On the campus of Zhejiang University, there is a giant golden statue of Chairman Mao, his arm raised as if in benediction over China's budding young scholars. I remember looking at it in astonishment; but of course it has to exist. China is not ready to deal with the truth about the man.
MilBlogger GI Korea quotes an article from the University of California at Berkeley, which considers the 112th birthday of the Chairman.
“He is written in the constitution as the guiding force for China,” she says, “and it is also illegal to oppose Mao.” She says because Beijing withholds the truth about Mao, younger generations who did not live under him have no other choice than to accept a distorted view of the leader. “The regime is determined to perpetuate the myth of Mao,” Chang says.Simon's rebuttal, cited above under "the truth," points out that the benefits China now enjoys come exclusively from those areas in which it has been undoing Mao's work. It also includes an editorial comment on which I'd like to further comment:
Leaders like President Hu Jintao copied Mao, he said, travelling to villages in the countryside [Where else would villages be? - Ed.], and emphasised MAo's achievements in making China strong""Countryside" is a word I actually had a lot of trouble conveying in China. I worked hard with my students to give them an understanding that I was not from a city. "Then you are from a village," they said. "No, not from a village," I said. "I lived out away from any villages or towns or cities, in the land that was being used for raising cattle and timber." We went around on this for quite a while until they finally decided on the appropriate word in Mandarin to describe the setup. Then, they all nodded with understanding and went on their way.
I checked the word against my Chinese-English dictionary when I got home. It translated as, "Wasteland." In a sense, this neatly captures the Chinese worldview. The city is the center of the landscape, with villages existing to support it. The countryside which is not used to support the city is wasted.
In the larger scale, that same view holds China as properly the center of the world, with tributary states existing to support it. What is not part of that system is also wasted: barbarian.
Xinhua has a roundup from within China of appropriately devout pieces. This includes a reader comments section of a sort: unlike on a Western blog, it is plainly only selected reader comments. Still, this one got through:
Whoever enables the Chinese people to have enough to eat, people will remember him.In Mao's "Great Leap Forward," as this sympathetic treatment recounts, some twenty-five million people starved. Even the authors of that piece must conclude that:
After the death of Mao and the start of Chinese economic reform under Deng Xiaoping the tendency within the Chinese government was to see the Great Leap Forward as a major economic disaster and to attribute it to the cult of personality under Mao Zedong and to regard it as one of the serious errors he made after the founding of the People's Republic of China.One hopes the commenting "netizen" is aware of this history, and his "praise" is therefore ironic.