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The spirit of Norman Bethune December 2, 2020

The spirit of Norman Bethune 

Henry Norman Bethune (1890-1939) was a member of the Canadian Communist Party, an internationalist soldier, and a well-known thoracic surgeon. He joined the Communist Party of Canada in 1935. In 1938 he came to China with medical supplies and joined the Chinese people in their Resistance Against Japanese Aggression. He died in November 1939 of blood poisoning contracted while he was performing an operation.

During his stay of less than two years in China, Dr. Bethune fought 11 battles and experienced combat side by side with the soldiers of the Eighth Route Army. He performed operations on wounded soldiers close to the battlefield and saved numerous lives. In December 1939, Mao Zedong wrote an article “In Memory of Norman Bethune” as a tribute to the doctor, calling on the Chinese people to learn from the absolute selflessness of this great soldier, a man who “is already noble-minded and pure, a man of moral integrity and above vulgar interests, a man who is of value to the people.”

Dr. Bethune displayed his internationalism, medical ethics, and humanitarian principles, his utter devotion to others without any thought of self, and his effort to constantly improve his skills. These were not the ethics of the Canadian doctor alone, but embodied the collective experience and wisdom of numerous revolutionaries in pursuing China’s independence.

Xi Jinping recalled the stories of Dr. Bethune in August 2017, and called on the people to learn from his example and other Chinese models, and have a kind heart as pure as gold. Though the times of Dr. Bethune are very different from the current times, his nobility and devotion provide an example that the Chinese people can still respect and learn from today.