Fred Engst

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Fred Engst

Fred Engst “grew up as a Chinese farm boy outside the city of Xi’an. Born and bred in China, he left in the 1970s to study in the US where he “got his PhD, and taught at schools” for a period of 30 years. However, he “never felt fit in”. So he “came back home to China” in 2007 and is now teaching at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing.


Studied at Rugters University.

FRSO comrades

Dennis O'Neil October 5 2019·


That's John McCarthy with Eric Odell's hand around his shoulder and Fred Engst and Anton Han Kiang at one of my DJ D's Ragged But Right Show gigs in Williamsburg five years back.

Chinese background

The Engst Family in Beijing, 1967: Fred Engst, Erwin Engst, Karen Engst, Joan Hinton, and Bill Engst

Fred Engst and Bill Engst were born in China, the sons of two Americans who moved there in the 1940s to be part of the Communist Revolution.

They grew up on a dairy farm in Xi'an, where they were the only Americans and the only Caucasians. Bill Engst said they got used to curious looks – sometimes they'd even stop traffic.

Now 57, in 2012 Bill Engst lives in New Jersey and works as an engineer. He's the younger brother, and at 6'3"³, the taller one. Like Fred Engst, he's got grey, thinning hair, but he used to be a redhead.

Fred Engst teaches economics at a university in Beijing — so one brother lives in China and the other in the U.S.

That's no coincidence. The brothers disagree about a lot of things and they fight, often, about world politics.

Bill Engst's wife, Jian Kao, can attest to this fact.

"Sometimes when it's carried too far and they talk too long," she said, "and then we want to say stop."

But at least they're talking.

For many years, the brothers weren't close. Bill said it's partly because his big brother Fred was always telling him what to do, like during the Cultural Revolution, when the government sent Bill to work on a tea farm in southern China.

"I didn't want to go. I was so mad. My brother criticized me for not accepting the offer. He said if government sends you to a place, you have to go. You should not ask questions, should not get to pick where you go. So I accepted," Bill said.

At the time, Bill added, if you didn't agree with the Communist party line, you were just wrong.

"Quite often, I'd think to myself, I know I'm wrong, but I don't know why and I don't dare to raise it up, because if I did, I'd be criticized by my brother. So I don't really open up to him."

Bill said he learned to keep his doubts and opinions to himself, even after the brothers moved to the U.S. as adults.

Then in 1989, Bill said, he went through a personal crisis, watching the Tiananmen Square protests on television. He said he was scared, worrying that people would run and get trampled.

"At the time, I could not imagine that the Chinese government could send troops to start killing people," Bill said. "That was biggest shock I have against Chinese government and whole belief system."

Since then, Bill said that he's had to rethink everything he was taught over the years.

Fred Engst also went through a period of questioning, but his happened when his marriage broke up and he reached out to his younger brother. Fred said it was a turning point in their relationship.

Fred Engst moved back to China in 2007, he remains skeptical of the American system of democracy.

"So what if you can speak up in the U.S.? If they speak up and being imperialist power, then still imperialism," Fred said. "My brother probably doesn't see that. I don't know.

For Fred Engst, it was missing the egalitarian environment of the Chinese wood factory where he was sent to work around the same time.[1]

Radical politics

Fred Engst was a member of the Revolutionary Workers Headquarters in Philadelphia, and is close to many Freedom Road Socialist Organization members.


Fred Engst met Cindy Engst (Shapiro) in Philadelphia in the 70s. They were later married in China. They are now separated.