idk how to translate it to english.
Does he have any experience with State Security-related activities (Whether for or against) such as propaganda, State surveillance, etc?
Nope. That was never my Grandfather's role.
Were the Japanese treated differently by the Chinese in Dalian? Was there a class difference or any discrimination in the city?
He says he doesn't remember very well but presumably, yes. He said that learning Japanese in school was compulsury when he went to the school in 1945 so one can assume that the Japanese during the time period were forcing their culture on the Chinese in Dalian.
How was the overall Chinese sentiment towards the United States during the Korean War? What about the Cold War? What's his opinion of North Korea?
Of course, the Chinese sentiment towards the U.S was overwelmingly negative during the Korean War. He percieved the United States for the entire era of the Cold War as his primary enemy. As the capital of Imperialism and Captalism. He was taught that it was the US and South Korea who first invaded North Korea in 1950 (even thought it was the other way around). He was also told multiple times that China intervened in the Korean War to protect themselves (it was believed at the time that the US would invade China after North Korean fell). My grandfather really
That doesn't mean he likes North Korea. My grandfather as of right now views North Korea as a joke. Well...pretty much everyone in China right now pokes fun at North Korea so he is no exception.
Does he drink hot water for the healthy?
Well...yes. He likes drinking hot water and hot tea. When I was younger, this would irritate me to no end because I LOVE cold water during Summer and everytime I go to his house none is avaliable.
But on the other hand, he does also drink sprite and cold beer haha. Just never seen him drink cold water.
How does he feel about the new generation of consumerism in China?
TBH he says himself that he doesn't really understand modern economics all that well. He knows nothing about technology either. I mean, he has a flip phone for christ sake!
In all seriousness he doesn't really have an opinion on consumerism.
Did he get any benefits?
Yes. Especially in regards to retirement benefits. As of right now he recieves 9000 RMB (Chinese currency) a month from the Chinese government.