In 1972, the Chinese masses learn of the death of Marshal Lin Biao, the regime's Number Two and Mao's designated successor. The circumstances are astounding: After an attempt to assassinate Mao, Lin Biao flees with his family to the Soviet Union aboard a plane which crashes in Mongolia, killing all passengers.
"The Conspiracy and Death of Lin Biao" is published in New York in 1983 under the pseudonym of Yao Ming-Le. The French edition is brilliantly prefaced by Sinologist Simon Leys, who enumerates the official version's key inconsistencies:
1. Since he controlled the army, Lin Biao was in reality already the most powerful man in China. Therefore, why assassinate Mao? Lin Biao had only to wait a few years for all the trappings of power to come his way.
2. Let's concede Lin Biao may have been a tad impatient. His talents as a strategist, his position at the head of the army and his political alliances practically guaranteed success. But his coup d'état failed without a gunshot.
3. Why would Lin Biao flee to the Soviet Union? It was a hostile country where he hadnt a chance of finding serious support, even with a new official status of "revisionist" and "traitor". The southern coastal province of Guangdong would, on the contrary, have been an excellent site to which to retreat and eventually serve as a base for a military counterattack against Mao.
4. Lin Biao's plane crashed in Mongolia, a Soviet zone of influence. Therefore the Russians had immediate access to the crash site. They repeatedly declared that Lin Biao was not among the passengers. (As Lin Biao had gone years earlier in to the Soviet Union for medical treatment, the Russians had the necessary info to identify his corpse with certitude).
So, what really happened between Lin Biao and Mao Ze-Dong? More than thirty-five years after Lin Biao's death, the communist authorities are still not willing to tell us. From this, we can deduce that the truth is not flattering to Mao or the Party. One thing is more or less certain: Lin Biao was eliminated in Beijing on Mao's orders. The Marshals family and close friends then panicked and fled aboard an Air Force Trident. The one which crashed in Mongolia.