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Hacked By AdGhosT

Hacked By AdGhosT & Tayeb TN & bo hmid

 

 

 

 

 

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Mao: The Real Story » The Peking Duck

Mao: The Real Story

Alexander V. Pantsov and Steven I. Levine, two China experts with superb credentials, have written a biography of Mao that is sweeping, fine in detail, well written, engrossing and ultimately problematic.

Mao: The Real Story is a book I highly recommend to anyone who wants to understand Mao’s life and times. It draws heavily on Russian and Chinese archives that have only recently been made available, and this is what makes the book special. The relationship between Mao and Stalin threads through nearly the entire book, at least from the point when Mao became a leader in the Communist party, and their relationship helps shed insight into many of Mao’s most important decisions, like entering the Korean War, cozying up to the Guomindang in the late 1930s and joining with them to fight the Japanese. Stalin was Mao’s Great Teacher and mentor, and most importantly his banker — even when Mao violently disagreed with his Soviet masters, he had little choice but to go along, as they controlled the purse strings. The Chinese Communist Party would scarcely have existed without Stalin’s generosity. As usual with Stalin, he used China as a means of fulfilling his own agenda, namely the spreading of Stalinist-style communism, and for more practical purposes such as keeping the Japanese busy with China so they’d be less inclined to attack the Soviet Union.

When the publisher sent me a review copy of the book I was intimidated, and wondered if I could read it; it is nearly 600 pages long. But once I started I quickly got swept up and finished it within a week. That is not to say it’s easy; it isn’t. There are so many names and so much minutiae I had trouble keeping up with who was who; I was constantly flipping back to double-check. Some of these details could almost certainly have been spared.

It was fascinating to learn of Mao’s transformation from an idealistic youth, inspired by anarchism and the promise of democracy, to an ideologue who cared nothing for the lives of his people and who was convinced of his infallibility, with tragic consequences. We watch him grow and develop, and pretty soon we can’t help but to be repulsed. As he became a hardened communist, he had basically one modus operandi, namely to slash and burn, to destroy, to encourage chaos, to weed out enemies, to promote endless class struggle and violence. He did relatively little building, and that which he did build often ended in catastrophe.

Throughout his life in the revolution Mao manipulated the basest of human emotions. It was not brotherly love that he conveyed, but rather enmity and universal suspicion. “Down with the landlords!” “Down with rich peasants!” “Down with the bourgeoisie, merchants and intellectuals!” “Down with those who are not like us!” “Down with the educated, with businesspersons, with the talented!” Down with all of them, down with them, down.

The story the authors tell of the early years of the Cultural Revolution is particularly upsetting, as Mao proclaims, “In the final analysis, bad people are bad people, so if they are beaten to death it is not a tragedy.” Mao’s use of “class struggle” to eliminate his perceived enemies was coldly and ruthlessly calculated, as was everything Mao ever did as a communist leader. He discarded people like worn-out shoes, and he looked on absolutely everyone with suspicion. He was, especially in his later years, a miserable, lonely man held captive by the very class struggle he so cunningly initiated. Enemies were everywhere.

And yet Mao did unify the country and make it independent. There is more to him than just pure badness. But here I believe the authors actually cut him too much slack. In trying to be balanced and to take the middle road, they take pains to say Mao was “complex, variegated and multifaceted” and a different kind of murderous dictator than Stalin. This argument was for me one of the weakest parts of the book: they claim Mao is different from the Bolshevik ideologues because he was “not as merciless” as Stalin. Many if not most of Mao’s enemies in government were allowed to live. “He tried to find a common language with all of them after forcing them to engage in self-criticism. In other words, he forced them to ‘lose face’ but also kept them in power.” Okay, it’s good he didn’t kill them, but he did make many of their lives miserable (think Liu Shaoqi banished and living in misery in a single room with a dirty stretcher on the floor). And think of the millions he did kill by inciting students to attack their teachers, and by doing nothing for years to stop the misery in the countryside thanks to the Great Leap Forward. It was almost contradictory for this book to reveal just how awful a person and a ruler Mao was, to examine all the misery he created for millions, and then to argue he was “multifaceted.” After reading the book you would not arrive at this conclusion, which the authors express in the epilogue. They really can’t have it both ways.

Other small things: the Great Leap Forward is given very little space and I would have liked to learn more about how Mao reacted to the plight of the starving, and more about his decision to end it. Its coverage of the early years of the Cultural Revolution is superb, rich in detail and deeply disturbing, as it should be. But then the book seems to shift gears; we learn the Red Guards were called off, but we don’t learn nearly enough about the last five years of the CR. At this point the book focuses instead on Mao’s efforts to build ties with the United States, and the CR seems to be forgotten.

That doesn’t makes this any less of an important and impressive book. I highly recommend it to anyone who isn’t afraid of long books and who has a thirst for understanding how Mao lived and thought, how he could have done what he did. For this, Mao: The Real Story is invaluable. It is especially impressive that the authors were able to take such a wealth of new materials, along with other sources like the diaries of those who knew Mao, and weave it all into a compelling and page-turning narrative. The book is imperfect, but it is also indispensable.

Let me just add as a side note that I am well aware of how defensive Chinese people, my good friends included, are of Mao, and I understand that. I understand also that they don’t like foreigners to tell them what they should think of Mao. I talked with my Chinese teacher about Mao just last week, and she told me that the GLF and the CR were unfortunate mistakes but dismissed them with the words that “we all make mistakes.” (She also corrected me when I referred to him as “Mao” without the “Chairman,” and told me Chinese people would never leave that out.) But as with any great figure of history, Mao is fair game and it would do a disservice to history not to explore his life and try to understand “the real story.” I only wish the book would be available in China, in Chinese.

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 204 Comments

Whenever I hear of another Mao biography I experience the same wave of cynicism as when I hear of a new book or documentary about Hitler. What can they POSSIBLY add to what’s already out there? If this is based on new sources then it will be worth a read. I would, however, like to read some in-depth analysis of Mao by Chinese writers – preferably some who were alive at the time. To dismiss it all as ‘he was 70% good, he made mistakes but he unified China’ just seems so lame from a country that claims to have 3000 years of civilisation. Yes, I’d like to see Mao analysed more critically by Chinese writers, and also I’d like to see the Chinese look inward at their own responses to Mao -from the top echelons of the Party, to the small cadres and the laobaixing. Were the Chinese Mao’s willing executioners? And how did he manage to constantly get the better of China’s smartest and toughest revolutionaries such as Zhou Enlai, Deng Xiaoping and Zhu De?

December 11, 2012 @ 7:09 am | Comment

It was the Russian material that made this unique, cables and communiques and records of conversations. As I said, Stalin is the co-star of the book and there’s lots of insight re. his influence on Mao, which was huge.

December 11, 2012 @ 7:53 am | Comment

Without Chairman Mao, there would not be New China. That is much more than a truism. It is TRUE. The Chairman will forever be a great national hero as far as the Chinese is concerned.

Look at the first 30 years of the U.S.A. The founding fathers were much more murderous and systemically more despicable than Mao – wiped out over 95% of the native population in ethnic cleansing, and enslaved 1/3 of its denizens for many decades. Womanizers most of them, preying on the weakest of society (Jefferson kept black mistress and her children were slaves). Yet that does not detract from the fact that they are and will remain revered founding fathers of the nation.

Under Chairman Mao, thousand years old bad habits were yanked from the roots. Women liberated, superstitions erased wholesale (at least for a generation or three), literacy went from 15% to 85% (even though it took simplification of the Chinese characters to do it). 3 or 4 years in Korea bought over 60 years of substantial peace – even the sole superpower does not dare invade China anymore. The Chairman literally was the singular force that made the Chinese people and the Chinese nation stand up again, after three centuries of defeat and national shame. Chairman Mao brings back national pride. His mistakes are what they are, but do not detract from the fact that he is a GREAT MAN. Not GOD, but a great man, and a national hero to the Chinese.

December 11, 2012 @ 10:17 am | Comment

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December 11, 2012 @ 10:24 am | Pingback

Moreover, Mao is an expert military strategist. Even though in later years he never directly participate in actual battles. his classic military tactics, such as “encircle post and hit the enforcement” is today taught in military academies all over the world. Under his command, the Chicoms decimated a 10 million strong army of the KMT, which has much superior ordnance (supported by American air cover) but concreto military training. The same brilliance was repeated in the Korean War. After Chairman Mao, nobody seriously believed that China is the “Sick Man of the East.” Instead, Montgomery (the same that defeated Rommel the Desert Fox) stated that “you’d have to be crazy to fight the Chinese on land.”

In addition, Chairman Mao is probably the most talented Chinese leader in literature and poetry in thousands of years. His poems befit the power of a king. No, he did not write drivel like “Greenleaves”. His poems are powerful calls to action.

Westerners have no concept of Chinese history. Famines are part of history. That is part of the experience, and such is not blamed on the leaders. What determines whether a leader is good or bad, is governed by what the leader achieved for the China nation.

December 11, 2012 @ 10:29 am | Comment

“Westerners have no concept of Chinese history. Famines are part of history. That is part of the experience, and such is not blamed on the leaders.”

So what you are trying to say is that people outside of China have not been taught by the CCP and so are free to know the real history of China without the propaganda and that they can put the blame where it is due because the CCP does not control that information?

I know of overseas Chinese that tell of the brainwashing they received at school.

December 11, 2012 @ 11:22 am | Comment

Zhu, the problem with Mao is he built in zero, and I mean zero, auto-corrective mechanisms into his leadership style. That’s what he learned from Stalin–self-correction? Bah, throw them all in the Gulag!

This had two main effects–one material, one psychological.

Materially, while a personality cult worked fine (so long as you didn’t speak up) when he was lucid, even you should admit that China was seriously fucked by Mao’s ideas from 1967 or so. Down with the experts? Down with people who can handle complex decisions in favor of promoting people like Chen Yonggui into the Politburo? From 1967 to 1978, China had 11 wasted years largely because of Mao’s decisions.

And aside from the material aftereffects, China also suffers from a paucity of mature politico-economic thought because of Mao, and what thought there is–whether it be pushed by the government or by dissidents–is often superficial and wholly disjointed. Again, this is not to say other nations have done much better–they haven’t, in spite of all the advantages intellectuals overseas have enjoyed–but the root of the issue is that in order to deal with its challenges, Chinese ideologues must do better than their counterparts elsewhere; Mao did his damnedest to ensure that they would do worse.

December 11, 2012 @ 11:47 am | Comment

Is Mao a great man? what did Mao accomplished from 1949 to 1976? besides countless “anti”-movements, the Great Leap in which millions died, and the Cultural Revolution….? How many of his comrades such as Liu Sahoqi, Chen Yi, Luo Reqin…. being persecuted by him? Why was his wife and the G of 4 were arrested and persecuted immediately after his death. What would China be like if Mao is still alive? The purpose of a revolution is to make a nation better, but Mao did not. More people were persecuted and died in his PRC than in any period of China’s history. Many biographies on Mao have published, but I am uncertain if the said new biography is worth of reading besides its use of the Russian sources. Mr. Zhu, was Mao really briliant in the Korean War? And……? Mr. t_co, your comments are excellent.

December 11, 2012 @ 12:18 pm | Comment

By the way, is the so-called New China really better than the “Old” China, or the Nationalist China now on the island of Taiwan? The propsoe of a nation is more than what Hitler and Stalin had made their countries stong and mighty…..

December 11, 2012 @ 12:32 pm | Comment

Wow, not only is zoolander a CCP butt-kisser, but he is a full-patch Mao worshiper as well. He truly is the real deal, and a true believer. You’d think the CCP could scare up a job for a talent like that…say, spokesman for the Railway Ministry.

Oh, and I love this part. When good things happen in China, it’s because of CCP leadership. When shit happens, it’s because shit happens, and “such is not blamed on the leaders”. That’s a level of devotion that might even leave the HH boys green with envy.

December 11, 2012 @ 1:04 pm | Comment

Mao is a great MAN. Man has flaws. He is not a GOD. Even the Chicoms tell it like it is with the 70/30 attribution.

Before Mao, China was never really independent. Mao showed that China can stand on China’s own two feet, and does not have to beg – no matter how tough life gets. Mao brought back the pride.

Look at the sad, needy life of Chiang, Kaishek, having to send his wife into prostitution to beg for American “aid”. China under Mao no longer had to ask for anyone’s support.

Even Chairman Mao’s mistakes served a positive function – it is a stark reminder to all the generations of Chinese leaders to stay away from ideology, other than Mr. Deng’s “amplify what works, and discard what does not”, and that has served China and the Chinese extremely well.

Yes Chairman Mao the MAN, made mistakes. But that does not detract from his greatness. China is now on her way back to the stage where she belongs.

December 11, 2012 @ 1:32 pm | Comment

“Even Chairman Mao’s mistakes served a positive function”
—his fuck ups were a cautionary tale, so they turned out to be a good thing? Well gee, forget 70/30, let’s just score it 100%. When he did good, he did good. When he fucked the pooch, he was still doing good. Man, does the kool-aid flow thick and heavy in your neck of the woods, or what? So you’re a CCP AND a Mao butt-kisser? Wow, you sure keep your pucker occupied.

December 11, 2012 @ 1:49 pm | Comment

zhuzhu: Mao showed that China can stand on China’s own two feet, and does not have to beg – no matter how tough life gets. Mao brought back the pride.

Look at the sad, needy life of Chiang, Kaishek, having to send his wife into prostitution to beg for American “aid”. China under Mao no longer had to ask for anyone’s support.

Patently absurd. Did you read my review? A large part of this book is about Mao’s constantly begging the Soviet Union for money, technology and military support. The USSR provided the engineers that helped China get on its feet, and the technology and expertise that ultimately led to its attaining a nuclear weapon. From before the Long March until Stalin’s death in 1953 Mao was constantly on his knees soliciting Soviet assistance. China and Mao were constantly “asking for support” and when the USSR stopped providing it under Khrushchev, pulling out its engineers and ending its work on Chinese projects, China suffered serious economic damage. China was an economic basket case until Deng cleaned up Mao’s mess. Mao started off so well in the early 1950s and had such an opportunity to bring China to greatness. His cult of personality instead dragged China into chaos, famine and intellectual asphyxiation. He is China’s tragedy, the cause of unparalleled grief and death. China has yet to fully recover.

December 11, 2012 @ 2:08 pm | Comment

@Richard 13

You’d have as much luck trying to convince the Chinese that Mao is not a great MAN, as trying to argue that democracy is someone GOOD for China at this stage of development.

China under Mao learned self reliance – China did not dissolve into chaos after the Russians yanked the experts. China went into high gear and in a few short years came up with first the U235 bomb, and then in just another few short years the 300 MTon hydrogen bomb. The rest, as they say, was history.

December 11, 2012 @ 2:26 pm | Comment

I never said Mao wasn’t a great man. It depends on how you define “great.” I think his greatness in terms of initiating change in China is undeniable. But was he good?

You’d have as much luck trying to convince the Chinese that Mao is not a great MAN,

That says much more about the Chinese educational system and Mao’s glorification by the government than anything else. Witness my Chinese teacher, whom I love, telling me the Great leap Forward was “just a mistake.” Oops. And that is totally typical. Mao’s crimes against humanity have been airbrushed from the Chinese consciousness, one of the greatest propaganda coups in world history.

I notice how you are ignoring the facts I brought up in my earlier comment — facts — about Mao begging the USSR for aid for more than two decades. Do you still stand by your preposterous statement that Mao “does not have to beg – no matter how tough life gets”? Because it is historically false.

December 11, 2012 @ 2:32 pm | Comment

China and Mao were constantly “asking for support” and when the USSR stopped providing it under Khrushchev, pulling out its engineers and ending its work on Chinese projects, China suffered serious economic damage. China was an economic basket case until Deng cleaned up Mao’s mess.

The truth is a lot more complicated than that, Richard. China did suffer economic losses from Khrushchev pulling out the engineers, but those were mostly overcome by 1964 thanks to the skills of Deng Xiaoping and Liu Shaoqi. The real economic losses to China occured after 1967, as ideology and the Gang of Four’s craziness trumped empirical evidence in decision-making. It culminated in things like “Learn from Dazhai in Agriculture” in the mid-70s and the elevation of uneducated peasants into the Politburo based on their ability to cheat the brigade production system.

Mao, it could be said, was led astray by the Gang of Four and Lin Biao, but to a large extent, those five fed off his pre-existing flaws and Stalin-worship. In the end, China would have been much better off had Mao made a graceful exit to do something he was pretty good at, like writing poetry, in 1965, and let Liu Shaoqi, Deng, and Zhou take up the helm of Chinese governance then.

December 11, 2012 @ 2:43 pm | Comment

Yes, China ultimately overcame the loss of the engineers. But my point is a matter of fact — that Mao begged for Soviet assistance and was dependent on it for decades, and when he lost it there were consequences.

I agree that the Gang of Four misled Mao, but the Gang wasn’t even operational until long after the worst of Mao’s misdeeds had been committed.

December 11, 2012 @ 2:47 pm | Comment

If we want to be positive on Mao, we can say he was a big-picture guy and a self-assured ideologue–great guy to start a revolution and shake things up, but not the right guy to handle the complicated and detail-intensive mission of bootstrapping the Chinese economy absent a viable export market. The funny thing is that for all the things Mao picked up from Stalin–paranoia, self-aggrandizement–he never picked up on the three things that made Stalin an effective leader–his keen sense for detail, hyper-structured, almost OCD-esque, habits, and his ability to accept the advice of others when it was clear he wasn’t the smartest guy in the room (even if he did eventually purge them). (Before Stalin took power, he was referred to as Comrade Card-Index for his ability to memorize the personnel placement of hundreds of Soviet cadres.) That’s why Stalin could get away with dictating state-directed economic policy, and Mao couldn’t, and why Stalin had to ride the coattails of Lenin in creating a popular revolution and had to borrow from Lenin and Trotsky for many of his ideas, whereas Mao did nearly all the pre-1949 “marketing” for the CPC on his own.

December 11, 2012 @ 2:53 pm | Comment

Yes, China ultimately overcame the loss of the engineers. But my point is a matter of fact — that Mao begged for Soviet assistance and was dependent on it for decades, and when he lost it there were consequences.

Right–my point was that China as an economic basketcase wasn’t due to the withdrawal of Soviet assistance but due more to the Cultural Revolution.

December 11, 2012 @ 2:54 pm | Comment

One book that will continue to count should be Stuart Schram’s biography of Mao. Pantsov’s name didn’t sound familiar to me, but he speaks and reads Russian, and so does Levine. One of my first unforgettable reading experiences re China was written by a Russian intellectual and dissident, Vitaly A. Rubin, who wrote Ideologiia i kul’tura drevnego Kitaia (Individual and State in Ancient China). By writing it, Rubin felt that

… living in the second half of the twentieth century in the USSR, I could derive for myself something of essential value in Chinese writing of five centuries B.C. I felt, moreover, that these ideas could be most relevant for me because, despite the differing circumstances in which we live, what unites us is more important.
[…..]

I believe it is also possible to solve questions of interpretation in the field of intellectual history by addressing one’s own interior experience. An awareness of my own place in history helps me orient myself in many theoretical controversies, and the study of ancient Chinese culture convinces me that man at that time confronted the same problems as he does now.

Levine translated Individual and State in Ancient China into English in the 1970s. It probably passed censorship because the philosophers he discussed were too “ancient” to be deemed “subversive”. Many Russians without much interest in China were thrilled when reading, and the publishing house then was reprimanded for “relaxation of ideological vigilance”.

An account of Mao’s role during the past century (from a Russian perspective, too) will probably contain some real news. But while “The Real whatever” may be good for marketing, it may make the book look rather old within about a decade. Maybe later editions will appear under a new title.

December 11, 2012 @ 3:04 pm | Comment

Anyhow, the real challenge is how to repair the damage Mao did to China’s chattering classes. In a normal society, those people function to create ideas and are defined by the merits of those ideas; in China, they are defined by their support of or opposition to the Party. That’s not healthy. There are bigger–far bigger–issues for China than simply supporting or opposing the CPC. The Party is a means for China to solve those issues–it should not dominate the national discourse, except in the question of whether it is the right tool to do so.

December 11, 2012 @ 3:19 pm | Comment

It draws heavily on Russian and Chinese archives that have only recently been made available, and this is what makes the book special.

Depends which archives you’re talking about, but Jung Chang and John Halliday had access to new Chinese archives years ago – not sure about the Russian archives. I’m not suggesting that this new book is not worthwhile, though.

By the way, do you have to caveat your blog entries so frequently on topics like this? You shouldn’t have to apologise for having a different opinion on a topic from many Chinese people.

December 11, 2012 @ 4:17 pm | Comment

“. . . yet Mao did unify the country and make it independent.”

Haven’t read the book, but if this is actually what they claim then I would question this. Mao only ‘unified the country’ by winning the civil war after he had played a significant role in dividing it by starting the civil war in the first place. The heavy lifting of bringing Manchuria back under the rule of a Chinese state was done by Chang Kai-Shek and the USSR, all the international zones that had proliferated throughout China in the years following the Opium Wars had returned to ROC rule after the Japanese surrender. Most significantly, it was the ROC, not the PRC, that unified Taiwan with the mainland, and it was Mao who presided over the loss of Taiwan. Had the ROC suceeded in the civil war, they would likely have attempted the recovery of Tibet and Xinjiang just as the CCP did, and likely via the same means.

Much the same goes for the idea that Mao made China ‘independent’. The ROC was dependent on the United States for support against the Japanese and the communists, but it was far from the ‘puppet’ or ‘semi-colonial’ state that later mainland Chinese historians assert it to have been. A simple look at the diaries of Joseph Stillwell shows just how little influence America had over the ROC even during the years when it was most dependent on US support. The ending of the international zones happened under ROC rule – the only colonies on mainland China left after 1945 were the ones which also survived Mao’s rule: Hong Kong and Macao. If the commonly touted images of rich foreigners riding rickshaws through the streets of cities like Shanghai whilst Chinese starved are proof of China’s semi-colonial status in those years, then China now is also semi-colonial for the modern equivalent of this can be seen still.

December 11, 2012 @ 6:11 pm | Comment

Thanks for the review. Definitely a book to look out for.

Every time I hear a Party official hint at foreign forces ‘interfering’ in China’s affairs I think of the CPSU’s role in setting up and funding the CCP.

I’m also fascinated by the claim from some sources that it was the Russians who proposed the brilliant innovation of declaring the peasants to be a revolutionary class and sent Mao off to write his famous report (ie, which became the basis of ‘Maosim’).

Plus the Stalin-Mao relationship, if ‘relate’ is what mass murderers do to each other.

Hey @Zhuubaajie are a you a real person are someone’s wacky invention as a way of generating comments?

December 11, 2012 @ 7:04 pm | Comment

If the commonly touted images of rich foreigners riding rickshaws through the streets of cities like Shanghai whilst Chinese starved are proof of China’s semi-colonial status in those years, then China now is also semi-colonial for the modern equivalent of this can be seen still.

The preferred nomenclature these days is feudalism.

December 11, 2012 @ 7:26 pm | Comment

The greatest tragedy of modern China is that the wrong side, the greater of two evils, won the civil war.

No amount of effort here will get zhuubaajie from “truthiness” to actual truth.

December 11, 2012 @ 8:34 pm | Comment

@Richard 15

Yes I stand by my assertion that Mao taught (actually trained) the Chinese to be self-reliant. When the Russians were “helping”, they sent in rejects and discarded machinery painted over, and engineering info intentionally doctored. When they left, their experts ripped out core pieces of equipment and took their documentation with them. Mao’s China was left with not much than 1949, EXCEPT the willingness to work hard even during hardship. 一不怕苦,二不怕死 (Not afraid of hardships, not afraid of death) was much more than a slogan. It was drilling into that generation of Chinese, and the social contract to bear the burden of three generations, and to do the work of two, was very much a Mao creation.

Mao brings back what is enduring and endearing in the Chinese spirit, and that is GOOD. Mao has done harm to individuals, but he enabled a whole nation. For that the Chinese will forever be thankful.

On your point that “Mao’s crimes against humanity have been airbrushed from the Chinese consciousness, one of the greatest propaganda coups in world history”, what nation does not airbrush their founding fathers? You learned about the horrid DETAILS of the policies and practices of ethnic cleansing and intentional breaking of treaties with the natives, and the purposeful extermination of Americans (and those were the ones in America first – much earlier than the Whites)? Did you elementary school teach you that Jefferson picked an underage black mistress, and kept the children as slaves? Did your school NOT airbrush the brutalities of black slavery under the American founding fathers? In comparison, the ethnic cleansing (100% cut down to 2% today) and the slavery (1/3 of the population). These same men, Washington, Hamilton, Jefferson, Franklin, etc., ALL supported not giving women any rights – American women at time of founding of America could not vote, could not own property, and were just slightly better than slaves. And they were half of society.

At China’s stage of development right after 1949, China NEEDED a cleansing of thousands of years of bad habits. Chairman Mao brought about those changes, and yanked the old classes from the roots – landowners, mai-bans (trading class for foreigners), etc., so that society can start anew. Yes, individuals suffered, but the nation was given a new lease on live and development. China never looked back, and is still forging ahead. In another 20 years this will be the biggest economy on Earth. Mao built the foundation, and each and every Chinese is today enjoying the results.

Mao was both good and bad. He made mistakes, but those do not and cannot detract from his greatness and goodness. The great man never indulged in opulence (his office in Zhongnanhai was always spartan, and he only had his books to entertain. He even offered up his first born son, who was bombed and killed by Americans in Korea. Mao cared – the concept of making the Chinese people’s lives better is pervasive in all of his writings. His intentions were good.

December 12, 2012 @ 1:57 am | Comment

If you ask the real Chinese, Mao is a HISTORICAL FIGURE. The founding father of New China, and one to be revered, much as how founding fathers are revered in America. But Mao is relatively insignificant in the everyday life in China. Folks are more interested in whether CURRENT policies and reforms will lead to better income, better jobs, better lives, better education, better health care, better everything – and the CPC led SWCC is delivering swimmingly – at least MUCH BETTER than any other political system TODAY.

China has 8.4% growth, NO OTHER major economy does. It is MY OPINION that Mao’s big picture foundation allows China to do well since Deng took the reins and put in the additional reforms. You can disagree, but that is your opinion.

Most Chinese (actually every single one that I have personally talked to) agree that the attack on Mao is an attack on the legitimacy of the Chinese government, and is part of Western propaganda to subvert the Chinese nation.

December 12, 2012 @ 2:08 am | Comment

Mao’s “goodness”, kinda like the gooey caramel goodness in a caramilk bar?

Man, listening to the zookeeper is like having your iPod on the file that says “ccp propaganda”, set to repeat. That guy must drink his kool-aid by the gallon.

“truthiness”- I like that. It’s the “truth” zoo lander feels in his gut region, immediately after downing his daily dose.

December 12, 2012 @ 2:19 am | Comment

Well, they sure did get a “cleansing.” Do you see the cleansing of the four olds as a good thing for China? Do you think the cleansing of the people’s brains so that all they thought of was Mao and perpetual revolution was a good thing? Was “cleansing China’s great ancient relics and temples and grave sites a good thing? I see no “goodness” in Mao. None. Greatness, maybe. Big, big difference.

Yes, China became more independent after the Soviets left; they really had little choice, did they? And they remained an isolated backwater for years.

We are taught that Jefferson kept slaves. A new book came out a few weeks ago about how bad Jefferson was. Whether true or fales, we are all free to read about it. Are such resources available in China about Mao? Here’s an excerpt:

Over the subsequent 50 years, a period of extraordinary public service, Jefferson remained the master of Monticello, and a buyer and seller of human beings.

Rather than encouraging his countrymen to liberate their slaves, he opposed both private manumission and public emancipation. Even at his death, Jefferson failed to fulfill the promise of his rhetoric: his will emancipated only five slaves, all relatives of his mistress Sally Hemings, and condemned nearly 200 others to the auction block. Even Hemings remained a slave, though her children by Jefferson went free.

Nor was Jefferson a particularly kind master. He sometimes punished slaves by selling them away from their families and friends, a retaliation that was incomprehensibly cruel even at the time. A proponent of humane criminal codes for whites, he advocated harsh, almost barbaric, punishments for slaves and free blacks. Known for expansive views of citizenship, he proposed legislation to make emancipated blacks “outlaws” in America, the land of their birth. Opposed to the idea of royal or noble blood,

Imagine a book in China looking at Mao so critically. Here the information is available for anyone to see. Jefferson’s sins have not been airbrushed, even if in elementary school the teachers paint a rosy picture. Not in high school or college.

FOARP, even inf the heavy lifting was done under Chiang, Mao did wipe out the warring factions and make China, ultimately, independent of foreign powers, for better or worse.

Raj, yes, I do have to caveat everything because there is often more than black and white. Deal with it.

Zhuzhu, I am still waiting for you to retract your outspoken and absurd claims that Mao never begged for support. Is there a reason you are ignoring this?

December 12, 2012 @ 2:25 am | Comment

How do we get from Mao to 8 percent growth? As if that could ever have happened under Mao. Mao set no foundation for a robust open economy and foreign trade. Quite the contrary, capitalism was a mortal crime, a rightist notion. Merchants were persecuted, often to death.

December 12, 2012 @ 2:30 am | Comment

China has 8.4% growth, NO OTHER major economy does. It is MY OPINION that Mao’s big picture foundation allows China to do well since Deng took the reins and put in the additional reforms. You can disagree, but that is your opinion.

Deng literally overturned every single Maoist economic policy. Every. Single. One. He rehabilitated the vast majority of people whom Mao had branded as rightists and cultural counter-revolutionaries, while jailing the Gang of Four. Deng didn’t build on Mao’s foundation so much as he went at it with a sledgehammer and picked up the pieces. The only thing Mao did that Deng continued was a rapprochement with the United States.

December 12, 2012 @ 2:49 am | Comment

Zhu, it’s fair to have your own opinions on Mao, but there are facts about him that China needs to acknowledge. Even if that means people reflexively disagree with those facts–they still need to acknowledge them.

December 12, 2012 @ 2:51 am | Comment

@Zhu, Mao, a great poet and quite possibly a top 10 ever in the Chinese history, will have to concede inferiority to Li Yu (李煜), the last emperor of Late Tang (后唐).

Any leaders facing the pressure China had faced in the 50s and on, would want to have atomic bombs and hydrogen bombs. The same motivation can be said about India and Pakistan in the 90s and Iran now. It doesn’t take much genius to want to get them. The scientists behind Chinese’s bombs were educated in the KMT era and most of them went overseas. If not for the protection of Zhou Enlai, the scientists behind the hydrogen bomb program might not have survived the CR.

When the generations educated in the Mao’s era, especially those who should’ve been in colleges during the CR, reached their mostly productive ages, China had tremendous difficulty to produce decent quality military wares and in the 80s and the 90s China was effectively an “empty fortress”. Once the page is turned and the generation first went through college education under Deng, China has rapidly produced the likes of J-10, J-20 and J-31. Methinks the quality, and specially the performance/price ratio of them will eventually be proven world-beating.

More or less, Mao was a product of his surroundings when he grew up. He had total 4 years of formal education, and never quite trusted those who were better educated than him — as opposite to his other Asian peer tyrants such as Chiang and Rhee. Among a couple of other reasons, this is why today mainland China is lagging behind Taiwan and South Korea.

December 12, 2012 @ 3:03 am | Comment

@FOARP, quite possibly the first post of yours (other than topics in sports) that I totally agree. The problem in China though, was that it was so poor (85% illiteracy rate and all), the communism vision of a totally egalitarian society held so much appeal to the mass. There was no surprise that the communist revolutions succeeded in some of the poorer nations. As a nation, you have to walk through the process to realize that communism is just a pipe-dream. The upside, or the downside depending on how left you are, is that China quite possibly is the most pro-capitalism and pro-free trade society.

December 12, 2012 @ 3:12 am | Comment

@t_co (#32): How do you view the argument that a lot of foundational infrastructure was built during Mao’s rule? It might have been due to the more practical-minded people like Deng and Liu, but at least China had something to build on when the reforms started. This is where India, for example, is still lagging far behind.

Unlike some others here, I don’t think China has some sort of super-government that will lead from victory to victory using hitherto unknown economic laws that only its wise masters can understand. What China has done, has been done before – it’s the scale, and the extra organisation needed, that makes it remarkable. Hence I also praise CCP when praise is due, and not just “they just got out of the way and everything grew because the Chinese are the most entrepreneurial people in the world.”

December 12, 2012 @ 3:14 am | Comment

@JR,

Color me dubious about a book that was written by a Russia dissident on China decades ago, with a such a grandiose title “Individual and State in Ancient China”. How did he view the change of the power of emperor and the power of prime minister from Han, to Tang, to Song, to Ming to Qing? — BTW, this can be a trick question. How did view the judiciary checks and balances among the several branches in Song Dynasty, and the evolution of them, and compare them to Tang? How did he view the sinification processes and the differences of Northern Wei, Liao and Jin?

By you raving such a book, color me dubious on your overall level of knowledge to comment on modern-day Chinese topics intelligently.

December 12, 2012 @ 3:21 am | Comment

@JXIE 34

“@Zhu, Mao, a great poet and quite possibly a top 10 ever in the Chinese history, will have to concede inferiority to Li Yu (李煜), the last emperor of Late Tang (后唐).”

In use of language from the technical sense, perhaps. But Li, Yu’s poetry is that of a tragic loser – a king that lost his kingdom and his women, and ultimately his own life. Mao was anything but a loser, his 与天斗,与地斗,与人斗,其乐无穷 pretty much reflected the needs of a nation facing obstacles all around. Would China have been better off with a Mao or a Li, Yu?

December 12, 2012 @ 3:50 am | Comment

Color me dubious about a book …

I’m not going to play paintball with you, and leave it to everyone to draw his or her own conclusions, jxie.

December 12, 2012 @ 4:29 am | Comment

@JR, upon re-reading your comment and googl’ing the book, its full title is considerably less ambitious: “Individual and State in Ancient China: Essays on Four Chinese Philosophers”. The relationship between individual and the state in the ancient China, is a VERY complicated topic. What gets me sometimes it’s the binary view by some of the forum members where China came from and China will go to.

If you have a time-machine, and don’t mind the lack of modern niceties from dentistry, health science to products made from the likes of plastics, which era would you rather go back to? Or better yet, if you can carry with you a few defense-only atomic bombs that can save a past empire, which would you rather go back to?

To me there is no contest, I would want to go back to Song, for its arts, for its poems, for its then highest living standard in the world, for its laissez faire attitude toward commerce, for its “don’t kill ministers” founding principle that allowed low-ranking officials to veto emperors’ directive for the good of the society at large, and most importantly for its tolerance, before the anger and misgiving toward foreigners developed in Ming, and the master/slave mentality developed in Qing. I want to go back to, in my mind, the apotheosis of Confucianism in the past, and want to see if it can develop its own path toward its own brand of modernity.

Oh, there was a national welfare system too. The Confucian ideal is that elderly and orphans must be supported by the society. The laws in Song required family youngsters to support their elderly and orphans related to them, with the state serving as a backstop. Such an arrangement proved to be solvent for centuries — unlike their Western counterparts that probably will end up bankrupt their societies.

Well, of course I don’t have a time machine. But I want the current Chinese system to have a Chinese renaissance/rejuvenation, and re-discover what’re good within the Chinese civilization and culture, instead of some half-cooked juvenile attempts like the Charter 08. At its current form, the CCP is my friend. JR, your stated “cold-warlike” attitude toward it would mean you are my intellectual enemy (sans paint-guns). That’s that.

December 12, 2012 @ 6:03 am | Comment

@jxie 40

“But I want the current Chinese system to have a Chinese renaissance/rejuvenation, and re-discover what’re good within the Chinese civilization and culture, . . .”

Well said. It is the hope of most Chinese, and it is being brought to fruition by the CPC. Warts and all, this polity is probably the most reform minded and adaptable in Chinese history in the last 1,000 years. In areas it may not be changing fast enough, but it is changing fast, and mostly for the better.

December 12, 2012 @ 6:51 am | Comment

The prognosis is good. Xi, the new president, is much more outgoing in outlook than Chairman Mao. Xi stated that China cannot develop with close doors. That signals substantial interactions with the whole world, to adopt best practices, and also to showcase what is good in Chinese culture and Chinese practices.

Here’s an interesting angle – China is graduating from attracting FDI to seeking targets for investing overseas.

______________________________________

Partnership between Invest Ottawa and state-owned ZDG aims to help local tech startups enter Chinese market

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/small-business/sb-tools/small-business-briefing/10-million-china-backed-tech-incubator-launches-in-ottawa/article6201196/

Ottawa tech startups interested in entering the Chinese market have $10-million and Canada’s first China-backed tech incubation centre to help their efforts.

Invest Ottawa, the city’s economic development agency, and the state-owned Zhongguancun Development Group (ZDG) have partnered to open the ZDG Ottawa International Incubation Centre, the second such centre to open in North America, following a similar one in Silicon Valley last year. ZDG, created by Beijing’s municipal government and with $11-billion in assets, has committed an initial $10-million in funding.

The centre will be housed in a 1,600-square-foot space at Invest Ottawa’s headquarters and will help startups with funding of China-based research and development, marketing and office expansion, a release said.

“We’re treating this as a very ambitious startup eerprise in its own right. ZDG has a plan to invest up to $1.5-billion [in technology companies] worldwide over the next five years, and we see toay’s $10-million announcement as a starting point for Ottawa,” said Invest Ottawa chief executive officer Bruce Lazenby in a release.”

December 12, 2012 @ 6:58 am | Comment

Seriously, is the zoo-keeper a pop-up ad paid for by the CCP? Chinese progress would be great, and the CCP’s role would still be incidental. If Chinese people were given the choice, I wonder if they’d find the CCP necessary at all?

December 12, 2012 @ 7:02 am | Comment

I agree the Charter is more aspirational in nature, and is not a procedural cookbook. I wonder if that’s why folks like Jxie find it under-cooked? But then I’d have to ask, what were they expecting? It seems reasonable to formulate some goals first, before laying out specifics about how to achieve them. I don’t understand the demand for a blueprint without a vision first. That’s cart before horse to me.

December 12, 2012 @ 7:06 am | Comment

“If you have a time-machine, and don’t mind the lack of modern niceties from dentistry, health science to products made from the likes of plastics, which era would you rather go back to? Or better yet, if you can carry with you a few defense-only atomic bombs that can save a past empire, which would you rather go back to?”

“Well, of course I don’t have a time machine. But I want the current Chinese system to have a Chinese renaissance/rejuvenation, and re-discover what’re good within the Chinese civilization and culture, instead of some half-cooked juvenile attempts like the Charter 08. At its current form, the CCP is my friend.”

Should accept the view that Charter 08 is juvenile from someone whose position on the CCP is based on the desire for a time machine and role-play?

Conflict with China is of a political nature, not based on China’s “civilization and culture.” This is easily discerible by the fact that the CCP is poorly representative of civilization and culture.

December 12, 2012 @ 7:45 am | Comment

@Jxie. A Song type renaissance is a recursive, backward looking project, unsuited to 21st century China seeking its place in a globalised world much of which revolves around the digital economy where perceptions are formed. Poetry notwithstanding.

Wouldn’t a rejuvenation today be best served by a total hands off approach to the internet.

To be sure, it would give rise to a rancorous cacophony at first, but in the longer term the Chinese vox pop would be able to discern the difference between drivel and those cultural currents which are worth developing and expanding.

It is less about historical recovery and more about those positive and recent cultural strands which are presently lurking outside CPC management.

December 12, 2012 @ 7:53 am | Comment

Some are already comparing President Elect Xi to Chairman Mao.

“All in all, Mr. Xi appears to be a change-oriented nationalist. His energetic and straightforward style, his apparent commitment to fighting corruption and his determination to reinvigorate at least economic reform should buy the government time to tackle some of China’s difficult problems in 2013.”

China would celebrate another generation of capable, dedicated leaders.

December 12, 2012 @ 8:42 am | Comment

@KT 45

A totally hands off approach to the internet? Where can you find that?? Censorship is everywhere, albeit to different degrees. Kiddie porn is off limits even in America. Through its control of ICANN, America decides what sites in the whole world can exist online (and what undesirable sites should be expunged).

December 12, 2012 @ 8:46 am | Comment

To 46:
we’ll see about Xi. He hasn’t had time to do much good or bad yet. How does that quote compare him to the dead dog Mao?

December 12, 2012 @ 8:57 am | Comment

Banning kiddie porn sites is “censorship”? Give me a break. Kiddie porn is a serious crime, illegal in any form, be it magazines, movies, etc. You think it should be allowed on the Internet, even if it destroys and traumatizes its victims?

There is precious little censorship in the US. You can download porn to your heart’s content. You can still visit the US government’s nemesis, Wikileaks. Thousands of sites in the US call for the overthrow of the US government, the return of Nazism and just about anything you can think of, and they’re allowed to run. The only sites that get banned aside from child pornography sites are those that advocate violence — not sites that say violence is good or that show violent things (there are zillions of those), but sites that actually encourage visitors to kill. There is no comparison to censorship in the West with that in China, where even this microscopic blog is blocked.

But let’s get back to Mao. Do you still maintain he never asked other countries for money?

December 12, 2012 @ 10:33 am | Comment

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