Chinese debate Mao’s legacy online

Considering that just 30 years ago they might have been shot for criticizing Mao, I’m glad to see at least some Chinese netizens are willing to acknowledge him as the Prince of Darkness he was. [Link requires a subscription, so I’m including the whole thing.]

On the 112th anniversary of his birth, debate raged online yesterday about how Mao Zedong , revered by some as a great leader and condemned by others as an evil man, should be remembered.

Those firmly in the late chairman’s camp suggested Mao’s birthday on December 26 was “Christmas for Chinese people” because he saved the nation and laid the foundation for its development.

Family members, including his grandson Mao Xinyu , visited the helmsman’s mausoleum in central Beijing yesterday. On Sunday night, a cultural show was held in the capital to mark the anniversary. In Mao’s home town of Shaoshan in Hunan province , an arts museum dedicated to the late leader was said to be on the local government’s agenda.

In one chat room, a contributor called Zhang Shandi drew attention to Mao’s spiritual qualities, including his strength of character to fight the nation’s enemies and his ambition to be the country’s leader despite his humble background.

He said Mao had the courage to lead his followers through many battles and the wisdom to apply theory to China’s reality.

But another writer, San Feng, listed Mao’s “crimes against the Chinese nation”, describing the literary inquisitions, famine and destruction of cultural legacy he inspired as the “most dreadful in Chinese history”.

The writer also accused Mao of double standards for living a “capitalist life” with a villa and private swimming pool while calling himself the “leader of the proletariat”.

Many people expressed admiration for the lack of corruption of the Mao era compared with today.

“There is one thing for sure, there was little corruption in the era of Mao Zedong,” one wrote.

The leaders who came after Mao did not have his discipline, another wrote, and they did not prevent corruption from taking root. “Corruption and all the bad things accumulated and spread to every part of society,” the contributor said.

One writer praised Mao for always thinking for the common people: “There was more fairness and justice than [after] the reform and openness … there was not such a severe disparity like today.”

Academic Zhou Hongling , from the Beijing New Era Citizen Education Centre, said such comparisons were one-sided.

“A society full of corruption certainly is not better than a clean one, but it’s necessary to take a look at the background and process of the outcome,” he said. “A lack of corruption was in part the result of a highly centralised administration and was only temporary. Also, although there was apparent social equality in that era, people lost many basic human rights.

“We’d rather have a society where there is some disorder but more freedom.

“The current disarray is not the end of social transition, but a process. China is in the transition from a centrally controlled society to one with freedom and order.”

Yeah, and so is Iraq. In both cases, I’ll believe it when I see it.

In any case, the fact that there could even be such a debate is rather mind-boggling. Of course China is better off than it was under Mao. Of course there’s more freedom. Mao was a murdering monster who bled his country dry and sucked the brains out of his people’s skulls. How can there be any debate as to his virtues?

The Discussion: 12 Comments

I love your analysis Richard: “Mao was a murdering monster who bled his country dry AND SUCKED THE BRAINS OUT OF HIS PEOPLE’S SKULLS”!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
How’s that for an encore?
On the other hand, he had a tremendous singing voice….

December 27, 2005 @ 3:47 am | Comment

Mao could sing?! I never heard that. I know he was a pretty bad dancer…

Now, Zhou Enlai, he could dance.

December 27, 2005 @ 4:03 am | Comment

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i have sent one email to you.

December 27, 2005 @ 4:20 am | Comment

About that very apt phrase: “sucking the brains out of people’s skulls”: During the Communist invasion of Tibet, when the Communists shot Tibetan monks in the head, they would laugh and call the exploding brains, “Flowers in bloom”, as a play on the “Let a Hundred Flowers Bloom” campaign.

That’s what Mao and the Chinese Communists meant by “Flowers in Bloom”. They literally would say it and laugh when they shot people’s brains out.

December 27, 2005 @ 12:44 pm | Comment

What, are you sure Mao couldn’t dance? The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of him as Curly (of the Three Stooges.)

Can’t you imagine Mao dancing around, doing “The Curly Shuffle?” and saying “nyuk-nyuk-nyuk, heebe-bebebebebe!”

And under Mao’s rulership, the Chinese people acted like One-Billion-And-Three Stooges.

December 27, 2005 @ 1:28 pm | Comment

Yeah, contemporary accounts say that Mao…kinda…lumbered.

December 27, 2005 @ 2:10 pm | Comment

Yeah, I think you’re right Other Lisa. I can’t think of a single contemporary observor recounting Mao galloping, sprinting, leaping or even gamboling.

But when the man took to water … like a torpedo! 🙂

December 28, 2005 @ 3:45 am | Comment

Mao, doing the Curly Shuffle!
Hey Moe, hey Moe! Well nyuk nyuk nyuk!

December 28, 2005 @ 8:00 am | Comment

… Mao was a murdering monster who bled his country dry and sucked the brains out of his people’s skulls. How can there be any debate as to his virtues?”

In a civil war, millions of people die battling each other to the end. The American civil war was also bitterly fought between the North and the South. Bitterness lingers on in the South even today. Calling Mao Zedong a “murdering monster” shows deep bitterness and the lack of any ability to revenge, thereby resorting to just an empty bark.

World leaders and historians recognize Mao Zedong for his founding a new China. Peoples admire Mao for his political statue as a great historical figure in world history. Needless to say, the enemies of Mao Zedong would disagree. No one is perfect. Even George Washington, the founding father of America, kept his black slaves in his household until the last day when he died. Mao Zedong never had any slaves. As most people would agree, Mao Zedong’s contributions to China exceeds his mistakes. On balance, that’s good for the Chinese nation. There has been no others who have done more than him for the Chinese nation. None.

December 28, 2005 @ 10:06 pm | Comment

World leaders and historians recognize Mao Zedong for his founding a new China.

Which world leaders and historians recognize Mao as anything more than a murderous tyrant and an utter failure? Name 5. no, just name 3. I’m waiting.

December 28, 2005 @ 10:56 pm | Comment

Mao had no slaves?

How about the entire Chinese nation?

I agree that the intemperate prose of the original post was rather biased – the old devil did do some things for china after all.

He kept a harem of lovely peasant girls employed, for a start.

NB these were not sex slaves.

December 28, 2005 @ 11:03 pm | Comment

Ivan, your story sounds like a myth. The invasion and conquest of Tibet occured in 1950-51, several years before the beginning of the One Hundred Flowers movement in 1956.

December 29, 2005 @ 7:43 pm | Comment

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