“Mao Denigration” and Mao Delirium

As China gets ready to celebrate Mao’s 120th birthday there have recently appeared a slew of articles on China’s current relationship with the Great Helmsman. One of the most interesting was in the Global Times, warning about “Mao denigration,” a campaign to malign Mao, initiated mainly by Westerners who hate China.

That Mao is a great man has a strong foundation in Chinese society. Some think Mao has had an infamous reputation in society. This is only a naïve delusion of these people….

There is no historical or current evidence that is convincing enough to denigrate Mao. Voices that completely deny or support him are both highly polarized. Currently, the demonizing voices are mainly from the West, which also criticizes China’s socialist system.

The article disingenuously dances around the dreadful things Mao did by noting “his personal leadership style has its own limits,” and not unsurprisingly bestows on him the usual cliches — he brought China independence, he set the stage for China’s current prosperity, people’s lives improved under Mao, and there is, needless to say, no references to Mao’s experiments like the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. It even claims Mao’s revolution “put it [China] on the right track of human rights development.”

Human rights development? Mao did have some solid achievements, but I don’t see “human rights development” among them. He did help give China a backbone as it freed itself from foreign domination. He did help give women greater equality. But as in any discussion of Mao’s achievements, the question needs to be raised, “Yes, but at what cost?” China is still reeling from the effects of his pet projects that caused the death of millions, and that forced generations of Chinese to eat a lot of bitterness.

But that’s okay; you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs, and as the GT article concedes, “A revolution always has its cruel side, as did the Chinese revolution led by Mao.” That cruelty doesn’t really matter much, it says; what matter is the result of the revolution. It’s funny, but my own reading on the story of the revolution is that the result of the revolution up until the time Mao died was total chaos and misery, until Deng stepped in and cleaned up the colossal mess Mao had made of the country.

But the Global Times article accurately reflects, to a large extent, what a lot of ordinary people in China believe about Mao, that he made life better, that the Mao years were relatively corruption-free — many of the laobaixing will even go so far as to say they wish Mao were in power today. This article in the SCMP examines this phenomenon.

Today, reverence for the late leader is on the rise. President Xi Jinping often pays tributes to Mao and looks to him for inspiration to manage the country. Ordinary people, especially from the bottom social strata who have not benefited from the country’s economic boom, miss his reign and some even set up shrines at home to worship him. Statues of the great leader continue to be erected across the country with fanfare.

“If there is one man, one vote now, the leftists would get most of the votes,” says Du Daozheng , the 90-year-old publisher of liberal political magazine Yanhuang Chunqiu and once a loyal Mao follower….

Xi launched “rectification” and “mass line” campaigns to fight corruption and restore grass-roots support. He also revived the tradition of “self-criticism” sessions in which cadres pillory each other’s failings.

Liang Zhu, an expert on Mao Zedong Thought and former deputy head of Peking University, has argued party officials were showing a “a correct proletarian view of power” by returning to Mao. “Mao insisted that ‘to serve the people’ is the basic mission,” he wrote in a recent essay.

I have to wonder how Mao’s blood-stained hands and cutting China off from the outside world served the people, but I also have to acknowledge that most Chinese people believe that Mao was good for their country. And I understand, the last thing they want to hear is Westerners criticizing Mao. But China’s refusal to acknowledge the very dark side of Mao’s tragic policies is a cause of constant fascination among China watchers and will continue to spawn op-eds and articles examining how this could be so.

The Washington Post also writes today about the current Mao fever that’s taken hold of China.

Mao is everywhere, even after death.

In addition to that unavoidable portrait overlooking Tiananmen Square, he appears on most of China’s bank notes, is invoked countless times a day in party speeches and remains a staple of state-sponsored TV dramas and movies. This month, however, the Mao industry shifted into overdrive, with restaurants flogging his favorite dishes, cities plastering his sayings on walls and a plethora of statues making their debut — the most notable (ahem, gaudy) of which has been a $16.5 million gold version inlaid with gems….

Mao’s home town of Shaoshan has spent $320 million in preparation — renovating historical sites and museums, organizing galas, and building new roads and other infrastructure. Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to pass through. Many hotels have been fully booked for days leading up to the anniversary. Merchants in town say they have stocked up on Mao tchotchkes of every kind — busts and statues, key rings, commemorative liquor, little red books of his sayings and photos from every phase of his life.

A $16.5 million golden statue of Mao studded with gems. $320 million to get his home town ready. No, I’ll never stop marveling at the Mao phenomenon.

I’m reading a book of essays (book review to hopefully follow soon) about a man whose grandparents and their siblings were exterminated for having been “landlords,” and whose parents were turned on in the Cultural Revolution, and again I wonder, how much suffering can the Chinese people endure, and how can they forgive the man who directly caused so much of the torment? Intellectually I understand it, China’s thirsting for a great leader, and all the propagandizing that’s elevated Mao to the status of a god. But it never ceases to amaze me how short our memory spans can be, and how willing the Chinese people have been to forget the nightmare years and to keep Mao’s personality cult thriving.

The Washington Post article cited above, which is an excellent read, quotes from a vitriolic opinion piece published outside of China that criticizes Mao and his myth; the author, a former aide to Zhao Ziyang, lives under house arrest and had his article smuggled out of China. Referring to the deaths of millions under Mao, the writer, Bao Tong, tells the reporter, “China cannot turn a blind eye to these facts.” But it has been doing a marvelous job doing exactly that for well over 30 years.

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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: 45 Comments

Merry Christmaos

“East Is Red, The Sun Rises, A Mao Zedong is born in China, he toils for the people’s livelihood, he is the savior of the people”
The above lyrics is the original lyrics of a famous song called “The East is Red”, written in 1947 by a farmer in China’s Shanbei Province, 2 years before the Communists won China. It was adapted into a musical ballet in 1964, by musician He Luding. Mr. He Luding changed the “people’s livelihood” from the original lyrics to “people’s happiness”.

Almost everyone my generation in China can recite the entire lyrics and sing the entire song in our sleep. The original author’s name was Li Youyuan. He is a utterly poor farmer in the Shanbei Province, and farmers like tosing songs during their sparetime. Li youyuan never received any education, and could read no more than his own name.

Then, why did he create such a song as “East Is Red”? Is it for fame? The fact is, very very few people knew the Li Youyuan as the original author of the lyrics, even Mr. He Luding does not know about Li Youyuan after later. So this orignal song was spread amongst the villagers of Shanbei Province, and eventually spread around the entire China.

If Li Youyuan did not create this song for fame, then why did he do it? Obviously there was no such concept as intellectual property in China in the 40′s, so he writes and sings this song (or other songs) as a way to release some emotion, or for pure recreation. Clearly he also did not write this song to kiss someone’s ass, because he never attempted to make it known that he wrote it. Also, Li Youyuan was never a Communist party member, never participated in the Revolution, and never received any benefits or “promotion” for this song. He was just a simple farmer and had been that way till death.

Another interesting thing is: most of the famous songs today (even old folksongs from long ago) are written by professional musicians, writers, or at least educated “intellectuals”. I have not seen another case where a popular and famous song is written by a simple, plain, poor person, and an illiterate farmer at that.
And in 1943, when the song was written, the Communist Party was still struggling with the ruling Nationalists and didnot have the money and the resources to hire people to make propaganda for them, and certainly did not have money to pay people to make propaganda. Most farmers in Shanbei Province had never even seen Mao Zedong, even during the Revolution, the landlord of the house under which Mao lived in did not realize his tenant was the famous Mao Zedong. This makes it even harder for such a song to spread so quickly by itself.

Now, let’s speculate on how this song was created. Perhaps one morning, the sun was rising from the east, and Li Youyuan’s mind was hit by a sudden inspiration, and he started saying those words in his minds. He could not have written them down, because he barely knew how to read his own name. So the lyrics and melody of this song was “sung” in his mind, and as he started singing loudly in the field, other villagers heard and really identified with the lyrics and the melody, and quickly it spread from one village to another, one province to another, all through people singing to each other. In his lyrics, he used “toils for people’s livelihood”. Clearly, there were severe problems with the Chinese people’s livelihood, and the villagers easily identified with it.
“East is Red” is also the song that’s broadcasted about 20 times on China’s first satellite, before that, neither the US nor the USSR had the idea of playing a song from a satellite in space. In fact, the first ever song in human history to be sent into space was written by that poor farmer Li Youyuan.

Whenever I see so many people celebrating the birth of Mao Zedong on Christmas Day every year, I feel especially happy and pleasurable. Mao was born on the same day as Jesus Christ. But because of time differences, when the East is on the 26th of December, the West would still be on the 25th. Therefore, I think “East is Red” should also be sung during Christmas just like any other Christmas carols, perhaps one day, all Churches everywhere would have lovely children choirs singing “East is Red”.

December 26, 2013 @ 9:17 am | Comment

I think “East is Red” should also be sung during Christmas just like any other Christmas carols, perhaps one day, all Churches everywhere would have lovely children choirs singing “East is Red”.

Oy.

December 26, 2013 @ 11:02 am | Comment

Sigh, if only Chinese people knew about Mao’s opinions on Japanese war criminals http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/08/15/national/to-normalize-ties-mao-turned-to-war-criminal/#.UrsRl7Tchel. O

December 26, 2013 @ 11:25 pm | Comment

Clock, keep taking the meds.

December 27, 2013 @ 3:15 am | Comment

Clock, thanks for that – really gave me a good laugh! Can I have some of whatever it is you’re taking?

December 27, 2013 @ 10:51 am | Comment

The Bao Tong editorial is pretty amazing. Thanks for the posts and the links, Richard!

December 27, 2013 @ 3:48 pm | Comment

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voyager_Golden_Record

So it should be reaching you any minute now, Clock.

December 27, 2013 @ 4:21 pm | Comment

While I appreciate the occasional self-awareness in such statements as “I . . . acknowledge that most Chinese people believe that Mao was good for their country. And I understand, the last thing they want to hear is Westerners criticizing Mao,” I still can’t help but qualify (and more often challenge) most of the rest of your analysis. Take it in the “reasonable people can disagree” vein, I guess.

1. “disingenuous dances around the dreadful things”:
–Show me a government that doesn’t do that about its own history (or, drones/Wall Street/LIBOR/NSA/Cold War/Libya/Iraq/Afghanistan/Yemen/ad nauseum current events). To single out China smacks of a double standard, no?

2. “the usual cliches — he brought China independence, he set the stage for China’s current prosperity, people’s lives improved under Mao”
–seems sleight of hand. These are considerable achievements, so of course they’re oft-repeated. Like those cliches about Lincoln freeing the slaves and keeping the Union, of Churchill standing against Hitler.

3. “no references to Mao’s experiments like the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution”:
–see point 1.

4. ‘It even claims Mao’s revolution “put it [China] on the right track of human rights development.”
Human rights development? Mao did have some solid achievements, but I don’t see “human rights development” among them. He did help give China a backbone as it freed itself from foreign domination. He did help give women greater equality.’
–Social equality. The Iron Rice Bowl (social security). Free education, health care, housing, guaranteed employment. Women’s rights. Those aren’t “human rights”?

5. ‘But as in any discussion of Mao’s achievements, the question needs to be raised, “Yes, but at what cost?” China is still reeling from the effects of his pet projects that caused the death of millions, and that forced generations of Chinese to eat a lot of bitterness.’
–The Great Leap and the Cultural Revolution (it was against counter-revolution, and thus was a civil war, no matter how ultimately flawed it showed Mao to be) did lead to many deaths. They are disturbing and Mao is by no means blameless. To trot out these cliches without nuance is arguably as disingenuous as the rhetoric of those you criticize. But these failures were also in the name of a populist ideal.

World War II’s Dresden, Hiroshima, Nagasaki killed millions. Ditto the millions killed from the air in Korea, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia in the Cold War. All to “keep the world safe for democracy” (or, considering Chile, Guatemala, Honduras, Iran ’56, Vietnam, on and on, “for capitalism”). The Western militaries did preserve capitalism. “But at what cost?” The answers will differ based on race, region, and economic status.

6. ‘my own reading on the story of the revolution is that the result of the revolution up until the time Mao died was total chaos and misery, until Deng stepped in and cleaned up the colossal mess Mao had made of the country.’
–Untrue, unfair, and unhistorical. Untrue because the ’50s, until the Great Leap, were hard-fought successes. Unfair and unhistorical because you imply life should have been a suburban tea party after four decades of civil war, with no gold in the treasury because Jiang Jieshi took it all to Taiwan, no educated citizenry with which to consolidate and administer the nation, no science and industry equal to the challenges at hand, a declared intent from Taiwan to sabotage the PRC using domestic agents, a nuclear cowboy occupying Japan, allying with Taiwan, and threatening to nuke you several times from Macarthur to the ’60s.
–If China after Deng is “cleaned up,” I’m a monkey’s uncle. Impressive, yes, but let’s not sugarcoat the bitterness brought with the “sugar-coated bullets”. That corrupt CCP that XI is trying to rein in is precisely the CCP Mao declared Cultural Revolutionary war to prevent from happening in the first place.

7. ‘I have to wonder how Mao’s blood-stained hands and cutting China off from the outside world served the people, but I also have to acknowledge that most Chinese people believe that Mao was good for their country.’
–See #5 above for “blood-stained hands.”
–As for “cutting China off from the outside world,” it’s not as if the PRC declined membership in the UN until ’72 (’74?). They were denied it by a very hostile “outside world” (again, Taiwan, Vietnam, Japan, Korea). A bit of reflection on the role of that “outside world” in the post-Opium Qing and ROC years–can you say “bankers’ imperialism,” “Boxer Indemnity,” “Concessions,” “Extraterritoriality,” “Taiping Rebellion,” “Yuanmingyuan,” on and on? It would seem the burden of proof would be on those claiming benefit to opening to the (Western) outside world, given the context.

8. ‘my own reading on the story of the revolution’:
–Read Meisner for a more balanced (and exceedingly documented and by no means hagiographic) evaluation of the positive achievements of the Mao years. You cite urban victim stories, and they are many and legion–and also overrepresented in the literature because the “scar” genre represents the literate urbanites. The peasants have different memories and had far different experiences–more positive by far–during the Cultural Revolution. Being semi-literate and too busy working to survive, their stories go unwritten–and would go unread in Western markets even if they were published due to selection bias against the “Godless Communists” I grew up hearing about. Meanwhile, the Jung Changs and Frank Dikkoters live high on the hog for writing what we want to read.

December 27, 2013 @ 11:11 pm | Comment

Show me a government that doesn’t do that about its own history

I don’t see the current UK government trying to deny that civilians weren’t killed during Bloody Sunday, or that their deaths were necessary/a “good thing”.

he brought China independence

No, the KMT did that.

Social equality. The Iron Rice Bowl (social security). Free education, health care, housing, guaranteed employment. Women’s rights. Those aren’t “human rights”?

First, given that Mao had a small army of female conquests it rather suggests he didn’t respect women. Second, although women’s rights are a human right, China was already changing by the time Mao and the Communists took power. What Mao did was turn women into productive worker drones much like the men. They were equal but they weren’t free. Third, things like free services are not human rights. A human right is something that we need to be human, to express ourselves or feel comfortable. It’s possible to buy a house or afford a train ticket without the government paying for it, because private enterprise can provide the service for a fee. But only the government/legislative (and in some ways the courts) can say if we have the right to criticise the government, read books we like, etc.

World War II’s Dresden, Hiroshima, Nagasaki killed millions. Ditto the millions killed from the air in Korea, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia in the Cold War.

Those were INTERNATIONAL conflicts. Not that the vast majority of criticisms levelled against Mao are about events that happened inside China, after he had won power. Moreover there is much debate about all those things you listed. What Mao did to China is discussed far less due to the CCP’s censorship.

The peasants have different memories and had far different experiences–more positive by far–during the Cultural Revolution

First, the peasants were unfortunately too badly educated and lacked communications to know what was happening or who was to blame. Second, being badly educated they were not a target of the Cultural Revolution. Saying the peasants were ok is like saying Protestants were ok during the persecution of Catholics under Oliver Cromwell in England.

Unfair and unhistorical because you imply life should have been a suburban tea party after four decades of civil war

Urr, if you’re referring to the ill-treatment of urban dwellers under Mao that was sort of his own fault. I don’t think Richard was blaming Mao for urban devastation caused during the civil war.

no educated citizenry with which to consolidate and administer the nation

How does drumming pro-Mao and Communist propaganda educate anyone? It just turns them into productive worker drones.

no science and industry equal to the challenges at hand

Under Mao China remained a relatively technologically backward country. His education policies and demand for total obedience didn’t create Bill Gateses or people who could come up with fresh ideas.

a declared intent from Taiwan to sabotage the PRC using domestic agents

Given Mao and the CCP wanted to crush the KMT and take over Taiwan, what exactly did he expect – capitulation? And did they really believe KMT propaganda?

a nuclear cowboy occupying Japan

Given Japan had tried to conquer China only a few years previously, what did Mao and the CCP want? Japan left to rebuild its military? A Communist government to be installed? Chinese “peacekeepers”?

allying with Taiwan

Because China threatened it.

Meanwhile, the Jung Changs and Frank Dikkoters live high on the hog for writing what we want to read

Clearly it’s not what YOU want to read. I have found there are plenty of left-wingers who would lap up a book apologising for Mao or showing him in a generally positive light, especially with the capitalism-bashing that goes on these days.

December 28, 2013 @ 7:02 am | Comment

Raj
I don’t see the current UK government trying to deny that civilians weren’t killed during Bloody Sunday, or that their deaths were necessary/a “good thing”.

But there is a systematic whitewashing of the countless deaths under the British Raj. Please, admitting to a minor (relatively) incident that has no real ramifications for state interests does not invalidate Blake’s points. You’re being obstinate. I DO recall your scripted raving about all the infrastructure built in India during the god-awful colonial days.

How willing are you to totally prove his point by giving us another rundown on how great life was in British India?

No, the KMT did that.

In part. Speaking as someone who stands firmly on the KMT side, Mao was instrumental against the Soviets and stood up to India when they established military bases north of the McMahon line.

Those were INTERNATIONAL conflicts.

Fundamentally no difference. When colonial powers were developing they visited atrocities upon their own people, many of which even less justified than the GLF and CR. One example is Japan and its suppression of the left wing, and brutal repression of Ryukyuans.

First, the peasants were unfortunately too badly educated and lacked communications to know what was happening or who was to blame.

Yet you think they should all allowed to vote in China’s next ruling class.

His education policies and demand for total obedience didn’t create Bill Gateses or people who could come up with fresh ideas.

Bill Gates? He doesn’t like malaria, does he?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tu_Youyou

I’m sure if you asked Bill Gates, he’d be grateful for Project 523, sponsored by Mao. How many millions of lives does it save in Africa alone, each year? I’m guessing 2-10 million children per year are saved and able to live life up into adulthood thanks to Tu (who finally got the Lasker prize she deserved recently), who was sponsored by Mao.

Given Japan had tried to conquer China only a few years previously, what did Mao and the CCP want? Japan left to rebuild its military? A Communist government to be installed? Chinese “peacekeepers”?

Interesting side note, America transferred quite a lot of money to the Japanese right wing, which led them to hold power for almost 60 straight years. Some democracy.

Because China threatened it.

Again, I’m quite sure the KMT brutally suppressed Communism in China, and that they put suspected Communists in Taiwan to death without trial (as many friends of family members were almost killed during the White Terror)

Clearly it’s not what YOU want to read.

Chang and Dikkoter have both been widely discredited, Chang for her deliberate misquoting of Mao and Dikkoter for his dubious methodology. It goes without saying that the death toll under the GLF was vast, but that’s if you’re taking for granted the reduction in death rates achieved under the Communist party and continued after the worst years of the GLF.

especially with the capitalism-bashing that goes on these days.

Oh please. I don’t think I even need to ask what your opinions are on India. I’ll just quote Niall Ferguson.

December 28, 2013 @ 7:27 am | Comment

And I recall hearing from the older folk in Taiwan that they were bombarded repeatedly with propaganda on retaking the mainland. The KMT was also developing a nuclear weapons program which was opposed by Japan and America, and thus scrapped.

December 28, 2013 @ 7:29 am | Comment

“But there is a systematic whitewashing of the countless deaths under the British Raj.”

Not in my school there wasn’t – an entire term was given over to the Amritsar massacre and its background. This was part of the GCSE history syllabus.

“Dikkoter [has] been widely discredited”

Tomy knowledge no-one has cast doubt on Dikkoter’s statistics – not least because the figures admitted for, for example, deaths during the Great Leap Forward, admitted by the PRC government were quite high.

December 28, 2013 @ 5:09 pm | Comment

The Amritsar massacre was relatively tame compared to the death and misery afflicting India for centuries … just a very brief search reveals things like the fact that 2/3rds of children died before the age of five in Kolkata, and excess mortality was anywhere from 3-5%. The GLF at its worst, using Dikotters numbers, was around .8%. Extrapolate that over a population of 300 million for roughly 200 years and the death toll runs up to about 2 billion. Dikotter got his stats from Chinese sources, I believe. He simply blames sets 1% as the baseline mortality and bases his judgment on “Communist regimes” on any excess over that, which is simply absurd. Most developing nations had a death rates higher than China under the worst years of the GLF.

December 29, 2013 @ 2:56 am | Comment

I Believe Mao Zedong Is A Greater Man Than Jesus Christ

First, Mao Zedong made Chinese nation rise and become stronger. Before 1949, every nation could push China around. In 1840, a few thousand British soldiers totally beat the crap out of the Qing Empire. In 1858, it’s a few thousand British/French soldiers, In 1894, it’s twnenty thousand Japanese soldiers, then it’s tens of thousands of soldiers from 8 Western countries, then it’s the Japanese Emperial Army in 1931…..

But after 1949, Peng De Huai forced the UN forces to sign the ceasefire treaty on the Korean border in 1954, ending the history where emperial powers can set up a few cannons on the sea outside Shanghai and conquer China. In Korea, China was able to achieve a draw with the most militarily powerful country in the world. American spent 10+ years trying to defeat Vietnam, while it took China two weeks in 1979 to across 3 km’s into Vietnam and occupy some Vietnamese cities….

What about Jesus Christ? The Jews have always been bullied and massacred everywhere. Only in 1948 did they get a land called Israel. But even today, there’s no peace on that land, but instead all kinds of car bombings…

Second, Mao Zedong created for China a complete system of Industry, Farming, Technology and Education. During Mao Zedong’s rule, China successfully researched and built Nuclear Bomb, Hydrogen Bomb, Intercontinental Missile, Nuclear Submarine… But under Jesus’s rule, the Jewish created nothing, and still lived under a primitive/slave society. And also, the ideas of Jesus Christ severely hurt the progress of Science. For example, many bright scientists such as Galileo and Bruno were prosecuted and killed for violating Jesus Christ’s thinking. The middle age in Europe is the darkest age in European civilization.
Third, Mao Zedong allowed the Chinese nation’s population to multiply and prosper. When Mao Zedong first took power, China had 0.5 billion people. In 1980′s census, China had 1 billion people. We know that in biology, the population growth of a type of bacteria is a strong indicator of that bacteria’s environment and health. Stronger growth means that bacteria is living in a very healthy and favorable environment. In economies, there’s a famous term called “Mao Zedong Jump” which is used to refer to a sudden growth in a nation’s population, and is an indicator of a massive improvement in the living standards of that nation. I believe a few years ago a French economist won the Nobel Prize for creating the theory of “Mao Zedong Jump”.

Did Jesus Christ do anything to increase the population of the Jews? No. So in this point, Mao Zedong totally surpassed Jesus.
Finally, Jesus is a very arrogant man, and often acts like he’s an aristocrat. He often brings up his father’s name, and if someone disagrees with him, he’ll claim that his father is God, and anyone who disagrees with him or his father will be punished… And he also forces others to believe him, and does not allow any one to doubt or challenge his opinions, and often emphasizes that he’s the greatest, and no one can compare with him, and he’s the only one who knows the truth, etc etc etc. This is a very bad attitude and only spoiled rich people have this kind of attitude.
Mao Zedong, on the other hand, is much more modest. He often says that he has not done enough for China, and often says that it’s possible that he would make mistakes. And he often made many self-criticisms during internal meetings of his Party, and even stepped down voluntarily when he thought he made some mistakes during the “Great Leap Forward”. And later in life, he forced his own party to write that he made many mistakes in official party documents, as he does not want to be remembered as a “God”. So today, if you read the official document on Mao Zedong from the Chinese Communist Party, you’ll find many areas where the document says Mao Zedong made many mistakes.

Overall, I think Mao Zedong is a greater man than Jesus Christ. I don’t understand why many Jesus-believers want the entire human race to worship Jesus, I think Jesus is nothing but a tribal leader. I think there are more reasons to worship Mao Zedong than Jesus Christ. Of course I don’t believe in worshipping anyone, I think everyone is equal and human.

December 29, 2013 @ 5:37 am | Comment

You could see this dichotomy coming a mile away.

December 29, 2013 @ 3:32 pm | Comment

It’s amazing to see the reaction on sites like this when people suggest that Mao was a bit more than 30% wrong. Compare to recent coverage of Mandela (which of course, super-Maoists complained about as raising the guy above Mao) where mainstream commentary was occasionally (and with good reason) critical but where this happened it was discussed in a relatively civilised way.

December 29, 2013 @ 5:16 pm | Comment

The Amritsar massacre was relatively tame compared to

But teaching it doesn’t sit very well with your claims of “systematic whitewashing”. Where’s your evidence of such a practice in British schools?

December 29, 2013 @ 5:42 pm | Comment

@Raj, I can give you anecdotal evidence. I teach Chinese history to wealthy kids at an elite international secondary school. Have done so for 13 years. Almost all of them–my American and British students especially–say they did not learn about Opium, missionaries, Boxers, indemnity debt slavery, Summer Palace and Forbidden City looting and raping, Raj famines due to British grain speculation, on and on.

They have, of course, learned that Mao was “the greatest mass murderer in world history.”

@yourfriend at comment #13 offers instructive perspective.

December 30, 2013 @ 1:46 am | Comment

“Opium, missionaries, Boxers, indemnity debt slavery, Summer Palace and Forbidden City”

Americans and British don’t know much about century-old Chinese history. What a surprise.

As you say, at least they know the most salient point about the guy who is actually under discussion here – or at least was before people decided to open a big can of whatabouttery.

December 30, 2013 @ 5:45 am | Comment

Raj
But teaching it doesn’t sit very well with your claims of “systematic whitewashing”. Where’s your evidence of such a practice in British schools?

It does indeed. Picking one of the less important events and playing it up like it was the worst thing done in India is ridiculous. It’d be like Germany feigning guilt about the food served at Auschwitz. Completely dodges the point and you draw a line. Anyone who brings up the insanely high death rates in India under the British is marginalized and I highly doubt it is taught in schools.

FOARP
Americans and British don’t know much about century-old Chinese history. What a surprise.

Except all of those events feature the British as the main star, so yeah.

As you say, at least they know the most salient point about the guy who is actually under discussion here

No, they don’t. “Salient” as in cherry-picked and exaggerated to serve an agenda, yes.

December 30, 2013 @ 12:24 pm | Comment

Sorry, Blake, that’s not evidence of systematic whitewashing in British schools. It only shows the inevitable gap in students’ education as some areas are taught and others aren’t (I learnt almost nothing about 17th century English history).

Furthermore, even assuming your international school is in the UK, it still doesn’t support yourfriend’s assertion, as international schools very much set their own curriculum in the UK.

December 30, 2013 @ 4:19 pm | Comment

@FOARP

“Opium, missionaries, Boxers, indemnity debt slavery, Summer Palace and Forbidden City”
Americans and British don’t know much about century-old Chinese history. What a surprise.

The events above all involve British, American, French, German and, to a lesser extent, Russian and Japanese actions. Thus by definition they belong to Western history.
Reasonable people wouldn’t externalize them as “Chinese history,” but you conveniently do. What a surprise.

January 1, 2014 @ 12:15 am | Comment

Raj
Sorry, [Insert Name], that’s not evidence of systematic whitewashing in [Insert Country] schools. It only shows the inevitable gap in students’ education as some areas are taught and others aren’t

What Britain did in India was arguably the worst crime against humanity in the history of the world IF you judge them by the standards applied to Mao. There’s no weaseling out of this one.

January 2, 2014 @ 11:24 am | Comment

“What Britain did in India was arguably the worst crime against humanity in the history of the world IF you judge them by the standards applied to Mao.”

As usual, the inference here is not that bad things happened in India (or elsewhere), but that no-one should criticise Mao. The simple fact is that Mao was an evil, corrupt, tyrannical dictator – the worst in history by many measures – but you guys just don’t want to accept this, and are willing to engage in ridiculous levels of sophistry to avoid acknowledging this as truth.

January 2, 2014 @ 3:59 pm | Comment

FOARP
the worst in history by many measures

Completely disagree and you might want to qualify your point. My example above completely invalidates your claim against Mao unless you want to pin the crimes of the British Raj on Parliament and the public, which is perfectly acceptable to me. And you need to stop making assumptions about my point. You’re more about stoking fear and paranoia about “Communism” than about actually caring about the people who died during Mao’s rule, like a whole host of others that came before you (Dikotter)

January 2, 2014 @ 4:21 pm | Comment

“You’re more about stoking fear and paranoia about “Communism” than about actually caring about the people who died during Mao’s rule”

I’m not the one attempting to change the subject at every turn. It doesn’t matter whose statistics you use for the GLF – the ones the PRC published (15 million people) or Dikotter’s (45 million), in either case you have millions of people dying as a result not of mere neglect over decades, but as a result of an experiment that Mao started, that he knew was resulting in mass starvation but did not stop. Then you have the Cultural Revolution – again, millions of Mao’s own people died in an event which he instigated, controlled, supported, and sustained. Then you have the hundreds of thousands of people killed in the ‘anti-rightist’ campaign, something he knowingly began after his ‘Hundred Flowers’ campaign resulted in (surprise, surprise) people criticising him.

All of this (and much more) is attributable to a man whose face is still on the money, and whose crimes were committed within recent living memory. Not that you care at all about any of this, since your only goal is to simply change the subject here away from your beloved dictator.

So go ahead, try to change the subject again.

January 3, 2014 @ 2:31 pm | Comment

@FOARP

The face of Queen Victoria–history’s most successful drug kingpin who knew what her people and policy were doing in India, Africa, China, ad nauseum–is also still on coins.

But wait: First, she’s not within living memory, so some moral statute of limitations exempts her; second, she was responsible for the deaths of millions of foreign people, which is okay. We’ll conveniently put aside the motives of her policy–world domination–versus the national rejuvenation motives of Mao.

I think the original point here has been muddied. Nobody denied the problematic nature of many of Mao’s policies. The mud comes from your refusal to drop the double standard and concede that the West has no historical moral high ground.

Nice party, but time to go.

January 3, 2014 @ 6:03 pm | Comment

Second Blake’s post. I have never given Mao unqualified support. Once again it’s pure projection on your part FOARP.

in either case you have millions of people dying as a result not of mere neglect over decades

There was a significant spike in death rates. Most developing nations were worse than China during the worst years of the GLF. Take that for what it’s worth. The Westerners singing Mao’s praises back then may sound crazy to you but they weren’t completely off base in reporting rises in literacy and life expectancy. And I’m sure there might be evidence that he knew of the starvation but I don’t believe you have credible proof of that. So can you source that?

Then as far the Cultural Revolution goes, Mao lost control of the Red Guards. Common sense dictates that mass violence would take place but Mao regretted it and acted to tame them. And yes, he ordered a lot of executions personally in purges.

But no, he didn’t murder 80 million people as is commonly reported in the West.

January 3, 2014 @ 10:08 pm | Comment

“The face of Queen Victoria–history’s most successful drug kingpin who knew what her people and policy were doing in India, Africa, China, ad nauseum–is also still on coins.”

No. None of the things stated in this sentence about Queen Victoria are actually true (she exercised no power, isn’t on the money in any country I can think about). You apparently know precisely zero about the UK, which doesn’t surprise.

Why don’t you try talking about the subject at hand (Mao) rather than diving off on yet another attempt at whatabouttery on countries that you know nothing about.

January 4, 2014 @ 12:36 am | Comment

Sorry, the discussion changed when Raj said this: I don’t see the current UK government trying to deny that civilians weren’t killed during Bloody Sunday, or that their deaths were necessary/a “good thing”.

Even if we completely ignore the fact that your preaching about Mao is all about glorifying your country and systems of choice (something your school systems and media engage in by default), and nothing about sympathy for the victims.

January 4, 2014 @ 2:15 am | Comment

Really? Go look at the first post on this page. It’s a post saying that Mao should be celebrated on Christmas day. The same person then went on to say that Mao was more worthy of worship than Jesus Christ. This started with bat-shit insane, brain-washed people boosting Mao – which is actually the subject of the original piece as well.

As for sympathy for the victims of Mao, I’m not the one talking up for a government that regularly censors discussion of their suffering. But hey, feel free to accuse me of not caring about friends of mine, one of whom whose father was executed as a land-lord, and who wasted years of his life in the countryside “learning from the people”.

January 4, 2014 @ 4:19 am | Comment

But no, he didn’t murder 80 million people as is commonly reported in the West.

I have never, ever seen the media report that Mao murdered 60 million citizens. I’ve heard lunatics like Glen Beck and some far-right bloggers make this claim, never the mainstream US media, because it is false. If it is so common, give me a source — just one source from a real media, not some blog or hate site. Mao’s policies led to the deaths of tens of millions, probably in the neighborhood of 45 million. Of those, Mao only had a relatively small amount murdered, like the million or so “landlords” his land reform called for exterminating. So Mao has a lot of blood on his hands, even if he didn’t murder 60 million. I do believe, however, that if not for Mao the many millions who died during the GLF and the CR would have lived.

January 4, 2014 @ 4:59 am | Comment

Richard
I do believe, however, that if not for Mao the many millions who died during the GLF and the CR would have lived.

That’s possible. I’d still say millions would have died in the Yellow River Floods and 45 million also sounds a little high. As for claims in the West, anti-Communist (read: mainstream) sources usually have the figure pushing 70 million

Sources listed here are commonly cited: http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles5/RummelDemocide.php

It’s a quote though, so please don’t put too much stock in the url. The figures aren’t Rummel’s himself, just those he’s disputing.

Google “how many died under mao” and 70 million is often given as the “accepted” high estimate. And this figure is taken directly from Jung Chang, who has been cited repeatedly by Raj, FOARP, and if I’m not mistaken yourself several times over the years. Quote from the unknown story: “Mao Tse-tung, who for decades held absolute power over the lives of one-quarter of the world’s population, was responsible for well over 70 million deaths in peacetime, more than any other twentieth century leader.”

Also, google “Mao killed” and see what autocomplete yields

From the independent: they offer up Dikotters figures without challenge of “45 million killed in 4 years”. Mao ruled for 27.

Both of these sources are upheld as the standard when discussing China in the Mao era.

http://www.heritage.org/research/commentary/2010/02/the-legacy-of-mao-zedong-is-mass-murder

Then again you’ll probably say Heritage Foundation is pure shit, which it is. Unfortunately it strongly influences American policy, on the right.

Here’s the Daily Heil:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2017839/Madman-starved-60-million-death-Devastating-book-reveals-Maos-megalomania-turned-China-madhouse.html

Again, a shitrag but with huge readership.

Here’s a blog post from 2005 from some guy who doesn’t challenge Rummel or Chang’s numbers, but mocks some Chinese official who says Mao was 70% good at the end, which I believe implies at least some agreement:

http://www.pekingduck.org/2005/11/randy-rummel-mao-murdered-77-million-chinese/

January 4, 2014 @ 6:04 am | Comment

The Heritage Foundation? The far-right, Tea Party-led group of loons led by Tea Party godfather Jim Demint? Is that the best you can do — you said this was a story “commonly reported”! And you’re right about the Daily Mail, it is a shit tabloid newspaper — but the article never says Mao killed 60 million. The headline, written by a copyeditor, says that, but the article never makes any such claim! If this is the best you can find with your googling, it goes to prove my point. You have no proof of the West commonly reporting Mao killed 80 million. My blog post you cite was me reporting what someone else wrote about Mao, and I don’t say I believe it to be true. But let me be honest — when I posted that, 9 years ago, I was much more vitriolic about Mao than I am today. I definitely see Mao through a more nuanced prism now.In a much more recent post, I write,

The truth is it’s a topic of unending fascination for me and one that will mystify and sadden me nearly as much as twentieth century acts of genocide like the Holocaust and the forced starvation in the Ukraine under Stalin or the crimes against humanity of Pol Pot. Each of these is unique, of course. Mao was no Hitler or Stalin. A key differentiator is that there was no grand design for exterminating farmers in China, and Mao derived no pleasure from news of the mass starvation, even if he could have shown a bit more empathy. That’s not to say, however, that the tragedy wasn’t caused by Mao and his reckless policies.

I don’t think Mao meant to exterminate 45 million people. He didn’t want those farmer to die, the way Hitler and Stalin wanted their victims to die. But his policies directly led to the bloodshed. I have never said on this site that Mao murdered 80 million, or 60 million or 45 million. I actually try to give Mao as much slack as I can (though there isn’t much) as in this post:

So perhaps Mao’s saving grace is that when he actually did recognize the tragedy of his policies in 1961 he took steps to reverse them. Either way, epiphany or not, Mao must assume the lion’s share of the blame, especially considering how he purged anyone who dared question his revolutionary plan to modernize China. And he didn’t seem to learn from his mistakes. Only a few years later he would seek to rehabilitate himself by launching a new campaign, one that equaled the GLF in terms of insanity, cult worship and suffering.

Like the Holocaust, the GLF is a subject of endless fascination for me, making me wonder how men can surrender their critical faculties and their humanity. And no, I am not saying the GLF equals the Holocaust. But both featured certain key ingredients: blind obedience and blind faith, an ideologically twisted leader.

Anyway, this is Ferin’s typical modus operandi, seize on something he can use to derail the thread.

January 4, 2014 @ 9:15 am | Comment

“this figure is taken directly from Jung Chang, who has been cited repeatedly by Raj, FOARP, and if I’m not mistaken yourself several times over the years.”

AFAIK, all I have ever said about the number of Chinese killed by Mao’s policies is that they number in the tens of millions (something the PRC’s own statistics confirm). Perhaps you can give an example of where I have gone further?

January 4, 2014 @ 5:00 pm | Comment

After Stalin died, Khrushchev exposed the huge number of deaths during his rule and the purges and collossal mistakes, in the speech “On the Cult of Personality and Its Consequences”. After Mao died there was no such thing. The Gang of Four were put on trial, but Mao was given the face saving excuse of being only 70% right. Is it perhaps a Confucian trait of not wanting to speak ill of one’s elders and ancestors? China rightly shows great indignation about Japan not facing up to its past, and yet the country glosses over Mao’s purges, killings and catastrophic mistakes.

January 5, 2014 @ 2:27 pm | Comment

“Is it perhaps a Confucian trait of not wanting to speak ill of one’s elders and ancestors?”

It would be hard to think of a more un-Confucian group of Chinese people than the 70′s-era Chinese Communist Party. More likely they remembered just how much trouble had been sparked by Khruschev’s speech and figured they’d be better off being able to use Mao as a figurehead.

“China rightly shows great indignation about Japan not facing up to its past, and yet the country glosses over Mao’s purges, killings and catastrophic mistakes.”

Yup. Jeremiah Jenne recently wrote a good piece on watching Xinwen Lianbo where the coverage went directly from praising Mao to condemning the Japanese government’s inability to come to terms with its past with not even the slightest hint of an acknowledgement of the contradiction inherent in this. Give it a read.

January 5, 2014 @ 5:03 pm | Comment

Let’s retrace some history which was done and dusted ages ago. Meanwhile, let’s enjoy the Sino version of the Natasha slut site advertising, which earns the occasional dollar.

This is not serious.

And I should add, don’t be deceived by the number of clicks. It’s a way of maintaining a modicum of privacy, while visiting the generally old school/still hanging around blog roll.

January 6, 2014 @ 3:38 pm | Comment

The notion that the CCP systematically “hides” its history is a canard used by Japanese and “Western” apologists who are looking to exculpate themselves from their own wrongs. I’m pretty sure there’s a whole body of study dedicated to understanding the GLF and CR. Tiananmen is censored of course because the West loves to use it as political gambit and it has real implications in international affairs today. I’d be willing to bet that more people in China know more about the GLF than Britons do about their killing of hundreds upon hundreds of millions of people in India via starvation.

January 8, 2014 @ 10:50 am | Comment

“The notion that the CCP systematically “hides” its history is a canard . . “

If by “canard” you mean “indisputably true”, then yes, the PRC government does systematically censor and repress discussion of its responsibility for the GLF and the Cultural Revolution. If you want a demonstration of this, just go and set up a Weibo account, post a link a day to discussion of the GLF famine, and see how long it takes for your account to get taken down.

January 8, 2014 @ 7:02 pm | Comment

I’m pretty sure both subjects are researched at universities (and the findings published) and books on both topics are widely available for purchase. Internet censorship is something else.

January 9, 2014 @ 10:57 pm | Comment

Let’s Build A Segregated Chinese City in America
The Chinatowns of Manhattan and Flushing can already be considered independent Chinese communities: most pedestrians on the streets of those 2 are 90% Chinese. Stores are 95% Chinese, their customers are 95% Chinese. These communities have nothing to do with Westerners. When a Westerner goes to those 2 Chinatowns, its no different from going to China.

Given this, let’s move those 2 Chinatowns out of the middle of New York City, and into a segregated city, this will save rent too.

I rode a greyhound bus from New York City to Syracuse, and I see all vast expanses of unused lands, flat. Why didn’t Americans build their cities on these vast flat lands, and instead build them on top of mountains? For example, Syracuse and Ithaca are both on mountains, many streets are on deep inclines, and makes parking, walking, biking very inconvenient.

So, if these flat expanses of lands aren’t being used for agriculture production, let’s find a large tract of such land in America, and build a Chinese city.

For example, we can build a 500 meter by 500 meter Chinese city, modeled after the ancient city of Ping Yao in Shan Xi Province. The city walls will be built with Chinese mud bricks, and all architecture inside the city will look consistent with those of ancient Chinese cities. There’ll be no cars allowed. All stores in the city will be in an open market, selling live fish, crabs, turtle, scallops, chicken feet, snakes, wood ear mushrooms, geoducks, bull penises, fetuses. 100% of the residents will be Chinese, and official language will be Chinese. At night, the food stalls will open up by the streets, and will have endless of hot woks, and the smell of scallions, ginger, sesame oil, soy sauce, fish sauce, will permeate throughout the city. Everyone will talk loudly and spit everywhere freely, pushing and shoving, hustling and bustling. Any Westerner who ventures into this city will be scared away in a second.

In this city, Chinese business sell to Chinese consumers, Chinese husbands find Chinese wives, Chinese workers work for Chinese employers, Chinese janitors clean Chinese streets, Chinese singers sing Chinese songs, Chinese eaters eat Chines food.

While the American economy is in shambles, and American cities go dark and windy at night, this city in America will be full of music, full of lights, full of woks, and full of happiness.
Kayaker is online now Edit/Delete Message

January 12, 2014 @ 1:22 am | Comment

It seems you have a new answer to Clock/Math, Richard.

January 13, 2014 @ 3:34 am | Comment

. . . even down to the apparent copy/paste.

January 14, 2014 @ 5:14 am | Comment

Just think what a different route China could have taken – how rich and prosperous it would be today – if Mao had died of a heart attack right after the revolution and Deng (or someone like him) had taken charge.

January 20, 2014 @ 4:57 am | Comment

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