Happy Anniversary, Chairman Mao

Jonathan Mirsky, former East Asia editor of The Times of London lets it all hang out when it comes to Mao’s anniversary celebrations, which he equates, correctly, to celebrating the world’ most evil tyrants.

It is impossible to imagine official homage in Germany for Hitler or in Russia for Stalin. And yet Mao was a destroyer of the same class as Hitler and Stalin. He exhibited his taste for killing from the early 1930’s, when, historians now estimate, he had thousands of his political adversaries slaughtered. Ten years later, still before the Communist victory, more were executed at his guerrilla headquarters at Yan’an.

Hundreds of thousands of landlords were exterminated in the early 1950’s. From 1959 to 1961 probably 30 million people died of hunger – the party admits 16 million – when Mao’s economic fantasies were causing peasants to starve and he purged those who warned him of the scale of the disaster.

Many more perished during the Cultural Revolution, when Mao established a special unit, supervised by Prime Minister Zhou Enlai, to report to him in detail the sufferings of hundreds of imprisoned leaders who had incurred the chairman’s displeasure.

While there is little in this article we don’t already know, the writer’s passion and eloquence make it a must-read.

In 1973 Mao suggested, apropos of Hitler, that the more people a leader kills, the more people will desire to make revolution. Mao would have approved the killing of unarmed protesters in spring 1989 not only in Tiananmen but in dozens of cities throughout China, and would have hailed the party’s “hate-filled” insistence to this day that the 1989 demonstrators were criminals who deserved what they got.

At a recent American seminar on Mao a professor from Beijing who specializes in Mao studies asked me if I was suggesting that the millions of Chinese who admire and love Mao are revering a mass killer. I replied that such veneration was China’s tragedy.

It’s a great antidote for anyone who wants to romanticize the Great Helmsman and talk about how great he was in terms of womens’ rights and taking care of the peasants. (And yeah, maybe he did do some nice things during his early years, but in the context of his entire reign, such niceties are of little or no consequence.)

The Discussion: 19 Comments

Richard, I clicked onto the story to see, in part, how the Mao studies specialist (a Maoist?) responded to Mirsky’s veneration as tragedy claim. Unfortunately the author chooses this place to end, which is a pity because I think many of us would be interested to to know how that went down. Maybe it’s just me…

January 9, 2004 @ 3:16 pm | Comment

Stephen, I agree, it would be interesting to know how the “Mao expert” responded. My guess is he was so shocked by the writer’s reply that he walked away befuddled….

January 9, 2004 @ 4:16 pm | Comment

but isn’t hilter and stalin still being worshipped too?

January 10, 2004 @ 2:42 am | Comment

When do people start jumping in the river to celebrate Mao’s crossing over into Beijing?

January 10, 2004 @ 6:33 am | Comment

dodo, I have never heard of any legitimate group (or even an illegitimate government) ever, ever celebrating Hitler or Stalin, at least not in the past forty years. Only fringe groups like skinheads and neonazis and die-hard stalinists, but these are tiny and self-parodying. Anyone who attempted to celebrate Hitler or Stalin would instanty lose all credibility and become a laughingstock and a pariah. Forever.

January 10, 2004 @ 8:00 am | Comment

“the barbarism of ‘it is right to rebel!’ became substitute for rationality and love of peace”

Mirsky is really shamelessly enough to write such a sentence. It sounds to me that a butcher is criticizing a sheep is too violent.

The mentality of Mao was shaped by the humiliating history in China, and Mirsky’s motherland played a major role. The horrible suffering of chinese people in late 19 century is a major reason for chinese take the route of socialism.

For westerners like Mirsky, that history is always conveniently ignored. They may even say, “Gosh, that happened 100 years ago. Why do you still mention it?”

For westerners like Mirsky, they will praise Ganhdi, because he begged for freedom like a dog. Any rebellion is a barbarism and is not a act of love of peace.

Mao gave chinese a spine. He got rid of all treaties signed under humiliation. The reward from the west is to support his opponent, an extreme corrupt government, and isolate china. The isolation and embargo on China further pushed Mao to his irrational approach. Now, they ask naively, “why some chinese admire Mao?”

January 10, 2004 @ 10:33 am | Comment

“Mao gave chinese a spine. ”

And more, too. The Great Leap Forward, The Cultural Revolution, catastrophic isolationsim, the death of free trade, tens of millions starved to death through bureaucratic bungling, book burnings, an informer mentality in which children reported their parents for “bourgeoise sins,” a brain-dead society of uneducated zombies, destruction of the educational system, a police state the likes of which would give Heinrich Himmler multiple orgasms, a gulag system to parallel Stalin’s and mass butchery on a level that’s right up there with the very, very, very worst masters of genocide. But he gave the Chinese a spine and increased womens rights, so we’ll just let the other things go….

January 10, 2004 @ 10:57 am | Comment

We’ve all heard those lame arguments about China’s supposed humiliation and they’re nonsense. Mao humiliated and destroyed China far more than any “unequal” treaty could ever hope to do.

Your apologies for a culture that had fallen into decadence, enabling a monster like this to take over, blinds you to to the essential point, which is that Mao was obsessed with power, and started the Cultural Revolution largely to create the mess that ensued so he could consolidate his weakening grip on power and purge his enemies. He knew very well that there would be massive death of innocents and widespread barbarism, he just didn’t care, because his power base was all important and he was willing to did destroy much of Chinese civilization to stay in power. This psychotic tendency was a constant throughout his career.

January 10, 2004 @ 11:27 am | Comment

“he gave the Chinese a spine and increased womens rights, ”

and more too. countryside healthcare system (during SARS, people start to realize its existence), extensive agricultural irrigation system, a stable income and social safety net, …

All the sins you listed by Mao are almost inevitable results from a communist system in a poor country under isolation and embargo from all major economic powers and in the state of war for a long time. To a large extent, Mao himself is a victim of his surroundings and his idealism.

Upon Mao’s arrival, the west chose to support his opponent, a extremely corrupt dictatorship. The cry of democracy from the west is hollow and hypocritical. The west has supported so many extreme corrupt dictators as long as those dictators follow them like a dog. But they will support subverting the government they do not like, even if it is democratically elected. (like in Algeria and Iran before the corrupt king).

(Another case is worth mentioning. US recently shut down an arabic TV station in Iraq because it is too hostile and put pressure on another arabic TV station. Richard, our speed freedom fighter, how come I did not see you critize them every day??)

If Mao is a monster, the west gunboat robbery is an incubator. Mirsky’s shameless branding reflects the shamelessness of the west mainstream.

The west never never learn. Americans worry about terrorist everyday. But they never deal with the root cause, the brutal suppression of Iseral with US support. Now, they ask naively, “Why do they hate us??” US is spending big money to educate arabs. It is total waste of money.

January 10, 2004 @ 11:50 am | Comment

Beautifully said, anti-Steve!

January 10, 2004 @ 11:52 am | Comment

“We’ve all heard those lame arguments about China’s supposed humiliation and they’re nonsense. ”

That is the shamelessness of the western mainstream thought I have talked about.

In the eyes of the west, colonization is good. I attacked you and you lost. You paid the ransom and it is all fair and square.

That is why they like Ganhdi, who only knew to beg for freedom to reduce his people’s suffering. How peace loving! Indians also seems to enjoy this kind of praise. That is why internationally, nobody gives Indian a sh*t.

January 10, 2004 @ 12:02 pm | Comment

Steve, you are one persistent fellow. Here’s your list of Mao’s achievements: “countryside healthcare system (during SARS, people start to realize its existence), extensive agricultural irrigation system, a stable income and social safety net, …” Please go back and compare it to my list and tell me if you truly, deep in your heart, believe Mao’s plusses outweigh his minusses.

About any agricultural benefits — I hope you don’t believe China’s starved-to-death farmers are grateful to Mao for anything. Do you? He forced them to grow inappropriate crops on their soil, took their tools away and killed them. The Great Leap Forward destroyed agriculture in China. As for “stable income,” that came about as a result of the Iron Rice Bowl, leaving the country’s economy in chaos even today, with bloated SOEs existing only to pay wages to workers making useless goods.

I can safely say that every point you make about the tragedy of Mao is flawed and inaccurate. He made China what it was in a power grab that boggles the mind. We Westerners didn’t force him to implement the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward — did we? Mao had a single vision, to fashion China in his own image no matter what the cost in terms of lives. Barefoot doctors and other niceties are great, but next to Mao’s sins they count for absolutely nothing.

You ask why I’m not criticizing my government for its own iniquities, revealing your lack of familiarity with my site. I criticize Bush all the time. But my focus is China due to my own experience, interest and knowledge.

If you want to claim that terrorism is the result of Israel and the US’s support of Israel, it is your privilige. But don’t say it again on my site or I’ll delete it, much as I try never to delete comments.

January 10, 2004 @ 12:03 pm | Comment

“If you want to claim that terrorism is the result of Israel and the US’s support of Israel, it is your privilige. But don’t say it again on my site or I’ll delete it, much as I try never to delete comments. ”

You call the freedom of speech. That is propaganda. ๐Ÿ™‚

January 10, 2004 @ 12:07 pm | Comment

“You call the freedom of speech. That is propaganda. :-)”

Where did I ever say there was freedom of speech on my site? This is my site, and if someone comes here to smear Israel and the US, or the Jews or gays or friends of mine, or to defend Hitler or Mao or Pol Pot, I have the right to delete it. I almost never do, and haven’t for many months. But this is my blog, I paid for it and maintain it, and I draw a line at what you can say or can’t. I will never delete something simply because I don’t agree with it. Only when I feel a commenter is being inappropriate. And you are being inappropriate.

Meanwhile, think about this: If you were in China criticizing your own government the way you are criticizing mine, you could disappear, be arrested and serve many years in prison. This is what Mao hath wrought. You may celebrate him as you please, but not on my site.

January 10, 2004 @ 12:15 pm | Comment


Few people in history deserve sole credit for changing the fate of an entire nation. Mao Tse-Tung is one of them.

If you ask others not to comment and express their opionion on YOUR website, it’s not too much for ordinary Chinese people to ask you and your friends please DO NOT impose your venomous slander to the man whom mainstream Chinese love and respect.

November 15, 2004 @ 2:39 pm | Comment

If you want to love and respect a mass murderer worse than Hitler it’s your choice. You can have him. He’s all yours. I don’t impose my opiunoins or attitudes on anyone. You came here on your own free will, and you can leave as well. Unfortunately, if you had been born in China under Mao, you would be put to death if you tried to leave, or if you attempted to speak your true opinion. If this is the man you choose to love and worship, I’d really like to see what kind of people you hate!

November 15, 2004 @ 3:51 pm | Comment

Mao is like a big shit.

January 10, 2005 @ 8:01 pm | Comment

What’s brown and smells of poo? Mao (coz he’s like a big shit).

January 10, 2005 @ 8:04 pm | Comment

He stinks worse than poo after being dead for almost 30 years.

January 12, 2005 @ 1:28 am | Comment

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.