Category Archives: Mao

“Mao namesake believes China will be set free”

The Sydney Morning Herald has an interview with Mao Yushi, whose irrepressible optimism about the future of China makes a nice break from all the doom and gloom elsewhere:

You might think that after enduring a mass hate campaign, including threats of blackmail and brutality, it would be time for an 82-year-old intellectual to consider taking a backward step.

But that would underestimate the fortitude of Mao Yushi, an important mentor for several leading liberal economists, as well as the conviction he shares with thousands of other active Chinese liberals that history is on his side.

Mr Mao lamented China’s backsliding on economic reforms and its recent surge of political repression.

He dismissed the country’s incoming leaders as being beholden to the current ones and for being focused only on protecting the Communist Party regime.

And he said officials and wealth have fused together into formidable vested interests that resist reform.

But he is nevertheless convinced that the country is on the brink of democratic change. ”I don’t know how it will happen but I feel confident,” he said. ”We will witness reform in the next five to 10 years.”

Mao Yushi’s recent cycle of trouble started in April when he wrote an essay about another Mao, the former god-like chairman, titled ”Returning Mao Zedong to Human Form”.

The Chairman’s ”thirst for power dominated his life, and to this end he went entirely mad”, he wrote.

Mr Mao’s own family had suffered greatly under Chairman Mao and he was appalled that such realities were being submerged by a tide of neo-Maoist nostalgia and leftist activism. Mr Mao posted his essay on his Sina blog and censors immediately took it down. He reposted it, they deleted it, but others reposted it on thousands of sites, including the progressive media platform Caixin Online.

And yet in contrast with some other nations, Mr Mao said China ”is not likely to see civil war”.

”Whether things improve when China’s dynasty changes depends on the maturity of the people,” he said. ”Thanks to the internet, the level of people’s awareness and knowledge has improved a lot.”

Last week, Mr Mao appeared on a panel at the Central University of Finance and Economics, in what was his first public appearance since being blackballed earlier in the year.

”During the break lots of students surrounded me and showed their support for me,” he said. ”They shouted ‘down with Mao Zedong’.”

Leave a comment

Filed under activism, Communist Party, democracy, Jasmine Revolution, Mao

“In China, tensions rising over Buddhism’s quiet resurgence”

USA Today comes out of the left field with a good piece about Tibetan Buddhism’s influence over Han Chinese. Beijing is obviously unhappy, while the Dalai Lama seems at least partially motivated by a desire to encourage this very spread:

Sheng is far from her home — and from the bars where she used to drink and the ex-boyfriends she says cheated on her. She is here with 2,000 other Han Chinese at the Larung Gar Buddhist Institute in Serthar, Sichuan province, the rain-soaked mountainous region of southwest China.

The province is far from the central government in Beijing and a traditional gateway to Tibet, where Tibetans have practiced Buddhism for centuries — and where, for decades, China’s Communist Party has suppressed Buddhists, sometimes brutally.

Holy chants and red-robed devotees spill down hillsides blanketed by red wooden cabins, where monks, nuns and disciples spend hours in meditation. More than 2 miles above sea level, Larung Gar is among the largest Tibetan Buddhist academies in the world, with about 10,000 mostly Tibetan students.

In Ganzi, many people welcome the growing number of Chinese students but complain their own freedoms will be restricted as long as the Dalai Lama remains in India, his home since 1959.

“I am proud so many Han Chinese come to Serthar to study, as it will help relations between the Han and Tibetan peoples,” says Tashi Dengzhu, a yak and sheep herder who lives south of Serthar.

Han Chinese students have risen from 1,000 when she arrived seven years ago to over 2,000 today, says Yuan Yi, a shaven-headed nun from southeast Fujian province. But the senior Tibetan lama they follow, Khenpo So Dargye, refused to discuss the Chinese student body he heads.

Such caution reflects the academy’s troubled past and ongoing vulnerability. Founded in what was an uninhabited Larung valley in 1980, the institute became so popular it attracted a large-scale government assault in 2001. Hundreds of homes were demolished and thousands of residents evicted, according to exile groups.

Tibetan Buddhism was traditionally the religion of many Chinese emperors, and even apolitical teachings are unacceptable to Beijing, which fears a revival and increased influence among a Chinese public which was forcefully deprived of religion during the Mao years.

Leave a comment

Filed under Mao, religion, Tibet

“China’s Fluid Ideology”

The Diplomat has a piece here talking about the history of the Chinese constitution, which has been overhauled many times since the founding of the People’s Republic. On what the future holds for this document, which faces extreme limitations in practice but provides important ideological cover for the Party:

In his 90-minute speech, without mentioning himself, Hu talked of his own stewardship of the party since 2002.

‘Since the Party’s 16th National Congress, the Party Central Committee has united with and led the entire Party and the people of all ethnic groups in following Deng Xiaoping Theory and the important thought of Three Represents, fully implementing the Scientific Outlook on Development, energetically promoting scientific development and social harmony, and continuing to advance the great cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics by building a moderately prosperous society in all respects,’ Hu said.

He also clarified where Communist ideology stands today. Mao Zedong Thought, he said, was a great theoretical achievement in the historical process of adapting Marxism to China’s conditions.

The other great theoretical achievement, he said, is the system of theories of socialism with Chinese characteristics. ‘This,’ Hu said, ‘is a scientific theoretical system consisting of Deng Xiaoping Theory, the important thought of Three Represents, the Scientific Outlook on Development and other major strategic thoughts.’

The scientific outlook on development and social harmony are Hu’s contribution, and it’s possible that they will be added to the party constitution at the congress next year. So, although the party has held up Marxism-Leninism from the 1950s to now as its guide to action, Marxism-Leninism has itself been defined and redefined.

In the long run, it’s likely that this is how the Communist Party—and China—will change: not as a result of outside pressure, but through the transformation and redefinition of its ideology, all the while insisting that it continues to be guided by Marxism-Leninism.

Leave a comment

Filed under Communist Party, history, Mao

“Mao, Confucius, and Louis Vuitton in Tiananmen Square”

China Musings has an amusing post about Tiananmen Square, following which figures are still allowed there and who gets chased off:

On January 13, Mao was joined in the Square by a figure of at least equal repute in China: Confucius.

Born in 551 B.C.E., the Sage, as he is known, left behind a set of teachings as influential as any the world has known. These teachings became the basis of state ideology by the second century B.C.E., and remained so, with some ups and downs, for more than two millennia. But with the opening decades of the 20th century, prominent intellectuals and political figures took aim at Confucian teachings, arguing that they were in large part responsible for China’s backwardness and weakness relative to the West.

Mao especially disliked what he believed to be the enduring effects of Confucius’ “feudal” practices on the people and, during the cultural revolution of 1967-1976, called on the Red Guards to destroy all texts, temples, sites, and statues associated with Confucius throughout China. No small irony then that, suddenly, in early January, a humongous 17-ton statue of the Sage appeared at the north gate of the newly renovated National Museum of China on the east side of the Square—facing, almost directly, Mao’s 15’ x 25’ visage hanging above the Tiananmen Gate.

Now, if Mao himself wasn’t agitated, loyal supporters apparently were. Confucius, after all, was an affront to all that Mao had stood—and fought—for. Consequently, Confucius, all 17 tons of him, disappeared on April 20, as suddenly and mysteriously as he had appeared 3 months earlier. No one has yet come forward with a formal explanation of the statue’s comings and goings, but pundits assume, no doubt rightly, that Confucius’ appearance and disappearance represent behind-the-scenes political jockeying between different camps within the leadership.

So, Confucius has exited the square. Enter Louis Vuitton.

There was an article in some other newspaper a few days ago about the man who painted the Mao portrait that hangs over the actual gate. He’s been repainting it every year, apparently with minor changes each time. Will he ever be dismissed from this duty?

Leave a comment

Filed under China, Mao

“Mao more than ever: On the legacy of Mao”

Jottings from the Granite Studio has a quick piece up about what Mao means to China today:

What do I think of Mao?

It’s the question I get asked most often after “How can a white dude from New Hampshire be teaching Chinese history in Beijing?” and “How’s the dissertation coming?”

My usual answer is that if Mao had exited the stage in the early 1950s, his historical legacy might have been relatively secure as a brilliant, if often ruthless, revolutionary general and master propagandist. But as is too often the case in history, great revolutionaries seldom make good leaders of the nations they found. The skill sets required are just too different.

Had Mao stepped aside/died early on, the grown-ups (Liu Shaoqi, Deng Xiaoping, Peng Dehuai, Zhou Enlai) might have managed to create a state which blended revolutionary gains with rational policies of economic and social development. Unfortunately, China and the world had to wait 29 years for Deng Xiaoping, the last surviving member of the “Coalition of Reason,” to see if such a blend was possible.

In the interim we had the Mao years, which, politically speaking, were kind of like being strapped in the passenger seat of a stolen Lexus at 3:00 a.m. with your good friend Gary Busey at the wheel huffing paint and sucking down his third bottle of Goldschläger. Under such conditions, your life will change, probably not for the better, and any memories you might have – should you survive at all – will be of the highly weird and ultra-violent variety. Not good times, very bad times.

This is a country that still has Mao posters hung on walls and Mao statues on the campuses and Mao pictures hanging in cars…  but is also on a profoundly un-Mao path.  Bo Xilai and his Red Songs campaign aside, it’s hard to see how the Cult of Mao is going to survive in the 21st century, once all the old hard-liners are gone and a new generation replaces them.

Leave a comment

Filed under China, history, Mao, Maoism