Interpreting Mao – Beijing Review

To mark the 30th anniversary of Mao Zedong’s death, Beijing Review asked three scholars to discuss Mao’s legacy:

China’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, which lasted from 1966 to 1976, caused an estimated one million unnatural deaths, writes the reviewer Judith Shapiro. It is widely viewed as one of history’s most horrific political cataclysms. Yet there is a peculiar amnesia at play in China, where the regime, whose legitimacy depends on protecting the record of the Communist Party and its founder Mao Zedong, suppresses discussion of the past. Ordinary Chinese, influenced by Confucian traditions that emphasize social harmony, are complicit in the silence, preferring to withhold blame for the violence and to avoid reflecting on personal responsibility. Indeed, in the context of today’s rapidly changing China, the nightmare of denunciations by Red Guards, widespread torture, Mao worship, book burnings and -government-orchestrated mass relocations seems a distant memory. Yet until China comes to terms with the root causes of the Cultural Revolution, it is unlikely that a genuinely open polity and legal system will emerge to support the economic freedoms that have dramatically transformed Chinese lives. [Full text]

For another perspective on Mao’s legacy, read Judith Shapiro‘s review of Mao’s Last Revolution by Roderick MacFarquhar and Michael Schoenhals, in the International Herald Tribune:

China’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, which lasted from 1966 to 1976, caused an estimated one million unnatural deaths, writes the reviewer Judith Shapiro. It is widely viewed as one of history’s most horrific political cataclysms. Yet there is a peculiar amnesia at play in China, where the regime, whose legitimacy depends on protecting the record of the Communist Party and its founder Mao Zedong, suppresses discussion of the past. Ordinary Chinese, influenced by Confucian traditions that emphasize social harmony, are complicit in the silence, preferring to withhold blame for the violence and to avoid reflecting on personal responsibility. Indeed, in the context of today’s rapidly changing China, the nightmare of denunciations by Red Guards, widespread torture, Mao worship, book burnings and -government-orchestrated mass relocations seems a distant memory. Yet until China comes to terms with the root causes of the Cultural Revolution, it is unlikely that a genuinely open polity and legal system will emerge to support the economic freedoms that have dramatically transformed Chinese lives.[Full text]

October 7, 2006 7:57 PM
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Categories: Politics