It is 1970, four years after Gallimard’s departure from China. Song is laboring on a commune in rural China, and has been for the past four years. When the scene opens, she is talking to Comrade Chin, apparently asking for permission to leave the commune and start a new life. Chin is scornful, telling Song he is useless to the Revolution. Song protests that he served the Revolution by collecting information from Gallimard, but Chin expresses furious disdain for these alleged contributions, calling Chin and Gallimard “homos.”
During the Cultural Revolution, people whose lives did not reflect the values of the Communist Party were often sent to rural work camps where they would be forced to perform hard manual labor. These camps were intended to rid people of their indulgent, frivolous bourgeois habits and beliefs. They were notorious for being both physically and emotionally devastating.
Comrade Chin tells Song he can serve the people of China, but that he will not be permitted to pollute the country with his “pervert stuff.” Chin orders Song to move to France and take up his affair with Gallimard again, in order to send secrets back to China. She tells Song he will have to make Gallimard pay his expenses — the government will not give him any money for this task.
Chin’s decision to send Song to France seems to be a death sentence: unless Gallimard welcomes Song and agrees to support her completely, Song will be stranded without a way to support himself. Chin wants to punish Song as aggressively as possible (despite the “service” Song performed for China), and has no regard for his wellbeing.
Song insists Gallimard will never take him back, that he was only ever Gallimard’s “plaything” and will not be able to command his loyalty in France. He reminds Comrade Chin that Gallimard is white, and tells Chin that she doesn’t understand “the mind of a man.” Chin responds furiously to this accusation. She reminds Song that she is considered smart and savvy by the Communist government, while he is thought a fool.
Song is clearly distressed by the notion of throwing himself on Gallimard’s mercy after so many years apart. He sees the West as a dangerous place where he will be particularly vulnerable because of his race. Moreover, he believes the love of men to be fickle and fleeting — he cannot imagine Gallimard will still want him after such a long separation.