September 9 will be the 30th anniversary of Mao Zedong‘s death, and this year also marks the 40th anniversary of the launch of the Cultural Revolution. Both anniversaries have been written about prolifically in the western press. John Pomfret comments on the Cultural Revolution in today’s Washington Post, while Lindsay Beck of Reuters writes about Mao’s legacy.
Despite his ruthless political campaigns in which tens of millions died, Mao, whose huge portrait continues to stare down on Tiananmen Square, is still largely revered in China as a charismatic ruler who stood up to foreigners and unified the country.
While debate on his life and leadership rages in the West in countless books and films, Mao’s legacy in China remains tightly guarded by a Communist leadership bent on preserving his memory to shore up their legitimacy.
“He’s not been reviled and the most important reason is that the party has clamped down on any research on the Cultural Revolution,” said Roderick MacFarquhar, a Mao scholar at Harvard University. [Full text]
See also “Chairman Mao’s long shadow” from Asia Times.