The scale of Mao’s importance and reputation

9 Feb

Our lecturer this week mentioned the achievements of Mao Zedong in unifying China behind him and the CCP, whilst in conflict with the Japanese in the north West. To unite a country behind one party during a time where different regions were being funded by and subject to various powers was an immense achievement.

It goes to show how deeply respect Mao is for his contributions during the unification of China, but also his efforts during the Cultural Revolution. While a time of great upheaval for the established generation at the time, as mentioned in the article by Mark McKinnon, the older generation of society feel indebted to him for growing up in a time period shaped by CCP policy.

The impact of Mao’s policies stretches so far and affects so many people today; to the extent that Xi Jinping, widely expected to become the head of state in March, lived in isolation for 7 years during the Cultural Revolution. His father was purged from the CCP, yet he must still pay homage to the principles of China’s spiritual leader.

But to attempt to distance the CCP from the legacy of Mao could prove a hugely contentious issue in Chinese politics. Any alterations made by Xi Jinping are probably going to be only of a small and minor nature, rather than sweeping reforms. Both the CCP and their future head of state will still have to abide by the principles of Mao Zedong Thought and his legacy left to the country. Even the concept of criticism, a very contentious one for the CCP during Mao’s leadership, continues to affect the party today, as shown in the article from the South China Morning Post.

Articles

http://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/1146409/scepticism-rife-after-xi-calls-communist-party-accept-criticism

and

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/the-china-diaries/understanding-the-deification-of-chairman-mao/article7307455/

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2 Responses to “The scale of Mao’s importance and reputation”

  1. cw12g11 February 9, 2013 at 8:39 pm #

    On this top of the unification of China under Mao Zedong and the Chinese Communist Party it’s axiomatic that throughout Chinese history there is a running theme of dynasties, groups, political parties etc struggling to unify this vast country. For example Sun Yat Sen under the Three Principles of the People in 1912 (the founding year of the Republic of China) he initiated this idea of ‘Five Races Under One Union’ whereby the Han, Manchu, Mongols, Hui and the Tibetans where unified within this newly created Republic. This is exemplified by the five colour’s of the Unions’ flag. Ulitmately, Sun Yat Sen was unsuccessful in his unification of China as this Republic faced expansive protests in the form of the May Fourth Movement in 1919.

    Additionally, one of the key reasons why the Qing Dynasty eventually collapsed in 1911 was due to the failure of the Manchu’s in unifying the various Chinese territories. As Manchu’s the Qing was unpopular because they were seen as foreign, barbaric and anti Han, therefore held in contempt. But rather than trying to unify these Chinese cultures under one title the Qing imposed their own culture on these different groups such as the Han, Tibetan etc. This can be seen in their requirement of all men to wear ‘queues’; a new hairstyle imposed where the men had their hair shaved off, leaving a long plait at the back of the head known as a queue. The Qing respected the other Chinese cultures, those of Szechuan, Tibet and Manchuria etc but failed to unite them all. Furthermore, the Qing respected the province of Mongolia as autonomous and thus made little effort to unify it with the rest of China. Eventually, the Qing’s failure to unify the Chinese cultures under one title came back to haunt the Qing as the Dynasty fell in 1911. The Boxer Rebellion reflected this as the Boxers rose up throughout North China in 1898 and attacked the Qing Dynasty who had failed to elicit Chinese nationalism and were seen as anti Chinese as well as inferior compared to other modernising nations around China such as Japan etc.

    The issue of unifying China has been a troublesome case for so many of its leaders throughout its history. Yes, Mao Zedong has arguably been the most successful at this however even his unification of China under the guise of the Chinese Communist Party has not come without its detrimental consequences. None more so than the deaths of thousands of Chinese peasants during the Cultural Revolution. So, the fundamental question is how do you unify a country that is geographically enormous, has a population of over a billion people and is now considered to be the world’s leading hegemonic power? That question remains to be answered and only time will tell.

    • jk10g11 May 15, 2013 at 10:45 pm #

      The article points out that any distance from Mao Legacy is barely possible, of if so only in small steps. When researching Mao’s politics, one stumbles over a book, which unlike the other is very heavily critiquing the ideal and elegant image of China’s spiritual leader, still publicised in China. The author of the book ‘Mao- the Untold story’ by Chang Jung.
      This book has been officially banned in China, however, the fact that it made it only in CBS morning show news is slightly devaluing the source as well.
      Nonetheless it is possibly helpful, to unravel some of the claims made about Mao’s live, such as the fact that he was probably a Stalin or Hitler concerning the amount of people he killed or sent to work camps. Equally the author of this book refers to the countless mistresses he had and the fact that he apparently never showered, which is not as much informative, as just interesting.
      She argues that Mao was both China’s Lenin and China’s Stalin and that the country started thriving again after his death, arguable because of his death, and not because of his life. Nonetheless, it is needless to say that he has a ceaseless impact on China today, although, one might ask, if he would step out of his grave, would he recognise the country that he left? The country that is opening up more and more?

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