Two elderly people, wearing headscarves in the manner of peasants from Shanxi province, had just left the south gate of the Forbidden City – the former imperial palace in the heart of Beijing. They turned, and raised their heads toward the giant portrait of Mao Zedong in Tiananmen Square, then placed their hands together in a gesture of reverence typically used in religions all over the world.
A young policeman wearing white gloves who was patrolling the area approached the couple, with a smile on his face. The two politely lowered their heads and moved on. The guard is accustomed to this: many visitors from rural areas still pay homage to the Great Helmsman, chairman Mao Zedong, who was leader of the People’s Republic of China from its establishment in 1949 until his death on September 9, 1976.
Yet, this September 9, China woke up as if it were just another ordinary day; Beijing concealed under a wall of official silence the anniversary of Mao’s death. This silence is stronger than the boom of a thousand cannons – China is proceeding quietly and prudently – but surely – with the process of de-Maoification.