No Wall Too High by Xu Hongci is a book that anyone who has ever claimed that their ‘life is tough’ should read. I guarantee this autobiographical account of the hardship one man had to face will put those thoughts firmly into context.
Comparable to Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom, it tells the true story of how Xu Hongci as an ordinary medical student questioned some of the radical and totalitarian policies introduce by Chairman Mao in the 1950s. Under the Hundred Flowers Campaign – which called on the Chinese people to “let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools of thought contend” – he made the mistake of taking Mao at his word and likened some of his communist policies to those in the Soviet Union at that time. It resulted in him being branded a ‘rightist’ and forced to spend 14 years in a series of brutal labour camps for his outspoken comments.
The book charts how Hongci faced up to those unjustified and inhumane conditions, and how his inner-strength and determination saw him make three unsuccessful escape attempts before finally succeeding – one of the only people, perhaps the only one, to have done so. It tells the story of his struggle to maintain his dignity throughout his ordeal, and how his convictions were tested to the extreme, and highlights the importance principles and self-belief can play in giving people focus when times are tough.
It also reminds us of the damage that can be done through a dictatorial approach. Mao’s stifling policies and propaganda resulted in widespread economic and socioeconomic breakdowns, creating a culture of fear that was felt by all, including the highest ranks within his own party. The book highlights the importance of free and independent thinking and why the spirit of innovation matters on every level, on a governmental one to a commercial one through to a domestic one.
If you’re after a ‘how-to’ business advice book, then this isn’t it. But if you’re after a truly inspirational read that shows what resilience, determination and conviction can do to help you succeed in the face of adversity, then this is it. If anyone can lay claim to the fact that they ‘got knocked down and then picked themselves up again’, Xu Hongci can. He did so time and time again. I can’t recommend this book highly enough.