Ping Fu Is Latest Memoirist Caught In Web Of Exaggeration And Mistruth

Ping Fu

We’re all suckers for a good story. In recent years, we’ve seen the authors of too-good-to-be-true memoirs exposed (James Frey, Greg Mortensen, etc.), and now we’re seeing this with a notable businesswoman from China.

In Bend, Not Break, Ping Fu details her eventful life. During the Cultural Revolution, she was separated from her parents at age 8, then tortured and raped and assigned to work. In college, she wrote her thesis on female infanticide caused by the One Child Policy, which subsequently led to her deportation (the word she uses in the book) at the age of 25. (She wound up at the University of New Mexico.) Since, she’s become a successful entrepreneur as CEO of Geomagic, a pioneer in 3D printing. She’s even a member of President Obama’s National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Her incredible journey has led major publications like Inc., Daily Beast and Forbes to write about her.

But how incredible is her story, really?

Incredible in the truest since, as in not believable. Among those who have called her out include Fang Zhouzi, a notable fraud buster who’s exposed personalities such as Tang Jun (former president of MSN China) for credential fraud and accused Han Han (blogger, author, race-car driver) for plagiarism. SCMP has an excellent summary of Fang’s arguments. And several other publications — such as Forbes and Daily Beast – have been forced to publish follow-ups to their own initial, skepticism-free stories.

The accusations have led Ping to write a commentary in the Huffington Post that makes her seem even more of a liar. For one of her falsified accounts, she cites “emotional memory,” claiming:

When I was young, these are the stories being told to us and in my nightmares they come back again and again. That time was so traumatic. I was taken away from my parents.

And here’s what she told the Guardian:

But she now accepts that her imagination may have played tricks. “Somehow in my mind I always thought I saw it, but now I’m not sure my memory served me right. I probably saw it in a movie or something, and I acknowledge that’s a problem.”

Seems like she’s claiming that some of her stories are manifestations of her imagination. Shouldn’t that make these stories fiction? We get that witnessing the Cultural Revolution was extremely traumatic, but exaggerating helps no one. In Ping’s case, she purposefully deceived for the sake of strengthening herself — like a carpetbagger, profitting off collective tragedy.

Unfortunately, we are all too often deceived. We want to believe in success against all odds. These stories inspire us, and tragedy sells. For authors, it’s easy to sensationalize when they know that they’re just giving people what they want. Unfortunately for Ping Fu, as she’s learning, it seems the people don’t want the story she’s peddling.

19 Responses to “Ping Fu Is Latest Memoirist Caught In Web Of Exaggeration And Mistruth”

  1. Ping Fu

    ATTENTION BEIJING CREAM:

    THIS WEBSITE HAS BEEN HACKED, ALONG WITH ANTHONYTAO13@GMAIL.COM. THE POLITUBRO HAS ANNOUNCED THIS SITE TO BE DEEMED OFFESNIVE TO CHINESE FEELINGS. STOP INSULTNIG OUR CHERISHED STORYTELLERS OR BE PUNISHED BY PEOPLE WEARING GREEN CLASSES. WE ARE TRACKING YOUR IPS AND WILL PUNISHI ANYONE WITH AN INTERNET

    YOU HAVE BEEN WALNED

    Reply
  2. Andao

    Didn’t read her book, honestly have no idea whether or not anything she says is truthful. But when you look at what the (clearly Chinese) critics on Amazon and various blogs are saying, they are things like “Ping Fu said she took a direct flight to the US. China had no direct flights until 1999.” and “She said the police threw her in a car, when in those days, police drove jeeps, not cars.” Who really cares? Fang Zhouzi’s critiques are much the same. Is this the most solid ground they have to base their arguments on?

    The other, weirder critiques are those who lived through the Cultural Revolution and said nothing like what happened to Ping Fu could have occurred. That’s such an absurd generalization I can’t believe someone would make it. One blogger said he was at Peking University in the late 1970s and nothing like what Ping Fu described was going on. Right, and I’m sure if you lived in Vermont during the 1960s, you’d claim there was no racial divide in the US, and riots and such in Detroit were all a myth. This is a China-ism where it seems perfectly rational to generalize thousands of people (the Red Guards in this case) into a single category. Perhaps Ping Fu was raped or whatever by a fake Red Guard, or someone who wasn’t a genuine member of the movement. No one stops to consider these alternatives, and instead it’s just wave after wave of “you’re a lying liar!”

    She could be totally full of shit, I have no idea. It’s just the method of this smear campaign that’s really disgusting. Most “incredible” of this episode is that it looks like the first time Chinese people are taking up arms against (alleged) historical revisionism, and it’s to protect who from defamation? Why, the Red Guards! Aren’t there other, better groups of people who have had their histories mangled? Where’s all the outrage when the Party publishes outright lies about those historical events and people?

    Reply
    • Ander

      Nice post, thanks!
      Deep down, it’s precisely because there’s no room for rational discussion about history – especially the Cultural Revolution – that there’s little room for tolerance in society.

      Reply
      • Jackie

        Andao, how do you know it is smear campaign? did you watch her interviews and read her book? why didn’t you quote from the top comments but chose not so convincing comments? But as one comment pointed out: “you just believe what you want to believe.”

        Reply
        • Andao

          I haven’t seen more convincing comments. If you have some, please share. The ones I’ve seen all come from either people who lived nowhere near Ping Fu, or from people who are nitpicking with things like jeep vs car or whether or not she really saw a horse. She might have indeed lied about those things, but really now, is that the best argument they can put together?

          In my first post I said I didn’t read the book, nor do I have any desire to. I’m just really disgusted in a smear campaign designed to protect the legacy of the Red Guards. Because seriously, that’s the key thing going on here. Why else go ballistic on a single author’s memoirs that may or may not be true? There must have been hundreds of books written about the Cultural Revolution, Mao, etc. and many of them were packed with lies or exaggerations. Why don’t they get Amazon-bombed also? Jung Chang’s “Mao: The Untold Story” in particular has a lot of things I think are probably just made up, yet it’s still got a 3.5 star rating on Amazon. And that book actually claims to be true history, unlike Ping Fu’s book which is a memoir.

          Reply
          • Y. Chen

            For someone who has not even read her book to defend her like this is really funny. Why, among all the books about the Cultural Revolution available on Amazon, does her book receive so many negative reviews? How could anyone fail to know the answer to this question? It’s simply because she is telling lies!

            BTW, there isn’t really any need to defend her now since she has now retracted many major claims and is willing to apologize to Suzhou University for her fake stories about the university.

  3. SeaHorse

    She’s seen -HORSES- in those days. Dayum. My poor country folks could only see those in big city zoos, never mind being used for medieval torture methods. Jiangsu isn’t exactly horse country, it would even be easier to get motorcycles or even four whole cars than four trained horses. Her imagination is amazing. She should be recruited to write middle-earth fantasy films.

    What’s sad is now she’s gonna throw the legitimacy of other memoires into the fire with her.

    Reply
  4. Jerry

    Dear Alicia,

    I think Fu’s book tells a compassionate, inspiring and true story based on her own experience.

    It is ironic that you mention about Fang Zhouzi, who has been convicted in a court of law for libel and defamation. In recent month, Dr Yi Ming, an activist for “China Academic Integrity Review” has written a series of open letters entitled “Shamelessness Shouldn’t Be Anyone’s Nature” to the academic journal “Nature” (See http://www.2250s.com/read.php?28-17192-17192), exposing Fang of numerous scams, make-ups and plagiarism. As shown in those letters, together with other convincing evidence, Fang Zhouzi is a shameless, fraudulent, and malicious fighter, or “a fighting dog for commercial and political forces”. Fang is well-known for his fraudulent fighter’s fight for fraud and has been a laughing stock among the Chinese Internet community.

    In September 2006, Fang Zhouzi was convicted of defamation and libel by the Wuhan City Intermediate People’s Court in a famous case “Xiao Chuanguo Vs. Fang Zhouzi”. However, to date, Fang Zhouzi still refuses to execute court order and compensate/apologize to Dr. Xiao Chuanguo for defamation (an action that can be considered as felony contempt of court, punishable by more than 12 months of imprisonment in the U.S. but not treated seriously in China).

    Based on a recent public opinion poll of 26000 micro-blog users at weibo.com, almost 90% of people in the Chinese Internet community believe that Fang Zhouzi is either a fraud, a cheater, a liar or represents a special interest group.

    Please feel free to get in touch me if you would like further evidence on Fang.

    Kind regards,
    Jerry

    Reply
  5. Jerry

    ear Alicia,

    I think Fu’s book tells a compassionate, inspiring and true story based on her own experience.

    It is ironic that you mention about Fang Zhouzi, who has been convicted in a court of law for libel and defamation. In recent month, Dr Yi Ming, an activist for “China Academic Integrity Review” has written a series of open letters entitled “Shamelessness Shouldn’t Be Anyone’s Nature” to the academic journal “Nature” (See http://www.2250s.com/read.php?28-17192-17192), exposing Fang of numerous scams, make-ups and plagiarism. As shown in those letters, together with other convincing evidence, Fang Zhouzi is a shameless, fraudulent, and malicious fighter, or “a fighting dog for commercial and political forces”. Fang is well-known for his fraudulent fighter’s fight for fraud and has been a laughing stock among the Chinese Internet community.

    In September 2006, Fang Zhouzi was convicted of defamation and libel by the Wuhan City Intermediate People’s Court in a famous case “Xiao Chuanguo Vs. Fang Zhouzi”. However, to date, Fang Zhouzi still refuses to execute court order and compensate/apologize to Dr. Xiao Chuanguo for defamation (an action that can be considered as felony contempt of court, punishable by more than 12 months of imprisonment in the U.S. but not treated seriously in China).

    Based on a recent public opinion poll of 26000 micro-blog users at weibo.com, almost 90% of people in the Chinese Internet community believe that Fang Zhouzi is either a fraud, a cheater, a liar or represents a special interest group.

    Please feel free to get in touch me if you would like further evidence on Fang.

    Kind regards,
    Jerry

    Reply
  6. laowai88

    Makes me wonder how credible her critics are given that China most certainly did have direct flights to the US during the 90′s.

    Northwest had direct flights from Detroit and Seattle, American from JFK, and United from San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington DC.

    Reply

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