In an alternative history, Mao passed his power to his son, Anying, in 1976. Deng stayed in the countryside to be re-educated, and died there, never coming back to power. There was no reform in China, no opening up and privatization. Another famine similar to the one in the 1960's would kill tens of millions. China would use its nuclear arsenal in an attempt to unify with Taiwan. Millions more would die. Mao Anying would die in 2000's, passing the power again to his son, Mao's grandson. It would be North Korea, Chinese edition. Instead of just being a nuisance as today's North Korea is, a military first, nuclear and starved China would be a major problem for the whole world. It could be the source for endless wars, famines, and deaths for years to come.
Luckily, there was the Korea War, and more importantly, the egg fried rice, and history was never the same.....
China is far from being a democracy. Its government is terribly corrupt. It's still very poor. Yet the Chinese people have a lot to thank for: they came within one bomb away from being another North Korea, only a hundred times worse. When they see on TV the North Korea people lining up to mourn Kim Jung Il, beside ridiculing the North Koreans, they also are breathing a sigh of relief, that they somehow escaped the same fate. It's perhaps no coincidence, that two days after Kim Jung Il died, someone on Chinese microblog (Chinese version of twitter) proposed that egg fried rice be recognized as national cultural heritage. To understand the connection between egg fried rice and the somewhat free life Chinese are able to live today, one has to go back to that fateful day in 1950 on the battle field of the Korean War.
In November, 1950, the Chinese army had committed more than 800,000 troops into the battle field in North Korea. After their initial fast advance, they were pushed back to north of 38 parallel, and were preparing for another attack. At this time, the headquarters of the Chinese army arrived a young junior officer whose official title was Russian translator. This was a very odd assignment because there were no Russians there. Even more bizarre, he was allowed to attend planning meetings despite not having sufficient rank, and he gave speeches without being asked during these meetings, while the commander of the Chinese army, Marshal Peng Dehuai, merely listened and allowed him to finish the speech. Of course, the top generals there knew who he was. He was the uncrowned prince of communist China, Mao's eldest son, Mao Anying.
It was evident to everyone why Mao Anying was there. He just finished his study in Moscow, and returned to China. Mao was grooming Anying as his successor. A necessary step was to build military credentials, especially to build a relationship with the top generals. The headquarters of the Chinese "Volunteer" Army in North Korea would be the best place for him.
Marshal Peng Dehuai was not Mao's first choice to lead the Chinese army in Korea War. Mao at first chose Lin Biao, the famous Marshal who died in a plane crash in Mongolia in 1971 after fleeing a failed power struggle. At the time though, Lin Biao was only known for wining very high percentage of battles during the Chinese civil war, and was considered the number 1 military mind in China. Lin Biao turned the job down. He did not believe that the Chinese army had any chance when facing the completely mechanized and battle tested American army. Peng Dehuai, on the other hand, never believed that weapons can decide the outcome a war. He was an old fashioned foot soldier, and only trusted foot soldiers.
Despite the huge losses by the Chinese army at the hand of American air raids, Peng still paid little attention to air defense. He himself repeatedly violated the army rules on air defense, and often stayed in the headquarters despite air raid sirens. Because of Mao Anying's special status, generals never treated him as a soldier. Instead, they just indulged him on whatever he wanted to do. Other people did not dare to tell him what to do. Perhaps Mao Anying did not know the rules very well, or perhaps he knew the rules but like any spoiled prince, thought that the rules did not apply to him. In any case, on November 25, there was an air raid siren at the army headquarters, and everyone was supposed to hide in a gold mine. Marshal Peng didn't want to go at first, but was dragged there by another general who challenged Peng to a game of chess. Mao Anying went into the mine in the morning, but he was hungry. He got up too late and missed the breakfast time. Near noon, he couldn't stand the hunger, and asked one of the soldiers to go with him to find some food. By then four US bombers had flown past the village where the headquaters was located. People thought the bombers went to bomb the Yalu River bridge. Mao Anying and the soldier went into the headquaters, and found some eggs Marshal Peng had saved for himself, and started cooking egg fried rice. At this time, an officer was checking on the headquaters staff, and noticed the smoke coming out of the chimney. He went inside and told Mao Anying to leave immediately. Mao Anying agreed to leave as soon as he finished the egg fried rice. As the officer was leaving the village, he saw the four bombers return from the north. They dropped napalm bombs on the village. Mao Anying's charred body was found afterwards in the burnt out ruins.
Mao Anying was the only sane son of Mao. If not for the egg fried rice, the ruler of China today could be Mao Anying or his son. It was probably only an ordinary bombing run by the American pilots. But it saved a nation. The Chinese people owe a collective thank you to those pilots.
A running joke on Chinese web is: Who won the Korean war? Of course the Chinese. Why? Thanks to the egg fried rice, Chinese people won their freedom.