A must-read: How today’s Chinese view Mao Zedong

This is a subject we’ve discussed more than once, and the consensus has been that today’s Chinese accept all the Mao memorabilia and posters and propaganda with a grain of salt – they see it as going through the motions, though they are well aware that the “ideas” of the little red book are defunct, and that Maoism was responsible for a lot of grief. (And based on my own experience with my Beijing colleagues, I subscribed to this consensus as well.)

In an eye-opening article, Howard French offers a different perspective on this touchy subject. He starts by taking us to the revolutionary museum in Yenan commemorating the so-called Great March.

Marxist ideology is said to have little relevance in today’s China. But all over this city, people can be overheard trading admiring stories about the heroism of Mao’s army or celebrating the spirit of Yenan, as much a name for that 12-year period as for the city itself.

Whether they lived through it, or more likely know of it through popular culture, many Chinese still recall the era fondly as a time of great idealism, of selfless volunteers arriving by the tens of thousands to join the movement, and of Mao’s supposedly enlightened leadership before such well-known and monumental tragedies as the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, which killed tens of millions of people.

“We have always loved Mao,” said Zhao Shiwei, 43, a provincial trade official who had come from far-away Guangdong Province and was posing merrily with a group of work colleagues in gray People’s Liberation Army uniforms from the era.

Mao “led the nation to success and founded the new China, and he will always occupy a great place in our hearts,” Zhao said.

Chinese historians, like their counterparts abroad, have steadily chipped away at Mao’s myth, and the falling chunks have inevitably included many details about Yenan. Far from the idyll celebrated here, the historians say, Mao waged a campaign of political terror against youthful dissenters, perfecting methods of purging real and imagined foes that would be used on a vast scale later on. He sold opium to raise money for his army, and it was here that he created his suffocating cult of personality.

One recent book published by Jung Chang, a Chinese writer who lives in Britain, “Mao: The Unknown Story,” goes so far as to say that the most legendary act of bravery of the entire Long March, the crossing of the Dadu bridge, while enemy gunners took aim from the opposite bank, was a fiction.

That is not all. Far from committed Communists, Chang writes, many of the marchers were press-ganged captives, and Mao is said to have been carried throughout much of the Long March on a litter by porters, as he read at his leisure. And although Mao’s troops were decimated, not a single senior party member was killed or even seriously wounded.

“You can’t say the Long March was a military victory,” said Yang Kuisong, a historian at Beijing University. “It was not about fighting battles. It was a process of running away.”

Ordinary Chinese have been carefully shielded from views like this of their late leader, however. Mao’s importance to the party he founded remains paramount, even as Marxism fades.

I’d love to plaster this article, in Chinese, on every newspaper kiosk in China. I found French’s discussions of Mao with young students to be particularly moving.

Told of the dark side of Mao’s record known to historians, but not to most Chinese, some of the students grew defensive. “What do you expect us to do, drag him from his grave and flog him,” one asked. “The emperors of the past are regarded as great if they moved the country forward, no matter how much the people suffered. With Mao it is the same.”

Others grew pensive. “You might say that China is a very different country in the way it deals with history,” said one young woman, who had remained silent throughout most of what had become a long, animated discussion. “But you must understand, foreigners have much more information than we do. There’s no real freedom to discuss these kinds of things here.”

Can they be happy about that phenomenon? I can’t imagine living in forced ignorance. Granted, many in America believe in propagating ignorance, with fairy tales about the deaths of soldiers like Pat Tillman, nonsensical campaigns about condoms being dangerous and lobbying for “intelligent design.” But at least if we’re curious, we can sort through the BS for ourselves.

But back to Mao…. Bottom line, he was a murderous piece of shit and one of the greatest blights on the history of civilization and this article only confirms it. It’s too bad to see that even in the Information Age the Chinese haven’t been able to get the real story, but I know one day they will.

Via CDT.

UPDATE: For more on how Chinese students are taught to view Mao and Communism, this blog post is a great read.

The Discussion: 64 Comments

I’m not going to seriously compare Lincoln to Mao… am I?

I guess they are kind of similar – Lincoln was more concerned with preventing the dissolution of the infant nation than the ideological war waged over slaves.

Mao was more concerned with taking over China than the ideological war of freeing China.

But they’re both remembered for the ideological gloss.

Discuss.

(I haven’t thought this through very well, so don’t accuse me anything!!! just throwing shiznit out to stimulate discussion!)

July 1, 2005 @ 11:55 am | Comment

Laowai, Barack Obama made a similar statement about Lincoln, and there’s a lot of truth to it. We all love to romanticize our heroes. Just look at all the gushing over dumber-than-a-stump Ronald Reagan.

July 1, 2005 @ 12:01 pm | Comment

Lincolin walked all over the constitution and ignored the supreme court out of hand (to be fair, he was not the only president of his time to treat the court in this way).

July 1, 2005 @ 12:10 pm | Comment

“What do you expect us to do, drag him from his grave and flog him,”

Well they could at least put him in a grave!!

“But they’re both remembered for the ideological gloss.”

That strikes me as a really good point.

July 1, 2005 @ 12:43 pm | Comment

Incidentally, one of my students expressed the belief that Zhou Enlai is better known around the world than Mao!

July 1, 2005 @ 12:47 pm | Comment

jung chang is a novelist. her new book offers more of a fiction rather than history. the bbc interview is quite revealing, i think.

July 1, 2005 @ 12:55 pm | Comment

Yi, I suspect you might be right. I have some doubts about her biography, which I’ve expressed in other comments.

July 1, 2005 @ 12:56 pm | Comment

Richard:

“It’s too bad to see that even in the Information Age the Chinese haven’t been able to get the real story, but I know one day they will.”

Average people are often under the manipulation of their government. It is particularly true in the China, a communist country. China is not an exception in this regard. Half of the population in this country probably believe that a link exists between Iraq and 9.11, etc.

July 1, 2005 @ 1:12 pm | Comment

There is documented proof that Iraq existed on 9/11…

July 1, 2005 @ 1:15 pm | Comment

Renxu, you are exactly right. That’s why I wrote that at least in America if you are curious, you can dig for the truth. It’s out there, if you want to look for it. Your point is corect, that the government is usually going to try to deceive you.

July 1, 2005 @ 1:18 pm | Comment

thanks, richard. i’ve been given bad treatment for posting that elsewhere.
i rather think mao’s achievement and mistakes shoud be put into a longer historical perspective. brainwashing does not fully explain the general sentiments of the ordinary people towards him.
as to the grave and memorial thing, it was against mao’s will.
his tragedy, for me, is that he’s been exploited by both those who love him and those who hate him for whatever causes they might respectively hold dear. as a result, the information is almost always distorted in one way or another.

July 1, 2005 @ 1:44 pm | Comment

“Foreigners have much more information than we do. There’s no real freedom to discuss these kinds of things here.” — Chinese student.

There are two things of interest here I think, firstly, a lack of access to varied, objective and factual historical records and secondly, little or no freedom to debate how history should be viewed.

It’s no wonder that debate of these issues is rare in China as there is only one single “official history” and discussion thereof is pretty much prohibited.

There’s one major difference between China and the west when it comes to recording history: history in the west can be written by literally anyone (“Wild History”) whereas in China written history has traditionally and strictly been the domain of official court historians only.

In addition, new dynasties often re-wrote the official histories in order to further legitimise their rule and put themselves in the best possible light.

The west tends to debate history a lot more. 10 different history books may well have 10 different opinions of a certain period which is largely unheard of in China.

The CCP continued this tradition with party history which is set in stone and beyond discussion.

Also, re Mao’s legacy, today’s CCP want to be seen as Mao’s legitimate heirs I think so it’s no surprise that Mao is still glorified. Critcism/rejection of Mao would be a slippery slope which could morph into critcism of today’s CCP. Mao’s portrait in T***anmen Skware is going nowhere.

July 1, 2005 @ 2:12 pm | Comment

By the way, I think FSN9 might know more about the way China has traditionally recorded it’s history. I’d be interested to know his view.

July 1, 2005 @ 2:13 pm | Comment

Anyone has Chang Jung’s BBC interview script? I have searched BBC and did not find it.

And, just out of my curiosity, as a person brought up and educated in the communist China, she continues to use such old spelling like Chang Jung instead of Zhang Rong, and so on. Strange, isn’t it?

July 1, 2005 @ 2:27 pm | Comment

leo,
i didn’t find the script either. but here is the audio: http://news.bbc.co.uk/chinese/simp/hi/newsid_4630000/newsid_4638100/4638107.stm
there’s also quite charged debate on bbc chinese website.

July 1, 2005 @ 2:48 pm | Comment

For their final I made my senior writing class write an essay for/against Japan being on the Security Council. In the discussion of the topic, we covered lots of reasons for and against, on being history. One of the most anti-Japanese students also took a moment to blast Chinese history, saying that most of China’s “heroes” of WW2 were idiots and the government just lies about the history. He looked around the room and said to the other students, “it’s true, you know it.” But a chill filled the room.

On Mao, my most heard response is “He was good in the beginning, but then went bad.” However, I always take the opportunity to point out the bad at the beginning. Sometimes though, I’ll say something provocative like, if Jiang Jieshi ruled China, it would probably be rich and friends with America, just like Taiwan is today. Almost always I get no response, because it has never crossed their mind. Like the fact that Mao liked to bang little girls.

I only met one guy, a driver, who volunteered his opinion. He ripped Mao, basically saying China has 5000 years of history and has shit, but America is only 200+ years old and is the most successful nation. I think he was just glad to have the opportunity to express his thoughts.

July 1, 2005 @ 2:56 pm | Comment

Yi, thanks!

July 1, 2005 @ 3:01 pm | Comment

No defender of Mao here. But Thomas Jefferson liked ’em young, too, and Sally Hemings had even less opportunity to say no.

And no, a leader as truly incompetent as Jiang Jieshi had no chance of leading China to any sort of prosperity at all. He didn’t just lose the Civil War because Chinese folks loved Mao outfits, you know.

July 1, 2005 @ 3:19 pm | Comment

matt,
i don’t think yours is a provocative comment. the point is not uncommon in recent years. but even the eisenhower administration admited the inevitability of loss of china. jiang’s economic success in taiwan had a lot to do with us economic assistance, security protection and his own political dictatorship. it’s quite questionable whether washington would offer the same level of support should jiang get control over the whole of china, in which case the threat of communism would look much less menacing. on the other hand, us didnot decide to completely side with taiwan upon founding of prc. the decision was rather a result of the outbreak of the korean war (and partly a cause to china’s decision to intervene). in this connection, some in the academia nowadays argue it’s wrong for china to intervene in that war.
apart from the official history explanation, today’s young people seem to rarely read anything serious. (guess it’s my bias)
by the way, the other fact you mention is not quite accepted by serious historians.

July 1, 2005 @ 3:27 pm | Comment

I think the fact that the United States helped Japan and Taiwan and Korea avoid communism, and in the case of Korea and Taiwan they eventually become democracies (Japan was immediately forced to become one), lends at least some credence to the idea that had Jiang Jieshi won China would be a lot wealthier and a lot more democratic today. But my point is even if you disagree with it, at least you can imagine it.

July 1, 2005 @ 3:30 pm | Comment

I’m curious as to where this mao likes to have sex with little girls meme originated from. I’ve heard that it was written in that memoir written by one of his physicians, but has anyone managed to verify the accuracy of those statements? Political assassination (in the figurative tense) is not unheard of especially after a person is dead.

July 1, 2005 @ 3:33 pm | Comment

We’ll never know, Ckrisz, if Jiang Jieshi would have made a good job of running China but we do know that he terrorised the people of Taiwan for 30 years until his death and his boys carried on the legacy.

In that regard the KMT was similar to the CCP.

But, and this is quite a big BUT, Jiang was a capitalist and was therefore firmly in the American camp during the entire cold war.

However, capitalism trumps communism, especially the Maoist version, so I tend to think that China under Jiang would have been about a thousand times better than China under Mao. Particularly with American support.

Imagine, American support and the industriousness and entrepreneurial might of the Chinese people being unleashed!

No, for me, China under Jiang wins hands-down.

July 1, 2005 @ 3:38 pm | Comment

I’m not arguing it was at all possible. Americans sometimes ask what would have happened if the south had won the Civil War, what if there was no war. Everything is quesitoned because it is an open society.

July 1, 2005 @ 3:43 pm | Comment

Jing, you’ll find descriptions of Mao’s fondness for pretty young things in Harrison Salisbury’s The Two Emperors; I believe it is a fact of history, not a meme. Salisbury is no hack reporter and I’ve never seen the claim disputed.

July 1, 2005 @ 3:47 pm | Comment

From a review of Hungry Ghosts:

In 1994, Mao Zedong’s personal physician, Dr. Li Zhisui, published The Private Life of Chairman Mao. Leading experts on Chinese communist history say that the book is authentic and accurate. He served Mao from 1955 until the dictator’s death in 1976. The portrait he drew of the Chinese communist leader was chilling and revolting.

While one brutal disaster after another was imposed on the Chinese people in the name of socialism, Mao remained secluded most of the time in his private residence in Beijing. He would lie in bed all day. His teeth were green from never being brushed. He refused to bathe, so instead orderlies-in-waiting would sponge-wash his corpulent structure. Young virgin peasant girls would be brought to him from the countryside for his carnal pleasures, often for group encounters. He gave no thought to his having long been diagnosed with a venereal disease.

Salisbury was writing about this all the way back in 1990.

July 1, 2005 @ 3:51 pm | Comment

References to Mao’s ‘pretties’ both male and female are also detailed in The Private Life of Chairman Mao’ by Li Zhisui. It also includes quotes from his victims including one young soldier who did not like having to massage and wash the Chairman the way he liked. He allegedly told the Chairman that it was a woman’s job.

Can’t comment on the validity, just reporting what I remember.

July 1, 2005 @ 3:54 pm | Comment

Re Richard’s above comment, Mao was quoted in Li Zhisui’s book as saying to the doctor that he didn’t wash ‘down there’ because he ‘washed himself inside of his women’.

July 1, 2005 @ 3:56 pm | Comment

the physician is not quite trustworthy. his accounts were disputed by quite some people who also worked for mao. the problem is while li’s book is banned on the mainland, the other people’s stories are also little read outside of china.

matt, on the point of questioning, i agree with you. not questioning authorities is something quite deep in our tradition and will be very difficult to change, i guess.

July 1, 2005 @ 4:01 pm | Comment

Hey Yi – you’re not from Georgia, are you? If so, I think we might know each other.

On the question of economic success of Taiwan, I’d like to point out that the best economies in the world (up until recently, but still mostly true) had tremendous aid from the US after world war two. Marshall aid money and money like it to Taiwan, Japan, Germany, France and the UK set up tremendously successful economies without fail, I’d say. We’ve only recently seen that inertia (as in – staying good) falter, with Germany France etc. And of course, the economic miracle, China, has found it’s own fuel. India too. Anyway, US money made the world what it was for years and years after WWII. George C Marshall was quite a guy.

July 1, 2005 @ 4:49 pm | Comment

hi, laowai,

i’m from beijing and currently in cambridge uk. ๐Ÿ™‚ will go back soon though.

i agree with you on economic point. marshall is great.

July 1, 2005 @ 4:55 pm | Comment

How coincidental. I’m in Cambridge and will soon go to Beijing. I’ve got a friend named Yi in Nanjing, who will soon come back to Cambridge. hmmm.

July 1, 2005 @ 5:01 pm | Comment

small world, isn’t it?

July 1, 2005 @ 5:06 pm | Comment

And sites like this make it even smaller.

July 1, 2005 @ 5:07 pm | Comment

Indeed.

Anyway, did everyone else like how I claimed Marshall to be the biggest driving force for Japanese/Taiwanese/French/UK/German (and therefore US) success in the world?

I thought it was rather one sided. Anyway I don’t do it very often but us young whippersnappers don’t often remember (or never learned) how influential the Marshall plan was on today’s economies.

July 1, 2005 @ 5:14 pm | Comment

Hi, greetings, Laowai, just one aspect to the Marshall Plan: how much would China have need to industrialize itself? Why didn’t the U.S. spend this funds in India, Latin America, and Africa where there were also frontiers with communism?
And to Jiang (Chiang), anybody who has read his biography knows that he was no capitalist. He was a nepotism capitalist. The difference was and is always great.

July 1, 2005 @ 5:41 pm | Comment

A Chiang Kai-Shek run China would probably have been like like Pinochet’s Chile. Decent economy, friendly relations with the US, and plenty of torture.

July 1, 2005 @ 6:02 pm | Comment

“Mao was quoted in Li Zhisui’s book as saying to the doctor that he didn’t wash ‘down there’ because he ‘washed himself inside of his women”

This kind of comment is low. I have read the books saying Mao did not wash himself often.

For pete’s sake, if Mao was really so much conerned about hygiene, he would have surrenderred already. So, when Washington was on the run, did he wash himself everyday?

Even in 1949, Bristish warship was freely patrolling Yangtze river and the custorm was basically in the hands of foreigners. It was surely a wonderful time for you guys.

July 1, 2005 @ 7:05 pm | Comment

” Almost always I get no response, because it has never crossed their mind.”

Well, I had similar experience. They did not respond because in Chinese culture, teacher is part of authority and students generally do not challenge authorities.

Since you are teaching in China, please do not abuse your authority. Once I said VOA has more propaganda than BBC, I get a cold shoulder from my English teacher.

July 1, 2005 @ 7:46 pm | Comment

I had a discussion once with a 20-something small bar owner in Lanzhou. I forget why we were talking about Mao. Bu he made a comment that I found interesting…not because he said it, but because he said it is something his mother has told him.

She told him that many Chinese view the long march as a legendary event…something amazing. But in reality, it amounts to luck. Mao was lucky that his forces were not wiped out….

This is not a view that none of us have ever heard before, but it hits home for me. Many of history’s greatest victories have come about through total luck…not through any special quality of a one leader. Plus, it emphasized for me that, concerning Mao, what a person (Chinese, American, Romanian, Timorean, etc…..) will say in private is rarely what they will declare in public.

July 1, 2005 @ 10:56 pm | Comment

Hi Leo –

Marshall Plan money was given to Germany, Brittain and France (and Japan?) as a post-world war II restoration project to rebuild those nations crippled infrastructures. the UK was a total mess, and Germany and France not far behind. Marshall money implicitly anti-communist. The Chinese didn’t get it because, as you point out Jiang Jieshi was considered the rightful leader. I won’t argue with you concerning Jiang – he was awful. But taiwan got a lot of money from the states, and at least some of it didn’t go into the Jiang bank account, and helped to modernise Taiwan.

Japan got money too, a lot of it, but not through the marshall plan. They got up to $1 million a day in free food, a food network subsidised completely by the states.

Post-WWII was probably the most effective a time the US has ever had in nation building.

July 2, 2005 @ 2:47 am | Comment

Steve:

I agree that comment sounds low, but it has to be that way – because Mao’s life style is low.

British warships surely didn’t kill even a fraction of Chinese civilians that the Chinese commies killed, on a single night of June 3, 1989.

If you don’t hold a racist view against Anglo-Saxxons, I guess it was indeed a more wonderful time even for Chinese, before 1949.

July 2, 2005 @ 2:55 am | Comment

Thanks, Laowai, but I am not asking for an explanation of Marshall Plan, which the most earthlings know what it is. I am only questioning the feasibility if it came to China.

And to Bellevue, there are proofs that the black were healthier and better taken care of under slavery. So, is it Lincoln’s fault?

July 2, 2005 @ 4:11 am | Comment

Bellevue,

“I agree that comment sounds low, but it has to be that way – because Mao’s life style is low.”

For many westerners and chinese ellite, Mao’s style was low. Well, he had the style of chinese peasant and had stayed true to his roots of peasant. Therefore, deep in you heart, you guys deeply despise chinese peasants and look down upon them.

Mao’s success and failure can all be traced back to his roots of peasant and his deep disdain for chinese ellite (intellectuals).

“If you don’t hold a racist view against Anglo-Saxxons, I guess it was indeed a more wonderful time even for Chinese, before 1949.”

That is the tragedy in the thinking of chinese ellite. The recipe for China prosperity from Liu Xiaobo, a famous democratic fighter, is to subject China to colonist rule for another 300 years. I guess your thinking is along that line.

July 2, 2005 @ 5:24 am | Comment

Leo –

Oh, okay – well, I think nowadays the task would be really expensive. Rediculously expensive.

What items were you thinking of? You mean if China had none of what it does now, and someone like Marshall came along? Or do you mean taking the lesser-developed parts of China and developing them?

Things like water treatment plants so people could drink their tap water, a more comprehensive train-system? Things like this?

Marshall money, as far as I understand it, wasn’t given to industrialise the nations directly. It was given to create the infrastructure (trains, water, electricity, sewers, roads) to let them industrialise themselves.

July 2, 2005 @ 7:50 am | Comment

“Therefore, deep in you heart, you guys deeply despise chinese peasants and look down upon them.”

steve,

Why do you have so many pre-conceived ideas? Why, if someone says something, you twist it into meaning that they obvoiusly mean something else?

Like above, if someone says something about Mao, then because Mao was a peasant, it means they look down on peasants? You’re really stretching things a bit there don’t you think?

C’mon man, stick to the facts otherwise we’ll start calling you Dr. Steve Myers (see Open thread) for over-analyising everybody!!

July 2, 2005 @ 8:30 am | Comment

Steve, while I guess Mao’s style and speech were identifiably peasant, his lust for reading and such were anything but normal. I’m doing a Phd and I don’t read as much as he read.

My point is that while some things about Mao may represent to you China’s peasantry, other things are very different. Mao didn’t get along with his father, reportedly, who was a very hard-working, honest peasant (reportedly). Does this mean, by your logic, that he looked down on peasants?

Mao was one of a kind, and I don’t think he should be held up as an example of a peasant.

July 2, 2005 @ 8:44 am | Comment

Laowai, yes, as you point out, the money was not directly given to industrialize country, but it is also wrong to say it is to help them industrialize themselves, because the most countries involved in the Marshall Plan or its like, including Taiwan and South Korea, were then already industrialized or partially so. The China of 1949 was nowhere close to them.
Even without the Marshall Plan, East Germany and Chekoslovakia’s economies were stronger than Greece and Turkey, which were in the Plan.

July 2, 2005 @ 10:36 am | Comment

yes, I guess I’m thinking more about the UK, whose infrastructure was basically destroyed.

Anyway did I answer your question? If not, can you further clarify what exactly you want my opinion of? What infrastructure, and when?

July 2, 2005 @ 10:40 am | Comment

I may be getting over my head here, but I think some of you are giving Jiang Jieshi more credit than he deserves for the Taiwan economic miracle. I think the loosening of controls on the Taiwan people did not come until he was out of the picture. He deserves credit as the leader of the KMT for protecting Taiwan from the CCP while he was in control, but I question if he really was the driving force for the economic development.

More on Taiwan. I had worked with a woman from Taiwan here in China. I was complaining to her about the hukou (household registration) system here. She informed me they have that in Taiwan. That blew me away, think only a dictatorship/communist country would need and use such a system.

Maybe it is in James Clavell’s book “Taipan”, but there is a story about how stinky English men were in the 18th-19th centuries. The implication, if not direct statement, was that they did not clean their bottoms after doing #2 business, but the Chinese at that time cleaned their bottoms so were not smelly. Can’t say that is true. It was also in the film version of the book which I saw the other day.

July 2, 2005 @ 11:45 am | Comment

Who is giving Jiang any credit? I was giving the US credit.

July 2, 2005 @ 1:33 pm | Comment

Laowai, my original question arose from your statement that the Marshall Plan was the largest driving force behind the postwar economic success of the western countries, which is actually true. It is my fault that I mixed it with other posts by matt, martyn, caliboy, et al, stating that if Jiang (Chiang Kaishek) won the civil war, China would be much better off, about which point I am utterly skeptical, even in case of a huge overdose of aid.
My point is that the cause why the Marshall Plan could make such a miracle was, at least in part, because there were already a sound fundament in there countries. The Job of the Plan was to recover or rebuild developed economy, which was vastly different from building a new economy like China’s, in which there was virtually nothing to begin with.
What makes me skeptical about Matt et al’s points is that it is also quite unfair to compare China with Taiwan, or any other Asian economies. Aside Taiwan, Japan is one who has made it before the war; Hong Kong is just a trading port and Singapore is even a smaller one, both of which has been benefited from their free port status, whose benefits would hugely reduced if they were bound with a bigger nation. So the serious examples here are Taiwan and South Korea, both of which have got a decent education and civil system in place and in part industrialized during the Japanese rule. The both nations, with a combined population of 60 million (then perhaps even fewer), as large as an average Chinese province or Indian state, started their success story from manufacturing cheap articles for export, and there was a willing U.S. market to digest these exports. It was the U.S. who invented these success stories, not only through donating money, but also through providing a market. Just imagine what if China has gone the same road. Actually now China is doing the same homework. Even though there is now only a tiny fraction of Chinese population engaged in export branch, the U.S. is already in dire trouble with trade deficit, not to mention that other countries, from India to Kambocha, are whining that China is stealing their fair share. But China’s miracle is due to making 70% of plasitic christmas trees world wide, or 80% cigarette lighters around the globe? Where come this shortage of raw material? Where come this shortage of energy? Theoretically, if the western countries have shifted their manufacture to China, there should be a zero-sum altogether. So we know there is a internal demand in China. But is this internal demand a result of FDI or the free sectors recently released from the state clout? There are two most known facts about the free sectors. They are those who press for the lowest pays, often much lower than those of SOEs. They are those who invest least in R&D. Their technology and engineering personnel are often directly grabbed from the SOEs. As to FDIs, they set up a factory while paying a ridiculous rate of tax (that’s why they come here instead elswhere), they pay a fraction of salary as at home, they export the goods at a minimal export tariff (otherwise they have done it at home or in Mexico or in Turkey), and that’s basta! With 1000 usd for a senior manager, you think China has got a huge slice of the meat? So it is often SOEs, which seem to be unprofittable, are in fact maintaining a substantial part of the well-paid middle class; it is also those SOEs, who invested and are going on to invest in strategic R&Ds which cannot produce profit in short term. When the failure of SOEs are related everywhere, who is making noise on the internatial stage? Set CNOOC aside, which is largely a monopol story, is it not Haier, an SOE entity, or TCL, a like one, or SAIC, or Baosteel? When people are loathing that Maoism is the lowest form of all economies, are these not direct or indirect legacies of Mao? China’s miracle is indeed partly owing to FDI and the private sectors. But if without SOEs, what’s the difference between India and China? Does India really lack entrepreteurship or capitalist spirit, unwelcome to foreign hot money? If anyone has an engagement with the Indians in the IT or service branch, they know it is not true. What India lacks is necessary state engagement and intervention. Would Chiang have been capable of these? To a guy who would not lift a finger to landowners outside of boundaries of Nanking and would never be less polite to the gangsters in Shanghai, what could you expect of him? Thus, I think I have a legimate portion of skeptics that if Chiang won the civil war, there would now be a better-off China.
My point is actually not directly. contradicting with yours. But with the arguments made here and previously, I think both our points were now clearer.

July 2, 2005 @ 1:54 pm | Comment

pete, I’d also be surprised if anyone gave any special credit to Jiang for Taiwan’s economic development.

As I said, as Taiwan was always a capitalist country then it had a huge (and that’s an understatment) advantage over Maoist (or ‘state capitalist’ as MAJ would say) China.

Mind you, I didn’t know about Taiwan having a Hukou system. However, a household registration system is not necessarily a bad thing, it has more to do with the freedoms, or lack thereof, associated with it.

I mean, if it’s used to control people and tie them to their danwei/work unit then it’s a tool of authoritarian rule which I suspect was the case in post-1948 KMT colonial rule in Taiwan.

Perhaps if Mr. Keating or Mr. Stimson are reading this then they may be able to shed some light on this issue.

July 2, 2005 @ 2:32 pm | Comment

Leo, I agree, I have no doubt that Jiang would have pocketed most aid to the mainland, just like he did in Taiwan.

Anyway, I take your point about the difference between “reconstruction” and “construction” but you have to consider two things – one, I’m not sure that we have a good enough understanding of aid-based “construction” to say that China would not have benefitted just as much as the UK, had it received (and used) as much (proportionately) aid money. Second, the UK’s foundation was, well, almost non-existent (Martyn, am I right?) and so in the UK it wasn’t really “reconstruction” because there was so little of the infrastructure left. everything had to be ripped down and built again. Not much of a good foundation.

Anyway, I think we basically agree, and I must concede that I don’t know everything about whether it was more “reconstruction” or “construction” in Germany and the UK, but it should be noted that there are sometimes advantages to “construction” over “reconstruction” and I think China would have pretty well for itself it it had received the money that the US dished out in the Marshal plan.

July 2, 2005 @ 3:34 pm | Comment

Laowai, I think it relatively easy to differentiate construction and reconstruction. In the UK, Germany, and Japan, you paid the bill, and the local personnel carried out the job, who basically knew what they needed. In China or other developing countries, you could give people a lot of money, the locals had to sort out what they really wanted, and they had yet to figure out where to get the right people to do the job. The difference between China and the western countries is not only that between less and more money.

July 2, 2005 @ 6:21 pm | Comment

“C’mon man, stick to the facts otherwise we’ll start calling you Dr. Steve Myers”

Martyn, the fact is that, Mao is being ridiculed for his dirty, low style, while most chinese peasant is just behaving the same way. If you despise Mao for his style, how come you will not despise chinese peasant for the same reason?

Attacking Mao for his dirty style or rumored sexual behavior is not degrading him. Instead, it is degrading you. I am very surprised this kind of rumor is a topic for mainstream discussion by decent people. Yeah, his body maybe dirty. The mind of people who enjoyed talking about it is simply filthy.

“Mao didn’t get along with his father, reportedly, who was a very hard-working, honest peasant (reportedly). Does this mean, by your logic, that he looked down on peasants?”

Mao was surely a rebellious person. In traditional chinese culture, father enjoy authoritative power. His confrontation with his father was not about the peasant style of his father. It was about control and anti-control.

July 2, 2005 @ 7:46 pm | Comment

Steve, noting the sexual practices of leaders — Thomas Jefferson, Bill Clinton, Mao, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesart — is totally common and legitimate. It is not indecent; it is part of the history and the makeup of these men.

I think your point about crityicism of Mao somehow indicates we are knocking the Chinese peasantry in general. Not true. Mao lived in Zhongnanhai in palacial splendor, despite his background. I criticize him not for his peasant characteristics (which I see as the most positive aspect of Mao) but for his emperer-like megalomania and abusing the high power of his exalted position.

July 2, 2005 @ 8:21 pm | Comment

“He refused to bathe, so instead orderlies-in-waiting would sponge-wash his corpulent structure.”. Mao could not even support himself when he met Nixon. How about a little background?

“for his carnal pleasures, often for group encounters.” Mao had constipation problem for a long time. It is well reported that his assistant help him with constipation. How about a few words discussing the medical nature of this problem instead of using sexual lurid word.

“Mao was quoted in Li Zhisui’s book as saying to the doctor that he didn’t wash ‘down there’ because he ‘washed himself inside of his women”

Can anyone with any sexual experience say that intercouse can replace washing? What are you trying to say with this kind of quotation anyway? He was dirty or he had sex with woman?

July 3, 2005 @ 4:44 am | Comment

Mao is important for China,but I do not think the word is right”no Mao no modern China”,China would be changed and become stronger even if no Mao’s exist .Actually,China will be more better if no Mao because Mao was a emperor actually,not a democracy national leader ,So Dr Sunzhongshan is the most important Chinese for Modern china because he brought the democracy thought for chinese so China went a right way to be strong,If no Mao maybe China has been the 1st or 2nd strongest nation in the world .

July 3, 2005 @ 8:40 am | Comment

Aladdin, you are a poet. Tha tis so true, and so well expressed.

July 3, 2005 @ 9:03 am | Comment

Between Mao and one “1st or 2nd strongest nation of world” I would prefer Mao.
We have already got one empire. No more, Okey?

July 3, 2005 @ 9:49 am | Comment

Good point on the construction vs. reconstruction bit leo – but still – as I’ve said, I would say that there might be advantages to construction over reconstruction that we aren’t taking into account.

July 3, 2005 @ 1:40 pm | Comment

You know, I’ve been reading a bit about Sun Zhongshan – what an amazing man. Very thoughtful, from what I’ve read.

July 3, 2005 @ 1:43 pm | Comment

It’s a shame I missed this discussion. I didn’t get around to reading it until today. Sorry Martyn for not responding to your query about Chinese historians … perhaps in a later thread. Seems a shame to launch into an historical essay on the topic when the thread seems to have already died.

I would like to say that (to my surprise) my girlfriend started reading the Chinese version of the Private Life of Chairman Mao a couple of days ago. It was given to her by her Chinese landlady, and she started reading it totally unprompted by me, and was even surprised that I knew the book.

The thing that really surprised me was this: she was really shocked by the things she read in the first chapter, and came to me with wide eyes asking “is this true?” “is that true?” “how about this?” Most of it wasn’t even related to his sexual exploits, though she did mention a bit about them. For most of it, I just replied “yeah, what’s surprising about that?” or “you really didn’t know that?”

I guess I just assumed that Chinese people were aware of the negative side of the Chairman, (the whole 30% wrong thing) … and it’s come as a real surprise to me to see just how surprised she is reading this book. I’ve even had to caution her about trusting it entirely, and speak on Mao’s behalf, in order to ensure that she doesn’t get an imbalanced view in the other direction. She’s really horrified about her communist party membership, and keeps telling me “you know, we had to make a vow to belief in this man’s thinking when we joined the party.”

The whole experience has really been a revelation to me.

July 5, 2005 @ 8:46 am | Comment

i’ve had similar experiences with my girlfriend. she was never quite sure what i was talking about when i talked about chinese politics. then when we spent some time in hk, went to some bookstores there, and especially after she went to the candlelight vigil there, she was just blown away. i’ve also actually found myself in the bizarre role of preventing her from being too extreme in her criticisms, something i am usually not prone to do when it comes to politics here.

July 7, 2005 @ 12:25 am | Comment

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