What if nuclear bomb had not been invented? What if the West had not win the Cold War, would the world be less benign or perhaps less malign? What if the Bandung Conference became a successful movement in gathering the Third World solidarity? What if there was a strong coalition of non-aligned governments in Asia and Africa? What if Southeast Asia had a different grouping that overcame Asia and bypassed the Pacific? What if the Berlin Wall never fell? What if the Berlin Wall had never been built? What if the leftist movement in Asia was able to gain bigger power? How close did we come to alternative worlds the Bandung Conference imagine?

The suicide that led to the victory of the Malayan communist revolution in 1951.

[Part 1] Malayan Communist Party’s Adoption of the Armed Struggle, 1948-1951

The Malayan Communist Party (MCP) was once recognised by the British administration as a legitimate political party. Most of the communists were formerly tied to the Malayan Peoples’ Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA), whom the British had supported during the Japanese Occupation (1941-1945) in fighting against the Japanese. When the Japanese surrendered in 1945, MPAJA kept most of the weapons and their members anticipated joining the communists to drive away the colonial British and to achieve independence. MCP’s shift from the legal period to the adoption of the armed struggle remains controversial. But according to former communist leader, Chin Peng, change has been slow and many were doubtful about the “peaceful struggle” for independence. In 1948, MCP held an important meeting and decided to begin an armed struggle against the British. MCP’s violence escalated from the mid-1948 onwards and peaked between 1949-1951.

[Part 2] Brigg’s Plan and the Anti-Communist Psychological Warfare, 1948-1951

In 1948, the British declared Emergency in several areas in Malaya. Sir Harold Briggs, then Director of Operations, initiated the Briggs’ Plan aiming at relocating the villagers (mostly the Chinese who sympathise with the communists) who were living at brink of the jungle. The Plan was initiated to ultimately separate the supporters from the MCP, who remained dependent on the families and supporters outside of the jungle. The supporters have also formed an informal organisation called Min Yuen (“民 运” [trans.: Mass Movement]) to assist the MCP on food supply and medicine.

Briggs set up resettlement camps. Almost every Chinese family in Malaya was forced to move to the allocated camps called the “New Village”. New Villages were gated and guarded communities. The entire area was surrounded by barbed wires, the movements of the people were monitored, and food supply was limited and regulated by rationing. By so doing, the British deprived the MCP of their basic sustenance. To further crush the MCP, the British employed psychological tactics to break the communists’ spirit. Flyers were air-dropped into the jungle, with message intending to disintegrate the communists from within.

It was prohibited to take out food items or writing equipment during the emergency. This was to deprive the communists of food supply and communication channels provided by the villagers.

Courtesy of Arkib Negara Malaysia

[Part 3] The Suicide of Qiu Nan, 1949

Qiu Nan was a Min Yuen member and was supportive of the communist struggle. Previously, he was closely associated with the MPAJA but had never taken up arms to fight against the Japanese army. The British administration monitored Qiu Nan’s activities as he and his family maintained close ties with many anti-British profiles, most of whom were of MPAJA. The British officers were always finding ways to punish or to discriminate against his family. In 1949, when Qiu Nan’s family was forced to leave their homeland and to be relocated to Serdang New Village, his parents refused and were shot dead in front of other villagers as a form of deterrence. In Serdang, Qiu Nan stayed together with his sister. But his sister was shot dead by a British officer for carrying food beyond the compound of New Village. The British later claimed that it was a misfire. Qiu Nan lost all his family members in the span of a week. On 24 February 1949, Qiu Nan committed suicide after writing a provocative letter. In the letter, he stated that his life was the only weapon he had against the British and he requested others to perceive his death as a beginning of a revolution. In March, MCP re-produced Qiu Nan’s suicide letter under the title “我的自杀”, Wo De Zi Sha (trans.: My Suicide) and it was being secretly circulated among the villagers. In the mid-1949, Qiu Nan’s provocative call gained sufficient momentum. MCP obtained popular support and became more aggressive. Violence escalated and spread throughout Malaya as Qiu Nan’s letter was perceived as a manifesto calling to action. MCP took over Malaya from the British on 10 August 1951. The original letter written by Qiu Nan is today a highly treasured document kept in Malaysia’s national archive. A tributary statue of Qiu Nan can be found in Tugu Negara (trans.: National Monument) today and he is known unofficially as the Bapa Kemerdekaan (trans.: Father of Independence).

Just recently, a 15 years-old Chinese boy lives in the New Village, Malaysia, found a used milk bottle contained with a few rolled papers. The boy, who was going to plant papaya seeds in his backyard apparently had discovered a collection of Qiu Nan’s poems and a piece of paper, which seems to be ripped out from a poetry book written by Mao Zedong.

April 1949
Mao Zedong

Over Chungshan swept a storm, headlong,
Our mighty army, a million strong, has crossed the Great River.
The City, a tiger crouching, a dragon curling, outshines its ancient glories;
In heroic triumph heaven and earth have been overturned.
With power and to spare we must pursue the tottering foe
And not ape Hsiang Yu the conqueror seeking idle fame.
Were Nature sentient, she too would pass from youth to age,
But Man's world is mutable, seas become mulberry fields.

September 1946
Qiu Nan

The rain will not stop on Bangsar,
For a hundred tigers stalk the jungle.
Their maws are red with victory, hackles
Raised towards the sky. The trees and rivers
Will run free outside of what the white man
Has the cheek to consider his burden. If the Crown governor
Wants some savages, they shall be served some savages. Let the jungles,
Plantations, potholes, caves, fields open their dark jaws and spit
out the furious sound of freedom—we may yet be wet behind the ears
but our hearts are ready to hold the weight of independence in our hands.

January 1949
Qiu Nan

The rice cakes are on the ledge
Waiting seven days and nights till
The sparrows return to their attap roost.
The dead return in a week to bid the
Living farewell, but killing three birds
With a single stone sorely misses the mark
For am I not left standing in Serdang
A scarlet target between my wet eyes left
Out to dry on a clothesline in the New Village—
There is nothing new about the village because
Imperialism is old hat, so call a spade
A spade a sickel a sickel a sparrow a
dead sparrow that has soared to such great heights it
unshackles its feet from the wretched cage, trills
a song of injustice and sorrow as I weep
over the fresh soil dug up for my sister’s grave
alongside the wings of our parents, so too fodder for the worms.

Autumn 1965
Mao Zedong

The roc wings fanwise,
Soaring ninety thousand li
And rousing a raging cyclone.
The blue sky on his back, he looks down
To survey Man's world with its towns and cities.
Gunfire licks the heavens,
Shells pit the earth.
A sparrow in his bush is scared stiff..
"This is one hell of a mess!
O I want to flit and fly away."
"Where, may I ask?"
The sparrow replies,
"To a jewelled palace in elfland's hills.
Don't you know a triple pact was signed
Under the bright autumn moon two years ago?
There'll be plenty to eat,
Potatoes piping hot,
Beef-filled goulash."
"Stop your windy nonsense!
Look, the world is being turned upside down."

December 26, 1962
Mao Zedong

Winter clouds snow-laden, cotton fluff flying,
None or few the unfallen flowers.
Chill waves sweep through steep skies,
Yet earth's gentle breath grows warm.
Only heroes can quell tigers and leopards
And wild bears never daunt the brave.
Plum blossoms welcome the whirling snow;
Small wonder flies freeze and perish.

February 21, 1949
Qiu Nan

This too shall pass. For the glorious red banners
over our town’s archways have been sullied
down to a threadbare rag imperialists may stamp upon
to clean the loosened soil of our motherland off their boots.
Fertility too becomes fallow. I am only one man
made mortal, an equatorial storm to be played
on a lute in the winter of my discontent, a diseased
sore on a polio-ridden leg crying out for righteous
amputation, the final expiration hissing through my
teeth a toad’s croak for the necessity of revolution, heard
only by evanescent puddles already returning to the sun.