“Rudderless on the Great Helmsman”

There’s another sublime essay over at China Daily Watch, this time on the way the erstwhile rag covered (and didn’t cover) the 30th anniversay of Mao’s death. I don’t agree with all the points he makes in this lengthy post, but his criticisms of the paper are to die for.

With every SOE that comes crashing down, every foreign company that invests, every administrative process that becomes incentive-based, every new shop that opens and every personal blog that gets written, China moves away from Mao. This conformist society is moving away from the collective to the personal. It is replacing communism with nationalism, the Red Detachment of Women with the Rolling Stones. Surely there is something positive that can be taken from this? Surely even in this time of giddy advance there is a moment to catch one’s breath and look back at where the country has come from?

Not at China Daily there isn’t.

The paper had one short piece on the 30th Anniversary of the death of Chairman Mao, placed on the bottom of Page 1. (There was no editorial, no opinion piece, and not even a Features story.)


Quite frankly it was repellent twaddle.

‘Time passes,’ was the opening sentence, and somehow it got worse from there. The reporter interviewed several ‘experts,’ none Chinese, who opined such gems as: ‘I didn’t know it was the anniversary on Saturday. Mao is a hero, but in a very vague sense.’ Why print that? If he doesn’t know it’s the goddam anniversary, what the hell can he say that is of any importance? Also the writer made a major mistake, which somehow the editors failed to catch, that ‘Seek Truth From Facts’ was a Mao Zedong slogan. No it wasn’t! Sure, it’s an expression that has been around for long time and may well have been used at some stage, but it is above all a Deng slogan. It’s like saying Deng would accuse people of being ‘left in form but right in essence!’ Truly shocking.

And then he really rips into China Daily. Funny, smart and written with the acerbic wit that I hitherto thought only I myself possessed. Damn, competition.

The Discussion: 17 Comments

More ridiculous than sublime. This hireling is either hopelessly naive or hopelessly drunk on China Daily-funded Tsingdao beer if he thinks there is a chance the mouthpiece would address even 10% of what Mao was really about.
What is it about China that makes so many westerners believe that CCTV and China Daily are edging closer to being objective and independent? It’s only a few party hacks holding them back.
It’s a bit like believing Fox News would be fair and balanced if it wasn’t for Murdoch.

September 15, 2006 @ 6:50 am | Comment


He’s not blocking because he’s angry, he’s blocking because your posts violate the rules of the blog, which Richard decides. Even though Richard does dedicate this site to let open ideas flow, he is the proprietor of this site, and such has the right to block whoever the hell he wants to. including you.

September 15, 2006 @ 9:13 am | Comment

Look at it this way. A blog is like a magazine. The owner/editors of the magazine get to make the decisions on what appears in said magazine.

Free speech means that if you don’t like it, you get to start your own magazine.

Richard owns this site, pays for it with both money and time. It’s his decision about what and who appears here.

Jessica, Richard was letting you comment here, and then you went off again. It’s not just that your remarks anger people, it’s that you seem to deliberately TRY to anger people with your remarks. You repeatedly say things that are insulting and rude. That’s not starting a dialog, it’s “trolling.” Richard has deleted others for the same thing, but only after repeated offenses.

See his post below for his policy on comments and also his frustration with the tone of some of the commenters.

If you want to have a conversation with people, it’s helpful not to begin by insulting their intelligence and beliefs.

September 15, 2006 @ 10:13 am | Comment

Funny piece especially for those who have suffered through the unique editorial style and writing technique of the China Daily minions.

A note on the chengyu, 实事求是 (seek truth from facts). Deng is the one who made this phrase famous, especially among Western China watchers, but it was made famous in the CCP by Mao who used it as a motto for the Central Party school in Ya’nan in the 1930s and 1940s.

The phrase became associated with Deng following a speech given in 1978, “Hold High the Banner of Mao Zedong Thought and Adhere to the Principle of Seeking Truth from Facts” in which Deng says:
“In the final analysis, Comrade Mao’s greatness and his success in guiding the Chinese revolution to victory rest on just this approach. Marx and Lenin never mentioned the encirclement of the cities from the countryside — a strategic principle that had not been formulated anywhere in the world in their lifetime. Nonetheless, Comrade Mao Zedong pointed it out as the specific road for the revolution in China’s concrete conditions”
Of course, Deng here is using Mao’s own words as a not-so-oblique criticism of what Mao had become: The Yan’an Mao who refused to let doctrine dictate strategy had turned into the relentless ideologue of the GLF and GPCR.

September 15, 2006 @ 10:38 am | Comment

I like the bit where he says the following.

“I haven’t read Jung Chang’s Mao biography, and I’m not sure I want to as I can’t imagine it is objective. I would 100 per cent recommend “Mao: A Life” by Phillip Short. In my opinion the author is very successful in putting events into their proper context, assessing Mao’s mental state and the subsequent decisions he made.”

Not objective? Oh, right – you mean she comes out and says he was a right bastard and isn’t sorry to say that?

Whereas Short is great? Yes, I know why you think that. Because at the end he says (to paraphrase) that the tens of millions of deaths that happened in China weren’t Mao’s fault. And the few million that were, were “necessary”.

Ok, so basically you like the book that whitewashes the tens of millions of Chinese that died under his rule and not the one that underlines that fact in red ink.

Just so we know what you’re on about…..

September 15, 2006 @ 11:06 am | Comment

This issue is bigger than my current understanding

But I will learn

It is not bigger than my hopes however.

East of east so far away
You greet each new sun
As I slumber lost in yesterday

Lift your head China
Awaken your people
That I may walk with them
As one

September 15, 2006 @ 11:48 am | Comment

Now, I thought ‘Seek truth from facts’ came to be associated with those wretched Empiricists (a charge Zhou Enlai had to fight off at one time).

September 15, 2006 @ 12:02 pm | Comment

Raj, that’s why I prefaced my post the way I did.

Jessica, we all know what your game is. Every blog I know has banned you. The fact that I allow ANY of your comments to appear speaks to my magnanimity. I believe in free speech – you have a right to open your own blog and say whatever you want. In my own blog, there are some rules that no one else has a probelm with except you. I am not the US government, I am an individual who pays for this site with his own money, and what goes on its pages is decided by my because I live in a society where there is free speech. I can say whatever I want, post whatever I want, delete whatever I want – that is free speech. You can do the same on your blog – it’s yours, you are free to run it as you choose. Everyone who is really interesdted in “Jessica’s” sincerity shoudl visit its own blog and see how nearly every single comment gets deleted. And that’s Jessica’s prerogative. But don’t fall into that BS trap of Jessica caring a fig about free speech.

September 15, 2006 @ 4:27 pm | Comment


You are correct. The “pragmatists” (to use an overused and overly simplistic characterization) referred to it quite a bit. Like Deng, they quoted Mao’s usage of the phrase to criticize policies that they felt emphasized ideological correctness over “practical” policies.

September 15, 2006 @ 4:31 pm | Comment


I was dining with some high flying chinese businessmen yesterday and they were talking about a shake-up in Shanghai. Apparently the government is purging Jiang’s strongest allies in the area. I believe what they’re doing is taking out the mayor of the city by holding him responsible for the corrupt activities of his secretary. It sounds like a really interesting story.

September 15, 2006 @ 9:07 pm | Comment

Hate to resort to a cliche here, Jess, but…you started it. You said something cruel and heartless and insulting, and Chip reacted.

Huh, LaoNei, so if that terrible ole’ Shanghai Gang is finally purged, does that mean the promised Hu era of freedom of expression and tolerance of dissent will come ’round at last?


September 16, 2006 @ 12:13 am | Comment


That’s old news – the Economist has been reporting on that for a while. Hu’s using the corruption scandal as an excuse to purge his opponent’s power-base, to try to increase his power in selecting a new leader.

September 16, 2006 @ 4:59 am | Comment

Jessica, you’ve just demonstrated what I’m talking about.

I strongly disapprove of the Pledge of Allegiance and the “under God” line. I think it violates the separation of powers. But that’s a post for another topic.

You bring up your views on religion every time you post, even when the topic has absolutely nothing to do with religion. This is obsessive and inappropriate. The topic is the WTC, you say something completely batty and nasty about a man who is about to die and his supposed beliefs in false religion. The topic is Hao Wu, and over and over again, you go off on your religious obsessions. Honestly, I think you’re more controlled by religious beliefs than anyone else here, because you can’t stop talking about it, even when it’s utterly irrelevant to the discussion at hand.

You’re obsessed, Jessica. Completely, totally obsessed.

September 16, 2006 @ 11:55 am | Comment

Please, Richard, just ban the bitch. “She” is beyond help, and engaging with “her” is like banging your head against a brick wall. All you get for your efforts is one helluva headache. She’s an ignorant, condescending bigot and she’s dragging the tone of this blog down, down, down.

Rabid hate-mongering trolls like “Jessica” deserve neither courtesy nor tolerance. (And I think this should be an addendum to your Comments guidelines.)

September 16, 2006 @ 1:08 pm | Comment

Would it be so wrong of me to suggest counseling and perhaps medication?

Well, Richard is probably sleeping, so I guess this little chore falls to me…

September 16, 2006 @ 1:13 pm | Comment

I agree with Richard’s conclusions maybe just half the time, but think he covers the issues worth discussing more than 95% of the time. I’ve lurked here for years, but never posted before that I can recall for that very combination of reasons.

But nausicaa just put words to what I’ve been thinking for weeks? months? now about both Jessica Copeland and nanheyangrouchuan.

Free speech good and blah blah blah, but after awhile their “form” just overpowers any “content” we might have politely entertained for awhile, and it’s just annoying broken record nownoying broken record nownoying broken record nownownoying broken record nownoying broken record now….

Richard, Shanghaiist, Danwei (already their practice), all the other leading China Blogs I used to look forward to reading, please, enough is enough! I am one of your “customers,” and those two people seated over by the kitchen are disrupting my meal and annoying the hell out of the rest of your customers too, it seems. Please don’t be afraid or apologetic to do something about it for the sake of your “paying customers” (i.e. those who are civil, even if they disagree, I guess).

It’s getting tempting to read *only* ESWN. There we at least know the comments won’t be trolled to death.

September 16, 2006 @ 2:19 pm | Comment

Guys, I would ban Jessica in a second, but after my big site crash a few onths ago the ban control function is non-functional, so I have to delete them as they come in. She/it is in America (tells you a lot, doesn’t it?) so it comments when I’m asleep. I will start asking other trusted commenters to delete these sickening comments as they come in. But to engage with her is to encourage her. There is no winning with Jessica, no serious hope for engagement. So why are we trying? I tried to show good will for a few days because the comments were becoming less depraved. That was a mistake. I’ll do the best I can, but please, when you see her comments pretend she/it doesn’t exist.

September 16, 2006 @ 9:12 pm | Comment

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